A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘military

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes an upcoming group photo of prominent Toronto musicians.
  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the sort of starship a Kardashev II civilization would build.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze has a couple of papers noting the interactions between hot Jupiters and their parent suns.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on Russian nuclear submarine advances.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that same-sex marriage in Slovenia is safe and observes the advance of civil unions in Italy.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how revitalizing neighbourhoods can lead to complicated politics, politely put.
  • Marginal Revolution considers ways to improve the allocation of water in drought-hit areas like California.
  • The Numerati’s Stephen Baker wonders if Apple might be able to regain its lost customers.
  • Torontoist approves of a Haitian restaurant in a Scarborough strip mall.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the complexities of language policy in the former Soviet Union, looks at the institutionalization of Islam in the Crimea, and examines the issues of self-identifying Ukrainians in the Russian Far East.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Centauri Dreams examines different ways in which starships can decelerate.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the potential habitability of exomoons orbiting bright white main-sequence stars, between F5 and F9.5. Ultraviolet radiation is key.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Chinese ASAT weapons test.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the Swedish language now has officially added the gender-neutral pronoun hen to its vocabulary.
  • Language Hat notes an ambitious new project to digitize ancient Irish-language documents.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer is critical of the Democratic Party’s stance on abortion when it gets in the way of necessary policy, likening it to the Republican Party’s ongoing satisfaction of its base.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the final interesting weeks of Messenger‘s survey of Mercury, with photos.
  • Peter Rukavina remembers when in 1995 he was commissioned by the government of Prince Edward Island to set up a provincial website.
  • Torontoist reacts with humour to the impending merger of Postmedia and Sun Media.
  • Towleroad notes a lawsuit brought by a Michigan women against her former gym for being too trans-friendly.
  • Understanding Society examines the mechanisms connecting experiments with policies.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues against mandatory voting and mandatory jury service.
  • Window on Eurasia observes a controversial election among Moldova’s Gagauz and looks at the extent to which Islam in Russia is not under the government’s control.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell goes on at length about the ridiculous Biryani project, a failed dirty tricks effort to sabotage the English Defense League and radical Muslims. Wow.

[BRIEF NOTE] On the false dream of Project Orion

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At The Space Review, in the article “Starfleet was closer than you think” authored by Major Brent Ziarnick and Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, the argument is made that the Project Orion nuclear bomb-powered spacecraft of the 1960s could and should have been made, that our world would now be an enthusiastically spacefaring world.

Today, the United States is in the process of a renaissance of interstellar thought and ambition. In the popular culture, with the discovery nearly every day of potentially Earth-like exoplanets, and popular movies like Interstellar, we are seeing an increasing public interest. And in the technical community, there is new leadership when it comes to actually designing interstellar capable spacecraft, such as DARPA’s 100 Year Starship project, Icarus Interstellar, and the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop.

But we could have been so much farther along. After the publication of George Dyson’s book Project Orion, and a few specials, a lot of people know that in the early 1960s DARPA investigated the possibility of a nuclear-pulse-detonation (that is, powered by the explosion of nuclear bombs) spacecraft.

Most assume the program was cancelled for technical problems, but that is not the case. Few know how seriously the idea was taken by the top leadership of the US Air Force.

Preceding but also concurrently developed with Apollo, this extremely ambitious project had unbelievable payload capability. Where Apollo at 3,500 tons could only put two tons on the Moon, the smaller Orion (about the same total mass, 4,000 tons) could soft-land 1,200 tons (600 times as much) on the Moon, and the larger (only three times as heavy as Apollo, or 10,000 tons) could soft-land 5,700 tons (nearly 3,000 times as much) on the Moon, or take 1,300 tons of astronauts and consumables on a three-year round-trip to Saturn and back!1 The fission powered Orion could even achieve three to five percent the speed of light, though a more advanced design using fusion might achieve eight to ten percent the speed of light.

Most assume the program was cancelled for technical problems, but that is not the case. Few know how seriously the idea was taken by the top leadership of the US Air Force.

Because internal budget discussions and internal memoranda are not generally released and some only recently declassified, almost nobody knows how close Strategic Air Command (SAC) was to building the beginning of an interstellar-capable fleet. Had the personalities of the Air Force’s civilian leadership been different in 1962, humanity might have settled a good part of the inner solar system and might be launching probes to other stars today. We might also have had the tools to deflect large asteroids and comets.

