Saturday, January 15, 2011

Some questions on the Space Show, Floating to Space

The Space Show callers had a few technical questions which I thought I'd
comment upon briefly. One caller asked about energy source and John's
answer was a solar electric combination- most likely using batteries.

My comment is that it may not be the best idea because batteries are
quite heavy. That adds a weight penalty that you may want to avoid in
attempting to get to space.

The second question was about shock waves as you approach supersonic
speeds at high altitudes. John's answer was to manage that problem
at altitudes. The higher the altitude, the less the problem was. He
said the following altitudes were targeted to attain the velocities listed:

Below 200k ft. subsonic: begin to lose buoyancy, begin aerodynamic lift
240-260k 300 mph up to supersonic
above 240 k supersonic, not clear here; assume below 240k ft is subsonic
300 k supersonic; above 300k is supersonic to hypersonic, I gather
316 k hypersonic At this altitude, you are approaching space itself.

The third question was the most challenging. The questioner, named
Charles, asked how do you impart the necessary energy with batteries.
The most powerful batteries known could not come close to the
energy requirement of getting to space. He observed that the
energy requirement is 33 megajoules per kg mass no matter how you
do it. A battery cannot deliver that kind of power,he says. He
was also doubtful about solar too.

I ran some numbers on that. According to the wikipedia, there
are about 10 kilowatt hours per kilogram according to the number
that Charles gave. A kilowatt hour is over 3 million joules.
Therefore 10 kilowatt hours per kilogram satisfies Charles claim.

Incidentally, this is not the answer that John gave. It is the
one I looked up myself. Not that the source that I've given is
accurate or correct. If what I cite is correct, then the power
requirements seem daunting. But not necessarily impossible.

I don't know the mass of his airship, but it is quite large.
If the weight is 100 times his Ascender airship that he described,
it would only weigh 600 lbs times a hundred, or 60,000 pounds.

That figures to 272,000 kilowatt hours.
Or 2.84 megawatt continuous power over 4 days that he anticipates
that it will take to get to orbital speed.

Charles may be right in that it may take more than batteries
to do the job, but that kinda what I figured in the first place.

Update: Sun. 1/16/11, approx 9:15 am cst

In case the above seems rather unfavorable to this concept, I should note that John
mentioned that he has turned down investment offers in his enterprise.  The reason,
from what I gather, is that he would prefer to keep independent.  Any investors would
want return on their money according to some timetable which may not be feasible.  I
would only add that if a timetable could be plausible to make this concept's feasibility into
a more highly probable favorable outcome, that he may want to reconsider any new
investment offers that may come along.  That's because trying to do this solo may take
longer than he has left in terms of his own lifespan.  He has been at this for over 20 years,
according to the show.  So, he may want to reconsider since he won't live forever.

Recent Activities

I continue adding links to my interesting reading section on the left sidebar.  Last night, as I mentioned, I listened to a Space Show broadcast (2008) featuring John Powell of JP Aerospace.  I put that up in that section in case anyone is interested.

This morning, I continue studying the idea of using magnetism as propulsion.  I added some interesting links there as well.   Magnets can be made so powerful that they can levitate a frog shown here:

I added the die for a better illustration.  The die is more centered.  I think that the frog, being alive, wanted to get to something solid for support.  So it migrates to the edges.

Not only can things be levitated, they can be launched.  Here's a pic of an experiment launching a small metallic device several feet into the air using nothing but magnetism.  The object is shown here after it has fallen back down to its launch point.

 I made a couple more screen shots of relative magnetic force examples shown below

It takes a lot of power to run some of these magnets.  As I wrote in an earlier post, I wonder if this could be used to propel a spacecraft higher or into orbit.  The idea has been studied and nearly implemented in the Mir example given earlier.  Government red tape may have prevented that, not necessarily its feasibility.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Toot your own horn, but softly

I've heard that advice before.  You want to be confident, but not arrogant.  Arrogance isn't attractive.  Yet, some people are attracted to arrogance, mistaking it for confidence.  One of my old bosses had something to say about the difference which has stuck with me all these years.  He said that there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  But he didn't say what that was.  It was up to me to figure it out.  Well, have I figured it out?  I'd like to think so.  The difference between arrogance and confidence is respect for the other guy.  It's okay to respect yourself, but you don't have to disrespect the other guy in the process.  That is the difference.

