November 02, 2021

Technology Ahead of It's Time

Many of you are familiar with Steve1989's YouTube channel. He collects and reviews survival rations and emergency kits, mostly military from various eras. 


Steve's notoriety comes from the fact that, being a Florida-Man,  he tries to eat the old ration kits if possible, and his deadpan commentary combined with childlike enthusiasm means hilarity frequently ensues. This is particularly true in the pre-1970s ration kits where at least some components are usually inedibly rancid resulting in his transcendental joy when he finds something like a partially edible K-Rat from 1943.

However that is not nearly as impressive as the video I blundered into today. Last year, he opened a U.S. survival ration from 1906. It consisted of three sets of vitamin fortified mystery beef, and three sets of chocolate. 


While grim, the ration was completely edible after 114 years and held up MUCH better than much more recent rations. While the newer C-rats and MREs are no doubt vastly better for morale, the shelf life of the 1906 ration is unbeatable. This ration was a much more basic bit of sustenance, intended for in-extremis situations, and can be eaten cold or as a stew in one's mess kit. It is actually more advanced in some ways than the WW2 ration kits. The packaging involved is pretty sophisticated and elegant even by today's standards, and it actually  has slightly more calories than a modern MRE in about 2/3 to half the volume. 

On the debit side, it's...pemmican and chocolate, kinda grim,  with no other menu options. 

But it is not intended to be a general purpose meal, one had other options for that, like mobile canteens, rather this was intended for forced marches and traveling light for a few days. 

And at least this one kept more than a century. It would be nice, in these interesting times, if these were still being produced. They are much more compact than the modern alternatives that are (dubiously) advertised as lasting a fifth as long. 

It should be noted that this is a slightly more advanced and mechanically refined version of a British emergency ration from the 1890s, which inspired it. That one did not hold up quite as well, but even it was partially edible after 121 years. 

Wow.

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August 23, 2021

Meanwhile: At the Skynet Symposium

Elon Musk, who has for years warned about the trancendental threat that is A.I., has decided to stop worrying and love the anthropomorphic killbots.


To be clear the new TESLABOT is not technically a killbot in that it is not equipped with a keyboard command for terminating peons who offend the users of TESLABOT, but a workaround for that oversight is likely simple. If it comes equipped as advertised with such features as opposable thumbs, it will certainly be equip-able with phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range or other items with similar functionality.


OK in all seriousness, this diagram notes what the "killbots" will kill...

...or in the polite language of the promo, "eliminate". 

Those 'dangerous, repetitive, boring tasks' are what most of us call "jobs".

That is the prey of this killbot.

Of course for 200 years, jobs have been eliminated by advancing technology only to unleash by their increase in productivity a need for more jobs. This, new development, if it comes to pass may be more of the same, but there is concern that it might be different as it is not "the machinery" but is designed to move amongst and service "the machinery" and do the scutt work that the machinery couldn't. 

Technology is generally double edged, everyone needs to stay on their toes.

Theres a lot to be skeptical about in this announcement and it is does look like, as one commentator pointed out, "Musk as his absolute Muskiest". But as Brian Wang points out, Must does have experience and some infrastructure for producing high tech, semi-autonomous products on a massive scale, so while skepticism is certainly warranted, don't dismiss it out of hand. 

Exit quote: "In the long term I do think there needs to be universal basic income,” Musk said. "But not right now because the robot doesn’t work.”

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August 13, 2021

That Moment When

...one realizes that the website one is perusing is a bastion of bullshit can be jarring, but it's always best to find out early.


One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us just such a moment from Physics-Astronomy.org

"So much von-Däniken. So very derp."
Nijisani's Rosemi Lovelock is by Loop.


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August 01, 2021

Meanwhile: On Europa

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us a bit of unexpected news about Jupiter's icy moon Europa.



Science Babe is actually Selen Tatsuki by Loopin

It seems that NASA has been doing studies of the information gleaned from the various probes that have visited Jupiter and in the process of simulating the environment of Jupiter's moon Europa they have concluded that this is what it looks like on its night side. 

