Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 4

I recommended a Star Wars fan film last week. This week’s recommendation is a pair of Star Trek fan episodes. Even if you are not a Trekkie, you should take a look at these movies just to marvel at how groups of science fiction fans can now get together and do for fun things that used to require the efforts of a large TV studio.

The first, from StarshipExeter is the teaser of the fan episode “The Tressaurian Intersection”:


StarshipExeter already produced one fan-created Star Trek episode, called “The Savage Empire” (also available on their webpage), but the production quality of this 2nd episode looks much better. Their set looks absolutely terrific. According to the schedule on this webpage (which also has some interviews, deleted scenes, and a funny test clip), the next act of this episode should be released soon. The movies from StarshipExeter take place in the same fictional universe as the original Star Trek series, but the actors play new characters from a different starship called, obviously, the U.S.S. Exeter.

The second movie recommendation is the fan episode “In Harms Way” from Star Trek New Voyages:


Unlike the ones from StarshipExeter, the Star Trek New Voyages episodes are about the U.S.S. Enterprise and crew from the original Star Trek series. The original characters, like Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy, are all played by new actors. Well… all except for Chekov, who will be played by Walter Koenig in their next episode!

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Judge Roberts is no Copperhead

A Washington Post article notes that during the Reagan administration John Roberts crossed out “The Civil War” in an article he was editing and replaced it with the phrase “The War Between The States.” They then quote history professor Sam McSeveney from Vanderbilt University* who suggests that Mr. Robert’s use of that phrase might indicate sympathy for the Confederacy. Bah. If Mr. Roberts really was sympathetic to the Southern cause he would have called it “The War of Northern Aggression” like all the other Confederates I know. Personally, though, I prefer the phrase “The Late Unpleasantness.” I really don’t care what Judge Robert’s opinions are on secession, since I doubt the topic is likely to come up again during his lifetime, but I do hope that he is a believer in State’s Rights and an opponent of slavery. I think the odds are good on both counts.

*Even though it’s in Nashville, Vanderbilt may not be the best place to find faculty who understand Southern history.

Update: Done With Mirrors has a good post along similar lines that goes into much more detail on the problems of what to call The War.


Hurricane Katrina nears New Orleans

Maybe we should restart Project Stormfury to study ways of weakening hurricanes. It didn't work last time, but this is the 21st century after all.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Tehranian Quagmire

Sunni insurgents executed a security official on video tape. The Kurds are dissatisfied with the Shi’ite majority and have started clashing with police. Women are protesting against Islamic sexism having been enshrined into law. It’s a good thing this sort of unrest is happening in Iran. Considering how important events in Iran are right now, with the Mullahs supporting terrorism and trying to build atomic bombs, I’m surprised how little attention these things have gotten. I wonder if Porter Goss has anything to do with this stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Air travel without the big airport hassle?

Uncommon Sense points out an AVweb article on a company called Sky Taxi that has a new business model for air travel based on NASA's small aircraft transportation system concept. I hope it works out. Now where is my quiet, small, supersonic transport for fast luxury routes? In another civil aviation revolution development, Chair Force Engineer (hat tip:Rand Simberg) describes his tour of the manufacturing facility for the Eclipse 500 low-cost (relatively) 6 seat jet aircraft.

Does anyone out there have updates on electric aircraft developments? I'd be curious to know how that is working out. On the one hand, it looks like a technology that has the potential to reduce the cost of owning and maintaining an aircraft considerably. On the other hand, it just has the feel of a green fantasy dreamed up by bureaucrats.

Update: Here is an article from New Scientist on electric civil aircraft. It looks like having a storable fuel is the problem. I can see where requiring cryogenic fuel for a small private plane could introduce more headaches than are removed by replacing the engine with an electric motor. It is hard to beat hydrocarbons for fuel. Maybe instead of figuring out how to store hydrogen, the breakthrough needed for electric aircraft is a fuel cell that runs on hydrocarbons. With a breakthrough in either hydrogen storage or hydrocarbon fuel cells needed it looks like electric aircraft for civil aviation are at least a decade away, if they ever happen at all.


