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Central Banking on Mars!

Or, Muskcoin: a credible proposal.

So, a few weeks ago I was chewing over COVID19 on Mars (insert any other pandemic here), a discussion of how a Musk-initiated Mars colony circa 2070 might handle an aggressive viral pandemic.

Which brings me onto the topic of Elon Musk (okay, Tesla) recently buying $1.5Bn of BitCoins. I personally think this is a stunt, but an interesting one: BtC is a commodity in a bubble; if it goes up, Tesla turns a profit, and if it goes down it's a tax write-off. As Tesla is currently ridiculously over-valued this therefore looks like a smart way of hedging against some of their risk. But it got me thinking about SpaceX ...

Some of you have read Neptune's Brood, right? Shortlisted for the 2014 Hugo award, and, ahem, currently on offer for $4.99 as an ebook (North American edition only, sorry British folks).

What are the opportunities for Musk's colony to implement its own cryptocurrency?

In terms of "Neptune's Brood", MuskCoin might be a plausible implementation of Medium Money.

On Earth it would function as a cryptocurrency backed by the Mars colony. Blockchain is used for transactions. However, the proof-of-work in generating a MuskCoin is non-algorithmic: you transmit a digital certificate for your shiny new coin to MuskBank on Mars, where it is countersigned with a string from MuskBank's One Time Pad, which was generated on and only exists on Mars. The blockchain is then updated—from Mars. The publicly issued checksum of MuskBank's OTP is itself published via the Blockchain.

MuskCoin is required in payment for cargo capacity on Earth-to-Mars shipping, or for purchasing real estate on Mars. It has a floating terrestrial exchange rate: the idea is that it's used for mediating interplanetary exchanges.

Unlike Bitcoin there's a central bank and an anti-forgery mechanism. It's not inherently deflationary like Bitcoin, because the Martian Central Bank can if necessary generate a new one time pad and add its checksum to the blockchain, expanding the money supply. The proof of work doesn't inflate over time, either—it remains constant, and is ridiculously hard to forge (the only reasonable mechanism would be to figure out how to derive the one time pad from the published checksum, which should be impossible). And given its founder's ego issues, the unit of currency will be the Elon.

Conversion between Elons and regular (fast) money: you use it to acquire title to a chunk of land on Mars, then put it on the real estate market. When somebody buys it, you get your exchange rate.

One side-effect of it being Mars-backed is Mars has a shallower gravity well than Earth: once the colony is up and running and eating its own dogfood (in terms of semiconductor and high-end space-rated fabrications), it may be cheaper to buy satellites and other spacecraft from Mars than to lift them from Earth, as long as you schedule their launches years in advance. However, that's a long-term consequence. The main point is that it provides a way to loosely couple the Martian economy with Earth's, without locking Mars into fiscal interdependency with other-planetary economic cycles.

Note that I have certain ideological assumptions: namely that BitCoin itself is a highly inappropriate currency for anyone, much less an embryonic Mars colony. It's designed to promote Libertarian values, is inherently deflationary, and ridiculously wasteful of energy, all of which are liabilities when you live in a tin can on a lump of rock with no air. Interplanetary colonies for at least the first couple of centuries are going to be highly regimented collectivist institutions, more like a 1950s Kibbutz than a libertarian utopia. But any sufficiently large colony will eventually need to interact at a macroeconomic level with its neighbors—Mars will get out of the inevitable early Juche phase fairy soon, or Mars will die—at which point some species of currency seems desirable. However, one that is directly exchangable with existing terrestrial currencies is an invitation to disaster (if nothing else it renders the Mars colony vulnerable to speculators on Earth).

Discuss?

1651 Comments

1:

I think you're pretty much on-point about most of the issues here- my one major concern is regarding the real-estate purchasing power of Muskcoin- I can't help but feel that there is a risk that any real estate sales could lead to, well, the same sort of real estate speculation that you're seeing in damn near every market right now- the luxury apartment problem finding its way to Mars as well, which doesn't work well with the necessary collectivist ethos.

That, and I'm pretty sure Musk wants to be a literal feudal lord, so he doesn't want anyone else owning property, merely renting from him.

2:

Erm... "Proof of work" term requires, well, the proof of work. In case of muskcoin there's no work involved.

In essence, you simply have money-like certificates countersigned by the Mars central bank.

Heck, you don't even NEED a blockchain, just a service (provided by Mars, no doubt) to make sure coins are not double-spent.

3:

I'm assuming that the purpose of the MuskCoin is to encourage investment into the Martian economy to grow it quickly. It is also coming under the control of a man who seems to prefer to own the assets and sell the services.
So rather than using MuskCoin to buy land - and end up with the old problems of finding out that one person owns 5% of Mars because it was cheap centuries ago - it could be more useful to lease land on Mars using MuskCoin. Less of a long term asset speculation, and more emphasis on doing something with the land.

It also helps with the inevitable legal difficulties around whether or not anyone can own land on Mars. Mars central bank could at least control the land, on behalf of the Martin government, which could then have a seat at the UN.

4:

Eh, no. Suppose you pay $1M to ship a canned primate to Mars. MCB will then sign a certificate to say you have one Elon. The Elon is redeemable on Mars, against a chunk of Mars. (Remember, corporations can leverage debt to create money.) You can't spend your Elon unless you're on Mars or interacting with the Martian economy, mind. Banks routinely create money by issuing credit against debts: at least in this one someone has paid for something of value (transport to Mars).

The leasing land from the government option is more interesting, it's true. IIRC in Israel all land title ultimately vests with the government (because the constitution says so, and it's backed up with nukes): in the UK, all land ultimately vests with the Crown. If land on Mars is only leased, not owned, that'd be a potential loophole to get around the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

5:

(As a banking innocent) I assume that the Martian central bank can buy land priced in Elons? That would be a way to stimulate the economy at need.

6:

It's not "proof of work", it's "proof of being on Mars" no?

7:

The question is: how can this be undermined?

The 'Proof of work' is a proof of authorisation by the Central Bank and I would strongly recommend that this is accompanied by a proof-of-economic-demand in the form of a reserve deposit and a variable term in which interest is payable in order to maintain the authorisation.

The term in which interest is payable expires on one of these events:

1: Return of the coin (and refund of the reserve deposit), which cancels the coin;
2; Default on the interest, which cancels the coin and does not redeem the reserve deposit;
3: Use of the coin to make one of the Mandatory Purchases, up to or exceeding the value of the reserve deposit: this does not redeem the reserve deposit and the coin is permanently added to the money supply;
4: An act of war against the Martian colony, which cancels all of the identified holder's coin without redemption.

The mandatory purchase is a feature of all national currencies: there is something that you must pay, and you can only pay it in the specified currency, and it's almost always fines and taxes.

There are, of course, no taxes in ElonGrad... But a lot of rents, like air and power, and *leasing* real-estate on Mars.

And yes, your colony-development mandatory purchase, too:

"MuskCoin is required in payment for cargo capacity on Earth-to-Mars shipping"

This gives the coin most of the things it needs for it to be a stable store of value, with a strong linkage to economic growth...

...In an economy dominated by the feudal rents to the God-Emperor Elon.

I suspect that it would be the currency of the ruling aristocracy, and of shipping companies, and of the de facto owners of a workforce who would be paid in company scrip that they can only spend their owner's food, accomodation, and air. But that's another question entirely...

Maybe the God-Emperor awards every citizen born on Mars One Elon from the Imperial Treasury, held in trust until they reach the age of eligibility to take the loyalty oath.
.

8:

So MuskCoin is basically a tech equivalent of yuan (renminbi)? It's basically how pretty much every closed economy works right now, no need for blockchain at all.

You just make sure that the movement of currency is controlled by the central bank (by requiring all transactions to be settled via correspondent accounts in the central bank).

There are well known benefits and drawbacks of this method (look up "the impossible trinity").

9:

It's not "proof of work", it's "proof of being on Mars" no?

Correct.

(Which was also the "Neptune's Brood" angle: if you want to create money using the debt incurred founding an interstellar colony, the money needs to be backed by some evidential proof that the colony exists.)

10:

It's basically how pretty much every closed economy works right now, no need for blockchain at all.

You can't run an extra-planetary colony's internal economy on a floating currency borrowed from another planet: imagine if the Greek government debt crisis of 2009-2017 had been aggravated by everyone in Greece being required to pay for their oxygen in Euros!

Almost by definition, the Martian economy cannot be freely balanced/exchangable with the Earth economy within anything like a human lifespan.

11:
Some of you have read Neptune's Brood, right? Shortlisted for the 2014 Hugo award, and, ahem, currently on offer for $4.99 as an ebook (North American edition only, sorry British folks).

It is just adorable that you believe that, because we have read a book, we will actually remember every highly technical concept described therein.

:-)

12:

Let's be a bit more direct, here:

"MuskCoin is required in payment for cargo capacity on Earth-to-Mars shipping"


MuskCoin is required in payment for shipping a serf to Mars. It is, among other things, an advance payment for the real-estate and the air.

13:

I'm going to call bullshit on the Martian desert real estate scam before it goes further. The US desert, and probably Australia and every desert in the world, is full of failed real estate ventures. It's not just desert, either. The proverbial Florida swampland is another example. Furthermore, Musk knows this, because he set up his battery factory in Reno, one of the big homes of these failed dreams.

Land on Mars is worthless, because it's difficult to get there and largely valueless unless it can be mined for something or a habitat can be built on that. With the Outer Space treaty, it's difficult to even give it away.

Mars has one inalienable asset colonists can use: distance from Earth. It also has one killer market: offshore financial services. Most offshore financial centers will be gone by the end of the century: they're islands, and there's over a meter of sea level rise already locked in that's going to wipe out most of those little port cities and the financial industries that their island economies now depend on.

Mars doesn't have this problem. All Musk has to do is copy, say, the Cayman Islands model of governance, and he's got a way to pay for the colony, using MarsBucks to generate foreign exchange. He needs terrestrial money to pay for all the stuff that has to be imported to Mars. The ultra-rich and those wanting secure record storage or whatever need Mars as the provably secure center for all their trusts and so on. If those services can only be purchased in Marsbucks, the colony has a guaranteed source of terrestrial foreign exchange.

Note that this isn't a scam. Mars would have to be a scrupulously honest financial center, because Earth has a really, really big club with which to beat them into submission if they're caught cheating. At the same time, its distance from terrestrial tax agents makes it appealing to those who (like most of the super-rich) think tax is theft, and who arbitrage the differences among national financial regulations to secure their fortunes. And they have to exchange terrestrial money for Elons with which to purchase those services and secure their fortunes, so the Mars colony has a continual source of funding with which to purchase and ship stuff from Earth.

Actually, any off-planet colony could use this model to set up. Lunies, anyone?

14:

Um. It needs to be backed by a near-universal BELIEF that it exists, but the actual existence is secondary. There have been fairly recent examples of currencies backed by more belief than actuality, as shown by devaluations, and even of the converse. It's even clearer with tradable shares, which are a form of currency as far as their trading goes. I take your point that, without solid evidence, belief is something that can disappear overnight, though it can disappear even with that. I had difficulty with Neptune's Brood, as I don't understand the psychology of currencies even in the real world, but I am absolutely sure that the psychological aspects trump the accounting ones.

15:

Speaking of Bitcoins and creative financing concepts, the project to set up MS Satoshi as a center for such in the ocean off Panama didn't last long:

http://www.cruisetotravel.com/2020/12/20/satoshi-the-first-crypto-ship-is-sold-for-scrap/

Satoshi is still anchored near Panama according to https://www.cruisemapper.com/?imo=8521232

16:

Heteromeles @ 13

Yes, it was a nascent real estate scam.

Next to it a fiscal paradise seems like a piece of honest enterprise. But where do these fiscal angels stay, physically?

Do they pretend to be explorers, only working at money handling as a hobby in their spare time?

If the Japanese got away with killing so many of our brother whales by pretending to be scientists studying whales, can the Elonites pretend they're scientists too?

17:

So MuskCoin is basically a tech equivalent of yuan (renminbi)? It's basically how pretty much every closed economy works right now, no need for blockchain at all.

Except most Earth based economies can, to a basic degree, survive without trading with the rest of the world if their currency gets cut off.

As per the previous Mars discussion, any colony(ies) on Mars are going to be dependent on Earth for a long time - and that inherently means you need a way for Mars (whether people or the government) to pay for stuff on Earth, and if your lucky for people on Earth to buy stuff from Mars.

Having a regular currency that the governments on Earth could block is a planetary security risk - too easy for angry Earthlings to cut you off.

So you need something along the lines of Bitcoin (but without its negatives) that can't be controlled by governments.

18:

If Earth governments demand payment in 'real' currency, Elons would hold value only as long as enough people holding the latter believed that Elons were a good investment and Mars could buy enough of 'real' money to pay its bills. The same is true of 'real' currencies, as has been shown many times in the recent past with iffy currencies. No, they are not any less of a security risk for external transactions.

19:

JohnBierce
I'm pretty sure Musk wants to be a literal feudal lord, so he doesn't want anyone else owning property, merely renting from him.
This - spot on.
Services rendered get you payment in Elons. Service in feu, in fact.

mdive
Except most Earth based economies can, to a basic degree, survive without trading with the rest of the world if their currency gets cut off.
And the DPRK is doing really well, right now, or maybe not?
"Closed" economies simply don't work - at least if you are using instant money.
Elons might work, because, as Charlie says, it's "Medium Money"
Somewhat circular is this argument - I think I've missed something.

20:

It's worth reading a bit about how STAR trusts work in the Cayman Islands. One of the key bits is that at least part of the trust must be physically in the Cayman Islands. So yes, the Martian colony would support a cadre of lawyers, wealth managers, and accountants who were responsible for bringing in the imports the colony needed to survive and grow.

A folkloric/D&D version of this might help it make sense: basically, people using Martian financial services are hiding the hearts of their empires on Mars. Or, if you prefer, they're liches hiding their "phyllacteries" (apologies for the antisemitism), but these are caches of documents that define the existence of the lich. And that's what Mars would guard: caches of documents that hold the ownerships and the relationships among all the various trusts, corporations, charities, real property, and other holdings of a wealthy person or family on Earth. The super-wealthy wouldn't own the property--it would be owned via Mars. But they would control it via the trust relationship that was curated on Mars using Martian wealth managers. This is a critical difference, because you can't tax a relationship, or equally, sue to gain possession of a relationship.

And if you can only pay for the services of Martian wealth managers in Marsbucks, then you have to buy Marsbucks with terrestrial currency. That gives Mars the means of buying stuff on Earth. You could as easily make Marsbucks a standard-of-living-based currency, based on how much time wealth managers have available to manage stuff. That would incentivize the wealthy investing in Mars to grow the support needed to keep its financial sector working.

Is this idiot-proof? Of course not. The wealth management industry has been directly responsible for the rise of the super-rich over the last 40 years, and that's led to growing financial inequality and political instability around the world. Indeed, I think that a war on the rich needs to happen, just for Earth to become more sustainable. Moving the wealth industry to Mars probably won't stop that conflict from happening, but I can see it being pitched as a strategy to make it harder to redistribute wealth on Earth. Whether people would be willing to become martian astronauts and take the dangerous trip to Mars to basically be serfs for a Mars-based financial sector that services wealthy anarchs on Earth? That may be the ultimate sticking point of this whole venture.

21:

But any sufficiently large colony will eventually need to interact at a macroeconomic level with its neighbors

This is an assumption where "eventually" means "sometime before the Sun goes nova and/or the human race goes extinct". Even guessing a time in centuries would be tricky.

For a meaningful economic relationship to take place, the cost of transport needs to be relatively low compared to the price of goods at loading. Cost of production will then affect cost at destination, and regular economic theory holds. But if the cost at destination is almost all the cost of transport, and the cost of production is negligible, then there fundamentally isn't an economic relationship between the two end entities. Instead there are two entirely separate economic relationships between the transporter and the entities at either end.

The slave trade is your classic example of this. Trade goods (cloth, beads, tools, etc.) from Bristol were transported to West Africa, where they bought slaves. Slaves were transported across the Atlantic, where (in an entirely independent currency) they were sold and the proceeds used to buy cotton and sugar. The cotton and sugar in turn was transported back to Bristol, and sold. The cost to buy slaves in West Africa was not linked in any way with the price of trade goods in Bristol; nor was the cost to buy slaves linked with their sale price on the other side; and nor was the cost of cotton or sugar in Nassau or Charleston linked with their final price back in Bristol. In all three cases, the value of the import depended solely on the cost to get them to the other side, and on the current scarcity of supply (depending mainly on loss of ships). If only one ship made the voyage successfully and there wasn't going to, they could pretty much name their price at the other end.

This is the model we're going to be looking at for Mars. Mars may be generally self-sustaining, but when it comes to imports of anything that can't be manufactured in situ, the importer can basically name their price. If there are multiple importers then that introduces some competition, but otherwise not so much. In turn, imports are bought by selling exports - at a price decided primarily by the man with the spaceship.

This model only changed when container ships became large enough to amortise the cost of transport over enough stuff. It's hard to see this happening for interplanetary transport until space elevators are a thing, or any similar technology to reduce the cost of transport by orders of magnitude of orders of magnitude.

Of course there's going to be some knowledge-based working between the two planets, in the same way as we outsource software engineering round the world today. That's going to have significant limitations when you're looking at a half-hour round trip on a reply to a message, but it's not impossible. And in practise, the kind of work which can be outsourced to be done fully remotely needs a level of skill which generally you don't want to outsource, whereas what you actually want to outsource is anything human-intensive which needs people on the same planet. You certainly couldn't run a call centre from Mars. Mostly they are going to be on their own, apart from imports.

And in some irony, at least one of the importers is likely to be Amazon.

22:
After over 12 years in existence you still write BitCoin. You can't have bothered to care, which is disappointing.

I sure as Hell don't.

But I like that supervillain-style "which is disappointing". What dastardly punishment are going to inflict on me?

23:

Hetreomeles
So, what you need is a noble younger Prince & a feather from the Firebird ( How appropriate for a Mars-Journey! ) to slay the evil Kaschei?

The wealth management industry has been directly responsible for the rise of the super-rich over the last 40 years, Um. There was a previous set of SuperRich - in the period 1890-1905. IIRC Teddy Roosevelt dealt with them, didn't he? Could similar methods be used on our current iteration?

Graham
For a meaningful economic relationship to take place, the cost of transport needs to be relatively low compared to the price of goods at loading.
Really? The Silk Road(s) ran for over 1200 years, didn't they? ( If not longer )

This model only changed when container ships became large enough to amortise the cost of transport over enough stuff
Er... no, not the case.
I give you refrigerated sheep from NZ & Beef from S America to EUrope, post 1885 (ish)(

24:

An act of war against the Martian colony, which cancels all of the identified holder's coin without redemption.

That should probably be rewritten as "An act of war against the Martian colony by the coin-holder, or by any nation in which the coin-holder is a legal citizen." This makes it very difficult to have a popular war against the colony.

25:

I'd guess Charlie knows his market better than you do. I certainly remembered, and have even thought about the idea when I wasn't reading the book.

26:
I'd guess Charlie knows his market better than you do. I certainly remembered, and have even thought about the idea when I wasn't reading the book.

It's even more adorable if it's true.

:-)

27:

The wealth management industry has been directly responsible for the rise of the super-rich over the last 40 years, Um. There was a previous set of SuperRich - in the period 1890-1905. IIRC Teddy Roosevelt dealt with them, didn't he? Could similar methods be used on our current iteration?

The problem is one of scale, and I'll get back to it.

One of my more favorite tropes is how some of these fairy stories, like the Firebird, seem to be metaphorical references to the problems of dealing with monstrous nobles. After all, to a peasant, a royal charter is an inexplicably powerful document that "spells" out what some slimeball unqualified noble is given the power of life and death over some peasants who may have been living on the land for generations. Being too honest might be dangerous in that situation, but silly stories about dragons, ogres, and heartless magicians? How quaint and entertaining. And safe.

Anyway, back to reality. I agree that the gilded age was a direct precursor, as were many times before that (Rome, Hellenistic Greece, various dynasties, etc.). The current wealth managers, unfortunately, learned from what happened at the end of the Gilded Age, and set out under Reagan, Thatcher, and their ilk, to make sure that such wealth redistribution wouldn't happen again. We've now got a classic Red Queen race between regulators (or tax agents) and the wealth managers. And they're about evenly matched.

The scale problem is that the richest of the super-wealthy now are wealthier than a majority of nation-states on the planet. IIRC, Gates and Musk have wealth on the scale of Tanzania. That's a horribly warping situation, but (with the purported exemption of Gates) they don't actually own their wealth, they control it. So taxing them does almost nothing, because they don't actually have much personal money to tax or lose in a personal suit.

As for Mars or any other colony off-Earth, I'm just positing that they get set up to do what a number of tiny nations have already decided to do--throw in their lot with the super-wealthy, by offering them essential services and a government tailored to their needs. In some of the smallest cases, servicing even one or a few super-rich clients covers a good chunk of their economy. The distortion is that their clients' wealth is possibly an order of magnitude greater than the island's GDP, so you can guess who's making the rules and who is living under them.

28:

Uhh... You most definitely can run an economy this way.

You seem to be under misconception that currencies like renminbi are borrowed. They are not. They are simply fiat money that are worth what they are worth because everybody in China has to use them.

Your reference to the Greek crisis is misplaced. Their problem was simply NOT having their own currency and needing to invent it within days. Needless to say, it can be avoided with a bit of planning.

And market forces are still there. If you want to buy semiconductors from Earth then you need to offer people on Earth something in return. Land or feudal rights on Mars, launch services, reaction mass are examples of such commodities.

Then why would you even do muskcoin? Simple dollar/euro/yuan transactions are fine. Mars Authority can simply transfer dollars from their account in Chase Bank and buy semiconductors. Or they can put an entry into the land title database and accept a transfer in dollars from a would-be-feudal-lord. It's not like a 15-30 minute lag is a problem when orbital transfer is going to take a year.

And of course, internally Mars can use whatever monetary system it wants.

29:

The reason for creating Muskcoin is that you can get free-financing from the kinds of people who are currently buying Bitcoin or Etherium.

30:

Ahem: drive-by by BitCoin crank deleted; commenter banned. (He's been here once before, in 2015. Didn't have anything useful to say then, either.)

31:

More than not being deflationary, Muskcoin seems to be set up as intentionally inflationary.

If the thing you can primarily exchange Muskcoin for is transit to mars or livable real estate on mars (distinct from title to airless rock), it has an interesting relationship to inflation and deflation.

Humans to mars is supposed to get cheaper and cheaper, under the Musk plan, which creates inflation (one musk coin today is worth the huge amount of work it takes to get a human to mars, but a new musk coin tomorrow will still be worth that, even if the amount of work is less: Future money is less than current money)

On the other hand, livable real estate implies an industrial base capable of creating the same. I believe it only reasonable to expect that the ability of the economy on mars would grow to be more productive over time, which is again inflationary.

This all said, there are breaks on both inflationary forces. There's a bottom to how cheap travel can be, and there's only so much land on mars, let alone possible competition with Muskcolony for land.

32:

I need to re-read Neptune’s Brood now, so apologies if this contribution gets the "medium money" concept wrong. I only have the one-sentence Wikipedia description available right now.

Approaching from a different angle--for purposes of interplanetary exchange, or any exchange between sovereign jurisdictions, I think the main question is what currency dominates as the reserve currency for such trade.

Whether the reserve currency is U.S. Dollars as is true on Earth currently, or is Elons issued by a Mars government, becomes a question of real-world leverage. If Earth needs something from Mars or has to rely on Mars for interplanetary transport of something it needs, then Mars can dictate what currency must be used to acquire the good or the transportation. On the other hand, if Earth has its own ships and Mars can’t prevent Earth from extracting whatever it wants from other planets (I’m assuming rare earths or whatever), then Mars has no way to force interplanetary use of its currency.

So I think the development of "Elons" could be figured out without reference to crypto. Once the concept is figured out, bolting on crypto won’t change the scenario.

That said, I think the description of Elons is interesting–as you describe it, it doesn’t sound quite like a fiat currency; rather, it is a commodity-based currency, using Mars-land as the commodity. But land does not have the fungibility and divisibility of gold or other typical currency-backing commodities, so that creates a problem: is a given stash of Elons backed by valuable land or worthless land? How can one tell? And how many square centimeters of land equals one Elon?

Secondary problem: As described, one purchases Mars-land in Elons and then sells it to generate an exchange rate. What currency is that sale conducted in? If it’s Elons, the transaction doesn’t help in determining an exchange rate. If it’s not Elons, then Mars is conducting local transactions in a non-local currency–so why is that non-local currency of value on Mars? Who or what is backing that currency? If that currency works for transactions on Mars, then what need for Elons?

Re crypto in general: From a base-level "what is money?" perspective, crypto appears to be me to be no more than a fiat money with technological spangles intended to prevent counterfeiting and provide documentation of transactions. In its essentials it is no different from any other fiat money, in that its value is entirely dependent on (1) a social agreement to accept it as payment and (2), critically, confidence that the social agreement will persist far enough into the future to allow you to use your money--that is, unload your share of the "money" on somebody else--before the social agreement collapses.

Most fiat money is issued by a sovereign government, so the confidence that the "social agreement" will persist more or less equates to confidence that the sovereignty will persist. This anchors a government-issued fiat money into the real world, where such-and-such a group, the “government,” controls an identifiable set of tangible assets, and has weapons and people sufficient to protect the assets from pirates and similar creatively acquisitive types.

So: Rather than tying Elons to land, they could be issued simply as fiat currency by the Mars government. Confidence in the Elon rises and falls with general confidence that the Mars government will persist into the future. Again, so long as Mars has something that Earth wants and can’t get without going through the Mars government, Mars can impose its fiat currency as the medium of international exchange, and I think there is no need to tie it to land or any other commodity.

33:

"MuskCoin is required in payment for cargo capacity on Earth-to-Mars shipping, or for purchasing real estate on Mars."

There seems to be an implicit assumption: that MuskColony is the only colony on Mars, and/or alternately, MuskCoin is used by all Musk- and Not Musk- Colonies.

What happens when you get more than one group/country/corporation/religion establishing their own colonies and creating NotMuskColonies? I would also imagine the various colonies would also have varying levels of dependence on the their parent establishing group/country/corporation/religion back on earth, and/or establishing their own competing(?) currencies?

How are the "boundaries" and "interactions" between these various colonies established? How is "land" allocated - would it just be a "land grab"? Where would the most desirable locations be?

And how independant of MuskColony would the various NotMuskColonies be? How would/could they trade.

And I can't imagine a NotMuskColony would necessarily want to have to use MuskCoin for trades with OtherNotMuskColony or maybe even with trades with MuskColony.

And then there is the issue of enforecement and/or policing of any inter-colony rules...

I seem to recall many SF stories based around variations of this scenario.

34:

I keep thinking of the Helvetian War from David Brin's Earth.

What happens to the STAR trusts is they real estate they are based on briefly changes state and suffers a great increase in entropy?

35:

is they

Should be "if the". Sorry.

36:

In fact, the only "old earth" colonisation era scenario I don't see happening - based on what I understand about Mars - is the issue of the rights of indigenous natives...that we have discovered so far.

37:

Mars as a financial center for off shore (off planet?) banking is an interesting concept, but one aspect you should examine is the time it takes to communicate trade orders.

If you get a chance, read "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis telling the story of a $300 million project from Spread Networks that was underway in mid-2009—the construction of an 827-mile (1,331 km) fiber-optic cable that cuts straight through mountains and rivers from Chicago to New Jersey—with the sole goal of reducing the transmission time for data from 17 to 13 milliseconds.

Doesn't sound like much, but it gives traders a huge advantage:

https://www.npr.org/2014/04/01/297686724/on-a-rigged-wall-street-milliseconds-make-all-the-difference

"If I get price changes before everybody else, if I know a stock price is going up or going down before you do, I can act on it. If you're coming in to buy shares in Procter & Gamble and you think the price is 80 ... and I'm sitting there as a high-frequency trader and I know that the price of Procter & Gamble is actually lower — it's gone down [to] 79 — I can buy it [at] 79 and sell it to you at 80. So it's a bit like knowing the result of the horse race before it's run. ... The time advantage of a high-frequency trader is so small, it's literally a millisecond. It takes 100 milliseconds to blink your eye, so it's a fraction of a blink of an eye, but that for a computer is plenty of time."

Trouble is, there is no way of constructing a faster transmission system to Mars, which will always be 3 to 21 minutes depending on how close Mars is to Earth. The speed of light is absolute and everyone will have the same communication delay.

Or will they?

So here is the challenge. Sometime later this century Mars becomes the new Macau, an offshore banking and investment haven dealing in Muskcoin. What can you do as a predatory and unscrupulous Mars stock trader to get a time advantage over your rivals?

There would be enough incentive to drive research (both real research and fake research designed to con investors out of their money with the physics equivalent of snake oil) into FTL communications applying quantum theory and entangled states. Making a buck off of "spooky action at a distance".

(Yeah I know entangled states can't be used to transmit information, but still....)

38:

Re crypto in general: From a base-level "what is money?" perspective, crypto appears to be me to be no more than a fiat money with technological spangles
Please use the word "cryptocurrency" or "cryptocurrencies". Thanks! :-) (Your comment is interesting otherwise.)
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crypto
crypto noun
1 : a person who adheres or belongs secretly to a party, sect, or other group
2 : cryptography sense 2
crypto adjective
1 : not openly avowed or declared —often used in combination crypto-fascist
2 : cryptographic

Or, older school, cryptology:
Crypto 2021: 41st Annual International Cryptology Conference.

39:

What can you do as a predatory and unscrupulous Mars stock trader to get a time advantage over your rivals?
Occultations that block line-of-site transmission from Earth (or Mars) could provide opportunities for momentary advantage; a relay close in interplanetary space just off the blocked line of transmission would have an advantage over a closer relay.
A trader parked somewhere other than Earth (or Mars) would also have an advantage, and a trader on the Mars-facing side of the Earth (or vv) would also have an advantage.
A trader's autonomous AI agent could be parked wherever the speed of light advantage was maximized (probably local to Mars/Earth) It'd need to be a trustworthy (semi-)autonomous avatar of the Earth(Mars)-based trader though. And probably it in turn would need a faster (and dumber) agent local to the Mars(Earth) exchange :-)

Also, Mars and Earth are moving relative to each other. (Different inertial observers)


40:

Ok, two things first, to me, elons are explicitly for money laundering and wealth hiding.

Second, right, and eveyone gets paid in elons. Want to go back to Earth> Well, you have to pay all your debts in elons, and the exchange rate in this colony to day is... in other words, no difference than the classic company town, being paid in company scrip, and you won't like the Martian Pink-ertons visiting you.

41:

Mars as a financial center for off shore (off planet?) banking is an interesting concept, but one aspect you should examine is the time it takes to communicate trade orders.

That's not how offshore financial centers work. The better example is in Dead Lies Dreaming. But basically Alice and Bob have a billion dollars. Even the pitiful 37% US tax rate on their sauropodian income is considered unbearable, since their "billionaire friends" Clarice and Doreen have legally not paid taxes in years (scare quotes because billionaires classically have trouble with non-transactional relationships). So they set up a STAR Trust (aka a dynastic trust) in the Cayman Islands. I'm not going to go into the details, but they spend about a million dollars setting up a web of corporations, trusts, and non-profits all over the world. Their home in Beverly Hills is owned by a Taos LLC, whose board members are hirelings and ownership goes to a trust in Lichtenstein that in turn is a charitable arm of a trust in Mauritius that... etc. The STAR Trust in the Cayman Islands is at the center of this web, and it will, within certain limits, do what Alice and Bob tell it to do. Unfortunately, if Alice and Bob tell their trust to pay the $370 million tax bill that the IRS has hit them with, the trust tells them that they cannot, because Alice and Bob do not own the properties that generated that income, so they are not responsible. Indeed, their personal checking accounts only have a few thousand dollars in them. Does the Trust own the businesses that generated those profits? Oh no, that stuff has corporate owners from dozens, maybe hundreds of companies. Maybe they'd pay the tax bill, except that it's a business expense or charitable deduction for most of them.

That's what a STAR Trust can do. The dynastic part is that you can pass it on to your offspring, with orders about what benefits they receive and responsibilities they shoulder when they reach various milestones (graduating, marrying, spawning, etc, failing to send holiday cards to all the relatives...I'm not clear on what's not possible).

Now the problem things like STAR Trusts have is that they look very much like tax dodges, and so they have to employ lots of lawyers and lobbyists to make sure that some grumpy US Congress or Chinese Communist Party Secretary doesn't just declare them illegal on their soil. So it's a Red Queen race between the lawmakers trying to suck blood out of these particularly tumescent stones, and the wealth managers rearranging things so that they continue to protect their clients.

Why a Martian Financial Center? Well, as you noted, the communications transit time sucks, and furthermore it's hard to keep everyone and their pet hackers from spying on communications. Therefore, anyone who wants to investigate the details of a Martian Trust fund to find out whether it's completely legal needs to go to Mars. Possibly several times. Of course, the trust structure is created on Earth and shipped to Mars, but once there, the distance makes it more secure.

The other advantage is that it monetizes the thing Mars has in abundance: distance from Earth. Martians don't need to mine iridium or whatever, to make this work they just need to keep their communications and life support working to keep the wealth managers happy while the rest of the Martians get on with colonizing the planet.

Now obviously, if Earth's trillionaires are getting to be too much trouble with their untouchable Martian trusts, nation-states can threaten to cut off the Mars colony until they comply with certain regulations, leading to the cyberwar/Psywar version of Mutually Assured Destruction. That's a quid pro quo that might be useful to both sides: the super-rich get a modicum of financial security by having their documents out of reach of anyone but the most persistent tax man or lawyer, but they give up ultimate power on this planet to do so, because terrestrial authorities can make their trusts disappear into the Martian sands by cutting off trade.

The people who won't like this situation are those countries trying to set themselves up as Earth's next big offshore financial centers, as climate change destroys the small islands that fill that role now, along with Switzerland. My nominee for the next big offshore financial center is...England. So contemplate England and Mars competing with each other to service the super-rich on a solarpunk Earth. Could be interesting, in a Helvetian War sort of way.

If you want a good look at the wealth management sector, read Harrington's Capital Without Borders. It's eye opening, and it has very little to do with the stock market.

42:

"nation-states can threaten to cut off the Mars colony until they comply with certain regulations"

I'd be a bit careful about issuing threats. You threaten the Cayman Islands and you're completely safe.

Threatening Mars is more like threatening the USA. Mars has all the rockets, lots of rocks and lots of expertise in moving rocks around. Go to war with Mars and you'll lose. Mars would probably lose too, but not lose like Earth would lose. It would be very little effort for Mars to launch a hundred or a thousand autonomous missions to the Kuiper Belt. A small nudge out there and you've got a rerun of the late heavy bombardment. It might be decades before they arrived, but arrive they would.

Denying Earth access to space would be trivial. They're going to have thousands of starship v15 solar system tugs. Putting a few tens of thousand tons of gravel into an Earth polar orbit would be easy.

43:

Heteromeles @ 41 :"...because terrestrial authorities can make their trusts disappear into the Martian sands by cutting off trade."

I think that there is no risk that terrestrial authorities would cut off trade so easily because the only thing Martians would have to export to Earth would be relative intangibles like tax evasion and Science.

44:

Crack the Safe & others ...

AHEM
All money is "fiat" money - why does nobody notice this?
Gold is only valuable, because people believe it to be so - ditto Silver, or Cowrie Shells, or any other supposedly valuable medium of exchange.
They are "Counters" - all of them, actually.

45:

The is no lack of goldbugs even among supposedly serious economists.

