Archive for January, 2004

Mixmaster

January 27, 2004

Thanks to a link found by Alan Brain, here’s how my [old Blogspot – ed.] content would look as Fox News.

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“People Called Romanes They Go The House”

January 27, 2004

Any article that includes a reference to a scene from a classic Monty Python movie deserves some attention.
I endured (and enjoyed, to be fair) four years of Latin at my high school. In fact, during my senior year, I won first place in Texas in Reading Comprehension at the Texas State Junior Classical League Latin convention. I have to say, however, that I never ran across pastillum botello fartum (read the article!) on one of my reading tests.

NEO Missions

January 26, 2004

Jeff Foust has an interesting article today on the feasibility of missions to near-Earth-objects (mostly asteroids). He summarizes the justifications for studying these bodies as fear (of another dinosaur-killer), greed (for their mineral riches), and curiosity (because they’re there). These objects are also fairly “inexpensive” in terms of delta-v:

While there are a number of good reasons for visiting NEOs, what makes the case for such missions — human in particular — so compelling is the accessibility of these bodies. The proximity of these objects and their small size sharply reduce the delta-v — the change in velocity — and thus the amount of propellant needed to reach them. In many cases, the total delta-v for a NEO mission is less than a mission to the Moon. At a September 2002 conference on mitigating asteroid impact hazards in Arlington, Virginia, Durda described an example of a mission to one NEO, 1991 VG. A round-trip mission lasting just 60 days would require a total delta-v of 6.1 kilometers per second, approximately the same as a one-way mission to the Moon. Extending the mission duration to 90 days decreased the delta-v to 4.9 km/sec. These factors put manned NEO missions almost entirely within the capacities and experience of human spaceflight today.

This last item reminded me of a science fiction story “gimmick” that I thought up about 15 years ago. As far as I know it hasn’t been used in a story yet (and I haven’t put it in a story yet, either!) The idea would be to use an asteroid or comet as a launching platform to the outer planets. I am too weak on orbital mechanics to work it out, but essentially the explorer craft would “lasso” an asteroid and then hitch a ride until it reached a good “jumping off” point to match
orbits with Mars, Jupiter, or some other destination. Do any of my technically-inclined readers think this idea has any merit?

More Cool Optical Illusions

January 26, 2004

I read about this site in the January issue of Wired. If you have a weak stomach, you may want to take some Dramamine first.

Dream Job

January 23, 2004

Hey, another corporate lawyer who wants to be a LEGO “master builder.”
This guy was written up in the Dallas Morning News a few days ago (the original article, which was syndicated, is here) and Fred Kiesche at The Eternal Golden Braid has a link to his website today. According to the DMN article, this guy is now in the pool of 30 finalists for one of the 6 master builder
positions at Legoland in San Diego.
I like the Achewood rabbit ambulance.

Spirit in Trouble?

January 22, 2004

Martian Soil is on the story.
Major media that have picked this up include the AP (via USA Today), New York Times, CNN, and FoxNews.

Stormtrooper Chic

January 21, 2004

I’ve gotta admit. This looks like a fun project.
Found via this guy’s site.

Loonie Cinema

January 21, 2004

Both SFSignal and The Eternal Golden Braid point to this report that plans are afoot to at least script a movie adaptation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Heinlein was a prescient writer and a lover of liberty. This work is commonly regarded as one of his most “libertarian” novels. I hope this writer really is the Heinlein fan he claims to be.

From the Mouths of Babes. . .

January 21, 2004

Or pre-teen sons, as the case may be.
I’m working on a personal webpage right now, and one of the background graphics I am considering for the title bar is a lunar excursion module.
Tonight my 9-year old son looked at my progress and started asking questions about Apollo — how many people landed there and when. I told him and then he asked if the Columbia had ever landed on the moon. I said no, even though there was a command module named Columbia. But no, I told him, the space shuttles can only fly in low Earth orbit.
He looked puzzled and said, “but where do they go? What planet?” Good question, son. Good question. The answer, of course, is nowhere but in circles for the last 20 years.
My son’s question I think encapsulates the immediate emotional response I had to the President’s speech a week ago. It’s a question of goals — where are we going? And why?
Before my rational self kicked in, I had a primal thrill that we would be going back to the moon to stay, and then to Mars. A dream I’ve had since I was 9 myself. And now I’m conflicted between my desire to see America lead the way in exploring and settling the solar system and my certainty that NASA cannot and will not accomplish that. And worse, that if they do, it will be a flags-and-footprints show like Apollo. Good for pictures that my son can show his kids someday, but not much else.
But that’s the cranky grownup, not the idealistic child. Unfortunately, we won’t really go anywhere to stay until there’s a reason for cranky grownups to go. When space is just another place instead of an idealistic goal, we’ll be there to stay.

Do You Hate Unix?

January 20, 2004

There’s a handbook just for you.
(I don’t know enough to judge. . . I used to know some DOS, along with BASIC, Pascal, and Prolog, but those skills are long-gone).