Archive for June 23rd, 2011

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Atlas isn’t shrugging; he’s moved out of town…

June 23, 2011

Monty Perelin has a piece in The American Thinker that is pretty disappointing, and yet if you have been looking at any of the economic and business indicators over the last couple of years it won’t be surprising.

The premise of the piece is this: In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s producers move to Galt’s Gulch when the government makes business conditions impossible for them. They have no place else to go, because in Rand’s world every other country is socialist.

In our world, that’s not true. There are lots of socialist countries, but there are others that are becoming more and more favorable to business, especially to entrepreneurs. Perelin specifically mentions Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Monte Carlo, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands.

Now personally I’m not crazy about living in Hong Kong or Singapore. “I’ve never been to Belize.” (“Ocean’s Eleven” reference.) I was just in the Bahamas, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I would expect I’d feel the same about the other islands and Central American countries. Australia and New Zealand, now, maybe that would be different, especially if I had a lot of money I was trying to keep and a business I was trying to keep going – and I knew that the US government was going to punitively tax and regulate my business to death.

The point is: lots of folks probably will be willing to move if the stakes are that high. And there is nothing I can see in our economic future here in the US that would make it possible for me to convince one of these businessmen to stay.

Let’s say that we elect a “moderate” Republican to replace Obama in 2012. There is nothing in the statements I’ve heard from the candidates so far – except for Herman Cain – that makes me think any of them would push for radically better business conditions. That’s the problem with a Huntsman, or a Romney, even. They are still too entrenched in the old-school way of running the government. Tweak some policy here, adjust some legislation there – but don’t make any sweeping changes that might upset the status quo.

How do we stop the bleeding of businesses and entrepreneurs? I agree with the article that we have to make those sweeping changes. It’s just going to be such an uphill battle getting a Herman Cain or other pro-business candidate through the primary process successfully, when the system is set up to give us a John McCain. Once we get that far, I think the general election would be much easier, actually.

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The solar system’s magnetic “foam zone”

June 23, 2011

Old and new ideas of the sun's magnetic field - click for larger view

Voyager 1 and 2, launched in 1977, are still sending back data, over 9 billion miles from Earth. Beginning about 2007, they discovered something odd: large bubbles of magnetic force.

These bubbles are apparently created by the sun’s magnetic field as the sun rotates. Lines of magnetic force cross and reconnect and sometimes reorganize themselves into “bubbles,” some a hundred million miles wide.

It was previously assumed that the sun’s magnetic field would cleanly curve around and return to the sun. The new data indicates otherwise. Some scientists believe these bubbles may be trapping some of the incoming cosmic rays that are trying to enter the solar system.

I don’t know how strong these fields are. I do know that most of the plans for interplanetary and interstellar spacecraft have included some kind of magnetic shielding, first for protection from solar flares and other dangerous in-system radiation, and second from cosmic rays. Some have postulated the use of Bussard ramjets using a magnetic ramscoop (as Larry Niven has often demonstrated in his fiction) for interstellar travel. Such a magnetic chaos zone could cause serious problems with ramscoops, couldn’t it?

Bussard ramjet

It’s crazy enough if gravity becomes unpredictable between solar systems, as Dr. Travis Taylor and John Ringo propose in the truly excellent hard science fiction novel “Vorpal Blade,” but now if magnetism is chaotic out there as well…we’re gonna have lots of trouble getting out of Dodge…

(Personal ego note: Yes, the character Jeff Waggoner in “Vorpal Blade” is named after me. It’s a long story,and not all that interesting. However, he in no way resembles me, thank God! And he got eaten by a demon dog. Ick.)

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Israel as the next world oil superpower

June 23, 2011

Israeli self-defense missile battery

I read an article the other day by a fellow named Lawrence Solomon about the oil shale deposits in Israel. The Shfela basin, west of Jerusalem, is estimated to contain 250 billion barrels of oil…Saudi Arabia is estimated to have reserves of 260 billion barrels.

It’s tied up in oil shale, but by using a new process using heated rods driven into the shale, only 25 square kilometers will be required for the oil field, with minimal environmental damage. The process was developed by Harold Vinegar, who used to be Shell Oil’s chief scientist.

This is a game-changer. The primary reason for the Western nations to play nice with the Arab states has been because they needed the oil – Europe far more than the US. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Otherwise, no one would bargain with a group such as OPEC. Now there might be a new major player in the oil business in the Middle East.

On the one hand, I think this is wonderful. A stable government with deep oil reserves anywhere in the world should be a positive thing. But…

What’s the reaction of all these new reactionary governments that are growing right now in the Middle East when Israel starts shipping oil? I don’t see Syria, Libya, Egypt, or Allah forbid, a mob-ruled Saudi Arabia standing for that as long as they have militaries. They already hate Israel on general principles. If they become a competitor for the only real source of income of those countries, Israel becomes more than an irritant – it becomes a real economic threat.

I hope the “foreign policy aides” to the Republican candidates are studying this, because at best one of them will have to advise a new President on how to handle a new, hot war in the eastern Mediterranean.

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Only in America: Deep-Fried Kool-Aid

June 23, 2011

I kid you not. Who knew? Here’s the story.

Obviously, no further commentary is required.

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Absolutely gorgeous lunar module model!

June 23, 2011

Vincent Meens' completed ascent stage

In 2006 modelmaker Vincent Meens found a series of images online created by John Ottman. They were a digital re-creation of the lunar module in exquisite detail. Vincent was so impressed he decided to build a similarly detailed version in “real life.” And, four and a half years later, he did…one of the finest models of any kind I’ve ever seen. The detail has to be seen to be believed. His web site is here.

interior detail

This model is in 1/24 scale, and entirely scratchbuilt. On the web site Vincent documents the build, step by step, and that is a marvel in itself. At the end, he created a PowerPoint file that compares Ottman’s digital views with those of his physical model. Again, you will have to see the images to believe them.(Ottman died in 2009, unfortunately, and did not get to see the results of Vincent’s final work.)

This is craftsmanship at its very best. I am in awe of this man’s work. Even if you are not a fan of modelmaking or real space subjects, you should take a look at his site just to see what a person can accomplish with great dedication to his craft. This model is truly an achievement of which Vincent should be very proud!