Money is debt and debt is money and both are a social contract.

It is always hard to find people who really understand that.

46:

My nominee for the next big offshore financial center is...England.

That's the real end-game for the money men behind Brexit.

It is, of course, deeply stupid because it ignores the onrushing juggernaut that is climate change -- not to mention the fact that the ongoing flip to a post-carbon economy is going to destroy the fortunes of most of the coal/oil dynasties that power those STAR trusts.

A more subtle issue with "Mars as offshore financial centre" is that, if my assumptions about living conditions are correct, the first couple of generations of locally-born-and-raised Martians are going to be instinctively socialist and collectivist to a degree unfamiliar to the western billionaires backing the colony startup initiative. That's going to play as well with your idea of them being an off-planet banking hub about as well as banking worked for East Germany, ie. it totally didn't.

Finally, it assumes that the late-stage capitalism we are currently existing is some sort of end-stage of history and that nothing much is going to change in terms of our financial infrastructure. I think it's far more likely that civil wars, mass migration, agricultural destabilization, and strife are going to escalate during the climate change crisis until current late-stage capitalism is dead, probably replaced by some sort of green socialist futurist coalition vying with fascistic looters and death-cultists.

(Why green? Well, we're getting a collective lesson in that right now so I don't think it needs explanation. But green-futurist as opposed to paleo-green is the way forward, because nostalgic back-to-the-land environmentalism in a time of anthropogenic climate change is just doomed wishful thinking, and about a century too late to survive. And as for socialist, we're getting an object lession in why that's desirable care of COVID19. Viruses don't respect human boundaries -- not even inter-cellular boundaries, never mind inter-personal or inter-national -- and climate change is a similar existential threat.)

47:

Really? The Silk Road(s) ran for over 1200 years, didn't they? ( If not longer )...

This is exactly the model I'm talking about - it's a perfect proof of why things have to be that way.

The cost of manufacture of silk, spices or whatever was only linked to the cost of production close to the areas of production. The further away you went, the more it was linked to the cost of transport - and by the time you reached Europe, the price was literally whatever the transporter said it was. Spices in Europe were more expensive by weight than gold, and that had nothing to do with their production cost.

More than that, the Silk Road gives us perfect examples of how middlemen control that market. For the Silk Road, the Eastern end was run by Turks, Arabs and Jews; and the Mediterranean kingdoms/princedoms then put another chokehold on continued transport to the rest of Europe. It vastly enriched these middlemen, because at every step the middlemen could name their own price for those commodities.

But it didn't affect the economy of the producing countries particularly. So some of what they made went a bit further sometimes? Big deal. Most of what they made went locally, because transport costs. And at the far end, the only people who could afford it were nobles with enough disposable income, which again doesn't touch the local economy because there isn't enough of it to be significant.

So it's a perfect example of how small-scale trade routes allow individual traders to get rich, and introduce tiny quantities of trade goods to other markets, without having any effect on the economies of either end. In other words, exactly as Mars will be. Earth-produced goods on Mars will be as rare, and with a local value equally far away from their production value, as black pepper in the time of William the Conqueror.

I give you refrigerated sheep from NZ & Beef from S America to EUrope, post 1885 (ish)

Like I said, those demonstrate that foreign markets can only touch the local economy when the cost of transport is no longer significant compared to the cost of manufacture. Ships had a combination of steam and sails, making them efficient and reliable, and crossing oceans had become merely an unpleasant chore rather than a serious risk, so you no longer had to charge a price which amortised lost ships over the ones which made port.

They were also much, much bigger. Until Brunel, there was a prevailing school of thought that ships had to be smaller to be efficient. Brunel proved that the exact opposite was true. The result was a faster trip, ships no longer lost in rough conditions, less fuel used, and more cargo per trip. Like I said, we're looking at an orders-of-magnitude drop in transport costs, and that changes the economics of transport.

For your particular example of meat, they had refrigerators which were only different from our modern refrigerators by being driven from a steam engine. That concept had already been proved over shorter distances with refrigerated rail transport - which again is another perfect example of how geographically separated markets (think fisheries in Grimsby and consumers in London) can only be economically linked when transport costs become less significant.

This is the problem which interplanetary transport has though - how to make transport costs less significant compared to the cost of production. The rocket equation is always going to be a limiting factor until we can move past using rockets. That might be a space elevator, or it might be beamed power, or something else no-one's thought of yet. Fatima Ebrahani's plasma drive might be good for crossing the distance faster, but it doesn't look like it's going to get out of the gravity well.

48:

because nostalgic back-to-the-land environmentalism The British & certainly the English Green Party, who really are stupid.

Graham
Even now, Saffron is, weight-for-weight one of the most expensive substances on the planet ....
Correction: "For the Silk Road, the EasternWestern end was run by Turks, Arabs and Jews" ... the Eastern end was controlled by people in what is now Bangla Desh, China & Indonesia, with a side-order of Viet Nam.
You missed the point about refrigeration . It wasn't until industrial refrigeration became available ( Technical Advance ) that said transport was even possible.
P.S. I'm married to an expert on The Silk Roads in fact I'm wearing an Uzbek hat from Samarkand market as I type this.
One of the reasons I loathe the present government of the Han is that she was in Kashgar in autumn 2019 - before the brutality really kicked-off ... but even then, it was obvious to even privileged visitors ... & the Han simply didn't care that the Westerners could see this.
Until Brunel, there was a prevailing school of thought that ships had to be smaller to be efficient. Dispute that.

49:

It also ignores the fact that the reason that London financial service sector was so successful is that it was regarded as respectable, had effective control of several of the main tax havens, and was integrated with the EU. Brexit has changed the last, we know that the EU has been getting pissed off with Britain's tax havens and their money-laundering and similar shenanigans for some time, and the USA's policy will be to filch as much of that business as they can, especially as we are no longer useful as their fifth column in the EU. It won't happen overnight, but I am pretty sure that it will shrink from now on, even relative to other such centres.

50:

The Phoenicians imported tin from (probably) Brittany, and there was neolithic trade over quite long distances in western Europe. Many of the agricultural products imported from the third world to the UK cost more in transport than they do in production. All that is needed is that the product is in demand enough at the far end that it will pay for the total cost - trade is perfectly feasible even when the cost of transport dominates that of production.

And that claim about Brunel is complete codswallop. The reason that ships were limited in size is that they were all powered by sail, and the very large ones were absolute b*gg*rs to build, man and maintain. But there had been a gradual increase in size for centuries. Brunel took advantage of the new technologies, which is a different matter.

https://www.everything2.com/title/Four-Masted+Barque

51:

Sir,
I personally would not gamble on the old oil/coal dynasties dying at all. What is much more likely is that they turn into nuclear power dynasties, based upon thorium, uranium and quite possible ex-Cold War plutonium power generation. I would also expect a few specialist outfits to appear, based on particle bombardment reactors generating fast neutrons, the better to destroy long half-life sludge.

I would also strongly suspect that a lot more systems like the magnesium hydride/water fuel cell set-up will arrive, and start competing with pure energy storage systems.

I *would* be very ready to bet with you on BitCoin being a useless pile of rubbish that really, truly needs to be ignored until it is forgotten.

52:

On money:

In WWII POW camps cigarettes became currency. This article was written by an economist who happened to be in a German POW camp at the time, and so took a professional interest in what was happening. Worth reading, especially the bit about the arbitrage market between English and Polish inmates, and the later establishment of a paper currency backed by food.

After WWII the German Reichsmark collapsed and was replaced by cigarettes (plus some chocolate and a few other items, but mostly cigarettes). It was estimated that the average cigarette changed hands 100 times before someone smoked it.

I read once of a newly arrived American soldier in Berlin in 1946 who knew that cigarettes were valuable, but not how much. He arrived by train and needed a ride to the barracks. A taxi ride was typically 2 or 3 cigarettes. The soldier offered a driver a pack of 200. The driver shook his head. The soldier doubled that to 400. The driver nodded, took the cigarettes, and got out of the car leaving the keys in the ignition.

I've never yet heard a gold bug give a convincing explanation of why gold is valuable.

* Because everyone wants it. Why do they want it? Because its valuable.

* Because its yellow and shiny, so you can make jewellery out of it. But you can make jewellery out of shiny yellow plastic, but nobody wants that. Of course not: shiny yellow plastic isn't valuable. So that means we have gold jewellery because gold is valuable, not the other way around. (And of course most gold jewellery by weight is simply a handy way of carrying gold around).

* Because its useful for electronics. Umm, about 1% of the gold mined every year goes into electronics. Why is the other 99% valuable?

As far as I can tell gold is simply a price bubble that has lasted 5,000 years.

53:

Paul @ 52: "Umm, about 1% of the gold mined every year goes into electronics. Why is the other 99% valuable?"

India

https://www.investopedia.com/news/top-10-countries-highest-demand-gold-jewelry/

55:

Finally, it assumes that the late-stage capitalism we are currently existing is some sort of end-stage of history and that nothing much is going to change in terms of our financial infrastructure. I think it's far more likely that civil wars, mass migration, agricultural destabilization, and strife are going to escalate during the climate change crisis until current late-stage capitalism is dead, probably replaced by some sort of green socialist futurist coalition vying with fascistic looters and death-cultists.

This is fun to discuss/argue about, so let's start with some shared assumptions.

The big assumption is that Mars can be successfully colonized. Personally, I think this is unlikely, but we've beaten that to death already, and anyway, we're talking science fiction. The good news is that if we can reliably put people on Mars, we have solved many/all of our climate adaptation problems. Mars is an extension, not an escape hatch.

The big point I disagree with in your model is that an insular community will object to hosting foreign bankers. I spend probably too much time looking at how island communities work. They're communal and collectivist far beyond mainland groups, because everybody's in each others' business already. Yet islands, mostly former British colonies (Cook Islands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Singapore, etc.) are where most of the offshore financial centers got set up. There are a couple of things going on here. One is that insular collectivism in no way impedes strongly hierarchical societies. While there are a number of ways to arrange things, everybody more-or-less has to know their place (remember I'm talking about small islands here, not Australia). While everybody needs to be taken care of, a place like a Mars colony isn't going to work very well if the best life-support engineer only has as much say in governance as a two year-old or (worse) as much say as some demented jackass who thinks his last name is Drumpf...

A second thing is that the offshore financial centers are generally tiny, both in number of people and in economic power. To generate foreign exchange, they agree to host offshore finance. Generally this doesn't work out so well for the island, because there are a few rich people controlling the laws and institutions to protect their global fortunes, and there's the rest of the people who do what they're told. On the other hand, living on an island is generally about being a jack of all trades and dealing with recurring crises and shortages, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Now back to Mars: the colony has the central problem of surviving, which means to a first approximation it's a mining camp, mining the raw materials with which to make breathable air, drinkable water, stuff to build shelters, and so forth. Making this work at all will take a miracle, which is why being able to do it at all says so much about our ability to live on Earth.

There are three ways it can remain viable: one is to rely on essential imports until it (somehow) becomes self-sustaining, basically like an Antarctic science base, or a vanity project for a trillionaire. This probably isn't viable in the long term, unless a miracle happens. This is also why I think the Martians are utterly at the mercy of Earth. These people are basically living in the cross between the Moon and a seriously bad hazardous waste dump. The idea that "they own all the rockets" is laughable, especially given how hard it is to land anything big on Mars.

Another way is to not just mine for essentials, but to also mine for stuff to ship back to earth. This is pretty limited to elements that would bring more than $1000-10,000/kg, so we're talking about iridium and similar. These are going to be real hard to find, and so we're talking about something like that ghost town near Death Valley. Oops, I said the dirty work, Ghost Town. Going from mining rare shit to self-sustaining has turned out to be something our culture deeply, deeply sucks at. We're more of a rape and run gang, at least when it comes to the mining business.

The third option is a variant of the first: you get a group of people up there who want to build a life on Mars. You make that their principal mission, rather than mining shit to send back to Earth. But instead of having it be a vanity project, you find a way to pay for it. This is where building an off-planet financial center comes in. It brings in the foreign exchange, and ideally frees up the ecosystem builders to do their thing and grow the colony, without worrying about where the next iridium lode is and how to relocate everyone to go mine it and ship it off-planet. There are some serious downsides to this, notably that you're politics are going to be sock-puppeted by some seriously greedy and sociopathic creeps back on Earth, and they're going to force you to cram a bunch of otherwise useless professionals into the habitats and social structure. But it might work.

56:

Yes, I've been watching this...

"That's the real end-game for the money men behind Brexit."

It's one of the objectives, and it is apocalyptic for whatever remains of the economy, because it means that *all* cross-border transactions with the EU and the US will end up carrying the burden of the money-laundering and anti-corruption checks of trading with Nigeria, or Columbia... Or even North Korea and Sudan, if the EU and the US declare us to be a non-complying jurisdiction in the international regulatory effort against terrorist funding, sanctions-busting, tax evasion and money-laundering.

This also catches transactions with any third-country bank that wishes to maintain correspondent-bank status for trade with the EU and the US: it's very risky indeed - and very expensive indeed, with the source-of-funds and beneficial owner audit - to conduct transactions with banks in sanctioned or non-complying or non-cooperating jurisdictions.

This can be applied to an off-planet tax haven, as much as to an offshore one. If Mars doesn't do the mutual disclosures, beneficial-owners and source-of-funds checks, it will become extremely difficult and expensive to trade with them.

Note, also, that the tax havens and concealed-beneficiary 'Treasure Islands' in Britain's offshore territories no longer have the benefit of Britain's foot-dragging and veto powers against the EU's enforcement effort.

All this, and the clean end of the industry is being driven out by the Brexit fundamentalists who blocked a full negotiation of service-sector trading rights for Britain's post-brexit relationship with the EU.

All in all, it's turning out to an unexpected blessing, that my job on a London trading floor was Brexited to Dublin.

57:

Dynasties, with a few apparent exceptions, don't last more than a few generations. It's really worth tracking the wealth of families across a century. Most or all of the wealthiest families now were nobodies in the 1890s (gilded age), and this includes both the House of Saud and Vladimir Putin, as well as Gates, Bezos, and company. Even since 1995 there's been a lot of churn (e.g. https://digg.com/video/worlds-richest-people-chart-bezos-gates).

In the wealth management industry, there's even a standard introductory book that wealth managers buy by the box and hand out to new clients(Keeping it in the Family) to try to help families hold on to money and move it from generation to generation. It is the major problem the wealthy face, and quite honestly, most of them fail. One problem is that their heirs generally don't have their talents, while another problem is that the skills involved in amassing a fortune are a bit different from those of managing a fortune, and both involve being absolutely fascinated by the process of setting up systems to manage wealth, something most of us run away screaming from.

The really good example of this is the Trump family. Fred Trump was a creepy landlord who nonetheless was brilliant at making money in real estate. His heir, Donald, didn't have his father's brilliance at making money (he's lost more billions than he's made), so while he's a truly world-class grifter, he's managed to ruin just about everything he touched. His children? They don't have even Donald's skills.

But who will own the future? Like many of the people here, I hope there's massive redistribution of wealth, mostly because we need a lot of people innovating radically to solve their own problems, rather than the problems rich people are paying them to solve. However, I don't think the rich will go away quietly (see Trump's second impeachment, where he seems to have bought the cooperation of 40-odd Republican senators). In this regard, the 2008 financial crisis is particularly telling. There was a point in 2009 when big banks like Wells Fargo had completely lost track of who owned their mortgages. They'd bundled and sliced the ownerships so much that the simple demand to "produce the paper," e.g. demonstrate that the company demanding the mortgage payment actually owned the mortgage, was getting people out of their mortgages, because at least some of the big banks had totally lost track of who owned the mortgages they took money in on and were defaulting on.

What happened next educated me. The big banks weren't liquidated at this point, even though they were beyond screwed up. So far as I can tell, the feds allowed their assertions of mortgage ownership to stand unchallenged. Those assertions became their assets, and they retained their fortunes.

That's a critical lesson about money and power. Remember, billionaires don't own their fortunes, they control them via things like offshore STAR trusts. Theoretically it's easy to deprive them of their fortunes by destroying the documents that say what they own. In practice, as we see with Trump routinely, mere assertion that a rich person actually owns something and is therefore powerful are often taken as fact. And that social dynamic is the hardest to break.

That's why I suspect that, if there is a massive and more equitable redistribution of resources, it's going to be impeded by the Trumps of the world (and the Bezoses, and Saudis, and Putins, and Chinese tycoons) asserting their power and daring everybody to prove them wrong. And for some, it's going to work.

The final thing to realize is that the people who really love STAR Trusts are newly wealthy Chinese business tycoons. If I had to bet on the next wave of super-rich, I'd look at them first.

58:

Eh. the Problem with nuclear is that it has huge startup costs -- you have to build the reactor, turbogenerators, and grid interconnect before you can sell a single kilowatt-hour of juice. (Let's ignore waste disposal or reprocessing -- that's largely a political problem, a side-effect of the availability of cheap ore and the issues of securing a fuel reprocessing chain against leakage of weapons-grade material.)

In contrast, PV power can be rolled out incrementally in fractional-kW panels. Yes, you can build big-ass hundreds-of-megawatts wind farms or solar farms, but they can also be distributed, installed closer to demand sinks (so less overheads for long range grid transmission), and so on.

The issue we haven't cracked yet is battery backup for demand peaks that coincide with production troughs, but there are promising technologies on the way. I especially note that lithium ion battery prices have been in exponential decline for a decade now, and lithium ion phosphate batteries are waiting in the wings: cobalt-free, safer, double the number of charge/discharge cycles, and so on. Never mind stuff like electrolyte flow batteries, which are bulky and heavy (hence unsuitable for vehicle use) but allow much higher capacity by running on a reservoir of liquid electrolyte which can be recharged over time.

As the lead time for new nuclear plants in the west is one the order of 1-2 decades, I suspect improvements in battery tech (never mind the plummeting price of PV panels) will make new nuclear projects uneconomical except for niche applications in the very near future. Likely niches: breeding radioisotopes for medical and industrial applications, possibly "burning" existing high level waste to extract energy while reducing the long-term waste pile, naval prime movers (both military and, possibly, bulk container freight), and use above the 55th parallel e.g. for combined heat/power in arctic conditions.

59:

Yes. Even if it works, which is unclear, and was my point in #49.

60:

The issue we haven't cracked yet is battery backup for demand peaks that coincide with production troughs, but there are promising technologies on the way. I especially note that lithium ion battery prices have been in exponential decline for a decade now, and lithium ion phosphate batteries are waiting in the wings: cobalt-free, safer, double the number of charge/discharge cycles, and so on. Never mind stuff like electrolyte flow batteries, which are bulky and heavy (hence unsuitable for vehicle use) but allow much higher capacity by running on a reservoir of liquid electrolyte which can be recharged over time.

In Southern California at least (and I think Australia), they've already commissioned a battery peaker plant using LiON batteries. This was seen as a cheaper, more responsive option than having a natural gas plant that took time to come up to temperature. The goal was to take the solar/wind surplus from midday and to hold it until it was need at peak demand (4 pm-9 pm). Piping and storing gas isn't a trivial problem either.

The problem California faces right now is that our grid isn't well-designed to move metric butt-tonnes of electrons around, especially between Los Angeles and the rest of the state (there's one line to do this...). That's going to take a lot of finagling, because some companies decided to not keep their equipment in good repair and as a result sparked a couple of billion-dollar wildfires, so building a bigger grid in the face of longer wildfire seasons is going to be interesting. But yes, I suspect that peak demand is going to be met by storing electrons, rather more than burning fuel.

I'd also point out that hydrogen's not entirely out of the running. There's a new "powerpaste" magnesium goo that purportedly has ten times the energy density of lithium batteries, stored as hydrogen in the paste. It might be feasible to set up a semi-closed loop of water electrolysis to regenerate the powerpaste and use it in a peaker plant. But we'll see.

61:

Sorry, but everything you said is wrong.

First: go out to the Kuiper Belt. Yep, and by th time you get out there, and do your nudge, and it comes in, it's now five or ten earth-years later, and the war's been over for years, unless this is a Doomesday device, it`s useless.

Second: most of the billionaires or trilionaire will still be on Earth, enjoying their ill-gotten gains, not on a primitive colony... meaning if you were doing it for them, they're shooting themselves in the head.

Fourth... Mars has more missilesrockets than Earth> Really/ How many nukes does it take to sanitize the colony... in a *lot* faster time than for that asteroid to get here. Mars is a *lot* farther than the moon, nor do you have Mike's mass driver on the lunar surface.

Finally, , you *really* think that there would not also be a Russian, Chinese, and possibly Indian colony on Mars?

Oh, right, and there's no US agents or military in the colony to havee something to say?

62:

I *really* hate chrome. Mods, please feel free to delete the duplicte of my last post. [Fixed]

I posted once... and it came back, then told me to log in again to cmt.

And I'm on chrome, because I'm on my tablet. Because I'm in the hospital. Because, starting with a telemed last week on Tuesday, when I said to my doc, "By the way, I`vee been meaning to mention to you", which led to a stress test last Fri,, which led to cardiac catheterizaton yesterday, which led to me scheduled for open-heart surgery tomorrow.

But that wasn't what I was going to say. What I was going to say was ALL the big oil companies just posted major losses, some for the first time, ever, including Exxon. Combination of C-19, and renewables starting to eat their lunch.

63:

EC
What people may not have noticed is that (apparently) Tax Regulations have changed recently, so the "Offshore Tax Havens" supposedly under Brit control are now much more tightly regulated than they were, say, 5 years ago.
Burt publiuc perception has not yet caught up.
Or so my tame Tax Expert tells me.
You noticed the rubbish about Brunel, as well - good. BUT.
It wasn't that they were sail-powered, it was the too-great flexibility of any wooden ship that did it.
Anything too long would simply come apart ... but the moment you could have a wrought-Iron frame for the structure, you had a whole new, much larger frame to hang your ship on to.

Paul the ORIGINAL reason for Gold being vlauable, aprt from "SHINY!" of course was that ... it did not corrode or oxidise.
It kept its appearance & integrity. And was therefore a very useful "counter"

Nile
See above - what I said about "Brit ex-colony" non-tax-havens?

H
mere assertion that a rich person actually owns something and is therefore powerful are often taken as fact
"The Million Pound Note" ( Mark Twain, I think )

Charlie
In a way, I hope youi are correct about massive battery back-up.
The UK could do this easily, because, even now, our Grid is pretty solid & "they" are talking about upgrading & how to pay for it, unlike, say the USA.

[ Hint: I intend to bite the bullet & keep the Great Green Beast - hoping that in about 5 years time, it will be economic to replace the diesel with a battery conversion in the same vehicle. They are prohibitively expensive, right now, but like all of this stuff, prices are dropping. ]

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

whitroth
REALLY good wishes for your surgery.
And I do hope it's covered by your US Insurance?
Good luck, mate.

64:

I've been getting the same kind of lessons. One of the things that's obvious is that the sane Republicans hate Trump and would love to be without him. If they all got together and voted for impeachment, and mutually agreed to encourage various Attorneys General to follow up on charges against Trump and his followers, (and have the FBI investigate the death threats) they'd devastate the we-are-seriously-fucking-nuts wing of the Republican Party, have another 40-50 years to successfully grift, wouldn't have to fight civil war the crazies are trying to start (note to self - purchase an assault-rifle and ammo, also remind Heteromeles that we've already read the posts on non-violent resistance,) and they'd regain the trust of Mr. and Mrs. "Please don't change anything important by pulling off a coup."

Instead, they've just about guaranteed that they will alienate the quieter side of their base and look like utter wimps a year from now, when all they have to do is band together and send the right signals. It's absolutely astounding to me that they don't get this as either individuals or as a group, or worse, that they do get this and are afraid to take the one collective action which might result in their preservation...

65:

And I'm on chrome, because I'm on my tablet. Because I'm in the hospital. Because, starting with a telemed last week on Tuesday, when I said to my doc, "By the way, I`vee been meaning to mention to you", which led to a stress test last Fri,, which led to cardiac catheterizaton yesterday, which led to me scheduled for open-heart surgery tomorrow.

Lots of luck, and looking forward to hearing from you again after you get home again.

66:

Oh shit. Best of luck with the surgery. Or should I say "Break a Leg?" Anyway, I'll be sending good vibes your way!

67:

Yes, assault weapons are fun. The two things I'd note are that you'd damn well better figure out your firing lines and who's downrange before you buy a rifle that shoots right through regular drywall. If there are too many people downrange you don't want to hit, get a shotgun.

Second, note that we've got two mobs of "nutters," the Right wing authoritarian terrorists, and the Black Lives Matter and people of color movement. One of those is in the White House now, and they aren't the violent insurrectionists. That's the political power of guns in a nutshell right now.

Otherwise, we agree on the Republicans.

68:

You are partially right, but are wrong that they are 'much' more tightly regulated. As Nile said, the UK blocked the EU from what it really wanted to do, and those havens did the bare minimum necessary to conform (and, even then, the British government had to come the heavy on them to do that). The City of London isn't much better, which is why it is the go-to location for 'respectable' tax avoidance and anonymity. If the EU imposes the regulations that it wanted to, the UK and those havens will have to decide whether to conform or be treated as untrustworthy.

Similarly, while the USA isn't going to enforce such regulations on itself (Texas would scream, for a start), it wouldn't be the first time it has required its vassal states to obey rules that it ignores. And, as I said, it's unclear we are useful to them in that area any longer.

70:

Also, best of luck, you're much more interesting on this side of the grass.

71:

Mark Twain was the correct answer.

72:

Mark Twain was the correct answer.

Indeed. Now in the public domain.

73:

Best of luck. (Or should that be best of medical skill and resources?)

74:

This is ridiculous. It'ls been about an hour and a half, I was watching the impeachment trial, Isign in... and no comment box. I went back, found the last time I typed in a comment, delete that, and I can post.


Anyway, thanks, all. I'm on Medicare, with Medicare Advantage Plus, so it should all be covered... esp. since the A+ is via Kaiser-Permanente, which is an old-style HMO.

75:

Troutwaxer
Criminal investigation into IQ45 in Georgia ....
And, we hope, many more to follow.
Odds on Drumpf going to jail on at least one of the many charges that will be brought?

76:

Ah, best of luck anyway. Hope it goes well and you have a speedy recovery.

77:

Whitroth,

Best of luck. Get well soon.

78:

Oh shit. Best of luck, hope it all works out.

79:

"It wasn't that they were sail-powered, it was the too-great flexibility of any wooden ship that did it."

And the amount of crew they needed. Those of us who have read The Last Grain Race will be well aware that once it became possible to use iron/steel for pretty well everything except the actual sails, you could reliably expect to sail a pretty big ship non-stop to the other side of the world and back with a crew small enough to stretch credibility.

80:

"And as for socialist, we're getting an object lession in why that's desirable care of COVID19."

Indeed we are, but it is being rejected and denied hard on all levels from government to individual.

81:

Bill Arnold at 38:
Please use the word "cryptocurrency" or "cryptocurrencies" (instead of "crypto").

Quite right--apologies for getting sloppy.

82:

There were lots of technological developments that came together in a very short period, and changed shipping out of all recognition. Galvanisation was another - while wrought iron handles seawater fairly well, most steels most definitely do not!

83:

Best wishes to you.

84:

It isn't impossible that some (rich) country will have an attack of sanity, and develop nuclear power stations that are a lot cheaper and quicker to build based on radically different approaches (assuming that is possible), but there has been no sign of it in half a century. It's certainly not the way to bet.

85:

Greg Tingey at 44:
All money is "fiat" money - why does nobody notice this?
Gold is only valuable, because people believe it to be so - ditto Silver, or Cowrie Shells, or any other supposedly valuable medium of exchange.
They are "Counters" - all of them, actually.

I agree to the extent you are pointing out that value is a social construct, rather than arguing that all money is fiat.

A "counter" in your sense I would call a "unit of account," meaning simply an arbitrary unit that is used as a universal exchange metric. So an apple is worth 10 Blorgs, an orange is worth 8 Blorgs, and all that really means is that the ratio of value between apples and oranges is 10:8. Doesn't matter if anyone ever has an actual Blorg or if a government actually issues a Blorg as a currency.

I understand "fiat currency" to specifically mean a currency that is not tied to a commodity. A currency issuer ties its currency to a commodity by declaring a set exchange rate and promising to always redeem the currency with that commodity at that rate: 113 Blorgs per ounce of gold, for example. This sets up specific dynamics in the use of the currency because the issuer has self-imposed limits on the number of Blorgs it can issue. The choice of commodity also has important effects because the value of that commodity will affect the value of Blorgs.

Thus your point as I take it: gold is only valuable because people deem it so (for reasons that are indeed obscure and kind of arbitrary I think). If people stop valuing gold, that will decrease the value of commodity-Blorgs as well, because of the express linkage.

But I distinguish a "fiat currency" from a "commodity currency" by it not being tied to a set exchange rate to any commodity. The dynamics of using a fiat currency differ from those of a commodity currency. The issuer is not expressly constrained in the number of fiat-Blorgs it can issue and Blorgs are not linked to the social value of gold, but if Blorgs are issued too freely and in too great a quantity, the issuer risks damaging the social confidence that Blorgs are going to still be worth as much later.

86:

On one hand, I'm very hopeful that Trump will go to jail. On the other hand, I doubt it will happen in Georgia. on the gripping hand, I don't think I can easily assign a probability - see my conversation with Heteromeles above.

87:

You may want to clarify your thoughts on what a commodity currency being tied to a commodity means.

My understanding is that it's roughly equivalent to a fixed-value stock share. Say a hemp-backed "hemp-buck" is worth a dollar's worth of hemp, whatever that is. The amount of hemp-bucks you can morally issue is based on how much hemp you have grown, again under a standard notion of how much hemp you can get for a hemp-buck, and the idea is that if someone gives you one of your hemp-bucks, you'll give them a buck's worth of hemp (this is he redeemable in gold feature on old bills).

So if you flood the market with hemp-bucks and don't have enough hemp, your money is worthless and you go bankrupt.

This differs from a stock share in that the value of a hemp-buck stays a buck, and the amount of hemp-bucks in circulation are based on how much hemp you have. A share of your hemp harvest fluctuates based on how much hemp you have at any harvest. Note that new hemp-bucks needed to be issued after every harvest and old ones devalued, or there will be problems.

The fiat currency is when some artist signs your hemp-buck and says that his piece of artwork is now worth one hemp-buck, if someone wants it. It can't redeemed from you for hemp, because it's now a work of art. This is fiat money, which has a value because everyone wants it to have a value. Unlike your hemp-buck that's based on how much hemp you just harvested, the artist's version can be copied billions of times, and so long as everyone accepts that it has the same value by fiat, it does.

There are both good and nasty reasons to use either of these, as well as to use monetary value of items as ways to trade them without money changing hands at all.

88:

How much hemp can a hempbuck buck?

89:

lithium ion phosphate batteries are waiting in the wings

In the sense that they're widely commercially available and widely used, but not at industrial scale because the economics still favour bomb-style chemistry.

electrolyte flow batteries, which are bulky and heavy

Actually not really, capacity for capacity. Now that RedFlow have got the cell membrane size down/power capacity up their units are not noticeably bigger than the equivalent battery except in the sub-5kWh range where they don't make much sense anyway, and once you go past about 20kWh batteries are bigger. It's the power output that's the problem, you need ridiculously large membrane areas to supply the 50kW or whatever that cars want.

But for someone just trying to run a house, even a large house, the flow battery just sits in the generator/battery/inverter shed and replaces the battery. If you're switching from lead you're generally going to get more storage *and* more power in the same space, and it'll be lighter but you won't care (you are not going to grind 50mm off the thickness of the concrete slab now that you don't need it). If you're switching away from lithium-cobalt batteries it'll just have more storage and possibly less power (depending on the exact configuration - if it's a Tesla Powerwall you'll probably have more power, if it's a DIY setup possibly less, because you *can* discharge a 20kWh LiPo battery in an hour, but very few home systems are set up to allow that - 20kW inverters are big an expensive)

FWIW a friend is currently going through this process, and is having to carry the old lead batteries up to the main road because the recycling guy doesn't have a 4wd with crane that can carry the ~2000kg of batteries (driveway is strictly 4wd and company cars only). But in that shed we're looking at a change from ~20kWh of storage and ~4kW of power to ~100kWh of storage and ~6kW of power (the latter because that's all he wants, he could get up to ~20kW but he has insulation and solar hot water so doesn't need the power). 6kW lets him run a 10A/2.5kW electric car charger while not worrying about power consumption in the house.

90:

That's a useful explanation for me, thanks.

91:

Been watching the impeachment trial. Sorry about jumping the 300 line, but the more I see, the more I feel that two things put us where we are: a ton of folks working to register and get out the vote, and the people who did... and even the Republicans, including, of all people Pence, who turned around and fulfilled the desperate hope of some of us,,, and upheld their Oath.

Thanks again to all. I understand they're coming to get me at 06:00, and I'm supposed to get started around 10:30, and coming out sometime mid-afternoon.

92:

Hydro‑Québec has realised that their hydro electric power dams are also storage devices. Before, they just had surplus power (Bitcoin mining opportunities:-). With wind power, they have even more reliable power, green power, which they may now be able to sell to the USA now that policies are changing there.

They are now investing serious money in wind power: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/apuiat-dam-wind-power-1.5903334

93:

Heteromeles at 57:
The big banks weren't liquidated at this point, even though they were beyond screwed up. So far as I can tell, the feds allowed their assertions of mortgage ownership to stand unchallenged. Those assertions became their assets, and they retained their fortunes.

AARGH yes. You are so right. I practice law in Seattle, do a lot of real estate work among other things, and watched (and burned with anger) as things went down in 2007-2008 including the collapse of our hometown grifter Washington Mutual, and all the banking industry's moves after the general collapse.

Used-to-be-Basics: For historical reasons, Promissory Notes are basically magic, operative documents, almost like privately-issued money. An original Promissory Note is a promise to pay, a promise that the Maker will make payments on the specified terms to the Holder. If you get a loan from a bank to buy a house, you sign a Promissory Note that contains the terms of your loan. It might be called a Repayment Agreement or something like that, but it's a Note. And a Note is subject to elaborate rules of endorsement and transfer under the Uniform Commercial Code to make it "negotiable" (transferable) to others. These rules generally require writing specific words of endorsement somewhere on the physical Note.

Because a Note is such a powerful instrument, and the writing on the original Note has such massive consequence, the basic rule in court has always been: If plaintiff wants to enforce a Note, the plaintiff MUST produce the original. No ifs, ands, or buts. A copy is no good because the original Note could have had an endorsement or other writing added that changes its enforceability. (By the way, NEVER sign two copies of a Note. Each original signature is independently enforceable.)

Enter the asinine securitization of home mortgages, the massive grift of the banking industry, and the inevitable collapse of 2007-2008. Years before, in the process of securitizing loans, many banks had stopped following the law of endorsements and negotiability: it was just too much trouble to keep up with the paperwork because it slowed down their ability to churn the debt. They had some workarounds and good-enough-for-now stopgaps but none of it actually complied with the decades of law regarding transfer of negotiable instruments.

When the fit hit the shan (h/t Zelazny), and the banks suddenly wanted to enforce Notes and foreclose on debts, many were unable to come up with the original. Some judges enforced the law–though many did not because banks are too stinkin’ powerful and judges simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept that a bank wouldn’t get its way in court.

But those few instances where a bank didn’t get their blood money, and a borrower got away without paying, made the moneyed class clutch their pearls in horror. So the banks got the law changed almost everywhere, to allow them to enforce Notes without producing the original. The law is not usually so blunt about it, but a lot of the complexity of what proof is required, or what might allow a bank to be the “holder” of a Note and able to foreclose on a mortgage, amounts to never having to produce the original Note.

