Friday, December 30, 2011

E-Cat Weekly -- December 29, 2011


I checked out one of the articles here, titled "Could Starships Use Cold Fusion Propulsion?"  Personally, I didn't think so when I started reading, so that is not what I'm posting about here.

No, it is that the article is quite skeptical about the E-cat, and actually does a good job of debunking it.  Yes, it is a good job, the best I've seen so far.  Actually, the article doesn't do the heavy lifting, but only links to it here.  A concerted effort to read through it all should leave some significant questions for Rossi to answer.

But I am not totally convinced.  I'll tell you what gave me pause, and that is the protection from gamma rays.  Not being well trained in this area, I can see why this got past me before.  It doesn't seem likely that Rossi's device is doing what he claims unless he has more shielding than what he has.  But the reaction chamber is really small ( only a little over 3 cubic inches (50 cm3)).  Shielding that shouldn't be too difficult, but how do you know that Rossi actually did that?  That something that could lead to a quick dismissal of Rossi's claims.  But it could also lead to a confirmation.

The other part that may be significant is the copper ash of the claimed reaction.  I worked through these myself.  Now, I can see getting to copper 63, but not to copper 65 in the amounts claimed.  I think this is a significant point, and it is another thing that got by me.  But I never claimed to be an expert.

No, I'm not totally convinced one way or the other.  But Rossi has to prove his point.  He has done so yet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Annus Horribilis: Space in 2011

  • A long established year-end tradition – for good or ill – is a review and analysis of the preceding twelve months.
  • few noticed or understood that without a replacement, the country’s capability for humans to access space had been discarded.
  • In other exciting developments, the agency announced their new “mission statement”...a mission statement for an agency without a mission.
  • NASA finally decided that they should probably go ahead and build a new launch vehicle...Perhaps even for less than its estimated $100 billion cost.
  • Robotic science missions...had their own share of difficulties this year.  The Goddard-run James Webb Space Telescope... is coming in late with a price tag of more than $8.7 billion and counting
  • all travel to destinations offering little scientific and exploratory benefit or variety; their main attraction seems to be the yet-to-be-explained agency imperative to cross them off some “been there” check-list.
  • The year 2011 was an annus horribilis for the national space program. Here’s to the forthcoming year and hopes for a return of sanity to space policy.

This story is about the government's role in space.  The private sector has not done quite so badly as that.   Besides a Paul Allen's new launch platform, there's a race on to mine the moon.  And if the government doesn't want to go back to the moon, they are acknowledging the strong possibility that someone else will.

E-Cat Weekly--- Source for E-cat news

My last post about the E-cat was on the 13th.   That's two weeks, my, how the time flies.  The last bunch of news came from the PESN site, so I went back there and found a weekly compilation of E-cat news.  It is dated on the 22nd of December, and the one before it was dated on the 15th.  That means the next should be dated in a couple days from today, which will be the 29th.

Looks like a good source of information.  I'll keep up with it.  Call it a New Year's Resolution.  Here's something interesting that I just found:
I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with -- with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.  ---- Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President   [ emphasis mine.  Comment: If he's talking about Fleischmann and Pons, he needs to catch up a little bit on the news.]
I scanned through all the stories and there's enough reading material to keep anyone busy for a long time.


Cold Fusion Now has the interview where Romney says  "cold fusion"--- note the time
"cold fusion, if we can come up with it"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Russia's Dark Horse Plan to Get to Mars (nice try)

Discover: published online May 21, 2009

  • The same proximity to Mars that will one day doom Phobos makes it an extremely attractive staging post for human explorers. One side of Phobos always faces Mars, and on that “hemisphere” the planet dominates the sky. This makes Phobos a good place for monitoring most of the Martian surface. Moreover, any manned outpost on Phobos would be well shielded from space radiation—protected on one side by Mars and on the other by the satellite’s own bulk.
  • The total delta-v required for a mission to land on Phobos and come back is startlingly low—only about 80 percent that of a round trip to the surface of Earth’s moon.
  •  “Does Phobos contain any water, and if so, in what amount, form, and location? Answers to these questions will help determine how we will travel to Mars.”

