Friday, April 29, 2011

I posted a blog for every letter in the Alphabet...

And now I guess I'll have to think of some other way to liven things up. A number of multiples, and a number of times when I've gone off-topic, but not a bad month, really.

Oh, and silly, pointless Tales of the Conservancy poem-

Whither the Ranger Trike?
He/She isn't here, anymore.
There was trouble, before,
Which is no trouble, no more,

Z is for Zeke, of course!

(The best part of this exercise 8-)

            Zeke is what the soldiers in 'World War Z' call individual zombies, like Charlie for VC, Ivan or Johny Reb in wars past. I think Mort and Morticia are winners, too, but Zeke is a name, even a slightly funny name, and since it comes from Ezekiel, it has a certain biblical connotation, which, I wonder, does that explain some of my stories?
            As has already been pointed out, Zombie stories are not about zombies. Of course they aren't, you might say- Zombies aren't real. But the fears and uncertainties we hang on them are very real; pandemic, panic, un-civil unrest, martial law... Thinking about your Zombie Plan is a fun way to take a step back from some very scary manure, and talk about preparedness and security.
            You can't prepare for the unexpected; disasters will happen that we maybe should have thought about (the prospect of a new New Madrid earthquake is the one that I think about after Japan), and the only thing which will carry you through is luck, a little foresight, and a mental attitude. Survivors are all alike in this respect; they have survived, and in doing so, they found the inner resources to act to save themselves and others. Of course, some of the rat-bastards didn't worry about others, but they are surprisingly rare. In a disaster, taking care of others is itself a survival mechanism, tried and true, repeated again and again, and we call these magnificent people, simply, heroes.

Y is for You and Yours

            We are very fragile creatures (I assume that we are all human- any aliens reading this, feel free to let us know? 8-). We can die if we lose more than half of our blood, or are exposed to temperatures, pressures or humidity outside of a rather small range, given the conditions on much of our homeworld. We kill each other over even less variation. Sometimes simply being different, being other, is enough to turn a crowd into a killing mob. We are creatures of fear and of hope; of hate and of love. All very kumbayah, I suppose, and as cynical as I am, I don't expect human nature to miraculously change to 'humane' overnight, although one can have hope, and work for something better, always...
            I am a bit of a hypocrite. I know, at the end of the day, that all I really care about are me and mine. You and yours are your family and tribe, related to you by blood or by spirit. If you understand these... limitations to the human design envelope, if you will, then per-maybe-haps you can short-circuit the bad, enhance and increase the good.
            I know that I am capable of killing, and probably of murder, too. I've lived on a farm, I have on occasion seen to the Thanksgiving turkey (generally called T-bird and Christmas, BTW, and no, I never got very attached to those pea-brains!), or rabbits, ducks and chickens. I eat plenty of meat, and I know how it is an industrial product, wherein a lot of things best left unsaid and un-thought-of happen, including, at some point, somebody killing a poor dumb animal whose purpose was always to have been food. So, getting finally to the point, I can and I would kill, for me and mine, for our table, or to protect our home.
            At some point everybody needs to stop, take a minute, and think about exactly how far you would go, in the extreme, for you and yours. Answer yourself honestly and be prepared to someday live with that answer.

X is for Xander, on Buffy

            I came very late to the party with Buffy. I'd liked it, but my introduction to all things Whedon was Firefly, and I'm a Browncoat. So Xander, the one human being among the Scoobies, was the guy I rooted for. Sure, he had a thing for demons, and eventually ended up with Anya, but he was a construction-guy, a very normal sort, and he held his own, kinda, with the witches and werewolves, the slayers and potentials, hell, the vampires (alright, so he got his butt handed to him on a regular basis, and was kind of the cowardly lion of the Scoobies 8-).
            What he had going for him was heart; he didn't let the fact that he was SOL 99% of the time stop him from saving the world on occasion. Yeah, exactly once, when Willow completely over-dosed on the magics and called up all of her power, tapped into it, and let it tap into her rage and grief. Xander talked her down, and Xander saved the world.
            Kinda begs the question- what are you capable of, and what will you do, at the end of the world?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Wednesday, April 27th; W is also for Work and is the 23rd Letter of the Alphabet