The NASA/JPL article linked note that this phenomena has a lot of potential for analyzing the composition of Europa's ice and its subsurface ocean, via spectroscopy. However, there would seem to be other potential implications of this discovery. 

Given that: 

Currently, any life on Europa is assumed to be based on relatively inefficient chemosynthesis and to be dependent on discharges from equally hypothetical volcanic vents. 

Cherenkov radiation is blue light, meaning it's pretty high energy visible light. 

Water is an excellent ionizing radiation shield. 
 
NASA says the sea ice is literally glowing blue, and seems to imply that this light is visible to the naked eye.. 

So, if the sea-ice over the ocean is, in fact, glowing in blue light, then this light could represent another potential source of energy beyond the hypothesized volcanic vents. As happens on Earth, this would only be complimented by any black smokers spewing nutrients. 

Using the vast depth and breadth of biological and radiological knowledge that comes with a History degree, I find myself asking, "Can you grow plants with Cherenkov radiation?"  It seems likely, given that blue light is pretty high in energy, and that they make blue grow lights

The ice and water should protect against the hard radiation that ultimately causing the light, so in theory there might well be a very habitable region in Europa's ocean, one where actual photosynthesis, could potentially take place. Photosynthesis is vastly more efficient than the chemosynthesis that has been postulated as making life on Europa plausible, and (rather more so than chemosynthesis) might even support multicellular life. 

Additionally, life or no life, Europa's oceans might be well lit...in an eerie blue glow (dependent, of course upon the thickness of the ice and brightness of the glow).

There are a whole bunch of variables that need to be looked at regarding this, and I'm sure SOMEBODY knows if Cherenkov radiation is devoid of anything that plants need, but I'll be damned if I can find any info in the matter at the moment. 

Photosynthesis aside, there is a model put forth by a Richard Greenberg (presumably, his degrees are not in history) that Europa's ocean may be as oxygenated as earth's if not more so, due to the creation of Oxygen and Peroxides created by the radiation bombardment of the icy surface. 

Europa's just looking better and better for life.


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June 27, 2021

INCOMING!

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us news from the world Astronomy.


Art by Mato Hoshibara. She can be supported on Fanbox.

It appears that a planet is entering the inner solar system. 

It's technically a dwarf planet...but I don't think we can say dwarf anymore so revel in the clickbait. 

It's also a part of the solar system, specifically the Kuiper belt and is just on a really long orbit that is bringing it into the inner Solar System, so, it's basically a comet. However, 2014 UN271 may be more than 200 miles in diameter and probably qualifies as a Dwarf Planet. (Oh, looky there, I said it.) 


This appears to be a big Trans-Neptunian Object like Pluto, Eris, or Makemake, which scientists are eager to visit, but are so far away (much farther than even Pluto) that the expense and time required for such missions mean that they are unlikely to be visited in the foreseeable future.  

2014 UN271 however, is coming to us! On Saturday, April 5 2031, the object will reach its closest approach to the sun, just inside the orbit of Saturn. 10 years is long enough that a mission can be put together and while Saturn is way out there, its much easier to reach than most of these things. This could be really cool.

There are a couple of things about this object that are speculative; one is its size, which is anywhere between 60 and 230 miles across, the reason for this is that it appears to be outgassing already even though it's beyond Neptune right now. If so, it probably is covered in very low melting point volatiles. This COULD mean that even being beyond Jupiter  when it turns back, it could be a truly spectacular comet. 



Leaving the staid realm of orbital mechanics and engineering for a moment to wandering into the whackadoodle speculations of history majors, it should be noted that in addition to the scientific bounty this TNO brings with it some spectacularly unlikely potential for hijinks.

