Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Nature Of The Physical Law & Reaction Law

December 5, 2016

Human laws are modelled, in spirit, after physical laws. So it is socially important to realize how physical laws are established, and that they are not immutable. Physical laws are established by observation (some direct, some axiomatic; yes, a paradox). However, if you read the magazine “Wired”, you may feel that physical laws are established, like the Bible or the Qur’an, by the sheer power of a personality cult:

“LAST MONTH, NASA researchers dropped news with potentially huge consequences for space travel and science as a whole: They ran an experiment whose results seem to defy the very laws of physics, and could change how we travel through outer space. Problem is, experts say that it’s incredibly unlikely that Isaac Newton is wrong. Instead, the most likely explanation is the team simply made a mistake somewhere along the way

The team was testing a theory that there’s a new way to propel satellites, instead of using rockets powered by a limited supply of fuel. So they put a radio antenna in a specially designed, sealed container. Turned on, the antenna bounced 935MHz radio waves (similar to those used by some cell phones) around, and the container apparently moved a tiny, tiny bit. This violates Newton’s third law of motion, one of the basic tenets of physics.

Loosely put, Newton taught us that no action can occur without an equal and opposite reaction.”

[WIRED from August 2014:]

Reaction = Action Is An Experimental Fact. Or Was, Until Recently. Does not have to stay that way

Reaction = Action Is An Experimental Fact. Or Was, Until Recently. Does not have to stay that way

Right, the article is from 2014. However, the riddle got more interesting in 2016, when the same tests were conducted in hard vacuum… with the same results (it was initially thought that radiation heated air, which expanded, creating a push; without air, that counter-idea failed).

Who are these “experts”? People who gave the Nobel Prize to each other? Newton did not “teach” us that action = reaction inasmuch as he demonstrated it (thanks to arcane mathematics). Before I explain what I mean, let me mention that Richard Feynman wrote a famous book “The Character of the Physical Law” (which I read). Feynman observes that there is a hierarchy of laws. Here I will observe something even more subtle: there is a hierarchy of how fundamental laws are viewed as fundamental.


Newton ASSUMED this “Third Law”, he made an hypothesis of it (and the law was probably known to cannoneers for centuries). Using in part this action = reaction hypothesis, Newton was able to deduct, from a large axiomatic system, with lots of arcane mathematics, theorems. And some of these theorems had practical consequences which were found, or known, to be true (Kepler laws). So it was reasonably assumed that Newton’s Third Law was correct: it is an axiom the use of which bring the correct theorems. The same sort of reasonings established the First and Second Laws of motion, which were discovered by the stupendous genius Buridan, three centuries BEFORE Newton.  

To my knowledge, the Third Law was first stated by Newton. However, that law was certainly well-known by Roman artillery engineers, who were used to catapult large masses at enormous distances: they knew of the recoil all too well. Roman and European Middle Age artillery enabled to seize cities (armies which were less competent in artillery found seizing cities difficult to do; the Turks used Hungarians engineers to breach the walls of Constantinople with giant guns).

Thus we see there are two sorts of physical laws: those we assume as axioms, and then we certify them, because the mathematical logic they give rise to bring apparently correct results. Other natural laws are observed directly.

For example, the so-called “Standard Model” can be viewed as a sort of giant law. It uses, in its axioms, the so-called Higgs boson, and that was indeed found (sort of).

Thus direct observations can suggest a law (say action = reaction; or gravitation) which then is established through the axiomatic method (heavily used in modern physics). Actually the case of gravitation is even more interesting: observations suggested an attractive force. Then Ismaël Bullialdus, a French priest-astronomer-mathematician found a reasoning why it should be an inverse square law (Bullialdus has a crated named after him on the Moon). Armed with Bullialdus inverse-square law, Isaac Newton used the inverse square law as an axiom to “deduce” Kepler’s laws  (I wrote “deduce”, because, centuries later, it was called into question whether Newton had properly demonstrated Gauss’ law, which reduce, gravitationally speaking, planets to massive points)

Examples of laws observed directly are numerous: they include the classical laws of optics, of forces (depicted by vectors; but one cannot use vector theory to prove how force behave… because vectors are abstracted forces), much of electrical behavior, etc.

Some laws were deduced from axiomatics before being demonstrated experimentally. Newton’s crowning achievement was more or less) demonstrating the equivalence of Kepler Laws with the 1/dd inverse square universal attraction law… given the laws of “Newtonian” Mechanics.