Which means that a bank, through its own malfeasance and neglect, who might not actually own a Note because its own records aren’t complete and it can’t really be sure that it didn’t transfer the Note to a bundler for securitization, might nevertheless enforce a debt that is in fact owed to someone else.

Some jurisdictions got pissed at this, and changed the law to emphasize that the original Note must be produced.

The result: Banks now often include, in their loan agreement, a clause that requires the borrower to SIGN A NEW NOTE if the bank loses the original. So the burden of a bank’s incompetence falls on the borrower, and subjects the borrower to the risk of double enforcement.

94:

Good luck. Wishing you well.

95:

Moz
So what you describe is obviously commercially available in AUS (?) right now?
Cost?
Seems to mean that I could start thinking about battery back-ups here (UK) within a year & certainly less than 5?
And, of course batteries for cars, too, of one sort or another.

Crack the Safe
ALL banknotes are "promissory Notes" - or they are in the UK at any rate - it says so right on the tin.
See also: "Bills of Exchange" ( Cheques are one form of these )
... "Signing a NEW note"? You WHAT?

96:

Or even North Korea and Sudan, if the EU and the US declare us to be a non-complying jurisdiction in the international regulatory effort against terrorist funding, sanctions-busting, tax evasion and money-laundering.

That would utterly fuck the UK because it would mean their foreign assets being stolen "held" by the US until an agreement was reached. And you just can't be an effective tax/wealth haven if customers can't move money in and out easily. The whole reason the City of London is full of empty million pound apartments is that those can easily be sold whenever the beneficial owner needs cash. If getting that cash meant waiting for a brief thaw in relations between the UK and EU/US so the money would be released that negates the whole point of the operation.

It also makes operating that service using crypto-currency backed by liabilities on Mars somewhat problematic. It's not as though you can quietly slip off Earth in your private space-yacht or space-jet to enjoy the fruits of your crimes labour when things go to shit here.

97:

Um
Is Mathematics real of itself, or is it an invention?
BBC meets the Laundry, maybe

98:

Is Mathematics real of itself, or is it an invention?

When I was an undergraduate at Cornell I heard a lecture by a professor of philosophy (probably Max Black) who explained that whenever anyone asked him whether something was real, he always gave the same answer. The answer was "Yes." The tooth fairy is real, the laws of physics are real, the rules of baseball are real, and the rocks in the fields are real. But they are real in different ways. What I mean when I say that the laws of physics are real is that they are real in pretty much the same sense (whatever that is) as the rocks in the fields, and not in the same sense (as implied by Fish19) as the rules of baseball -- we did not create the laws of physics or the rocks in the field, and we sometimes unhappily find that we have been wrong about them, as when we stub our toe on an unnoticed rock, or when we find we have made a mistake (as most physicists have) about some physical law. But the languages in which we describe rocks or in which we state physical laws are certainly created socially, so I am making an implicit assumption (which in everyday life we all make about rocks) that our statements about the laws of physics are in a one- to-one correspondence with aspects of objective reality. To put it another way, if we ever discover intelligent creatures on some distant planet and translate their scientific works, we will find that we and they have discovered the same laws.

Steven Weinberg, Sokal's Hoax

I am confident that the final sentence of this paragraph also holds for mathematics.

99:

It's invented. In universities they most certainly should not place it with the Science departements.

Science is about going off to explore Mars. Mathematics is about paying the bill to go to Mars.

100:

I have no idea what's going on in the UK, but they're available in Oz, I see ads online for South Africa and the USA, so I suspect those systems are at least technically available in the UK (if you flaunt a big enough wad of cash you can get all sorts of things).

This local comparison site lists battery chemistry and a l;ot of them are LiFePO4... https://www.solarquotes.com.au/battery-storage/comparison-table/

https://specializedsolarsystems.co.za/product-catalogue/ac-solar-power-solutions/complete-residential-grid-interactive-hybrid-solar-systems/residential-complete-grid-interactive-hybrid-solar-system-5kva-12kwhrs-per-day-with-lithium-iron-phosphate-4kwhrs-70-dod-battery/

United Arab Emirates...
https://powernsun.com/hive-lifepo4-48v-7-4kwh-144ah-battery

The DIY community is full of people buying cells and BMS's to build setups, but it's now relatively trivial to buy complete batteries and prices are competitive with LiPo. I just upgraded my shedroom system to a 100AH LiFePO4 battery and that was ~$580 delivered when it was going to cost me ~$550 to get cells and BMS from AliExpress. I think the Aus warranty is worth at least $30 :)

A lot of local solar installers who sell separate-component battery systems offer LiFePO4 batteries from

101:

"unless this is a Doomesday device, it`s useless"

It's a doomsday device.

Threatening to cut off Mars is threatening to kill everyone. When it's being used to enforce "regulations" with zero cap on what those regulations might be, and no voting, representation or say on the part of Martians then that's slavery as the alternative. People react badly to "it's slavery or death" as options.

"most of the billionaires or trilionaire will still be on Earth, enjoying their ill-gotten gains"

Just like the Kings of Europe who founded the colonies. So the billionaire is either doing the enslavement or someone else is doing it and the billionaire can't stop them. "BTW, you're all my slaves now" sort of erodes loyalty, as does "I guess you're on your own now, good luck"

"How many nukes does it take to sanitize the colony... in a *lot* faster time than for that asteroid to get here."

When the nuclear weapons have to make a six month journey to their target out in the open in plain view on plotable trajectories, the targeted people already live 20m underground inside heavily armoured tubes designed to withstand meteor strike, and the surface is already a poisonous radioactive near vacuum? Quite a lot I should think. Conventional nuclear that bursts in the air would do less than nothing. Flash? Who cares? No one is looking. Heat that sets fire to wooden buildings...? Overpressure damage when the buildings are already 1-2 bar above ambient pressure and there's only a few millibars to start with? The resulting fire storm, when there's no free oxygen? A well targeted bunker buster nuclear weapon would take out a colony, but that also implies that its 6 month journey to target isn't interrupted.

It also depends on the Martians spending that 6 month period sitting around saying "looks like we're done for chaps, it's been an honour serving with you" rather than doing something to encourage Earth to hit the abort button (if there is one) or moving the colony etc.

"Oh, right, and there's no US agents or military in the colony to havee something to say?"

Well if they're already enslaved, threats aren't required. You'd only threaten an independent colony.

102:

Heteromeles at 87:

Re hemp-bucks (HBs), I'm not sure I follow. It sounds like HBs are a commodity currency where the commodity, hemp, is highly unstable. Hemp is available only seasonally, is perishable, and can only be produced in a specific climatic range. As you seem to say, that's a poor anchor for a currency. That kind of variability is also the reason I think Mars-land is a problematic commodity to use as an anchor for Elons. (I think that's why gold and silver have been such common commodities to anchor a currency: metals are not seasonal, not perishable, and are found all over the world or at least aren't climatically constrained. They can be hoarded for long periods of time and so are a relatively stable commodity base for a currency. And for whatever reason, people just consistently seem to value gold.)

I must disagree that an artist, by signing a hemp-buck, creates a fiat currency of "signed hemp-bucks" (SHBs).

Maybe this is the clarification needed: A key feature of a currency is that the currency is simultaneously (A) the issuer's agreement that the issuer will acknowledge owing a debt to the holder of the currency, (B) the issuer's agreement that the issuer will accept the currency to pay a debt owed to the issuer, and (C) an assessment by the society that the issuer will be around long enough to make good on the transactions represented by the currency.

So the hemp farmer gives 10 HBs to the grocer, which the grocer understands to mean that on demand, the hemp farmer will give 10 HBs of hemp to the holder of the HBs. If the baker down the street owes a debt to the hemp farmer, the baker can pay that debt by acquiring the HBs from the grocer and paying them to the hemp farmer. The farmer's debt to the grocer has been redeemed, and the baker's debt to the farmer has been redeemed. None of this can happen unless the farmer, the baker, and the grocer are part of a persistent social network and they all have confidence that the farmer has sufficient power, assets, and persistence to redeem the HBs.

As you describe it, an SHB is just an art object and not a currency, because the example doesn't give the artist sufficient social power to make it stick. I can't make a currency by taking a deck of cards, signing my name on each of them, and declaring them equal to dollars, unless people will accept them as such. For that I would need social power, assets, and society's belief in persistence of my power and status over time. Elon Musk on Mars has the same problems that I do, in kind if not in scale.

A fiat currency simply elides requirement (A), because instead of redeeming the currency for some commodity, the issuer can only offer the currency itself. This only really works for a very large, powerful, and persistent entity such as a sovereign government, where (B) is taxes and (C) is basically the sine qua non of government as the supreme entity of a society.

103:

Is Mathematics real of itself, or is it an invention?

Another answer, this from Bletchley Park codebreaker William Tutte:

What is mathematics? You seem to have three choices. Mathematics is the Humanity that hymns eternal logic. It is the Science that studies the phenomenon called logic. It is the Art that fashions structures of ethereal beauty out of the raw material called logic. It is all of these and more. Much more, I can assure you, for mathematics is fun.

Source

104:

Greg, it depends on exactly what you want to back up and what your budget is. Just to skim the highlights my current setup is:

Oh, and ~$300 for 3x250W solar panels brand new second hand, plus ~100 for gubbins to attach them to the roof. The list of tools and bits is fairly long but $200 will get you what you need rather than paying someone more than that to come round with the professional version of the tools and whine that you're not following the regs.

That setup will run my desktop computer instead, or with the UPS, as well (the surge when the freezer starts is why I need a 1200VA inverter to supply a 90W/130VA freezer... 900W to start the motor). For the same reason it won't run my shitty 500VA aircon unit. I could spend ~$800 on a much better aircon and it would run just fine, and likewise for about $3,000 I could get a 400l chest freezer that draws ~120W running and ~300VA starting.

But if all you want is a server or two you can probably ignore the starting surge (at worst power it up on mains but don't turn it on, unplug, plug into the inverter, then turn it on). Desktop PC with three monitors pulls ~500W at startup so a 650W inverter would be fine.

Battery prices scale almost linearly once you've above about 500Wh, so the size is just a wallet question. You can parallel most of them (at least to ~4P) or just buy bigger ones. At some power level it becomes cheaper to up the volts - that MPPT controller will supply 60A at 48V if you want, or I could have bought a $400 one that only supplies 30A... but I have a lot of 12V gear to power and it would be inconvenient to have to step down.

105:

Not a mathematician, just and engineer.

But it seems to me that the ratio pi would exist even without humans calling it "pi", defining it, or trying to calculate its (never ending) value.

So yes, mathematics is a very real thing unto itself - we just put labels on what is already existing.

106:

That's ridiculous. You haven't answered my point about Russian or Chinese, or maybe Indian colonies. And are you not assuming there's not a US civilian/military base, in addition to the private corporate colony?

And you're assuming that any missiles are not stealthed (you really think that Musk sees all, knows all?). AND you're assuming that there's no faster way there a century from now, which I gravely doubt.

You are vastly overestimating Musk.

107:

But do your anti-nuclear objections apply to plug-and-play small modular reactors (SMRs)?

108:

Well cutting off Mars means everyone on Mars dies.

Why would any other nationalities be more sanguine about their death?

If the blockade only applies to one colony it's not a blocade because the colonies can trade. So the threats are empty anyway. So it must be a threat to kill everyone.

109:

That assumes that any other colonies or bases will not follow directions from earth.

110:

We mostly agree on this. My understanding is that short-term currencies have indeed been floated on the local level. One reputed example is the Medieval practice of recoining every year. Coins would only be good for the year issued, then would have to be brought back and restruck with the new year--for a cost of 10% or so of the coins turned in. This served as both a tax and a way to keep money moving within the community. Outside the community, such a coin was only good for the metal in it.

But yes, this hemp-buck system is a local area currency. It works great for IOUs, in that the hemp farmer can go into debt to get the food and stuff he needs to grow and process his crop, then pay everyone back when the crop comes in. This can obviously be done with a share of the crop rather than hemp-bucks, but hemp-bucks have a more standardized value than does a share of a crop.

I'll get to how this could work for Mars in the next post.

111:

Problem with nuclear is that it has huge startup costs
do your anti-nuclear objections apply to plug-and-play small modular reactors (SMRs)

I'm going to guess the answer is either "yes" because you'd have to also pay for the R&D and the production line to make them, since neither of those exist yet.

But for the same reason, the answer could be "no" because imaginary things can be whatever price you like.

112:

They would apply triple. 1-2 decades (which is generous) for designs that already exist and that have decades of testing.

SMR don't really exist yet. First you'd have to properly design them (not just a napkin design). That's a 5 year project. Then build one to see if it works as intended. That's 1-2 decades. Then test it for 1-2 decades. Then assuming there were minimal design changes needed, build the factory that's going to make them. There's 5 years. Then manufacture deploy them in quantity, that's *optimistcally* 5 years. So that extends the timeline from 1-2 decades out to 3.5-5.5 decades. So about triple.

Lots of people like to say "they can be installed in months" (without any proof that's possible) but installation is the tip of a very big iceberg. It's also Bullshit. I've been involved in installing big bits of electrical kit and the quoted timelines are *ridiculous*. You can't install a back to back Interconnector in the times that are bandied about. The qld-nsw Interconnector took years and it was an all stops out, no expense spared, rush project because the politicians had promised an integrated electricity market and the Interconnector was required to allow the market to start. The upgrade for that Interconnector has been simmering along for 11 *years* now.

113:

Here's how a commodity-based Muskcoin could work, with the note that, as usual, I don't really know what I'm talking about.

The basic Muskcoin represents the cost of keeping a Martian wealth manager (WM) alive for an hour on Mars, plus the cost of communicating with her (they are a lot of women in the profession). About 50 Muskcoins per WM per week are issued (probably the week before), and are bought with terrestrial currencies, because their job is generating foreign exchange. Since they're a cryptocurrency, they get blockchained in, such that Muskcoin X is spent on communications and work hour Y, all linked together in the blockchain that records the coin, the time, and the communications, and in part independently verified by all the Men in the Middle snooping.

Most of these communications would be some version of "is this action permissible under this trust?" And the Martians are the ones who have to understand the trust to either okay the action, modify it, or nix it. The actual trusts can be created on Earth (like mortgage notes) and physically shipped to Mars. Most of the communications are crudely equivalent to shortwave radio comms, so we're not talking about Zoom meetings or necessarily even video messages, and the encryption will have to be quite good.

The WMs are basically foreign trade and exchange specialists within this effort, because they help insure that the colony's major guardians (the entities whose trusts reside in the colony) are properly serviced and stay happy, that funds from these activities go towards goods and services the colony needs to stay viable, and that enemies of the colony (presumably those enemies of the trust beneficiaries) are dealt with, in part by the trust beneficiaries (e.g. the super-wealthy families who set up the trusts).

It's an interesting role for an interplanetary colony. They have to serve as the loyal guardians for critical secrets, and they depend on those whose secrets they control to help care for and defend them. Simultaneously, everything they say is picked up by who knows how many snoopers, so that's simultaneously a problem and a way to verify the authenticity of the communication.

Within a Martian colony, they might use some sort of living wage system, but it's mostly an accounting system to allocate resources and labor to keeping everyone alive and the colony growing. This is a basic use of currencies anyway. The hard part would be accommodating outsiders, such as Earthly auditors or contract laborers, within such a system. But that's something that simply needs further thought and design work.

114:

"That assumes that any other colonies or bases will not follow directions from earth."

??? Does it?

The US decides to kill everyone on the US base because they're refusing to follow directions.

You're commander of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick base. The commander of the former US colony comes to you for assistance. You have two options. You can help. You can not help. (directions from the Duke are really limited to those two options as well, so following or not following directions from Earth don't change that)

If you help, the blockade is broken, the threats from the US were empty, or the blockade is extended to include you, and you die as well.

If you refuse to help, the situation is as though your base wasn't there. The colonists still have the choice, slavery or death.

I don't see how this alters the situation.

It gives the US a face saving way to give in. "we tried to bring the insurgents to heel, but we were thwarted by the Duchy of Grand Fenwick", but if the US doesn't recognise defeat (something it's historically terrible at) then the colonists are pushed into a corner. A corner from which it's pretty easy to throw stones.

115:

Happens to me a lot.

Edit http to be https, hit enter and the comment box comes back.

116:

gasdive @ 114

Don't forget that the Duchy of Grand Fenwick has the Q bomb, capable of destroying an entire continent.

117:

cost of keeping a Martian wealth manager (WM) alive for an hour on Mars ... About 50 Muskcoins per WM per week are issued

I like the way you think, but I suspect staff turnover would be higher than the future WM recruits might like. They're probably want at minimum 168 hours of air, food and warmth every week. Just a guess, I'm just an engineer rather than any kind of fancy scientist or anything.

118:

You're right, I need to rephrase that. A muskcoin, on Mars, covers an hour's work by a wealth manager. On Earth, the Mars colony is trying to use the sale of Muskcoins to cover all imports and costs via foreign exchange. So a Muskcoin isn't equivalent to a single billable hour (around $100-150 for a wealth manager at present). It's considerably higher, but the service offered is an hour of a person's time working. Fail to pay on time, and your trust basically dies, so the costs have to be equitable for everyone. However, the supply of Muskcoins is limited by how many WMs are available and how long they're willing to work. Yes, you can push that up to 80 hours per week, but if they get burned out or so tired that they make mistakes, the errors just start cascading. So better to limit it to 50 and have a carefully chosen clientele who are able to keep the colony alive, to everyone's benefit.

119:

😁 I live to serve.

120:

But it seems to me that the ratio pi would exist even without humans calling it "pi", defining it, or trying to calculate its (never ending) value

100% correct. Mathematicians everywhere in the universe (and in parallel universes?) would agree on the values of the mathematical constants pi and e. It is easy to prove that the nontrivial solution of the differential equation

D^2 f(t) = -f(t)

Is periodic. pi can be defined as half the period.

This, BTW, is only approximately the same as the ratio of the circumference of a physical circle to its diameter, which varies depending on where you are in the universe. The mathematical constant is truly and exactly universal— the physical one only approximately so.

121:

And if you do that in the complex plane you can pick e out of the same soup. As was famously done by a German chap called Schmiergerät.

122:

Sorry to hear that. Best of luck and get well soon.

123:

LAvery
Long-ago SF short by H Beam Piper: "Omnilingual" - where Earth archeologists discover a dead civilisation & no means of interpreting their texts - until someone finds a Periodic Table.
Still doesn't answer the question though, because if Maths is "Real", then what about the paradixes we have found?
OTOH
- as Duffy has reminded us, if Maths is not "Real" & therefore discovered, what about π or "e" .... um.
On the third hand, didn't Gödel have something to say about this?

As for Sokal's hoax, it's time for a re-run, as some recent idiocy, even worse than usual, has shown up in the *cough* "social sciences".

Niala
Disagree, for reasons to long to discuss right now.

Moz
Thanks
Of course, AIUI, our misgovernment, some time since quite deliberately tilted the "market" against small entrants & home-owners. ( More corporate money for our corrupt friends, of course. )

gasdive
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
Ditto Mars ... with extra time-lag, as you note.

Pigeon: -
Are you not referring to Euler's Identity ?? Or something else - surely not?

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

whitroth @ 109
You're back!
(?)

124:

Moon is a harsh mistress probably warped my brain as a child.

So did Have Spacesuit Will Travel, which was more or less "be prepared, the future won't be what you expect, but the more prepared you are the more options you'll have".

126:

If you're talking about subsidised, grid-connected stuff then government matters a whole lot. In Australia the rules are fairly simple if you're a full-time professional willing to spend a month studying the subject (ie, you start as a licensed electrician with solar certification). Those battery systems are pricey and the legal restrictions on feeding the grid if you have a battery are ugly.

But as a result my interest is in small, off grid systems. Those you can order off ebay, and there are a couple of UK-based youtubers who do the same thing. You could, if you were so inclined, set up a system with an electronic transfer switch (and a small UPS downstream of it just in case), set up so that it switched to the offgrid-solar-battery side when that had enough energy in it (Victron has programmable relay outputs on their non-toy MPPT controllers that could do this for you), then when the battery gets low flicks you back to mains. You could even, were you so inclined, set that up with a little bit of "relay logic" so if there was no mains it stayed on battery until that was exhausted, then rely on the UPS to shut things down gracefully.

I suspect if you asked for approval for that setup it would be denied, or come with a huge "installation and certification" price tag.

127:
Still doesn't answer the question though, because if Maths is "Real", then what about the paradixes we have found?

OTOH

- as Duffy has reminded us, if Maths is not "Real" & therefore discovered, what about π or "e" .... um.

On the third hand, didn't Gödel have something to say about this?

I don't understand the issue. If you think that "provably free of internal contradiction" is a requirement for calling something "real", then you must believe that nothing is real. OK, that's your option, but it makes questions like "Is mathematics real?" vacuous.

128:

And, in many universities, it used not to be. The confusion here is between pure and applied mathematics. The former is definitely an art, and you can invent any self-consistent rules you like and see what happens. Never done it? Sorry, but then you aren't a Real Mathematician (*) :-( The latter is modelling the universe we live in, in terms of a suitable choice of mathematics - and while, generally, that means choosing some existing mathematics to use, some applied mathematicians have invented new sets of rules. In this sense, probability and statistics are applied mathematics.

When it comes to things like pi, it depends what you mean by it. There are perfectly respectable metrics that have different values for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, for example. In order for it to have a different pure mathematical value, you would have to create a mathematics that is not based on the standard axioms (ZFC, Peano's Postulates or whatever). It's not clear that human beings could get their heads around such a radical idea.

Some SF stories have dabbled at the edges of this, with intelligences that are fundamentally incapable of understanding each other. Obviously, they are all limited by the fact that it is is impossible to describe something clearly whose very principles are incomprehensible.

(*) I never said that you had to get anywhere with it - doing so is the mark of a first-rate mathematician, a rare beast indeed. But the best test of whether a child should be allowed to study pure, undiluted mathematics at university is whether they have independently rediscovered some theorems, and think in those terms. Children who don't, usually go bonkers with three years of nothing else, and are better off studying mathematics in some sort of real-world context.

129:

What paradoxes? So far, every paradox found in mathematics as such has been due to people misunderstanding or misusing it and, as far as we know, all of the paradoxes in physics are either purely speculative or because we using multiple, incomplete and slightly incompatible models.

130:

whitroth @ 109
You're back!
(?)

No, he's not done with surgery until this afternoon, then if I understand how this works he'll be on a ventilator for at least a couple days. So it could be a week or two before we hear from him.

131:

The reality of maths:

This is not a new debate. Anyone interested should first read the Wikipedia page on the subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mathematics

(And since I haven't read that page, I shall refrain from saying more).

132:

Long-term lurker here.
Best wishes to Whitroth.
Had 5 bypasses here in the UK in 2014.
Still going strong!

133:

That's great! Thanks for that.

134:

Actually, one of the fascinating consequences of Godel's Theorems and some of the other limiting theorems of math that appeared at about the same time is the way they allow the creation of a sort of mathematical alternative universe. The basic structure of Godel's argument works like this: suppose we have a set of rules F for proving mathematical theorems. (Such a thing is called a formal system.) And suppose that F contains the rules of basic integer arithmetic. Now, to a bunch of tech nerds such as we have here, the idea that any sentence in F can be represented as a number will be obvious. Godel constructs a statement G_F about numbers which, interpreted as a sentence in F, asserts that G_F cannot be proved within F.

Now, let's assume (big assumption) that F is consistent, that is, there does not exist any statement in F whose truth and falsity can both be proved within F. Then it follows that G_F can't be proved within F. (If it could be, then ~G_F would also be provable, since that is what G_F asserts, which would make F inconsistent.) Since this is exactly what asserts, it follows that G_F is true, but not provable within F.

Now, we can "fix" the problem in two mutually exclsuive ways. The first is to add G_F to F as an axiom. We know that this can't produce an inconsistency, since we have just proved that G_F is not provable within F. That gives us pretty much the standard theory we started with, with a little addition.

But, since G_F can't be disproved within F, we are also free to add ~G_F as an axiom. This seems like a weird thing to do, since G_F is true. But you can do it and not have any problems. Applied to Godel Theorem and regular number theory, the theory that results is called nonstandard logic. It turns out that ~G_F in this case asserts the existence of a number N such that n+1 == n. So nonstandard logic has such numbers. And what numbers have that property? Infinite ones.

There's a parallel sort of case in set theory. Naive set theory has paradoxes (that may be what Greg was thinking of, in part). Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory (ZF) was formulated to eliminate those paradoxes. There is an axiom of set theory called the Axion of choice (AC). It is indepedent of ZF. Therefore one can construct two alternative version of set theory: ZFC (ZF + AC) and ZF¬C (ZF + the axiom that AC is false). ZFC is, I believe, the most used, but it allows one to prove things that are intuitively difficult to accept. (Greg may have been thinking of some of these when he mentioned paradoxes. They aren't actually paradoxes, they're just statements that are hard to believe.) So we have three alternative set-theoretical mathematical universes: ZF, ZFC, and ZF¬C.

135:

Possibly the reason they won't co-operate is a form of Prisoner's dilemma problem. As in "I'm a dishonest person, they are the same as me (or worse); therefore, I can't trust them to do the sensible (but potentially dangerous) thing, so I'll take the option that is less dangerous." If it's correct that only 5 of them are willing to stand up to Trumpolini, they still need a lot more to actually get rid of him, and therefore it's safer (!!!) to avoid confrontation with the crazies.

After all they didn't get elected to uphold the constitution (#sarc).

136:

Hydro‑Québec ... which they may now be able to sell to the USA now that policies are changing there.

Quebec has been selling power to New York / New England since at least the 60s. Are you saying they are not allowed to sell electrons that were not produced via water flow?

137:

EC
Agree re. So-called paradoxes in Physics, even including the GR?QM proble - that is a ghastly, horrible mismatch & "we" have all too clearly got something worng ....
Not so sure about Maths, though, I suppose it depends upon which set of metrics you are using for your "universe"
However - see LAvery: the way they allow the creation of a sort of mathematical alternative universe
OK - AND - in THIS universe?
Is Maths "real" - & thus discovered in this universe, or is it invented?
....
- and - LAvery: Unfortunately, I know zero Set Theory ( No puns, please! )
OK - which Universe do we live in, then?
ZF, ZFC or ZF¬C
??

138:

That’s correct, not allowed to sell electrons to the USA, in the sense that it wasn’t economical to build new infrastructure to generate and move more electrons. It’s likely that reliable “green” electrons will get a better price, so it’s time to make money before their hydraulic power storage technology becomes obsolete.

139:
OK - AND - in THIS universe? Is Maths "real"

Yes, Math is real. See Max Black via Steven Weinberg above.

- & thus discovered in this universe, or is it invented? ....?

You need to ask better questions. It may be both, or neither, or one or the other.

- and - LAvery: Unfortunately, I know zero Set Theory ( No puns, please! ) OK - which Universe do we live in, then? ZF, ZFC or ZF¬C

Who knows? It is not even clear that the question makes sense. Pace Max Tegmark, We live in a physical universe, perhaps not a mathematical one.

Finally, to quote dead Albus Dumbledore talking to not-quite-dead Harry Potter: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"

140:

Yes, but there are other aspects that are commonly forgotten. Without the axiom of countable choice (MUCH weaker than the full one), there are things that are demonstrable in the 'real world' than cannot be proven; only a few extreme logicians disregard that one. A more interesting aspect, to my view, is that Goedel etc. do NOT necessarily apply to all systems that include the integers, despite the common claim. The proofs also assume what can be described as discreteness and (mandatory) determinism, because they are part of the rules of applying the axioms. What a radically different mathematics would look like and what its properties would be, I can't even guess.

I have tried thinking of axiomatic systems that relax those, and I am not smart enough to make anything very interesting of them, though I can show that several established computer science dogmas are codswallop. But (back in physics), some people have speculated that quantum mechanics may be such a system, and our problems with it are that we are mapping it through a ZFC system into our understanding.

To Greg: general relativity introduces metrics that have different values for the circumference/diameter ratio. See also my first paragraph about the axiom of choice, and the second about quantum mechanics. Realistically, you aren't going to get an answer in the terms you want, because this is as close to the arcana of sorcery as makes little difference to most people.

141:

"How many nukes does it take to sanitize the colony... in a *lot* faster time than for that asteroid to get here."

Vastly more likely: malware embedded at firmware level in the SCADA controllers running the oxygen supply. Crank it up to 30% pO2 and even waterlogged flesh will catch fire and burn like tinder; drop it down to 5% and folks will start to lose consciousness and die ... and they'll lose higher cognitive functioning first (see also your typical oxygen-deficiency plane crash).

There might also be a backup plan: sleeper agents in the colony who are there to backup the malware. They know where the space suits are and they've got a cache a couple of miles away on the surface with enough supplies to hike out another few miles to an uncrewed research facility that actually has all the supplies they need to wait until it's safe to go back and recycle the corpses. (Payoff: once it's done and dusted they get a big promotion and, optionally, a ticket back to Earth. Or their family at home don't get to sleep with the fishes. Or something.)

142:

I find it hard to believe that an extra terrestrial establishment of that size would not have three failsafe levels of testing and independent backups for oxygen. It would be very foolish indeed to count on one central computer.

143:

But do your anti-nuclear objections apply to plug-and-play small modular reactors (SMRs)?

Point to one that's made it to prototype stage and received regulatory approval, please.

(Yes, I know Rolls Royce are talking about getting into the area, albeit with something a bit larger -- 300-500MW output, but designed for multiple reactors/site. Still vapourware until there's a purchase order and planning consent, though.)

144:

SMR don't really exist yet.

Actually, we do have SMRs, and they're already in production. They typically put out 50MW of power (and rather more heat) and they're really compact and come with a steel containment vessel.

The problem is, the containment vessel is called a "submarine"; they run on HEU and they're gold-plated price-no-object military kit.

The UK has about 11 of them, France has 12, the USA has a bunch more, China and Russia also operate them ... but they're about as well-optimized for providing modular civilian base load power plants as an A-10 is for carrying air freight.

145:

No single central computer, true -- we don't do that any more anywhere -- but most likely a single architecture that gets used in each of the redundant SCADA control networks that are keeping a watch on one another. Like, they all rely on RISC-V cpu architecture, and the first generation chipsets were all imported from Earth, and there are only a couple of really solid space-rated SCADA logic implementations anyway, so if you have a zero-day exploit for that underlying cpu you can do some sort of arbitrary privilege escalation attack and ad a multiplier to the oxygen sensor readings. Or something.

146:
Long-ago SF short by H Beam Piper: "Omnilingual" - where Earth archeologists discover a dead civilisation & no means of interpreting their texts - until someone finds a Periodic Table.

I remember that one. I thought it was by Isaac Asimov. But then I find, as age-related cognitive decline creeps up on me, that I tend to think every old half-remembered SF story was by Isaac.

147:

LAvery
Very clever, very funny & fuck all use.
Quoting fiction is no use, actually.
That "Dumbledore" quote is pure 100% religious bullshit, or of that "class" at any rate.

148:

Good luck, pulling for you.

149:

Note that I'm still in the Apollo era when it comes to safety in space.

I think that the safety precautions in the ISS are totally loony. If I had been in charge of safety for the ISS I would have had emergency spacesuits designed, for wearing inside in case of oxygen loss. Half of the crew of the ISS would be wearing the suits at all times, with helmets on.

Also, they would have had canaries from the first day on.

So, my views for a safe settlement on Mars are quite conservative.

150:

Yes. Also, blow the hardware - they are have to share the communications' protocol architecture, so any defect in its design or reference implementation (if one is used) will necessarily be on everything. That's not just theoretical, either, because I have encountered such a thing in TCP/IP (still unidentified, let alone fixed, as far as I know).

We know how to increase computers' security by a VAST factor, but there is no sign that it is being considered, even for the most critical applications (and I include military in that). As you say, those control computers WILL be hackable.

151:

Actually, Greg, he explained why you are so confused about as clearly as is possible, and why you "aren't even wrong" - basically, you are trying to force something that is conceptually complex into a small, rigid framework, in which we know that it will not fit. And, no, that quote is NOT religious bullshit in this context, because it's horribly apt. I suggest that you reread Greg Egan's Luminous - probably the best story on this topic - and consider that it might, just, be realistic.

152:

they run on HEU

I believe France and China have gone/are going to LEU and the US has been looking at the option.

153:

> Omnilingual

That, plus other H. Beam Piper stories are available on Gutenberg. All recommended reading.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19445

154:

Note that I'm still in the Apollo era when it comes to safety in space. I think that the safety precautions in the ISS are totally loony.

There were 11 Apollo flights. Apollo 13 (aborted) was in space for 5 days; there were two 10 day missions, two 8 day missions, a nine day mission, and two 12 day missions. (All rounded off.) So 64 days for 3 astronauts, or a total of 192 astronaut-days in space.

EDIT: Oops, I miscounted. So let's round up: 11 flights and let's make them all 10 days each. That's 330 astronaut-days in space. Then add another 330 astronaut-days for Skylab. Call it, generously, 660 person-days.

The very first ISS expedition, launched in 2000 aboard a Soyuz with 3 cosmonaut/astronauts, was in space for 141 days, so 423 astronaut-days in space, or more than the entire Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs combined.

We are currently on Expedition 61, and an expedition is typically 3-8 astronauts, for 200 days (some as short as 140 days, some as long as 300 days). ISS has been in use continuously for 20 years with a crew of 6-8 aboard at all times.

So: 192 revised 660 astronaut-days, versus 45,000 astronaut-days. That's a two orders of magnitude difference.

The Apollo program was run with an eye on a 20% risk of losing one or more astronaut lives. If we ran the ISS on that basis, it would be an absolute blood-spewing meat-grinder, killing an astronaut every year or two.

(I'm not going to assign the Shuttle astronaut fatalities to the ISS, as one of those shuttles was lost 16 before the first ISS expedition flew, and the other fell victim to a design flaw in STS, not the ISS.)

So NASA are absolutely right to hold ISS to a higher safety standard than the Apollo program.

As for emergency suits ... if you have a pressure loss on board a space station, you need to depressurize gradually as you get into your suit or you end up with the bends. (As it is, it takes astronauts five hours to pre-breathe pure oxygen and reduce pressure gradually before an EVA.) But the station is modular: the response to a leak is to retreat from the punctured compartment and close the door. During the fire on Mir, cosmonauts holed up in a docked Soyuz: worse case, they could close the door and de-orbit to safety. Similarly, each docked capsule on the ISS represents an emergency shelted.

155:

If they can successfully run a submarine-sized reactor on LEU, then that might be a promising basis for a small modular reactor. But we're still talking about taking a thoroughbred machine that is run by a military crew and dumping it into a mass-produced civilian incarnation. I'm skeptical on cost, safety, and practicality grounds.

156:

That's a very scary theory, and probably true. We'll probably get a civil war out of it... ~sighs.~

157:

The French "Réacteur d'essais à terre" is a land-based testing LEU reactor which is supposed to be the basis for their next generation of submarine reactors. It has been running since 2018.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A9acteur_d%27essais_%C3%A0_terre

Submarine reactors of the French Navy are designed to be coddled by a team of about 20 nuclear reactor specialists, at all times. It's a different beast compared so SMRs that are so simple that they don't need to be watched.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propulsion_nucl%C3%A9aire_navale

158:

I'm not sure I buy the Prisoner's Dilemma argument in this case. They're perfectly willing to struggle en bloc to sit there and acquit Trump, so that ironically demonstrates a certain level of party discipline. Why?

