NASA loses keys

Imagine you’re taking two dogs to the mountains for the weekend.  It might snow, and you want your dogs to have a jacket in case they duel a grizzly bear and need to keep warm.  Both your dogs need medium sized jackets.  Do you:

a) Make sure you have two medium jackets, and if not, buy one or two

b) Not bother to check at all and hope it somehow all works out

c) Panic

d) Ask your dogs for money

e) Skip your mountain trip and sit on your floor playing with your dogs as you drink beer

Most normal people would choose option (a).  But apparently not NASA, you know, those people who are geniuses and make things go into space.  Last week NASA announced that it would have it’s first all female spacewalk.  Because apparently these diversity things matter to NASA when it currently doesn’t have a functional space vehicle with which to get it’s astronauts into orbit so we rely on the Russians.

But as it turns out they cannot conduct this two female spacewalk because, wait for it, they don’t have two medium sized spacesuits.  This is not a joke.  This is legitimately happening.  Apparently NASA planned a complex dangerous spacewalk but didn’t bother to make sure they had two appropriate spacesuits.  I mean how hard is this?  One of the flight engineers could have asked her five year old to look at an inventory list and see the word ‘medium’ next to ‘spacesuit’ and make sure the number said at least two.

In related news, Boeing (that company that has problems lately), has now burned through north of $5B, yes billion, to produce a rocket that hasn’t flown once (and will probably never fly) and will take longer to produce than it took NASA to get to the Moon.

Man, this organization used to be the pinnacle of technology and awesome.  But that was five decades ago.  Now these folks probably lose their keys on their way to the parking lot.

Just disestablish NASA and give its entire budget to help fund STEM scholarships for poor kids.  Let the commercial sector have a go at space awesomeness.  They’ll do a cheaper, probably safer, and at least remember to look at an inventory list before planning a mission.

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Have fun!  Make sure you remember your airlock keys to get back into the station!

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forces of supreme darkness combine with tech goons to create most infernal machine since Nazi rocket trains

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One day on my work walks, I’m going to have to render emergency first aid to a struck nine year old because a 47 year old grown man couldn’t be bothered to traverse 2/3 of a mile using his own two feet.

Boeing has a lot to answer for

Everybody should withhold final judgement until the Ethiopians and the American investigators have gotten a crack at the boxes.  But eyewitness reports indicating that the aircraft was breaking up in flight are troubling.

I flew yesterday on a 737-800 which looks mostly like a 737 Max and I was glad when I got aboard and realized it was an 800.  I mean I’m not trying to be too dramatic, my rental car drive to the airport was 700 times more dangerous, but I did sleep better on the flight.

It used to be that Airbus built planes that killed people with wacky failures in the electronics and systems.  Airbus hasn’t done that since Air France 447 in 2009.  Has Boeing now assumed that tragic role?  And if so, why and how?

What we do know is that the Lion Air crash in Indonesia was partly a maintenance failure, but also Boeing’s fault.  The pilots had the correct input on the controls, the airplane ignored them.  The plane killed those people.  Again, we’ll see what Ethiopia says on this latest crash.

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the establishment hasn’t caught up with the reality of our new distributed planet

Yesterday a judge blocked the online publication of blueprints for a 3D printed gun.  The States who filed the complaint called it, “a bell that cannot be un-rung”.  The judge said, “There are 3D printers in public colleges and public spaces and there is the likelihood of potential irreparable harm,”.

So apparently all these folks don’t understand how the Internets works, haven’t heard or understood the word Torrent, and don’t understand the reality of how the planet currently works.

To borrow their term, I can guarantee you that 3D printing of firearms is going to be rung.  And it’s going to be rung very, very soon.  Soon it’ll be possible for anybody with access to cash to print any kind of gun they want, handgun, shotgun, assault rifle, whatever.  It’s going to happen.  That’s one of the fearful miracle implications of 3D printing, fueled by an Internets that enables the distribution of any knowledge whatsoever.

For over 15 years terrorists have been capable of teaching 19 year old disgruntled street urchins from Paris and Brussels how to make nail bombs.  All of this knowledge is easily accessible online.  It’s never going away.  If the establishment thinks 3D printed handgun designs will be any different because some judge says so, they’re hopelessly naive.