            (I've played fast and loose with the rules of this little endeavor, and I do apologize, but it has been more fun this way, so I am happy to say that I'd do this all the same way again. Now, on with the blog!)
            Work is another one of those 4-letter words. Do you like it? Are you one of those workaholics who get high on hard work, and take pride in a job well done? I tend to be proud of the work after it's done; I appreciate it much better then. I'm just not one to see it in a positive light until it's done; it keeps me busy, that's the long and short of it. Pays the bills and my taxes... When I'm doing something boring like chasing the mower around the yard, I'm usually working on a story or daydreaming (same thing, really 8-). I have strange thoughts behind a push mower, and it's pretty much the only exercise I ever get, so hurray for mowing the grass!
            W is the 23rd letter of the Alphabet, and has no other connection to the 23rd Psalm; but it is my very favorite one. It and Ecclesiastes are the best parts of the Bible, IMHO-

23rd Psalm- The LORD Is My Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

            There's a bit in 'V for Vendetta' where that silly old queen shows Evie (?) his Koran and she is shocked- 'What, are you a Muslim?' And he says, 'Heavens no, I'm in television.' He says something else, to the effect that it is beautiful; that he's moved by it, and he is not afraid (You should live your life unafraid, even if (no, especially if!) you do have enemies and troubles- the things I learn in escapist movies...).
            The words of the psalm above speak to me; they're an artifact of my people, and of a religion and a God with which I have my own personal issues. Which is as it should be; your relationship, or lack thereof, with a God or Gods, is personal and private. Bear witness to what you believe and what you are proud to represent.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

V is for Vanilla and Villain

V is for Vincent, too, but not Victory for Micheal Vick and the B'eagles, all of whom are scumbags...

            Vanilla and Vanilla Fudge are my favorite flavors; I'm just like that, not much with the fancy, although strawberries, for some reason I can't put my finger on, I think that I should like them...
            Villains are a central pre-occupation of a GM and writer. They are the foil, the bad guy that opposes our heroes, and I cannot abide plain-Vanilla Villains. Mine must be more complicated, not dastardly dog-fighting ex-cons or baby-scalping alien invaders, although true evil has it's place (in a story, and 'Evil has It's Place' sounds like a winner...). But for verisimilitude, that sweet semblance of reality that I crave for my stories, we need shades of gray; complicated villains and the heroes who were made to stop them!
            Which leads into 'Villains and Vigilantes', one of those old school RPGs based on tried and true comic-book tropes; you rolled on charts of them, like 'bit by radioactive spider', or just selected something, and it all had a sort of thrown-together feel that I miss in certain modern games. Often too polished, the lot of them, as if the designers have been doing this sort of thing literally for years, which they have...
            In long ago times, lost in the mists of 1977, or there abouts, people didn't necessarily know what they were doing, and didn't let the rules boss them around. I was a kid, with a vague exposure to RPGs, but my cousins weren't interested, so the idea of making a dungeon, or building a world, lay dormant until college. Then I discovered D&D, but more importantly, Star Trek and later blessedly simple WEG D6 Star Wars and Ghostbusters, International and later TORG, the wellspring of Possibilities (literally; 'Possibilities', the player-influencing-the-environment-power in all of my games, whether or not a similar concept was already there, which it often was)! I GMed FASA Trek with a new alien species every week. The system had simple and agreeable world-building rules which I promptly mangled and mutilated, adding stuff from Traveller and from great world-building SF writers like Poul Anderson and Larry Niven.

            V is for... sometimes I brainstorm a little, and sometimes I know what I'm going to write. This is what I came up with for 'V'

'Lead them to Victory!' (the motto on the ToWWZ t-shirt 8-)
Vor, Vorkosigan and Vorkosiverse (GB Lois McMaster Bujold! W,L,W!)
Vader, Darth
Varley, John

U is for Uplift, the process of

Yet another SF concept for the blog...

