Aug 242016

Huzzah. A vaguely Earth-ish planet has been confirmed to have been detected orbiting the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, 4.25 lightyears away. It hasn’t been visually observed; detection was by way of detecting the slight wobble of Proxima (via Doppler shift) caused by the gravitational pull of the much smaller planet.

What’s known about Proxima Centauri B:

Mass is 1.3 Earths or more; 90% chance that it’s less than 3 Earth masses.

The length of the local “year” is 11.186 terrestrial days.

It’s 4.3 million miles from Proxima (about 0.046 AU)

It’s in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist. It gets about 65% the solar flux as Earth does.

Proxima Centauri is an unfriendly host star, with X-Ray bursts and the like that, even though the planet might be in the habitable zone, would potentially blow any atmosphere off the planet. It gets about 400 times the X-ray flux as Earth.

Not much more than that at this time. Speculations and ramblings:

If the planet is low in heavy metals, being basically just a chunk of rock, the greater mass than Earth might still result in an Earth-like surface gravity (and a noticeably larger planetary diameter).

Chances are good that it’s tidally locked to Proxima. But it might be in a resonance, such as three rotations for every two revolutions. If so, it would have some long days, but that would help it maintain proper weather patterns, rather than a perpetually frozen dark side and a day side with the atmosphere cooked off.

It *might* have a substantial moon (it’s possible that the 1.3 Earth masses might be distributed as, say, a 1 Earth mass planet and a 0.3 Earth mass moon). To pull this off, the two would have to be close. Chances would then be good that the planet might be tidally locked with the *moon.* In any case, if it has a close, massive moon, tidal forces between the moon and the star would make the planet tectonically entertaining.

If it’s a big fluffy rock… probably no magnetosphere to speak of. And thus probably no atmosphere to speak of, unless it’s a high molecular weight hellscape of burning carbon dioxide like Venus. If it has a spinning molten iron core, then maybe a good magnetosphere and some useful protection from Proximas tantrums.

Red dwarfs like Proxima have lifespans measured in *trillions* of years. So assuming phantom energy doesn’t tear the universe apart in a few billion years, Proxima will be sullenly glowing away when it is 300 times the current age of the universe. The sun will be a cold, dark black dwarf and the remaining planets flung off  into the galaxy long before Proxima will have expired in about 4,000,000,000,000 years. Of course by that point Sol and Proxima will be nowhere near each other; tens or hundreds of thousands of galactic revolutions will see to it that the two systems wander far apart from each other. By the time Proxima nears its end, the galaxy will be a shadow of itself… somewhat lower in mass due to having flung stars out into the universe (unless it’s heavier due to colliding with Andromeda and the two melding together) and from mass-energy having been radiated away for trillions of years; very, very red and dark, with the only stars still burning being red dwarfs like Proxima, some younger than Proxima with still more trillions of years of life in ’em. If Proxima B still orbits Proxima, the night sky would be almost utterly black. There would be almost no other galaxies visible; they will have all wandered off over the visible horizon by that point. The only stars in the sky would be other red dwarfs… and from Earth, Proxima Centauri is invisible to the naked eye. So even though there might still be millions of red dwarfs still cooking along… you’d need a pretty good telescope to see even the closest ones.

Since Proxima is relatively cool, much more of its radiant energy is shifted towards the infra-red end of the spectrum. Someone standing on Proxima B would still see things in pretty much normal color, but the sky would look funny. With less light on the blue end of the spectrum, there’d be that much less blue light to scatter in the atmosphere, thus it’d look dark in daytime. Not sure if you’d be able to see stars in daytime, but maybe…

 Posted by at 6:00 pm
Aug 072016

Why do people refuse to learn from history???

A Mormon Tycoon Wants to Build Joseph Smith’s Mega-Utopia in Vermont

Some feller name of Dave Hall has a bucket of cash and a dream: to build planned utopian town-like properties based on some “vision” that Mormon church founder Joseph Smith imagined nearly 200 years ago. These would be square “plats,” with a square “ring wall” made up of buildings with farm-like area in the middle, and surrounded by a narrow bit of “nature.”

Hal wants to build a thousand of these sites in Vermont, moving 20 million people into a state with a current population well under one million. Oddly enough, the people in the area where he’s buying up property have a problem with this.

Some of the “features” of this planned community:

each person will be allotted just 200 square feet of living space


A plat, says Hall, will be subject to state and regional laws, but will also be overseen by a board and hierarchies of leaders with, it appears, strong Mormon family values. “Each [multi-family] house has house captains, which are a team of one man and one woman,”


Families and individuals who wish to join must invest their net worth and be employed either outside the communities or by a NewVistas company, or Vista Biz. Those who start Vista Bizzes will be given startup funds by the community but must surrender their IP rights. They also must agree to put nearly all their profits back into the community in exchange for what Hall calls “dividends”—payouts from overall wealth earned by the plat businesses.