Logically, it would make sense to occupy Phobos for awhile before moving on to Mars.  If water could be found, that would come in quite handy for fuel and life support.

Delta V budgets for various destinations

Unfortunately, the unmanned Phobos-Grunt spacecraft became stranded in orbit in November.  Since that has failed, what might be tried next?  Anything?

From the chart above, it would seem that a mission from L4-L5 to Phobos would possibly be less delta v than from Earth to LEO.  Launching from EML-2 could be even less.  While looking at Quicklaunch's home page, I thought up a Lagrangian space port constructed from the moon by using multiple launches from a Quicklaunch gun on the lunar surface.

It is probably getting ahead of oneself to propose such a project, but it is interesting to speculate about.  Let's say that at the fat end of each of these was an inflatable habitat which could link with its two neighbors.

The long end would telescope out far enough to enable it to be spun up for 1g artificial gravity.  That would take about 224 meters from the center.

The masses shown here according to this illustration, as launched from Earth, are 1000 lbs each.  To launch from the moon would require much less power ( 14 times assuming that its equivalent), which would mean a much smaller gun.  So the gun would be smaller and the masses would be equivalent.  The question is how much of a habitat can you make with each 1000 lb payload?  Probably not much come to think of it.  But there would be plenty of modules.  I would guess over a 100 launches to complete the circle.

There are two circular modules shown below.  Let's say make one for supplies and the other for habitat.

QuickLaunch webpage
You would need to get to the moon first, of course.  You will need to mine the moon for water and build your space gun.  You will also need to make each of the inflatable modules--- somehow.   Then stuff it all in a gun and launch it to a Lagrange point.  Assemble at the Lagrange point.  Start sending people to man the station and begin preparing a launch vehicle to go to Phobos.

The trip back would go to the Lagrangian station instead of Earth.  That presumably would save a bit of delta v.  Not to mention not having to land and take off again from the Earth itself.  With one g of artificial gravity, a crew could rehabilitate and then go off on additional missions before coming home to stay.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Elon Musk says he will put millions of people on Mars

Next Big Future

  • Musk doesn't just want to stop at one human. In his Heinlein prize acceptance speech, he said he wants to put 10,000 people on Mars.
  • Ultimately we don't really want 10,000 people on Mars," he says, after letting the pause linger a few seconds more. "We want millions."
  • In September Musk announced the company's plans for developing a fully reusable space launch system. 
  • Musk says that a reusable version of the rocket could deliver a payload of up to 15 tonnes to Mars at a cost of $100 to $200 per kilogram.
  • The price tag for a Mars mission varies as widely as the concepts for achieving it, from $20 billion to $500 billion
  • Would he consider going on that first trip? "If someone had solved the rapidly reusable launch system problem, then yes, I'd definitely go," he says. "But if it were simply a one-time flight, then no, because I'd need to stay and keep at the challenge with SpaceX.
Wernher von Braun's Mars Expedition (1952)
Das Marsprojekt was the first technically comprehensive design for a manned expedition to Mars. Von Braun envisioned not a simple preliminary voyage to Mars, but an enormous scientific expedition modeled on the Antarctic model.


Musk believes that the window of opportunity to do this could close.  If it closes, the opportunity may not come again.  That should be a chilling thought, but there's all to many who don't seem to mind.  I guess if it doesn't affect someone personally, it doesn't matter to that person.  It's going to take someone like Musk to do this if it ever gets done.

Von Braun wanted to do it, but the cost was deemed to be too high.  Musk has gotten the price down, but there may still be too much resistance to the idea for the government to finance it.  That could mean further efforts must be undertaken in order to make it even more cost effective.

In addition to this, an economic rationale for doing it may be enough to push it over the finish line.  An economic rationale could be tourism and resource extraction.   Resource extraction can supply the basis for colonization, while colonization can encourage tourism.  A couple of side benefits would be science and planet defense.  If enough needs could be identified as being met by this endeavor, a case could be made for some government financing to support it.  The potential for profit could supply the rest.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Moon Mines: Visionary or Senseless?