Uplift is the fictional process of making a smart animal sentient (self-aware) or sapient (wise). One could argue that, if humanity self-domesticated, we uplifted ourselves...

David Brin's Uplift Universe and the cultures of the Five Galaxies come immediately to mind, and I swiped the idea for my Tales of the Conservancy (, but it goes back a ways, to H.G. Well's 'The island of Dr. Moreau' and to Cordwainer Smith's Human Instrumentality. If there are no alien sapients, then we can always make some...
This brings up that old stand-by of 'getting-to-know-you' roleplay- what kind of animal would you be? 8-P
I'd kinda like to be a dragon; magical, and of the land...

T is for Tranquility

(More crazy space schemes 8-)

Mare Tranquility, as in 'the sea of', where Buzz Aldrin took one small step, is smack dab in the middle of the launch zone for L-2, the outer Lagrange point, way away from Earth, and a good spot for building stuff, possibly. But I'd like to see a solar farm built up in the sea, for symbolic purposes, and a lunar space elevator could be dropped down from L-1 to the near-point, with a cone of 'side-spurs' to any point on the Nearside at all, the better to establish a 24-7 power production capacity. Two locations on the eastern and western limbs of the Moon really should do the trick, with interrupted production about every two weeks as the two areas switch over, one to the other. The solar farms could spread away into the lunar farside, with East and West poles growing wider over time. Receiver/transmitter stations at the remaining Lagrange points, spread out 120 degrees apart in the Moons' orbit, would cover the entire globe up to the higher latitudes, over three-quarters of the planetary surface and most of the industrialized world.

What would it take to put cities and industry on the Moon? Robots, really. Some people to troubleshoot, but construction, production and maintenance could mostly be done from Earth, or at least safely underground. Melting and doping the regolith for cheap photovoltaic surfaces is certainly something that could be automated, like a roomba, or a farmer plowing, sowing, spraying and harvesting his fields. Melting the surface layer, perhaps one cm deep, turning regolith into melt, would mean raising the temperature from an average of 270 Kelvin, -3 C, say to 10,000 F or 5,556 C.

I don't know how much energy it takes to melt rock, but if we were raising 10,000 pounds of water by one degree (or one ton by 5 degrees), that'd be 10,000 BTUs, or 34,100 watts. If each cc of regolith is ~3 mg, and one square meter is 30 grams, then one hectare, or 10^4 m^2, is 300 kilograms, 663 pounds of rock. Rock is not water, but this is all guesstimation, so bear with me; we're talking about 23 megawatt/s to melt one hectare of regolith. Call it 36 megawatt/s or ten kilowatt/hrs, per hectare, 10^3 KW/hr per square kilometer. Even at 10 W/m^2, each km^2 generates 10 MW; 50 W/m^2 and 50MW/km^2 is only ~4% efficiency, enough to melt 50 km^2 per hour, over 17,000 km^2 per lunar day... I'm doing something wrong! Assuming that we need to melt 10 cm of rock and have huge heat losses of two orders of magnitude, that's still 17 times, so that an operation could double itself 17 times during the half month of light. If ~80% of production goes towards generating revenue and two equal shares of energy are spent elsewhere in the operation, the doubling still happens once a month, four thousand-fold a year!

If the receiver/transmitter antennas are part of the works and a phased array, with some upkeep, but the area of production grows only at the edges, and with the manufacture of a fleet of dead-simple, dirt-cheap robots, it might only grow 1 km per month... that'd be 12 km in diameter in one year, about 22 GW, 2.2 TW in ten years time! After the first year, we're talking, @ $.09/KW/hr, $2M per hour, $17.5B a year, $70B after the second year, $160B after the third... ~$500B by the end of the 5th year, when production is over 1/2 TW and climbing. But there's really no reason why the thing can't spread out along the equator at 100m/hr, ~35 km per month, 840 by 24 km the first year, or ~5,000 km^2, 250 GW, $23M worth of electricity per hour!