Here are a bunch of non-exclusive reasons:
1. We have two parties in the US that do most of the grunt work. Yes, I expect a center-right party-like beast (probably a PAC run by....Bushies) to pop up and at least channel money to the Anti-Trumper on any one ticket, but the blunt truth is that parties are money laundering machines that take unlimited donations and channel them to the candidates of their choice. The choice of the party means, basically, funding or no funding, and it's a messy process (I've seen the democratic fights, and presume the Republican ones are that bad). Apparently Trumpers have their paws on the money spigots and funding committees, and that's bad. In the medium term, other sources of funding can break this up.

2. Speaking of funding...billionaires. There aren't that many, but they tend to lean Republican. They most definitely lean on the idea that "all taxes are theft," so any candidate who makes it easy for them to escape paying their share gets their funding, through the mechanism described in #1. Trump is of this class, not so incidentally.

These two suggest that the Republican senators, like oh-so-sad Rubio, are in the eating-shit phase of their jobs, and trying to keep them.

Then there's the power addiction problem. Power is addictive, and Trumpers have control of the supply lines for the Republicans. It's not just money, it's power, and to my eye a bunch of them act like addicts doing the whim of their supplier. They almost certainly hate his (and their) guts and despise themselves with any still-living parts of their souls, but not to the point of going cold turkey.

The irony is that, like addicts or even like Darth Vader, if they came clean, I'm pretty sure they could break the whole rotten system. After all, conservative America dearly loves itself a redemption story, and Trump's a bully and physical coward, not the courageous hero of mythology. But that is a lot to ask of these dignity wraiths, the sad, pale Trumpian mockeries of the Ringwraiths that they are.

I'd be shocked if the Democrats in DC don't have an even better understanding than I do, because it sure looks like this is about 2022 and Trump's criminal indictments, more than just about getting T-bone impeached successfully.

159:

I think there can be more than one reason for any group's behavior. Add SlightyFoxed's reasoning to your own and I think all the bases will be covered.

But that doesn't mean it's a "good" decision, assuming that Biden's AG, whenever that person is approved, goes full-force after the insurrection plotters.

160:

Greg Tingey at 95:
ALL banknotes are "promissory Notes" - or they are in the UK at any rate - it says so right on the tin.
See also: "Bills of Exchange" ( Cheques are one form of these )
... "Signing a NEW note"? You WHAT?

Yep, I agree, banknotes are kind of the ultimate Promissory Note, issued by the government. If a commodity currency, the govt is promising to redeem in gold the amount of the note; if a fiat currency, the govt is promising to redeem...not really anything, other than to accept the note in payment of govt taxes. And Bills of Exchange, yes, another of the wide historical variety of paper instruments designed to allow transfer of value across differing distances of spacetime.

Re signing a NEW note: I couldn't agree more. I was appalled at the sheer gall of the banks the first time I saw that clause. The "new" note is supposed to "replace" the old note, which is of course garbage because if the Note was lost then it's not going to be too clear what endorsements and transfers had occurred. And the existence of the "new" Note won't by itself automatically prevent enforcement of the "old" Note if it turns up again.

I don't know how often the clause gets invoked, though. Most of the issues with Notes held by banks and securitizers have been cleaned up these days; what usually happens now is the Note gets endorsed "in blank," meaning without naming a new holder, which means the Note can be enforced by whoever has possession of it--the "bearer." At that point the endorsements can basically stop, so long as the bank keeps careful control over actual possession of the Note. Which, now, they do. It typically ends up in the hands of a Trustee of a Trust that contains thousands of similar notes, as part of the securitization process.

161:

Heteromeles at 110:
...this hemp-buck system is a local area currency. It works great for IOUs,...

Yes, agree. Seattle has a couple local currencies, Fremont Dollars and the like (named after the Seattle neighborhood of Fremont). Most local shops will accept them. There was another local currency, not sure if it's still being used, where the users agreed to redeem with one hour of labor--Time Dollars or some such.

The interesting thing to me for Elons is that it's starting at an extremely high level of control of assets, weapons, etc. A local currency can work almost anarchistically, by consent of the participants--no one has to accept the currency if they don't want to. The sovereign currency aspects don't arise until the issuer has sufficient power to force use of their currency.

162:

Guess my naive impression was that the problems with subs aren't that they're sports car equivalents, but that they run in the middle of the biggest heat sink on the planet. After all nukes are basically about generating heat, and then extracting work out of the temperature gradient they create between them and the ocean outside the submarine.

That, to me, is the biggest problem with thermonuclear power--with climate change, we're running short of good terrestrial heat sinks. Ironically, Mars is cold enough that the submarine solution would probably work pretty darn well.

This, incidentally, is one advantage of PV cells and wind turbines--they don't need a cooling system to extract energy from the environment.

163:

This design seems to deal better with the heat sink issues and is the first time in a few decades that I've thought maybe something new and workable may happen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NuScale_Power

https://apnews.com/article/utah-nuclear-power-idaho-28a8fb1c3de8a4bf7ab13e734f574bd2

164:

EC @ 151
Condescending bollocks, I'm afraid.
Yes, it's complex, yes there are other possible frames of reference. [ E.G. Relativistic speeds & accelerations, as you mentioned, "squashing" or "stretching" metrics, so that geometry may be erm, different. ]
Right - in a "normal" Newtonian, non-relativistic universe ... is maths a description/discovery or is it an invention?
Ditto, for that matter in other reference frames?
You seem to be under the mistaken impression, that - even though I'm even more out-of-practice & not up-to-date than you (probably) that I know nothing of Maths or Physics beyond "A" level, which is most definitely not the case.

H
IQ45 & his wraiths
My take is that a large part of the "R" party are like the German industrialists who decided to back Adolf in the period about 1928-33.
They knew perfectly well that he was a mad shit, but their fear of "socialism" was just enough to keep them in line - along with the deluded belief that they could control him, mostly through the money supply, but also with other people inside(ish) like Franz von Papen & Schacht.
Which turned out so well, didn't it?

165:

I've seen some muttering about folks trying to figure out how to use the insanely hot plasma in a thermonuclear reactor to generate electricity directly -- if you're messing with that kind of current flow there might be some way to extract energy inductively, or alternatively to kick electrons directly out of some sort of target and use them to create a current. But we're still so far from having a working prototype power reactor that this sort of problem is pretty abstract.

I half-think that a cheap modular reactor might be a submarine -- no torpedo tubes or sonar crap, pitiful crush depth by military standards, and position-keeping thrusters only, but you immerse it in that good heat sink and where a military vessel would have weapons, the power sub has a big-ass cable interconnect. (In other words, it'd bear as much resemblance to a military hunter-killer as a container ship bears to a guided missile cruiser.) Sits above a submerged cable and pumps base load into it, ducks under the wave tops whenever there's a storm, line them up in rows and rotate maintenance crews out to them from a mother ship.

166:

My take is that a large part of the "R" party are like the German industrialists who decided to back Adolf in the period about 1928-33.

Exactly. And not only insufficiently cynical about their guy, but historically clueless to boot. And what are they actually afraid of? What is this "socialism" they fear? It comes down to the following:

A national health service and a national retirement system which doesn't generate money for the rich.

No racism or sexism allowed.

Minimum wage laws which actually allow one to successfully rent and apartment.

Actual penalties (and laws against) corporate misbehavior.)

They would have to pay taxes commensurate with their wealth.

All this sounds apocalyptic to your typical, spoiled, entitled American or British billionaire! Far better to inflict a clueless, brainless Hitler-wannabe on the peasants than experience the same terrors which are regularly visited upon the extremely rich people from France and Germany!

"I don't know how they cope with only being able to afford an eighty-foot yacht!"

167:

I am indeed. A Schmiergerät is an oiler /dontexplainthejoke

168:

Actually, the simpler solution is to use an inshore oil drilling rig as the frame for the nuke, with the reactor shallow enough that it can be operated mostly topside, and by a select crew going down to the reactor at the bottom of the tower. It wouldn't be a strict oil rig, as you'd need to periodically raise the reactor for repairs, but I think it's simpler than trying to have a power sub keeping station. Also, they already pipe oil from rigs to the shore, so wiring a sub nuke to shore wouldn't be hard. The hardest part would be making sure the coastal grid was big enough to take the additional generation capacity, because that gets even more political than siting a nuke offshore would.

While I don't think anyone's going to go for this, the advantages are pretty obvious: we know how to build oil rigs, building submarine nuclear plants is easier than building landlocked ones, and a sub nuke is probably safer than a land nuke. The counterargument is probably that batteries and PV are cheaper, and guarding off-shore power plants against (eek!) foreign militaries is a bit more difficult.

Note, as an environmentalist, I'm going for PV, with a side order of batteries and wind, and a big fat heap of conservation and rebuilding. The reason for these is that the problems are closer to being solved (we're not in "posit a new type of nuclear reactor that's safe and politically acceptable" land), and there's tons of bad design out there (buildings, houses, water plants, etc) where redesign for conservation could cut demand fairly substantially, without degrading service, while providing more jobs than an offshore nuclear industry would.

169:

Direct generation of electricity from fusion plasma is possible but it's not easy, the material science is seriously deficient. We know how to use hot things to make steam and from there usable energy is a step or two away and we've been doing it for centuries with only a few explosions, on average.

The big problem with Small Modular Reactors is that Small part of the name -- we, the world, needs a shitload of non-fossil energy, not small amounts of it. FBRs are what we really need, Fucking Big Reactors and lots of them, yesterday but this is a song I've sung before.

One bit of actual real-metal SMR news that did pop up recently was that the oddball Chinese pebble-bed reactor concept is still alive and progressing, apparently. It sort-of counts as Small and Modular in that a pair of pebble-bed reactors feed a single generator with steam to generate about 210MW of electricity. The plant design allows for eighteen such reactors to be built on a single site to deliver about 2GW of electricity at full power although smaller numbers are also planned, with six reactors feeding a single 600MW turbogenerator set.

171:

I think y'all are being a bit limited by what a Martian colony needs to survive.
In previous blog posts, somebody said they need polycarbonates (for things like helmets), why not use glass? There is plenty of sand around.
There is also lots of iron (although it may be a bit to refine it).
Plus some water (also a bit hard to find).
The resulting technology level looks very steam-punkish....

Anyway, about needing semiconductors. Time moves on and the requirements are different. For indoor, non-heavy duty processing you can use a much simpler processor (so you can have home grown environment controls). Using something like this:
https://arxiv.org/abs/2011.12359
and this:
https://hackaday.com/2020/06/10/soon-inkjet-your-circuit-boards/
You can make a custom processor and be comfortably hack free!

172:

Troutwaxer
Yes, especially since "REAL Socialism"TM involves the state owning all the (significant) means of production & distribution, with only minimal Private Business.
Very few people are mad enough to actually want this ( Corbyn might be ) - most so-called "socialism" in the USA is actually: "Social Democracy" like the German centre-right party, the CDU espouses, oops.

173:

"I've seen some muttering about folks trying to figure out how to use the insanely hot plasma in a thermonuclear reactor to generate electricity directly - if you're messing with that kind of current flow there might be some way to extract energy inductively, or alternatively to kick electrons directly out of some sort of target and use them to create a current."

The current flow is extremely small: in amps, it is (number of fusions per second) * (charge on the energetic particle) * 1.6e-19. But the voltage is extremely large, being a direct translation of the reaction energy in MeV, divided by the charge on the particle.

So for d-t fusion you get 3.5MeV per fusion carried off in an alpha particle, which has charge +2. If you collect those alphas on an electrode, you get a rather small DC current, but a potential difference of 1.75MV. You can then convert that output to a higher current and lower voltage to make it useful. But there are all sorts of problems with doing this.

If your alpha collides with another particle before it reaches the electrode, it will have lost some of its energy in the collision. If you keep the electrode at 1.75MV, the particle won't be able to make it to the electrode any more. If you let it sit at a lower potential, you can collect the particles that have lost some energy, but those that haven't now arrive with excess energy, which goes into heating the electrode up. To avoid this as far as possible means keeping the particle density outside the plasma focus low enough that the mean free path of an escaping particle is longer than the distance to the electrode. This makes it difficult to scale the thing up to a useful output level in a useful size.

There is a similar difficulty with the products of the inevitable side reactions which are either more or less energetic than the main one, but since this is more fundamental in origin there isn't really anything you can do about it.

But the biggest problem is that the energy output from the reaction is divided between the product particles in inverse proportion to their mass. With d-t fusion you get an alpha, mass approx. 4, and a neutron, mass approx. 1. So the neutron has 4/5 of the total energy - ie. about 14MeV - and it is uncharged, so you can't get at that energy electrically, you can only get it as heat.

To get around that one, you need to be using a reaction that does not produce any neutrons. d-3He is one, but the problem is you need a supply of 3He, and since nearly every active site of nuclear reactions in the universe eats the stuff like there's no tomorrow, there is very little of it about. p-11B is another, but achieving the conditions necessary to make it happen is way off in fantasy land for the foreseeable future.

174:

> Yes, especially since "REAL Socialism"TM involves the state owning all the (significant) means of production & distribution, with only minimal Private Business.

I don't think that's true. Socialists usually want the means of production to be democratically controlled, but that doesn't require ownership by the state and certainly doesn't require the state to own all the significant industries.

e.g. in Corbyn's proposals, the "publicly owned" industries and utilities would be controlled by new bodies responsible to their diverse stakeholders (workers, users, investors (the state or its regional development banks, or private), environmental and local concerns, etc). That doesn't have to involve direct ownership by the state, in fact these stakeholders could own the body.

Other socialists espouse co-ops as an alternative to capitalist production. The state doesn't own industries there, either.

175:

"REAL Socialism"TM involves...

That's why the rest of us would be happy with cheap fake socialism, fuck paying Apple for the rights to the real thing.

176:

Colin
IIRC Corby's proposals included worker-shareholders ( GOOD ) up to a certain quite low value, after which the state would collar the lot.
Rather than true Syndicalism or worker-owned companies.
In other words, it was a reverse con, equal (almost) to the tories cons & lies & very stupid.

177:

So where will these Martian Gordon Geckos live and work.

Appropriately underground:

https://www.newser.com/story/294977/the-moons-lava-tubes-can-fit-entire-cities.html

"Looks like Mars and the moon contain huge lava tubes that offer protection from solar radiation and meteors—which makes them possible homes for future explorers, LiveScience reports. A new paper says Martian tunnels appear to range from 130 to 1,300 feet in diameter, while the moon's are 1,600 to 3,000 feet and reach such heights that the world's tallest building, Dubai's 2,720-foot Burj Khalifa, could fit inside. "Tubes as wide as these can be longer than 40 kilometers"

So a good sized Martian lava tube can hold a sky scraper and provide about 40 square kilometers of living area. (the island of Manhattan is 59.1 square km - so somewhat smaller than a major city). Maybe there is a reason Elon Musk is also into tunnel machines!

This raises the possibility of a new type of terraforming. Instead of pure terraforming (remaking the entire planet) or para-terraforming (enclosed domes on the surface) we could use these tubes for holo-terraforming

As in holograms.

Take a tube large enough to hold a large city, build a city of this size, seal the tube and pump it full of a breathable atmosphere with temperature controls and fake breezes and winds generated by blower systems, fake lakes and rivers, etc. Colonists can walk around in their shirt sleeves. You can even have weather or seasons if you want.

Then cover its walls and ceiling with photo projectors that create the illusion of living out under the open sky. VR technology should be advanced to the point where a holographic image of the sky and horizon can be generated. The illusion would be made perfect by an artificial "sun" that traverses the "sky" on a 24-day cycle and acts as a grow light for crops and plants. Or the projectors can transmit images of the actual sky above the underground colony. Except for the gravity, it's identical to home.

Terraforming and colonization done cheaply with pre-existing tunnels and virtual reality.

The Truman Show - but for millions of people.

178:

"Mars is cold enough that the submarine solution would probably work pretty darn well"

I'm not a thermodynamics expert, but to me Mars sounds pretty bad. The air is 6 millibars so while cold, the heat capacity is much less than Earth air and not even Earth air gets used by existing reactors to dump heat into. (existing cooling towers dump heat into evaporating water, but there's no supply of liquid water on Mars)

The ground is cold and has lots of heat capacity but it's regolith. Lots of small sharp grains with vacuum (or nearly so) between the grains. That sounds like vacuum insulated panel. I don't think dumping heat into that will be practical.

You could have radiators looking at the sky. They'd work, but you'd need to clean them regularly, and they'd need some sort of working fluid in them that wouldn't freeze and block the pipes, but also wouldn't boil. So maybe a gas? (supercritical CO2?) In which case you're looking at pressurised tubes made into flat panels. That sounds even more resource intensive than PV.

Running nuclear power on Mars sounds really hard.

179:

Duffy @ 177: "VR technology should be advanced to the point where a holographic image of the sky and horizon can be generated."

If the inhabitants of Mars were good at programming they could develop themselves more and more advanced versions of those holographic programs and sell them to Earth companies. This could be the seed for a typically Martian games/virtual reality industry. It would make money without having to utterly destroy the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Many of the comments I have read here assume that the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 goes magically away and that suddenly you can claim and own land on Mars. You can't.

However, there is nothing in the treaty that forbids settlers from developping intangibles or semi-tangibles like computer programs and selling them to Earth, mining scientific data and selling it to Earth, or offering offshore banking services and selling them to Earth.

180:

Oh yeah, Mars totally sucks. Part of the fun here is ignoring the reality that basically Mars is a frozen hazmat site in a dirty vacuum with a lot of radiation, a very, very long way from here.

But if we ignore all that...

I'm thinking in terms of black sky radiators and melting the frost in the regolith in areas where there's ice. You don't want to settle where there's not ice anyway. If your dream pad is one of these purported giant lava tubes, you've got a lot of nice basalt walls to keep warm, and those should conduct heat at about 25% of what water's thermal conductivity. So I guess it sucks but not quite enough.

The fun and weird part is that to most people, this sounds more sane than building the equivalent structure on Antarctica. [Shrug]

181:

You want that heat. It isn't waste, it's needed for keeping the colony warm. Even on Earth in the winter you end up needing massively more energy as low grade heat than as electricity. Chances are your reactor will be more in the way of a central heating plant that produces a bit of electricity on the side than something whose primary purpose is electrical generation.

182:

Which brings me onto the topic of Elon Musk (okay, Tesla) recently buying $1.5Bn of BitCoins. I personally think this is a stunt, but an interesting one: BtC is a commodity in a bubble; if it goes up, Tesla turns a profit, and if it goes down it's a tax write-off. As Tesla is currently ridiculously over-valued this therefore looks like a smart way of hedging against some of their risk. But it got me thinking about SpaceX ...


“Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too.”
― Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea[0]

Allow a little exposition here: in the year 2020, $TSLA went from ~$95.xx share to $705.67 a share and in the process burnt a whole stack of 'short position' "Smart Money" to some frightening numbers that were all covered up due to Mr Donald "The (Golf) Bagholder" Trump's generous tax cuts and finagles.

During that year they promised many things, but about the only truly advantageous thing they had was a lack of Pension Requirement positions and the fact that most Senior Democratic Party Officials were punting Options (yes, Options, not actual Shares, big big warning klaxons there) on the stock rocketing. And yet, $TSLA truly "went to the Moon" and beyond.

Mr Musk is punting the BitCoin stunt because of $GME and because he views the entire Stock Market as a joke (the SEC starring as the rent-a-cops from the Mall, specifically), but he (or his PR team) are smart enough to know his core Belief Cachet. It's a pay-back to the Fan-bois because you stupid fucks just made him the nominally richest man on the planet and he hasn't done anything real yet. This is a man who got internet mad that his brilliant idea to hotbox the design for a miniature submarine and build it without testing while on a time sensitive mission to save lives wasn't feasible and then labelled the actual rescuers "probably paedophiles"[2].

Ok, so remember one thing: find some early pictures of Mr Musk. Now look at him 10 years later. Notice anything? It's a reverse Bezos. That's some goood stage-craft and chemical magic serums and so forth. Mr Musk is not selling you a car: he is selling you that very ancient Greek promise: Eternal Youth, Coolness, Creativity and so forth. He had to dump $1.5 bil in BitCoin because his Twitter jokes about $DODGE coin lead to a huge algo-driven Pump & Dump on that bag of nonsense and it dented his PR Rep that had shiny glows after his $GME angle.

Mr Musk is selling you the Future[tm] while taking the massive piss because you no longer have a future if you're one of the poors.

That's it. He pumped something with real cash (work out just how much 2019 time vrs 2021 time that cost him and be shocked) that has some real backers (a lot with rather clear connections to State Apparatus Weapon deals and so on) to make a genuine splash because his Brand relies on it. Musk does what Musk does to feed the actual important ones who can taste the difference between faux-3D-Printed meat and the Real Deal[tm].

He's also cheap as fuck - $1.5 bil when real players will throw you a decent $3.5 bil just as side-line in pointing out a West Coast Tech-Bro bad Algo getting gutted by Sharks who run the Casino (or that little Pond).

~

Back to the Iris Murdoch quotation: China has already worked this one out. Humans don't go to Mars barring for the PR photos. Robots do. That's it. Forget Mars already. It's gone. Dusted. Busted Flush. The PR photos are not the actual food. Mars is less viable than the Mariana Trench.

~

Anyhow, enjoy the record breaking Cold Snap (1955?).


Better get used to it, you broke the fucking planetary weather system, shits going to get wild.

[0] Tip to the wise: when something you think is shaped like a Rebel Woman in the Mandalorian[1] starts using I. Murdoch, know one thing: they're either Catholic or a vastly more dangerous creature. Spotted that out in the 'Outer Wilds', sang clearly and cleanly of something... well. Put it this way: it makes Muskquettes look like the dilettantes they are.

[1] Know your gossip stuff: Culture Wars / Star-Wars redux, $DIS playing the numbers. What she actually said was pretty crass but inoffensive when you know the actual history: there's serious ADL "cranks" at work trying to make it "Antisemitic" and they're the same type as behind the "D&D using phylactères = Antisemitic" (see above comment apologizing about using it). Newsflash: Fantasy / SF raids everyone's lore, thus Warhammer 40k is based on Sumerian myths etc. Only fanatics take a bit of light mythology copy/pasting as "that evil pernicious disease that infects the modern mind". You've been warned: Liches are fine, phylactères are fine, raiding people's Lore is fine as long as you know, you don't pull a Warner Bros and make it... oh, wait.

[2] That actually happened. Given the jokes about Libertarians, well, you know. Guessing cubical space is going to be a premium shipping to Mars, foresee a lot of "well, she'll have hit puberty by the time we land" type justifications coming...

183:

(And yes: the Name is a joke around Ancient America, Mars (God of War), Robots and Deleuze as a well-wish to Mr Whitroth).

184:

this therefore looks like a smart way of hedging against some of their risk.


Hate to say this to Host: you have an out-of-date Risk Profile going there. You're still in the Mind Set where "billions" is a big number.

$1.5 billion is going to cover you about... a hot day in 2020, especially if you're running leveraged derivatives. You're gonna need to bump that number by a couple of Orders of Magnitude right now. (Yes: Humans are bad at Math and they're bad at Models - one critique of the book....

Wai did the Space Squids not just break stupid Ape Algos? It easy. Tooooo Easy.


>The Payoff


Musk bet on making $TSLA "too big to Fail" like German Autos did to the German Economy in the 1970s.

He (his team / the people who are actually running him) probably succeeded.

185:

It sounds like HBs are a commodity currency where the commodity, hemp, is highly unstable. Hemp is available only seasonally, is perishable, and can only be produced in a specific climatic range. As you seem to say, that's a poor anchor for a currency.

Yeah, you're not wrong. You're not necessarily completely right either. It's been done.

The example from history that immediately comes to mind is Edo period Japan, which ran on rice. Physically, obviously, but also economically; the relevant unit was the koku, a measure of volume approximately 180 liters and nominally one person-year of rice. Land was even measured in kokudaka, measuring how productive it was - because nobody really cares about a peasant village's surface area but its food production is very important.

But the features you point out for hemp also apply to rice. This led to the evolution of the Dojima Rice Exchange, very much like people inventing a banking system and stock exchange de novo when the market needs arose. It also had the failure modes you'd expect from a banking system and stock exchange; you can read the linked article if you'd like. Many of the details are foreign (is 42 momme per koku a good price for rice in Osaka? Beats me) but the broad strokes are familiar, with booms and busts and price speculation much like many other markets.

186:

That was a separate policy that I didn't really support. I think if you want to increase corporation tax on large companies you should just be open about it.

I'm talking about Corbyn's proposals for bringing utilities and public transport into public ownership.

There were other decentralising plans, too, like reintroducing sectoral bargaining and strengthening unions. That moves some power and responsibility for worker pay, conditions and safety to the people most affected and away from Westminster.

187:

Oh, or was it just that the state would take a stake in all large companies? Anyway, if you want to do that you should be open about it and explain why it's a good idea.

I was disappointed that Labour did such a bad job of explaining how transformative our platform would be. But maybe if we had convinced people they would have been even more spooked.

188:

I'm not sure I buy the Prisoner's Dilemma argument in this case. They're perfectly willing to struggle en bloc to sit there and acquit Trump, so that ironically demonstrates a certain level of party discipline. Why?

It's nothing that hasn't been said before, but the win-win for any sane Republican (should there be any left in the Senate) is for Donald Trump to be convicted without them having to vote for it.

If they get caught growing a spine and voting guilty, this will enrage already angry and violent red hats who might come after them next, and

On the other hand, if they don't vote to convict Trump the next armed mob might get them. A passing guard warned Mitt Romney away from walking in on a mass of insurrectionists, who were unable to find Mike Pence and would certainly have settled for him. Many people are reminding the senators how close this mob came and that if Trump isn't held responsible this will happen again.

Too, pretty much everyone but the crazies is tired of Donald Trump.

The magic words for them are '...two thirds of the members present.' For plausible deniability nobody can announce their plans ahead of time - but many Republican senators may have sudden family emergencies that require them to be elsewhere when the final vote is taken.

Any that remember having a spine or want to pander to the base a little more can go on Fox News to rant about improper impeachment proceedings which, with a principled stand on principles, they refuse to be a part of.

189:

rant about improper impeachment proceedings which, with a principled stand on principles, they refuse to be a part of.

Yes. If six Republicans decide to convict, that's 56 for. And if 56 = (2/3)N, then N = 84, so 16 other Republicans would need to be so outraged by the Democratic perfidy and general vileness that they could not possibly take part in such a sham process. And then Trump would be somewhat out(*) and they could carry on.

I don't think that's at all likely, but it's something too keep an eye on.

(*) Details TBD.

190:

We should just start "small" and just para-terraform just the 4 mile deep Valles Marineris on Mars. It's depth would allow us to sustain (with some biological or industrial maintenance and replenishment) a sufficiently thick and breathable atmosphere. for the foreseeable future, the colonists can treat the rest of Mars like we treat the Himalayas.

At 2,500 miles long and 360 miles wide, it's area is 900,000 square miles (about the size of Alaska and Texas combined), more than enough room for any conceivable initial colonization effort). Electrical cables can be strung across the canyon opening creating an artificial magnetic field that would shield colonists and life on the valley floor from cosmic radiation.

Cities could be carved into the canyon walls like pueblos, maybe connected by subway tunnels to lava tube cities - a giant planet wide ants nest. The colonists would then proceed with the terra-forming of the rest of the planet.

So there you have all three approaches: true terraforming, para-terraforming and holo-terraforming.

191:

So a good sized Martian lava tube can hold a sky scraper and provide about 40 square kilometers of living area.

With technology like that you could settle Nunavut (area 2,000,000 km^2, current population 36,000). But by the time Mars colonies are possible at all presumably there will already be cozy subterranean cities all across the Arctic anyway...

192:

I wonder if part of the difficulty in getting "Socialism lite" is with what it amuses me to think of as "The Mammonite heresy", IOW, "If any working stiff's children can reach their potential, and live comfortably, how do we know who is right with Mammon?".

193:

The PR photos are not the actual food. Mars is less viable than the Mariana Trench.

Could be wrong, but I think they've busted more things trying to land them on the bottom of the Mariana Trench than on Mars. Of course humans can actually get to that bottom and survive the return trip, (yet to be demonstrated for Mars), but I suspect the engineering challenges of building a human capable habitat on either of them are comparably sucktastic and pointless. Part of the fun with the Trench is apparently the surface water above it is pretty wild, too.

194:

I have news about whitroth. He is out of surgery and currently in ICU, where "they are waiting for his blood pressure and everything to stabilize."

195:

"The magic words for them are '...two thirds of the members present.'"

Better yet, they can "boycott the Unconstitutional Ex-Presidential Reverse Lynching." Trump gets convicted and they look really good (if you're a crazy Q'anon type.)

196:

I have news about whitroth. He is out of surgery and currently in ICU, where "they are waiting for his blood pressure and everything to stabilize."

Best news all day! Thanks!

197:

news about whitroth. He is out of surgery

For some reason I read "out or sugary" and thought "poor guy".

Here's hoping that out of sugary (junk food) is his major problem soon :)

198:

I was definitely thinking of the Koku in that example.

Another interesting old measure is the talent (originally 3600 shekels, which tells you who came up with it). The precise amounts of talent and shekel varied, but when the talent got to Greece, atwo shekels of gold would buy a cow, while in Athens, a talent of silver (26 kilograms of silver) was nine man-years' pay for skilled (literally talented) work, or a month's salary for the crew of a trireme.

Incidentally, the use of talented comes from medieval Biblical translations. However, the idea of a basic unit of money covering a day's normal work probably goes back to Mesopotamia, and the idea of feeding and caring for workers is far more ancient and widespread. We've just abstracted ourselves away from it, so now we get all whiny in the US about living wages, instead of using that as our basic unit of currency.

Apparently coinage may have started when people got tired of weighing out chunks of silver looted from temples and treasuries, and started making them in standardized shapes, with little seals on them to say how much they were and who was only accepting them for taxes. That was an iron age invention. Prior to that, bulk valuables like gold and silver ingots were locked up in temples, and transactions were done on credit, using weights, based on how much silver or gold was held in account by the temple and could be used to redeem a debt. If you believe Graeber, credit is a lot older than coinage.

If and when monetary systems go to hell, barter and credit may well be based on notions of the pre-collapse value of things, the equivalent of a koku of rice and the like. If people can be held accountable, then there's no reason for them to have to pay up immediately, if they periodically and honestly settle accounts.

199:

That's great news. Thanks for that. It's been bugging me all day. Give him our best if you have any contact.

200:

Scott Sanford @ 191: "...presumably there will already be cozy subterranean cities all across the Arctic anyway..."

You don't build subterranean buildings (much less cities) in Nunavut. You build them above ground, on stilts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nunavut#/media/File:Nattinnak_Visitor_Centre_and_Library.JPG

http://www.sanaqatiit.ca/

201:

Smidgen of actual fact:
Record breaking cold was 1962-3 - lasted 5 weeks.
650mm+ of snow in London + drifting

Colin
Agreed.
Corporation tax is, quite simply "income Tax" - for companies.
And, yes, they wanted a stake in any company above $SIZE, whatever "size" was.
Supposedly a good idea, except they planned to cheat the worker-shareholders, as I mentioned.

S-S
Meanwhile, as you say .. Many people are reminding the senators how close this mob came and that if Trump isn't held responsible this will happen again. - but they are still going to be stupid enough to vote against conviction aren't they? [ Or - maybe - absent themselves, as you suggest - what are the odds? ]
and ... Troutwaxer ... "boycott" ?? Really?
Think they are that crafty, given past proof of their craven stupidity?

H
"However, the idea of a basic unit of moneyEXCHANGE covering a day's normal work probably goes back to Mesopotamia," ...
Money, as such wasn't invented until about 700BCE - I think. As you note - I thought it was "invented" in what is now just pre-Classical Turkey among the "Greek" city-states of the region, especially those around the Black Sea, such as Colchis. ( Which had a lot of gold - see fleeces/Iason etc. )

202:

Heteromeles @ 158:

I'm not sure I buy the Prisoner's Dilemma argument in this case. They're perfectly willing to struggle en bloc to sit there and acquit Trump, so that ironically demonstrates a certain level of party discipline. Why?

I don't read it that way. To me it looks much more like a Tragedy of the Commons.

On the one hand, any R politician who dumps Trump is likely to be primaried out of existence. When you represent a deep Red state the Primary is the real election, with the actual public vote being more of a coronation, so the majority of R politicians need to keep the Trump base on-side lest they be replaced by someone even more extreme.

But on the other hand January 6th is going to be hung around the necks of the Republican party for as long as it fails to dump Trump. To put it another way, the Republicans have stopped being a big tent party, and have become political Marmite: 70% of Republican voters want to see Trump acquitted, which means that something like 35% of the country. The other 30% of R supporters will now have to choose between voting for a Trumpist party which has clearly taken leave of reality, or abstaining, or voting Democrat. A substantial chunk will choose one of the latter two, which is going to make it hard for the Republicans to ever get the House or the Presidency, although they may sometimes hold on to a slim lead in the Senate. Basically the nationwide popular vote is going to be around 65% D, 35% R.

However if the R's could dump Trump then Trump's base will carry on voting R for want of any alternative and it all goes back to roughly where things were, apart from R politicians paying lip service to the Steal of 2020 on top of the existing list of Creationism, Small Government, Anti-abortion and the 2nd Amendment. The R party can let Trump fade into history, and everything carries on like it was before.

The Republican leadership knows this, and would very much like to dump Trump. But actually being seen to do so is political suicide for any individual.

So I suspect that every Republican senator is busily trying to talk some of the others into being the ones who vote to convict. The only question is, who can they get to volunteer for the suicide mission.

The other potential future is that the Republican party actually splits in two. This would be even more of a disaster for the Republicans because it means that the non-Democrat vote is nicely split between two unelectable parties. They might reach an electoral pact to divy up House and Senate seats, but you can't do that with the Presidency.

BTW, great news about whitworth. Hoping to see him back soon.

203:

This raises the possibility of a new type of terraforming. Instead of pure terraforming (remaking the entire planet) or para-terraforming (enclosed domes on the surface) we could use these tubes for holo-terraforming

You've just reinvented John Varley's fictional shtick from the eight worlds stories, written during the 1970s and early 1980s.

205:

"Incidentally, the use of talented comes from medieval Biblical translations. However, the idea of a basic unit of money covering a day's normal work probably goes back to Mesopotamia, and the idea of feeding and caring for workers is far more ancient and widespread. We've just abstracted ourselves away from it, so now we get all whiny in the US about living wages, instead of using that as our basic unit of currency.

Because it's impossible to agree on, and varies unpredictably, including with weather conditions. Something that I thought of many decades ago, which would solve a lot of problems, is using GNP/capita, which would be especially useful for paying public servants and for public facilities. Even it is not without its difficulties.

206:

January 6th is going to be hung around the necks of the Republican party for as long as it fails to dump Trump.

Not to over-read the tea leaves, but just two weeks after Trump left office, the Heritage Foundation brought Pence on board as a distinguished fellow. I'd guess they gave some thought about their future relation with ex-President Trump before doing that.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/02/04/think-tank-pence-wants-lead-conservatives-into-future/4389431001/

Mike Pence to join Heritage Foundation to 'lead the conservative movement into the future'
Maureen Groppe
USA TODAY
Feb. 4, 2021


Former Vice President Mike Pence is returning to the think tank world, the first official step show how he plans to stay active in public and political life since the change in administrations.

Pence announced Thursday that he will be a "distinguished visiting fellow" at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., where he will work to "lead the conservative movement into the future."

"Knowing that Vice President Pence is still in the fight is an adrenaline shot for the entire conservative movement," Heritage President Kay C. James said in a statement.

207:

You could have radiators looking at the sky.

PV doesn't work great on Mars; less atmospheric transmission loss than on Earth, but inverse-square law means that actual energy received at ground level is a bit lower.

But ... why not combine the two?