National Space Society Blog h/t Instapundit


  1. a vigorous lunar mining system could be part of a system to deliver energy to Earth, build large structures in space, and even provide radiation protection, water and oxygen to those who want to spend significant time in orbit.
  2.  the evidence suggests that reorienting our space program to support commercialization and industrialization of space, as opposed to 100% government missions, may produce far greater results at much less cost.
  3.  Lunar mining could be a major component of such space industrialization.

I'd say this is just the beginning of what it could do.

Smalley Institutes' Grand Challenges

I wanted to write about War, well I found this link in the Wikipedia.  If I didn't know any better, this could have been written by me:
Top Ten Problems Facing Humanity Over the Next 50 Years
  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Environment
  5. Poverty
  6. Terrorism & War
  7. Disease
  8. Education
  9. Democracy
  10. Population

If the E-cat were to be effective, wouldn't it make sense to get it into mass production as soon as possible?  If it had a patent, wouldn't it be easier to determine if it is indeed effective?  This problem doesn't need a lot of money to solve, just somebody willing to take it on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MURRAY AND BIER: Create wealth, not jobs

Washington Times


False choice.  Wealth and jobs go together.  Don't get me wrong, I like this argument, but the argument is not about giving up one thing for another.  The argument is about creating economic activity, not government activity.


60% Favor Building Keystone XL Pipeline

Sixty percent (60%) of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor building the pipeline which President Obama has delayed until at least 2013 because of environmental concerns. Just 24% are opposed. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.

The sixteen percent are not sure may be swayed by the fact that this has been studied for years now.  The question has been answered sufficiently already.  The fact is that the Democrats are dragging their feet on this issue hoping that it will go away before the clock runs out on this election.

NASA is moving towards the Space Launch System

Next Big Future

Read through the thread of links to that post and you are left with the inescapable impression that this is a big boondoggle that will never get off the ground.

NASA doesn't innovate anymore, if it ever did. The technology for SLS is half a century old. Imagine trying to open a new car dealership which markets Model T's. They won't sell because they're obsolete. The "dealership" won't shut down now even though that fact should be obvious, they will continue the subsidies because governments are slow to recognize realities. However, once it becomes clear that the taxpayer is subsidizing obsolescent hardware at great cost, the political support for its continuance will become untenable. The public can be fooled for the moment, but the moment is quickly coming to an end.

There are many improvements upon the current technology, but these are not as well known for the moment. Now that Spacex has launched, there will be many others, who will be able to offer much more for much less.

Here is a list of posts of future technologies which can drastically reduce the cost of launching into low earth orbit
  1. Refueling from LEO using the upper atmosphere:  LOXLEO
  2. Stratolaunch
  3. QuickLaunch
  4. Skylon
  5. Spacex's reusable rockets
  6. Vasimr and others
  7. Fusion propulsion concepts
Not to mention that a moonbase will cut the cost of launch by a factor of 14.  But you have to get there first.  A moonbase could also launch nuclear thermal rockets from the lunar surface.  That could cut the costs by another factor of two.  John Hunter of Quicklaunch says that it will take a million pounds of propellant for each crew member to get to Mars.  If you launched from the Moon, that may come down to just 35,000 pounds each! (assuming a Nerva type rocket using lunar INSR materials)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Propulsive Fluid Accumulator

Interesting concept, but a little difficult to execute.  It also lacks a way to get hydrogen from the atmosphere. Getting energy to it is a problem, since nuclear power is ruled out.  Beamed power may be a possibility.

Let's speculate a little. Beam the power from the ground to a satellite in GEO, then redirect to the satellite in very low orbit.  It would scoop up oxygen from the atmosphere and collect it.  Once filled up, it could lift itself to a higher orbit and deposit it in a depot.  Then go back down for more.

In case you are mystified, this is about propellant depots and INSR methods.


An impressive looking chart.  If you could pull this off, you can save a lot of money.

page 34, Klinkman and Wilkes


This project was classified by the US Government. Werhner von Braun took it seriously. This was no far fetched idea. It was and is a real possibility. But the power problem may be the show stopper.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Keystone Ultimatum

wsj online

The Keystone codicil is now being negotiated in the Senate, where at least eight Democrats have said publicly they hope the project goes forward: Jon Tester and Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Lousiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

Looks like Obama has stepped in it again.   But that's only 8 Senators.  They will need several more to pass it.