How much power do we need to run the world? 100 KW/person? 150? Call it one million billion watts, or 20 million km^2, half the surface of the Moon. After 7 years, the East and West Patches touch and are 168 km wide, 1.8 m. Km^2 (over 4% of the surface), 90 TW or ~$8B/hr, ~$70T per year... The patches would probably be considered a blemish, visible to anyone looking up at the Moon, widest and most noticeable at edges, and producing 13 KW for each of those teeming billions complaining about it! Even if it was limited in growth on the Nearside, that's still enough power to completely change industries and lifestyles.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tribbles

Those terrible, adorables pests- David Gerrold wrote the screenplay for 'The Trouble With Tribbles'. He also wrote a three-book series about an 'Adam and Steve' family emigrating via space elevator. Novel take on starships, too...

Cute, Adorable, Beware!

Cute fuzzballs swing from the branches, roll on the forest floor.
Soft fur in pastel colors, they are a sight to adore!
Trilling or humming, singing right along with your tune,
But drop that alien life form right now, you loon!

By order of the captain, no stowaways or pets!
The spacer who ignores this, deserves what she gets.
Not for you get-rich-quick, money-making schemes.
Coz fuzzies are as dangerous as our Cap'n deems!

Cute adorable fuzzies, beware! A starship's just no place for you.
You end up in the works, grazing on wires and burning up, too!
Dirty, dusty, musty and damp, it's not for your kind.
So whenever we visit the planet of the Fuzzies, please, just stay behind!
Vincent L. Cleaver
(The author would like to assure the reader that no Tribbles, Hoka or Ewoks (well, maybe one or two) were hurt in the writing of this poem!)
Vince, who writes because he's a browncoat, and full of stories (Free the words!)

WORDS IN THE HEART CAN NOT BE TAKEN! -Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett

'The paper burns, but the words fly free.' -Akiba Ben Joseph

I believe that words, at least the good words, can outlast stone. I am a fan of the good words, the speeches of men and women who have inspired nations and peoples. I read the bad words, the bad speeches that lead only down the wrong paths, as cautionary tales.

S is also for Elisabeth Sladen, Doctor Who's Sarah Jane Smith

My favorite companion, and my favorite spin-off series, Sarah Jane Adventures.

She kinda looks like David Tennant's mom in image #5, and I mean that. Love her, miss her-

My best to her husband and daughter.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

S is for Solar System

            I've previously talked about the hundred worlds and counting; the eight planets, their moons and all of the big, continent-sized pieces of real estate. Right now, I am crazy to consider all of that as real wealth. It costs too much to get there, to get to the Moon, even. Also, none of the technology for making a living, or even building habitats in which to live, is proven. But it all does count as potential wealth, starting with power.
            Certain visionaries have talked about He3 and fusion, which is nice; it gets me excited, but fusion isn't here. Hell, fail-safe fission reactors, of which we've had useable designs for decades, aren't here, so let's calm down about that. Sure, fusion is what we'll need in the outer solar system, but not yet...
            Certain other visionaries have talked about solar power satellites, even the possibility of turning lunar regolith directly into photovoltaic cells, on site and in place, without going to the all the trouble of refining and exporting building materials to GEO. That's what I would be trying to start up, right now... because, sadly, the killer app for deploying beamed power is military, and demand is only going to grow.
            But, if I could, I'd export momentum from the Moon. Drop a cheap fiber-glass space elevator cable down to the surface from L-1 and start hauling tonnes of soil to drop in towards Earth, each shipment cleverly designed to arrive in time to balance a mass lifted off of the Earth, by a rotovator (, LEO port ( 'The Moon Goddess and the Son', while alternate history now, gives me chills...), or hypersonic tether. The LEO port is a magnetic cannon in orbit, as mass-driver to accelerate payloads from Earth, or decelerate payloads falling from the Moon. Either way generates megawatts of power! Hell, if I had a nice Earth-based mass-driver launcher up at one hundred klicks altitude (, I could even catch falling moon-dust to power the operation, and any nearby cities, generating revenue to put my dreams in the black...
            Transport, power, and a revenue stream to fund Vinnies' Private Space Program. Now all I need is life support, which is all about the habitats, baby!
            In free-fall, plumbing is hard to do, and there are a few health problems that don't matter short-term, but do if you're planning to live and work in space for months and years at a time. Getting out of a gravity well, good; living without gravity, not so much. So we cheat and create artificial gravity or at least use physics to provide a work-around suitable to our needs- spin gravity, centripetal force (, or the tendency for mass to remain in motion, and, when force to travel in circles, exert a useful outward force. We'd like nearly 10 meters per second squared, but I imagine that a little less would be okay; between 1.6, of Moon-like levels and 4, for Mercury and Mars. Venus would be ~9 m/s^2.
            If our habitat is a spinning space tower, turning end for end, which is 100 meters tall, that's a radius at the outer level of 50 meters. Say three revolutions per minute, velocity of 3*100*pi/60 is ~16 m/s, squared and divided by the radius, ~250/50 is ~5m/s^2. That'll do. A 200 meter tower would have full spin-gravity at the out levels.