Tough Guy Awards 1

Darwin works both ways, and man didn’t get to the top of the food chain by accident. The “Tough Guy Award” is the opposite of the Darwin Award.

The first Tough Guy is John Hirsch of British Columbia. Mr. Hirsch proved that a man can beat a bear in a knife fight when he used one of our oldest tools to kill hungry black bear that ambushed him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Preachers Shouldn't Think Things Like That... even though the rest of us do.

One of the big news items yesterday was that Pat Robertson endorsed assassinating Hugo Chavez. What seemed strangest to me about the whole controversy was that a lot of people said things like “that is a terrible thing for a reverend to think,” or “a preacher shouldn’t say things like that.”

Even though I think that sometimes the American government should engage in assassinations of especially bad foreigners, I can certainly understand why people might argue that endorsing assassination in general is bad. I can also understand some people arguing that specifically endorsing Chavez’s assassination is bad even if the practice is excusable for some other targets. What puzzles me is why it makes a difference what Pat Robertson’s occupation is? If it is wrong to endorse assassinations, then it is wrong for everyone regardless of their job. Morality should be the same regardless of whether someone is a preacher, or a blogger, or a computer programmer, or a carpenter.

Do these people who suggest that it is bad for a preacher to promote hard-nosed realpolitik solutions to our national security problems, like assassination, really think that religious leaders will be judged by a stricter standard than, say, national security advisors or technothriller writers? I suspect that they haven’t thought their statements through. When they suggest that a preacher should have a higher standard of goodness, I have to wonder if they really just want there to be a lower standard of evil for “normal people” like themselves so that they won’t have to work so hard at deciding between right and wrong. It would be nice if we could hire specialized religious leaders to be good for our whole society, and the rest of us could just relax and spend our weekends “raising hell” secure in the knowledge that our religious specialists are making up for it with their good thoughts and good deeds. Unfortunately, I don’t think life works that way.


Our Center of Gravity

Maybe in some ways Iraq really is like Vietnam. But there is hope.

Hat tips: ThatLiberalMedia and Austin Bay.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 3



This classic Star Wars fan film explains what really happened on Tatooine.

Monday, August 22, 2005



Triz is a Soviet developed tool for making the process of innovation easier. It was developed by examining thousands of patents to identify common strategies for new innovations, and under what circumstances those strategies were most likely to work. A more detailed explanation of Triz is given in these two articles. Basically, however, it can be thought of as a fairly comprehensive list of “things to try” when you run into a new problem.

Having this list handy saves a lot of time and effort over having to develop a new one from scratch. You can try it yourself at the Interactive Triz Matrix website. Because it is intended to be useful over a wide range of circumstances, the suggestions in the “things to try” list are very general. For example, if you wanted to make a bridge longer without decreasing the stress it can withstand you could select the “length of stationary” item from the improving feature menu and “stress or pressure” from the worsening feature menu. One of the suggested solutions is “change the degree of flexibility,” but it doesn’t get into the specifics of what construction material you should choose to accomplish that.

Obviously this is not a panacea or an automated invention machine, but it is a handy timesaver to have in your problem solving repertoire.

Update: If you like this post, have a look around the rest of the blog and see if you want to add it to your favorites.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Lion Hunting in Kansas

Nature has gotten some press attention recently for a proposal to introduce large foreign animals like lions, elephants, and camels to the United States. I don’t see any problem with this concept… as long as it is done on enclosed private land. I’m sure that a business offering either real or photo safari experiences could profitably maintain a large amount of land in an Africanized condition. Perhaps some environmental conservation groups could raise enough money to run a “super zoo” somewhere in North America. There might even be multiple private Africanized areas. Some could be financed by hunters and outdoorsmen who want the animals to interact with, and others financed by environmentalists who want to care for the wild animals but otherwise shield them from human contact. Either group would have their own good reasons for keeping these African species from becoming extinct.