With that, I will toot my own horn.  I announce that I have received a couple of certificates from Folding at home site for my donations to their project.  The link to folding at home is on my sidebar, if you are interested.  The idea is to use the idle time of your cpu to for distributed processing.  It is being employed to help fight cancer.  If you want to help, check out the link on the sidebar.   While you are at it, give me a click or two on the ads here.  If I get some clicks from you, I can continue helping these other guys.  Maybe they'll come up with a cure.

Banned in Canada

Via The Other McCain and Instapundit, I learned the news of the banning of Dire Straits' video Money for Nothing.  Talking about Money for Nothing, these politicians ain't dumb.  They don't even get a "blister on their thumb".  Although some of them do get shot at from time to time.  All the same, they are a pretty worthless lot.

Update: a few minutes later

Actually, this guy's blog is fairly interesting.  I was wondering why I don't get more page hits and this guy gives a few tips on the subject.  But like everything else, I don't drink down the Kool Aid.  I think WishboneT may like this guy though. If you are out there Wishbone, take a look at this guy's blog.   Let's just say that I don't think it is a good thing to be "vitriolic" and engage in hate mongering.  You only give someone a b*)*h slap when he or she really needs it.  Otherwise, you count on them to figure it out for themselves and act accordingly.

Why people do crazy things

While I am pointing out the new features of my blog so that you may more easily gain some insight into that which may profit you to know, I point to my sidebar where Dr. Sanity is listed.  If you read Dr. Sanity, you may gain some insight into why this Arizona shooter went nuts and started shooting people.  Perhaps not, though.  But it may be useful to go there in order to learn about human behavior.  Dr Sanity is a mental health professional.  This character that shot up the parking lot in Tuscon could have used her services.  A lot of people could learn a thing or two from Dr. Sanity and the cost is free of charge.  Partake of her knowledge freely given and profit from it.

New Features

While WishboneT was still a contributor, he posted on the New Features of the blog.  One thing about this blog, I am always looking for ways to improve upon it.  Yesterday, I browsed through JP Aerospace link that I have in the interesting reading section.  From that blog, I was able to find new links which led to the creation of a new section called Space Related blogs.

I want this blog to be a resource for anyone who may want to research something.  That's because, as I've mentioned above, I do this myself.  I like to pick the brains of people who post stuff on the internet.  It is a great way to develop your mind.  By doing this myself via this blog, I pass it along to others.  This reminds me of something which I posted about earlier.  It is a concept called "Open Source".   Open Source isn't just about Linux operating system for computers.  It is a philosophy about knowledge.

Knowledge shouldn't be hoarded.  It should be shared.  The idea is expressed this way.  "If you give someone an apple in exchange for an orange, you still have someone who has an apple and someone else who has an orange.  But if the two exchange ideas, both of them each have two ideas."  The concept is the multiplication of knowledge by sharing it.  That is what the internet can do.

I hope this blog can become a source of information for people who want to improve their knowledge about a topic or series of topics.  If I find a way to impart that information here, I will add it to the blog.

Update: 1/14/11, approx 5:50pm cst

Just added an mp3 download link of the Space Show program featuring John Powell of JP Aerospace.  It is about his book being published and available for sale (this was a 2008 show).  On the basis of this show, I decided to order a copy of this book which should arrive within a week.  After reading it, I'll do a post or two on it.  Until then.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Big Lie


Oliver Stone's JFK got me interested in that subject.  But I didn't walk away from the film as an admirer of Stone's.  As a matter of fact, the very opposite occurred.  What I got from that film was that an unfortunate historical event was being used for political purposes.  It had little to do with truth, everything to do with stirring up people and getting them to behave in a way that the instigator wished.

Talking about vitriolic rhetoric.  That film a one long propaganda piece against what Stone was pleased to call "fascism".  It was slanderous.  The name calling and the false accusations.

As a result of watching the film, I got acquainted with the facts of the assassination and came to quite different conclusions than the one Stone wanted to portray.