You have a Martian city with a nuclear reactor for heat -- if you're living under a dome or in a lava tube you've got a huge volume of air to keep at human-friendly temperatures, with a fairly large surface in contact with Antarctic-cold ground. Surplus heat can be dumped through radiator panels which just happen to also serve as PV panels during daylight hours: some of the PV power can be used to drive filter/blowers to remove dust from the panels.

The reactor is therefore used to keep the humans from freezing and to provide base load around the clock; the PV panels to provide a large surface area for cooling plus boost power during daylight hours.

208:

the 4 mile deep Valles Marineris on Mars

You're not paying attention to Aereography, Valles Marineris is not 4 miles deep, instead it's sides are 4 miles high because it runs through the Tharsis Bulge. In general the bottom of the canyon is at the same level as the northern plains and it appears the basic rift valley has been modified by water flowing through and out onto the plains. As I mentioned in the previous thread, the advantage of using Valles Marineris is being able to tunnel into the sides of the canyon. If you want a low altitude site you need to be planning around the Hellas Basin instead.

209:

The fun and weird part is that to most people, this sounds more sane than building the equivalent structure on Antarctica. [Shrug]

On Antarctica, you're either building on top of ice (which tends to melt at human-friendly temperatures), or on mountain peaks (isn't the ice cap about two kilometres thick at maximum depth?). You've also got the problem of ice accumulation. IIRC the British base is modular and designed to migrate -- previous iterations had to be abandoned due to iceberg calving. So Antarctica is rather more unpleasantly active terrain than Mars. It also has those inconvenient three month long nights which tend to put a stake through the heart of solar power reliance.

210:

Sir,
You raise a very pertinent and interesting point here, which could do with being taken further. The strongly left wing view here is that the extremely rich are somehow sinful and have gained their wealth in ways somehow illicit; the right-wing view is that protecting the very rich is the way to go, because they themselves aspire to these riches.

Despite being weakly right-wing myself, I beg to take a different view. Take for example a pass-time of my father, who for a time was a racecourse bookmaker. Over a long run, racecourse bookmakers make about 5 to 8% of the money that passes though their hands, with occasional very large scores where an unexpected result increases the profit margin. Racecourse bookmaking is mostly about efficiency and avoiding losing money and taking a steady, low margin with occasional huge spikes.

A lot of very rich individuals can be thought of as being like a bookie who has had an extremely unlikely run of huge profit spikes in succession, though no especial skill of his own. Said bookie has gotten rich through chance and stayed rich through skill and this is a very, very rare scenario which nevertheless does happen. Jeff Bezos just happened to hit a number of things right with Amazon; Bill Gates caught a lucky break when a superior competitor turned up late to a meeting, and so on.

Very rich individuals often act like the super-rich footballers we are familiar with in Britain, or like the very rich Lords of times past: they are extremely good at spending money and abysmal at hanging onto it. This skill set is extremely common throughout all of humanity, and the ability to consistently make money is lamentably rare.

What I would propose as a remedy to the supposed ill of having very rich individuals knocking about the place is a simple reversal of the current policies: remove inheritance taxes and other inter-generational super-taxes entirely.

At the moment the wheeze to get around inheritance taxes is to put the wealth into a trust fund of some description, which turns it into a sort of magical money-cow which only that family are allowed to milk, and whose existence is protected by laws and regulations, so even if the family consist of spendthrift idiots the cow goes on and the idiots maintain their rich life forever more.

Remove the need for the trusts, and they will vanish, and with them this legalistic dynasty thing; young heirs will be able to piss the family fortune up the wall with impunity and make no mistake, the exchequer will benefit.

211:

I kind of wonder why the need for trusts would end. They are not, in my view, only for tax avoidance, but also specifically for that next generation problem. By limiting how much the progeny can spend, and using professionals in managing the trust, it can be made to grow and perhaps there will be some prodigy at some point in the future.

Tax avoidance is just one of the reasons for trusts.

212:

Allen Thomson
"the conservative movement" - except even those people are not actual conservatives, they're primitive religious reactionaries, with whom Metternich or maybe - a better fit would be "Pius XI" & quite happy.

Dan H
Interesting idea.
of course there are families, here who do the "trust" thing anyway, simply to guard against pissing it up the wall.
Cavendish & Grosvenor & Scott [ a.k.a. "Devonshire" & "Westminster" & "Buccleugh" ] immediately come to mind.
But again, they are rare outliers.

213:

Glad to hear that.

214:

With technology like that you could settle Nunavut

Nunavut doesn't have the convenient giant insulated rock tube to live in: it's kind of exposed. (Okay, you get a better atmosphere, so there's a quid pro quo there.)

As Bruce Sterling observed a decade or more ago, before colonizing Mars it makes more sense to colonize the Gobi Desert. At least you can drive out of it in a pickup truck if everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

215:

That second use is also an abomination. The world should not conform to the will of the long dead, and if you permit inheritance of fortunes at all, the heirs should most certainly have free disposal of the money.

216:

Nunavut is mostly permafrost, so you have to build on stilts a bit like the US South Pole station.

Also, there are no roads, so you can't drive out in a pickup truck. You have to arrange for a plane to pick you up.

If you want nice empty places with oxygen and no permafrost you'd be better off staying a bit down South of Nunavut within the treeline and in the Canadian Shield. You can buy land rather cheaply over there.

217:
As Bruce Sterling observed a decade or more ago, before colonizing Mars it makes more sense to colonize the Gobi Desert. At least you can drive out of it in a pickup truck if everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

But that gets to the question of why we are even considering settling Mars in the first place. My personal opinion is that that question has no sensible answer. But if it has one, it is probably that we plan to fuck Earth up so badly that no one will be able to survive here (or, at least, it will be harder than living on Mars).

218:

But that gets to the question of why we are even considering settling Mars in the first place. My personal opinion is that that question has no sensible answer.

Actually, on second thought, here's a sort-of rationale. There are some not-completely-idiotic arguments for sending humans to Mars. (Some have already been rehearsed here or in the Covid on Mars thread.) Getting humans to Mars alive is horrifically expensive. But most of the current plans on the table are even worse than that: they are to get humans to Mars, then bring them back alive and relatively undamaged. That is (horrifically expensive)^2.

Now, I think if you asked for volunteers to go to Mars, look around, and report, on the understanding that we are not going to bring you back -- you are gonna die there, probably fairly soon -- well, I don't think you'd have a lot of trouble finding volunteers for that.

The argument for "settling Mars" is that it's a way to ask volunteers to go there and die.

219:

Of course, Mother Nature could send us a huge meteor so that we can have an extinction event on Earth.

In that case we would be glad we kept some of our stuff in the Moon or in Mars.

220:

It's not clear to me that there's any need for either PV panels or heatsinks.

You have a reactor for heating, and the power requirement for that dwarfs the requirement for electricity, because it's bloody cold. It's also pretty much a constant load. So you can run the reactor at a steady power level adequate to meet that load, and no more. What fluctuations you do find yourself needing to deal with you can handle simply by turning the reactor up or down a bit; it won't be a big bit, and you don't need quick response, you just need to be quicker than the huge thermal inertia of the base as a whole, which isn't hard.

Note that that doesn't change when you take electricity generation into account as well. You still run the reactor continuously at the same steady power level. You have a heat engine driving a generator, which rejects heat straightforwardly into the base's HVAC system, and works off the 300K or so difference between that temperature and the reactor output. That engine is one of two methods you have of bringing the reactor output temperature down to pleasant levels; the other is just throwing away the entropy by dilution, same as an ordinary heater does. And you can vary the proportion of the steady reactor output that goes to either of these methods, from all one way to all the other or any split in between.

You are still supplying the same amount of energy to heat the tunnels, but you have the choice between supplying it all directly as heat, or only partly as heat and anything up to about 50% (ideally) as electricity, which spends a few milliseconds doing something flashy and dynamic and then ends up as heat. It's all the same in the end, and it means that simply by installing a reactor big enough to keep the place warm in the first place, you've automatically got the option of also having much more electricity than you've any call for just by connecting a heat engine into the appropriate "source" and "sink" points, which would still exist as part of the heating system in any case even if you didn't use them like that.

To be sure, you are relying on the ventilation system to even out hot and cold spots, but you'd be doing that anyway and at much the same level too.

Since we are talking about an underground base to start with, diurnal fluctuations don't come into it. It only goes out of whack if you start dumping large amounts of energy into some form which it then stays in and gets taken out of the system. Perhaps you might do this by synthesising silly amounts of rocket fuel, but I can't see where else you might do it, and you've got enough slack to synthesise sensible amounts of rocket fuel within the expected ability of the control system to adjust accordingly if you need to.

PV I see as being useful for things like powering remote outposts doing stuff you don't want near the actual base (spaceport, perhaps), or where the main base is concerned, as an emergency measure to provide essential services for everyone huddling into the oh shit room while the glow in the dark people fix the reactor. For that you'd want something portable enough to quickly hustle out onto the surface and deploy at need, so it didn't have to cope with sitting out in the Martian environment for an indefinite period and still work when you wanted it.

Of course, you'd probably want some complete duplicate reactor installations in widely separated caverns sitting there dormant but loaded and ready to go just in case, because you don't want to be depending on just one thing if you're completely and terminally fucked without it. You can keep them nicely "dry" if you use compressed (by pedal power, in extremis) Martian atmosphere as primary coolant, and you just need to bar the engine over every so often to keep the lubrication up to scratch.

This, also, is a likely method for discovering large scale Martian lifeforms. It is well known that when you start up an engine that has been stood for some years doing nothing on Earth, you have to give it a bit of stick on no load to blow the dead cats out of the system which have nested inside it while it was in the shed. A nuclear power plant calls for particular attention on this point because of the immense number of different niches it has for different varieties and sizes of dead cat to nest in. If the startup procedure on Mars turns out to be similar to that on Earth, and is not just switch on and go, then we can be sure that something on Mars has also evolved to fit the engine-nesting dead cat niche.

221:

A worry I harbor is that a large part of Musk's interest in getting off-world has to do with his experience sitting in conference with governments, and the possibility that he doesn't feel as though a western democracy, or specifically the US, is at all able to protect us from any sort of climate disaster.

Under which calculation, I'd argue it makes perfect sense for Musk to think better on airless Mars than stupid Earth.

222:

It is very often an abomination, true, but it was and is used to preserve things of value to everyone, such as historical houses and family-run farms. One of the reasons that the dogmatic campaign against inherited money from the 1920s to the 1970s was so harmful to the UK's heritage and ecologies was that it forced most of those to sell out to 'developers', 'agribusiness' and financiers.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

223:
Of course, Mother Nature could send us a huge meteor so that we can have an extinction event on Earth.

In that case we would be glad we kept some of our stuff in the Moon or in Mars.

But, for this argument to work, we're talking about a rock that hits Earth and makes it an even less hospitable environment than Mars. And actually, it's even a bit worse than that -- it has to make Earth an even less hospitable environment than isolated Mars -- Mars without any sort of help from populated Earth.

Not saying it's not still an argument, but that's a pretty big rock.

224:

@217 If you are purely talking about extending livable surface for general population, yes, at this point in time colonizing Mars makes no sense.

Still, points in its favor:
1. it's cool: some kind of people are more likely to get involved in a supremely hard but interesting and exciting endeavour than a merely uncomfortable and boring one.
In this site often the neo-religious roots of the space colonization myths are pointed as a disqualification of the idea itself, but let's not forget that nothing in this universe have any innate meaning apart from the meanings we put in it ourselves.
Space exploration (and colonization as a requisite to do any serious exploration) *is* cool, apart for those mystical roots: as a proof of it, we are constantly talking about it, and the host himself have written a lot about it precisely because its a cool idea.
So, choosing to focus one life on a cool thing because it's cool, on condition that do not cause damage to other people, is no worse way of using one own life than focusing on, for example, writing books, painting, doing sport or other similar activities.

2. politics: all Earth surface is already allocated to somebody, generally reluctant to let it go. In the case of Antarctica there are plenty of treaties that makes sure that nobody start exploiting it, and governments that would like to be able to stake a claim (Argentina, for example, but also China, Australia and others), and that's ture also for the Artic now-under-ice islands (see Canada, USA, Nordic countries and Russia), for the open sea you can see China artificial islands, and the Sahara is not exactly in a stable geopolitical zone.

3. distance: for billionaire that see (time will say it they are paranoid or will informed, but its well known that many of them thinks this way) the possible collapse of civilization approaching and foresee a near future of resource wars, hordes of disenfranchised migrants moving from the poorest to the richest nations looking to plunder all their preciously hoarded gains, the perspective of having a good stretch of vacuum keeping those hordes at bay may seem more reassuring than simply moving to a subterranean bunker or to a Patagonian ranch.
Also, in some ways, a place that *have* to be as much a closed self-sufficient system as a requisite design to be able to exist at all, it's paradoxically more guaranteed to be able to go on existing than a system where you stored a lot of resources, but was built by a contractor and nobody ever really lived there for any period of time like one of the aforementioned bunkers.

Personally, apart a small scientific outpost on Mars for scientific purposes, for space expansion I would see space habitats as a more desiderable and realistic solution.
If we had the ways to do it, I think a planet Earth left as a natural preserve with only the most important historical human settlements preserved as a kind of archaeological park while most of the human activities have been moved to enclosed perfectly controlled agricutlural, industrial and habitative stations would be something to look forward to.

P.s. I would also like to point to the Isaac Arthur channel on youtube: the guy talks a lot about mega-engineering projects, futurism topics and so on, and while maybe a bit too much "space-optimist", it's still full of interesting informations.

225:

It doesn't have to be a meteor that's so big that it makes Earth even less hospitable than Mars, in oxygen and temperature levels. Even with a whopper (making so much debris that we would have trouble breathing the atmosphere and we would be getting lower temperatures than Mars) Earth would still have its protection from background space radiation and solar radiation.

But, even with something less than a whopper meteor, Earth's industries, logistics chains and human expertise could be affected for a hundred years or more.

Having an intact techno base on Mars, complete with human expertise, Science and Technology, would mean that they could help Earth get back on its feet much faster.

226:

On Antarctica, you're either building on top of ice (which tends to melt at human-friendly temperatures), or on mountain peaks (isn't the ice cap about two kilometres thick at maximum depth?). You've also got the problem of ice accumulation. IIRC the British base is modular and designed to migrate -- previous iterations had to be abandoned due to iceberg calving. So Antarctica is rather more unpleasantly active terrain than Mars. It also has those inconvenient three month long nights which tend to put a stake through the heart of solar power reliance.

Umm, if you don't remember the specs for McMurdo Station, which is a seaport on the coast on bare ground, you might want to follow this link. You may also want to look up "Dry Valleys." I was lucky enough to know a researcher who did soils work there, and got some interesting stories.

As for the Gobi Desert, let's just say that Genghis Khan proved that it's not the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert, and that you can launch a rather large empire from there. Well, yes, the kingdom of Sheba traded frankincense across that Empty Quarter 3,000-odd years ago, and some have argued that was the start of globalization... But at least the Empty Quarter is not Death Valley, except that, well yes, there was (and is) a tribe of Shoshone living in Death Valley...

Which kind of makes the point about the non-emptiness of terrestrial deserts, compared with Mars. Polar or otherwise.

At this point, I have to agree with The Seagull. If you want a landscape on Earth that's at least as inhospitable as Mars, you've got to look at the abyssal plane or lower. Peter Watts territory, in other words.

227:

fizz @224:

Your argument 1 is the strongest; however, I would argue that it is more of an argument for "Why we should go to Mars" than "Why we should settle Mars". The second question is harder.

Arguments 2 and 3 essentially reduce to "We are too stupid to get Earth right." (for certain values of "stupid" which include "inability to solve collective action problems"). I don't argue with that premise, but I would point out that it's a problem we would bring to Mars with us.

228:

Arguments 2 and 3 essentially reduce to "We are too stupid to get Earth right." (for certain values of "stupid" which include "inability to solve collective action problems"). I don't argue with that premise, but I would point out that it's a problem we would bring to Mars with us.

And that's the problem. I'll repeat what I've said before: Mars is not a lifeboat in case we destroy Earth. Fixing climate change is far easier than terraforming Mars, and if we can't do that, we're not going to be able to live on Mars. The road to Mars, if it exists at all, goes through figuring out a sustainable civilization for our planet.

This isn't metaphorical: the huge skill set we need to make civilization compatible with the biosphere is the same huge skill set we'd need to manufacture even a small biosphere capable of supporting civilized human life on Mars. If we can't do it here, you can't do it there. The other thing is that we'll only ship that much stuff to Mars if we have a huge surplus of material with which to do that here on Earth, so consuming at the rate we're going now means we're never going to establish an off-planet colony.

229:

fizz@224: all Earth surface is already allocated to somebody, generally reluctant to let it go

OK, so who exactly *owns* the Atacama Desert? I know it is Chilean territory but that's sovereignty, not ownership. Apart from places that already have buildings on them, who is legally able to object if I plonk a homestead dome on some patch of it?

230:

EC
And this profound stupidity is still at work, actually.
One of the SNP's dafter ideas is exactly that, after all.
Oh & you forgot to add: "Foreign Investors" - who are usually even bigger rip-off merchants than the ones you listed ...

H
See also the "Spaceship Earth" & sealed biome projects ( "Biosphere" ?)
That appear to have gone completely tits-up, with no re-start projected.
A big factor was concrete absorbing or emitting CO2 & screwing the internal atmospheric balance, IIRC.

231:

The Atacama desert is most probably owned by a few big mining companies. It is rich in copper, gold, iron and silver.

232:

Greg, I don't think they will boycott. I merely think it would be good strategy to boycott. They're much too stupid to execute something like that. Maybe one or two of them will come up with something similar, but the rest will not.

233:

I'll merely direct you to read Harrington's Capital Without Borders if you think any part of what you said is true. There's perhaps $20 trillion (now likely more) kicking around in the offshore financial system, and that's about the size of a normal US budget, to give you an idea of its influence.

Trump is, in some ways, apparently a fairly normal denizen of the super-rich world, super-rich being defined as someone who controls more than $60 million. When the super-rich start working with wealth managers, they learn to see any form of taxation as "theft," and many go so far as to seriously believe that being forced to pay any debt at all is wrong. Their wealth allows them to make it cost more to force them to repay a debt than the the debt is worth. You can see this in Trump's history of thousands of lawsuits against him filed by people he stiffed. This, apparently, is normal. If it's cheaper to pay a lawyer than to pay a debt, pay the lawyer. If it's cheap enough, pay your publicist to smear the person trying to collect the debt, so you look like the good guy.

You can even see this in the impeachment. It's probably going to cost him pledges of around $50-100 million to get out of this. That's an estimate based on how much Josh Hawley purportedly raked in through donations in January, multiplied by the number of senators who need to be persuaded, plus a fudge factor (some will be more expensive than others). The thing is, a hundred million in campaign donations is one percent of a billionaire's fortune, and if it's cheaper to bribe help re-elect politicians than to do the right thing...

This is what happens when individuals start amassing resources comparable to those of nation-states. They stop acting like citizens, and start acting like states. So Trump acts to ordinary people very much as the US has to Indian tribes (broken treaties), black slaves (no reparations), and smaller countries (CIA-backed inept regime change).

What's the problem with this? It's obvious: look how Trump ran the US into the ground. Or look how he ran his own company into the ground repeatedly. Most people, Trump included, are too stupid to be good kings of their own houses. That's why systems that have many people involved, along with a plethora of checks and balances, tend to work a bit better.

This goes for the US too: because of our lack of internal and external checks and balances, we're disproportionately responsible for climate change. Globally, we need to be checked and balanced, just as much as Trump, or Putin, or Xi, or Balsonaro do.

234:

Haven't read through any of the comments, so apologies if this idea has been already mentioned/discarded.

My immediate impression was that the MuskBank e-currency is a variation on preferred shares, i.e., highly tailorable combination/laundry list of benefits (issuer and holder) and conditions as there ain't a helluva lot that you can do with this coin. (Basically, the only thing 'novel' about this is the 'e-' prefix.)

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/preferredstock.asp

However, it's been a while since I looked at preferred vs. common shares as they're used in real-life as opposed to official definitions esp. funny games/antics associated with them. Whaddayaknow - looks like the UK offers a recentish example.

https://www.barrons.com/articles/libor-preferred-share-investors-51547226509


Questions:

1- What's the energy associated with Musk e-currency transactions and how is that factored into the valuation?

2- Who is actually going to mind the store, i.e., monitor that this e-currency/PS is working as intended, investigate, recommend, enact procedures as conditions change, etc.?

https://www.federalreserve.gov/aboutthefed/bios/board/powell.htm

235:

I can see two problems, one short-term and one long-term.

Short term: in event of a reactor accident or malfunction -- or simply if it needs to be shut down for 6-12 months for inspection or repairs -- your colony is going to find itself without a heat source, which is Bad. (Credibly, you could use the reactor to heat a molten rock or molten salt reservoir and gradually bank enough thermal energy to run the colony for weeks to months, but that's going to add a lot to the construction costs.) Oh, and if you're using it for colony heat, that means it's going to be operating in close proximity to your habitat, even if the heat exchange loops are well-isolated and there's a thick wall of rock in the way.

A worst-case accident would be something like Fukushima Daichii, in which the reactor scrams and there's a loss of power to the core cooling system, leading ultimately to thermal runaway driven by short half-life decay products, and then a meltdown. So then you get white-hot corium sitting a few tens to hundreds of metres from your main habitat volume. This does not fill me with the warm fuzzies.

A second, longer-term problem is refueling. It's probably not economically or politically sensible to ship spent fuel elements back to Earth for reprocessing/disposal, but more importantly you've got to put something into the reactor to replace them if you want to keep it running. What is the local availability of uranium ore (never mind thorium) on the Martian surface? If the answer is "poor" or "it's there, but it's widely scattered" or "it's all in the deep mantle or planetary core" then it's not a long-term stable solution to powering the colony.

Fusion gets around all of these roadblocks -- if you posit that by 2070 a stable, maintainable, transportable-in-pieces-to-Mars fusion reactor is available. It seems like a reasonably good bet, but it does introduce yet another critical dependency on a very high-end climax technology that we can't build yet.

236:

I think Gasdive would tell you that you have three of anything your life depends on. In the case of nukes on Mars, I'd put each small nuke as far away from the other two as I could feasibly manage, so that the disaster that takes them all out takes me out too.

Indeed, you could rank biospheres on Mars by how many nukes they had. Outposts have 0-1 nukes, stations have at least 2 nukes, colonies have at least 3 nukes.

As for refueling, I guess you've got to start extracting thorium from the regolith, or something (/snark). Or maybe you do a bang-up business in disposing of used spaceship nukes, when the colonial rush is on, when everyone wants to breathe perchlorate-laden dust while working on Their New Home and derelict spaceships are piling up at Marsport Field?

237:

I guess you've got to start extracting thorium from the regolith, or something (/snark).

You just need to ship in He3 from the Lunar mines. Easy, see?

238:

So then you get white-hot corium sitting a few tens to hundreds of metres from your main habitat volume.

Isn't that a basic description of an interplanetary spaceship?

239:

Scott Sanford at 185--

I didn't mean to imply that one can't create a commodity currency using a perishable and variable commodity; obviously it has been done. Thanks for the links, by the way; I should learn more. It's not entirely clear to me how "samurais were paid in rice" really eventually translated to "rice was used as the commodity base for a currency." The existence of a concentrated market exchange in a commodity, using records of some form to record transactions rather than actually moving the commodity around, doesn't necessarily equate to a currency. Bills of exchange, promissory notes, bills of lading, bills of sale...these are all forms of symbolic transfer that don't quite come up to the level of a currency as that is generally understood.

My point here anyway was that if Elons are to be developed sui generis, linking them to a variable commodity of uncertain value causes all kinds of unwelcome effects on the currency that could be avoided by issuing a fiat instead. Fiat is more controllable, once the issuer reaches sovereign-level control of a large geographic area and resources over a significant amount of time. It has its problems too but on balance I think a fiat currency is more directly manageable by the issuer compared to the outside forces that can affect a commodity.

240:

if you posit that by 2070 a stable, maintainable, transportable-in-pieces-to-Mars fusion reactor is available.

Why not? Since fusion power on earth is only 30 years away we should be able to get it to Mars in 50.

241:

You could use a water-cooled reactor and pump the cooling water through the walls or floors of the base, at varying depths depending on the expected temperature of the water. Hotter water == more depth.

242:

Why not? Since fusion power on earth is only 30 years away we should be able to get it to Mars in 50.

Fusion power has been 30 years away since 1960.

243:

Now we're diving into Graeber's Debt a bit, and I'm not going to haul that out right now.

The issue with fiat money from Mars is...who cares? Is it worth anything on Earth, other than to numismatists? It's only worth something if it can be used to buy things on Mars, and in a first colony, that's probably somewhere between minimally necessary and counterproductive. If I was getting paid to do a contract job on Mars, I'd want to be paid in something that I could take back to Earth with me.

That's why I linked Marsbucks to interplanetary financial services in a blockchain cryptocurrency, where coins are demonstrably linked to (and disposed of) by work demonstrably done, but the results of that work aren't apparent to outside watchers (they're streams of encrypted communication with time stamps attached). This is nominally a currency, but really it's a luxury item of trade. It's roughly analogous to Spanish silver in China during the Manila galleon trade, where standardized silver ingots were a form of currency, along with coins and paper cash. The point of a Marsbuck isn't to spend it on Mars, it's to generate foreign exchange so that Mars can import things from Earth.

244:

The latest news on whitroth is that the "intubator" (I'm assuming that means "the ventilator") is out, and whitroth is responding to people by nodding when they speak.

245:

Yes it has. It has been a running joke on this blog for a decade or so.

246:

On very thin medical knowledge I suspect that they were referring to him having intubation tube which can just let you breath without the mouth, nose, and back of the throat actions getting in the way.

Ventalation means pumping air into the lungs via an intubation tube.

247:

Yes. Also, from what I read, I can't see that it will be less problematic than fission power, except that its waste products are rather easier to deal with.

248:

Now, if I wanted to power Mars...

...I'd start by building a base on the far side of the Moon. I'd put lots and lots and lots of solar power there, and I'd use it to run a big ol' laser array, tuned just right so that it wasn't absorbed by the Martian atmosphere at all. Then, when my power plant could see Mars, I'd beam power to their collector station. Easy peasy. Don't want to have any such device on the Earth-facing side of the Moon, because then people would get antsy, even though it's only for projecting power from where there's more than twice as much sunlight to where it's needed.

I think I'd call my system the Farside Cannon, something like that. Possible slogan: Loonies--Lighting up Mars.

Now personally, I think Mercury could be profitably colonized by just ringing it with locally produced solar power plants, burying the colonies in double-walled chambers* on pole-facing slopes, and projecting power via tera and petawatt laser arrays out to the rest of the system on contract. Why not?

Possible slogans: Mercury Light and Power--we've got you covered.

My apologies for inflicting my sense of humor on you.

*Think of a cross between a dewar and an oak gall, but sized for a colony.

249:

What is the local availability of uranium ore (never mind thorium) on the Martian surface?

Could someone (Heteromeles?) give us a quick refresher course on the current understanding of how ore bodies are formed on Earth? I have a vague impression that it involves plate tectonics and aqueous processes -- if so, that might constrain our expectations for finding ore on other planets.

250:

I think the diffraction limit on your emitters is going to be an issue, unless you can do a phased array at optical wavelengths.

251:

in 1956 Isaac Asimov (writing under the pen name Paul French) wrote a novel titled "Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury".

In it, the planet Mercury supplied power to the rest of the solar system.

252:

Oops, sorry, I should have said that Mercury was about to supply power to the rest of the system, once the hyperspace project managed to beam light everywhere.

253:

That's good news. Thanks.

Please keep us posted.

254:

Could someone (Heteromeles?) give us a quick refresher course on the current understanding of how ore bodies are formed on Earth?

Why does it matter? I suspect it would take all the resources of a 50K colony to mine and turn the ore into fuel. (Once you slice out farmers and medics and such.) Of course they would need a working reactor or 3 just to power the process. So those AND the initial fuel would have to come from earth. Even with SMRs the mass and size of such would make transport of such a very tall undertaking.

255:

Bill Arnold @ 39:

What can you do as a predatory and unscrupulous Mars stock trader to get a time advantage over your rivals?

Occultations that block line-of-site transmission from Earth (or Mars) could provide opportunities for momentary advantage; a relay close in interplanetary space just off the blocked line of transmission would have an advantage over a closer relay.
A trader parked somewhere other than Earth (or Mars) would also have an advantage, and a trader on the Mars-facing side of the Earth (or vv) would also have an advantage.
A trader's autonomous AI agent could be parked wherever the speed of light advantage was maximized (probably local to Mars/Earth) It'd need to be a trustworthy (semi-)autonomous avatar of the Earth(Mars)-based trader though. And probably it in turn would need a faster (and dumber) agent local to the Mars(Earth) exchange :-)

Also, Mars and Earth are moving relative to each other. (Different inertial observers)

Maybe an interplanetary communications hub could be parked at one of the Lagrange points.

Which would be better Mars L4 or Earth's L4?

256:

H
These days The Han ( The PRC ) are disproportionately responsible for Climate Change - though even they are realising that "something must be done" - too much low-lying fertile land close to sea level ...

257:

Uranium ores are formed by water flows that contain dissolved oxygen when the flow hits something the uranium wont move through. So anoxic environments likely just do not have good uranium ores at all. On the other hand, high burnup designs can keep running for goddamn ever on shipments from earth and on stockpiles built from same. A molten chloride-salts reactor can at least in theory fission every atom of uranium you feed it regardless of isotope - that is, 909 GWd/t, which means the tonne of depleted uranium you litho-braked into the ground in the next valley over will keep a three gigawatt thermal reactor happy for just shy of a year. That is not enough of a mass budget for the colony to ever worry about self-sufficiency, and even if ideologically motivated.. well, you can get a tonne of U out of a not-unreasonable volume of random crust if you are that bloody minded about it.

258:

Thanks, Thomas!

I think the key question is whether you can get a tonne of uranium out of some crust without using more energy than you'd get out of that tonne, and whether prospecting first would be worthwhile.

Actually thinking about it, I do wonder if there's some non-obvious chemistry involving what's in the regolith and dust that could be used to generate energy, possibly with the right catalysts and a solar collector to heat things up. It'd be nice to know if there's some reaction where the EROEI is good enough to run the colony on it. My guess is probably not, but given all the whining about salts, perchlorates, and rusts, it would be nice to know if they could somehow be reacted together exothermically.

As for lasers, of course I'm being facetious. Beam dispersion would probably be prohibitive at those distances, as would accidentally frying something you don't want to hit, like a solar weather satellite or a ship in transit. The fact that this sounds superficially plausible is a warning about how difficult colonizing Mars is.

259:

Oh yes. Random crust is technically a viable ore in terms of energy. Better than coal, even. U is not rare.
It is just.. Never going to be economically competitive with asking earth to send you a few tonnes of the pure stuff. It is not like you need to land a one tonne bar of U gently or deliver quickly either. Minumum-delta-v tranfer orbit, Areo-break, then litho-break. Cheap as sending something to Mars is ever going to get.

260:

Niala @ 53: Paul @ 52:

"Umm, about 1% of the gold mined every year goes into electronics. Why is the other 99% valuable?"

India

https://www.investopedia.com/news/top-10-countries-highest-demand-gold-jewelry/

I don't wear jewelry. I had a wedding ring once, but for "reasons", I stopped wearing it.

I do have a twenty dollar gold piece so the gang will know I died standing pat.

261:

You don't build subterranean buildings (much less cities) in Nunavut. You build them above ground, on stilts.

Of course, yes, I remember seeing pictures of that as a kid: Skypad Apartments in Orbit City. That's more practical than many things Elon Musk has already built, too.

(Anyone unfamiliar with the pop culture reference can read up on The Jetsons at leisure.)

262:

Yes. There is regular blithering about how we would run out of fissionables if the world converted to all-fission power, but it's bollocks. The UK could get enough out of its granite (10-20 ppm) to be self-sufficient for the indefinite future; it's just much cheaper to get them from higher-grade ores. Whether there are equivalent rocks (and enough salt, for the hydrochloric acid used in leaching) on Mars is something I don't know.

263:

Re: 'whitroth. He is out of surgery and currently in ICU, ...'

Thanks for the update - pls pass along wishes for a speedy recovery.

And keep us posted!


264:
Actually thinking about it, I do wonder if there's some non-obvious chemistry involving what's in the regolith and dust that could be used to generate energy, possibly with the right catalysts and a solar collector to heat things up. It'd be nice to know if there's some reaction where the EROEI is good enough to run the colony on it. My guess is probably not, but given all the whining about salts, perchlorates, and rusts, it would be nice to know if they could somehow be reacted together exothermically.

I'm gonna guess the answer to that is no, at least for the dominant constituents. It sounds like everything, including the atmosphere, is already powerfully oxidizing (perchlorate!), or already in the most oxidized state available. If you could get hold of some reducing equivalents, then there would be all kinds of energy available. But I doubt you're going to find large deposits of dead dinosaurs and carboniferous vegetation on Mars.

Capturing a carbonaceous asteroid and reacting it with all that perchlorate might be your best bet.

265:

whitroth @ 62: I *really* hate chrome. Mods, please feel free to delete the duplicte of my last post. [Fixed]

I posted once... and it came back, then told me to log in again to cmt.

And I'm on chrome, because I'm on my tablet. Because I'm in the hospital. Because, starting with a telemed last week on Tuesday, when I said to my doc, "By the way, I`vee been meaning to mention to you", which led to a stress test last Fri,, which led to cardiac catheterizaton yesterday, which led to me scheduled for open-heart surgery tomorrow.

But that wasn't what I was going to say. What I was going to say was ALL the big oil companies just posted major losses, some for the first time, ever, including Exxon. Combination of C-19, and renewables starting to eat their lunch.

I hope your surgery IS/WAS successful and "the patient lived."

I'm pretty sure the "big oil companies" are already heavily invested in the next generation of energy production technologies and they'll continue moving in that direction while they squeeze the last penny out of their extractive investments. I bet those "losses" are mostly paper for the tax man.

266:

Troutwaxer @ 64: "italics"

I've been getting the same kind of lessons. One of the things that's obvious is that the sane Republicans hate Trump and would love to be without him.

I'm sure the tooth fairy, Easter bunny & Santa Klaus will welcome all those sane Republicans with open arms.

267:

Heteromeles @ 67: Yes, assault weapons are fun. The two things I'd note are that you'd damn well better figure out your firing lines and who's downrange before you buy a rifle that shoots right through regular drywall. If there are too many people downrange you don't want to hit, get a shotgun.

Second, note that we've got two mobs of "nutters," the Right wing authoritarian terrorists, and the Black Lives Matter and people of color movement. One of those is in the White House now, and they aren't the violent insurrectionists. That's the political power of guns in a nutshell right now.

Otherwise, we agree on the Republicans.

Well, I'm going to disagree on two points ...

I don't agree with your characterization of Black Lives Matter & people of color movements as "nutters". In fact, I strongly disagree.

Secondly 5.56 does not reliably penetrate walls. If you need to shoot through walls go with something in 7.62 or 30-06. And shotguns are not a good choice for culling the extremists out of the innocent bystanders. Shotguns are an area weapon. You get just as much targeting precision using hand grenades.

268:

Scott Sanford @ 261 "(Anyone unfamiliar with the pop culture reference can read up on The Jetsons at leisure.)"

Yes, you can read the Wikipedia article on the Jetsons, it seems like a good article. But I would not recommend that you go further.

