Feb 202018

This headline is a couple years old, but, wow:

German government plans to spend 93.6 billion euros on refugees by end 2020: Spiegel

That works out to roughly 20 to 25 billion Euros per year to deal with a problem without actually trying to *end* the problem. Thus it seems that 20 billion euro per year could be stretched into the foreseeable future.

And you know what sort of thing won’t help?

Refugees could be given right to vote in Scotland

 Posted by at 12:30 pm
Feb 202018

“Black Panther” seems like it makes some people a little passionate.

Oddly, even though I’m not exactly a Marvel comics fanboy, I’ve caught every Marvel comics movie since “Iron Man” on opening day. Until “Black Panther.” Somehow I seem to have missed that one so far. I think perhaps the excessively matronizing Admiral Holdo in “The Last Jedi” stepped on my very last nerve and has made me annoyed enough with SJW messaging to flip my movie enthusiasm switch to “meh.”

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Feb 192018

The NERVA nuclear rocket, studied throughout the sixties into the early 1970’s, would have been a great way to propel spacecraft. But a nuclear rocket is not the same sort of reactor as is generally designed for use in space to generate electrical power. A NERVA can produce *gigawatts* of thermal energy, energy which is carried away with the high mass flow rate of the hydrogen propellant. Power reactors, on the other hand, are generally designed for several orders of magnitude lower thermal power… a few thermal megawatts, perhaps, to produce a few hundred kilowatts of electricity.

However, the fact remains that a nuclear rocket *is* a nuclear reactor. For most missions it would burn for a few minutes, at most perhaps few hours, out of a mission lasting perhaps years. It is thus a bit of a shame to waste all that potential. So over the decades many studies have been made for using a nuclear rocket as a power generator .

One such study was reported by Aerojet in 1970. The abstract is HERE, the direct PDF download if HERE.

In this study, the NERVA would pump out 1,500 thermal megawatts during the propulsion phase(producing 75,000 pounds of thrust), dropping to 250 to 505 thermal kilowatts during the power generation phase, enough to create 25 kilowatts of electricity. This would be a very low-power, low-temperature use of the reactor, reducing system efficiency… but still, making use of a reactor that was already there, and not noticeably using up the fission fuel in the reactor. The reactor would be run at very lower power levels and hydrogen would flow through a closed loop built into the reactor; the warmed gaseous hydrogen would flow through a turbogenerator to create electricity; the warm hydrogen would then pass through a radiator built on the outer surface of the hydrogen tank itself.

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 Posted by at 3:26 pm
Feb 182018

Well, this is multiple levels of disturbing:

Scoop: Skirmish in Beijing over the nuclear football

Apparently something a little less than entirely awesome may have occurred when Trump visited China back in November: a US military aide carrying the “nuclear football” was separated by Chinese security officers from the Presidential group. There was a physical confrontation between the Chinese and the US Secret Service before it all settled out.

Of course, this could turn out to be BS.


U.S. Secret Service denies agent tackled Chinese official after John Kelly got into nuclear football brawl

Option 1: Take it at face value. Fake news!

Option 2: Well… what *would* they say? If the story was accurate, it would – or at least should – be an international incident and yet another embarrassment for the Secret Service, just exactly the sort of thing they’d want to keep quiet.

Six of one…

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Feb 182018

A few decades before the “X-Wing” configuration gained a measure of popularity, Hughes Tool Company made a detailed study of a somewhat similar concept, the “rotor/wing.” This was a three-bladed helicopter rotor attached to a large central lifting surface, either a circular disk or a triangular structure. The rotor was not turned the conventional way with a turbine engine turning a drive shaft, but instead the engine exhaust was ducted through the center and then out to nozzles at the tips of the rotors. Jet thrust would spin the rotors without transmitting torque to the rest of the vehicles; as a consequence only a small tail rotor would be needed, just powerful enough to orient the craft at low airspeeds.

A few configurations were produced, most of which looking much the same. Probably the most well known configuration was shown in US VTOL Projects 01. Shown below is a lesser-known configuration designed for anti-submarine use. Normally the configurations included the turbojet engines within the upper fuselage, close to the hub of the rotor, but this one rather bizarrely put the engines on the tail. No obvious means of ducting the exhaust to the rotor is evident, so presumably a third (or even fourth) engine was tucked into the fuselage somewhere.


 Posted by at 1:24 am
Feb 172018

In the aftermath of *any* sort of attack, whether a mass shooting or a bombing or a truck/van rampage, the very first thing that happens is people begin to speculate about the motive. The very next thing, usually virtually simultaneous to speculation, is people attributing motives to the attack with no evidence whatsoever.usually this comes in the form of political attacks, ethnic or racial bias. Attempts to claim that The Other Guy is responsible for the atrocity; get the news out there fast so that even f it turns out it *wasn’t* the other guy, a lot of people already believe that it was. And belief sticks even in the face of evidence to the contrary, sad to say.

(This is one of the reasons why I’m trying to avoid talking much about these things early on. I’ve been tricked before.)