These objects appear to be made largely of tholins, ice, and frozen nitrogen. Nitrogen is something that one needs a LOT of if one were (for some reason) going to, say, terraform Mars, and planetary quantities of nitrogen that are accessible are hard to come by. So I could see Elon Musk sending some rather desperate expedition to this thing to set up some mass drivers and frantically mine it for its nitrogen, water, and organics during the few years it is within shooting distance of Mars, all the while frantically hurling blocks of volatiles towards the red planet, maybe with foil screens around them to ensure they don't completely evaporate before impact. This is a dubious prospect for a whole host of reasons but it might make a great story. 

One nomenclature note, the object is currently given the tentative name of Bernardinelli-Bernstein, which is WAY outside the normal, mythologically inspired names for such things, but is completely in line with how they name comets. 

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May 16, 2021

This is a Worthy Video.

Issac Arthur looks at less grounded scifi weapons and comes to some interesting conclusions.

Watch on Bitchute



Isaac Arthur mentions a light-saber video. It is here and it is awesome! There are follow-ups here and here, where they demonstrate that Styrofoam is a sub optimal armor material, and mobile homes are weak to light sabers as well as tornadoes. 

UPDATE: 
There is a moment in the video where Mr. Arthur predicts that hacking will be viable for only a short period as cybersecurity is becoming much better. 

Colonial says "Hi!". 

 Admittedly he's talking long term but I was under the impression that anything can get hacked. I am curious what IT experts think of his rather optimistic prediction.

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May 08, 2021

Meanwhile: In Chernobyl

One of out Crack Team of Science Babes has called our attention to happenings in Ukraine. 



"I guess it's true then. 2020 won."

Uh. She seems dismayed. Well, lets look at her tabs...
 Thirty-five years after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded in the world’s worst nuclear accident, fission reactions are smoldering again in uranium fuel masses buried deep inside a mangled reactor hall.

Oh. 

Oh dear. 

A quick perusal of the article indicates that rainwater leaking into the sub-basements of the stricken power plant was acting as a moderator and facilitating increased nuclear reactions in the solidified mass of uranium that constitutes the now solidified melted-down fuel pile. To combat this, the powers that be erected a rain-proof shelter over the highly radioactive ruin. Unfortunately there has recently been a spike in neutron emissions from a particularly isolated room where the formerly molten mass solidified. There are concerns that the water had been acting as a moderator there as well, but in such a way as to prevent  chain reactions rather than facilitate them, and now that the water has drained/ evaporated out this area is getting all fissiony. 

Pouring water into the catacombs paved with uranium risks causing chain reactions in other areas.

This is a mess. While a runaway chain reaction would not cause an actual nuclear bomb equivalent, it could cause a steam explosion and possibly fires which would spread radioactivity. 

Or not...because these are counterintuitive neutrons and scientists are unsure of what is actually going on. 

There is more coverage of this here, here, and here at the U.K. Sun, which manages to work the word "zombie" into the headline. 

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April 29, 2021

Speculations From the Cutting Edge of of Isekaiology

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April 22, 2021

Beta Testing

After months of asking Starlink to "Shut up and take my money!" they finally obliged! 


Oh. That was a lot of monies. 

In any event, a few days or weeks from now, I'll have my Starlink kit and I will be able to report to you, gentle reader, on whether it lives up to its promise. 

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April 19, 2021

Dateline MARS!


There's a helicopter on frickin' MARS!

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March 13, 2021

Bygone Babbagery

One of The Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes brings us the latest on the oldest.



(Dinosaur looking thing is unrelated.)

Scientists have used X-Rays, a watchmaker, fine manipulation tools, previous reconstructions and a Greek-English dictionary to come up with the latest, most accurate reconstruction of the oldest known mechanical calculator, the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek device that was discovered in 1901 and was vastly more advanced in concept and construction that had been thought possible during that age. One of the big breakthroughs on this latest attempt was the discovery, via X-Ray that there were, inside the device, a much more complete set of instructions on how to use it than had previously been known. 

The paper is here.

The 2 hour presentation by the scientists is here.



A video overview of the matter with slick CGI and dramatic music is here.


(Thanks to Pixy for the initial Nature.com article. )

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February 21, 2021

There is a Helicopter ON MARS!