As another example please kindly gaze upon the disaster that is killing more Americans than cars in oxy and fentanyl.  The cops, judges, and legislators went after oxy because it was stacking five figures of dead Americans each year.  But then fentanyl materialized out of thin air.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new villain in town called carfentanil.  It’s even more powerful than fentanyl.  The number of American overdosing each year is higher than ever.  Would you care to take a bet on if the number of dead is going to fall, or if you think carfentanil will be the last drug created out of thin air and pushed on the streets?

The establishment hasn’t caught up with the reality of our new distributed planet.  This is the reason Trump was elected, not Russia.  But understanding that our planet has changed irreversibly is really fucking hard to grasp.  It’s a lot easier for folks to demonize Putin (a cardboard cutout well deserving of the asshole appellation) and move on.

But the opioid epidemic is an example of a massive problem that the establishment cannot solve.  Folks want results and government can’t or won’t deliver.  Because government hasn’t adapted to a changed world.

What to do?  Well, for the drug problem this belligerent degenerate blog has always been about legalizing absolutely everything.  Because the government is never going to be able stop drugs.  Especially in an age where you can factory manufacture lethal opioids in a lab like it’s aspirin.

Let folks get high, who gives a damn?  Treat addiction like the disease it is.  Let folks shoot up or drop pills in clinics where they can get help when they inevitably OD and can get advice and support on how to quit.  Treat the problem, don’t criminalize it when criminalization hasn’t worked for over 100 years of drug crime fighting.

For 3D printed guns, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten that far yet.  But my guess is the answer is probably in the ammunition.  I have no idea, but I’m guessing it’s probably a lot harder to make ammo from nothing than to 3D print a gun.  Put since the establishment isn’t thinking things through (again) all they’ve got is the order of some judge to try and stop it.  It will fail.

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Behold that which cannot be stopped.

supersonic will soon be back, but it won’t be big

Sometimes technology seems to go backwards.  For example, the US used to operate the shuttle which was a relatively advanced reusable spaceplane.  Now NASA has nothing, and the replacement vehicle in development has more in common with the Apollo or Soyuz space capsules than it does with the shuttle.

Likewise, Concorde first flew in 1976.  Here we are over 40 years later and every single commercially viable passenger plane of any size is exclusively subsonic.  I’ll save my thoughts pf NASA’s failures for another day.  Today I want to focus on supersonic.  More and more in the news you see that several companies are trying to dive back into supersonic.

But first, what happened after 1976?  In short, supersonic failed for a number of reasons:

– It was never cost effective: Concorde burned a lot of fuel, had a large maintenance footprint, and could never get the cost per seat / seat vacancy ratios correctly to turn a consistent profit.

– Development: Because of the cost considerations, nobody saw a reason to develop a successor to Concorde.  By the end of the 20th Century, Concorde was a 20 year old design and the airframes were reaching the end of usable service.

– 2000: The Air France crash was the end of the road.  Adding up the cost and service life against the reality of a full crash was the end of the program.

And there we’ve sat for decades.  But now folks are willing to try again.  Why:

a) Air travel and airline technology has become so advanced as to be scary in terms of safety. Western airlines have a safety record that’s downright miraculous. Lawnmowers kill more people each year.

b) Modern super fuel efficient engines combined with advanced computing might be close to cracking the code on the cost problem. When you add in the composites that make the newer airframes strong and lighter I think they might cross the threshold on turning a profit per flight.

c) Humanity is more obsessed with time. In the business world, seconds matter whereas when Concorde last flew perhaps only minutes mattered. Think of it, in 2000 smartphones didn’t even exist.  The world has gotten faster, and so I think folks will be far more inclined to put down the cash when they’re staring at the reality of a flight time that gets cut in half.

But will it work?  Well, let’s examine the most realistic commercial supersonic venture.

Boom Supersonic has already booked aircraft orders, 10 from Virgin, and 20 from JAL.  The expectation is they’re flying commercially by 2025.  Its jets will seat 55 passengers, go across the Atlantic in half the current time, and cost approximately $5K per ticket.  Boom claims to have cracked the code on fuel efficiency and subduing the impact of the dreaded sonic boom.

