July 31, 2007

Well This is It



Very light posting is imminent as I hop on the plane in 10 hours.

I may post some from Japan but frankly I'm going to be trying to do lots of actually cool stuff that doesn't involve computers or my normal Walter Mitty lifestyle.

As per the advice of the UNSTOPPABLE Stephen Den Beste
I'm shutting off comments for at least a few days to thwart the spamacons.

I'll be back in 22 days.

I want to thank everyone for the input and reading this little blog.




more...

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Government Flying Saucers!! Exposed!!

Encyclopedia Astronautica has had another update. This time Mark Wade has added several pages on the Lenticular spacecraft designs the US was working on in the late '50s and early '60s

Cool!

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i-Debt

Wow...

Don't go roaming with the i-Phone.

I'm glad I'm not rich...or I'd be broke.

HT: Jerry Pournelle

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A Solution to the Alaska Dispute....

I propose a compromise between the US and Russia over the...er...burning Alaska question.

Instead of giving them Alaska proper, why not just send them Ted Stevens instead?

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Advertisements of Yesteryear

The sort of ads we never see anymore....

...probably because most of them just creeped people out.


HT: Rand Simberg

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Less Than 12 Hours Left (How I Saved Hamption Roads)

   Packing turned into sorting some snorkel gear...which, in turn cascaded in to a general cleaning exercise.   I'm perpetually amazed at the ammount of CRAP I accumulate...

    I realized earlier today that my insurance bill comes due a few days before I an scheduled to return.  Given this trip is going to be an extreme budget adventure, this was a highly  unwelcome realization.

   There was considerable temptation to pay it when I get back as I'd still be within the grace period for payments. Of course there is social responsibility to consider. If my very modestly insured mobile home has a 4 day lapse in coverage this will undoubtedly call forth a terrible hurricane upon Southeastern Virginia.

   So I bit the bullet and paid the bill.
   As there will be no lapse in coverage....no hurricane is likely to hit.
   No doubt I just saved Hampton Roads.
  (Of course Pat Robertson will get all the credit)


*Legal notice: Brickmuppet Blog accepts no responsibility for any hurricanes hitting Hampton Roads during the month of August 2008. No actual hurricane protection is suggested or implied by this lame blog post.

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The Coldest War

Eaglespeak has an interesting post on the efforts of Russia to solidify their claims to Arctic Mineral Resources. Russia is claiming a huge expanse of the Arctic seabed, claiming that an undersea mountain range, previously supposed to be part of Greenland  is, in fact, part of Russia's continental shelf. More here...

Related  is this series of articles that proposes ideas for dealing with the threat to Canadian sovereignty over arctic islands that is posed by...er...Denmark.

Canada, Denmark the USA, Norway and Russia all have competing and occasionally overlapping claims in the Arctic. Given the recent flexing of Russia's muscles in the area (we HAVE the receipt thank you) it is logical to focus on that rather than two of the more peaceful nation in the world....but the situation in the Davis straits is rather fuzzy legally as it was never really an issue before. Now as the Polar cap recedes and turns this rescource rich area into a major shipping lane and makes getting at those resources tenable things could get interesting. A real war between Canada and Denmark is, of course, unlikely but something similar to the cod war could actually occur.

Crazy.

Of course this is another reason for the Coast Guard to keep and augment its red hull fleet.


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July 28, 2007

Strike Cruiser 21?

Over at Defense Tech, Norman Polmar posts on the Navy's planned new classes of cruisers.

CGX has been in the pipe for some time, but this article mentions a much larger vessel also being contemplated.
The other new cruiser would be a much larger, 25,000-ton nuclear-powered ship with a more conventional flared bow, optimized for the ballistic missile defense (BMD) mission.

 This is certainly interesting and there is more on it here.

25,000 tons is in the ballpark of the size of most historical dreadnoughts. This is a BIG ship if built.

Here is an accurate representation of what such a ship will almost certainly not look like.


This seems at first blush like good news but a total of 19 ships (14 of the CGX and 5 of these very large ships) is not going to replace 27 no matter how capable ones ship is. The finest ship in the world is no good if it is not present and cutting the numbers of ships reduces both the chances that a US vessel will be present, and makes it less possible to make good losses.