It may be thought that I was biased.  But not so.  Back then, I was a lot closer to the moderate version of conservatism than now.  This film pretty much turned me against liberalism in a visceral sort of way.

But let's leave emotion aside.  What could have President Kennedy done in his own defense of his own life?  Could he have done something?  Yes.  As a matter of fact, his own decisions made the Secret Service's job of protecting him harder.  If an agent was closer to him when those shots first rang out, he may have survived that day.

I think there are parallels between the Kennedy assassination and the Giffords' attempted assassination.  In both cases, the politicians involved could have done something to aid in their own protection.  She could have held the event in a more secure place.  A parking lot gave access to anybody at all.  This meant an assassin as well.  For this reason, she holds some responsibility for what happened to her.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think it is good to blame victims for what happened to them.  But reality is what it is.  She had to know as well as anyone the risks she was taking.  She must have known she was exposing herself to any wacko that might have been out there to do harm.  And so she did.  For that, she should accept responsibility.  She might not only have spared herself a lot of suffering, but she may have spared the rest of us this garbage that is going on now. 

A thought experiment on rockoons

Well, not exactly a rockoon.  A rockoon is a rocket launched from a balloon suspended platform.  This would be a twist on the concept.  Let's make the balloon into a rocket too.  The "balloon" isn't a balloon exactly, though.  It is an airship.

In an earlier post back in October, I came across Parkins' Microwave Thruster concept.  This concept employs microwaves to heat the reaction mass of hydrogen in order to provide thrust.  Now, what if you can employ this concept on airships?  Zap it with energy from the Dark Sky Station and heat up a reaction mass in order to provide thrust.  Parkin's device is efficient and could provide plenty of thrust.  The problem is getting something up there that could provide lots of energy so that the airship could have sufficient thrust to get to orbit.

The Dark Sky Station is huge.  I am supposing that the energy source can come from there.  It would have a short range available to it in order to give the Orbital Ascender sufficient thrust.  Parkins suggests an upwards trajectory above the atmosphere, then a short burst to get it up to orbital speed.   The idea I had was to use the ion engines to supply forward speed and the electrodynamic tethers to maintain altitude in combination with this concept here to provide the necessary thrust to reach orbital velocity.  Short bursts from the Dark Sky Station would be applied on each orbit to give additional thrust and to keep G forces from being too extreme.  The ion engines would supply thrust forward to maintain or increase speed while circling the earth on each revolution.

I wonder, could a concept like this work?

Update:  1/13/11, approx 11am cst

I am still thinking about this concept.  Here's another thought:  raise the Ascender to 200,000 feet using lighter than air flotation.  Once you've gotten that far, use Parkin's idea to raise it the rest of this distance into space.  But instead of giving forward speed, just increase altitude.  Once you've attained the altitude of 200 miles, release a conventional rocket which will be able to attain orbital speed before it can reenter the atmosphere.

You could also use an electrodynamic tether to aid in increasing altitude and maintaining it for launching the rockoon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can spacecraft move due to magnetism?

I used the above title of this blog post in a google search and came up with this link.

The reason this interests me is that JP Aerospace has this idea of using airships to orbit.  I was wondering if such a large airship as they are planning will give enough lift to get the airship above the atmosphere by using this technique.

I am not aware that such a technique is envisioned in their plans, only that some folks are doubtful of the airships capability of getting into orbit.  The one problem such an airship could have is friction.  Once it gets up enough speed, it will begin experiencing friction and that could jeapordize the airship.

I did note that the airship will be aerodynamic, which means that they anticipate enough forward speed to give it some lift.  But that alone won't be sufficient to get above the atmosphere.  Once the lift is gone, altitude gain will have to come in some other fashion.  Yet there could still be enough atmosphere left to cause friction which could be a problem.

Now if the airship had enough lift from a magnetic field so that it could rise above the atmosphere, it could have a better opportunity of reaching space before burning up from friction.

Update: 1/12/11, approx 3:20pm cst

It appears that an electrodynamic tether of the type was being considered by the Russians for boosting their Mir space station to a higher orbit.  It consisted of a 330 lb assembly with a 3 mile aluminum wire tether.  Source Van Pelt:  Space Tethers and Space Elevators p. 132.  Power requirement were a few kilowatts, not too much for a solar power array.