My conclusions:

1) I searched online, trying to book over two months in advance, Heathrow to JFK with a one week dwell.  The cost for an Economy seat is $400.  Boom’s jet is single aisle, single seat each side.  To me, this is an exclusively Business / First Class jet.  Economy does not apply. For a Business flight it’s all over the place.  You can go on TAP Portugal for $2.1K.  Air France is $6K.  United is $7K  To fly BA is $7.5K.

So let’s get something straight.  If Boom states that it’s $5K per seat they either mean the cost to them and/or they’re fibbing on future prices.  When all the major carriers are already charging Atlantic rides for well over $5K for subsonic, then my back of the napkin math says a Boom supersonic seat costs closer to $10K.

So right off the bat you’re looking at a ticket that’s 20 times more expensive between Economy and supersonic.  Thus, to declare that the supersonic ticket is already in the realm of the super-rich is an understatement.  Already it’s the same high-risk niche market Concorde had to struggle with.

2) I don’t care what Boom or others claim, the sonic boom problem is a major problem.  Even if Boom can produce a severely muffled boom, they still can’t break physics, there will still be a boom.   And if there’s a sonic boom, it’s going to be regulated.  If it’s regulated, it’s not going to be easy.

All supersonic has to do is lightly tap one skyscraper apartment window in Manhattan and there will be people up in arms about how the boom is giving them phantom headaches.  Then the lawyers come out of the bushes and it’s a gigantic mess.  Can Boom and other companies get around this by only going supersonic over water, sure.  But in the end as with Concorde, the sonic boom problem is not going to be a rounding error.  It’s a big problem.

3) Think about the turnover rate of a standard subsonic jet.  Take a 737 flying inside the US.  On any given day, one jet is expected to fly over half-a-dozen flights.  They have to turnover at the gate in less than an hour and get back in the air.  They have to not seriously break over hundreds of hours of constant flight.  They have to do it at the safety rate of zero crashes.  Can Boom or other companies crack the code on this, keep the aircraft available enough to fly again and again to generate profit, and do it safely every single fight?  I think they can definitely do it.  But I’m not sure they can do it and consistently make money.  New technology is hard to master.  And going supersonic on a completely new airframe isn’t going to be an easy thing to do.

You need only look at the development hell Airbus and Boeing have gone through with their latest subsonic jets to realize how hard building airplanes is.  Going supersonic is going to generate a whole new level of difficulty.  Plus, Boom is a company that doesn’t have a sustained record of success with previous aircraft models.  Look at what happened with the Bombardier CSeries.  That jet crashed out in development hell because Bombardier made too many mistakes.  They had to sell out the airframe to Airbus for like $1 to avoid bankruptcy.  And the CSeries is a pretty basic modern subsonic jet, and it still was impossible for Bombardier to succeed.  I’m not sure I think companies like Boom truly understand how hard their task will be to develop and build supersonic without going bankrupt in the process.

In closing, I think we’ll see supersonic return and soon.  But given that the passenger market is still only the exclusive rich, the remaining associated problem of profit risk, and my concerns about technology development, I think the end result is supersonic is going to be a very, very small footprint by say 2030.  Only a handful of jets will fly and the companies that run them will be scraping by paycheck to paycheck on cost.  In the end, I don’t think supersonic is going to be viable for major airlines on anything but a small scale.  It’ll be a niche market, or perhaps become a major chunk of the private jet market.  But large scale from major airlines?  I just don’t see it.

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But who knows, maybe I’m wrong?

Facebook continues to win

Hey remember when everybody hated Facebook since it trashed their privacy?  That was all of three weeks ago.  Remember THAT?  No?  Apparently folks don’t.  Nobody cares anymore.  Facebook understands that the planet’s attention span (largely because of the internet) is about eight seconds.  So Zucky had to keep his cool, talk like a robot, play it safe, and eventually it would all blow over.