IBT: Cold Fusion: The Impact of Rossi’s E-Cat to the World

By ranina sanglap | December 15, 2011 10:55 AM EST

Ultra cheap energy would be a boon to the flagging world economy. Manufacturers will be able to provide cheaper goods. Households will have a cheaper utility bill which means extra cash to buy products on the market. Energy intensive industries will become more financially feasible.

That's what it all about, baby.


More here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Newt's Lunar Base Is a Good Idea

Ray Villard, Discovery News  via RealClearScience

This is where Gingerich’s moon mining moon base comes in. Humans would be needed to go to the moon to operate a large drilling rig to burrow thorough lava layers and take core samples with the telltale isotopic record from the sun's travels.

Perhaps only through the potential big bucks of commercial lunar mining could geologic science have an opportunity to hitchhike back to the moon's surface. The geological exploration would hit an unintended pay dirt far more valuable than helium 3 -- a history book of our sun's galactic odyssey.

Gingrich's name is misspelled, but that's ok!  I like moon base idea, of course.  I've been writing about it for months.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Video: Paul Allen Unveils New Commercial Space Program

Verum Serum

I like this concept. It can fly to its release point, and then fly back. The first stage could be positioned in a perfect location for return to launch site. Most likely, that could be Edwards AFB. It may look otherwise, since their base is actually in New Mexico.

But I think of it this way: if you are going to recover the first stage, what better way to do it than to fly out into the Pacific thereby setting up a trajectory that requires the least amount of maneuvering. Thus, it will use the least amount of fuel and could well be the least risky method of recovering the first stage.

You could even take off from Edwards mostly empty and fuel the rocket with airborne refueling technique. I say mostly empty because refueling with LOX while in the air may be a little too complicated.

Maybe they won't do it the way I've speculated, but it would seem to be the most logical path to me.


Stratolaunch Systems Press Conference 13.12.11

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paul Allen, Spacex and Burt Rutan are teaming up for Stratolaunch

Next Big Future

Nothing was said about the reusability of the rocket part of the launch system. I presume that Spacex still wants to do that.  Here's a video

Aiming for manned orbital missions as well as for cargo.  Reusability is in the plan, but won't be initially.   This is a much bigger plane than what has ever been built before- An 225.  A commenter said that the A380 weighs more.


I like it!

Shackleton Energy Company Crowdsource Funding Campaign

I'm in.


Mining the Moon, by William Stone.  More here.

A Week of E-Cat News Flurry

Pure Energy Systems News  November 29, 2011


I'm a little behind on these developments, this will help catch up a bit.  Here's a few tidbits
  1. Rossi replies to Josephson's call for another test. Rossi stated he cannot meet Josephson’s demands because it would reveal what he considers his trade secrets to a potential competitor.
  2. Uppsala University Eager To Test Andrea Rossi E-Cat
  3. Andrea Rossi E-Cat Will Soon Have Scientific Framework  quote: "Recently, we received update that the contracted research between Andrea Rossi and the University of Bologna will start in a few weeks."
  4. Quick Poll of E-Cat World Readers  Results:   -Rossi has discovered a new way to make useful energy (55%, 825 Votes)
    - Don't Know (21%, 319 Votes)
    - Rossi has nothing and is perpetrating a hoax/scam (13%, 191 Votes)
    - Rossi honestly thinks he has achieved cold fusion but is mistaken (8%, 123 Votes)
    - Rossi has discovered a form of energy but it is insignificantly small (3%, 32 Votes)

Comment:  Of course, if he had a US patent, his concerns for his intellectual property could be satisfied.

Cold Fusion Now has a post up about patents and the patent process.  Written by David French: David French is a retired patent attorney and the principal and CEO of Second Counsel Services. Second Counsel provides guidance for companies that wish to improve their management of Intellectual Property.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Newt’s Moon Mines - By Rand Simberg - The Corner - National Review Online

Newt’s Moon Mines - By Rand Simberg - The Corner - National Review Online

Proposal: Removing Earth's Radiation Belts

This is a similar idea I read in the book reported on this time last year.