As I said, the laws of mechanics were greatly deduced by Buridan and various engineers, generations before Newton.

Could the same be going on now? Who knows?

It is a question of observation. Ultimately physics, nature, is what is observed, nothing less. It gets to be more than what is observed, because of our imagination, and the fact it needs to use the logics and maths it knows.

Meta-lesson? Politics degenerated in the West, in the last 50 years, because what was really going on was observed only in a fragmentary way. This is in particular the drama of so-called “left”, or progress. We have to stick to what is observed.

In the case of democrats, what was observed is that “Democrats” selected a candidate who was the object of 4 Congressional inquiries (Sanders had none, never had any).

Now they insult us.

Patrice Ayme’


Space X: Greed Makes Stupid

September 4, 2016

One can be smart, without being really intelligent. A crocodile can be smart, but it is not really intelligent. And this true not just of individuals, but of civilizations.

We live in the age of stupid. A major freeway which I know all too well, has proclaimed itself “smart”, according to the giant, very bright LED panels along it. Those “smarts” involve red lights on access ramps. By smoothing the flow in, they are supposed to make traffic smoother. And they do. On the freeway. The freeway flows a tiny bit better, but traffic jams on the streets and roads leading to said access ramps extend now for miles, and the global gridlock is worse than ever, because those blockages in turn block streets and roads parallel to the giant freeway (those secondary thoroughfares used to carry traffic parallel to that of the freeway plus local traffic; now they are parking lots).

When Obama climbed on the throne, he proclaimed that everything would get “smart”, just like He is. Example: the “smart” electric grid (as if grids had not been maximally smart before). It is true that Obama became president with what, in retrospect, were smarts tricks… rather than substance (as the ongoing crash of Obamacare demonstrates… accompanied, as it is, with the crash of nearly anything Obama touched; OK, today China’s president Xi shamed Obama into signing the Paris climate accord, COP 21, so maybe I should say thank you for consenting to save the planet a bit).

The productivity in the US, (and other leading Western countries) keeps on going down. Why? Education has been going down. We enjoy the age of stupid. We wallop in stupidity. And it shows:

Space X Sept 1, 2016 explosion. Not an accident, a system where greed has replaced expertise..

Space X Sept 1, 2016 explosion. Not an accident, a system where greed has replaced expertise..

The age of stupid was inaugurated by Ronald Reagan, a remarkably stupid B movie actor whose first claim to fame had been to make the PUBLIC university of California, which had been specifically founded to provide FREE topmost education to the students of California, into an institution which only the rich could attend. Why? Because the stupid Reagan thought that was smart that only those who have money would have the keys of the world. (Then they would give careers to uneducated losers such as himself.) Reagan’s career started as a sport announcer on the radio: he was always owned by bosses full of money, and reacted to rich masters as dogs do, salivating, wagging his tail, barking in their defense.

Now, Reagan’s obscene mentality has conquered the world. It has become smart, hip, fashionable, to proclaim that Reagan was great. Even the French press views Reagan as a great president (for doing what he did not do, namely bringing the USSR down). And modest people, the non-rich, get as good an education as Reagan did, learning increasingly nothing, and most of what they learned, strictly by serving the rich.

Obama has proclaimed himself an admirer of Reagan, and a devout follower of the Financial Times. His presidency was under the sign of this doubled headed vulture.

Reagan, a creature whose fate barred him from higher mental pursuits, extolled instead the base notions of profit and greed. Profit and greed, said Reagan, were the highest, ultimate, most lofty, and most motivating pursuits of man. And a magnificently programmed Obama bleated faithfully behind. So Obama, smartly following orders, set-up Obamacare. Obamacare is characterized by insufficient spending control: so that healthcare vultures can prosper with ever more profits and greed. That, according to Reagan, Obama’s guru, will insure better health care, because greed and profit are much motivating than care (Reagan and company claimed). That’s all very smart, makes us all smart, because it is such a deeply flawed logic: greed and care do not apply to the same modes of brain operations. When one provides with care, one is not spurred by greed. These are antagonistic modes of mental operations.

Obama also decided to apply profit and greed to space: surely, that would be smart (his guru Reagan had said so). If there was profit and greed in space, space would open up, prosper, get smarter. Thus, instead of two private rocket launching companies contracting with NASA, the smart Obama fostered the creation of several others. Not understanding that the number of rocket scientists and technicians is limited.

