Dec 272014

“Ignition! An informal history of liquid rocket propellants” was written by John D. Clark and published by Rutgers University in 1972. It is a classic text on the subject… a text which has not been reprinted since except by some print-on-demand types. If you find a copy of this book for less than several hundred dollars, you’ve lucked out. It’s a good read, both informative and entertaining.

Fortunately, someone went to the bother of scanning the whole thing and posting it as a PDF. I’m honestly unclear about the copyright implications, if any… but the scan has been openly and freely available for some years, so…

Hmmm. It seems that I’ve completely flaked out on the PDF reviews for quite a while. And nobody said anything. Makes me wonder if maybe there’s just no interest in these? Shrug, oh well, moving on…

As always: check out the APR Patreon for info on how to help, and how to get rewards.


 Posted by at 1:34 pm
Dec 272014

A comment and an image over HERE (where they’re discussing how many G’s the Millenium Falcon is undergoing as it maneuvers at the end of the “Force Awakens” trailer):

Patrick Farley Wait, we’re only just now questioning Star Wars’ disregard for Newtonian physics? I thought we had an unspoken agreement, back in 1977, that we were all just gonna sorta look the other way.


(This photo has nothing to do with the topic, but I put it here to remind you young people of what was considered “state of the art” science fiction literally months before Star Wars premiered.)


That comment was promptly followed up by this nugget of eternal wisdom:

tincansailorman Semi-naked Jenny Agutter in her prime is always state-of-the-art to me.


Preach it, brother!

Say what you will about Star Wars, it changed the face of sci-fi movies. Before Star Wars, it was just expected that all future or alien sets would looked like cheap cardboard, or impractical, precise, chrome plated and oddly spotlessly clean. Shortly after Star Wars, we got “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” which set new standards in visual realness. You can’t watch “Logan’s Run” now without noticing that not only do the miniature sets look awful, so do the full-size sets, the costumes, the props, the robots, etc.

Star Wars opened in May, 1977. Logans Run opened in June, 1976, slightly less than a year earlier, long enough to have done its business by the time Star Wars came out. But you know what movie *really* got boned by Star Wars? As it turns out, 20th Century Fox had two big sci-fi movies planed for 1977… Star Wars was expected to be the “minor” one. The one Fox expected to be the big blockbuster? “Damnation Alley.” Opened in October, 1977… and closed shortly afterwards, and has been largely forgotten. It has one of the all time greatest sci-fi vehicles in it, but is otherwise devoid of… well, pretty much anything good. But had Star Wars not happened, Damnation Alley probably would have done ok. But it already looked like garbage the day it came out.

Now, if “Damnation Alley” had had Jenny Agutter in it… hmmmm….

 Posted by at 1:04 pm
Dec 272014

Here’s how Space Station V can service an Orion and an Aries simultaneously. The manipulators arm that reaches out from the Station and grabs the Aries has to be not only nimble, but pretty strong; the boarding deck is under 0.02 G’s. Not a whole lot, but for a vehicle massing (handwave) a hundred thousand pounds, it’s a fair weight to be cantilevered out like that. The arm grasps of one the landing legs, roughly swings the ship into position, and then an arm from the “top” of the lander projects and grabs an extendable structure that projects from the bay. This second arm stabilizes the lander and precisely orients it for the dock that projects from the face of the station and fits over the boarding door. A third, smaller arm snakes out from the lander and mates with the extendable structure. Both of the landers arms contain umbilicals to transfer consumables and propellants and such.

Why not dock it in the bay?

The Aries does not fit in the bay. It just doesn’t. Parsecs are not a unit of time and the Aries Ib doesn’t fit in the Space Station V docking bay. And even if you scale up the SSV so that the Aries does fit… you won’t be able to service both an Aries and an Orion at the same time unless the station is so vast that you’ve got room to move a ship in, then shove it over to one side of the bay and bring in another along the centerline.


 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Dec 262014

A correspondent who has recently suffered some hacking/ID theft incidents came in to his computer room to find that the cursor was wandering around the screen of its own volition… apparently the computer had been hijacked remotely. My recommendation was to feed the computer through a woodchipper. Then set fire to the chips. And then jump up and down on them.

A: Does this sound like any particular sort of *thing,* other than “friggen’ awful?”

B: Anybody got a more productive recommendation than mine?

 Posted by at 2:43 pm
Dec 262014

There was a delay getting the December rewards out, and a further delay in putting this notification together that the rewards are available… so it might be only a short-ish time before these are gone, replaced by the *January* rewards. So if these look of interest… act fast!