I would NOT want the animals to be simply set loose in an unenclosed area to roam free around the continent endangering people and disrupting our current indigenous ecosystem. I would also NOT want African animals to be imported as part of a government program. I fear that a gov’t agency would be susceptible to bureaucratic growth that would cause it to mismanage the program, cover up mistakes, ignore complaints from individuals (who would be unable to sue for damages the gov’t owned animals caused), and generally have the “big gov’t program” immunity to changes or closing if the program didn’t work properly. Imagine a combination of the Dept. of the Interior's urbanite fantasy based fire control policies combined with the Civil Conservation Corp.’s planting of Kudzu for erosion control. Would this gov’t program to introduce cheetahs and lions to the United States also allow national parkgoers to carry large bore rifles and pistols for self-defense? Or would it just give feel-good advice to tourists about trying to not look tasty? Perhaps it would just ban humans from non-urban areas so that the bulk of the continent could be returned to ‘mother gaia’.

I fear that a gov’t run Africanization program to introduce foreign species, especially if they are uncontained, would be a tragedy waiting to be whitewashed. I think large privately operated and contained areas of large African animals in America could be successful and beneficial, and they would have both the gov’t and other private organizations keeping an eye on them for problems. For it to happen, however, would require a private group to own a large area of wilderness. Unfortunately, most politicians seem to be addicted to the delusion that wilderness should belong to the government, and that the more of the land they control the better.

Update: It looks like private parks have already started. Liberty Matters has a post on the background of this idea (hattip: Blogonomicon). Judging from that it looks like the plan is just an excuse to give even more wild land and power to the government who is then supposed to oversee it's return to their "earth mother", uncontaminated by us humans. I guess the watermelons expect that they will be the ones running the gov't that gets control of the land. I wonder if they think everyone will vote for the privilege of having their land collectivized and sacrificed to these urban delusions of Mother Nature, of if they just plan on doing away with democracy and individual rights so that they can force their utopian fantasy on us unenlightened hoi polloi. It sounds to me like the press releases and media push about the aforementioned Nature article is an attempt by the watermelon extremists to get exposure for their rewilding ideas in hopes that it will "gain traction" and get them more support for their bizzare schemes. I'm confident most Americans would see the uncontained release of large African animals as the crazy fantasy it is. Still, look for the idea to turn up in grade school children's periodicals soon; I doubt the watermelons have finished with their marketing campaign.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


United States vs. People's Republic of China Mobilization War Potential

Main ActorsGDP*%Industry**Industrial Capacity***

United States of America




Communist China + H.K.




Other Regional Powers





South Korea








Republic of China (Taiwan)




* Values are in billions of dollars, for 2005. Source: Wikipedia. Note: CIA World Factbook “corrects” GDP for local purchasing power to allow standard of living comparisons accounting for cheaper local standards of quality, safety, environment, etc. Nominal values given here are more appropriate for comparisons of national power.

** Source: CIA World Factbook

*** Values are in billions of dollars.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 2

Tomorrow’s Memoir


A half hour long film noir about a man with a dangerous secret.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Geek Vacation Ideas

Factory Tours
http://factorytoursusa.com/ (hat tip: Marginal Revolutions)

Industrial Archaeology

Sightseer’s guide to engineering




And, of course:

Please take the Transporter Poll

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Toil and Trouble

I read Paul Krugman’s article earlier this week on oil prices. I have read analysis similar to his in several other locations. It looks, therefore, like he might be right that we will soon see an end to high oil prices. Yes, apparently the high oil costs we have been experiencing lately have been mostly due to a combination of fear and speculation, not actual shortages, that has driven oil prices to their record levels. Market factors can be expected to bring oil (and with it gasoline) prices back down to their normal levels very soon.

Fortunately, Mr. Krugman assures us that the drop in prices will not be as sudden as most other business analysis articles have warned. Even as a slow drop, however, Mr. Krugman says we should be worried about the coming reduction in oil and gasoline costs. It seems that many Arab sheiks and princes, who appear culturally unable to live within their means, have used the rise in oil prices to borrow heavily against their overvalued assets. They used this borrowed money to predominately purchase luxury items like yachts, fine clothes, and expensive vacations. A small percentage of these Arabs had the forethought to invest their windfall profits, but instead of diversifying many of these Arabs made their dependency on high oil prices even worse by either expanding their oil assets or purchasing new oil rights. Even a slow fall in oil prices will, therefore, bankrupt thousands of these financially naive and overextended Arabs. The financial devastation will then spread to the luxury product and high-end service businesses, since the lower income fuel-buying public (who would be the beneficiaries of lower oil costs) will mostly spend their savings on non-luxury items like medical care or saving for college tuitions. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way for us to maintain these high oil prices forever.