While the size of the vessels in question should not have a great bearing on costs (steel is cheap compared to the electronics that make up most of the cost of warships today) adding nuclear power will, in all probability, cause costs to cascade exponentially.

With only 5 contemplated, their utility will be limited and it might be better to build more similarly sized conventionally powered ships.

Of course the flip side of this is that the Navy does need to cut its dependence on oil and this program may be a way to jump start that transition.

The propulsion plant contemplated seems to be a semi off-the shelf "half carrier" plant which makes sense but is disappointing.

Now USN nuclear plants have had amongst the best safety records in the world since the late 1950s, but if they are going to spend this much money (and  nuclear ships are hella-expensive) then they might as well go with a newer reactor design like the naval thorium reactor proposed here. This could potentially be a boon for both civilian and naval affairs if very safe compact reactors were developed from this. Of course boondogalage is rampant in government financed programs so I'd suggest they simply offer a prize for a satisfactory design.

That is unlikely to happen and there are other concerns as well.

The Democratic congress which is generally not a fan of defense spending of any sort, lukewarm at best to nuclear power, and vehemently opposed to Ballistic Missile Defense...is now pressuring the Navy to build a nuclear powered ballistic missile defense ship....Oh and they are going to reccomend canceling the improved naval Anti Ballistic missile  missile while they are at it...

They also say the analysis will recommend dropping the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) from the CG(X) program.

The KEI is a large ballistic missile-defense rocket under development by Northrop Grumman as a ground- or sea-based weapon to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost, ascent and midcourse flight phases.

The KEI is much larger than the SM-3 Standard missile developed by Raytheon to arm Navy cruisers and destroyers for the BMD role. The 40-inch diameter KEI is nearly 39 feet long, while the 21-inch diameter SM-3 stands just over 21 feet tall. Both missiles use a kinetic energy warhead, intended to ram an enemy missile.

Sources said a missile launch tube for a KEI would need to be so large it would take the place of six SM-3 launch cells.

This seems like blinkered logic to me.
The Evolved SeaSparrow Missile can be quadpacked into a standard vertical launch cell...see...
                     
....so there seems to be little reason that six regular sized cells (or their analogues) could not be substituted for one of these KEI missiles if greater combat persistence against non-ballistic or super high flying targets were required.  (The big tube might be adaptable for a big bombardment rocket as well). This cuts the future missile defense capability and puts most of the missile defense eggs into a very expensive 5-ship basket that seems prone to the sort of cost overruns and cancellations that have plagued US naval procurement of late.. So one can be forgiven for looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of nuclear power, I want the navy to have good ships, and ship size is not in and of itself a major cost driver and has tremendous advantages in survivability, effectiveness, and availability (read seakeeping). However I'm not convinced...especially given the issues facing the similar but theoretically less ambitious DDX program ...that this proposal is terribly well thought out....It certainly has potential but  needs a bit of scrutiny.
Update:
For those unclear on the concept of "cruisers" all is explained at this excellent site that discusses cruisers in general and gives a very good overview of what cruisers are and arent. It also has some very interesting bits on two cancelled projects from the late 80's early 90s.

 For those interested in maritime applications for and challenges to atomic power check out this long and comprehensive report.
 Thanks to Dr. Crouch for making it public and Kirk Sorensen for pointing it out.

Full Disclosure: this whole post is waaay beyond my paygrade. 

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J minus 2 days

  Early Wednesday morning I leave for Japan.

The implications of this are just beginning to fully register, specifically the fact that....

HOLY FREAKING CRAP!!!
I'M  ACTUALLY GOING TO JAPAN!!!

I should, you know, pack or something.

This morning I had another flat tire on I664.  As I was changing it the highway assistance people showed up. This was welcome as the blinky lights dissuaded anyone from  turning me into an overage student road pizza, but I was largely finished by the time the truck arrived.

Most disturbing was his surprise that I knew how to change said tire. It seems he'd changed 5 over the course of the weekend. Yeesh!

Off to study Japanese....oh...and pack.