This flurry of new space enterprises was the case of “private” companies, founded and funded… by the government. Bezos’ Blue Origins is government subsidized, because Bezos’ business, Amazon, does not pay taxes (a tax exempt status the worst of terrible men, Donald Trump, has proclaimed he would change, in his mental imbalance).

Space X, led by a self-taught engineer, Musk, smells even better: Obama gave him direct and indirect subsidies, and that was it.

Tall, telegenic Obama signed with tall, telegenic Musk a Space Act Agreement (SAA) “to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation service“. (Notice the stupidity: with whom do you “commerce” in space? You set up space stations for plutocrats, thanks to their tax-exempt status?)

All this makes Musk very profitable. Penniless when Obama ascended the throne, Musk, propelled for years by billions of Obama dollars, was soon worth more than 12 billion dollars, all by himself. Let’s hope Musk is grateful and remembers who made him, after Obama retires.

In 2011, SpaceX estimated that Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket development costs were on the order of $300 million. Cheap. Investors were thrilled. Indeed, NASA evaluated that development costs would have been $3.6 billion if a traditional cost-plus contract approach had been used. (Indeed development of the new Ariane 6, which uses existing French military rockets for boosters and the existing Vulcain Hydrogen engine, will cost at least 4 billion Euros.)

Let’s stop here for a moment: Space X is supposed to be a private company. However, it develops rockets miraculously at 1/12 of their real cost, says NASA itself. Explanation? NASA has got to be making the difference (it’s helping Space X is in myriad ways). Obama invested 12 times more public money in Space X than the extremely wealthy private individuals who profit from it. Jesus turned the water into wine, Obama turned NASA into a cash cow for his friends. Mooo. Honni soit qui mal y pense.  

Can the USA do with four, five, or more rocket companies?


Why not? Because launching chemical rockets is a flimsy business. In the Sixteenth Century, a Chinese inventor has been rumored to have strapped himself to a rocket propelled kite, and gaily went out in a puff of smoke. The fundamentals have not changed since: we still use chemical propulsion.

Space X uses primitive propulsion: RP1, rocket grade kerosene, basically the same as civilian jets. The more sophisticated US and European rockets use liquid hydrogen.

The flimsiness of space rockets and their engines presents the same problem as it did eight centuries ago: it requires minute attention to detail to make it work. If we had enormous power at our disposal, we could insure wide safety margins. But, for that, one would have to have more than chemical propulsion. Musk has claimed he could divide by ten the cost of launches with re-usable rockets. Experienced US companies, the Russians and Europeans aerospace engineers, beg to differ: they have long pondered the re-usability of flimsy rockets.

(Ariane Espace has now ‘project Adeline’ to recover the expensive parts of Ariane 6, mostly engine and electronics, using drone technology, in the long run; but that completely different method from recovering the entire fragile, heavy rocket would use only 1/17 of the fuel of Space X fuel stage recovery, with much fewer stresses…)

The Russians have launched more than 1,700 Soyuz, with a failure rate of 1/39. Ariane 5 has launched successfully more than 70 times in a row, putting a record 11 tons in GTO (Geostationary Orbit, 36,000 kilometers up) in August 2016.  Space X had two total losses out of 25 commercial launches… making it even worse than the notorious Space Shuttle.

Not all is bad about Space X. Musk’s notoriously bold technological spirit is refreshing, a bit like Donald Trump is refreshing. It is actually the sort of spirit which animated the Nazi engineers who developed the V2 (and then Saturn 5 in the US). There is little doubt that, to relatively little cost, one could fly heavy duty missions to Mars of Enceladus (a satellite of Saturn which has a huge ocean of water, and may harbor life, as the Cassini spacecraft, flying through plumes, found them laden with organics).

If anything, Space X forced Ariane Espace to decide cutting its launch cost by half (by scaring the French into developing Ariane 6, while forcing the Germans to give up on Ariane 5).

Yet, fundamentally, the ecology pushed by Obama of having many rocket companies cannot work. The serial explosions of Space X, in spite of its massive NASA support, demonstrate it.

At this point, rockets are too flimsy: they require great expertise from enough technicians and engineers. Say the total mass of these ‘rocket scientists’ is M. Obama decided to divide M by 6, on any specific rocket project. However, suppose one needs M/2 to operate one rocket project safely. Then Obama’s naive strategy of the more, the merrier, will lead to serial explosions, as observed. Obama, never an expert, does not seem to understand the notion of expert. Greed does not grow experts, education does.

