October 17, 2018

Project H.A.V.O.C.

While the acronym does accurately convey the idea, the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept acronym might need some tweaking for PR reasons.


In any event,  the project is quite interesting and NASA's announcement Monday that it is seriously considering it for one of its upcoming manned missions is genuinely exiting.  Conceived by N.A.S.A.'s Langley Research Center, H.A.V.O.C. has actually been around for a few years, Scott Lowther did an extensive write up on it in U.S. Spacecraft Projects #5 earlier this year. 

The concept involves using a rocket to go to Venus, (which actually is easier to get to than Mars) which will drop a manned survey vehicle into the atmosphere. 

So far so good, except that as we all know, Venus's surface temperature is that of molten lead, its pressure is higher than in the Marianas Trench and after CO2 and Nitrogen, the most common atmospheric gas is sulfuric acid. Also it's gravity is about the same as Earth and so would require a full sized ( Titan or bigger) acid proof rocket to get the crew back into orbit in the unlikely event they weren't baked, dissolved, and crushed.

This is why Venus has not been on N.A.S.A.'s shortlist for places to visit. 

Fortunately there is an amazingly cutting edge technology that allows a manned survey of Venus. 

The Blimp.

The High Altitude Venus Operational Concept takes  advantage of the fact that temperatures 34 miles above the surface are around 80 degrees and the pressure is that of Boulder Colorado. However because the CO2 atmosphere is much denser than nitrogen, earth air is a lifting gas at that altitude. So the idea is to inflate the "landing" party's ship on the way down and have it double as a 423 foot long airship, then fly around the planet for a few weeks or months doing more detailed surveys than can be done from orbit and tele-operating probes on the surface. This also allows detailed chemical analysis of the atmosphere, using sensors lowered on tethers into the dense lower atmosphere, much like a oceanographer uses Nansen bottles to sample the deep. 


Assuming an acid proof blimp, Venus is actually much safer than Mars for the astronauts. The gravity is about the same as Earth, the thick atmosphere plus the planet's weak magnetic field would protect the crew from cosmic rays even better than earth does. Venus is easier to get to and launch windows open much more often than they do for Mars. 

This is a very good idea for an icebreaker mission, more advanced than the moon or asteroid missions but still easier than the full push to Mars. Such a mission would be far shorter in duration than a Mars landing and would be a nice stepping stone on the way to those misions as well as expeditions to the asteroids Mercury, Ceres and Callisto. Flags and footprints but without flags or dirty feet (but with a blimp).

So, today we've discussed rockets, space travel airships, and a manned mission to the planet Venus. The only thing that would make this cooler is a swordfight. 

Or floating cities...

The fact that air is a lifting gas means that large, long term settlements are theoretically possible, with all the advantages regarding radiation and gravity listed above. Such cloud cities would also be far better protected against meteor strikes than any point on land on Earth. 



A 2015 study at Rutgers (preliminary draft here) published the above artwork some time ago to illustrate what a (very hypothetical) more permanent research station might look like and news reports on Monday's announcement almost universally featured the below N.A.S.A. image of a large floating outpost supporting several H.A.V.O.C. type airships. 



Both of these are very ambitious indeed and probably quite far term. For one thing, despite its advantages, Venus would seem to make little sense as a location for space cities, as they'd be far down a gravity well, there's no water except what one can crack from the sulphuric acid and no easy way to bring in supplies from asteroids. In an O'Neal cylinder or on the surface of a planet like Mars a major damage incident is survivable with space suits and repair teams, on Venus if you balloon deflates you're baked, dissolved, and crushed.

So unless the view of the clouds is SPECTACULAR and sufficiently so to somehow justify interplanetary tourism,  there's little reason to believe that there would ever be any kind of permanent outpost on Venus.  It's not like they could mine anything except sulphur there that they couldn't get FAR easier somewhere, indeed anywhere else. 


"PHOSPHOROUS!" 
Oh right...

One of our Crack Team Of 2-D Science Babes reminds us of this paper (PDF) we perused recently that reviewed what we know about Venus's atmosphere. Here's an interesting quote...

Venera 13, Venera 14, Vega 1, and Vega 2 descent probes all carried X-ray fluorescence instruments. These instruments measured elemental composition of the cloud particles and found not only sulfur, but also phosphorus, chlorine and iron – notably, as much phosphorus as sulphur in the lower clouds below 52 km [Andreichikov et al, Sov. Astron. Lett. 1986, 1987]. A chemical analysis by Krasnopolsky [PSS, 1985] con- cluded that the phosphorus could be in the form of phosphoric acid (H3PO4) aerosols, which would ac- count for the particulates observed by descent probes down to 33 km altitudes

Emphasis is mine.