To make all this work, some as-yet unavailable or generally unused technologies are needed. Robots that rearrange your furniture. Storage containers that rise us out of the floor. Small elevators. Toilets with built-in medical tricorders. But over all of this is the fact that since the basic plan of this “plat” was produced by Joseph Smith, it thus has the taint of prophesy and divine inspiration. And we’ve all seen how successful communities built on religious ideas can be.

The goofiest notion of all is that he’s buying up properties that are already happily occupied. Why not set up shop where people *aren’t*? I’m sure Detroit has some room for something like this. The Midwest has *single* farms bigger than his whole planned community. So why build right where you know you’re going to annoy the locals by changing *their* environment?

All that said… there’s something about this idea that makes me nervous in a very real sense. Not about the “plats” themselves… if they are roaring successes or the first generation born there tears the place apart during Festival, I don’t really care as such. But what does this sort of thing say about space colonies?

Initial small colonies – say, a few dozen people on Mars – will be run like military establishments. They’ll pretty much have to be. But what about town-sized orbital habitats? Here, the territory is strictly limited. An inhabitants options will necessarily be somewhat limited… a good terrorist could shut off the sun or evacuate all the air. So will such settlements need to be run in the soul-crushing collectivist manner suggested for the “plats?” A horrifying thought.

 Posted by at 4:25 pm
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 172016

Fears of ‘THE BIG ONE’ as SEVEN major earthquakes strike Pacific region in just 96 hours

Roger Bilham, seismologist of University of Colorado, said: “The current conditions might trigger at least four earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude. 

“And if they delay, the strain accumulated during the centuries provokes more catastrophic mega earthquakes.”

I’m just glad I don’t live anywhere near an earthquake zone.

Oh, wait…

 Posted by at 5:45 pm
Jan 302016

Yesterday dealt with some wacky science conspiracy theorizing. Todays… actually matters. Some “anti fascist” socialists in Germany decided to post this to their Facebook page (and then deleted it when someone noticed):



The caption translates to “rather sexually overactive refugees than racist Germans,” but the sign is a bit more to the point. But what these idjits seem to not understand: if they were able to wave their magic wands and vaporize German racists… the rapists they’re importing in seemingly vast numbers will only create *more* racists.

Remember come November that these people have the same basic political philosophy as Crazy Uncle Bernie.

UPDATE: it appears that the posterboard the woman is holding has been photoshopped. It originally seems to have read “Will trade racists for refugees.” The change in text is what, in the best tradition of professional journalism, is known as “fake but accurate.”

 Posted by at 11:05 pm
Jan 152016

If this is accurate, it indicates that the Swedish government is *insane:*

Sweden: “No Apartments, No Jobs, No Shopping Without A Gun”

Now, Swedes see the welfare system failing them. More and more senior citizens fall into the “indigent” category; close to 800,000 of Sweden’s 2.1 million retirees, despite having worked their whole lives, are forced to live on between 4,500 and 5,500 kronor ($545 – $665) a month. Meanwhile, seniors who immigrate to Sweden receive the so-called “elderly support subsidy” — usually a higher amount — even though they have never paid any taxes in Sweden.

Worse, in 2013 the government decided that people staying in the country illegally have a right to virtually free health and dental care. So while the destitute Swedish senior citizen must choose between paying 100,000 kronor ($12,000) to get new teeth or living toothless, a person who does not even have the right to stay in Sweden can get his teeth fixed for 50 kronor ($6).

Neat. So… who wants a Scandinavian-style welfare state here in the US?

 Posted by at 7:42 pm
Sep 052015

Britain pledges to help thousands of refugees – but rich Arab states have taken in NONE

Germany has said they’ll take in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees this year. It’s a reasonably safe assumption that a large fraction of these refugees will become permanent residents of whatever European nation they end up in. And why not? I’d sure as shootin’ rather bunk down in a European welfare state than in a middle eastern hellhole.

Arab states such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia could easily take in the vast bulk of the Syrian refugees, just as they could have taken in the Palestinians. But they have not done so, nor are they likely to do so. Why is this? Well… the first answer is that refugees are troublesome. They cost money. They burden local services. They might be unpleasant to look at. They might pose political problems for the local government.

But there are also strategic reasons for not taking in refugees. Again look to the Palestinians. The Arab world has spent decades loudly decrying the conditions the Palestinians live in… while doing nothing to help them. Instead, they have only aided those Palestinians who’s crazy actions will bring down further harm onto the Palestinian people. The Arab states have done this for political reasons: it’s handy to be able to keep the people’s attention on the Evil Israelies, rather than on their own local evil government. When the people notice that their own government sucks, you get Egypt and Libya.

But a longer range strategy is very likely also in play. As mentioned, many of those refugees will become permanent residents of their respective European host countries. While Syria might lose some population, it’s not going to change being an almost entirely Muslim nation. But Germany, say, will see an increase of it’s Muslim population by several million over a few years via immigration, and millions more over the following years by births. The end result: colonization.

Now, this is not to suggest that the migrants are in on this, or that there’s some devious scheme to trash Syria specifically to create an invading army. But as famed political philosopher Rahm Emmanuel once opined:

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.


 Posted by at 9:56 am