It certainly helped that all the rich, self-inflated, but ultimately dumb people in Congress couldn’t tell the difference between a Facebook algorithm and a ham sandwich.  These are the guys and gals with the power to regulate Facebook so it doesn’t sell your personal data to a KGB backed hedge fund or a bunch of alien overlords who will one day enslave you using Zucky as the turncoat Emperor of all Humanity.

But Zucky banked that Congress is so gridlocked, and so incompetent that he could ride it out.  All he had to do in front of Congress was not stand up, give them all the finger, both barrels, and say, “Fuck you all.  I might be the most powerful man on the planet.  Do your worst.  Foools.”  But since he didn’t do that, Facebook continues to win.

After Congress let Zucky handle them like a seven figure donor, coincidentally Facebook’s stock went up north of 5%.  That means Zucky’s performance over a two day span increased his personal net worth by over $3B.  Never has one human in all of history made so much money so quickly by saying so little to people so incredibly dumb and ineffective at their jobs.  It’s the perfect harbinger for where the planet is headed.

It gets better because of a number of tidbits that STILL inexplicably came out during Zucky’s testimony.  It goes to show you how easy it would have been for competent questioners to hand Zucky his ass.  The guy just doesn’t know how to deal with people getting in his face.  It’s why he (I’m not kidding) walks around with a personal security detail close in number to that of the President.

First, whoever you are, Facebook has a profile on you.  Whether you have a Facebook account or not, Facebook has a profile on you and is tracking you.  They do this in case one day you create an account they already have a head start.  But they really do this so they can connect you into the network of networks which involves your friends, family, coworkers, etc, most of whom have Facebook accounts.

The network of networks is what Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc will need to truly let the future AI algorithms do their magic.  The idea is that the AI knows what you want for breakfast before you know what you want for breakfast.  I’m not joking.  It’ll be the digital voice assistant which is the ultimate end game to engage with you on this.  Whoever can get to you first, gets your money and loyalty.  That’s why the arms race of AI is so hotly contested.  As is the race to get ever more amounts of your personal data into one bag.

Second, Zucky emphasized that he sees Facebook as an international company and not an American company.  He essentially punted on the “only in America” idea when directly asked about it.  As in, Zucky doesn’t believe in the idea that the freedom, entrepreneurial spirit, and rule of law that Facebook was afforded by America makes Facebook an American company.  If he’d been born in China or Egypt or Poland he seems to think Facebook would still exist.  This is kind of a shocking statement from a guy who runs a company that is (in theory) bound by American law.  Especially for a guy who is said to harbor political ambitions.

Third, Zucky also refused to answer Congress on whether or not Facebook tracks its users when the user is not physically logged in.  Zucky said he didn’t know.  Which was of course a blatant, shameless lie.  Facebook tracks its users when they’re not logged in.  Similar to how Google tracks its users credit card purchases via a backdoor agreement with many national retailers.

Again, Facebook needs their user’s offline activity tracked because it further feeds the AI networks.  But since Congress doesn’t understand any of this, and can’t do basic tasks like pass a budget on time, don’t expect things to change.  Facebook will continue to win.

I think folks are waking up to this, that Facebook can’t be stopped.  And in one of the first dominoes to fall is the resignation of Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp and for the last four years an employee of Facebook.  Koum has battled with Facebook’s leadership for years over monetization, ads, WhatsApp’s privacy and encryption, you name it.  He’s leaving now.  And most of those who see things his way will undoubtedly follow.  Then Facebook can finally have its way with WhatsApp.

So if you use WhatsApp (as I unfortunately have to do at the moment overseas; I’ll be deleting it one day after I get home) be prepared for some major changes as the program becomes more invasive, less secure, gets ads, and otherwise further links itself into the Facebook hive.  But it’s okay, because in the end it isn’t about you, it’s about the people who will further own your life.

Take Koum for example, he might have lost the battle with Facebook, but in terms of winning the war of life?  He has won.  Quote:

“In his Facebook post, Koum said he would take some time off from technology to focus on other pursuits, “such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.””

There are serious, long term concerns to the future of humanity with regards to what the internet is going to do to us all.  But to Silicon Valley, in the end, it’s about success.  As in, money.  To Koum, he might genuinely share the same concerns I do about these matters.  But in the end, to Koum, it’s all about those air-cooled Porsches baby!