Archive for February, 2021

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

So, one thing I forget that a movie I was watching reminded me of – the USA and the USSR are in essence holding a gun to the head of every person on the planet. If we were to ever have a nuclear exchange, the resulting nuclear winter would kill most of the people here. And we, of course, are selfish enough to think that capitalism and our perverse, twisted variant of Christianity are worth threatening everyone in the world.

We should voluntarily put down our gun.. but we won’t, because if there’s two defining traits of the USA’s military machine, they are selfishness and stupidity.

This is part of why I have so much trouble when people post their “if you like your freedom, thank my daddy” memes. Because the US army doesn’t fight for freedom – they fight to perpetuate slavery. We’ve overthrown free democracies in order to install our preferred autocratic leaders, we’ve killed millions of people in wars that were started over lies so our war machine could profit. I don’t understand how people can remain blind to all this.

Immigration : the big lie

Friday, February 26th, 2021

So, one of the standard lies that conservatives push is that illegal immigrants “steal jobs”. This is a convenient thing for the conservative leaders to have gotten them to believe, but it doesn’t hold a lot of water. The same people are still doing the same jobs they always have.

What’s actually going on is that the US has carefully restricted immigration while continuing to advertise for i.e. farm workers in other countries, *knowing* that some would be desperate enough to become “illegal” and therefore have a major lack of rights. The existence of “illegals” does in fact hurt US workers insofar as the bosses are always going to choose a employee they can abuse over one they can’t – but in fact the best solution is just to grant citizenship to all of them. They’re not stealing jobs US workers are likely to take or even have the skills to take – and allowing them to bargain for better working conditions is to *everyone’s* advantage (see repeated discussions about how the rich do not actually understand how money works / are apparently morons or incapable of really large scale thinking). If these people have more money, they are not likely to hoard it, they will spend it – either by sending it home or by spending it in the USA. Either way, it will be increasing the velocity of money and therefore increasing the number of good things that get done.

If Joe Sixpack would like to look for who has “stolen” his jobs, he should probably look towards advancements in manufacturing and automation.

Twitch broadcast videos

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

The videos for the two twitch broadcasts I did are now available for any who want to see them.

Show #1 – 2/15/21 – Setlist:

John’s Song (Original / M.Mesford/Sheer)
City Of New Orleans (Cover, Arlo Guthrie)
This City (Cover, Steve Earle)
America (Cover, Simon & Garfunkel)
Black Velvet (Cover, Alannah Miles)
Me and Bobby McGee (Cover, Kris Kristofferson)
Comfortably Numb (Cover, Pink Floyd)
Blackbird (Cover, J. Lennon)
House of the rising sun (Cover, traditional)
Closer To Fine (Cover, Indigo Girls)
A few of my favorite things (From “The Sound Of Music”)
One Tree Hill (Cover, U2)

Show #2: 2/20/21 – Setlist:

1% (Original, Sheer/M.Mesford)
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Cover, Crowded House)
The original broadcast included Dry County (Cover, Bon Jovi) which has been omitted due to technical issues
Us And Them (Cover, Pink Floyd)
Still Alive (Cover, Jonathan Coulton)
Tis Of Thee (Cover, Ani Difranco)
One (Cover, U2)
Lost Angeles (Original, Sheer/T.True/Alex)
Puff the Magic Dragon (Cover, Peter,Paul&Mary)
The Way It Is (Cover, Bruce Hornsby)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Cover, Traditional)
Imagine (Cover, J.Lennon)
Don’t You Forget About Me (Cover, Simple Minds)

Encores: Angel From Montgomery (Cover, J. Prine) / The Promise (When In Rome)

Impact of vaccines on cases.

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

So, supposedly the ‘experts’ are claiming that the current decline in COVID cases has nothing to do with the vaccines. My suspicion is these “experts” have not played with a computer simulation. (Source: USA Today)

In my simulations, spread of a virally propagating phenomenon is *extremely* sensitive to changes in Nsub0, the number of cases that each case goes on to generate. Lower Nsub0 by 8%, the output effect is much more than 8% reduced. Lower it below 1.0, the fire slowly goes out.

I do agree that some of the decline in cases is because we’re being more careful because of the peak in cases. But I also suspect some of why people are being more careful is there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s much more difficult to say “let’s remain vigilant for a indefinite period of time” than it is to say “let’s remain vigilant for five more months”, which is what we’re now looking at. As a result, people who ordinarily would be less careful are being more careful. I have several friends this is true of. Therefore, the vaccine has a psychological effect that lowers Nsub0, as well as the ways that it obviously physically reduces Nsub0.