One of many useful tasks could be the removal of the Van Allen Belts. Other tasks include removing space junk, repairing and removing non functional satellites, and guarding space from rogue asteroids. This is in addition to supporting exploration and development.

It is much cheaper to launch from the moon ( 14 times cheaper according to this). Wouldn't it make sense to do this or at least look into doing it? Gingrich appears to be interested. Romney's criticism is based upon the current paradigm. That paradigm has to be replaced with a new paradigm of cheaper access to space.  The current space program is not about that, to put it bluntly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Truth About Fracking

Uploaded by ReasonTV on Jun 27, 2011

h/t Free Republic and Maggie's Notebook

The Administration is attempting a land grab into to stop this practice, which is harmless. It is the one true way that can lead to energy independence, which is not what the environmentalists have in mind.

Next Big Future posts on cold fusion

Brian Ahern talk on Energy Localization and Nanomagnetism as explanation for LENR/Cold Fusion

Cold Fusion in bulk, macroscopic systems is controlled by the overlap of the vibrational modes of the dissolved deuterium nuclei.

Once again, something that may be analogous to a "wave" gets connected to cold fusion. It may have little connection to this presentation, just an observation of mine.   Here's another observation just now:  "an overlap" of vibrational modes.  Question:  could these act like BEC's?

Magnetization textures in NiPd nanostructures

The NIST work further confirms the Brian Ahern theory that nanomagnetism plays an important part in low energy assisted nuclear reactions. The nickel and palladium electrodes used in many cold fusion experiments would have this nanomagnetic behavior.
But magnetism is not a part of the BECNF theory.  Palladium is paramagnetic, while nickel is paragmagnetic above the Curie point.  This appears to be something of a contradiction.  But this isn't BECNF theory, it is another theory altogether.  BECNF is my speculation in this instance.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Elon Musk: Why does space inspire us? QuickLaunch Interview

With John Hunter and Eric Robinson

Discusses history of the company, why aquatic basing, how Eric became the "spark plug" of the company, recent developments, moon and Mars concepts and advantages, 400 hundred meter entry level system does 100 payloads, John's career story, real world stuff, young kids love this project, Eric's career, his space projects (on Mars).

Bottom line: This is an enabling technology for space exploration and development.

In two parts
  1. Part One 
  2. Part Two

Inhofe to climate conference: Nobody’s listening any more

posted at 10:50 am on December 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Two years ago, the Obama administration practically staged an airlift of leading Democratic officials to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. ...In the end, Obama could only produce a non-binding agreement that even he didn’t agree to sign,

If climate change activism was really about reducing carbon emissions, they'd support space solar satellites.  So where is that?   By the way, here's somebody who wants to lead an expedition to the moon in search of resources which could enable such an industry based on the moon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life on other planets far, far away

I may be interested in space, but I am also quite practical.  Some may say too practical.  This bit of news about a planet in a habitable zone on a planet hundreds of light years away just doesn't do anything (practical ) for me.  That's because there is practical no useful value in this information.  Even if you find something, what do you do with it?

The distances are so great that even if you can go the speed of light, it would take hundreds of years to go there and come back.  Nobody could have any emotional connection to such a journey.  You can't even communicate with them because it would take a message that long to get back and forth.  What good is this knowledge?

All of this curiousity about Mars also isn't very useful either.  Even though we could possibly get there and back with today's technology, what useful value can be derived from it? 

This may all seem to contradict my interest in space, but if anyone thinks so, they aren't paying attention.  There are practical useful things that can be done in space, but looking for life on other planets either in this star system or in another-  is not one of them.

I suggest starting with the moon.  If can't do anything on the moon that is useful and practical, you probably can't do it anywhere.  The cost of going to far away destinations will be too prohibitive, the danger will too great.  It just won't happen in anybody's lifetime.  But we were on the moon over 40 years ago.  We haven't done anything with that knowledge either.  But getting there was a start in that direction if anyone would just bother to see it that way.

