May 022016

About three weeks ago I posted video of a device called the “Flyboard Air” which purported to be a VTOL turbojet platform a single pilot stands on. At the time, numerous aspects of the video made it seem kinda fishy, like perhaps it was a hoax, or in some other way not quite what it was claimed. Well, it seems it *is* what it claims. It recently got a Guiness World Record for flying around a harbor in France.



The “Flyboard Air” has four turbojets (eventually the control system will allow the craft to safely fly on three if one of the four conks out, but right the prototype isn’t up to it) with a total power of about 1,000 horsepower. The inventor wants to incorporate a wingsuit; this would allow the pilot to lean far forward, tilting the thrust from vertical to horizontal and moving the pilot at 180 km/hr. In this record-winning flight, the pilot flew for nearly four minutes, landed… then took off again and did a “victory lap. Total flight time was probably something like 5 minutes, an order of magnitude improvement over the thirty seconds you’d get out of a rocket belt. Potential flight time is given as 10 minutes. You’d think 1,000 horses would guzzle the jet fuel, so I’m a little surprised it even gets that much.


 Posted by at 4:00 pm
May 022016

A photo of a NASA wind tunnel model of a hypersonic aircraft configuration. The circa 1960 NASA brochure (promoting the organization to college students) that included this provided no further information, but I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the wind tunnel test report on this, calling it a reusable booster or reusable launch vehicle. If that’s the case, the upper stages and payload were *probably* going to be carried on the things back.


 Posted by at 8:58 am
May 012016

On the one hand:

Can you ram it? Your rights if someone blocks your driveway

In short… if someone trespasses on your property, not only is there basically nothing *you* can do about it, there’s almost nothing the police *will* do about it… because it’s not considered a crime.

But on the other hand…

Pensioner convicted after telling hijab-wearing mother: ‘British women don’t cover up’

If you simply *speak* in Britain, the cops will merrily fine you a reasonably substantial sum.

 Posted by at 10:02 am
May 012016

I admit that the USBP series looks kinda… bland. It’s text and line drawings; not a whole lot can be done to jazz that up. Especially since I have no head for graphics design whatsoever apart from layout diagrams.

Still, one reader sent me a mockup of a revised cover of USBP #18:


Things are moved around a little bit, but the obvious change is the addition of color. The suggestion was also made to consider color-coding each title in the USXP series. Just off the top of my head, I came up with:

Bombers: Olive Drab

Spacecraft: Black

Launch Vehicles: Blue on bottom, transitioning to black at the top

Fighters: slightly bluish gray (like the F-15 or F-22)

Transports: ??

VTOL: ??

The USBP#18 cover was re-done to reflect this, thusly:


Thoughts? Is this more appealing?How about color-coding… good idea or not? And if so, what colors?

I tried something vaguely like this once before, with USBP#05.

 Posted by at 9:43 am
May 012016

Or $750/lb. SpaceX pricing for the Falcon 9 and Falcon 9 heavy:


For comparison, the Delta IV Heavy costs $375,000,000 with a LEO payload of 28,790 kg/63,470 lbs, or $13,025/kg or $5920/lb.

SpaceX stands a decent chance of monopolizing the launch market in the US. And while the price does not include a Dragon capsule, the US is currently paying the Russians $70 per astronaut to fly on a Soyuz. That’s more than the price of an entire Falcon 9 launch which, with a Dragon V2 capsule, should carry 7 astronauts.


 Posted by at 9:17 am
Apr 292016

That’s the claim, anyway:

The train goes up, the train goes down: a simple new way to store energy

It’s basically a giant battery. Electric locomotives haul massive concrete slabs up a shallow hill, using grid power when there is excess capacity. When there is greater need for electricity, the locomotives coast downhill, using regenerative braking like an electric car. Should be simple and rugged… rails, rail cars, locomotives and concrete slabs are well understood and not exactly delicate.

This would of course be most useful when applied to fickle weather-power systems like wind and solar.

 Posted by at 9:18 pm
Apr 292016

Belgium to provide its entire population with iodine pills in case of a nuclear accident at one of its ageing power plants

In short: the anti-nuclear movement has been so successful at halting the development of new reactors that old reactors have had to remain in place, serving well past their originally intended use-by date; with the result that the Belgian government is apparently in something of a panic about their reactors.

Good job, Greens. Thanks to you there may soon be radioactive Walloons running around. And does anybody know what sort of superpowers a person would get if they’re bitten by a radioactive Walloon? I sure as hell don’t.

 Posted by at 8:37 pm