Instead, one should go back to the strategy of the 1960s, as led by president Kennedy: big private-public projects, with clear state exploration goals. This actually built up on a strategy launched by president Roosevelt, and pursued by Eisenhower. Massive public spending on education, infrastructure, science, technology, and associated defense projects.

Efficient, large scale Space colonization, ultimately, will rest on new science, thus new education. Ultimately commuting to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) safely, efficiently, will require completely new propulsion and, or, material science (futuristic material science would allow to deploy enormous wings, and de-orbit softly, cooly and thus safely).

As I have long argued, i is clear that, to go to Mars, we need nuclear fission engines (because of radiation away from Earth’s magnetic shield, we cannot stay in space the 18 months it takes now; a nuclear fission engine could get to Mars in just 6 weeks). Space X cannot develop this: it does not have the expertise. Yet, the US has operated nuclear fission rocket engines before, and now NASA, following Russia, is warming up to the possibility again. Nuclear propulsion is what needs to be financed, instead the musky greed of eight century old technology.

The philosophy that greed does it all, is deeply flawed: otherwise crocodiles would have inherited the Earth. It is a philosophy by imbeciles, for imbeciles.

History shows that imbecility is what kills most civilizations. Imbecile leaders, though, favor imbecile followers, and an imbecile mental ecology. Nowadays, though, there is just one civilization, on one planet, and, if it dies, there is no replacement. That is why it is so important to deconstruct the planetary, Reagan-Thatcher inherited mood that greed can replace expertise.  

… While it keeps on festering, NASA’s internal watchdog, Paul Martin, called out his federal agency’s decision to allow Space X to lead the primary investigation of Space/Greed X explosion in 2015, observing it raised “questions about inherent conflicts of interest”. It is telling that the US administration, which has invested more in Space X than the private investors who stand to profit from it, is not interested by what happened to the public’s money.

Space X’s waste of taxpayer money similar to that of big banks. Both are protected by complexity so great, it escapes (according to plan) the understanding of the Commons. When the government gives your money to plutocrats, no question stands scrutiny. All the billions given to Space X, a dubious tech company, is as much money not given to fundamental research (where government is irreplaceable).

Our spaceship Earth, mismanaged by our stupid and greedy leadership, threatens to get completely out of control. All the ways out involve much more advanced technology (whether we opt for world war, or peace and concertation). Hence it is important to realize that the role of government is that of leader in matter of science and technology. And that the mood which shall lead cannot be just greed, but the most noble aspects of the human spirit.

It is the present oligarchic system which is the source of the present pandemic of stupidity. Because, given the same level of education, few brains think less well than many brains. For example, now in the US it’s down to just two minds: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom have been associated to extremely unsavory characters over the years. Anyway, how come those two are supposed to think and debate for us all? Well, for the same reason that Space X got many billions of public money. Greed. Not the honor of the human spirit.

Patrice Ayme’

NASA’s Antarctic Interpretational Error

March 6, 2016

NASA observed a gain of altitude of much of Antarctica. From there NASA scientists deduced that Antarctica was gaining ice and snow. Unfortunately, as they admit, this leads them to predict that there is an unknown, massive cause of Sea Level Rise (SLR). The advantage is that this hypothesis makes nice with NASA’s sponsors (fossil fuels loving Republicans controlling Congress and the Supreme Court of the US). The disadvantage is that all SLR contributing factors have been accounted for, but one. And that one, NASA just denied, that it could possibly exist.

However, there is another interpretation differing vastly from the one NASA scientists made: Antarctica is gaining ice, snow, and… WATER. NASA did not see the water. How could it? Back to preschool: the water is below, the ice on top. See? The water is below, thus sight unseen. The ice is actually floating up. But that does not mean it’s not there. Actually the NASA map itself shows where the water is coming in. It’s not because one does not see something that one should not consider it. Progress in thinking is always achieved ONLY by considering what one has not considered before. So it’s always an exercise in atonement.

Water Sneaking Below The Ice: This Is The One Factor That Will Dominate Sea Level Rise, If It Does Not Already Do So

Water Sneaking Below The Ice: This Is The One Factor That Will Dominate Sea Level Rise, If It Does Not Already Do So

Of course such an explanation is valid only when there is water laying below the ice. But this is actually much of Antarctica, already. In some places, water goes below ice shelves, by 800 kilometers (500 miles). Much of the solid continent has lakes below the ice.