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July 27, 2007

A Mystery Solved

 Bleach has a lot of things that are fantastic and strain credulity...magic, superheroes, multidimensional travel, invisible monsters and psychic powers. But few things strain credulity like the fact that Orihime,  is pining after our hero and he is either oblivious or is ignoring her attentions....

This should fail the suspension of disbelief test...she's a bit odd, indeed goofy on occasion....
 
....but she's a very interesting, intelligent person with a strong moral compass and general decency and is cute (and a  chesty Asian redhead!?) Yet he is utterly oblivious to her attentions.

Invisible monsters I can handle...but this....

But now...I...understand...

Update: Regards asinine theories in the comments. Loituma is a traditional Finnish folk band.

Also, If you prefer your Finnish earbugs with a more contemporary flavor (and to eventually end)  then click below....you know you want to.



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More Bad Space News

On the commercial space side comes the terrible news that 3 employees of Scaled Composites were killed in an explosion during an engine test. Rand Simberg has the best overview I've seen on the web.

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Bad Space News

One of the Brickmuppet's crack team of science babes reacts to a couple of nigh unbelievable news stories from NASA. First, a computer intended for the ISS was sabotaged, yes, sabotaged ! Note that it did was not a vital component but this is the first case in the history of the program and a damned shame. What sort of waste of skin does that?

But that's not all at no extra charge, our intrepid researcher finds that it is alleged that NASA astronauts took off drunk, yes drunk, no they are really saying that the astronauts flew drunk!

Note that at least one of these incidents involved a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz flight. IIRC the Russians take a nip before their flights so this may have been "diplomacy" of a sort. At any rate an American on a Soyuz would be a passenger. Still not good at all and the report concerning the T-38 flight is terribly worrisome.

BUT WAIT THERES MORE!!

There is embezzlement too!

A former NASA employee is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from government coffers, according to a report released Thursday.

Elizabeth Ann Osborne, 52, who resigned in October after 31 years at the space agency, pleaded guilty to embezzling public money as part of an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 17, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

Good grief!

And finally via NasaWatch comes this partial list of explanations for $94 million in missing stuff...

Explanations Provided for Equipment Loss in Which No One Was Held Accountable

Equipment description - Equipment value (dollars) - Explanation provided

Desktop computer and laser printer - 4,855 - My wife needed a computer at home to perform her work as a real estate broker so I checked one out from the surplus stock available. I turned the computer back in when she was done using it but never received a receipt.

Laptop computer - 4,265 - This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

Various missing property, 65 items - 850,321- A thorough and reasonable search was conducted but we were unable to locate the missing property. In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations.

Source: GAO analysis of NASA's fiscal year 2006 equipment loss reports.

Ye Gods

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July 25, 2007

A Dark Day for Journalism

The Weekly World News has  shut down.

The tabloid's publisher, American Media Inc., issued a brief statement that announced the Aug. 27 issue would be Weekly World News' last. It called the closure necessary "due to the challenges in the retail and wholesale magazine marketplace that have impacted the newsstand."
 
Thankfully for those of us tracking the Bat Child, this treasure trove of knowledge will maintain a web presence.




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Buy a Mug for Shamus!

Shamus...still recovering from his surgery ...now has  a line of merchandise available for sale.

Go buy one for the DM!

(I'm sure he'll slip you 50 XPs)

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VASIMIR Breakthrough!!

One of the Brickmuppets' crack team of science babestm  is barely able to control her glee as she reports from Costa Rica that scientists in San Jose have achieved an impressive breakthrough in VASIMR  plasma engines.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Scientists in Costa Rica have run a plasma rocket engine continuously for a record of more than four hours, the latest achievement in a mission to cut costs and travel time for spacecraft.

More on Ad-Astra rockets, the company involved, here. A discussion of this story (which is actually from June) is going on at Nasa Spaceflight. VASIMR or VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rockets are plasma thrusting engines of fuel efficiency comparable to ion engines, but they have the ability to be throttled and vastly increase thrust for short periods. While this is not enough thrust to launch a rocket from earth it gives certain advantages over ion engines in speed and keeps the long endurance, constant thrust advantage of the ion engines. More on these interesting rockets here, here and here.

The fact that the founders of Ad Astra Rockets had to leave NASA to pursue this is dismaying, but their perseverance does seem to have paid off!

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