Self-Interest vs. the Green-eyed Demon

Benign Self-Interest (not 'Good', good, greed,
Run free, run amok) is now just what we need.
But that green-eyed demon, sowing discord and hate,
Is alive and well, as we re-learned with Enron, and in '08.
The mess that the world is still in won't be fixed
Until responsibility is restored, not knowingly nixed.

Which is what makes what's happening with the fisc,
So disheartening, not surprising, but a sad, sad risk.
Theory and ideology have cut taxes on the rich,
Who pay the lowest taxes in reality; not to bitch,
But why shift the burden to a dwindling middle class?

When billionaires give millions to have bills pass,
So that they won't pay those same millions in...
Wait, (forehead slap) that's Self-Interest, not sin!
Just without duty, generous, benign, the foresight to see
That they draw from the same well in which they pee.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

R is for Roleplaying Games

Going to the same well twice, this week, but only because I did such a poor job on Monday, and should have written about origami, instead (I may go write a supplemental entry, a la Star Trek 8-).

What is a roleplaying game, or RPG, and why is it the central preoccupation of my life? 8-P

            Roleplaying is 'Let's Pretend' with rules. Sometimes those rules are very simple; other times, not so much. It's like improv, improvisation, an actors exercise or Drew Carrey's 'What's My Line?' Tabletop RPGs are also what I refer to as tabletop entertainment, and involve, naturally enough, a group of people sitting around a table with character sheets, dice, and often food and drink, the mortal enemies of character sheets everywhere...
            Character sheets are sort of the board we play the game on, if RPGs can be said to have a playing surface. They are where were write down the facts and foibles of the Player Character, or PC, which is sort of your playing piece in the game. You control it; if you created the character, you selected or rolled up all the stats and numbers you will use in play. He, she or it is you, in the game, but not you, the real world person (if you don't ever get caught up in the game so much that the distinction blurs, then you aren't roleplaying! 8-).
            Dice are a social fiction, a randomizer that allows us to risk, to gamble, to succeed or fail without knowing beforehand what the outcome with be. They can be extremely useful and informative, or the despair of many a player, when they roll low, when you needed a high number, or high, when you needed low. There are a lot of gamers that don't like that much randomness, and there are all kinds of ways, in all kinds of different systems, for the player to take more control over the course of events (and some games don't even use dice at all).
            At the heart of it, there's what you know about your character, what you know about the world and the people in it that the game master or narrator has described for you, and there's what you want your PC to do. Everything else is figuring it all out, sort of like telling the story, shooting the movie, or writing the book as you go along. You are part of what makes this a great fight sequence, or that a thrilling hostage negotiation, and you are the bard, singing a ballad, the hero, slaying the monster, or part of the band of adventurers, saving the kingdom.