NASA’s Altitude Accumulation Map Shows Where Water Penetration Already Occurs

NASA’s Altitude Accumulation Map Shows Where Water Penetration Already Occurs

When NASA looks at this map, it claims that Antarctica is gathering snow. Indeed, globally, it is: warmer air carries more water, so, the warmer the air, the more it snows… until all turns to rain! This is why there are tropical downpours. This was fully expected by those, who, like me, believe in catastrophic temperature, and sea level, rise.

So NASA blares gigantic titles, to make its sponsors feel good about themselves, and thus expecting their gratitude: NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses. In truth, all what NASA saw was:  NASA study: ALTITUDE Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses. Altitude is not mass. Oops!

However, the NASA map clearly shows something OMINOUS is going on. Antarctica is quite a bit like the space shuttle Columbia warmed by the hot fluid during its final re-entry in the Earth atmosphere. All the area in grey, green and a fortiori blue are losing altitude. They are not anymore north, or warmer: it is that water is sneaking in below, melting the ice which then contracts. Hence the loss of altitude, because ice occupies (roughly) ten percent more volume than water of the same mass.

So NASA’s map shows, at a glance, that around 10% of Antarctica is undermined by water (or then is in a zone of thinning due to accelerated flow, caused by underlining water, or proximity of underlying water accelerating and thining glacial flow).

But this is not all: the areas undermined and sinking, thus invaded by water below, are the gateways of the West Antarctic Ice Shield (WAIS), the Wilkes Basin, and the Aurora Basin.

WAIS is 1.97 x 10^6 square kilometers in area (a fifth of the area of the USA, Canada, or China). The ice sheet is more than 2,000 meters thick in many parts, and its icy belly rests 2555 meters below sea level, directly on the rock at its lowest (more than a mile and a half). If warm water got there, the WAIS, or portions thereof, would quickly disintegrate.

Remember the wing on Space Shuttle Columbia? Hot gases penetrated in one gap in the front of the wing, and then went all over inside, disintegrating the innards. Antarctica has at least a dozen similar holes, through which HOT WATER is sneaking in. Under the Totten glacier, the narrow gateway to the giant Aurora Ice Basin, hot water has already penetrated hundreds of kilometers.

More generally, this error of NASA, brings the question of what the scientific method is. One make a theory, and then one finds out whether the theory fits the fact better. If it does, it’s viewed as true (meaning more true). Depending how the new theory fits better and differs more, the difference between the new and the old theory can be viewed as the difference between “truth” and “error”.

That water is coming up below the ice explains SLR. NASA’s theory does not. This makes my theory experimentally superior to NASA. This is traditional evaluation of the correctness of one scientific theory relative to another.

However, there is more. I claim that when comparing scientific theories, one cannot just judge if one theory fits the known facts better.

An example is the theory of glaciations. It was started by a Frenchman in the early Nineteenth Century. The key observation was that huge continents are bunched around the North Pole, so their insolation is sensitive to Earth’s orbital elements.

The theory was launched by Joseph Alphonse Adhémar (1797–1862), a French mathematician. He published this fundamental idea in 1842, in his book Revolutions of the Sea.[1] It took 160 years, and sophisticated computers to check that the theory was right.

So what was the difference? The idea. A new complexity. Adhémar introduced the completely new idea, that astronomical forces changed earth’s climate. It was a new dimension of complexity (at the time scientists, including Goethe, had just uncovered the existence of past extensive glaciations).

The difference between an erroneous, obsolete theory and a better one is often an addition of logical dimension(s). Thus Einstein’s “General Relativity” predicted a faster precession of the perihelion of Mercury, because time slows down closer to the massive sun. This was the introduction of a new element of complexity: classical mechanics, but with VARIABLE time.

Similarly, my theory on Antarctica introduces a new element: water. That element not considered by NASA adds a logical dimension. That makes my theory more sophisticated. When comparing theories, one has to compare not just their experimental predictions, but their logical sophistication.

Patrice Ayme’


March 2, 2016

OUTSMARTING NASA (or is NASA, and other climate “scientists” being deliberately dumb?):

Abstract: Found below is the proof that Antarctica Is Already Breaking Up. Using a recent NASA study is crucial. Interestingly NASA drew the opposite conclusion from its own data. Had NASA been more ASTUTE, its data would have let it to the conclusion below. Amazingly, it did not. It’s all about the water level not changing in a glass with melting ice, and contrasting it with what happens when one starts with ice only!


