Feb 202018

The Falcon Heavy is an absurdly low-cost heavy lift rocket

F9H in reusable configuration (payload seems to be about 40 tones to LEO) costs $90 million. Fully expendable (64 tons to orbit), it’s $150 million. That sounds like a lot. It’s certainly more than I can afford. But compare it to the competition. The Delta IV Heavy (29 tons to orbit) costs between $400 and $600 million… but you have to tack on the current annual $1 billion “launch capability contract” which ends in 2019. Given that the Delta IV Medium ends in 2020, all of the fixed Delta IV costs will be on the Heavy, meaning it’ll likely cost substantially more than $600 million each. And then there’s the SLS (70 to 130 tons), which since 2011 has cost about $2.6 billion per year to develop and is rather optimistically assumed to cost $500 million per launch. There’s been a recent 3-year delay, adding $7.8 billion to the development before it has even flown. Which means that that three-year delay costs as much as 52 flights of the expendable Falcon 9 heavy, or 87 flights of the reusable version.

Then there are the foreign launchers such as the Proton-M (24 tons to LEO) at $65 million, Ariane V (16 tons to LEO) at ~$200 million, and Long March 5 (24 tons to LEO) for Who Knows How Much.


Reusable F9H: $2.2 million/ton

Expendable F9H: $2.3 million/ton

Delta IVH: $20.7 million/ton

SLS: $6.7 million/ton, not counting development costs

Proton-M: $2.7 million/ton

Ariane V: $12.5 million/ton

The only heavy lifter that can compete with the expendable Falcon 9 Heavy is the Proton-M, which has an unfortunate 10% failure rate, and of course is not something the DoD is going to want to launch their payloads on, and not something that westerners would want to launch manned payloads on. Delta IV Heavy just looks *awful,* and SLS looks bad even when you don’t count the incredible sums that have been spent just developing it (something like $20 billion so far, and it hasn’t launched a gnat).

And then there’s BFR. The numbers claimed for that strain credulity… $7 million dollars to launch 150 tons to orbit… 47 grand per ton in the reusable configuration. I would not be the least bit surprised if reality drives that number way up. But even if the price goes up by a factor of a hundred, it’ll still be pretty much the cheapest ride in town.

 Posted by at 6:11 pm
Jul 172017

Some recent panoramas, stitched together from cameraphone photos:

The “Belt of Venus” looking southeast towards Brigham City at sunset.

A late afternoon summer storm. The rain didn’t quite make it to the surface; it evaporated en route.




 Posted by at 4:08 pm
Apr 112017

Some people are pretty good at funnymaking:



It turns out that the passenger in question is an immigrant gay Asian convicted criminal. So we’ve got *four* check marks on the Social Justice Outrage Cheat Sheet. If a major airline monopoly is capable of being harmed by public outrage, this should do it.

 Posted by at 8:28 pm
Mar 282017

The trailer for the forthcoming (2018?) Russian movie “COMA.” From what I gather, it’s sorta like “Inception,” but with people in comas rather than asleep. The idea seems to be that fragmentary, incomplete memories of a coma patient are mashed together into a chaotic and irrational  and visually pretty impressive mess.


Dunno if it’ll be any good, but it *looks* good. Chances are that it is, by Hollywood standards, dirt cheap. With the lesson to be learned: if you can make a visually impressive and creative movie on a shoestring budget, Hollywood is starting to run out of excuses for their bloated $200 million disasters.

Another lesson to be learned: the advancec in visual effects make it more and more possible to make a truly impressive and *proper* Lovecraftian cosmic horror movie. After the stars are right and the Old Ones return to claim the Earth, the few surviving humans might see a world akin to what’s shown in the “COMA” trailer. Just with less “wonder” and more “my eyes, they have melted.”

 Posted by at 11:54 am
Jul 282015

So, a few days ago news broke that a famous, and beloved, male lion in Zimbabwe had been killed by a trophy hunter. At first the hunter was reported to be a mysterious Spanish hunter, but now it has been claimed to be a rich dentist from Minnesota. A guy who plunked down $55 large for the utter joy of hunting a lion that, reportedly, was reasonably friendly with people.

