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Blog Series: Countering misconceptions in space journalism

As a lover of all things space I enjoy reading a wide variety of perspectives. The more different the origin, the more likely I am to learn something new! Even in articles which contain errors or elements of confusion, there’s still a good chance that I’ll encounter a new way of thinking about an issue. Many posts in this series and otherwise are now part of a book that is available as a commentable Google doc and on Amazon. I have discussed aspects of this topic in two appearances on The Space Show, as well as The Space Cave podcast, … Continue reading Blog Series: Countering misconceptions in space journalism

We need more water than rain can provide: refilling rivers with desalination

Why? We believe that water should be unconditionally abundant. In the face of extended droughts, aspiring for greater usage efficiency is not, by itself, a sufficiently robust solution. The Colorado River, which supports $1.4t/year of US GDP, has seen annual flows steadily decline lower than water extraction rights, with no end in sight. The Colorado River is not an outlier, it is a harbinger. The Mississippi, among dozens of other economically vital rivers worldwide, is also facing record low water. Climate change is changing rainfall patterns and melting glaciers, it is not going away, and it will continue to threaten … Continue reading We need more water than rain can provide: refilling rivers with desalination

Why high speed rail hasn’t caught on

High Speed Rail (HSR) has been in the news, with a recent New York Times article listing some of the reasons that the California HSR project seems unlikely to ever be completed. Quite aside from California’s development quagmire and the article’s author’s unstated involvement in the story, there are a series of much deeper, physical reasons why HSR hasn’t really caught on. I haven’t seen these developed in accessible blog form so I thought I would write this brief note on the topic. [Edit: This blog generated more controversy than usual, and a thread on HN. I was surprised to … Continue reading Why high speed rail hasn’t caught on

We’re going to need a lot of solar panels

The team at Terraform Industries is now 11 people working towards a near term future where atmospheric CO2, much of it centuries of unpriced industrial waste, becomes the preferred default source of industrial carbon. Our family of technologies will displace drilling and mining as sources of carbon and, in the process, stop the net flux of carbon from the crust into the atmosphere and oceans that is causing anthropogenic climate change. Our process works by using solar power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, concentrating CO2 from the atmosphere, then combining CO2 and hydrogen to form natural gas. Very … Continue reading We’re going to need a lot of solar panels

How to terraform Mars for $10b in 10 years

Part of the series on common misconceptions in space journalism. A follow on from a previous post on terraforming. As far as terraforming goes, I’ve recently been much more occupied with my startup Terraform Industries, but it still generalizes to creating technical and economic ways to continue the ancient human project of gardening our surroundings to be less unpleasant. By the time Terraform Industries has completed its mission on Earth we’ll have finally assumed intentional and granular control over the world’s carbon cycle and parts of its water cycle, and in turn its position of radiative equilibrium with respect to … Continue reading How to terraform Mars for $10b in 10 years

Powering the lunar base, version 2

Part of my series on misconceptions in space journalism, which by this point we may as well admit is really just a paper thin cover for me to write a seemingly endless series of blogs on esoteric space topics. I’ve previously written a bit about powering a potential lunar base. The vision is that we want a decent sized, permanently occupied lunar base, probably at the lunar south pole. Generally speaking, the Moon “enjoys” 14 day (~340 hr) long days followed by 14 day long nights. This makes consistent levels of power a challenge over night. In particular, a solar+battery … Continue reading Powering the lunar base, version 2

Traffic Congestion and City Design

I have Thoughts about city design and traffic congestion, so I will write a blog. In terms of background, I did a bunch of transport economics when I worked at Hyperloop, including building a predictive demand model (yes, really!). I’ve also traveled to about 50 countries and taken every mode of transport imaginable from unicycle to helicopter. I lived in LA without a car for 7 years, walking or cycling everywhere. That said, I’m not a credentialed traffic engineer or town planner, which might not be a bad thing in this case. Let’s not bury the lede here. As pointed … Continue reading Traffic Congestion and City Design

Understanding the make-buy question in a growing Mars city

Part of the series on space stuff. It is a good intellectual exercise to create an intuitive diagram to communicate new ideas in a compact, succinct way. Edward Tufte has written the same book several times on the topic, which is a must read for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively communicate knowledge. Some time ago I created a diagram to understand how Mars autarky would progress from local manufacturing of bulk goods to more complex parts. It was not a good diagram and upon revisiting it even I found it confusing. I’m revisiting the topic here to … Continue reading Understanding the make-buy question in a growing Mars city

Maximizing resume SNR

This is a brief note about resumes and hiring. At Terraform Industries, I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting recently and it’s helped me crystallize a few ideas I’ve had in this area. This blog will change over time. Terraform Industries is hiring! Join us as we decarbonize our industrial economy by getting carbon from the air more cheaply than from the ground. First, the disclaimer. While I’ve been on both sides of the table with recruiting, I’m not an expert and I’ve only worked in a few narrow fields. My father happens to be a professional recruiter, though, and … Continue reading Maximizing resume SNR

Numerical convergence as a model for senescence

Aging and death is as inescapable as taxes and leaf blowers, but why? How? Despite millennia of obsession and billions of dollars in research, we’re still far from understanding the biochemical particulars of why we age and, ideally, how to stop it. I’m the opposite of an expert on anything biological but I saw an interesting numerical feature of aging data and will discuss it here. Aging and age-related diseases are responsible for the vast majority of negative impacts on quality of life, and healthcare expenditure. The graph below charts the Gompertz-Makeham law of mortality. Retaining the annual chance of … Continue reading Numerical convergence as a model for senescence

Terraform Industries Whitepaper

Cheaper hydrocarbons from CO2 direct air capture and sunlight. terraformindustries.com Executive Summary Terraform Industries is a bet on cheap solar, synthetic hydrocarbon supremacy, and hyperscale. The overarching goal is to zero out the net transport of carbon from the crust to the atmosphere and oceans as quickly as possible by displacing drilled natural gas production with direct atmospheric processing.  As solar power gets cheaper and oil becomes more scarce, at some point this decade it will be cheaper to extract carbon from the air than to drill mile-deep holes in the crust on the other side of the world.  Synthetic … Continue reading Terraform Industries Whitepaper