So a few days ago there was the school shooting in Florida. There were immediate speculations that it was a Jihad attack, or an Antifa attack, or a white supremacist, or a you-name-it. But the one that actually seemed to stick was the story that the shooter was a member of a Floridian white supremacist/militia group. Lots of media outlets ran with that one. And it turns out that that belief is apparently not only false, but the result of a deliberate attempt to plant that story for political purposes. but the weird thing is… it wasn’t BLM or Antifa that planted that hoax… it was the white supremacists themselves. Gentlemen… behold:

How white nationalists fooled the media about Florida shooter

That right there is a head-scratcher. I *think* the idea was to plant the false story, then make sure that the falseness of the story comes out after the media ran with it, in order to make the media look bad. Not sure that devious scheme’s really going to work that well, though… it’s not like the media is going to apologize to white nationalists and start running positive stories about them.


 Posted by at 11:59 pm
Feb 172018

So last year at a “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, James Fields drove his car into another car, which hit another, and in the process 19 people were injured and one killed. At the time it seemed like a deliberate attack. However, it has come to light that an Antifa “revolutionary,” an anthropology professor and stereotype of all that’s wrong with modern academia, had actually chased Fields with a rifle immediately prior to Fields jumping in his car.

Fields is hardly a sympathetic character; anyone who thinks the Nazis were just neato-keen loses that option. But running in fear of ones life is the sort of mitigating circumstance that might well make the upcoming trial rather more complex than the originally envisioned open-and-shut case. And if it’s proven that Fields was in rational fear of his life – not a difficult challenge given that Dixon has admitted to threatening Fields with a rifle – I have to wonder if *Dixon* could wind up in legal trouble. It seems unlikely, but I do wonder if a really skilled lawyer could actually get Fields off the hook here.

Like many Internet Tough Guys, Dixon talks a big game when he’s surrounded by the rest of his merry band of misfits. But catch him in a hallway and point a video camera at him and his manliness evaporates. Note also how this communist anarchist suddenly becomes terribly interested in private property and calling the cops when he is threatened by being asked a few questions.



 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Feb 172018

There are two things at work here:

  1. Toys have in general improved in artistic quality and detail
  2. The target audience back in the day was 10. The target audience remains the same people, who have grown older and generally more wealthy in the intervening decades.

The Vintage Collection Jabba’s Sail Barge (The Khetanna)

Hasbro has set up their own form of Kickstarter. If they can get 5,000 people willing to pony up $500, they will produce this “toy” of the Sail Barge slight over *49* inches in length. If they don’t reach the goal, those who signed up won’t be charged. As with Kickstarter, this seems like a fair way to test the market for something that could either be a winner or a disaster.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Sail Barge, but I hope they do well. If this works, it seems like they might go to the next obvious step and do a proper scale version of the Millennium Falcon. And if that works… a Star Destroyer. That would only be, what, 293 feet long.

Back when Star Wars came out, *I* was the exact target audience and boy howdy did I want one of the die cast Star Destroyers. And man, those original toys were *garbage* compared to what they’re able to produce today.



 Posted by at 6:12 pm
Feb 162018

A sci-fi ponderable.

Let’s say easy personal time travel exists. Let’s further say that you can go back in time and change history however you like, then come back to a changed present (but still be the original “you”). At what point do you, or the Time Cops, or whoever, decide that tinkering is not to be allowed?

As an example: let’s say you could go back in time a few days and stop the Parkland school shooting. Would you do it without ethical qualms? Pretty sure most people would say some form of “yes,” because from the point of view of *right* *now* as I type this, the only changes in the timeline would be positive ones. But let’s say you were given the option of going back in time and popping a cap in Hitler or Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Castro or Proxmire or LBJ before they rose to power and caused a ruckus. Would you do it, even if you could see the rough outline of the new timeline and everything was awesome? This seems like it would be trickier. Because if you did, you would be committing a kind of genocide on a scale never imagined in human history.

Let’s say you whack Hitler just as he’s taking over the Nazi party, say, 1925. Let’s further suggest that the whackage is of such entertainingness that the rest of the Nazis get whacked with him. Huzzah! No Nazis, no Holocaust, no WWII. Assume that, somehow, this leads to an era of peace and prosperity never before imagined; the Soviets give up that Socialism nonsense and become free market capitalists, the Japanese skip past the Rape of Nanking and go straight to tentacle porn; FDR not only never gets elected and thus doesn’t turn a depression into the decades-long Great Depression, but instead goes down in flames such that he drags the Democrat party down with him and from then on US politics is split between the Republicans and the Libertarians. Huzzah! Everything is awesome! Star Trek goes for eleven seasons, Reagan wins three terms, Orions to Pluto by 1990. Huzzah indeed!

But here’s the thing. Unless you buy into nonsense like fate, destiny, predestination, the universe having some sort of plan… virtually *nobody* who was born much after 1926 or so in the “prime” timeline is actually born. By changing politics in Weimar Germany, you’ve set in motion a cascade of changes that lead to a “prime” mother and father not meeting, or meeting but not doing the deed on the specified date, or doing it thirty seconds later, or sperm #1,452,355,343 rather than #1,452,355,342 being the one that succeeds at the egg. And when that kid isn’t born in 1927, that kid can’t have the Prime offspring in 1952, who can’t make a kid in 1983, who cant reproduce in 2018. You will have eliminated from the timeline something along the lines of ten billion people. Granted, you will have created ten billion *other* people, but for the most part judicial systems are underwhelmed with the argument, “yes, you honor, I murdered my infant…but hey, I got right on to making a replacement, so… we’re cool, right?”

So: how does whoever has the power over time travel decide what changes can be made? “No changes allowed” is the easy answer.

 Posted by at 4:47 pm