Q is for Questions

            I'm all about the questions; for example 'what does it all mean?' When I don't know where I'm going with story, I'll ask myself the reporter's W's- Who, what, where, when, why and how (the last ends in a 'W', that counts! 8-)? Who is this guy? What is is doing here? When and where does all this take place? Why is it happening now, and how? Even when I start with a snatch of dialogue, like I did with 'Lifeboat Captains', especially when that's all I really have, I ask the questions!
            Who am I, in the dark? What am I supposed to be doing here? Where do I come from and when was I born? Why am I here? How do I live a good life?
            The sky is blue because it scatters light that way, showing us more blue than red. Sunlight is warm because radiant heat is being absorbed by our skin. Evaporating sweat absorbs heat and cools our bodies. These are a few answers to some of the mysteries, the sort of thing we have because we are building on what other people have done, and so on down the line to the future, but I don't presume to believe we will ever know all the answers; and besides, that'd be boring!
            There are mysteries, questions that probably won't ever have answers that can be proven, things that we will have to work out on our own, such as the fact, to paraphrase Sartre ( Black Lagoon got me hooked on Existentionalism!) we are doomed to be free, and seek our own meaning because-
            A) There is no meaning and looking for patterns is a trick that evolution has played on uppity apes.
            B) God hates us and delights in our confusion, pain and suffering.
            C) God loves us and wants us to be free, and made us so that we can be free and happy. We are the way we are, imperfect, but God doesn't make junk. We are intended to be 'works in progress'.

P is for Paper

(I'm a day late! 8-)
            I like paper... (slaps forehead) and O is for Origami! Oh, well...
            I fold paper, write and draw on it, rescue scrap paper to use it, make journals and project booklets with a three-hole punch and using the wide printer paper for a cover... they read right to left because I'm a lefty and tend to write on the back of hard-copy, so the hand-written margin is on the left when I punch the three holes. This was written on Monday's O is for Old School RPGs, including sketches I can't include here, where I was trying to talk myself through describing the exploded 20-sider map-making process below.
            I make origami, and prefer 3-D, puff-up folds, including rabbits derived form 6-sided water bombs. You are supposed to use squares, but I make a point of finding a way to use regular 8 1/2 by 11 'found' paper, folding the extra back out of the way. I fold it into isosceles triangles, too, to trace out 'exploded' icosahedron SF world maps, the sort made famous by Traveller. If I'm in a hurry, a hand-drawn oval will do, with fanciful land-masses. When I'm done, I turn the sheet upside-down and draw the compass; I seem to get better results, somehow.
            There are two ways I create Traveller-style flattened 20-sided globes. One uses most of the paper, but leaves the map on a slant across the sheet, which is an effect I like, but may not be for everyone. The other puts a smaller world map at the top of the sheet, with room to write the details below and on the back- hydrographic ratio (guess-timated from what you drew 8-), size, gravity, atmo, mean surface temperature, and other details, like whether the local biota are compatible with Earth-life, what the population is, agriculture, industry, economy, religion and government... all the good stuff, plus adventure hooks, people, places and factions of interest!
            The secret to making isosceles triangles is to fold a square or rectangle in half, vertically, then open and fold one bottom corner up (or top corner down) to the center line (the fold sort of hinges on the opposite corner). Then fold the top corner down, or the bottom corner up, turn over, and you will see that the center line crease forms the base of an isosceles triangle. Open and fold the other side the same way and you now have two isosceles triangles, setting base to base...
            I honestly don't know how to tell you the folding process for either type of map without a diagram; I'll give it another try tomorrow, or rather, later today!

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Old School RPGs

I don't like D&D, and I don't like Pathfinder. I've played in great games, but i don't like class and level one bit, and really don't care to do all the upkeep it takes for crunchy D&D and pf characters. I like simple, but I also like old-school games that aren't D&D, which mostly means Basic Role Playing, the Chaosium house rules for Call of Chtulhu and Pendragon (kinda, sorta...). I picked up a hard-back of BRP last time I was in MFLGS, The Days of Knights, last Saturday, and daydreamed about running a Sci-Fi game.