Phosphorus, is not a trivial thing.
Phosphorus is absolutely vital to life and while theoretically common on earth is concentrated in useable forms mainly in living organisms and in phosphate rocks (mostly fossils of dead organisms). The amount of free phosphorous pretty much dictates the carrying capacity of the planet and it is a real concern for food production as phosphates are a finite resource. Furthermore, additional sources of phosphorus need to be found if humanity is going to expand into space. such deposits are presumed to exist, but on eart they seem to have been concentrated by biological action leaving a bit of a chicken-egg problem finding it off planet. Even with out off planet colonization phosphorous shortages represent a potential disaster for human food supplies. There is discussion of peak phosphorus here, here and here.  

Even if the perils of peak phosphorus are overstated, it IS a finite resource and most off planet settlements are going to require off planet sources of phosphorus if they are to expand. Phosphorus could well end up being something akin to the dilithium, quanticum 40,or spice Melange of the real future. The only place that scientists are confident it exists in other than trace amounts is the above mentioned cloud layer on Venus and the red clouds of Jupiter (bound in phosphene). 

This moves the notion of a floating city on Venus from technically feasible to potentially practical in a few decades, because, if the soviet probes were correct, then there is in Venus's lower atmosphere, phosphorus (in gaseous form) in greater concentrations than the ubiquitous sulfur. You need a long acid resistant tube to pump it up, and if its phosphoric acid then you take out the water and oxygen (I'm sure uses can be found for those) and you have phosphorous.  

But wait...there's more. Venus has more sunlight than earth, a zillion times as much CO2, and about 3 times as much atmospheric nitrogen as Earth. And there's water to be had from the phosphoric and sulphuric acid. And remember you're better protected from meteor strikes and cosmic rays than on Earth. A Venusian phosphorus gas-mine could grow all its own food. 

Much longer term, expanding upon such floating farms, Venus could be the breadbasket of the solar system in a few decades. All that stuff that can be got so much easier on Luna, Mercury, Mars or the belt? Well, the cloud cities of Venus ought to be able to just buy them. Of course you have solar power out the wazzoo so it's at least conceivable that such an outpost might make something useful out of the carbon in the CO2. Note too that the referenced report also mentions the apparent presence of gaseous iron which might be exploitable as well.

 Anyway, this is awesome. Even putting aside the longer term speculations, that N.A.S.A. is looking at innovative missions like this is truly heartening.

With regard to the more ambitious proposals, I think we should begin a movement to have high pressure gaseous phosphoric acid referred to by the trade name "Tabana". 

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Apropos of NOTHING

That is our story. We are sticking to it.

If one is in an online forum and something involving an issue that is on the borderline of the established rules requires a decision from a moderator, a call by the moderator that is against one's liking does not make the moderator a marxist. It means they are moderating...that is their job. They don't get paid. And on a large forum they are having to make a LOT of calls and do a lot of work as well as tend to their own lives so if one is told to stop pushing the envelope (which will then entice a whole bunch of edgelord shitposters to shitpost on the edge and make the mod's life even harder) then one should probably not go all derp-chan & call them a Marxist. A Marxist is every bit as bad as a Nazi and we ought not to throw these words around higgly piggly. Yes. I know. Some people do. A majority of them are Marxists. They're also dicks. Don't be a dick. I have confidence that one is better than that. 


"And I believe in you too!"

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October 16, 2018

Oh. So That's How They Did It.


 All those years I'd thought it was some theremin related instrument or a synthesizer.

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It's the Sci-Fi Crossover of our Age

I bet the pitch meeting was a hoot. 


"We'll call it Bill and Ted 451. It'll be like Minority Report meets 1984, done as black comedy."

Oh wait. This is really happening.


Some are trying to find a silver lining in this.


"Woah! Larry Correia does COMICS !? Sweet!
Where can I get them before they're burned?"

Larry Correia doesn't work in comics. He doesn't draw comics, he doesn't ink comics, he doesn't write comics, he doesn't really opine on comics to the best of my knowledge. He just writes his fantasy and sci-fi books.

But he's been PREEMPTIVELY blacklisted, because he associates with the wrong sort of people, or has the wrong sort of views (they're vague on this point).



"Marxists SUCK!"

While the mercurial, enforcement of random and ever-changing rules that might theoretically be broken at some future date has a undeniable appeal to certain termagant totalitarians, for legal reasons, it might be advisable that the industry settle on some sort of standard policy regarding defenestration of potential contributors. 

Fortunately, there's an AP for that


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This Should Allow Everyone to Declare Victory and Go Home

J. Greely has what ought to be the final word on Fauxcahontas and her 23 and Me adventure.


I mean, at 1/1024, she’s clearly a homeopathic Native American.

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October 14, 2018

Wow!

Jerry Miculek takes his trusty Barret M-82 "Light .50" against body armor. This seems pretty pointless, as an anti material rifle against a foam chest plate light enough to be used in a life preserver is not even a....Wait. What!



M-82 Tan seems to be taking it well. 

 Art, by Saru.


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October 13, 2018

Well, That's Not Good.