PDF Document: “Design Study for an Air Force Model F-82E Airplane Modified to a Ground Attack Aircraft with Allison XT-38 Turbo Prop Engine,” a North American Aviation report from 1948. This was not for a simple engine swap-out… the cockpits were moved forward and the engines located behind them, driving the props with long shafts.

PDF Document: “SAM-D Air Defense Weapon System,” a 1973 US Army description document of what would become the Patriot missile system.

Large Format Diagram: a large-format full-color (w/bonus grayscale versions) diagram of the X-20 Dyna Soar. Very detailed and clear. Looks great on a wall (believe me on that!)

CAD Diagram: Boeing Model 853-21 “Quiet Bird” a 1961 design study for a low radar cross section (i.e. stealthy) research aircraft.

2014-12 patreon ad

If you would like to access these items and support the cause of acquiring and sharing these pieces of aerospace history, please visit my Patreon page and consider contributing.


 Posted by at 2:30 pm
Dec 262014

From 1983, the fake new broadcast that spooked the bejeebers out of a bunch of folks…

In short: anti-nuclear activists build a nuke and deposit it in Charleston, South Carolina. The visual effects are pretty rudimentary and not very convincing *now,* but at the time it did cause a bit of a freakout among people who didn’t know they were watching fiction. The exact level of freakout is uncertain… the press likes to play up such things. The famous panic caused by Orson Wells’ 1939 radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” has been blown *way* out of proportion, with a whole lot of fiction being taken as fact (ironic, that is…).

 Posted by at 1:19 pm
Dec 262014

Proud Adolf Hitler look-alike takes copy of Mein Kampf everywhere and charges £60 for a photo

The guy in question is a German who moved to Kosovo to fight the Serbs and who apparently thinks he’s the reincarnation of the famed community organizer Adolph Hitler. The article includes one photo of meager quality, but he really does look like that old-time social justice warrior.

It certainly seems off that there’d be people who think Hitler was sufficiently awesome that they want to look like him. But there are people who think that Stalin, Wilson, Mao and LBJ are awesome too, so… shrug.

 Posted by at 10:26 am
Dec 252014

Bad science fiction takes tropes like time travel, robots, spaceships, etc. and uses them as props in an otherwise non-science-fiction story. Basically, take a western (for example) and swap out the six guns for blasters, the horses for speeder bikes, the Injuns for Martians. While those can make entertaining enough stories, they’re not, by definition, “good science fiction.”

Truly good science fiction takes an idea for a technology or discovery that does not currently exist and examines what that piece of scientific advancement would do to the human condition. Such does not appear too often.

I just watched “Black Mirror: White Christmas” which was produced by the BBC. This was a surprisingly good hour and three quarters of *actual* science fiction. It comes in the form of three separate stories interwoven into a single narrative of two guys sitting in a cabin in a  snowstorm trading stories. The science fiction comes from a piece of technology that does not currently exist, but is integral to the story and *drives* thinking about what it would do to people. In short, as some point in the near future, everyone has some form of implanted technology that allows:

  • Enhanced vision
  • Pseudo-telepathic communications
  • The ability for other people to see through your eyes
  • The ability for entire minds to be copied and simulated
  • Real-time modification of what you see and hear

In the world shown, the technology is universal and wholly accepted, much like current cell phones. And as it turns out, some of the results of the use of this technology can be pretty damn horrifying.


It was awesome. In the usual British “everything is awful” sort of way.

It appears that this will run again on the “Audience” channel Saturday night.

 Posted by at 11:59 pm
Dec 252014

Once upon a time, there was a jackass…

Passenger tossed after flipping out over staff’s ‘Merry Christmas’

If the story is to be believed – and let’s face it… journalism – some guy went bugnuts because airline staff kept saying “Merry Christmas” and he doesn’t hold to that.

Lots of people say lots of things that mean something to them, but mean minimal to you. But so long as they’re not threatening you… who cares?

Really… is just shrugging, grunting something noncommittal and getting on with life really that hard? Come on, say it along with me: Meh.




Read it. Learn it. Live it.

meh3 meh2

meh4 meh1

 Posted by at 5:33 pm
Dec 252014

Researchers 3 Years Away from Commercializing Pure Graphene 3D Printers

Note: this is not like 3D printing of sizable structural elements, but more akin to printing out  microcircuitry. The concept seems straightforward enough… a liquid slurry of tiny sheets of graphene oxide is simply printed using a micropipette, with the liquid evaporating away and leaving the trail of graphene behind it (I’m guessing the tiny sheetlets stitch themselves together).

Where the process gets tricky… the article says the liquid used is hydrazine. Granted, the quantities used would probably be miniscule, but still… fricken’ hydrazine.

 Posted by at 11:48 am