This article was dissected by commenters over at James Nicoll’s Livejournal. Leaving aside the non-trivial technical challenges discussed over there, I would add that not only would fleets of spacecraft propelled by nuclear weapons make Earth orbit unusable for commercial purposes, but simply being able to get to Mars quickly is not enough. Do the life support technologies needed to sustain crews for hundreds of days exist? Is there anything on Mars, or elsewhere, that would actually attract sustained interest even with relatively swift interplanetary travel? I’m skeptical.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 20, 2015 at 10:05 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO takes a look at the reasons for the failure of the Toronto Sushi Festival, a failure that included the blog’s own misrepresentation of the event’s success.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly argues that, in our media-saturated environment, paying attention to everything is exhausting.
  • Centauri Dreams and D-Brief react to Dawn’s arrival at Ceres.
  • The Crux notes that Enceladus’ seas appear to be driven by tectonic activity, suggesting they may support life.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at the remarkably eccentric orbit of exoplanet HD 8673Ab, links to a paper suggesting that hot Jupiters disrupt their planetary systems as they migrate inwards, and suggests that planetary systems discovered by Kepler with only one or two planets are the remnants of much denser systems.
  • The Dragon’s Tales and The Power and the Money discuss the idea of military unity in the European Union.
  • A Fistful of Euros compares the recent trajectories of Greece and Iceland following their
  • Joe. My. God. notes an Irish bishop who made an odd comparison of gay people to people with Down’s syndrome.
  • Language Hat notes that the Parisian journals of Russian exiles from the Soviet Union are online and notes the South Arabian language of the Yemeni island of Socotra.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers if rudeness can be a firing offense.
  • Marginal Revolution criticizes the Greek government, and argues that Krugman’s criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is misfounded.
  • The Planetary Society Blog calls for a return to Venus.
  • Otto Pohl observes that just over 62 years after his death, Stalin remains a popular figure in Russia.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes worsening American-Venezuelan relations and argues that Venezuela’s PetroCaribe scheme hasn’t achieved its geopolitical goals.
  • Registan considers the controversy surrounding the disappearance of Vladimir Putin.
  • Peter Rukavina notes how, by tweaking an inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer, he can detect aircraft incoming to Charlottetown.
  • Spacing Toronto notes gendered violence on mass transit.
  • Towleroad observes the conviction of a California man on charges of intentionally trying to infect others with HIV.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the legal issues surrounding an Indian state’s ban on beef, by comparison to California’s horse meat ban.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian’s call to partition Ukraine, observes Russian irredentism towards the Baltics, considers the consequences of Russia’s statements about Crimea, looks at Hungarian irredentism towards western Ukraine, argues that a new Yalta is impossible, and compares the position of Vladimir Putin to that of Khrushchev afte the humiliating Cuban Missile Crisis.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO and Torontoist both report on the remarkable Honest Ed’s plan. (More than a thousand residential units, all rental? That’s rare.)
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the confirmation of a hard-to-find hot Jupiter orbiting BD-20 1790.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the mysterious explosion of an American military satellite.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog observes that raw talent is not nearly enough to ensure, that capital of all kinds is needed.
  • Joe. My. God. celebrates Slovenia’s legalization of same-sex marriage and notes Russia’s effort to block benefits for the same-sex partners of United Nations employees.
  • Language Hat is apparently not fond of National Grammar Day.
  • Language Log is critical of the BBC claim that a southern African group cannot see blue.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money starts a discussion about India’s new aircraft carrier.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the Greeks are badly overstretched as individuals.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla considers Ceres.
  • Towleroad notes the Russian government’s revenge on an lesbian couple who embarrassed an anti-gay politician.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC now has a fourth super-long streetcar.
  • The Understanding Society Blog looks at how knowledge is reproduced globally.
  • Window on Eurasia criticizes the geopolitics of Eurasianism and warns of Russian involvement in Latvia.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog notes the many issues with the Greek job market.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes that Yorkville’s Lettieri is shutting down.
  • Crooked Timber starts a debate as to who won the latest Greece/Eurozone confrontation.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting a new way to analyze carbon-rich exoplanet atmospheres.
  • The Dragon’s Tales observes that India is hoping to build its next aircraft carrier quickly.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig announces that people can now apply for her online Stanford course.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that antibiotics are of underestimated value.
  • Spacing reviews an interesting-sounding book, The Language of Space.
  • Towleroad notes an anonymous college lacrosse player who has just published a book of love poems to his boyfriend.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia wants to weaken Baltic faith in NATO and suggests that everyone, detractors and supporters alike, overestimate Putin.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog notes that apparently Russia was unhappy with being ignored, so explaining in part why it went into Ukraine.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO notes that the cash-strapped CBC may be forced to sell its iconic downtown Toronto headquarters.
  • James Bow reflects on winter in Kitchener-Waterloo.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper studying the relationship between exoplanets and circumstellar dust discs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a simulation of the polar atmosphere of Venus and notes concerns that India’s Hindustan Aeronautics might not be able to manufacture French Rafale fighters under contract.
  • Far Outliers notes Madeleine Albright’s incomprehension of Cambodia’s late 1990s struggles and looks at the way the country lags its neighbours.
  • The Frailest Thing notes how human traffic errors reveal we’re not quite up to some of the tasks we’d like.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Finland’s president has signed a marriage bill into existence.
  • Languages of the World notes the problem of where the homeland of the Indo-Europeans was located.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the often-ignored pattern of lynching Mexicans in the United States.
  • Marginal Revolution notes (1, 2) the problems of human beings with algorithmic, computer-driven planning.
  • Otto Pohl notes how Germans in Kyrgyzstan were forced into labour battalions.
  • pollotenchegg looks at demographic indicators in Ukraine over the past year, noting a collapse in the east.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at deep history, looking at the involvement of war in state-building in Africa and noting the historically recent rise of inequality in Latin America.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at one Russian’s proposal to give a Ukrainian church self-government, notes Russia’s inability to serve as a mentor to China, and looks at rural depopulation in the North Caucasus and South Russia.
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