Now, I’ll also acknowledge some of the reduction of cases is we no longer have incompetent clowns at the helm – the ship is now being steered by adults, and as a result we’re probably not going to run into every single reef we possibly could any more. All that said, I guarantee you at least 1% – and more likely 10-15% – of the reduction in cases is the result of the vaccine.

Elon Musk and Mars

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

So, several times over the years I’ve thought me and Elon Musk should sit down and have a discussion – which would probably, I readily admit, turn into a argument. But we have a lot of things in common, interest wise.

I am often struck by how Elon and Tesla both have the same sense of showmanship, and the same tendency to make utterly batshit claims occasionally.

Elon’s got some great ideas (reusable spacecraft, electric cars, possibly even underground transit) and some reeeeeally bad ones (hyperloop, semiballiastic orbital travel for point to point on earth). But I want today to address a particularly nutty idea he’s come up with – that we’d be able to do a manned Mars mission by 2026. (Claim made here).

This is absolutely true – if we don’t mind that it’s a one way trip, and that we’ll be sending people to die on Mars in a few weeks or months.

However, the tradition in American spaceflight is we don’t consider the crew expendable. Which means a more reasonable timeline is 2046 if we use conventional fuels, or 2036 if we use a NERVA.

Now, I know in general the world is against NERVAs, and I don’t deny that they’re a bit risky – if we did use a NERVA we’d probably have to send up the fuel rods encapsulated in the best tech we could put them in, and assemble them in space. I do feel like various forces have overstated the risk of using nuclear fueled spacecraft, and that’s another whole topic. But, I want to make the case for using a NERVA here.

If we used a NERVA, we would not need combustible fuel, just ‘reaction mass’. THis means any liquid or gas that can be liquified would do! This makes it easy to guarantee a return flight, assuming the spacecraft arrives in one piece on mars, because you can

A: Use the same reactor fuel to run a reactor that compresses Mars’s atmosphere into the reaction mass tanks
B: Use the same reactor fuel to power heat & light onboard the spacecraft and a connected ‘Hab’ a la the Martian
C: It’s very likely a NERVA would not suffer from many of the ‘cold soak’ issues that a conventional rocket engine does, because NERVA designs often involve very few moving parts and by definition the reactor itself is going to get the whole system plenty hot by the time the jet fires

However, given that we’ve shelved NERVA technology, it would still be many years, even if we used a NERVA, before we could talk about going to mars and returning. I don’t know if Musk is outrageously optimistic, or if he’s doing the ‘just one more hill and we’ll be at the top of the mountain’ technique of pushing humanity along.

Anyway, without a NERVA, let’s talk about the challenges, so we understand why 2026 is ludicrous

#1: With a combustible fuel rocket, carrying enough fuel for a two way journey is a non-starter. It makes the fuel load *the square* of the amount you need for a one way journey, because you must carry the fuel to move the fuel.
#2: With a combustible fuel rocket, generally after a burn adequate to reach escape velocity on earth, some maintenance must be done before another burn can occur. Very likely this would have to be done in orbit above mars. Fixing things in space is *tricky* and takes months of simulations and practice to pull off.
#3: With a combustible fuel rocket, a very real concern is ‘cold soak’.

a) Most spacecraft to date have avoided the challenge of trying to ignite something that has been sitting at -200 degrees by using hypergolic fuels – that is to say, fuels that when two dissimilar parts are mixed together, ignition happens automatically. However, hypergolic fuels are much less efficient than oxidized fuels AND they’re incredibly toxic. They are not suitable for a escape velocity rocket anywhere much bigger than the moon.
b) If not using hypergolic fuels, you actually have to figure out starting up the fuel and oxidizer pumps, then igniting the mix coming out of them. Bunch of moving parts to get all working together.

#4: We’ve often spoken of using a combustible fuel rocket and “making the fuel on mars”. If we can find water, we can electrolyze it and make hydrogen and oxygen, then liquify them and make fuel. OK, I agree, all that is true, but there’s a lot less sunlight falling on Mars than on Earth. Doing that with a solar array is going to take a loooong time (and at the same time we’ll also have to make enough power for heat & light for the crew). So we’re probably going to have to send a nuclear reactor to Mars anyway, just to make the fuel, unless we want to try to keep men alive on Mars for a year on our first foray – something that is also likely to end in a dead crew.

Twitch, redux

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

I’ve been having tons of fun with OBS and setting up scenes, filters, and the like. Most of the bugs are out. My twitch channel is (note the underscore)

Planning a “official” transmission for Feb 15 at 6 PM. In the meantime, I’m doing test transmissions – I will delete the truly horrid ones and leave the rest up until they time out.