One of our Crack Team of Science Babe's has some commentary on the matter. 

"Uuuuu Laaaaa!" 



UPDATE: 
Oh.

Oops. 

Apologies to everyone who viewed the post in the first two hours that it was up.

I was surprised when I saw the "live feed", but figured that it was a test flight ,and, being quite busy today just linked the previous embed as part of a particularly perfunctory post and ran out to run errands. A few minutes ago I came back and checked for any more info and realized that there was none and then a comment by "David" which confirmed my unease. 

Thanks David.

I replaced the "live feed" with a recent video on Ingenuity.
The different embed retroactively makes the post technically correct...(the best kind of correct). 

It's rather interesting that You-Tube, the company that claims to care greatly about fact checking and  yeeted with prejudice anyone who mentioned the Hunter Biden story have let this chlickwhore stay up for (checks Youtube) WOW this has been up for THREE DAYS and it is still up. 

The previous embed is impressive and does look for all the world like an actual live stream with black and white video supplemented by color corrected video with an additional time delay. The vistas looked very much like Mars indeed, but it's completely fake. If you are very curious about the video that was previously embedded  it is here. I'd rather not give the people-shaped-colostomy-bag who posted it any clicks though. 

Again, I'm sorry. I'll strive to do better in the future. 

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January 09, 2021

Meanwhile: At Alpha Centauri

This story actually transpired a couple of weeks ago but I have been waiting for the inevitable debunking. Now one of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes is here to inform us how that went...



"The debunking is not going quite as smoothly as expected". 

Oh dear.

Allow me to explain...

A few weeks ago, radio astronomers detected an odd radio signal that seemed to come from from the nearby Alpha Centauri system, the 3 closest stars to Earth. 

That's bloody coincidental, so while the press was being their usual calm selves, the scientists did what they always do when they hear an 'extraterrestrial signal', they set about trying to figure out what Earth radio signal they had mistakenly picked up. 

Well, weeks later there have been some developments...sort of. 

Basically all known terrestrial radio signals have been eliminated as being this.

As I understand it, the signal hasn't changed much in bearing (relative to the sun), which one would expect if it to do if it were being broadcast from inside the solar system. Moreover, this turns out not to be a particularly weak signal by the standards of radio astronomy, quite the opposite in fact, and after adjusting their readings and analyzing their parallax, they've narrowed it down to coming from the direction of Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf that is the closest of the three stars in Alpha Centauri and the closest star to Earth. 

The chances of the first SETI success involving the closest star in the sky is....well, the odds of THAT seem dubious. 

However, this signal is strange, and is stubbornly defying debunkery. An inability to, as of yet, debunk something that is vanishingly unlikely is NOT the same as confirmation. However, this has slipped out of the realm of press hype and into the realm of 'interesting'.

There's a good overview of this conundrum here: 

 

Interestingly, the signal doesn't appear to be data...it's a monotone signal, like a dial tone...or a beacon.  

Proxima is now known to have at least 2 planets and an asteroid/dust belt. 

One of the planets, (Proxima Centauri B) is in the theoretical habitable zone from the star. However that habitable zone is very close to the star. Proxima's a small star, a tad bigger than Jupiter (though much more massive) and it's not a calm star like ours. It flares quite spectacularly. In fact it has flares that are bigger than those spewed out by our sun. 

Any planet in the "habitable zone" of this dinky little star is going to get bombarded by star farts, and would require a massive atmosphere similar to Venus, and/or a terribly strong magnetic field to keep its atmosphere from being stripped away. 

Note too that "habitable zone" is a bit of a provincial and vague term. Venus, Earth and Mars are in our sun's habitable zone, but only one of them is habitable by humans. 

The planet in that system which has gotten the most attention is the aforementioned  Proxima Centauri B, in part because it is in the habitable zone and in part because it was discovered first. It has a mass somewhere between 1.7 and 1.6 times that of Earth and an estimated surface gravity, according to Wikipedia of between .95 and 1.1 g. It's a bit bigger and somewhat more massive than Earth. Assuming it has an atmosphere, it's probably colder than Earth...but that's a big assumption, because it's so close to its star that its getting blasted by solar wind and radiation, that, in the absence of a strong magnetic field would have stripped away the atmosphere long ago and sterilized the husk.