Of course, my fisrt love would be old FASA Trek, a percentiles-based system, where you rolled up some things, but mostly roleplayed the chargen, if you had a smart GM, the thing I like most about newer systems like FATE.

But the main thing about old-school, was roll-and-scoot! If you needed a character, you played what the dice or an understanding GM let you have... miss that, a little.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for NASA and the Nano-slick

I trot this idea out from time to time... I borrowed bits of it from all over, most notably Marshall Savage's Millennial Project; go check it out-

NASA hasn't failed us, as I sometimes feel that it has. It is a good tool, developing the tech we need for a variety of applications, not just space. But, as other people have said, it's not our national airline to space, nor should it be. The Russian, formerly Soviet, Space Agency took technology developed for ICBM's, adapted it to serve as the first stage of space rockets, and have improvised as needed, for over fifty years. They still build them, on fifty year-old production lines! Imagine what sort of re-useable launchers and orbiters we might have, if we had stayed the course with Mercury or Apollo-type capsules for thirty or forty years of continuous improvement, with western technology. The Dragon private launch concern will use an Apollo-style crew capsule, someday... Remember that the shuttle is, at heart, 70's tech!

NASA, and the Space Shuttle, have not failed us, but they are not the right tools for the job, which is getting human beings into space, getting the species out into the solar system and developing the resources of the Moon, the Near Earth Asteroids, and then going inwards to Venus and Mercury, outwards to Mars and Jupiter!

Are you saying, 'What madness is this, Vinnie?' 8-P

I sometimes call it Vinnie's Private Space Program, but I'd love to share it; I'd love to make the whole damn species rich! Wealthy in resources- in land, power, food... wealthy in creativity, freedom, limited only by how far we can grow.

Wealth always used to be a zero-sum game. You take land away from somebody, or gold, food, even their very lives, in slavery and warfare... or you've developed resources at the expense of the future, finite stores of hydrocarbons, clean water aquifers, topsoil, etc. The Solar System isn't limitless, or cheap, but we already own it, as a species. We won't be stealing it from the natives, or 'improving' it in ways that later generations will come to regret. It is bigger than we can properly imagine, a challenge on which to spend our restless energies and aggressions, room enough to grow as a species...

Eight planets, since Pluto's demotion to outer ice-ball status, and over a hundred newer worlds, planets plus their moons. The old 'New World' has about the same area as Africa, or the Moon, the Grey continent. In the next 500 years, do you imagine that we could fill up the whole Solar System? The equivalent of thousands of 'New Worlds'? Well, maybe in 5,000 years...

Nano-slick is more of a thought experiment in molecular nanotechnology, conventional rocket science, etc. I don't really think anything quite like this will happen- I think that something far more weird and wonderful eventually will. When we can fill a niche in our environment, then we will, by hook or by crook!

Carbon is useful stuff. If we could, and I think we will be able to, we can make it into diamond structural members for building everything. It can also be formed in carbon nanotubes, and become the basis for new kinds of electronics, photovoltaic cells, power conduits, batteries, linear and rotary motors... did I mention that it's useful stuff? 8-P

Carbon dioxide is a waste, unless you're a plant, in which case you'd like it in higher concentrations... but at those concentrations, sadly, we would suffocate, and as a greenhouse gas, it is changing our climate for the worse. Less of it would be a good thing.

A waste is a potential resource for which somebody hasn't yet found a use. I propose breaking CO2 back into carbon and oxygen. We need energy for that, which is available; we just aren't using it in sufficient quantities... Use the carbon to build a system of PV surfaces, computers to control things, power systems for electrolysis and carbon-forming refineries or factories. Input CO2 and sunlight, output oxygen and more capacity. I imagine the smallest units to be of cellular size, but I suppose the system could operate on a macro level, as floating factories at sea... I just like the thought of a nano-slick of this stuff spreading over the surface like an anti-oil spill, to maximize surface area.

In every 44 kg of CO2 there are 12 kg of carbon, and 32 of oxygen. So removing a tonne of the stuff makes over a quarter tonne of carbon, for expanding the system, or for building other things. I fear we just might run out of free CO2 in the atmosphere, because in so many ways I'm a greedy bastridge...