What’s that, you say: Shouldn’t we want costs to come down even if it hurts some pampered, undisciplined investors? This analysis doesn’t make any sense? You can’t see how economists throughout the business press could write such crazy things?… Well, you caught me. Paul Krugman’s latest article (and the bubble fad in the rest of the business press) isn’t really about the cost of oil. It is about the cost of housing. Replace the phrase “oil and gasoline” with “housing,” and the phrase “Arab sheiks and princes” with “the Me Generation” in the two paragraphs above and read them again. With this small change the two paragraphs above still don’t make sense, but they would sure look right at home on today’s business page.

As a society we should never want the cost of anything to remain high. It is only by lowering costs (through innovation or investment in capital goods) that we are able to enjoy a higher standard of living than previous generations and to pass along an ever higher standard of living to succeeding ones. We must, therefore, ruthlessly cut costs wherever we can and should not be happy when the cost of something that everyone needs, like housing, stays high. Also we should not want prices to be out of line of the real cost or value of items because such inconsistencies generate distortions in the economy and inefficient allocation of resources that further interfere with our efforts to improve everyone’s standard of living. If these business writers and economists were writing about high costs or price bubbles of a different item like oil or steel or coffee or computing power then they would be hoping for a reduction in any high costs and that prices would more accurately represent cost.

Krugman and other business writers worry about a reduction in housing prices for the same reason that an OPEC internal memo would worry about reductions in oil prices or that a DeBeers company newsletter would worry about falling diamond prices. Even though reductions in cost and prices helps society in general, there are sometimes specific investors and cartels that see their profits reduced. In the case of housing, a lot of the specific people who will be hurt from a drop in housing prices are expensive-home-owning Baby Boomers. This category of people probably includes Paul Krugman, many of his colleagues, and most of the readers of the NY times and other business publications.

Krugman claims, however, that we should all be worried about a bursting housing bubble because “the U.S. economy has become deeply dependent on” it. This makes no sense. Economies work on wealth creation. Pricing irregularities may move paper money around between people, but they don’t create any new wealth. The only thing dependent on a housing bubble is the fortunes of irresponsible Arab princes… er… I mean overextended Boomers.

Krugman says that our economy wouldn’t be growing so fast without the “soaring spending on residential construction, plus a surge in consumer spending largely based on mortgage refinancing” that is attributable to high housing prices. The increased spending on residential construction is happening because the high price leads people to believe that there is a shortage of housing. If housing prices drop, then those resources being spent on building houses won’t just vanish, they will instead be spent on other areas on the economy where there is a large demand, like building more gasoline refineries or designing an MP3-cellphone-gamepad-PDA. Artificially high housing prices don’t create wealth to spend on residential construction. It diverts wealth to fill an imaginary demand that could be better spent meeting a real need. By distorting economic activity, price bubbles make our economy grow slower not faster.

High housing prices do allow some homeowners to borrow against the inflated value of their house, but it does not create a surge in spending as Krugman suggests. The money from these refinanced homes doesn’t come from creating some new wealth, so it must instead come from somewhere else. Lending money to splurging homeowners means that there is less credit available for businessmen and farmers who want to borrow money to buy new capital equipment. An aging Baby-Boomer who tries to recapture his youth by buying a motorcycle (and sending his wife to an expensive spa so she will agree to let him have the motorcycle) will not generate as much economic activity as a machine shop who buys a new CNC milling machine. The new business investment has the added benefit of directly creating more wealth. Yes, I admit that the Boomer couple may experience more “marital happiness” which is a form of wealth (though the GDP doesn't measure it, despite what its name would suggest) but as far as the rest of us are concerned it won’t compare to the amount of wealth that the new capital equipment could generate by turning lumps of steel into finished machine parts and improving the productivity of our workforce (thereby allowing higher real wages).