We have some experience with the magnetic fields of roughly Earth-size rocky planets, having no less than four of them in the general vicinity. Only one of them, has a useful magnetic field. Mars has one that only extends above the planetary surface in the tropics. Venus has a weak magnetosphere caused by the impact of solar wind on its upper atmosphere, Mercury, which is about the size of the moon (but as massive as Mars) has a very weak field, and Earth has about the second strongest magnetic field in the solar system after Jupiter. Earth's anomalously strong field is actually on  par with the other gas giants like Saturn. It is hypothesized that this is due to tidal forces coming from the moon and the fact that Earth still spins on its axis fairly quickly. 

As we noted a while back, any planet orbiting as close to its star as Proxima b is likely to be tidally locked, that is, it's likely to orbit once per rotation (like the moon is to Earth). However, In the embedded video there is speculation that  it might be in resonance, perhaps with the other, recently discovered, planet (Proxima Centauri C)  much as Mercury is in resonance with Jupiter. It is unclear if this is based on models or wishful thinking, but this would at least mean that it would have a day/night cycle. However, even generously granting that possibility, it likely still does not rotate fast enough to generate a sufficient magnetic field to protect it. There is also a data artifact noted in passing on page 8 of this paper that opens the remote possibility that the planet might have a moon (how that could possibly work so close to the star is unclear). There is a video discussion of this planet and the solar system in general here.  



The study confirming Proxima b also indicated there might be another, smaller planet with an orbital period of 5.15 days (Noted on page 7 of the previous paper) but Proxima d is, as yet, unconfirmed.

The only other planet confirmed to be in the system  in the system, Proxima Centauri C is either a small ice giant (would that be an ice orc?) ,  or a big rocky world. It is quite frigid and  fairly far from the star, being outboard of what appears to be a dust or asteroid belt. This is all based on inferences from the wobble and red-shift of the star, but, recently astronomers were actually able to take  a direct picture of Proxima C. While this dark frigid world elicits little interest from those looking for life signs, the ability to directly take a picture of a planet in another solar system is cool indeed. So what does this boring thing look like?


Yes the bigger planet in the system we are "getting signals from" is 'glowy', way bigger than it should be, and appears to be vastly less dense than a  planet.

Wow.

One possibility is that this planet has a massive ring system, that, like those of Saturn and Chariklo, is coated in highly reflective ice. 


Uncredited NASA artist's conception of Proxima-C via

For reasons of propriety, we will, of course, dismiss out of hand the notion that Proxima C is an alien megastructure. 


"Science Babe" is actually Rio Futaba as imagined by Uname.

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December 24, 2020

52 Years Ago, Christmas Eve was Spectacular

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November 29, 2020

We Live in a Society

...where there is a Hydraulic Press Channel.





"So cheer up everybody!"

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October 29, 2020

Finally, 2 Months Early, We Get to Discuss Something that is NOT a 2020 Headline

2068 is gonna be lit!

We've discussed Apophis before, but not recently...we were still on Blogspot back then. Basically Apophis is an Earth crossing asteroid that someone decided to tempt fate by naming after an Egyptian god of destruction. In late 2005 there was some speculation that it would impact the Earth in 2036, but subsequent calculations indicated that was not actually the case. 


 Computer model of Apophis from Wikipedia

Now, in 2020, astronomers looked at the space rock's most recent pass and amended their amendment to their calculations with the result that they think this dollop of deep-space detritus has a 0.00067% chance of impacting the earth with the force of 1.2 gigatons of TNT in 2068. 

This is not a high probability event, but if it comes to pass it is a very consequential, as a blast yield of 1200 megatons is a, shall we say, impactful, event no matter where on Earth it happens.  Furthermore, this asteroid tends to have close calls frequently, meaning that in the long term, an eventual impact is almost certain. 