I saw the original 21 episode one-year series in the 1960s and I had cloudy memories of it. I bought the 4 DVD boxed set some years ago and tried viewing the episodes. I didn't manage to look at more than a few. The writing is bad and unimaginative, the visuals are very limited and all the animation is repetitive.

In all, it's bad science fiction with zero sense of wonder.

269:

Duffy @ 105: Not a mathematician, just and engineer.

But it seems to me that the ratio pi would exist even without humans calling it "pi", defining it, or trying to calculate its (never ending) value.

So yes, mathematics is a very real thing unto itself - we just put labels on what is already existing.

Mathematics are real. Our understanding of mathematics is not (more so for some than for others he says while glancing in a mirror). The language we use to describe them is often riddled with error.


270:
Mathematics are real. Our understanding of mathematics is not (more so for some than for others he says while glancing in a mirror).

As compared to what? I am sure I understand math much better than I understand my fellow humans, or even myself.

271:

Colin @ 174:

> Yes, especially since "REAL Socialism"TM involves the state owning all the (significant) means of production & distribution, with only minimal Private Business.

I don't think that's true. Socialists usually want the means of production to be democratically controlled, but that doesn't require ownership by the state and certainly doesn't require the state to own all the significant industries.

e.g. in Corbyn's proposals, the "publicly owned" industries and utilities would be controlled by new bodies responsible to their diverse stakeholders (workers, users, investors (the state or its regional development banks, or private), environmental and local concerns, etc). That doesn't have to involve direct ownership by the state, in fact these stakeholders could own the body.

Other socialists espouse co-ops as an alternative to capitalist production. The state doesn't own industries there, either.

I sort of like the idea of "public-private partnerships", although most of the ones I know about are basically screwing the "public" for the benefit of the "private".

I think "socialism" should be like air travel, where the "public" (i.e. the government) owns & runs Air Traffic Control, but anyone who wants to own an airline can, so long as they meet certain minimum safety standards. I do think the government should have the power to step in to shut down any airline that doesn't meet those standards (and should do so more often than it does today).

272:

The issue with fiat money from Mars is...who cares?

That's why I linked Marsbucks to interplanetary financial services in a blockchain cryptocurrency, where coins are demonstrably linked to (and disposed of) by work demonstrably done...

And to which Earthlings will ask "Who cares?"

I can demonstrate doing hundreds of Sudoku puzzles; nobody's going to pay me for it. Having computers factor numbers doesn't magically make Bitcoin Muskcoin worth anything.

The solutions seem to be having a market (as with government currencies or company scrip), a commodity (gold, rice, whatever), or faddish interest (tulip bulbs, Bitcoins).

In theory Elon Musk should be able to produce a currency rivaling Canadian Tire money if people can trade in it...

273:

LAvery @ 217:

As Bruce Sterling observed a decade or more ago, before colonizing Mars it makes more sense to colonize the Gobi Desert. At least you can drive out of it in a pickup truck if everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

But that gets to the question of why we are even considering settling Mars in the first place. My personal opinion is that that question has no sensible answer. But if it has one, it is probably that we plan to fuck Earth up so badly that no one will be able to survive here (or, at least, it will be harder than living on Mars).

Y'all are still missing the "Why do men climb mountains?" aspect of the whole idea.

I don't think there is an actual plan to fuck up Earth. We might do it through incompetence, but it won't be done on purpose.

274:

Re: 'Random crust is technically a viable ore in terms of energy.'

How about capturing some of the mechanical energy from all the land slides? According to some speculation, Martian land slides are h-u-g-e tsunnammis of shifting particles.

Anyways, we'll know more once Perseverance lands which is in only three more days. Here's the link to watch its progress as well as the landing as it happens.

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

275:

I'll happily stand corrected with Black Lives Matter, so that's one thing.

As for firearms, my preference is that a bullet doesn't end up five miles downrange in someone stranger's child, so I advocate for weapons that do a really good job in the area and for the task you intend to use them in, and don't tend to hurt people outside that area. My goal here isn't sniping terrorists hiding in houses, it's dealing with armed intruders without hitting my next door neighbors or the kids across the way by accident. Now if I was sniping people inside houses, I'd certainly take your suggestions for ammo and guns, but I've got no legal reason to do that and lots of nieces and nephews who might kill someone by accident if I was stupid enough to leave a gun like that lying around. Which I'm not.

In my last place, which was a townhome with small children in three adjacent units and an encounter distance of about two meters, I had a spear. Worked great--I got an occasional workout and, like 99% of homeowners, never had to meet an intruder with it.

276:

... hilarious future world building: large parts of the solar system is settled, and more or less universally dependent on nuclear fission - the non-mobile bits using a standard staid molten-salts-breeder design, and the rockets using fission fragment designs with horrible failure modes because hugging the reactor which is one very tiny step from just being a bomb is preferable to spending half your life staring at walls waiting to get somewhere. Motto: "Everything is a useable reaction mass plasma after you shine the fragment torch at it".

.. And every gram of uranium and plutonium the solar system uses is exported from earth.

277:

I'm pretty sure the "big oil companies" are already heavily invested in the next generation of energy production technologies and they'll continue moving in that direction while they squeeze the last penny out of their extractive investments. I bet those "losses" are mostly paper for the tax man.

I'll take that bet. They did try that dodge last time, buying solar companies and then shutting them down. Whether their losses are mostly on paper or not is truly hard to tell, but a bunch of frackers are in bankruptcy court and have been for the last year. Covid19 put them in a coma, and the Biden victory pulled the life support. Although he hasn't banned fracking yet, fracking is only profitable when oil prices are high. They're low and falling, because as many people who can stay home are doing so, and so out the companies went.

The remainders aren't turning to solar or wind. Instead, they're stoking up the markets for plastics and other products derived from petroleum. They're trying to make these indispensable, because they can accommodate low or high oil prices and look considerably greener than just burning petroleum products. They're not, of course, but that's the oil companies for you.

278:

Alas, another bright idea killed by cruel reality.

But wait, where's that methane on Mars coming from? Capture that!

279:

Open range cattle?

280:

I do remember how Charlie basically predicted Ethereum more than a decade in advance in Accelerando !

( Search Accelerando for agalmic.holdings.root.8E.F0 : https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelerando/accelerando.html )

But people are telling me that like many of the ideas in that book, he might have picked this one up from the late 90's transhumanist/extropian/cypherpunk mailing lists he followed ?

281:

Not yet to 300, so some fun from arxiv:
(Web site of lead author: February 1, 2021 Peter Rohde)
This paper provides a next-generation, market-based alternative to the bullshit Quantum Bullshit Detector (@BullshitQuantum), and the equally bullshit Democratic Quantum Bullshit Detector Bullshit (@QuantumDemocrat).

Quantum crypto-economics: Blockchain prediction markets for the evolution of quantum technology (February 2, 2021)
Two of the most important technological advancements currently underway are the advent of quantum technologies, and the transitioning of global financial systems towards cryptographic assets, notably blockchain-based cryptocurrencies and smart contracts.There is, however, an important interplay between the two, given that, in due course,quantum technology will have the ability to directly compromise the cryptographic foundations of blockchain. We explore this complex interplay by building financial models for quantum failure in various scenarios, including pricing quantum risk premiums. We call this ‘quantum crypto-economics’.
See "Figure 1 Timeline for the asset pricing model." :-)

282:

"I think Gasdive would tell you that you have three of anything your life depends on."

I was literally about to say that. I luckily decided to read the following comments before chiming in.

But... I've got more to say about heat, which will get its own comment.

283:

How much heat?

Say the habitat is buried under 20 m of regolith. (why would you say that? Well the building materials you'll find on Mars are likely to be strong in compression and weak in tension. So you want a compression load on top that's reliably more than any load you're going to have from within. Martian regolith is about 1.5g/cm3 according to Google. Martian gravity is about 40% Earth, so the weight of regolith is about 0.6 g/cm3. You need about 1000g per sqcm to equal the internal pressure. So that's 1666 cm, or 17 m of regolith just to get an exact balance. I rounded to 20m which keeps everything under slight compression)

Regolith is a fine insulator. It's sharp particles with near vacuum in the spaces between particles. Rather like vacuum insulated panels.

Thermal conductivity of Martian regolith runs around 0.02 to 0.1 W m^-1 K^-1 [Presley and Christensen, 1997; Putzig and Mellon, 2007]. Assuming it's dry (you'd extract the ice from it anyway because you want ice, so it's dry)

So for 20 m of regolith, that's 0.001-0.005 W per K. There's about 90 K between Mars average and comfortable shirtsleeves. (-62 to +22C). So that's 0.09 to 0.45 W per square metre of habitat (ignoring edge effects which is reasonable for a large colony).

17 kWh is needed to make 1 kg of propellant if you already have the hydrogen. More if you have to split water, but we'll take that number.
https://ascelibrary.org/doi/10.1061/%28ASCE%29AS.1943-5525.0000201

A starship second stage has 1.2 million kg of propellant. If you average 100 flights a year (~200 flights in each window) that's about 14000 kg per hour. That's assuming a fully fueled starship second stage can get from Mars surface to LEO and refuel there. If it needs to be refuelled in Mars orbit, that's extra. That's 238 MW of electrical demand. (ignoring the electrical demand to split water and liquefy the propellant) Which means about 750 MW of heat. So given the highest conductivity for regolith, means the area of the colony needs to be 1500 million square metres (assuming no heat goes down, which given that the planetary heat flow is up, is a good assumption).

Even assuming 100 sqm per person, (approximately the population density of Singapore) that's 15 million people (who would themselves be putting out 900 MW of waste heat just by being alive). Just to compare, the QE2 has an area of just under 10000 square metres and 2700 passengers and crew, for 3.7 square metres per person. Obviously both would have decks, so "living area" is more in both cases.

Now all that area was to dissipate 750 MW of waste heat from the reactor that makes fuel. As I mentioned in passing, just the body heat from the colonists at 100 sqm per colonist is more than you'd naturally be able to dissipate. Then you're looking at growing food under lights. Plants are about 1% efficient at turning energy from light into food energy. So if each colonist needs 100 sqm to dissipate the energy from burning food, they're going to need 100 times that to dissipate the waste energy from growing that food. The problem the colony would face is not staying warm, it's keeping cool.

284:

"I think Gasdive would tell you that you have three of anything your life depends on."

Oh god. Couple weeks ago I read about some morons who went into an underwater cave with ONE flashlight. Not one per person (which is already insane), one flashlight period. Made me sick just to think about it.

285:

OH MY GOD

I practised getting out of caves blindfolded, but I'm also thinking that the sort of person who goes into a cave with one light isn't the sort of person who practise that skill.

I used to solo dive in caves, but I took 4 lights.

One light for the whole team. That just creeps me out.

286:

Couple weeks ago I read about some morons who went into an underwater cave with ONE flashlight.

A cave? Underwater? ONE flashlight? I've gone to the corner store with two flashlights, plus my phone. Words fail me. No, cancel that - the words "too dumb to live" echo very loudly through my head.

287:

There's caves and caves, though. Quite a lot of saltwater caves are pretty shallow and pretty short, and people go through them with no gear, or just a gopro. I wouldn't go through some of them without bottled air, and a torch or two, but lots of other people do.

It's all about risk tolerance, or risk embracing. Some people want to die peacefully in their sleep, others are happy to die screaming as long as it was fun until nearly the end.

288:

More news of whitroth. Surgery went as expected, currently tweaking the blood-pressure meds. Operation was a triple bypasss. Per my informant has been up and sitting in a chair watching TV. Hurting and exhausted but bascially OK. Was on a ventilator, not an intubator as it turned out.

I have passed everyone's good wishes to my contact.

289:

Excellent news!

290:

H
"Petroleum Products" as chemical feed-stock. Yes - actually a much more sensible use for the stuff, rather than bloody burning it.
And, of course, you don't need the vast amounts that are/were rquired if you simply were going to burn it.

Caves
There are quite a few, mostly in Yorskshire, but also along the border with Lancashire, where one can walk in & through, though it's a good idea to have a torch.
Then there are the others .. serious, massive underground systems, where full caving equipment & back-ups are needed ... & in-betweeners where you can go in under supervision, like Gaping Ghyll

291:

Doesn't everyone keep their double-barrelled .600 Nitro Express beside their bed for shooting at strange noises in the middle of the night?

292:

That's good. Stabilising blood pressure medications always takes a while.

293:

"Petroleum Products" as chemical feed-stock.

Plastics are hugely problematic as an environmental poison though.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2249621-earth-faces-plastic-pollution-disaster-unless-we-take-drastic-action/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2265877-microplastic-fibres-affect-plants-by-impacting-soil-as-much-as-drought/

Recycling is not even half the battle, we have to stop producing microplastics in the first place because it's just impractical to run reverse osmosis filters on sewage before it's dumped (beyond the environment, obviously, there's nothing out there).

294:
Y'all are still missing the "Why do men climb mountains?" aspect of the whole idea.

Actually, no. See @227 (and @224, to which it is a reply).

I don't think there is an actual plan to fuck up Earth. We might do it through incompetence, but it won't be done on purpose.

You're right. I was being deliberately nasty when I used the word "plan" (in order to highlight a nasty reality).

295:

But wait, where's that methane on Mars coming from? Capture that!

Well, umm, it's at most 60 ppbv. Good luck!

296:
I saw the original 21 episode one-year series [The jetsons] in the 1960s ...

In all, it's bad science fiction with zero sense of wonder.

Sadly, I have to agree. It was basically an attempt to reproduce Hanna-Barbera's success with The Flintstones. (That, BTW, is my surmise only. I don't really know what anyone inside the org was thinking.) The premise is basically the same: ordinary families living in a time different from our own, with visual gags based on strange technologies. I remember being very down on Hanna-Barbera as a kid. Although I was not exactly an incisive critic at the age of 8, It was obvious even to me that the animation was cheap (compared to, say, Warner Bros Looney Tunes) and the jokes lame.

297:

List Of Fictional Cryptocurrencies Banned By The SEC :
https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/list-of-fictional-cryptocurrencies

(I have to say though, some of the real ones (often unbanned) are even wilder : there's of course Dogecoin with all their stunts, but check out the story with CryptoKitties !)

298:

"It was basically an attempt to reproduce Hanna-Barbera's success with The Flintstones. (That, BTW, is my surmise only. I don't really know what anyone inside the org was thinking.)"

It has long been my guess from just hearing the name, never having seen it, and this thread being probably the most comprehensive description I have read of what it was about :)

Hanna-Barbera has pretty well always been my basic idea of what cartoons are. When I was little, TV was basically reserved for adults only, except between 1600 and 1740 on weekdays which was "Children's Programmes" and during that period the set was the equally exclusive domain of the kids. Most days there was a cartoon about the middle of that period and it was always Hanna-Barbera. Warner and Disney did exist but HB was what you got to see far more often than anything else, so it naturally became the standard for the embodiment of the cartoon concept.

I remember it took a lot of asking to get another 25 minutes included in the "kids' time" category, on Saturdays, for Doctor Who.

299:

On colonising hostile bits of Earth in preference to Mars:

I've asked this question on Stack Exchange Law to find out if it would be legally possible to homestead a chunk of the Atacama.

Whether it would be a good idea or not is another question, but its an interesting thought experiment. Getting permission to run a small nuclear power station would of course be the tricky bit.

300:

"dealing with armed intruders without hitting my next door neighbors or the kids across the way by accident."

To which my solution would be: call the police. They know how to do it. I don't.

If I can't manage even that much response, I won't be able to manage anything else either. If there aren't any police, or they are known to be crap, it works out much the same as if there are but I can't manage to call them.

A weapon you don't know how to use is more use to your enemy than it is to you. And knowing how to use it in that kind of situation means the sort of knowing where you don't have to think about it, which you only get from doing a lot of specialist training that isn't even available to the general public in any case.

You also need to be able to divest yourself of inhibitions. I don't actually want to kill the armed intruders. I just want them to fuck off. You don't get that degree of fine control with a gun. You don't really get it with anything else either. Shooting people in the arms or hitting them on the head hard enough to knock them out but no harder is the sort of thing you can only depend on in fiction.

301:
I don't actually want to kill the armed intruders. I just want them to fuck off. You don't get that degree of fine control with a gun.

Perhaps because I enjoyed Looney Tunes too much as a kid, I tend to view all gun enthusiasts as some hybrid of Elmer Fudd (Wabbit Hunter!) and Yosemite Sam (@#**#@$%^). Living in Texas for 21 years only reinforced that prejudice, as it was often accurate.

302:

Also, Pigeon lives in a partially civilised country, where shooting people who are trying to ask for directions, is strongly disapproved of. To avoid such incidents (as well as criminals stealing the guns), in the UK, all firearms are required to be securely locked up, and preferably in a location that's tricky to access.

The evidence I have seen is that people are actually MORE likely to be killed if they pull a gun on an intruder, both because the latter can grab it and use it, and because shooting one intruder is likely to cause his accomplices to enter the fray and spray lead at you.

It's surprising to see Heteromeles siding with Trump, but there it is.

303:

LAvery @ 301: "Perhaps because I enjoyed Looney Tunes too much as a kid, I tend to view all gun enthusiasts as some hybrid of Elmer Fudd (Wabbit Hunter!) and Yosemite Sam (@#**#@$%^)"

That's exactly what I would want on Mars: Pistols that don't kill, like all the firearms in the Looney Tunes cartoons, or like the stun pistols in Lois McMaster Bujold's Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.

304:

Pigeon @ 300:

"dealing with armed intruders without hitting my next door neighbors or the kids across the way by accident."

If I can't manage even that much response, I won't be able to manage anything else either. If there aren't any police, or they are known to be crap, it works out much the same as if there are but I can't manage to call them.

A weapon you don't know how to use is more use to your enemy than it is to you. And knowing how to use it in that kind of situation means the sort of knowing where you don't have to think about it, which you only get from doing a lot of specialist training that isn't even available to the general public in any case.

You also need to be able to divest yourself of inhibitions. I don't actually want to kill the armed intruders. I just want them to fuck off. You don't get that degree of fine control with a gun. You don't really get it with anything else either. Shooting people in the arms or hitting them on the head hard enough to knock them out but no harder is the sort of thing you can only depend on in fiction.

One thing the ammosexuals do get right is "When seconds count the police can be there in minutes".

I don't agree with all of the inferences they draw from that.

For every story you can come up with where someone successfully defended themselves or their home with a gun I can come up with dozens of stories where it ended in tragedy for a family member or the person attempting to defend themselves. Also, in the U.S. you don't want to be a person of color calling the cops because someone is trying to break in your house. When the cops arrive, they're just as likely to shoot you as they are to shoot the bad guys.

Hell, they even shoot white guys (like if you're old and hard of hearing and don't hear the cops order you to "drop the gun" - just Google "deaf man shot by cops" or "homeowner shot by cops")

If you want to protect yourself in your home reinforce your doors & windows. Install exterior lighting with motion detectors. Get a BIG dog (Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever). Install a panic button that activates a LOUD siren and turns on bright lights all over the house. Darkness is your enemy. Light (and noise) is the intruder's enemy.

If you're going to get a gun (and I don't think you should - I've previously explained why I don't have one and I LIKE guns) GET the specialist training. It IS available, but it ain't cheap. Get the kind of training where you practice repeatedly until you know how to react from muscle memory.

And most importantly, get the training that teaches you WHEN TO NOT SHOOT! Know instinctively when to pull back.

PS: Never "drop the gun". Guns will fire when dropped. Hold it up and out away from your body and SLOWLY stoop down to lay it on the ground and step back from it ... even if it's not a gun, only your wallet or cell phone.

NEVER make sudden movements around nervous, scared cops. Take it slow, and keep your hands where they are visible at all times.

305:

There's no plan to not fuck up the Earth. How that differs from "There's a plan to fuck up the Earth" is best left to experts.

306:

Very well explained. I own guns, too, and they are securely locked up in a location that few intruders will reach - as is required by an English gun licence (and I assume Scotland is similar).

307:

Even if you assume that there were a safe 'stun gun', the UK is a classic example of how allowing the police to use even 'non-lethal' weapons, more-or-less arbitrarily, is is a Bad Idea. They rapidly get used excessively and even for 'field punishments', especially against subgroups the police are prejudiced against (*). That would be a catastrophe in a community like a Mars colony.

The only solution, and I mean the ONLY one, is to ensure that the society is sufficiently well-balanced that violent restraint is very rarely needed, and is used only when non-violent methods won't do.

(*) In the UK's case, black people.

308:

Greg asks: "However - see LAvery: the way they allow the creation of a sort of mathematical alternative universe
OK - AND - in THIS universe?
Is Maths "real" - & thus discovered in this universe, or is it invented?"

Let's ask a slightly simpler question: what do we mean by "real numbers"?

Wikipedia gives a definition corresponding to classical logic, and the critical part is that any set of reals X, with _an_ upper bound, has a unique least upper bound. This is an example of a completion operation.

The trouble with this is that we have _asserted_ the existence of a least upper bound, but not shown how to calculate such a least upper bound.

Some Logicians find -- or at least claim to find -- this unsatisfactory. The Constructivists want you to demonstrate the existence of anything that is supposed to exist. One way to do this is to provide a (computer) program to exhibit the a witness to the existence.

So, we now have two sorts of real numbers. Unfortunately, they are not the same (There are only countably many computer programs, and thus computable reals, but there are uncountably many "real" real numbers).

Worse still, we cannot exhibit a non-computable real number; if we could, it would be computable!

And now we get to the applied maths view of the issue: we can select which logic (and hence which definition) we use depending on the application we have in mind.

309:

Although I was not exactly an incisive critic at the age of 8, It was obvious even to me that the animation was cheap (compared to, say, Warner Bros Looney Tunes) and the jokes lame.

Yes but for the time and at that age it was still entertaining compared to other options for kids. Anyone remember Clutch Cargo and the associated space carton. It made the Jetsons look like Toy Story.

Oh, and I still want that briefcase that George had.

310:

When I lived in Richmond, Virginia, someone was killed one night in my apartment building. There was a fender-bender in the street outside, and the drivers got into an argument. One of them, who lived in the building, fled inside. The others (two of them) followed him into the elevator. Someone had a gun, and someone was shot dead in the elevator.

Virginia's policy at the time was that every responsible gun owner had the right to carry a gun. And it was completely clear to every minimally conscious Virginian that "responsible gun owner" meant "gun owner". (I think a permit was required, but essentially all you had to do to get one was ask for it.)

311:

Get a BIG dog (Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever).

Actually the police told us to get a LOUD dog. Size doesn't matter when the dog is inside and the bad guys outside.

My house was broken into a few decades ago and we were told that very few homes with a loud dog inside get broken into. The bad guys just move on rather than discover if the dog is worth the fight.

312:

Well NASA has decided that getting people to Mars will likely not work with chemical rockets. Mainly due to the costs of NASA getting the fuel to orbit. They are figuring a mission needs from 1000 to 4000 metric tons of fuel starting form LEO. And the SLS would require 10+ years to get that much fuel into orbit. So some sort of nuclear propulsion.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/02/report-nasas-only-realistic-path-for-humans-on-mars-is-nuclear-propulsion/

Now if Musk can get a Starship launch a week then he could get that much fuel to LEO in 10 to 40 weeks. Per Mars mission.

I think the biggest boondoggle since the shuttle as a "fly every few weeks to 2 month" called the SLS will go away. Especially since Senator Shelby has announced he is retiring.

And I'm still waiting for the wizards to demo storing huge amounts of rocket fuel in LEO and move it to and from ships. It's a really technical process on the ground involving lots of people and equipment.

313:

A good addition to a loud dog is a shotgun. You don't shoot someone with it if you can avoid doing so, but if simply cock the shotgun - it's a very distinctive noise - a burglar is very likely to leave the building. I've often wondered whether it's possible to get a noisemaker to do the same thing without actually having a gun.

314:

Actually, ever since I studied analysis, I've found it interesting that one of the aspects of math that most nonmathematicians find simply and intuitive -- real numbers -- are in fact one of the most mysterious and difficult to really understand. First, it must be pointed out that in math the word "real" has a specific technical meaning that is quite distinct from its every day English meaning or its meaning among philosophers.

That there was a serious problem with numbers, particularly as applied to their use as measures of length, was evident to the Greeks. (Zeno's paradoxes also deserve a mention in this context.) Mathematical analysis, as the term is now understood, is usually taken to be synonymous with calculus. However, when Newton and Leibniz invented calculus, they essentially ignored the inherent problems with the continuum. It was the great 19th-century analysts, Weierstrass, Cauchy, Riemann, et al, who put the real numbers on a firm axiomatic basis. Incidentally, they worked out ways (e.g. Dedekind cuts, Cauchy completion) to construct the reals from integers.

So-called imaginary numbers and complex numbers, in contrast, are much simpler and easier to construct and understand. Non-mathematicians, when they are aware of them at all, take them to be very complicated and mysterious things. (The nomenclature, "complex", "imaginary", really doesn't help.) But they aren't. If you understand the reals, complex and imaginary numbers are straightforward.

315:

Nah, but I do keep my twin DeLameters to hand (and hand) at all times

316:

The smart way to do it is probably to carry tanks of rocket fuel to LEO. Each tank has some kind of clip-on attachment to a central pumping system; thus 4000 metric tons of fuel is 40 ten ton tanks or somesuch. When you want to maneuver you empty pick a particular tank and draw fuel. Transferring fuel from tank to tank, then disconnecting hoses and cleaning up sounds like a much harder operation which has to be done perfectly every time. The added benefit is that when you're done with a tank you jettison it and no longer have to push it around the solar system. Or maybe you use the aerobrake/lithobrake option and haul it back to your base when you've got some time.

317:

A good addition to a loud dog is a shotgun. You don't shoot someone with it if you can avoid doing so, but if simply cock the shotgun - it's a very distinctive noise - a burglar is very likely to leave the building.

When my house was broken into no people were there. Just 2 cats. I knew something was up when I opened the front door and one of the cats greeted me from the first floor ledge. I had never been greeted by one of the cats before.

318:

I was thinking of how much hassle LEO is for most any mechanical work "outside" Look at the latest upgrade space walk recently. They didn't finish because they couldn't get a cable plug into a jack.

Now do this with various liquid propellants at all kinds of interesting temps and mechanical connections.

I'm sure it can be worked out but ....

Seems like item 354 on the big list of 1000 major items to be figured out.

319:

Seems like item 354 on the big list of 1000 major items to be figured out.

Yep. I think I have a clever idea, but I don't think we're putting people on Mars until we have a drive that doesn't involve lighting stuff on fire.

320:

Elderly Cynic @ 307: "Even if you assume that there were a safe 'stun gun'..."

I'm assuming or imagining that only safe stun pistols can make it to Mars (in a future where such a technology is possible) in the same way that other people are imagining that (in their ideal future) very solid treaties (like the Outer Space Treaty of 1967) somehow vanish, making it possible to buy and sell land on Mars.

321:

I don't think people like Musk are even considering the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

They expect to "move fast and break things," and are paying careful attention to the fact that they own lots of reaction drives, and that the governments of the world have not yet learned of or considered any variants on the "Kzinti Lesson." Government also have not considered that a rocket which can "land on the "X" we painted on the ground" can probably hit an "X" with considerably more force than an ordinary landing, and possibly while carrying lots of surplus fuel.

In short, we're ceding the high-orbitals to a corporation. I for one, welcome our new Libertarian overlords. /s

322:

That is a VERY bad idea, for a great many reasons. Some people take that approach in the UK, where shotgun licences are much more readily available than ones for other weapons, but it causes FAR more deaths (even of the shotgun wielder) than it prevents. If you went on one of the courses JBS described in #304, they would almost certainly explain why.

323:

Actually, I find real numbers very easy to understand (as I do measure theory)! But that was only when I stopped thinking in terms of values that I (personally) could see how to construct, and thinking in terms of the abstract continuum. Don't ask me to explain the latter in terms of the former, though :-(

As you point out, complex numbers are much easier to understand without changing how you think of numbers.

324:

Troutwaxer @ 321: "In short, we're ceding the high-orbitals to a corporation. I for one, welcome our new Libertarian overlords."

I think you can forget about giving up space (as if it could be given up) to libertarian-filled corporations while Biden is in the White House.

The man has a Moon Rock in his office.

325:

These days The Han ( The PRC ) are disproportionately responsible for Climate Change - though even they are realising that "something must be done"

Um, no. Per capita emissions less than half that of America. Over three dozen countries have per capita emissions higher than the PRC (including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Luxembourg, Germany…).

Total emissions are highest, because 18% of the world's population lives in the PRC.

But proportionately they are a lower-carbon economy than a good chunk of the developed world.

Your statement sounds like something I've read in an email from a Republican congressman*. "China is the cause of this problem" is a line that gets thrown out by Republicans periodically, even when they don't admit the problem exists.


*Jim Banks, to be specific.

326:

Shell has announced it's hit leak oil production.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/12/business/dealbook/shell-peak-oil.html

TLDR: they predict production will slowly decrease — about 1% per year. So not enough to avert any looming environmental crises.

327:

others are happy to die screaming as long as it was fun until nearly the end

My sister is qualified for mountain rescue, which means putting her life at risk to rescue people in danger. I'm increasingly of the opinion that certain activities need to be classed as DNR*. I see it getting worse with satellite phone coverage becoming cheap, as already we get idiots doing stupid shit and just phoning for help when the inevitable happens.


*Do Not Rescue (small joke)

328:

Troutwaxer
You don't shoot someone with it if you can avoid doing so, but if simply cock the shotgun - it's a very distinctive noise IS IT?
I wouldn't know ....
However, many years ago, a friend of my father, who had guns in the house, legally, found they had an intruder, well inside the property boundary, attempting to break in. They shouted "Get out, or I'll shoot!" ( Or similar ) & then discharged the shotgun into the air out of the nearest window. The intruder fled at very high speed, apparently hurting themselves ( Blood traces ) on the way, how sad.

? DeLameters ?
Uh?

Rbt Prior
I am quite aware that, presently the USA is "polluter number one" - though the PRC was catching up fast - but appear, at least, to be realising that it is not a "good idea" to do so.
OK?

Mountain Rescue & DNR
NO - just NO OK?
Very recently an experienced walker, who knew what she was doing & had all the right equipment ... but had to be helicoptered-out by Mountain Rescue - within sight of the lights of Edinburgh.
She had got very unlucky, slipped & twisted ankle/leg whilst most of the way up Caerketton Hill as shown on the map in the link.
BBC News link - you can see the lights of Dunedin in the picture!

OTOH, you do get complete idiots, whom I wouldn't allow out without supervison, like guard dogs ....

329:

.. So he thinks the Expanse is a documentary? ... That he thinks that is.. uhm. Terrifyingly plausible. "The high ground is an insurmountable strategic advantage" is a trope that has burned itself into the popular consciousness to an absurd degree despite being complete nonsense.

There is no stealth in space, and orbits are predictable a long, long way in advance. Trying to use rocks as a weapon gets the rocks, and also you, personally, nuked.

330:

Search for CaSSIS mission / ESA / Images
You will get some very interesting pictures of Mars.

331:

Greg Tingey @ 328: "? DeLameters ?Uh?"

It's all from the Lensman series stories from the 1950s. Never managed to read the stuff for more than a few paragraphs. It's really, really bad SF.

"The two best-known weapons of the Patrol, however, are probably the DeLameter energy beam handgun, and the space-axe"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactic_Patrol

332:

Well, I liked the reference!

333:

The space treaty of 1967 will founder on enforceability eventually.

We can insist that 'nobody can own a plot of land on Mars' but unless we are willing to go there and fight with someone who has claimed a plot, it will eventually end.

Most near future space sf I've read assumes the typical 'colonize - exploit - rebel' tautology for Mars or other settlements. That is largely rooted in the US foundation mythology, but I suspect the forces at work will be roughly the same. A colony will be filled with people who are optimistic, intelligent (the dumb will die), and work very hard. At some point they will grow to actively resent a dependence on Earth, and will likely work very hard to achieve self sufficiency. Getting the timing right will be a neat trick.

I don't particularly like Elon Musk as a person, but we cannot deny that Tesla has forced the hands of the automakers, and we are now seeing the end of fossil burning autos as inevitable. Yes, it would be better to have no autos at all, but to his credit he has made that happen.

Similarly, my understanding of his goals for Mars are to make us a 2 meteor problem as a species. Laudable goal, though I suspect that barring some huge breakthroughs it will take some time to succeed.

I think that the two space billionaires (Bezos, Musk) are going to end up working together eventually. Bezon is expressly focused on stations in space and sees Mars as needlessly far and hazardous, Musk is focused on Mars.

As much as I think we need to fix our relationship with our home planet, I also think that there is a countdown clock running. We can't see the clock, it may be tomorrow or 1 billion years from now, but at some point this will not be a viable place for homo sapiens sapiens or our descendents.

334:

And, if that was a plain clothes policeman, under current rules of engagement for the police, it would have been very sad for the householder.

And, as someone who used to walk for a week away from anyone or even mobile telephone coverage, and still does some of that sort of thing, I agree with Robert Prior. But, as you know, I am a colonial from the days of empire, and we take a more robust attitude to such things than you effete city slickers do :-)

335:

Elderly Cynic @ 332

In a fair fight, who would win, the person with the DeLameter pistol or the one with the negasphere?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactic_Patrol

336:

Sorry. Not only is there stealth in space, you can read the patent for it from 1990: https://patents.google.com/patent/US5345238A/en

This is a real patent, IIRC used on the MISTY satellite system that was apparently launched in the 90s. Presumably what they have now is rather better.

In general, space systems have the same problem as do organisms living in the mid-ocean. And there are a lot of species that live in the mid-ocean, and a wide variety of tricks they use deal with detectability.

338:

Not only is there stealth in space, you can read the patent for it from 1990: https://patents.google.com/patent/US5345238A/en

Yes. Stealth in space, like stealth elsewhere, is highly situational and conditional. It very much depends who is trying to be stealthy against whom, where each is, what sensors are involved. Sometimes it's not especially difficult, sometimes it's pretty much impossible.

Just depends.

339:

For getting to Mars, this just appeared:

https://www.nap.edu/download/25977

Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration

Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration identifies primary technical and programmatic challenges, merits, and risks for developing and demonstrating space nuclear propulsion technologies of interest to future exploration missions. This report presents key milestones and a top-level development and demonstration roadmap for performance nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric propulsion systems and identifies missions that could be enabled by successful development of each technology.


340:

One said, one of my friends was the victim of an organized home invasion robbery a few years back. Four armed thieves broke in, took a 20-something member of the house hostage quietly, then broke into the master bedroom with the 20-something as a human shield. Not that the homeowners had guns or even an alarm system. Anyway, they zip-tied the people, water-boarded the husband until he gave them the safe combination (pointless, he would have done it anyway), ransacked the house of valuables, threw their phones in the pool, and left. Insurance covered all the monetary losses.

The lessons:
1. Be effing careful with major home remodels. They're the second family I know that got burgled or robbed after having their home extensively remodeled. Workmen can case a house pretty well.

2. Guns don't solve problems like this scenario, unless you want to give them to the gang or you're warned with enough advance time to set up a CQB ambush.

3. Speaking of which, my friend did the obvious thing: got a good alarm system with plenty of panic buttons. This won't stop the next invasion, but it will make sure that the cops are there in time to negotiate with the gang for your safety.

4. Have a well-hidden but accessible phone somewhere so that you can call for help after they've taken your mobile. I think OGH used this as a plot device recently? Also, multiple means of getting out of zipties and similar aren't a bad idea.

I've taken the hint, and done 3 and 4. It's cheaper than buying a gun and paying for ammo and range time to stay in practice.

341:

Rocketjps
A C Clarke was of the same opinion.