Another place that would see increases in spending would be young couples and lower income families that want to buy a new home. The high home prices may allow refinancing ex-hippie professionals to buy new toys, but it forces other home buyers to either adopt more miserly spending habits to make their payments or abandon their hopes of home ownership. The increases in economic growth that are instigated by high home price enabled deficit spending are more than offset by the economic growth that doesn’t happen because of lower income homebuyers curtailing their purchases and businesses that can’t get cheap credit to invest in improving their processes. I don’t believe for a second that we can get more economic growth by extending unjustified credit to higher income consumers than we could by extending that credit to young innovators that want to start a business or proven existing businesses that want to improve.

The housing bubble doesn’t grow the economy, it just grows the ability of older home owners to engage in irresponsible spending behaviors with unearned money at the expense of new home buyers and businesses. I hope that the housing bubble is real and bursts as soon as possible, not because I would begrudge the Me Generation free money but because the money they get from owning overvalued homes isn’t free and the economic distortions the bubble creates hurts the economy as a whole. The worst case would be that there really isn’t a housing price bubble, and that the costs to make new housing are really as high as home prices indicate. Correcting incorrect prices is relatively easy compared to the difficult job of actually lowering costs of some mature product like housing. Fortunately, there are innovative engineers and entrepreneurs that are working hard to bring those costs down. Hopefully one way or another housing prices will come down. We should be happy to see the price of homes come down just as we should be happy to see improved efficiency and productivity in any other field of human endeavor. We should be very careful of advice from Mr. Krugman and other economists who claim that our economic growth is tied to homes being expensive, lest it lead a federal Home Stabilization Corporation that buys homes from elderly voters at hugely inflated prices, or perhaps a Home Adjustment Administration to destroy homes and limit new home construction in an effort to “prop up” home prices. Meanwhile, if you are one of the people who have gotten a financial windfall from increased housing prices, you should ask yourself if you want to keep that money in housing, spend it on luxuries, or diversify some of that money into other investments.

As for Mr. Krugman, I have to wonder: Does he understand basic economics and is just lying to please his audience? Is he just an ignoramus? Or am I talking out of my hat? Any economists or Krugnam devotees who want to explain how a price bubble on anything can be to the general good, are encouraged to respond.

If you haven’t done so already please take my Transporter Philosophy Poll. I don’t yet have a statistically significant sample size.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Transporter Philosophy Poll

I am going to experiment with having a poll as a blog post.
Please read the scenario then scroll down and select one answer below.

If you are beaming Ensign Jones off of an alien planet and, in the brief time between when the ensign is de-materialized on the planet but before he has been re-materialized in the transporter room, someone sabotages the transporter equipment so the energy and information in the transporter beam that are needed to re-materialize Ensign Jones are lost forever…

has that saboteur murdered Ensign Jones?
No. The saboteur merely destroyed information that did not have a functioning brain or thoughts or even consciousness so it can’t have been murder.
Yes. Without the sabotage, Ensign Jones would be alive and well in the transporter room right now, so the crime is murder.
This makes no sense, it’s just a show.
I would have said “Yes” or “No”, but I disagree with the explanation afterwards in those choices. Please explain in the comments.

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 1

Me and the Big Guy


Even if you don't like Ingsoc, you can enjoy this spoof.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Shuttle Tile Repair Technology Described in AW&ST

After inspecting the thermal tiles, removing some protruding gap filler material on its belly, and receiving instructions to leave a damaged thermal blanket alone, the space shuttle Discovery’s crew is ready to return to Earth. In honor of this shuttle flight’s first ever in-orbit repair of a spacecraft’s thermal protection system (tps) I am posting a review of Aviation Week and Space Technology’s (AW&ST) pair of articles by Bruce A. Smith from their August 18th and August 25th issues on the development of the shuttle’s in-orbit repair kit and procedures by Martin Marietta. No, this isn’t a case of laphamization on AW&ST’s part. Neither do I have a time machine. These articles were published a quarter century ago this month, in August 1980. Occasionally when NASA officials or aerospace experts talk about in-orbit tps repair they will mention that early in the shuttle program they attempted to develop tps repair technology but the effort ran into problems and was abandoned. It is this early attempt to develop tps repair capabilities for the space shuttle that these two articles describe.