Full disclosure: in general I’m fine with hunting and fishing and such. I eat as much meat as I can. But trophy hunting fills me with a distinct uncomfortableness. You want to hang a deer head on your wall? Well, OK, we’ve got lots of deer. But a *lion?* The world isn’t exactly overloaded with those. Plus… lions are a lot higher up the ladder than deer and gazelle and the like.

Well, beyond the “dude, why?” aspect of hunting a lion, it turns out that the hunt itself was apparently carried out illegally in several ways:

1) It was done at night, which was illegal

2) It was illegal to hunt the lion on the park the lion was in… so they tied a dead animal to a car and lured it out of the park, then shot it with a bow and arrow (or crossbow).

3) The lion had a GPS collar, which they removed and attempted to destroy

Well, the internet has discovered the guy and has begun the inevitable.

Here’s the Yelp review page for his dental practice ( currently… 60 5-star ratings, 7 4-stars, 14 3 stars, 17 2-stars and 1,664 1-star ratings). Their Facebook page has vanished. The practice’s webpage seems to be *sorta* functional, though it’s even lamer than mine and much of it seems to be broken. The dental practice was closed rather abruptly, and inquiries are being directed to a PR firm.

Its unclear that this guy broke any US laws. But it’s also clear that he’ll be taking a little break from making money as a dentist.

 Posted by at 11:45 am

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 Posted by at 5:00 pm
Mar 282015

A while back One-Eye’s last kid, ingeniously nicknamed “Junior,” developed a limp. Such things typically go away on their own, but after about two weeks this one did not and he was basically a tripod making zero use of his right front leg. So I managed to corral him and take him to the vet. That… was an entertaining experience.

First, the trip to the vet involved a very angry cat in a box:


When I finally got to see the vet in the examination room… man, I *really* wish I’d had my camera running on video. Remember, this was a cat who had decided that one-half of its front paws was not worth using. Suddenly, this was SuperCat, jumping all over the room. First he tried to climb the blinds in the window. The windows ran from a foot or so above the floor to well over my head. To keep him from destroying the blinds, the vet and I rolled them up… at which point Junior vertical-leaped from the ledge below straight up to the the rolled-up blinds at the top of the window. Which he grabbed on to with both sets for front claws and dangled. After a bit he dropped down to the floor, jumped up to the examining table, then leaped *over* the vet to grab onto the door jamb over the main entry door, which he hung from for a while. It was… a thing of glory. That cat was the very embodiment of the concept of “oh HELL no.” I hadn’t laughed that hard in I don’t know how long.

The vet asked me to leave the room. Which I did, and stood outside listening to the sitcom sounds of things being knocked over and destroyed. This went on for a while before the vet could put Junior back in the box. At that point the vet came out with him, took him in the back and gave him a shot, a mix of pain killers and antibiotics. Vet decided that the most likely cause of the limp was one of those infected cysts that cats seem to get all the time. Giving Junior his shot was another exercise in amazing feline anger and required some  tools I’ve only ever seen used on rabid pit bulls and the like.

The end result was that Junior was *EXTREMELY* unhappy on the ride home:


I debated whether to let him cool off in the box or just let him go; in the end I just released him. He became a small black blur, heavily redshifted, headed for the horizon. The vet assured me that the chances were good that that would be the last time I’d see him, that he’d go find somewhere else to live without the scary giant monsters who tortured him.

A few days later he was back, sans limp. Since then I’ve seen him regularly… but he is not friendly towards me. I don’t think he likes me anymore. Though I do note that he still eats the food I give him.

 Posted by at 10:12 pm
Mar 062015

I heard a portion of a piece on the radio tonight featuring some people ulcerating about teenagers sexting (sending nekkid photos of their naughty bits to each other). The debate seemed to boil down to “Is sexting a Bad Thing, or is it the Worst Thing?” with a healthy dollop of “we have no idea how to deal with this.”

It occurred to me that this is a perfect example of what science fiction can be at its best. But it also occurred to me that this is probably something sci-fi missed.