Gun Control

I've been looking a little into that.  One may be curious about the question in light of current events.  Could the shooter have been stopped if more gun control laws were in effect?

Perhaps, but let's look at what is already there.  One provision of the current Federal law prohibits "mental defectives" from purchasing firearms.  These persons have to be adjudicated as being mental defectives or have been committed to a mental institution.  Evidently, the Arizona shooter managed to evade this provision and legally purchase his weapon since he was not legally nuts.

There are plenty of reports of this individual's strange behavior.  But nobody seemed to feel the necessity of doing anything about it within the context of this law.  Is it because of indifference or ignorance or what have you?  What about the authorities who expelled him from school?  Could they have done more?  Could the law be tighten up a bit so as to require an evaluation based upon probable cause?  If his behavior was strange enough to cause people to be afraid, wasn't that enough probable cause to evaluate him?  In short, what could have been done, but wasn't?

Frog and Scorpion

When it comes to this Climate of Hate stuff, I am reminded of the story of the Frog and Scorpion.  It took me a long circuitous route in order to get to this conclusion and it requires some explanation.

This charge being made of "vitriolic" rhetoric that is somehow connected to the shootings in Arizona appears to me to very dishonest.  It is the kind of dishonesty that you find in liberals.  Surely they are not so dumb as to believe that a few words is going to cause bad things to happen, for if they really believed that, they would tone down their own language.  Liberals are not necessarily stupid, despite their appearances sometimes.  They just have this problem with basic concepts like integrity, honesty and honor.  Use those words around a liberal, and you'll get a sneering response.  It is so old fashioned to them.

It reminds me of what Leo Durocher used to say:  "Nice guys finish last."  Politics is a tough competitive occupation, not unlike competitive sports.  Knocking the other guy silly in order to get an edge is okay if you can get away with it.  In fact, it ought to be expected.  Hence you get the response that the Mahablog had, in which I referenced in an earlier post.  Any complaints about the rough tactics are attributed to weakness on the protestors part.  Never mind the fact that it is the very same thing that the critics are saying themselves.  The critics want their adversaries to tone it down, but that won't be reciprocated.  Even more, not only will it not be reciprocated, but any complaints will be characterized as crybabying.

But their is no honor no integrity in the charge.  Never mind that, they'll say.  Nice guys finish last.

It may be a little starry eyed of me, but I do think that conservatives do care more about honor and integrity than the liberals.  I'll buttress that opinion with a few facts which can't be denied.  When a conservative breaks a promise, like George H.W. Bush's "read my lips" promise not to raise taxes, the betrayal is taken very seriously.  But if a liberal, like Clinton says he "didn't have sex with that woman", and it turns out to be a lie, nobody seems to be shocked.  The two sides are judged by different standards.  Or to put it more accurately, one side gets judged by its own standards and the other doesn't get judged because it has no standards to begin with.

When I think of liberals, I think of them as the Al Capone types.  That may seem a bit harsh, but let me explain.  In his book "Success Through a Positive Mental Atttitude", Napoleon Hill discusses his interview with the notorious gangster.  When Hill asked Capone why he did the things he did, Capone said "I had to."  He felt it was necessary for him to be dishonest.  But Hill points out that necessity has nothing to do with the choice of being dishonest.  Dishonesty is a choice, nobody forces anybody to be dishonest.  Nobody forced Capone to be a gangster.  That was his choice.  Yet Capone no doubt believed that he was being forced into becoming a gangster.  People can rationalize any behavior if it suits them in some way.  If it suits the liberals to lie about the conservatives, in particular about a certain tragic event, why they'll just say that they have to.  And they'll feel perfectly justified in doing so.

So that brings me back to the Frog and Scorpion parable.  It is in the Scorpions' nature to sting the Frog while the Frog is carrying the Scorpion to safety even though it will kill the both of them.  The Scorpion can't help itself.  It would prefer death to them both than to have his enemies succeed or survive.  The Scorpion isn't motivated by good will, but by enmity.  Therefore, you can't believe what the "Scorpions" say.  If you do, and you trust them, you go down the drink with them.


