Links for2009-07-30

  • "No amount of data about how the human body reacts to zero-G is going to answer the important question, which is: how does the human body react to extended periods under fractional gravity--like the moon's 1/6 G or Mars's .38 G? If there's a potential show-stopper to colonizing other worlds, it's going to be how our physiology responds to fractional gravity, not zero gravity."
  • "The best $50 million answer I heard lately came from my friend Colin McCormick, a physics and policy wonk in DC, who wonders whether you could destroy the small arms trade that enables violent insurrection around the world with $50 million worth of research on ceramics. His idea was to create a ceramic that could be placed within 7.62 shells, the ammunition used in AK-47s and other inexpensive assault rifles. When detonated, the shell would trigger a chemical change in the ceramic, causing it to expand and bond to the rifled barrel. Guns fired using these rounds would become unusable. The idea would be to mix small numbers of compromised rounds into ammo released through the global arms trade, in the hopes of making it increasingly dangerous to buy illegal ammo without risking destruction of weapons."
  • "I don't read McArdle much because I know she doesn't know what she's talking about, and the glibness of her ignorance and the infantile quality of her ideology (that brand of libertarianism present in populations that include my nine-year-old and that can be summed up "you can't tell me what to do") piss me off. Why read annoying, uninformed -if glibly written -- dreck?"
  • "I like video analysis of motion. I like looking at stuff on youtube or other video sites. But sometimes, you need to make the video yourself. What should you use? My personal favorite is a Flip Mino HD. It is small and quick. Are there other options?"
  • "We're busily pointing fingers at a thousand other causes, desperate to blame our slow death on something beyond our control. It's Craigslist killing classified revenue. Or the Internet. Or the geometric explosion of competing news outlets. No. Those things don't help, but those aren't the main problem. The main problem is that we're no longer doing our job. We no longer think that it is our job to do our job. The main problem is that we refuse to tell the truth for fear that someone, somewhere, might disagree with it.

    So the demonstrable nuttiness of the birthers seems like exactly the slap in the face that newspapers desperately need. Here is a claim so outrageously false and so easily disproved that it exposes the absurdity of our irresponsible "report the controversy, not the facts of the matter" betrayal of our vocation."

  • "Try your hand at political cartooning -- at least the portion that doesn't require pen and ink. Suggest a short caption for this image [of Sotomayor and Palin] to enter our McClatchy cartoon contest and compete to win a signed cartoon from Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer."
  • "How to participate:

    1. Announce the week in your blog.

    2. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of color, portrayals of race in fiction, review a book on the subject, etc. (Linking back here is highly appreciated!) The optional theme this year is "global."

    3. Let us know by bookmarking your post on Delicious with "for:ibarw," or comment with a link to your post in one of the link collecting posts."


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Another dumb article on why spaceflight is bad for you -- "But really, people, think! This doesn't mean that space flight is intrinsically dangerous. It means that badly shielded tin-can environments that aren't spun for gravity are a bad idea. And that is quite a different…
$6/Kg to orbit -- "The fact is, there is only one problem worth speaking about in space development, and that is the problem of cost-to-orbit. It currently costs around $10,000/kg to launch anything at all. That price will never come down as long as chemical rockets are the…
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[because it's easier to comment here than over at] The missing research program for space colonization is even more missing that Karl Schroeder describes. Not only is there no program for adaptation to fractional gravity, the program for adaptation to the trip to Mars itself is laughably primitive. It's going to take a couple of years of being cooped up in a spacecraft, literally millions of miles away from help, at zero-G the entire trip.

The ISS could be used to investigate physiological adaptation for zero-G exposure of multi-year duration, but the record-holders, Sergei Krikalev with the world record and Michael Foale with the U.S. record, accumulated their years of total zero-G over half a dozen or more shorter flights. When the astronauts get to Mars, are they even going to have the strength to walk out of their spacecraft and plant the flag after years of continuous weightlessness?

The latest ideas for providing artificial gravity involve fancy centrifuge setups, but it was shown by the
Skylab astronauts 37 years ago that simply running around a cylindrical track can create enough centrifugal force to be significant -- and Skylab was less than 25 feet in diameter vs what looks to be about 40 ft diameter in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The current shuttle and Proton lifters will never be able to get something as big as Skylab into orbit, so although Ariane 5 might be able to do it, we're probably going to have to wait until the Ares V program is making test flights to even think about such a thing.