Consider that sexting is wholly dependent upon the availability of particular technologies… specifically the camera phone. The first such devices came on the scene around the year 2000. When I was in high school, such a device was more than a decade away. Cell phones themselves only came around in the mid 1980s, and they were about the size of a brick. Well into the ’90’s, if you were out and about and you needed to make a phone call, you had to find a pay phone. (Hell, I only got a cell phone in 2006). So for my generation of dumbass teenagers, if we wanted to do the equivalent of sexting, we’d’ve had to have used a Polaroid camera and physical trading of the images, something on a wholly different level than digital photography and instant image distribution.

Where sci-fi comes into it: the best sci-fi is the kind that introduces some new science or technology into society and asks “what if.” So far as I’m aware, no sci-fi writer ever foresaw kids having handheld phones with built-in cameras and easy taps into a worldwide instantaneous information network. Nevertheless, the technology came about and literally covered the world before society had a chance to even understand the ramifications, never mind come up with strategies for dealing with it.

The interesting thing is that for olds like me, camera phones remain kind of an amazing thing, because we lived much of our lives without them. But for a kid in junior high, camera phones are likely older than they are. They grew up with them, didn’t know a world without them. So it’s unsurprising that Kids These Days have adapted to this technology in a way us old farts haven’t. It’s a matter of learning how to deal with the tech  being done by new generations, leaving old generations flailing in the dust.

So, sci-fi can envision a whole raft of new technologies of various levels of likelihood. Hand-held energy weapons that can actually blow a hole through you. Anti-gravity. Cloaking devices. Force fields. Mr. Fusion. Replicators. Unbreakable materials. AI. Cloning. Head transplants. Immortality serums. How will society react to them? I suggest that the sexting “problem” might be a way to examine the issue… the people who were adults when the tech became available are kinda freaked out about the easy acceptance of the tech by the young… and by how the young use the tech to do unexpected and often undesirable things with it.


PS: The idea of a “video phone” was something that denoted “amazingly futuristic” ever since at least the 1920’s. Video phones popped up from time to time, but were always failures… the bandwidth needed either swamped the available infrastructure, or the image quality was just freakin’ terrible. Video phones seemed like the sort of technology that would forever remain just beyond reach, out there with jetpacks and flying cars and home nuclear reactors. But then webcams came around, and then Skype, and now video chat on cell phones, all in a remarkably short time. For *generations* video phones were the stuff of fantastical sci-fi… and now you hold it in your hand and don’t give it a second thought.

 Posted by at 2:21 am
Jun 022014

One out now, one in September:

2001: The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey

In 2001: The Heritage and Legacy of the Space Odyssey authors Frederick I Ordway III and Robert Godwin take a trip through more than eleven decades of space films. This fascinating study shows just how far 2001: A Space Odyssey pushed the state of the art and how it continues to affect motion pictures today.



The 2001 File: Harry Lange and the Design of the Landmark Science Fiction Film

Harry Lange’s complete archive of the greatest sci-fi film in history.

This magnificent tome is a previously unseen look behind-the- scenes at the making of this most legendary of science fiction classics. Art director Harry Lange’s strikingly realistic designs for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey created an extraordinary vision of the future and they remain the epitome of filmmaking. Lange’s complete archive is explored in this stunning volume, featuring original concept sketches, designs, correspondence and on set photographs.

Released: SEPTEMBER 2014



And I heartily recommend:

And because I could use the commission funds, there’s this otherwise irrelevant listing that popped up when I searched Amazon for “2001:”

Remember, if you need to search for anything on Amazon, please consider starting with the search box you’ll find on this page at upper right. If you buy something, I get a tiny percentage! It’s a way to support the Unwanted Blog without spending any extra…

 Posted by at 11:09 am
Apr 222014

I’m home, just in time for a wind storm to take out the power. So. Posting using the phone. Woo.   UPDATE, 5 AM Wednesday: power is still out. According to the power company, power is out to tens of thousands. I imagine this means that power might be out for days or longer. This has definite negative consequences… UPDATE, 5:30 AM Wednesday: Yay, power’s back on. The long tradition of things changing just after I bitch about ’em continues.

 Posted by at 3:49 pm