In this age of budget austerity, it would make a lot of sense to reorder our priorities.  There is too much waste, and programs like searching for earth-like planets is an example of that.  We need to concentrate our efforts on goals that are reachable, not on goals that can never be reached in our lifetimes.  We should concentrate on useful information, not information that we can't possibly do anything with.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cold fusion confusion

My latest study was of the muon catalyzed fusion and it appears to me to be somewhat doubtful proposition for commercialization.  The reason being that producing the muons is a bit of a challenge.  In fact, that is indeed the problem in a nutshell.  If muons could be produced in quantity and at low cost, this type of fusion would be feasible.  This has known that for decades, however.  It doesn't make sense to withhold that invention, should economical muon production had been achieved.  It is not like cold fusion, in that the science is pretty much mainstream.   You can't get a patent for cold fusion devices in the US, but you could get one for muon production, provided that you can prove it.

The thought that cold fusion is impossible is a bit of a semantic argument.  If muon catalyzed fusion is possible, it is already "cold" because it can take place at room temperature.  Maybe even below room temperature.  Therefore, the problem is in the semantics, not the facts.  Cold fusion is possible in this instance.  The question should be this: is there some other way around the coulomb barrier?  Somebody has thought of a way- or should I say many people have thought of ways in which this might be accomplished.  Yet, for some reason, mainstream science doesn't even want to consider the possibility of cold fusion.   How do you resolve this contradiction?  Perhaps you can start by agreeing upon a definition of what cold fusion actually is.

Being somewhat more careful than average about word meanings, if I am not sure about what the word means, I'll go look it up.  Okay, so let's do that for cold fusion and see what's out there:

Wikipedia isn't too sure about it, so there's a disambiguation page to clarify it.  Cold fusion seems to have more meanings than the ones I usually think of.  My understanding of cold fusion relates to the science.  But there are other meanings, which are not anything like the science.  Let's not go there and just stick with the scientific meaning. 

Even there, the wiki has four different meanings
  1. The low temperature low energy type usually associated with Fleischmann and Pons
  2. Muon catalyzed fusion
  3. Pyroelectric fusion , which is something I've never heard of before
  4.  Nuclear fusion at high energies  [ comment: that doesn't exactly qualify, does it?  It does break down this further into something called "generally cold but locally hot fusion"]
 The most controversial one is no doubt the first one.  The others seem to be well within the bounds of mainstream science.

A lot of the confusion seems to have started with a misunderstanding between Fleischmann and Jones at the time that they had agreed upon a joint submission for publication of their respective work.   Jones was working on muon catalyzed fusion:
"Cold nuclear fusion" that had been published in Scientific American in July 1987
Perhaps the confusion and controversy could have been avoided if the agreement had been kept.   It would seem that the whole thing deteriorated from that point on until "cold fusion" became known as a pathological science.  Any scientist caught working on this could be punished.

The curious thing about it all was that there were anomalies which should have been a good enough reason for continued study.  The unfortunate thing about it was that this continued "pathological scientific research" had to continue under a cloud of controversy.  The controversy continues to this very day.  Shouldn't the cold fusion confusion be laid to rest?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Making Muons - Backstage Science

Uploaded by on May 3, 2011

It wasn't stated in this video, but muons can be useful for fusion reactions.  If enough can be made at a low enough energy cost, you just might get to break even or better for fusion energy production.


I'm looking for a way that may have been found to produce muons in quantity, which would appear to be necessary for energy production via muon catalyzed fusion.   Perhaps Stephen Horvath has found a way to do that.


From Wikipedia:
As of 2011, no practical method of producing energy through this means has been published, although some discoveries using "hall effect" show promise

If a collider were used, how much energy for each particle?  I wonder if some other means of fusion which is not at break even can be used in order to obtain a relatively low cost source of alpha particles.

Pushing the envelope

Most people who follow the space program have heard of the term "the right stuff".  There was a movie made by that name, which I've had for awhile, but watched again just recently.  The movie setting begins in 1947 and that's about the time that the sound barrier was being challenged.  At the time, nobody knew for certain what would happen when the sound barrier was reached.  There were those who believed that this was impossible.  Over history, many things that were said to be impossible weren't impossible after all. 