This is being reposted from almost two years ago after the Gifford shooting in Arizona.  It is about the "Climate of Hate" charge leveled at the right and how the left was attempting to say that this climate caused the shooting.

It is especially important now with what is happening in the election.  They may charge the same climate of hate is what is bringing Obama down, if that is indeed what is happening ( Obama going down).

The gold standard is the truth.  Obama didn't trust us with the truth.  His excuse will be the same as Capone's.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If worrying is your bag, baby

... a little Austin Powers lingo there.  Anyway, there's a poll out that says that 60% of those surveyed don't think that rhetoric had anything to do with the Arizona shootings.  At first blush, that would seem reassuring.  On second thought, only 60%!!!  This entire idea of rhetoric having anything at all to do with this should have been shot down as ridiculous right from the start.  It bears repeating over and over again until those who are mentally challenged get it...  There. Is. No. Connection.  

It matters not that you want to believe that there is a connection.   What you want to believe doesn't figure into this instance or any instance for that matter.  If it isn't connected, It. Isn't.  Connected.  End of story.

The rhetoric isn't the thing to worry about.  It is the stupidity that's behind the belief that the rhetoric is behind it.

Ideology: an excuse not to think

Ronald Reagan didn't trust ideologies, neither do I.  In his famous "speech" in 1964, he said that he didn't believe that the choice was between right or left, but between freedom and tyranny.  When it comes to the events of the day, I think that model holds as well today as the day he uttered it.  In my own opinion, I am coming to the conclusion that ideology makes us stupid.  That's because when people start believing in a system, then they stop thinking.  The system is supposed to take care of problems instead of human reasoning.  A system, as such, does not think.  But people are obliged to, if they want to solve problems.

If Paul Krugman really wanted to elevate the public discourse, would he make false accusations?  No.  But the thing that drives Paul Krugman is his ideology.  Even more, his ideology drives him to the hatred that the attributes to those who disagree with him.  What else could drive Krugman to falsely accuse others of a crime that they had nothing to do with?  He is so sure that the evidence exists that he prejudges its existence before any investigation can yield any facts on the matter.  Even when no existence is forthcoming, he maintains his position on a firm belief that the rhetoric of those he doesn't agree with had something to do with the shootings in Arizona.  Yet there is no rational basis for his belief.  Perhaps something may turn up, but why not keep his peace in the meantime?  He can't keep his peace because his ideology will not permit it.  His ideology drives him to do something that can be called stupid.  "Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

The stupidity isn't confined to Krugman.  There's plenty to around on all sides of the political spectrum.  If nothing good comes from this, it is because those who could do something won't.  They have had plenty of time to do something to prevent these types of occurrences.  Yet these things continue to happen.  What is the solution?  Is anybody actually interested in a solution?  Or are they more interested in using the situation for political cannon fodder?  Rome was said to have been burning while Nero fiddled.  To me, the ideologues will fiddle around while our society burns with problems that can't get solved because no one can do anything about them.  They can't do anything about them because the ideologues will tie us in knots.

Gun control?  I don't believe in gun control, but the fact remains that if this guy couldn't get a gun, he couldn't have done what he did.  I would be very suspicious of any attempt at gun control, but on the other hand, if someone could come up with an idea that could work, or one in which responsibility can be ascertained, I could be persuaded.  I think an ideal solution would allow those who wish to keep their freedoms be the ones who police the system.  I won't favor anything that allows those who wish to reduce us to the status of slaves be the ones who do the regulating.  We have too many foxes in charge of too many chicken coops already.

Notice that I used the word "system".  Yes, you do need a system.  But the system needs to be run by people who are required to think.  A system that has some accountability will allow those who can affix responsibility to do the job needed afterward in case the system fails.  Any system that does less is doomed to failure.  But that could be just the type of system that ideology will produce.  A system that avoids accountability and responsibility.  If that result comes from these types of events, the system can't hold. Stupidity will reign and chaos will rule.