EC (334)
Not sure I understand that.
[ The gun was - very deliberately NOT pointed at anybody, remember? And was legally held. ]
However, this effete city slicker ( Who might still be able to ride a horse ?) & has trained with the longbow & sword ( Foil & Sabre ) would have his own methods of dealing with an intruder - provided said intruder was in the house. Outside, it would be a matter of shouting....

H
an organized home invasion robbery Those do happen here, but ... they are incredibly rare. Whereas, AIUI they are a "known thing" in the USA - even where you have guns everywhere & we don't.
Which should tell you something, or other ...

342:

Living where I do and working where I do, I suspect my response to a home invader will be to address them by name and tell them to fuck off before I call their mother or worse, their grandmother.* Said strategy might backfire I suppose, but my dog will also be hurling himself at them in a homicidal rage.** Failing that I am a baseball coach and 'happen' to have some gear stored close to the entrances.

None of that would be proof against an organized home invasion such as you described, which sounds both dreadful and very rare. Out on a limb here - is your friend wealthy?

*I live in a small town and work in homeless services. I am on a first name basis with all the criminal element/desperately poor/drug addicted people in our town and region (excluding high level organized crime/drug distribution types, who are not in my orbit). This makes for strange and sometimes dreadful overlaps between work and personal life on a wide array of occasions.

**He does this anyway when a dog he doesn't like walks by, or a squirrel, or a bearded man with a hat, or someone who smells of booze - he is an 'on leash only' dog, rescued some years ago.

343:

And in the US of Arseholes ....
57 guilty, 43 "NG"
Now what? Note that 7 "R" people voted to convict, which is definitely going to make for interesting times.
Will the "R's" tear themselves apart, or will they gel into to IQ45 party espousing fascism in fact, if not in theory?
Will this screw their electoral chances in 2022, 2024?
What else?

Meanwhile our very-slow-motion train-wreck continues.

344:

The general point is to think, especially if you've got ammosexual proclivities and live in a country that allows you to indulge them. If you've got a house like mine, there aren't a lot of places to safely shoot at an intruder from, and a number of places where I can get cornered and shot. So if I wanted to make a firearm my primary means of defense, I'd have to have a good early warning system, and/or store the gun illegally (loaded, without a trigger lock on, and easily accessible), and practice regularly. Now I could do this, and if I was more enamored by guns, I might well do so, using shooting as a hobby.

Thing is, I'm not terribly interested in spending hours at the range and hundreds of dollars cycling ammo through the gun to stay proficient (not a judgement, just not my thing), and I'm not a hunter (ditto). More to the point, I'm quite aware that American men are far more likely to die from their own guns (accident or suicide) than are likely to use a gun successfully in home defense.

And I live in a pretty safe neighborhood. And a decent alarm system's cheaper than a gun. So is an extra phone.

I just rationally worked through it. And that, ultimately, is what I'd advise for everyone.

345:

Moreover, big rocks are unimpressed by nukes.

For "blow them apart" values of "unimpressed", that's true. But for "nudge them aside over decades", it might be more doable. After all, how did they get set on course in the first place?

346:

I guess we'll have to stop the democrats from assuming authoritarian control now, since the Republicans just said they're okay with it. I'm not sure the Republicans realize just how big a hole they dug for themselves.

Hopefully we can claw our way back to democracy. Sadly, authoritarianism is incredibly seductive, even if it's also extremely inefficient.

347:

Re: '... big rocks are unimpressed by nukes.'

Wonder whether a laser shave would work at least to change its spin and therefore its trajectory. I've no ballistics background ... just thinking why not.

The laser shaver functionality could even be something built into Musk's Martian satellite network with whatever engines/systems to spin them around, focus on/aim at and spew out 'rays'. This is Musk we're talking about - of course he's going to have tons of satellites out there. In fact, chances are such a network will probably be his economic backbone. So what else can you do with a very dense satellite network? I'm for solar power in addition to the more usual communications, geographic exploration (identifying interesting minerals, water, caves, etc.)

Speaking of potential economic trade: art. Knowledge and imagination are both very portable and potentially lucrative* assets. And it wouldn't cost much to 'transport' most types of art: music, novels, film/TV, photography, etc. Artists are creative by definition therefore they would probably also come up with some novel art hybrids, e.g., sell the art program for a 'piece' that would actually be made on Earth - a variation on 3D printing. (Variation on limited edition prints.)

*According to some sources, at the height of their popularity, ABBA's contribution to Sweden's economy was second only to Volvo. I'm using Sweden because of its relatively small population.

348:

So far as the high ground goes, I suspect Mssrs. Musk and Company are hoping that interplanetary radiation will turn them into the Fantastic Four, so they won't need all those supplies shipped up from Earth.

Obviously, reality suggests otherwise, but we're dealing with the version of the Dunning-Kruger spectrum I first saw identified by the late Anthony Bourdain as a disease of successful restaurant owners. They too often think that, because they've had one or a few successful restaurants open for a few years, they're infallible restaurant gods and can do anything they want. Many end up bankrupt at the end of a long string of quixotic failures. And this was well before covid19 crippled the food and hospitality industry.

Probably the most apt response to a threat to do what you're told or the asteroid will strike is: "go right ahead. our models strongly suggest that it will help us meet our climate change goals for the next five years. And oh yeah, that target list you threatened us with? There's something precious to you under each point. But we're not going to tell you what's where. But go ahead, send the rock. Thx Bye."

349:

No, it wouldn't. In vacuuo, the rotational and translational dynamics are effectively independent.

350:

Despite knowing how it was going to turn out, I find that I am unexpectedly devastated.

351:

David L @ 311:

Get a BIG dog (Saint Bernard, Siberian Husky, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever).

Actually the police told us to get a LOUD dog. Size doesn't matter when the dog is inside and the bad guys outside.

My house was broken into a few decades ago and we were told that very few homes with a loud dog inside get broken into. The bad guys just move on rather than discover if the dog is worth the fight.

Ever heard an angry Saint Bernard bark? That deep, basso profundo voice has authority. Ditto Siberians, Goldens & Labradors.

Little dogs SOUND like little dogs.

352:
Wonder whether a laser shave would work at least to change its spin and therefore its trajectory. I've no ballistics background ... just thinking why not.

The big problem you face in trying to deflect an incoming asteroid is conservation of momentum. Let's suppose you are able to intervene at time T before impact, and let's suppose (for simplicity) that it's heading directly towards Earth's center. Then assuming you are maximally efficient, you need to deflect the rock by Earth's radius R≈6000 km. So we need ΔV = R/T. If the mass of the asteroid is M, then you need to supply an impulse MΔV.

Conservation of momentum says the only way to do that is to make some mass m push against the asteroid and head off at velocity v, such that

MΔV = MR/T = -mv

Now, M is a very big number, so that means the reaction mass m has to be big, or the velocity v imparted to it, or both.

To a first approximation, even shattering the asteroid doesn't help. Even in pieces, it will still deliver the same total energy to Earth's surface. A lower bound for that total energy is -MU, where U is the gravitational potential at Earth's surface (which is half the square of the escape velocity, 11 km/s).

353:

But for "nudge them aside over decades", it might be more doable.
Is doable. (Ablation using a standoff nuclear explosion, that is.)
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Analysis of Alternatives Report to Congress (March 2007)
Nuclear standoff explosions are assessed to be 10-100 times more effective than the non-nuclear alternatives analyzed in this study. Other techniques involving the surface or subsurface use of nuclear explosives may be more efficient, but they run an increased risk of fracturing the target NEO. They also carry higher development and operations risks.

354:

Elderly Cynic says: "Actually, I find real numbers very easy to understand (as I do measure theory)! But that was only when I stopped thinking in terms of values that I (personally) could see how to construct, and thinking in terms of the abstract continuum. Don't ask me to explain the latter in terms of the former, though :-("

Quite.

I mostly take the view that the users of non-standard logics are usually doing it just as a wind up; but I can never be quite sure.

By the way, up-thread you mentioned commonly held computer science nostrums that were bunkum. Despite its similarities to shooting fish in a barrel, I'd be interested in adding to my collection of examples, if it isn't too much trouble?

355:

Everything that gets launched is going to get watched, that is just traffic control. If one of those rockets sets off to fetch a rock and there is not a use and flightplan for that rock filed in triplicate, you nuke the mars base then and there. The nuke gets to mars way, way before the rock gets to earth, and yes, you can nuke the rock off course too. The surface of one side of an asteroid works fine as a rocket engine if you heat it to sublimation temperatures, after all.

356:

Troutwaxer @ 313: A good addition to a loud dog is a shotgun. You don't shoot someone with it if you can avoid doing so, but if simply cock the shotgun - it's a very distinctive noise - a burglar is very likely to leave the building. I've often wondered whether it's possible to get a noisemaker to do the same thing without actually having a gun."

A gun in the house is gonna do you a WHOLE LOT OF GOOD if you come home and the intruder is already in there and has found your gun. And NEVER threaten an intruder with a gun. Even if you are prepared to follow up and shoot, the intruder is just as likely to take the gun away and shoot you.

If you're gonna' shoot, shoot - don't talk.

357:

JBS @ 351

You can train a beagle to howl like hell. Just 2 of them sound like you're being hunted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7J6SCqK44k

358:

To a first approximation, even shattering the asteroid doesn't help. Even in pieces, it will still deliver the same total energy to Earth's surface. A lower bound for that total energy is -MU, where U is the gravitational potential at Earth's surface (which is half the square of the escape velocity, 11 km/s).

It gets delivered to Earth, but a bunch of it ends up in the atmosphere, especially if the pieces are small enough. Tunguska instead of Chicxulub, basically.

There are two bigger problems with this scenario. One is that, if there's a space-faring civilization, it's going to be fairly obvious when someone starts accelerating a rock where the thing's going to end up eventually. To retain the element of surprise, you've got to stealth a large asteroid while accelerating it. Which comes under the category of neat trick, I think, although a mass driver might be able to pull it off, along with a MISTY-type shield, at least pointed at Earth. Still, it's the ultimate wind up for a punch.

The second problem is providing the delta V. If you can rapidly accelerate a rock, presumably someone else can rapidly accelerate that same rock in a different direction using the same technology.

Third problem is that, again unless magic delta V is possible, as a blackmailer, you've got a fairly small window when you can make the threat credible and be bought off. After that window closes, it's not clear what you can do to change the rock's course that can't also be done by your enemies. And if neither of you can stop the rock, but they've still got months to years to do things to you before it hits, that's a bit of a problem for you, since they have absolutely no reason to hold back.

Anyway, I've got another problem I'd rather figure out. That problem is tied to the tragic failure of leadership by conservative white men of the Boomer and Gen X continua, especially in the US Republican party but also in the UK. The problem is: since science fiction is kind of the literature of these wastrels, how to stop wasting time on these inadequate salp simulacra and write futuristic stories for people who actually care to live in said future. That's rather more fun to think on right now.

So do we really need to keep doing the sad Mil SF scenarios?

359:

Heteromeles @ 344: Thing is, I'm not terribly interested in spending hours at the range and hundreds of dollars cycling ammo through the gun to stay proficient (not a judgement, just not my thing), and I'm not a hunter (ditto). More to the point, I'm quite aware that American men are far more likely to die from their own guns (accident or suicide) than are likely to use a gun successfully in home defense.

FWIW, the time spent on the range gaining & maintaining proficiency (along with some of the other training I did) is the only part of having a gun I really miss. I think there's something to be said for the Swiss method where if you want to own a gun you're required to keep it in a locker at a shooting club.

Note also that the Swiss Army have moved away from allowing soldiers to keep duty firearms at their residence (which was far more strictly regulated than most people who cite the Swiss example realize).

360:

I guess we'll have to stop the democrats from assuming authoritarian control now, since the Republicans just said they're okay with it. I'm not sure the Republicans realize just how big a hole they dug for themselves.

For all that their base howls nonstop on the internet about "violent Antifa mobs" it's pretty clear they don't actually believe it. If the months of demonstrations have shown America anything it's that groups like Black Lives Matter are organized enough to keep up an effort for months on end, regularly get turnouts tens or hundreds of times greater than the angry Trump base, and get arrested at much lower rates. If Democrats really adopted the Reich Wing's direct action methods the GOP would be doomed.

361:
It gets delivered to Earth, but a bunch of it ends up in the atmosphere, especially if the pieces are small enough. Tunguska instead of Chicxulub, basically.

Only if the pieces are really quite small (like smaller than baseballs or cricket balls, depending on which side of the Atlantic you inhabit), and if the pieces acquire enough Δv to separate substantially between the shattering and reaching Earth. If the asteroid remains gravitationally bound (and you have to input more energy than 3GM^2/5R to overcome that) after shattering, that's unlikely to happen.

362:

Thought for the day (via Reddit):

After seeing people wear masks, I now get how they all have kids but "used" a condom

363:

Little dogs SOUND like little dogs.

One of the more terrifying sounds I've heard is a large dog snarling in a small room. It echoed, and really sounded more like a pride of lions arguing over dinner than a dog who was often perplexed that sheep didn't want to be his friend.

I prefer to be the sort of vaguely civilised guy in the obvious hippy house. I just don't look like the sort of person with easily resold valuables lying round. And living in suburbia but obviously not owning a car makes people assume I'm a lot poorer than I am :)

364:

Rockets are hot. Mass drivers are hot - or more specifically, their power sources are. We are putting infrared telescopes well away from earth in the solar system *now* - an industrialized solar system will have them all over the place, so no, you cant just put up a heat shield in one direction. (And if you somehow successfully did that, people would literally launch nukes at your home base with an accompanying message to turn your traffic beacons the fuck back on or everybody dies now) There is no stealth in space. As I said, the expanse and the rest of the science fiction which uses this trope has just fried peoples brains.

365:

And, if that was a plain clothes policeman, under current rules of engagement for the police, it would have been very sad for the householder.

South of the border, if the intruder is a police officer serving a no-knock warrant and you shoot them because you've just woken up and you think it's someone breaking in*, you get charged with shooting a police officer.

The libertarian fantasy of civility and respect through universal gun ownership doesn't work if you're black.


*which it is

366:

You don't need the mass driver on the projectile all the way in, though, and if you're out and about using mass drivers to move things it's not necessarily going to be obvious that one of the things that is going to flick round Saturn to get a cometary trajectory in order to end up in Mars (orbit) is actually going to deflect round Mars and hit Earth instead.

There's a bunch of "but why" to be answered, but c'mon, we're already dealing with people far enough off the sanity spectrum that they want to die on Mars.

367:

use a gun successfully in home defense

I've always kinda wondered how people square "responsible gun owner with children" with "need gun for home defense" in their minds.

The first requires that you have the guns securely locked away where the kid can't get them, which doesn't give you much time to get them for the second.

Jim Jeffries seems to sum it up well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rR9IaXH1M0

368:

If the people launching it can calculate the trajectory well enough to hit earth so can everybody else.

The issue is that the effort involved in tracking things is just completely miniscule compared to the effort involved in moving things, which means everything is going to be tracked all the time. We track literal loose bolts in earth orbit now.

Nobody is ever going to loose track of where cometary bodies being moved about are going.

More or less all science fiction completely ignores this, because "Space is an ocean full of submarines" makes for more dramatic conflicts than MAD game theory with advance warnings measured in years does. Or at least, easier-to-write conflicts.

But frankly, if you want that setting, write about the wars between the subsea colonies of Europa. Because it is not how space works. Space is where everyone can see what you are doing, and what you will be doing for ages, and ages in advance. Where an actual ship-to-ship conflict would be weeks of advance planning and diplomatic radio chatter followed by 3 minutes of computer controlled weapons fire while everyone hid in armored acceleration tanks and then most likely both ships get turned to expanding clouds of debris.

369:

Lots of people are talking about redirecting asteroids into Earth. Would that actually be practical as a weapon, though? Accelerating an asteroid large enough that it is impervious to nuclear bombardment and etc. to the point that it significantly damages Earth's civilization would be an incredibly telegraphed and expensive move. If the Martians have an energy budget that tremendous and the tech to conceal their rock, while presumably being a backwater compared to Earth, what is Earth packing?

370:

Still works if everyone can track it. Everyone knows where it is all the time, it's just that there's a course correction just before it hits Mars that only one side is expecting, and during the transit from Mars to Earth there isn't enough time to do very much (you do this when the two are close, not on opposite sides of the sun).

Or you do it with a direct cometary orbit. Same deal but possibly more tedious to set up (shoot it out, wait 300 years)... the target has however long it takes to get from perihelion to Earth, because that's about where the course correction happens. The "comet" changes from near Earth to very very near Earth and everyone gets suitably excited.

371:

Rocks....

Rocks are kinetic energy weapons, and have a long and proud history, but in this sense, they're doomsday weapons (deterrent or MAD, whatever you want to call it)

But we can detect it, because we're a space fairing nation!

No, not in this situation. Within the next couple of years Elon will have 40 000 satellites. Those satellites are on highly inclined orbits. They're powered and they're programed to avoid collisions with other satellites, each carrying an ephemera of all the known satellite orbits.

In case its not bleeding obvious, if they can be programed to actively avoid collisions, they can be programed to collide.

If Earth decides to attack Mars the very first thing that happens is Earth loses all its orbiting assets below 1400km within hours. That's going to make getting to orbit a pretty risky endeavour.

Following that a starship carries 100 tonnes. That's 10 million 10g slugs. Quite a mess if dumped into a retrograde orbit at geostationary height.

100 kg rocks are pretty much impossible to see. 100 kg lumps of tungsten with a minimal navigation system and heat shield would only have a volume of about 8 litres and a starship could dump 1000 of them into a Mars-Earth trajectory. 10 starships could drop 10 000 into Earth-Mars transfer orbit aimed at the deep space network and Earth is blind 6 months later.

Then you're free to run the existing automated asteroid mining operation as a late heavy bombardment.

The high ground isn't everything, but it's a lot.

372:

Congratulations, you've reinvented the Kessler Cascade, which will prevent resupply of Mars. Incidentally, current ground radar tracks junk in orbit in sizes down to 2 cm in diameter, which is still too big for some really nasty stuff like loosed screws.

One major concern with junking LEO up with lots of satellites is that it gets really easy to deny the most spacefaring nation (the US) the high ground by playing with super-powered laser pointers and hitting just the right satellite to start a cascade.

Then again, Musk showed no sense with The Boring Company, when he proposed to drill right through a mess of faults under heavily built out West LA, and proposed not to do any environmental work to find out what he'd hit while tunneling (earthquake faults, oil wells, gas lines, secret lairs, paleosophont tunnels...). Then he got huffy and dug his test tunnel elsewhere when he found out that all the stupid details did, in fact, matter. I'm afraid he's getting to be another one of those "Move Fast and Break Things, Details Are For Suckers" billionaires. That's actually the best reason to send him to Mars, but I doubt he'll get that far.

373:

"Congratulations, you've reinvented the Kessler Cascade, which will prevent resupply of Mars."

Yeah, that's why it's a deterrent and not something you'd use unless the only thing Earth is sending is nukes.

374:

Within the next couple of years Elon will have 40 000 satellites. Those satellites are on highly inclined orbits.

I thought you were going to say "they are already making ground-based optical astronomy difficult, with a bit of effort they could make it completely impossible, and with a bit of carefully shaped radio output they could do the same for the 1m-1am radio range".

375:

Why redirect an asteroid to Earth if you have Falcon Heavies in orbit? If things are bad-enough that you're in a shooting war, or headed that way, half-a-dozen Falcon Heavies break orbit and five minutes later they're smashing the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, etc., with something close to a full load of fuel.

And before anyone objects, I do understand that it might be possible for a ground-based telescope to watch the Falcon Heavies being fueled at the Libertarian Orbital Depot, or notice them firing their thrusters, or maybe US intelligence is monitoring attack orders in real time, but the point is this: If someone's got a few really big rockets in orbit they've got an enormous advantage, a surprise attack is at least theoretically possible, and asteroids are not necessary.

376:

A lot of this kind of supposes that Elon's argument is with not-USA, because even the most paranoid billionaire isn't going to nuke his own launch sites from orbit. Albeit it might all be part of a cunning plan to forment a one world government. At least to the point where they have one world "most wanted list" with Elon on the top of it. To go full QAnon, the only way we're going to get a proper Bill Gates the Jewish banker microchipping everyone world government is if there's an external threat. Elon could nobly volunteer to be the threat, and evade capture/destruction long enough to cement the left wing hippy green hairshirt fascist dictatorship in place, then be "captured" sentenced to deportation to his our Martian prison colony.

You have to admit that it makes as much sense as whatever the coup plotters thought.

377:

Oh absolutely. I didn't go through *all* the ways 40 000 satellites equipped with frikin' lasers! could mess up Earth's ability to see and do things in space.

Yeah, Earth may have a bunch of telescopes all over the system, but they're not much good if all the radio bands are saturated with directed microwave and lasers.

@Troutwaxer oh, yes. X marks the spot. You can also land things on top of the deep space communications antenna. With Earth blinded and silenced, people in space have complete control.

The US really sees Mars as being like Grenada. Its not going to be like that at all. It's already not like that at all (or will be very very soon). The days of the FAA calling the shots are numbered.

378:

It's not lasers, it's just shiny things in space. So many shiny things. In spaaaace!

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50870117

379:

Guns in close-up situations ...
I'm always reminded of the time some US minor gangster brought a handgun onto a British Film set, to threaten someone, because his then girl friend was also on set.
He pulled it out - & it was promptly taken away from him, he was bundled out, pointed at the airport & told not to come back. [ These days, of course, he would be in jail for an extended period ]
Oh yes, the threatened person, who wasn't impressed? Sean Connery, oops.

H
The Boring Company, when he proposed to drill right through a mess of faults under heavily built out West LA, and proposed not to do any environmental work to find out what he'd hit while tunnelling (earthquake faults, oil wells, gas lines, secret lairs, paleosophont tunnels...)
To some of us this is a very well-known problem
The link & subsequent discussion contains some, er "illuminating" examples.

380:
Actually, I find real numbers very easy to understand (as I do measure theory)! But that was only when I stopped thinking in terms of values that I (personally) could see how to construct, and thinking in terms of the abstract continuum.

But that's no fun! The construction by 19th-century analysts of the continuum from the integers is work of extraordinary beauty.

381:

World's Oldest BREWERY found
Tell the New Puritans & health fascists to eff off ....

382:

I agree with that, but you don't need to invoke it every time you use its result. Yes, you need to be aware of it, because it's often relevant. If more computer scientists understood that, there were would be less bullshit published in that field.

383:

The one that I have seen in this context is the people who prove complexity and sometimes other results using the uniform measure on programs (i.e. with probability one), treated as a binary expansion and then claim they apply to constructable programs.

384:

Re: 'No, it wouldn't.'

That's unfortunate 'cause I'd prefer something like chirped amplification laser to nukes: safer overall, less energy needed to use, better targeting, probably less expensive to make/use and probably more versatile (more potential uses).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirped_pulse_amplification

I was thinking that rapid extreme temp changes (thermal stress - feasible via controlled pulse lasers) would act as both a shave on the exterior and heat up/weaken specifically selected parts of the asteroid. So actually there'd be two forces acting on the asteroid. Anyways, I remain hopeful that we won't have to resort to nukes.

385:

Pigeon: To which my solution would be: call the police. They know how to do it. I don't.

You live in the UK and, unless I'm mistaken, have never visited the USA.

Some years ago I was guest of honour at an SF convention in Austin, Texas. While I was there I took the time to go to a shooting range (because: research for fiction). In addition to making loud noises and sending bits of metal downrange at high velocity, I got a bit of a tutorial on firearms and personal safety.

The takeaway: suppose you're a law-abiding citizen with a concealed carry license and a pistol in a holster on your person, and some mook pulls a gun on you and demands your wallet. What do you do? You give them your wallet, of course. If you draw your gun you're escalating, risking your life and that of any by-standers -- be prepared to kiss goodbye to $10,000 in legal bills even though you're in the clear (they pointed a gun at you first: anything you do thereafter is self-defense). Meanwhile, if they take your wallet, so what? You lose some cash and cancel your credit cards and queue up for a new driving license. It's a nuisance but it's way safer and cheaper than standing your ground with a gun.

The reason you have the gun is to defend your life. Suppose it's not a mugger but a spree shooter firing at random strangers. That's when you may need to defend yourself.

Because in suburban Austin, the average response time of the Police to reports of an armed incident (shots being fired) is ... 20 minutes.

You can get awfully dead in 20 minutes.

Also note that in Texas and other gun-owning states, the state of mind of a burglar (or home intruder) is that they're expecting occupants to be armed. Which means they're anticipating a confrontation involving guns. Which means by definition a break-in is a potentially lethal situation (remember: police are 20 minutes away). Here in the UK, armed burglaries are vanishingly rare -- it's property theft along the same level as break-ins into parked cars.

The reason for the 20 minute police response time, incidentally, is that the American definition of a "suburb" is what you or I would take for open countryside -- houses a quarter of a kilometer apart with trees/fences/other rural shit between them, no pavements alongside the roads, very few people. Things are different downtown (housing density: comparable to a British suburb). But the police can't be everywhere and when a suburb is 20 miles across, you don't have any reasonable expectation of a prompt response.

386:

I'm a current Austinite, and the situation isn't any longer suburbs that are rural, but rather miles and miles of neighborhoods zoned for detached single family homes with lawns.

This makes the police deployment situation even worse, because police are not coming from wherever they are on the local 65 mph (104 kph) country roads, but (pre pandemic, at least) on overly congested highways or on surface level roads designed to be counterproductive as thoroughfares to discourage traffic in neighborhoods (making the highway congestion worse).

387:

Even in the USA, not everywhere is as bad as Austin (and, unless it has improved out of all recognition, I don't mean in just this aspect). Just south of San Jose, few of my colleagues even owned guns, and it was safe at wander around Morgan Hill (a nearby dormitory town) alone at night without even watching out for lurkers. Even downtown Chicago (under the El) wasn't too bad - except for the driving, which made Rome look pedestrian-friendly.

Of course, my time in San Jose was a long time ago now, and my trip to Chicago longer. Things may have gone downhill.

388:

Note also that the Swiss Army have moved away from allowing soldiers to keep duty firearms at their residence

When did this happen? When can we expect Swiss levels of violence to approach American ones?

'Cause the libertarians have been claiming for decades that the reason Switzerland is so safe is that burglars know that houses might have military assault weapons in them, so they don't try to break in in the first place.

And yes, burglary =/= homicide. From decades of personal interactions, libertarians =/= logical.

389:

Now if Musk can get a Starship launch a week then he could get that much fuel to LEO in 10 to 40 weeks. Per Mars mission.

Musk is aiming to get to a Falcon 9 turnaround within a week later this year. He's already demonstrated a turnaround in less than 28 days.

For Starship/Superheavy they're aiming for 24-hour turnaround, and having a big enough fleet that they could launch a crew transport and 3-4 tankers into orbit, fuel them up, and punt them into trans-lunar injection and then an Earth flyby outbound for Mars within a day or two.

NASA are basically playing by sailing ship rules only blue-sky planning to add a paddle wheel to their next-generation galleon, while SpaceX is trying to build the Great Eastern.

390:

I'm afraid he's getting to be another one of those "Move Fast and Break Things, Details Are For Suckers" billionaires. That's actually the best reason to send him to Mars, but I doubt he'll get that far.

We could compromise and send him halfway there… :-/

Not a fan of 'move fast and break things'. Seems to be the tech-bro equivalent to 'let someone else clean up my mess'.

391:

Shell has announced it's hit leak oil production.

They admitted that they're facing a 1% annual decline?!?

Shell publicly saying there's any prospect of oil revenue not rising forever is opening them up to lawsuits by activist investors angry that their share price isn't going to inflate in perpetuity. So if they're admitting they've passed peak oil means that it's the best spin they can possibly put on the figures, and that managed 1% annual decline is a best possible outcome from their perspective.

Expect more like a 1-2% decline for a year or two, then a cliff-edge drop of 5-10% per year as the big EV-switchover proceeds, until things bottom out at maybe 20% of current production -- going into aviation fuel and plastics, unless and until fossil-exclusive substitutes replace it.

392:

Charlie @ 385: Here in the UK, armed burglaries are vanishingly rare

Just to expand a little on this for those unfamiliar with the UK:

Guns over here are pretty much banned. You can keep them, with a special license and under a fearsome set of restrictions, but carrying them around is basically impossible unless you are military or one of a small set of police officers. Most police carry (I believe) tasers, pepper spray and truncheons.

The vast majority of criminals never carry guns, and would regard anyone who does as someone to stay well away from. There are exceptions of course, but they are rare and don't last long. The logic is simple: most economic crime carries short sentences in low-security prisons. I think burglary is typically around 18 months for a repeat offender. OTOH merely carrying a firearm is a serious violent crime that gets you several years in a high-security prison. Actually using one in the course of a crime, even if you just wave it around, is likely to see you banged up for a decade or three.

On top of that, the police who come to arrest you will not be carrying firearms either (see above) *unless* you are known to carry a gun. If you are known to be carrying, the arrest will be carried out by a big squad of police in a planned operation, probably involving snipers. The odds of getting shot during this are uncomfortably high.

So in summary the NRA's old saw about what happens when guns are outlawed is demonstrably false. In the UK, guns are outlawed, and outlaws don't have guns. Not because they can't get them (though it is difficult and expensive, and you need to know the right people), but because they don't want them.

393:

I think that the two space billionaires (Bezos, Musk) are going to end up working together eventually.

Ahem: ULA just shipped the first stage test article for Vulcan to the test stand for firing. Vulcan is their next-gen replacement for Atlas V (and maybe Delta IV). It runs on Blue Origin BE-4 motors, which are produced by Blue Origin, which is owned by (drum roll) Jeff Bezos. Vulcan and Vulcan Heavy overlap with Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy in payloads, there's developmental work towards reusability, it's due to be rated for human spaceflight, and the first test flight payload (Q4/2021 but I'm betting it slips) will be the Peregrine lunar lander.

Vulcan Centaur is sucking on the US Space Force teat and ULA is a Lockheed/Boeing consortium, so this is going to be (a) late, (b) over-budget, (c) gold-plated, and (d) will nevertheless fly eventually.

I'm not sure what being a motor supplier for a competitor means to Blue Origin's own aspirations for the New Glenn and New Shephard launch vehicles, but it does mean Bezos is in the game.

394:

Little dogs SOUND like little dogs.

In the 1960s, my parents had a Dandie Dinmont for just that reason.

The best was extremely friendly, about the size of a large house-cat, and looked like a big-eyed floor mop ... but barked like a German Shepherd.

395:

And living in suburbia but obviously not owning a car makes people assume I'm a lot poorer than I am :)

If I was hyper-rich (spoiler: I'm not) and enjoyed driving, I might well own a Lamborghini or a Maclaren supercar. But I wouldn't keep it at home any more than I'd keep a gun at home. Guns belong on a shooting range and supercars belong in a shed alongside a race track with track days. As a daily driver I'd go with a ten year old Volvo, or (if feeling splashy) a Tesla -- and not a top end one. And for making an ostentatious entrance and public events (which is not my thing, but anyway), that's what limo services are for: much cheaper to rent a Rolls Royce and driver for the evening a couple of times a year than to actually own one.

396:

Following that a starship carries 100 tonnes. That's 10 million 10g slugs. Quite a mess if dumped into a retrograde orbit at geostationary height.

Presumably there are lots of Starships on the ground, on Earth.

A Starship payload to Mars is ~100 tonnes.

A W88 warhead weighs up to 360Kg (by some estimates as little as 180Kg) and has a yield of up to 475 kilotons.

An Ohio-class boomer with 20 Trident-II missiles on board carries up to 160 of these things; a Starship with a warhead dispenser can plausibly carry 250 of them -- maybe as many as 500.

Current fuzing and delivery gives a CEP of under 100 metres, possibly as little as on the order of 10 metres.

Even through 20 metres of rock, a half-megaton ground burst is going to do make an unholy mess of a Mars habitat. Note that W88 was considered as the basis for a robust penetrator warhead, and in tests such penetrators could drill through 45 metres of reinforced concrete while travelling at 1.2km/sec. This results in a closely-coupled ground burst that causes massive structural damage to anything nearby.

So unless the Mars colony is shielded in a way that makes a Minuteman launch control bunker look like a camping tent, the Mars colony is vulnerable to being taken out by a single hostile launch -- albeit with some warning time built in.

Trying to prevent a launch by precipitating a Kessler cascade probably won't work, because the launching parties can just launch a whole bunch of bomb carrier vehicles if they're peeved enough. One will get through, the rest just make the regolith bounce. The worst of the particle debris will settle out within days to weeks, and it may be possible to open enough of a gap -- by sending a sacrificial wake shield device up first -- to let the retaliatory strike vehicles out. The probability of a hit drops off following the inverse square of altitude, or even faster: a Kessler cascade in geosync does precisely zip to stop a missile getting to Mars orbit injection.

397:

f someone's got a few really big rockets in orbit they've got an enormous advantage, a surprise attack is at least theoretically possible, and asteroids are not necessary.

Which is maybe why the US Navy operates the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (which also has anti-satellite capability). It's in service right now and can intercept ICBMs as well as spacecraft in low orbit. By the time any non-state actors have the capability to dump a Starship full of rocket fuel on DC, you can bet there'll be a cruiser with ABMDS capability permanently stationed in Chesapeake Bay, just in case -- and that assumes no other land-based systems are set up, eg. THAAD batteries operated by the US Missile Defense Agency.

Note that this is off-the-shelf technology. The USA is unusual in that it has spent serious money on this crap (although Japan also has skin in the game, because North Korea), but there's zero reason why China, the EU, and other major powers couldn't do the same in short-ish order.

398:

Quite. I don't know our relative wealth, but let's say that money isn't the primary reason I drive a 10 year old low-end Skoda Fabia :-)

399:

and not a top end one.

What? No leather covered dash?

I test drove a model S around 5 or 6 years ago. It was a $70k base model equipped with $20k in extras. The leather dash being one of those.

400:

For Starship/Superheavy they're aiming for 24-hour turnaround, and having a big enough fleet that they could launch a crew transport and 3-4 tankers into orbit, fuel them up, and punt them into trans-lunar injection and then an Earth flyby outbound for Mars within a day or two.

A single Starship launch will only get you 1/10 of the current minimum estimate. Less if the bigger estimates prove out. I can only imagine the fuel farm required to launch and fill the tanks given daily launches. And you know they will NOT be next to the pads.

As I said up thread, while the big picture seems to make some sense there are a freaking lot of details to be worked out. Sort of like the plant my father worked at. Out in the boonies with a peak of 2200 employees, they had their own street paving equipment and crews, a water plant extracting water from the Ohio river, electrical power linemen, and so on. For anything like this after a while the support crews and equipment logistics start to dwarf the main plan.

401:

The problem here is that systems like Aegis haven't been tested against a first-world opponent, and anti-missile tests in the U.S. do not take place under battlefield conditions. This has resulted in much criticism of what constitutes a "pass" where anti-missile testing is concerned, leading to articles like this:

https://thenewamerican.com/tests-of-u-s-anti-missile-interceptors-uncovered-flaws-and-failures/

"The Los Angeles Times revealed details of several of the failed tests of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in a July 6 article. In all of these instances, the cause of the interceptors missing their targets was due to malfunction of the thrusters — small rocket motors that steer the interceptor to its target."

or this:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/6876/this-primer-on-midcourse-intercept-ballistic-missile-defense-is-marvelous?iid=sr-link2

"The truth is, America’s BMD capabilities are nowhere near advanced or numerous enough to have any chance of countering an ICBM barrage from a peer-state competitor, and especially one from Russia. So for now, even though it remains fairly immature after many billions spent, the system provides a decent defense against short to medium-range ballistic missiles in regions and theaters of combat, and a some level of plausible defense against small volume ICBM attacks on the US."