The first article from Aug. 18, 1980 titled "Backpack Modified for Tile Repair Use" begins:

Denver- Operational mode of the maneuvering backpack for space shuttle astronauts has been modified to reflect the more important role the system may play during early shuttle flights if it is necessary to inspect and repair the orbiter’s thermal protection system tiles in space.

The 330lb. backpack initially was developed as a means of increasing astronaut mobility during operational shuttle missions as crewmembers performed extravehicular tasks such as servicing spacecraft, transferring payloads from nearby satellites or building large space structures.

A new dimension was added to the manned maneuvering unit (MMU) program, however, when it was determined that some thermal tiles might be damaged during early shuttle launches and require repair prior to reentry. As a result, Martin Marietta last year was requested to expedite development of the backpacks so it could be available for initial shuttle missions if necessary.

The article explains that a tether would connect the astronaut to the shuttle, in case the MMU system malfunctioned. The author describes being allowed to test fly an MMU simulator at length and mentions the deliberate similarity between the shuttle’s and MMU’s controls.

The second article from Aug. 25, 1980 titled: "In-Orbit Tile Repair Plans Developed" begins:

Denver- Three types of tile repair materials and a small work station are being developed to provide space shuttle astronauts with the capability of repairing possible damage to the orbiter’s thermal protection system ranging from chips or cracks in the black tile coating to the loss of sections of tiles.

The shuttle tile repair kit and the astronaut work restraint unit are part of an inspection and repair system that is being readied on a schedule to support early shuttle flights, although there currently are no plans to include the equipment on the first shuttle mission.

Not to worry, though, I’m sure they’ll add that equipment eventually. The article describes the way a tile inspection would be conducted:

A tile inspection mission would take about one hour to conduct, beginning with the nose of the orbiter and extending back to the elevons and body flap at the aft end of the vehicle. The inspection would cover all of the black high-temperature tiles on the bottom of the shuttle and would be scheduled to occur during a daylight period, although astronauts would be equipped with lights on their helmets to aid in the inspection process if necessary. The crew-member then would return to the cargo bay either to return to the crew compartment or to refuel the backpack and pick up required materials for repairs.

Stickypad tether holders and a short boom would keep the emergency tether from becoming tangled during the inspection process. The repair equipment is described as consisting of three main items:

• Pressurized sprayers-called emittance spray applicators-to replace the thin black coating over the high-temperature tiles, which is necessary to retain their thermal characteristics. The four spray guns, which will be furnished by Johnson Space Center, will include a back-scatter spray shield to keep any possible back-spray off the astronaut’s visor.
• Eight cure-in-place applicator/mixer devices to provide semi solid material, which may be used to repair tile damage over small areas that is deeper than the thin layer of black coating. The unit mixes and dispenses a resin and catalyst that cure in place on the tile surface to form a hard ablative shield during reentry. The material will be in a workable consistency for about one hour and cure in 18 hours. Program officials said that a depression or bump up to 0.25in. below or above the normal shuttle surface would not affect the aerodynamics of the shuttle.
• Pre-cured blocks of ablative tile to be used if larger areas of the shuttle’s protective tile covering were damaged or lost. The blocks, roughly six inches square, will be scored vertically, horizontally, and at angles so they can be shaped to more closely fit the desired space. The cure-in-place material would be used to bond the pre-cured blocks in place and to fill the gaps between the tiles.

Two images with the article that depict the repair kit are attached below.

Now, twenty-five years later, NASA describes the new tile repair system they have developed as consisting of three main technologies:

First is an emmitance wash that is sprayed on with a pressurized sprayer (Hey guys, don’t forget about that back-scatter shield).