The good news is that we've got plenty of time to mitigate this and try, fail, and try again to deflect the object and still have time to reflect upon and learn from mistakes made and lessons learned. 






The Brickmuppet's Crack team of Science Babes begin training to take care of business. 


For instance: The next time one discovers an Earth crossing asteroid, name it Fluttershy or Snorlax rather than after some ancient Egyptian god of chaos and death. 

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September 13, 2020

I Suppose Delta Airlines is Particularly Enthusiastic

We asked our Crackerjack team of Science Babes to report on the latest breakthroughs regarding the Flying V




However, due to poor communication there was some confusion, so I'll just link to this story at Ars Technica

Flying V is a type of aircraft that has been talked about for some years. In theory a Flying V aircraft with the same passenger capacity as a standard airliner would have about 20 percent less fuel consumption. The design has not been pursued until recently because that's only a theory and there were other theories that the design would just not get off the ground, or flip over and crash. Airbus rejected it, but the engineer who developed the concept hopped the border to the Netherlands and the idea was taken up by Dutch Airline KLM, who have built a scale model and successfully flown it. 

Theres a concept video on YouTube...


...which is WAY more impressive looking than the actual event. 


But the test is not CGI. It's actual engineering. There's more on this at New Atlas. Which notes that the baseline for the 20% fuel savings claim  is the Airbus A350-900 and that unlike most flying wing proposals, a Flying V would have the same or smaller wingspan. This would solve the achilles heel of most flying wing airliner proposals, the notion that airports would have to be massively rebuilt for the new planes. With this they wouldn't. 

All this assumes that the thing actually scales up well, which is far from a sure thing. Still, it's nice to see innovative and frankly futuristic looking designs being looked at...it being the 21st century and all. 

I'm all for more Syd Mead and less Mad Max. 


Image via Slash-Gear

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July 28, 2020

The Solution to the Mess That is 2020

Is obviously to rename it U.C. 1. 



This is still a work in progress, it's not finished or untethered yet, but it is looking really impressive. 

There's more on this here.  

Once finished, the robot will feature an incredible 24 degrees of freedom, meaning this thing will be able to walk.

The thing is supposed to be fully operational by October, and while its schedule was thrown into chaos by CoronaChan, it appears that they have now caught up and an October debut is a real possibility. 

So the giant anthropomorphic robot is being rushed into Japanese service during a time of growing military tensions punctuated by cyberwarfare developments was temporarily delayed by a global pandemic, reporting of which is being stymied by megacorporations censoring the reportage of news that might cut into the profits of pharmaceutical companies. While there is additional worrisome news like urban riots and most young people in the developed world being addicted to a brain prosthetic. There is also a strong push to immigrate off planet, perhaps having the first settlers on Mars by 2024

Dude....the future we read about as kids is here!


"But it's not Olaf Stapeldon...It's Walter John Williams! "

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May 24, 2020

That Does It

I've gotta re-enlist in the Coast Guard now.


Hat Tip...Scott Lowther

It looks like the Royal Marines have figured out a technological replacement with the Jacob's Ladder and Grappling Hooks. 

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March 13, 2020

On This Day in Triskaidekaphobia

Friday the 13th does not necessarily bode ill.

For example, on March 13th 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus!



"March 13, 1781 was a Tuesday, not a Friday, thus invalidating this whole post."

Details...
Besides, the seventh planet from the sun is actually quite interesting despite the tedious jokes revolving around its name. 


 The planet and its moons have surprising potential. In fact, here is a long post by Matter Beam on how to colonize Uranus!


"...."
What? 




The planet has an anomalously large percentage of helium 3 in its clouds and a bunch of cool icy moons which seem quite comparable to Ceres. 

The system is far enough out to keep the pesky tourists at bay. 
 
Interestingly though, Matter Beam's article has an idea for a potentially interesting "killer app" that could make the the two "ice giants" quite useful in the far future. 

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