The Wright Brothers' feat of heavier than air flight was once considered impossible too.   But less than a half century after doing that impossible feat, the sound barrier was next.   The men challenging the sound barrier were test pilots and it was in their spirit to push the envelope.  After seeing this spirit just the other night, I was wondering, what happened?   Less than a half century after the Wright Brothers the envelope was still being pushed, but nearly a half century after walking on the moon, why isn't the envelope being pushed today?

Perhaps it's because we have become something of a risk averse society.  Pushing the envelope is dangerous.  Many test pilots lost their lives pushing that envelope.  But the rewards were great.  If the envelope wasn't pushed by men like these, we may still be on the ground.  You could even say that without pushing the envelope throughout history, we may alll be living in caves.  Pushing the envelope is necessary to progress, playing it safe comes at a cost.  Even if lives are saved by playing it safe, the safety may impose a much greater cost in the future.

With respect to progress, there are more barriers that need to be overcome that do not necessarily mean the risk to life.  What about the risks to one's career or to one's financial well being?  In such cases, a risky move could be one that advocates an untried method or system which may or may not work.  I am thinking of cold fusion.  Many scientists pushed that envelope and some paid a heavy price for their refusal to back down to the dangers of researching that field.  It was a real risk because look what happened to Fleischmann and Pons, who were a bit too bold for their own good.  They claimed that the heat anomaly that they observed was due to a new and unknown process which came to be known as cold fusion.  They were accused of being frauds and incompetents and their careers were ruined.  Yet, in spite of this, research continued.  Now, with Rossi's E-cat, there may be a commercial product on the horizon.  But the catcalls continue.  The disbelief in this new form of energy seems to form a real barrier to progress.  Some boldness is required in order to overcome the latest barrier.

Maybe we don't need astronauts nor test pilots for this, but we do need that sort of courage.  Playing it safe just won't do.  The envelope must be pushed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Methanol Wins - Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin - National Review Online

Comment:  I've been sold on methanol for a long time now.  At least since 2005 or so.  It is also handy in making hydrogen for fuel cell cars, if anyone ever gets around to building one of these on a mass production basis.  Curious that there seems to be a glacial pace in making a flex fuel standard.

Australian Star Scientific is probably the claimant of the 1 megawatt nuclear fusion device

Next Big Future

Comment:  Muon catalyzed fusion is cold fusion.  The trouble is the muons can't be produced easily, so it is impractical.  But these guys claim otherwise.

Could there be another way around the coulomb barrier?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Will The EPA Choke Oil Shale Production? (h/t Al Fin Energy and Instapundit)

The Gulf Coast energy industry has never fully recovered from a similar moratorium and a new glacial permitting process.

Similarly, the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline project to bring Canadian tar sands oil to American refineries is stalled on environmental grounds.

So, this administration is all about jobs?  Or destroying jobs?  As long as it is a government job that costs billions, they are all for that.

The Latest Destination for Human Spaceflight (Venus)

The Once And Future Moon - Paul Spudis

Space advocates are desperately looking for something people can do and somewhere they can go in space on timescales of less than multiple decades at costs of less than hundreds of billions of dollars.  If only there where some place we could get to within a decade or so, for a cost that doesn’t bust the latest budget. 

Comment:  From a link within the post: (no magic beans)
Talismanic thinking is common in much of the current discussion about the new path for NASA.  Other talismans include cheap access to low Earth orbit, commercial transport replacing Orion, and an “exciting space goal” to engage the public.

 He's a little too pessimistic about future technologies.  Could his thinking be similar to the thinking that resulted in someone saying that "everything that could be invented was already invented"?  Somebody said that over 100 years ago.  It was wrong then, and is probably wrong now.  For if everything than can be invented has already been invented, we should give up space altogether as a waste to money.

Andrea Rossi On Defkalion ( h/t Free Republic)


I'm not really interested in arguing the matter.  I'm interested in ending the arguments for good.  One way or the other.  Decide the issue and get on with it.