This isn't what's needed if you're going after a fully mature Mars colonization effort, particularly if they can also take out some of the satellites upon which the anti-missile systems depend. There's no need for a Kessler cascade if you can take out the right satellites.

And if the nation-state trying to enforce the 1967 treaty isn't the United States... I've no idea what kind of anti-missile systems might be available to China, Russia, or the EU, but I suspect they're less-advanced.

402:

"You live in the UK and, unless I'm mistaken, have never visited the USA."

Correct.

"The reason you have the gun is to defend your life. Suppose it's not a mugger but a spree shooter firing at random strangers. That's when you may need to defend yourself."

I consider it much more sensible to run away, in whatever direction most quickly puts me behind an opaque object. If they can't see me they can't want to shoot at me, whereas if I try and shoot back they will want to shoot at me very much.

There probably do exist people who could rely on being able to get into position to shoot back without being noticed and take them down with the first shot. But there aren't many of them (and far less than think they can), and they certainly don't include me.

"Because in suburban Austin, the average response time of the Police to reports of an armed incident (shots being fired) is ... 20 minutes.

You can get awfully dead in 20 minutes."

That rather reinforces my conclusion than otherwise. If you have to wait 20 minutes for someone to come along and pull your shit out of the fire, it's all the more reason for trying not to get your shit in the fire in the first place.

"Also note that in Texas and other gun-owning states, the state of mind of a burglar (or home intruder) is that they're expecting occupants to be armed. Which means they're anticipating a confrontation involving guns. Which means by definition a break-in is a potentially lethal situation"

Same again. That means that if I'm going to rely on using a gun, I have to shoot them without hesitation the instant I get the opportunity, otherwise they will shoot me. But the chances are that they will have far less inhibition against shooting me than I do about shooting them. The expected outcome is that I hesitate and they shoot. (Not to mention that even if it does work, it only works if there's only one of them.)

I reckon I would do better to go and sit on the toilet and pretend to be having a dump. That way when they encounter me their immediate perception is of an object of comedy, not a threat.

I have heard about Texas. Apparently you are actually allowed to shoot someone you find in your house. If they're just in the garden you're not, so you shoot them anyway and then drag the body indoors. Then you call the cops and say "look what I did" with a big grin on your face and they call you a good (ole) boy and give you a doggy treat. In the context of real life as opposed to fiction or fantasy, I can't envisage what it's even like to be that casual about it.

403:

So unless the Mars colony is shielded in a way that makes a Minuteman launch control bunker look like a camping tent, the Mars colony is vulnerable to being taken out by a single hostile launch -- albeit with some warning time built in.

If Musk takes the "build your city in a lava-tube" option, nuking Mars might be as futile as nuking Cheyenne Mountain. The Earthly nation involved would take-out the launch facilities and whatever infrastructure is necessarily built above-ground, then there would be a bunch of pissed-off people in tunnels waiting for that nation to land ground-troops, which they must do if they don't want to be the bad-guy, because otherwise they've condemned the enemy civilians to starving radioactive doom.* At the point where a nation must land ground-troops to enforce the treaty the war will bankrupt them, because if they don't handle the Martian civilians with kid gloves the civilians will take out the underground infrastructure as they retreat and the attacking nation will capture empty tunnels. The end-result of this is the Earth-based enemy not capturing a viable colony.

I'm not saying it WOULD happen that way, but the worst-case scenario is that the offending nation is attacked by a space-based missile platform, (ordinary heavy-lift vehicles carrying huge loads of rocket-fuel rather than nukes) successfully recovers, gets back into space, nukes the surface of Mars, tries to take the tunnels with ground troops, and comes home without capturing a Mars-base which is capable of surviving. It would be every bit as futile as the U.S. invading Vietnam, and infinitely more costly.*

All that being said, I don't think anyone is colonizing Mars anytime soon - the obstacles we've been discussing seem insurmountable with currently-available or even currently foreseeable technology - but under the scenario in which Musk somehow succeeds in colonizing Mars then someone declares war on him, the path to defeating a Mars colony with a business-like presence in Earth-orbit is... certainly not impossible, but much, much, much harder than it looks. **

I would say that the far more likely scenarios are either that Musk or his successors purchases an exemption to the 1967 treaty, or that the U.S. government steps in at some point and says "We're not going to let your Libertarian bro-culture have enough space-based infrastructure to take out small or medium-sized countries. Thanks for developing all this neat technology."***

* Condemning enemy civilians to starving radioactive doom is also a scenario to consider, and it might be either deliberate or accidental, as in "believing the missiles successfully took out the tunnels."

** How about a near-future comedy set around thirty-years from now: Elon Musk versus Eric Trump, in space! ("We're going to build a wall around space, and Elon Musk will pay for it!")

*** "Dude! Have a Mountain Dew and calm the fuck down!"

404:

I have heard about Texas. Apparently you are actually allowed to shoot someone you find in your house.

Castle doctrine. As to who you can shoot when and not be charged, it varies by state. But yes, once someone is into your "house" and you didn't invite them in, you have a lot of leeway as to what you can do.

But to Charlie's note about $10,000 in legal bills, I'd add a zero. Maybe more. And when the police do arrive don't say much more than name, rank, and serial number until you have a lawyer with you to avoid saying something that makes YOU at fault. So your first call should be to 911. (What I think you have as 999). Your second call should be to a lawyer or someone who can get you one ASAP.

405:

Troutwaxer
Yes
You probably REALLY DO NOT WANT a repeat of the US Mk14 torpedo do you?
With weapons of the sort we are discussing this sort of failure would not "merely" be inconvenient, killing a few of your own ship's crews ...

406:

the civilians will take out the underground infrastructure as they retreat and the attacking nation will capture empty tunnels

IIRC, there are/have been bridges (and maybe dams?) in Europe designed with conveniently placed cavities for destruction charges. Same principle would apply for Undermars, I'd think.

407:

Latest plan for the launch site is at sea. A SpaceX subsidiary has bought two oil rigs at a very good price, renamed them Phobos and Deimos, and they're currently in port somewhere in Texas awaiting modifications.

The obvious place for the bulk of the fuel storage for a launch would be a similarly aquired LNG tanker moored alongside. Fill the launcher and some tanks on the rig (for topping off during the last part of the countdown) then head for the horizon before the blue touch paper is lit. Alternatively one rig could be the launch paltform with the second moored at a distance and pipelines between.

408:

Troutwaxer @ 403 : "We're not going to let your Libertarian bro-culture have enough space-based infrastructure to take out small or medium-sized countries. Thanks for developing all this neat technology."

All that neat space tech was only partly developped with private investor funding.

Troutwaxer @ 403 : "We're not going to let your Libertarian bro-culture have enough space-based infrastructure to take out small or medium-sized countries. Thanks for developing all this neat technology."

All that neat space tech was only partly developped with private investor funding.

The U.S. government has already funded much of the previous rocket motor technology going into the SpaceX Starship and it just put "US$135 million for design and initial development over a 10-month design period of a variation of the Starship second-stage vehicle and spaceship".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Starship#Funding

The U.S. is responsible for the Starship in the eyes of the space-going states of the world (and a lot of the other states too) so it won't start using it as a weapon or let any of its citizens use it as a weapon.

409:

Sorry for the hiccup.

410:

Um, I think it's better to look at the history of weapons in the US before you venture too far down the road of "the US helped finance industrial development of [system], therefore, it won't let it be used in anger against anyone. I mean, heck, the NRA is the gun industry's tool for selling more guns, because they were running out of customers. At least some American industrialists have no qualms about selling lethal tech that kills their countrymen or anyone else. They do have qualms against being held liable, but it would be nice if they had a moral compass too.

That said, I suspect the plot of Muskovian Mars will be more like The Martian than Dr. Strangelove. Here's the thing: Mars is in an...awkward...arc of the sky from Earth for stretches of time that last about two years, meaning it's either behind the sun or some place where a spaceship going there takes over twice as long and goes inside the orbit of Venus or even Mercury to get there, which is a kind way of saying it will be cut off from Earth, much as the Antarctic stations are more-or-less cut off from the rest of the world during Antarctic winter.

That's going to be a stressful time for any Mars colony, because they've basically got to go two years without resupply. And note, if they can be resupplied easily, it means we can also potentially drop stratospheric colonies on Venus or burrow into a Mercurian pole, but let's skip that.

Anyway, the big disaster scenario will be when a Martian colony goes radio silent when it's in a hard place to get to. Presumably the colony will have more than three ways of reaching Earth, but you can see the nightmare from the terrestrial perspective: what do you send to a Martian colony that's fallen silent: resupply, evacuation, disaster investigators, or a recolonizing effort? Packing all of them into one ship might be a bit hard.

411:
Anyway, the big disaster scenario will be when a Martian colony goes radio silent when it's in a hard place to get to. Presumably the colony will have more than three ways of reaching Earth, but you can see the nightmare from the terrestrial perspective: what do you send to a Martian colony that's fallen silent: resupply, evacuation, disaster investigators, or a recolonizing effort? Packing all of them into one ship might be a bit hard.

I have previously (@218) expressed the opinion that "settling Mars" is really just a euphemism for "We are sending volunteers to Mars, and they are gonna die there."

412:

My opinion is that sending humans to Mars isn't worth doing at all, but given that I'm already dealing with an SFF scenario here in my judgement, the next question is how does it play out.

Note that this is actually a question for just about any off-planet colony. Even the Moon is over a day away, assuming you've got something ready to go in the first place.

This is one of those key things that would have to be different in interplanetary civilization: disaster planning would have to be a lot more sophisticated than it is now. On Earth, we have real trouble even keeping an adequate system of weather satellites in orbit, even though sane people know they're essential for both international trade and disaster preparedness. Imagine how much better we'd have to be if prepping to deal with regular Martian colonial disasters would be routine, if not easy.

413:

Or during your launch window you send 24 ships, each containing one months worth of supplies to Mars, and the first one sets down on Mars immediately upon arrival. The second one orbits for one month. The third one orbits for two months, etc.

This leaves out the possibility that a launch window which only allows an extremely awkward orbit with arrival on Mars in six years and two months fills your slot for a necessary resupply run six months and two years from now. Or you play games with acceleration and deccelleration. Someone who really knows orbital dynamics doubtless has a lot of tricks they can play with scheduling.

On the subject of communications, I'd guess there are two essential bits in the critical path document for colonizing Mars. The first one reads "Launch hardened test communications satellites into solar orbit between Earth and Mars just before solar maximum for testing. If they break, test again with even more hardening." The other reads, "Launch fully-tested version of hardened communications satellites into solar orbit between Earth and Mars."

I have my doubts that Musk will ever successfully colonize Mars, but both of the problems you brought up in your post above are surmountable.

414:

supercars belong in a shed alongside a race track with track days

If you're going to do that it makes more sense to own something like a Formula Pacific or the electric equivalent. Much cheaper and lighter because a whole bunch of stuff can be left off, and also safer because they're designed to be driven into crash barriers rather than have 40 ton trucks drive over them.

Back in the day my stepfather had one of those fake Lotus Sevens that were fun to drive and while heavier and less powerful than the real thing, also much cheaper.

Supercars are more like superyachts - you have them because you want to be seen to have them rather than because you like doing the thing with them. You take visitors down to the car display area and they go "oooh" in a properly appreciative manner, then you jump in the helicopter (theirs or yours) and flit off to the yacht where the non-owners go "oooh" in the approved manner.

Unless you're Paul Allen, who seems to think that real billionaires do serious ocean research on their serious ocean research yacht ship.

415:

Heteromeles @ 412: "My opinion is that sending humans to Mars isn't worth doing at all,"

You'd send only robots and canaries?

416:

You'd send only robots and canaries?

Robots and yogurt.

417:

Well, we've moved onto military sf fairly quickly. I expect that anyone on either side who anticipates conflict would find it easy to place some kind of ample deterrent into one of the regular flights back and forth between 2 planets, long before conflict arose. Nukes, uranium rods dropped from orbit, whatever. Bonus points if they just think of a way to weaponize existing shipping (i.e. what would be the effect of a Starship or Falcon Heavy dropped on the White House at speed and without warning?)

Moving back to the finance side of the discussion, I still don't know how the Earth economy could be induced to support the Mars economy without some Handavium factor. Unless Billionaire or country X expects to profit in some way, they won't pour their money into outer space indefinitely.

SF tends to handwave this with things like the discovery of technological artifacts from an extinct or vanished Martian civilization,or some kind of resource extraction opportunity that is more appealing and cost effective than asteroid mining. These things might happen but I'm not betting on it.

Muskcoins are nice but only if a convincing case can be made that they are worth anything to anyone but Martians. I have no interest in or use for a bunch of Baht or Rupees unless I'm going to those places. I see no reason anyone local would 'invest' in Marsbucks.

Alternate theory: The push for Mars colonization is a stalking horse to drive innovation and technology for closer to home goals. Space X is also filling the sky with satellites, pushing the envelope for space travel and development, and returning us to the concept of space exploration as a practical matter. 20 years ago it was a dying porkbarrel industry with little hope of any near term future. I'm not sure where it is going from here (probably not Mars), but it is going somewhere.

'But what is climate change is a hoax and we put all this work into building a better world for nothing?'

418:

It would be far more worthwhile to get billionaires focussed on making Earth habitable, and in a way that seems to be what Gates is trying to do. For all Elon wanks on about cars and shit he's very much about burning this planet to et established on the next. Hard to know whether that's colonialism or capitalism...

419:

"Bonus points if they just think of a way to weaponize existing shipping (i.e. what would be the effect of a Starship or Falcon Heavy dropped on the White House at speed and without warning?)"

I'll take my bonus points now. (Did you read any of the recent posts before you posted yourself?)

420:

"It would be far more worthwhile to get billionaires focussed on making Earth habitable..."

Agreed COMPLETELY!

421:

Robert Prior @ 367:

use a gun successfully in home defense

I've always kinda wondered how people square "responsible gun owner with children" with "need gun for home defense" in their minds.

The first requires that you have the guns securely locked away where the kid can't get them, which doesn't give you much time to get them for the second.

Jim Jeffries seems to sum it up well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rR9IaXH1M0

What I'd like to do if I owned guns:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiCOp8l5qcQ

Like I've said, shooting can be fun, but that's not enough to justify the risk of having a gun in my home. I try not to be paranoid and think everyone is out to get me, so I'm not really thinking about home defense too hard.

I'll note that I have reinforced the doors & windows while trying NOT to make it too obvious that I have the house fortified. Like Moz, to look at my house from the outside you wouldn't know there's much if anything in here worth breaking in to steal.

422:

Charlie Stross @ 385: Pigeon:

To which my solution would be: call the police. They know how to do it. I don't.

You live in the UK and, unless I'm mistaken, have never visited the USA.

Some years ago I was guest of honour at an SF convention in Austin, Texas. While I was there I took the time to go to a shooting range (because: research for fiction). In addition to making loud noises and sending bits of metal downrange at high velocity, I got a bit of a tutorial on firearms and personal safety.

The takeaway: suppose you're a law-abiding citizen with a concealed carry license and a pistol in a holster on your person, and some mook pulls a gun on you and demands your wallet. What do you do? You give them your wallet, of course. If you draw your gun you're escalating, risking your life and that of any by-standers -- be prepared to kiss goodbye to $10,000 in legal bills even though you're in the clear (they pointed a gun at you first: anything you do thereafter is self-defense). Meanwhile, if they take your wallet, so what? You lose some cash and cancel your credit cards and queue up for a new driving license. It's a nuisance but it's way safer and cheaper than standing your ground with a gun.

Back when I worked in security (technology), something I always tried to make explicit to all of my customers (Banks, Pharmacies, Fast Food Resturants) was what to do in the event of a robbery ... i.e. GIVE THEM THE MONEY!.

The money is insured & will be replaced. YOU cannot be replaced. Your objective is to survive. Your chance of survival increases the faster you can get them out the door. Giving them the money so they can run away is the quickest way to do that.

The reason you have the gun is to defend your life. Suppose it's not a mugger but a spree shooter firing at random strangers. That's when you may need to defend yourself.

Because in suburban Austin, the average response time of the Police to reports of an armed incident (shots being fired) is ... 20 minutes.

You can get awfully dead in 20 minutes.

Also note that in Texas and other gun-owning states, the state of mind of a burglar (or home intruder) is that they're expecting occupants to be armed. Which means they're anticipating a confrontation involving guns. Which means by definition a break-in is a potentially lethal situation (remember: police are 20 minutes away). Here in the UK, armed burglaries are vanishingly rare -- it's property theft along the same level as break-ins into parked cars.

Burglars do everything they can to avoid an occupied dwelling. If they think you're inside, they will go away and look for another UNOCCUPIED dwelling. Outside motion lights help. INSIDE motion lights & panic button lights help even more.

But any intruder who breaks in when you're home is likely armed and means to do you harm.

The real problem with guns for home defense though is knowing it's really an intruder and not your teenage kid trying to sneak in after curfew.

The reason for the 20 minute police response time, incidentally, is that the American definition of a "suburb" is what you or I would take for open countryside -- houses a quarter of a kilometer apart with trees/fences/other rural shit between them, no pavements alongside the roads, very few people. Things are different downtown (housing density: comparable to a British suburb). But the police can't be everywhere and when a suburb is 20 miles across, you don't have any reasonable expectation of a prompt response.

And if shots ARE being fired, they probably won't come. They'll set up a secure perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to arrive.

PS: NOT hypothetical.

423:

Robert Prior @ 388:

Note also that the Swiss Army have moved away from allowing soldiers to keep duty firearms at their residence

When did this happen? When can we expect Swiss levels of violence to approach American ones?

Early 2000s AFAIK.

'Cause the libertarians have been claiming for decades that the reason Switzerland is so safe is that burglars know that houses might have military assault weapons in them, so they don't try to break in in the first place.

"Libertarians" frequently don't know what the fuck they're talking about. I discovered the change researching how the Swiss army organized the "weapons at home" thingy while arguing with local "Libertarians" about the 2nd Amendment on UseNet; while I was still serving in that "well regulated Militia".

The Swiss Army model was a whole lot more restrictive than "Libertarians" ever understood. First of all, the Swiss Army told you what firearms you would keep and you were not allowed to keep anything else. They dictated HOW the weapons would be stored as well. Before you were accepted into the program you underwent quite intrusive background checks and psychological evaluations to determine if you were a suitable candidate. And there were frequent in home inspections to ensure you were complying with program requirements. Flunk an inspection and get a court martial.

And yes, burglary =/= homicide. From decades of personal interactions, libertarians =/= logical.

The Swiss did have higher rates of gun crime than the rest of Europe (among soldiers accepted into the program; mainly officers assigned handguns who committed suicide or murder/suicide) . That was one of the reasons they decided to phase out the program.

424:

Robert Prior @ 390:

I'm afraid he's getting to be another one of those "Move Fast and Break Things, Details Are For Suckers" billionaires. That's actually the best reason to send him to Mars, but I doubt he'll get that far.

We could compromise and send him halfway there… :-/

Not a fan of 'move fast and break things'. Seems to be the tech-bro equivalent to 'let someone else clean up my mess'.

Works Ok in an Infantry context fighting a war. The problem in Afghanistan & Iraq was the Cheney Bush administration never had ANY plan for taking care of that second part ("clean up the mess").

425:

Hard to know whether that's colonialism or capitalism...

Can't it be both?

426:

What I'd like to do if I owned guns:

Wusses. That desert wasn't cold. Hell, wasn't even crisp — their breath wasn't smoking. :-)

427:

And if shots ARE being fired, they probably won't come.

Also the situation with armed school guards, judging by what's actually happened (rather than what the NRA claims would happen).

428:

The armed school guards thing was covered by Jim Jeffries. Adding a minimum-wage peep with no training budget to a combat situation is not going to improve it, and without really good medical insurance why would the peep want to get involved?

There's a reason no military in the world immediately fires anyone who gets injured.

429:

SF tends to handwave this with things like the discovery of technological artifacts from an extinct or vanished Martian civilization,or some kind of resource extraction opportunity that is more appealing and cost effective than asteroid mining. These things might happen but I'm not betting on it.

I'm having fun in my spare time coming up with a steampunk Mars scenario, in which Mars has a biosphere and thus there are reasons to at least trade (exotic luxury items of the small mass, high value nature). The fact that there's a "sailing season" and an "inaccessible season" works quite nicely for a fantasy scenario.

The only reason I've come up with even putting humans on Mars are:
--Cool stunt, look what we can do (e.g. Apollo on steroids, one-upping the US)
--Gaianists propagating their goddess (e.g. a religious venture, using technology and belief systems we currently do not have).

It's neither capitalism nor colonialism, because both of those depended on trading with and/or subduing the human natives who'd already been there for centuries to millennia. If Mars has anything like that, we're going to have to redo an awful lot of science. The only continent that didn't have a human population (Antarctica) wasn't settled this way, and in fact, it's barely been settled at all: there have been 11 births on Antarctica, all since 1978, and all (?) in Esperanza base on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula. It's worth reading up on Esperanza, because it's an Argentinian civilian base, and its motto is "permanence, an act of sacrifice." The Chileans have a civilian base, but every other base on the continent is military (including the military base that surrounds the Chilean civilian base).

Both the Argentinian and Chilean bases host 50-80 residents in the winter.

This is worth thinking about, because it's the best model we have for a Mars base: 50-150 people, requiring the support of a medium-scale country or equivalent, and those countries are literally next door. Mars is a bit more difficult to access than the Antarctic peninsula, of course, but if someone plants a colony on Mars, that's what it's going to look like. What Esperanza would do without its tourist trade, I have no idea.

430:

Robert Prior @ 426: "That desert wasn't cold. Hell, wasn't even crisp — their breath wasn't smoking."

I kept looking for traces of snow on the ground all the way through that Dragunov demo.

431:

Parkland School Shooting, 17 dead. Armed Resource Officer on site, retreated to a safe position and did not intervene.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/us/parkland-scot-peterson.html

From the article: "The warrant portrayed Mr. Peterson, the only armed guard on campus, as an officer with a wealth of active shooter training who knew the gunman was inside, but did not go in to try to stop him as he killed and injured students and staff."

432:

I didn't realise they used actual cops. Which I assume is what a "deputy" is?

Am I right to assume cops in the US are better supported wrt to medical and disability insurance?

I'm just trying to work out why someone would sign up to confront trigger-happy criminals. Actually, that question too. But... and then decide not to bother when the time came to do the key part of their job.

433:

I'm just trying to work out why someone would sign up to confront trigger-happy criminals. Actually, that question too. But... and then decide not to bother when the time came to do the key part of their job.

I think the Parkland deputy screwed up. I suspect the problem is that he got confronted with a situation that he hadn't practiced, which was killing someone with his gun. And I don't mean target practice, I mean the mental preparation to come to terms with what he might have to do to save lives.

It's a variation on the trolley problem, and he's not alone. There are stories of SWAT team members refusing to kill a suspect because they couldn't face other church members after having done so. The question of "why did you go on the SWAT team then?" apparently gets asked a bit too late in some cases.

Most people are socialized to not kill, and all the training in the world in shooting targets won't make someone a killer, even when killing an active shooter will save lives. To be fair, I have serious doubts if I could kill someone myself, so I don't think I'm casting aspersions. It's a nasty question.

I'd also point out that you don't particularly want to field a force of police who are perfectly capable of killing someone either, because the possibility of them making a lethal mistake will rise substantially. A lot of cops' guns follow the Vimes Rule for Weapons, which is that they're there to be seen, not to kill or maim enemies. I'm not sure what the happy medium is ("warrior saints" who aren't templars?), but I'm pretty sure the US in aggregate isn't in it.

And by the way, the US police force that deals with the most armed suspects? Game wardens. Hunters are always armed, and poachers and growers are often worse. In situations where cops have to work with game wardens, they generally let the game wardens go first and get the situation under control before they move in.

434:

Getting satellite relays into solar orbits (or other suitable vantage points) would be one of the several relatively solvable requirements, sure. But my reading of Frank's comment wasn't that it was about the radio silence when we lose LOS, but rather when contact is lost for unknown reasons, presumably because something has gone wrong on or near Mars. This could be any from a range of possible events, some disastrous and some merely comical: a series of bizarre co-incidences lead to every transmitter getting fried on the same day, no-one is transmitting because everyone has gone insane, a sentient Martian mycelium ate everyone, EMPs and meteor showers, oh my. This is a familiar staple plot device from SF since forever, but also both deadly serious and an amusing thought experiment. See also risk management.

435:

you don't particularly want to field a force of police who are perfectly capable of killing someone

My impression is that the US already has that problem. But you're right, you can have that problem *and* have individual cops who are not willing to kill.

the US police force that deals with the most armed suspects? Game wardens.

I suspect the same is true in many places. It's true in Aotearoa, and DOC workers at least used to get explicit de-escalation training because they are almost never armed. But they do get to deal with hunters. Somewhat unexpectedly to many people, DOC employees also have quite dramatic powers to stop, search, and detain people. It's obvious when you think about it "is that an endangered reptile in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?"... you don't want to have DOC workers wandering back to the office and doing paperwork for a day when one of three kakapo eggs for the year is in the hands of some miscreant. Much better to ask them ever so politely afterwards whether it was necessary to be quite so vigorous when recovering the egg.

436:

Precisely, we do this already with the Mars missions. In fact, the backup we need isn't just relays, it's having a variety of monitoring satellites around Mars, so that there's some way of getting information on what's happening on the surface if contact with a surface settlement is lost.

The other intermediary I'd like to see if Musk going full supervillain mode and making a secret lair somewhere (an island for sale, somewhere on Greenland, whatever), and keeping it staffed with 100 people who are required to remain there for two year stints with only email contact with the outside. Extra points for having them isolated in their own biosphere, with only Musk and his highest minions coming and going. The point of this is to solve a bunch of problems with living on Mars while on Earth, and to do it literally in house. If he can't manage to keep a secret lair somewhere for years, staffed by loyal minions, he's got no business trying to establish one on Mars de novo. I mean, heck, if we're talking secret compounds and loyal employees, I'd guess that the Church of Scryontology is closer to making a go at Mars than Musk currently is.*

*NO, do NOT cross those two streams.

437:

But they'd be great colonists. They're well-disciplined and they don't each much!

438:

Supercars are more like superyachts - you have them because you want to be seen to have them rather than because you like doing the thing with them.

I kind of like the 1980-1990 models of Porsche 911 - especially the Targa one, that's the one with the hard removable roof piece. I just saw a restored one on Twitter, it looks absolutely beautiful. I did look up the prices here, and while they're expensive (that is, they cost more than I'd pay for any personal car), I could buy one.

However, I have no idea what to do with that, except drive it relatively slowly during the better summer days. A car that old is not very safe in a crash, and I'm not that good a driver that I'd really enjoy driving it fast. The Finnish speed limits on public roads are not that high, either. On a track, maybe I could drive it fast - but the risk of crashing it would be too high for me. On most summer days I have other stuff to do, anyway.

So, I'm happy just daydreaming about it. I might get a scale model at some point (I had one as a kid), but I already have too many of those waiting to be built.

439:

I have no idea what to do with that

I used to see a Lamborghini driving slowly round Christchurch with a bumper sticker "please pass carefully, running in" or similar. Albeit with those things "running in" and "running out" run together...

I've met a few people who race silly cars, most of them seem to have enough spare cash sloshing round that they can afford to indulge your sort of interest with a "one for the track, one for the collection" approach. But I've also seen a post-crash trailer full of parts arrive at a workshop for a two year stay to be restored, and I don't think two years work by a team of vintage car people comes cheap. OTOH my stepfather used to talk about taking the interlocks out of the street-legal version of some rally car then jamming it into reverse at speed. It was apparently a great experience that nearly made up for the hassle of walking up and down the gravel road with a bucket collecting all the pieces afterwards. I gather he was young and stupid until quite an advanced age...

My preference is more for go-carts or recumbent tricycles, because you don't have to go quite so fast when you're out in the open and very close to the ground. Which means crashes tend to be embarrassing rather than fatal, and the cost of entry/equipment is more suited to my willingness to spend. I will accept the possible loss of a $4000 velomobile but I'm not willing to spend $4000 on a set of car tyres that will last one weekend at the track.

440:

This is worth thinking about, because it's the best model we have for a Mars base: 50-150 people, requiring the support of a medium-scale country or equivalent, and those countries are literally next door. Mars is a bit more difficult to access than the Antarctic peninsula, of course, but if someone plants a colony on Mars, that's what it's going to look like.

And look at what has to happen in an emergency at any of the non Chilean or Argentine bases. $$$ millions in special air flights that get aborted 1/2 of the attempts. And incredibly restrictive operations when they do succeed. And that's all within our gravity well.

And yes I know the actual flight doesn't cost millions but the fully amortized cost of keeping the rescue as an option does.

441:

But you're right, you can have that problem *and* have individual cops who are not willing to kill.

Most cops are not interested at all in killing anyone. But it doesn't take very many to create an impression that they are all stalking mad men. And the close ranks of the unions and command don't help at all.

My somewhat recently retired bother in law in law cop carried a gun with a small clip and little extra ammo. His position was that most police gun fights lasted less than 30 seconds and involved 3 or fewer shots. If neither is true in a situation backup will be on the way. He never had to fire his gun except in training.

As JBS and other ex-military here will attest, much of military training of infantry troops is getting them to point a gun at someone and pull the trigger without personalizing it. And still many do not do it when in actual combat.

442:

However, I have no idea what to do with that, except drive it relatively slowly during the better summer days. A car that old is not very safe in a crash, and I'm not that good a driver that I'd really enjoy driving it fast.

Sort of well hidden is a collection of race tracks around the US where folks can race each other on a timing basis. You are racing the clock, not banging fenders. Tend to be road courses, not ovals or similar.

$$$$$ to burn.

443:

I think the Parkland deputy screwed up. I suspect the problem is that he got confronted with a situation that he hadn't practiced, which was killing someone with his gun.

If you look at what 99.9999% of those folks do day to day it makes sense. It is what many consider an easy gig. Walk around showing the "flag". Chasing kids out of the parking lot except at lunch times. Maybe a day or two a week breaking up a stupid fight. And maybe once or twice a year arresting some kids for being a really stupid idiots.

Enclosed occupied building live fire training is likely NOT in the job requirements. Especially with repeat drills to stay proficient. Against people wearing body armor and maybe carrying home made bombs or similar.

444:

On a Mars related note, NASA has a camera or few on the lander headed to the surface Thursday mid day (eastern US time) and will broadcast live video from the landing attempt. Well as live as a 20 minute or so delay can be.

I think it is scheduled for touch down around 3:45pm eastern US time.

I still like the picture someone made of the Bugs Bunny martian dude staring in the first rover camera.

445:

I still like the picture someone made of the Bugs Bunny martian dude staring in the first rover camera.

That would be Marvin the Martian, who taught us the importance of the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs (as in "disintegrating gun").

446:

you don't particularly want to field a force of police who are perfectly capable of killing someone

It looks like America is perfectly OK with that, actually. Black Lives Matter didn't spring out of nowhere.

447:

It looks like America is perfectly OK with that, actually. Black Lives Matter didn't spring out of nowhere.

Some Americans are OK with that. Not all of us.

448:

As we occasionally talk about wind power, Texas is experiencing an apparently unanticipated failure mode.

https://www.mrt.com/news/state/article/Frozen-wind-turbines-hamper-Texas-power-output-15951141.php

Frozen wind turbines hamper Texas power output, grid operator says
Brandon Mulder, Austin American-Statesman
Updated 10:03 pm CST, Sunday, February 14, 2021

Nearly half of Texas' installed wind power generation capacity has been offline because of frozen wind turbines in West Texas, according to Texas grid operators.

Wind farms across the state generate up to a combined 25,100 megawatts of energy. But unusually moist winter conditions in West Texas brought on by the weekend's freezing rain and historically low temperatures have iced many of those wind turbines to a halt.

As of Sunday morning, those iced turbines comprise 12,000 megawatts of Texas' installed wind generation capacity, although those West Texas turbines don't typically spin to their full generation capacity this time of year.

Fortunately for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's electric grid, the storm's gusty winds are spinning the state's unfrozen coastal turbines at a higher rate than expected, helping to offset some of the power generation losses because of the icy conditions.

"This is a unique winter storm that's more widespread with lots of moisture in West Texas, where there's a lot of times not a lot of moisture," said Dan Woodfin, Senior Director of System Operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. "It's certainly more than what we would typically assume."


449:

Covid mask wearing in the UK. During WWII. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thaCpLfqpNY

450:
As we occasionally talk about wind power, Texas is experiencing an apparently unanticipated failure mode.

This is, in a way, totally predictable. I lived in Dallas 21 years, and we had snow and cold weather every single one of those 21 years. One inch of snow totally shut down the city, because there was no capacity to deal with: no snowplows, etc. Even the anticipation of one inch of snow shut the city down. It's pretty clear that Dallas (and most of Texas) has made the decision to endure this sort of disruption for a few days every year, instead of paying the bill to deal with winter weather. It's not unreasonable.

So, when you call it an "unanticipated failure mode", I would say you're right, but it is more or less a deliberate and intentional unanticipation.

Now, to be fair, what's happening this week is truly unusually severe, my friend who lives in Texas tells me.

451:

what's happening this week is truly unusually severe, my friend who lives in Texas tells me.

We lived in San Antonio for over a decade and have been following the weather there with a certain amount of distress.

https://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KSAT.html

(That's a three-day running history pegged to the date of access.)

452:

So, when you call it an "unanticipated failure mode", I would say you're right, but it is more or less a deliberate and intentional unanticipation.

You may be right, but I'll be interested to see what the operators and designers say. There likely will be some inquiries made by the state and its 'tricity board, ERCOT.

453:
You may be right, but I'll be interested to see what the operators and designers say. There likely will be some inquiries made by the state and its 'tricity board, ERCOT.

Yes, I agree. I think wind power, as a major contributor to the state's energy budget, is new enough that no one had really thought hard about once-in-ten-years winter weather events (which is about what this sounds like to me). The "acceptable disruption" level probably needs some adjustment.

What my friend tells me is that they got a lot of freezing rain. As anyway familiar with winter weather knows, freezing rain is a much more serious problem than it sounds like, if you haven't experienced it.

454:

David L
This winter ...
1] Far fewer people about & ..
2] Those people mostly well spaced apart.
3] Where they are "together" ( Shops, trains, buses ) they are all masked up
Right?
4] Where's the Influenza this year?
Because it isn't - which should tell you something

Mind you, once all of this is over, I'm going to have a problem ( I already had it, but it wasn't so, um, distracting before ).
I'm allergic-sensitive to SOMETHING - I suspect either a rare-but-semi-popular, if you see what I mean, Lady's perfume, or, more likely a certain equally-unknown brand of Fabric Conditioner.
I've been sitting in the pub, having a quiet drink, a small group walks past - & I v quickly have to warn those with me: "I'm going to sneeze!"
Then my head falls, off & everyone in the pub looks around in shock - yes - it's LOUD.
Trying to explain that post C-19 is going to be "fun" - I might have to talk to the quack about it & see if I can get tests?

455:

Or the detergent they used. I can't use Persil because I can't stand the perfume used in it; in fact, I use unperfumed detergent and fabric conditioner.

The modern fetish for artificial smells in everything I find unpleasant; I prefer people to smell of themselves, or a single fragrance; clashing fragrances (perfume, detergent, soap, fabric conditioner etc) can be really unpleasant.

456:

once-in-ten-years winter weather events (which is about what this sounds like to me).

The current line is "worst since 1989", but I don't know what that means. Anyway, I'm leery of such statistics: when we lived in San Antonio we had an episode of flooding that caused me to check the historical records. There had been three 100-year floods in the current 15 years. Not impossible, but it does make one wonder.