Feb 042018

John D. Clark’s “Ignition!” is  basically *the* book to read if you want a readable history of modern rocket propellants. The problem has been that it has been *long* out of print and the only ways you could read it were:

  1. Interlibrary loan of a tattered copy
  2. Online purchase of a *minimum* of a $200 copy
  3. Crappy free downloadable PDF.

Fortunately, Rutgers University is going to re-release printed (and electronic) versions in May. And it’s available on Amazon for pre-order, which is awesome because if you buy it through a link in this blog post, I’ll get a small fraction of a pittance and thus “Ignition!” will help feed some cats. It’ll be available in paperback, hardback and Kindle. I’m’a get me the paperback.


 Posted by at 8:37 pm
Feb 032018

Not a new theory, but now with a bit more evidence:

New research suggests toward end of Ice Age, human beings witnessed fires larger than dinosaur killer, thanks to a cosmic impact

There is one bit that has me raising a skeptical eyebrow:

The KU researcher and his colleagues believe the data suggests the disaster was touched off when Earth collided with fragments of a disintegrating comet that was roughly 62 miles in diameter — the remnants of which persist within our solar system to this day.

A 62 mile diameter comet would be many times bigger than the one that whacked the dinosaurs. So *perhaps* they mean that it was 62 miles in diameter before it fragmented, and Earth only hit a fraction of it. On the other hand if it fragments sufficiently, so that the chunks were reduced in size enough that they would all burn up in the atmosphere, there’d be no cratering. The total amount of energy dumped onto Earth might be many times greater than the KT impact, but it would come in the form of a quick flash of light and a series of mighty booms rather than a cratering event throwing gigatons of ash and tectites into the sky.

An important point for future discussions of planetary defense: it’s better to be ht by a cloud of little bits than a single giant impactor, even if the cloud hits with more total energy. The atmosphere serves as a bit like a bulletproof vest for the planet, and if someone if going to shoot you with a 12 gauge while you’re wearing such a vest, you’d rather they shot you with a mass of birdshot than a single deer slug. So arguments that planetary defense strategies should avoid energetic systems like nukes in favor of soft, slow processes like solar sails and gravity tractors and the like because nukes might fragment the impactor… not terribly good arguments.

 Posted by at 6:36 pm
Feb 022018

The torch that the Boring Company is selling is cool and all, but it’s not a flamethrower by any real definition of the word. A flamethrower doesn’t just project flame a few feet, but a *stream* of some flammable liquid a considerable distance.

THIS is a flamethrower. It also seems to be being used in a rather unwise manner, but hey, looks like they’re having fun and all, and “because it’s fun” is reason enough for anyone to do anything, long as you don’t damage other people or their stuff.

Hot chicks, fully automatic weapons and destructive devices.  Bite me, joyless gun-grabbing safety fascists and hoplophobic pearl-clutching SJWs.


 Posted by at 8:21 pm
Feb 012018

Speculation that the Chinese have built themselves a railgun and mounted it on a ship.

This Is Our Best View Yet Of China’s Ship-Mounted Railgun Prototype

Is This Chinese Navy Ship Equipped With An Experimental Electromagnetic Railgun?


Whether it’s a railgun or not, whether it works or not, I hope that it spurs the DoD to get back on the job and fully funding the development of railguns of our own.

 Posted by at 1:51 pm
Jan 302018


Using AI to uncover ancient mysteries

The Voynich Manuscript is a centuries-old (early 1400’s) book of gibberish and odd illustrations. It has been untranslatable… until perhaps, now. An artificial intelligence system was taught hundreds of languages to figure out their patterns, then fed the Voynich manuscript… and it determined that it was written in coded Hebrew. With that understanding, the letters were found to be coded into alphagrams, where the letters in words are re-ordered into alphabetic order (Example: “example” becomes “aeelmpx”). The result is that 80% of the words are clearly Hebrew, and sentences are, if not really clear, at least comprehensible as being non-nonsense.

It still requires analysis by people who actually understand old Hebrew to make the book make any sort of sense, but it’s interesting to see that machines have cracked this old mystery.

 Posted by at 12:02 am
Jan 292018

The Boring Company Flamethrower


Guaranteed to liven up any party!
World’s safest flamethrower!

-Fire extinguisher sold separately (for exorbitant amounts of money)
-Taxes and shipping will be added at checkout
-Additional customs fees may apply for international orders because of laws
-International customers can receive a full refund if not happy with said fees
-Before shipping, aspiring flamethrower aficionados will be sent a terms and conditions rhyme for review and acceptance
-Starts shipping in spring
-May not be used on Boring Company decorative lacquered hay bales or Boring Company dockside munitions warehouses

OK, yeah:

  1. It’s a gag
  2. It’s not actually a flame thrower, any more than the leaf burning torch in my garage is a flame thrower.

But still… it’s awesome to see a company have a damn sense of humor.

 Posted by at 12:45 am
Jan 262018

Just out driving on the frozen surface of a river, as one does, when an old nuclear powered Russian icebreaker goes zipping on by…

По пути к Диксону нам встретился «Таймыр» — атомный ледокол, предназначенный для проводки судов в устья сибирских рек. Огромная махина. Ещё на подступах к нам лёд начал дрожать. А когда подошёл, то было настолько круто, что и словами сложно описать! #Енисей #Ледокол #АтомныйЛедокол #РосАтомФлот #РосАтом #Таймыр #Диксон #экспедиция #пропутешествия #rgoexpo #toyota #toyotarus #возможностьпроявитьсебя #redfox #redfoxoutdoor

A post shared by Anton Panov (@oper_11) on

 Posted by at 11:45 pm
Jan 252018

I’m poking away at the last two major unstarted (until now) stories for book one of “War With The Deep Ones, “Brass Valley” and “Amber Aspect.” And this (Ligeti’s “Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra”) seems just about perfect for the mood I hope to convey:

No scene such as this occurs in book one, but if I were to pick the music for a hypothetical Lovecraftian movie, this, or something very like it is what I’d tell the composer to include for the scene where the hero, antihero, victim or whoever approaches the vast, incomprehensible cosmic horror. If you’ve seen “Oblivion,” that’s actually pretty much what happens here anyway…


 Posted by at 3:24 am