Imagine accelerating a million robust, carbon-based, one-milligram electronics packages electrostatically to 16 kilometers per second, twice orbital speed and way past escape velocity; fast enough to send things to Mercury or Jupiter. Do it at the top of an adamantine tower, 100 kilometers tall, and use the stream as a mass-beam to collide with a reaction engine and accelerate payloads into orbit, or out into the solar system. One kg/s at 16,000 meters/s would accelerate one tonne at 16 m/s^2, or 1/2 tonne at 32 m/^2. The later is just over 3 times terrestrial gravity, high but passable. 16 m/s^2 would still do the job, over a longer run, and slowly send our space-going SUV, with one or more passengers, to a habitat in, say, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, to the Moon or Mars...

Sixteen kilometers per second, squared, times one kilo, is 256 million joules (, or watts, per second, every second. Over a quarter of a gigawatt, probably enough for 50,000 homes; but it only amounts to 1/5th of the solar energy falling on one square kilometer of the Earth's surface, at perfect energy conversion. With inefficiencies, storage losses and leveling, three would about do the trick, a 100 kilometer space tower with a one kilometer diameter foot-print! Operating continuously, day in and day out, at about 86 metric tonnes per day, 600 per week, 31,000 tonnes per tower, per year... Assuming the capsules use up a tonne of reaction mass per launch, and one passenger per, that's tens of thousands per year. Ten thousand space towers could lift 5% of the Earth's current population off the planet in a year, and use up over two gigatonnes of carbon dioxide!

Of course, the towers each intrinsically cost something, even if it's only an 'opportunity' cost (something foregone; a city on the sea 8-), and each launch is about $10,000 worth of electricity (@$10/kilogram!).

Hmm, I betcha there's a story in this...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All I Want For Christmas

(I wrote this a couple of Christmas' back... and I still feel this way, of course! 8-)

What I want for Christmas...Y'know?
I suppose I should be sappy.
Ask for Goodwill; Peace on Earth, too.
But, see, I don't believe in happy, happy.
My pick is something more practical,
To enjoy to the music of the spheres.
All I want for Christmas?
A starship and a crew, the dears.

Serenity, for choice; Malcolm Reynolds,
Zoe, Jayne and all the rest,
But picky, or Joss, I'm not;
So a bird of prey might be best.
Then again, perhaps I'll liberate
A Free Stars Frigate, or two.
Those poor spacers, they wouldn't mind,
That the Protector was short, a few.
If the universe is kind, mind,
And Lt. Leary Commanding,
Then we'll cross the multi-verse, together,
Righting wrongs, outstanding.

Sure, I am a silly fat man,
Of two score and naught
But silly dreams to show,
How I loved the ships that fought.
Give me now, an argosy of light,
And would I for truth, honor- Oh!
The glory of mother Earth, herself,
Elsewhere, elsewhere, boldly Go!

Some of My Best Friends

(I wrote this for a character in my big damn space opera; she's her ships' resident bard and poet...)

Some of my best friends are made of paper and glue.
Glossy covers with action poses and a dragon or two.
Inside them are fantastic worlds beyond counting,
With twisted plots to follow, and tension, mounting.

Some of my best friends are made of wood and strings,
Metal tubes, resonance chambers and things.
They move to the magic of numbers, elegant and terse,
And they move me to commune, be at one with the 'Verse.

Some of my best friends are made of carbon and steel.
Adamantine, and yet they are loved, and feel.
They are cold, and also hot; starlight shines upon their flanks.
And for every day spent in starships, I will give thanks.

My very best friends are made of flesh and blood.
All thinking beings, lifted up from the mud.
They are merry and wise, silly and kind.
Better fellowship than theirs, I never will find!

And some of my very best friends are no longer here.
I find them in a good book, a fine meal and a beer,
In the heft of a guitar or a starships' brave heart.
They're here and they aren't, but we're never apart.