March 29, 2008

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I hold in my sweaty little palms volume 3 of Welcome to the NHK!

I had just about given up on this given ADV's recent troubles but tonight I look forward to being as offended and appalled by this merciless expose' of dysfunctional otakuism and others at the fringes of society as I was in the first two volumes.

This show is merciless, but strangely touching and funny as hell...

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Gravity! w00t!

Over at Colony Worlds, Darnell Clayton wonders if the inflatable Spacehab type modules that Bigelow Aerospace are using can be adapted to artificial gravity.

Now, one of the Brickmuppets crack team of science babes points out that, somewhat surprisingly, the numbers have already been run on this idea and it is quite doable.

The study, in pdf form here, is quite interesting and relevant to human exploration in ways that the ISS simply is not.

Designed as an exercise by a team of students from the University of Maryland (at College Park) the proposed Clarke Station is a manned, variable gravity research facility intended to determine exactly what gravity level is needed to sustain long term human health.

Given that all of the planets and moons with resources that make human settlement possible have substantially less gravity than Earth, this is a nontrivial question. Lunar Gravity can, of course, be tested on an off the shelf satellite...the moon...but it seems prudent to test physiological effects of other gravities at a location no farther than the moon where the bail and scramble back to earth time is measured in days not months (or years in the case of Titan). A variable gravity facility can of course be used for training in say, Martian gravity to learn any tricks and unwelcome surprises of a particular gravity level. It bears remembering that the 1/6th gravity of the moon required some considerable adaptation by the Apollo Astronauts to simply get around.


(boingy boingy boingy..)

We need to find out some very basic things....

Does gravity in the ballpark of the moon have the same long term effects as 0 gravity? If so, what is the lower limit of tolerable gravity? Can we have permanent settlements on the 1/4 g environment of Mars for instance? Can low gravity effects be mitigated by exercise or drugs in ways that actual free-fall cannot? (this seems a point....but we have no reference for where that point might be). What are the actual maximum rotation rates that a crew can reasonably adapt to? This has a big effect on how wide and therefore big and heavy the centrifuge habitat in a spacecraft needs to be I've see reports that suggest a 30 foot diameter is adequate (Zubrin referring to his Gaiashield mission) and some that say 100 feet or more is necessary....we need to KNOW this stuff.

None of this can be found out on the ISS or current spacecraft because they are in free fall. A proposed gravity deck on the ISS was omited for budgetary reasons (and I'm not sure it would have been useable by people). Manned space exploration is going to require these sorts of questions answered  

The station is interesting for another reason. Its choice of radiation protection.

The station is positioned at a Lagrange point (L1) which leaves the crew without the protection of the Van-Allen belts. This is compensated for by filling the walls of the inflatable modules with water.  A few trips will pump the water into the walls to give superb protection. The original NASA inflatable concepts (going back to the 80's) had this as a feature so it is well within the design parameters of the materials involved. Water is heavy, but it is easy to handle and is well tested as a radiation shield. Given the existence of an inflatable module, pumping in water is just one more thing that needs to be pumped, simplifying assembly. Outside cislunar space on a mission to another planet or an asteroid, this sort of rad shielding will be a real asset. This is not a new concept at all, and it is elegant in its simplicity but it has never actually been done.

The position of this station at a liberation point is of more significance now than it was when this plan was developed, as we now have as a national goal a return to the moon. As John Goff points out, orbital propellant depots at a Lagrange point have the double advantage of enabling greater payloads to be carried to the moon and learning important, practical hands on lessons about one of the primary technologies for spacefaring....transfering fuel and other fluids between spacecraft. More on this architecture here and here is Boeing's proposal, focusing not just on the nuts and bolts but its commercial this case of a low earth orbit facility. Things break, so if an orbital propellant depot is built having one of these nearby allows the crew to do double duty as gas station attendants!

It should be noted that the Bigelow-type inflatables are a fairly mature technology,for instance, here is a paper on inflatables from 1988.

  Within the limits imposed by my stock disclaimer, this station seems to be a conservative and robust in design with a good fudge factor regards strength (it can sustain 1.2G) and the inflatable modules should simplify construction. It is a modest near term proposal using off the shelf technology that can bring in huge benefits There are certainly some issues not covered by these engineering students but in order to tweak those would only require NASA to send it to Langley or Glenn. All that would require would be for NASA to be looking seriously at this line of research.

And therein lies the rub.....


Science babe is  from Intron Depot (I think) and is, of course, by Masamune Shirow,  who's art, books and artbooks can be bought here.

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March 28, 2008

Dad is Home

I've spent the last few days when not at work or school shuttling my mom between their house and the Hospital, cleaning up and generally making the parents house handicapable (a few rails here and there, the big handicapped toilet ect.). The biggest challenge was getting the geometry of the spare room such that the hospital bed allowed enough space for the walker and wheelchair to negotiate the entrance.

This evening my father finally came home and, with some difficulty, my brother in law and I got him upstairs into the hospital bed. He is in the house.


With my mother recovering from cancer, my grandmother recovering from a shoulder replacement (due to a fall last year) and my dad very pretty much immobile for a month or more while he  recovers from this surgery, I'm  pretty much  going to be assisting with therapy, cleaning doing yardwork and generally keeping up my folks house for the next few weeks/months.

I'm going to be Super Mister ButlerMan!

...and that always leads to adventure !

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Monsterous Malevolent Marsupial Molestation

Well, I didn't see this story coming.

New Zealand man who claimed he was raped by a wombat and that the experience left him speaking with an Australian accent has been found guilty of wasting police time.

I'll bet it curled his hair too.


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March 25, 2008


I was off work this morning to deal with the general pandemonium around the Talton household as we packed my dad off to the hospital

I was informed during Japanese class that my father had entered surgery and was expected to  be awake at 1:30. After class I left the school to run by my parents house to check on my grandmother, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. The plan was to meet my sister, have her take me to the hospital and after meeting dad take the van (which my mom is too short to drive) back to my folks house.

At 3:00 I called my mom to find out if he was awake yet.

He was not.

 His blood pressure had collapsed shortly after I had talked to her and they were unable to awaken him. I explained the situation to my grandmother and we prepared to leave for the Hospital. I called my mother again and got no response. 3 more calls and no response.

I called my sister to see where she was. She answered that she had not left the hospital. I asked if there had been any change at all and she said no. I told her to hang tough and that my grandmother and I were coming. My sister then informed me that my dad did not want Granny to come to the hospital. I was antsy about bringing her there myself but if there had been no change and he was still not waking up then I wanted to be by his side and she did too. At this point there was a long silence.....then my sister came back with...."Huh?....Oh yeah! I was supposed to call you when he woke up! Sorry."

Little sisters are such pernicious creatures.

After being relieved at the parents house by my uncle I stopped by the hospital just over an hour ago. I got another start when I arrived.  The room was beset with nurses an alarm was going off and his wavy line machine had flatlined....this turned out to be due to a defective piece of electronic equipment. My father kept asking "Does this mean I'm dead?"

He is in good spirits and doing as well as can be expected for a man who has just had his hips deboned and then reboned with stainless steel. My brother was there when I arrived. As I type this we have just left him to sleep. He should be home Friday or Saturday and I can start breathing (and sleeping) again now.

Thanks to everyone who left their good wishes. They were greatly appreciated.

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