In addition to the already horrific news regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Michael,  there is a report that the Air-Force may have lost as many as 22 of its currently irreplaceable F-22 stealth fighters when Hurricane Michael flattened most of Tyndall AFB. While the initial report is from the New York Times,  there is photographic evidence of at least one Raptor destroyed and Air Force Magazine is reporting much the same story albeit with a smaller number of fighters (12 as opposed to 22). Given that we can't MAKE the things anymore, this is bad news regardless. 

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Well, Power's Back

The 3 out of four freezers need to be cleaned out.


The storm did damage out of all proportion to its actual strength when it hit here. It was a mere tropical storm, yet trees are still down all over. I attribute this to a combination of wet ground and the fact that big storms around here generally don't come from the west, so many trees which had survived hurricanes and nor'easters were tested from  a new direction and found wanting.

As of last night 200,000 people in Virginia were still without power.

From what little I've seen over the last few minutes, we got off very easy here. The people in Florida and Georgia are going to take years to recover from this.

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Stygian Blackness



Enveloping me
I cannot see
where to pee

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October 09, 2018

Four Ring Circus

El Paso is going to get wet.



Of course everyone is bracing for this.


This might be something.


Siergen called it! It's turning around again...

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The Soul Crushing Heartbreak of First World Problems

There's been a schedule change.

Now I am forced to decide between Tucker Carlson and...


Woe and grief.

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October 08, 2018

Meanwhile...

Well...we're gonna get wet again. Pinar del Río, Mobile and Pascagoula are going to get worse.




I fear that the Iberians may not grok just how serious these storms are.



Another?



Oh good grief.
BEN! You're not going to believe this but...



Wait...Why isn't Sergio a Typhoon?

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Follow Up

Regarding that Bloomberg Story about the hardware hacking that is alleged to have affected 30 companies and the U.S. military.. Here's a video of Jordan Robertson, one of the story's authors, being interviewed by...Bloomberg.


Interestingly, one of the Bloomberg anchors asks Robertson some very pointed questions regarding various details in the first two minutes or so. 
Robertson keeps referencing Snowden.

Note that the DHS is saying that there is no reason to doubt the denials of the companies implicated as being hacked in the report. Which is a way of saying "No!" that allows all sorts of deniability down the road. 

For a story as potentially explosive as this is, it hasn't been getting a lot of coverage over here past the initial flurry of interest,  but it is reportedly making some waves in Asia.  Note, that to the best of my Googling however,  as of 4 days later, no one has produced a single rice grain sized spy chip. 

However, there IS an interview in NY Mag with a guy who wrote a techno thriller based on the concept. 


"Sourcing may be thin."

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October 07, 2018

While We Weren't Looking...

This is a weird one. The head of INTERPOL was Meng Hongwei, a Chinese citizen. He recently just up and disappeared. According to his wife, right before he went missing, he sent her a cryptic but ominous text. Now the Chinese have stepped forward and are saying that he was arrested as part of their ongoing political purge "corruption investigation"...oh and that he resigns so there's nothing to see here.
 
Also, while the FBI was conducting an investigation into the meaning of the word "boof"...
 
A US Navy Destroyer conducting a freedom of navigation mission and a Chinese Destroyer conducting a border enforcement mission somehow ended up in the same time and space in the South China Sea.


"Better hide all the archdukes."

Finally...
War Between India and Pakistan is Imminent (reads article)..oh.. CONCEIVABLE War Between India and Pakistan is Conceivable seeing as how they share a border and have had wars in the past, but they don't appear to be shooting at each other at the moment (stupid headline). 


Remember kids...it's not all doom and gloom, sometimes it's just poor word choice and hysteria.


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October 06, 2018

Going South

My parents are running against the clock to salvage tools and other things from the mud and the city is demanding that the debris get removed, so I'm heading back down there to give them a hand.


Here, via Dustbury, is something rather related...


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October 05, 2018

On That Other Thing That Happened

Regarding the recent unpleasantness in Washington there is erudite and comprehensive discussion of the matter from David French and Susan Collins. There is also commentary in a more partisan vein at American Thinker and Powerline as well as by Neo that I'm in broad agreement on. There's a short post at Instapundit that gets into the possible strategies of the white house in this matter. I must confess that I tend to be quite skeptical of the 3D-Chess explanations for Trump's more unconventional behavior, but this affair has me reasessing my premises. 


I fear though, that the most relevant and insightful piece on the matter is this terse and pithy post over at Books Bikes and Boomsticks. It's possibly the most troubling as well. 

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It's Doing it AGAIN?


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In the U.S., They Say That Only Nixon Could Go to China

In the U.K. well...

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October 04, 2018

Trigger Warning: Cooties


Despite the warning, this is really kind of brilliant.

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Ha! Ahahahahahahahahah!

The whole site went down.


When I hit "publish" everything went wonky, but this time....THIS TIME when I got that sinking feeling that comes from a post taking too long to publish....THIS  TIME I block selected the whole post and copied. And I did so the instant before I got the 504 code.



And then I pasted it into word.

And now...the blog is back up and the post is below and doesn't have to be rewritten. 

Yay!

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