Geodiaries

This is a short, weird blog describing an experiment in travel story telling. During my misspent youth I did a lot of backpacking and hitchhiking. Here’s an index of trips, accounts, photos. I was largely inspired by the accounts of Vladimir Dinets, an accomplished zoologist who later became a friend and mentor. I’ve always been a map nerd and, largely stuck at home through most of 2020, I decided to revisit ideas I’d long been exploring about combining geographically relevant text-based narrative accounts with the wild data capacities of Google Earth. While cataloging my travel diaries I realized one was … Continue reading Geodiaries

Sea voyages

Recently I polled Twitter for outrageous sailing adventure stories. Here is a list of replies. If you have any others to include, please leave in comments. Alain Bombard crossed the Atlantic in 1952 in an open Zodiac with no supplies. Tim Severin and crew crossed the Atlantic in a leather coracle in 1976. David Lewis sailed to Antarctica in a small yacht in 1972. 1986 crossing the Atlantic in a Hobie cat. Tim Anderson’s attempting migration to Cuba. Someone sailed an open dinghy, solo, from Mexico to Tahiti in 214 or so days. Lost the link. The Batavia (1628). 1152 … Continue reading Sea voyages

Predictions 2021: Prospective

My previous blog was on retrospective predictions. Of course there’s selection bias but I tried to make sure that I picked at least a few that I did terribly with. This blog is prospective. Future looking. As of March 5, 2021. I crowd sourced some questions. If you have any more, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them, with the appropriate dates and commentary. In a year or so I’ll do another fresh blog and grade myself. Nuclear fusion propulsion is probably necessary for human travel to the outer solar system or other stars. It might work a … Continue reading Predictions 2021: Prospective

Predictions: Retrospective

Prediction blogs seem to be in vogue. I suppose the idea is if you can demonstrate a track record of correct predictions then maybe you have some real insight? Or got lucky a few times? In any case, making bad predictions would seem to indicate poor insight. So I’m going to do two prediction blogs. This one is retrospective. I’m mining my past public statements for predictions and grading them on accuracy. The next one is prospective, talking about stuff that’s coming up or things that people have asked me. Starship architectureIn January 2017, I published a book on transport … Continue reading Predictions: Retrospective

SLS: What now?

“Okay, wise guy, the SLS hasn’t turned out, everyone knows that, what do we do now?” Quoth some person on the internet. This blog is a followup to my previous post on the SLS and its fundamentally compromised architecture. I have been pleasantly surprised by positive responses and feel that I might have gotten closer to the mark than I at first thought. Indeed, not one week later, former JSC director George Abbey wrote a policy paper focusing on SLS’s excessive costs. The SLS is both a cause and symptom of deeply challenging issues within US space flight, and identifying … Continue reading SLS: What now?

SLS: Is cancellation too good?

The SLS axiomatically cannot provide good value to the US taxpayer. In that regard it has already failed, regardless of whether it eventually manages to limp to orbit with a Falcon Heavy payload or two. The question here is whether it is allowed to inflict humiliation and tragedy on the US public, who so richly deserve an actual legitimate launch program run by and for actual technical experts. The best time to cancel SLS was 15 years ago. The second best time is now. Oh yeah, the disclaimer. I do not speak for my employer. This blog should not be … Continue reading SLS: Is cancellation too good?

How (not) to measure progress in science?

I’m a bit late to the party but I’ve been enjoying some Collison podcast backlog and realized I had more to say about the “diminishing returns of science” trope that does the rounds from time to time. Simply stated, the thesis suggests that a variety of metrics employed to measure progress of science all seemingly concur that despite increasing numbers of PhDs and the net accumulation of knowledge, major new discoveries are few and far between, at least compared to science in prior ages. For a process that’s devoted to discovering knowledge, science is poorly understood by nearly everyone, including … Continue reading How (not) to measure progress in science?

Biological data storage

Just a quick note on some probably unoriginal ideas I had about categorizing biological data storage methods. While it’s important to note that these are listed in roughly the order of their evolution and respective capacity, there’s nothing particularly deterministic about their evolution. Some of them are more-or-less necessary, invoking the anthropic principle, to write this blog, but plenty of microbes get on fine with the supposedly less sophisticated subset of them. This blog is inspired in part by the astonishing Pfizer/Moderna mRNA vaccines for COVID, which I just cannot wait to get shot into my immune system. It’s so … Continue reading Biological data storage

The future of electricity is local

I frequently read about proposals for new solar power developments where the resulting power is moved great distances to less sunny places, such as northern Europe from the Sahara, the US North East from the South West, or even Australia to Singapore. According to these proposals, the key to unlocking greener electricity is massive infrastructure to move renewable electricity across continents. Looking at a solar resource map, such as this one of the US, it certainly seems that if the solar resource was oil, Arizona would be the place to drill. On a global scale, it seems that solar potential … Continue reading The future of electricity is local

Supersonic electric flight

This post is inspired by the recent press release about the Rolls Royce Accel, an experimental electric aircraft being built to attempt the electric speed record. Close friends know I’ve been noodling in this area myself off and on since 2012 but I decided it was time to write a more comprehensive blog, partly in recognition of the growth of my technical audience, and partly because I don’t have any short term plans to resume work in this area. The usual disclaimers apply: I’m a physicist, pilot, and drone pilot with a variety of bizarre ideas. I am about to … Continue reading Supersonic electric flight