Something needs to change.  I would not favor an ideology to find the change needed.  It will require some intelligence.  That is asking too much of ideology.  Krugman can stand aside.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making money the old fashioned way

This YouTube video isn't in very good shape, but I'll put it up here anyway.  Seems that the world needs to get back to basics.  Making money the old fashioned way, by EARNING it.  A few of the comments there were of the cynical sort.  The old fashioned way could also mean stealing it.  Whatever I do here will be of the old fashioned way, by EARNING it.

Is this blog a space blog?

So far there has been over 300 posts on this blog.  Nearly 100 of those classified under "Space Stuff".  If it isn't a space blog, it is getting close to being one.  Yet I didn't start out with that intention.

I suppose everything has its start in an inspiration.  That inspiration in the case of this blog would be "Mining The Sky".  From that book, I concluded that whatever problems we may be facing here on Earth, there is a solution for it in space.  Let's be clear on one thing:  that statement is mine, not John S. Lewis'.   He merely points to the resources that are available in space.  I have taken it one step further.

For those who believe overpopulation is a major problem, there is plenty of room in space.  People may laugh at that.  How can anyone live in space?  Well, there are those who believe we can.  Even though I haven't studied the idea for very long, I think this is true.  After all, what does it take to survive?  Food, shelter, clothing.  All of these can be found or made in space.  Problems of survival can be solved in space as they are solved on the ground.  Therefore, the possibilities of large numbers of people living "off world" is not at all farfetched.  It may well be the solution for our problems with this phenomenon.

Global warming?  Same story.  There is plenty of energy in space which can be beamed back to Earth.  It would be renewable and available.  The trouble with solar energy on the ground is that the sun doesn't shine all the time.  But it does in space.  There are logistical problems in setting up such a system, but these may be overcome if there was an intention to actually solve the problem this way.  Perhaps it is thought to be too expensive.  Yet, name one technology that wasn't expensive in the beginning.  The only thing lacking is a foothold.

The unique thing about getting that foothold is that it already exists, yet gets thrown away every time something has to come back down.  The amount of fuel required to escape the deep gravity well of the Earth makes up 95 percent of the weight of a rocket.  If that "launch problem" can be solved,  space colonization and commercialization won't be far behind.  To solve the launch problem, you have to minimize the number of launches, in my opinion.  That means, whatever goes up, stays up.  Sending stuff back down just wastes all that fuel expended in order to get something up in the first place.  But I digress, let's move on.

Overpopulation and resource competition lead to wars.  If you don't believe in the first two instances as problems or causation of problems, the third one is an undeniable one.  Does that mean that space colonization can lead to peace?  It may, in my opinion, if it eases the pressures of those other two phenomena.  Based upon what's available in space, if we would actually look there, there would seem to be little reason to fight over scarce resources.  There is an abundance in space that is truly mind boggling.  People don't fight wars over the air we breathe.  If everything that people needed were in that abundance, what reason would anyone have for wars?

Not only fewer or no wars, but the probability of the survival of the species would be enhanced if space were colonized.  One of the functions of a permanent presence in space would be in stopping extinction events that periodically visit the Earth from asteroids.  If the asteroid was big enough, it could wipe out all life on Earth.  Now if people lived off the Earth, if such an event did occur, life could go on somewhere else.  Instead of space being seen as a useless waste of resource, it should be seen as a vital necessity.  It may well be possible that everything may depend upon it.

This may not be a space blog yet, but it may be getting there.

Recent Events

There have been a few things that have happened in connection to this blog which I haven't commented upon.  In the spirit of openness that I wanted to apply to this blog, I think it would behoove me to explain these events and have them out in the open.

Basically, its pretty simple.  The blog had three contributors, now there is just one, me.  How did that happen is what I shall explain, or attempt to explain.  I say attempt, because I do not have all the facts.

Evidently something happened between Google, who owns Blogger, and WishboneT, one of my contributors. Rather than speculate upon what that was, I will remain silent on it.  All I know is that something happened. The only detail that I can provide is that it may have had something to do with AdSense, which is the advertising side of this.  From there, it gets a bit murky, and I won't comment further upon that.