Second is a cure-in-place “goo” that forms a hard ablative shield. Some pictures seem to show that the pre-cured ablative blocks described by Smith’s article are also considered part of this technology. If so, it is not clear why they have combined these two items into one list entry in their presentation, although perhaps NASA believes that briefing lists longer than three items become too confusing.

Third is flexible insulation that is stuffed into large holes and a patch that is bolted onto the orbiter’s surface to hold it in. Unlike the rest of the tps repair system, this technology doesn’t seem to have a predecessor in the original tps repair kit Smith describes.

Tile inspection technology has also changed to make use of the Canada arm. The similarity of the rest of the system to the original tps repair kit makes me curious about the circumstances under which the original tps repair system development was abandoned. Do we have some new 21st century technology that is essential to making it work which just wasn’t available then? Or did early luck with re-entering the shuttle on damaged tiles convince NASA that tps inspection and repair was unnecessary, until the Columbia accident forced them to reconsider that decision? Were they right then to not risk in-orbit repairs, and now they are developing it anyway just to look like they are Doing Something? If there are any rocket scientists who could give me the history of that decision, I’d like to know.

Update: Welcome Transterrestrials. I encourage you to look around the blog and see if there is anything else you like. Aerospace aficionados may particularly find the post The Japanese/French Son-of-Concorde vs. the Quiet Small Supersonic Transport interesting.

Update 2: Dwayne A. Day has an informative comment on this issue at Transterrestrial Musings. A portion of that comment which explains what happened to the original shuttle tile repair kit is copied below:

I discussed this at length with Sally Ride (a CAIB Board member) who suggested that I discuss it with STS-1 pilot Robert Crippen. Ride explained that it was the STS-1 crew that ultimately put the brakes on the tile repair effort. As she remembered, there were several reasons for this. One of these reasons was that they thought it was totally unreasonable to expect a two-man crew to conduct an EVA, particularly underneath the vehicle. This would have been using the untested MMU as well. I believe that another reason was that they already had too much to do for their test flight and did not want more things added to their training schedule.

So TPS repair got dropped early, with STS-1, and apparently was considered impractical for those early two-man test flights.

I did ask why it was never picked up again after the shuttle was declared "operational," but I cannot remember Ride's answer. I think she may have said that the astronauts thought tile repair was impractical. Plus, by that time they had an idea of the fragility of the TPS system and believed that damage (some damage, anyway) was survivable.

Thanks for the infromation, Dr. Day.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Own Worst Enemy?

Most Americans have already come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the MSM leans toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. As a result, they tend to ‘push’ certain stories to advance their agenda. Tuesday, we saw the climax of their latest cause, the special election in Ohio’s Second Congressional District.
The media was out in force supporting “an anti-war” veteran of the Iraq War, Paul Hacket, who was running as a Democrat in a solid Republican District. He was featured on a wide variety of national news shows, including those on CNN and MSNBC. I personally saw his interview with Chris Mathews on Hardball, and thought Mathews could barely contain his glee that this Democratic War Veteran (all capitalized, of course) was running a good race.
Hacket did come close to a win. I think the close race was TOTALLY due to the MSM giving him this coverage. Can you remember the last time a special congressional election got ANY MSM national coverage, except in passing? I sure can’t.
In this vast coverage, almost all of the MSM conveniently ignored the fact that while Hacket was on these shows calling Bush a “chickenhawk” and saying he had no respect for him (thus playing up his hard-core Democratic credentials), he was running commercials in the Ohio Second District implying that Bush supported his candidacy.
I think the biased news coverage by the MSM drove all the hard-core Democrats to the polls in that District, giving Hacket good numbers for a special election. However, the time of MSM dominance is gone. People recognize the MSM bias for what it is. I suspect that the hard core Republicans were also driven to the polls for the same reason, the biased news coverage. Not wanting to give the MSM a victory, hard-core Republicans turned out also. The result in this Republican District was to be expected, a victory of the Republicans.
I think the MSM is now their own worst enemy. They can no longer push candidates or causes any longer (motivating their liberal viewers) without producing an equal disgust of their bias (which motivate the conservative viewers). Now, for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The days of the MSM being a power broker in the US is over.

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