Anyway, Google removed him from contributor list.  This wasn't my decision, but Googles'.  As of this writing, I know of no other action relating to Google that they have done, or may have done in connection with whatever this is.

I made a decision at that point to go solo.  Since Steven wasn't contributing to the blog, I decided to drop him from the contributor list.  I can't say that he did anything wrong.  It was just my impression that he really wasn't interested in doing posts for this blog.  As of the time I dropped him, he hadn't made a single post. 

And there it is in a nutshell.  I will miss Wishbone's contribution to the blog.  I think he definitely added something, but that is out of my control.  I am going to continue the blog, though.  But as with everything else I have written, it is not easy to do this and make money at it.  And I need to make money at this.  I'm still thinking up new ideas all the time.  One of these days, I may run out of ideas.  But in the meantime, I am still trying.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christopher Laird, Newsletter - Edition 249 - 09 January 2011

Just read through it.  Not exactly upbeat.  Anyway, here's the outline of the essay for this week.  To get the full story, you will need a subscription.  See the link in the products page.

Concentration of wealth leads to depressions and technology combined with that leads to revoultions.
Demographic bomb
Dissafected college students
Wealth concentration – deadly
Asian markets vs the US
Gold, USD, Oil

Law of Scarcity

I had this idea for a blog post recently, but it seemed to disappear for awhile.  Now it's back.  Ok, what does it mean, this Law of Scarcity?  Let's use it in the economic sense.

I want to show why it isn't such a bad idea to produce a big surplus of say, platinum group metals from asteroids, if that is a likely result from mining the asteroids.  After all, if a big surplus occurs, prices will fall by the law of supply and demand.  Why should anyone want that?  Or to put it another way, why should someone want to mine platinum only to have to drop off the scale in price?  That would be counter productive, then.

But why would anyone want platinum in the first place?  It has its uses does it not?

The air we breathe has its uses too.  Yet, no one can market the air we breathe for profit.  That is because of its abundance.  What makes a substance marketable is its scarcity.  The market price of an item relates more to its availability than its value.  Sometimes the concepts get mixed up.  The confusion is what makes guys like Warren Buffet rich.  People may overvalue an item and pay too much.  On the other hand, they may undervalue a thing, and a bargain may be obtainable.  The price of an item and its value are not necessarily one and the same.  What value can you put on the air we breathe?  Without it, nothing else is possible.  With it, and all things possible to living beings are possible.  It's value is measureless, yet it can't be sold.  Fortunately, there's an abundance of it.

I would hold that platinum could be like the air we breathe.  It is very valuable.  Not in terms of life itself.  I suppose life may depend on some small part the contributions of platinum.  But on the whole, we could live without it.  But for a modern economy, platinum is very valuable and needful.  Yet, it doesn't exist in abundance.  At least not on Earth.  If lots of platinum could be found somehow, everyone would be better off.

Platinum can be used in hydrogen fuel cells as a catalyst, for example.   It can also be used with ruthenium (another platinum group metal) to hydrolyze electrolyze methanol.  In combination, these two processes can be used to support a completely new way of powering an automobile by use of a hydrogen fuel cell.  If these metals were as available as air, the products that could be made from them would be worth more than the metals themselves are now, even though the price is high.  Consider that it would no longer be any need to import oil into the USA, hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved each year.

From that, I would argue that it doesn't pay to keep things scarce.  At least that appears to be true with platinum.  Could it also be true in the general case?

Gabrielle Giffords shooting

This is getting tremendous amount of attention on the blogosphere.  I fear that it will be used as an excuse for curtailing opposition.  If there was any political points to be made by an assassination of this person, I don't see it. What was gained by it?  Who benefits from it?  How does anyone benefit from it?

It is sad enough that it happened, but the politics arising from it will be worse.

Update: 1/9/11, approx 9am cst

I keep reading that Palin is to blame for the shooting since she posted crosshairs post on Facebook.  Where's the proof of a connection?  People who make the claim should prove it.

The accusations are meant to instill guilt which can be exploited.

Wall Street Journal article shows bizarre behavior.  He has had left wing tendencies.  Here's more at NYT via Free Republic.  Also, he was kicked out of school.  Conditions for his return: clearance from a mental health professional.