I was reading the description of the damage from Sea Level Rise (SLR) in “Learning From Dogs”:“Interconnections Two”. Therein are found reference to “scientific” papers. The big question is what does “scientific” mean? “Science” means what’s known. The problem is that today’s scientists are afraid of the biggest questions, because the answers attached to them are very ugly, something intolerable in the age of beauty, celebrity, and philanthropy (aka plutocracy).

Antarctica Stripped Of Ice. In Some Places, Ice Rests On The Ground 2,500 Meters Below Sea Level (a mile and a half).

Antarctica Stripped Of Ice. In Some Places, Ice Rests On The Ground 2,500 Meters Below Sea Level (a mile and a half).

[NASA picture. The greyish area is now covered by kilometers of ice. The ice presses down with enormous weight, so its bottom is kilometers below sea level.]

Up to 2015, no reputable scientist would have dared to consider that the polar ice sheets could melt before several millennia. Such a contemplation was way too dangerous for their careers and livelihood. Thus the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) excluded considering the gigantic masses of ice covering Greenland and Antarctica for its computations of Sea Level Rise. This is rather curious as the main factor in SLR is the melting of ice. This how the IPCC got to a roughly ONLY one meter of SLR by 2100 CE.

However, there is an obvious way to melt maybe half of the ice sheets instantaneously on a geological time scale: four degree centigrade (38 F) water is the densest, and can melt the threshold, the stoop holding them tight. Once that’s done, the water can flow down on the other side, a mile down or more.

Scientists have to be careful, because they need to be funded. In the plutocratic USA, funding varies from year to year, like carrots do for donkeys from day-to-day. The authorities funding “scientists” ultimately depend upon the fossil fuel lobby and related plutocratic lobbies which fund both politicians and private (“elite”) universities. So scientists cannot dare to roll out a half-baked theory, before we get fully baked ourselves. (But don’t worry, plutocrats want to roast us ASAP.)

Dr. Hansen, who used to work for NASA as chief climate scientist, published last Spring (2015) what he viewed as his “most important paper ever” arguing that ice sheet melting could rise sea level within a century or two by several meters. I am not that sanguine, I think it will happen much faster, and I can prove that it already started.

Indeed there is an obvious theory, full of brand new science, which demonstrates that the break-up of Antarctica ice sheets has already started: on October 30 2015, NASA published studies showing that Antarctica is actually gathering snow… And not losing it.

NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses:

According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed   to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.”

This is expected as the warmer it gets, the more the air carries water, the more it snows (until it turns to rain!) “We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica,” said Jay Zwally, a glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study, which was published on Oct. 30 in the Journal of Glaciology. “Our main disagreement is for East Antarctica and the interior of West Antarctica – there, we see an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas.”  Zwally added that his team “measured small height changes over large areas, as well as the large changes observed over smaller areas.”

To deduce the “net gain”, NASA, also using satellite data, watching changes of altitude carefully computed how much the volume change:

“Scientists calculate how much the ice sheet is growing or shrinking from the changes in surface height that are measured by the satellite altimeters. In locations where the amount of new snowfall accumulating on an ice sheet is not equal to the ice flow downward and outward to the ocean, the surface height changes and the ice-sheet mass grows or shrinks.

But it might only take a few decades for Antarctica’s growth to reverse, according to Zwally. “If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years — I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.”


So, if Antarctica is gathering ever more snow, as NASA showed, and as Sea Level Rise is accelerating, what is going on?

Officially, no one knows.

But I do know what is going on, because I think, and, as I am not funded by fossil fuel plutocracy, and I am strongly motivated as I consider anthropomorphic climate change the greatest problem humanity ever faced.

As all other factors have been considered, and as Sherlock Holmes would observe, all is left is what we cannot see: the ice sheets are already breaking up, from below. As I described in several essays, there is evidence that the Totten glacier, the plug holding the giant Aurora Basin in Antarctica, has melted on hundreds of kilometers, much below its apparently placid surface.

How come NASA did not see it? Because, if one puts ice in a glass containing water, and keep the temperature high enough to melt all the ice, the water level will NOT change. (This can be viewed as a consequence of Archimedes Principle).

So far, so good. However, the ice sheets are not floating: they rest on the ground, until the famous “grounding line”. So one cannot apply Archimedes Principle to start with. although one has to apply it, once the ice shield has become an ice SHELF, and floats, because it melted.

The very fact NASA saw nothing, no change of elevation, means a loss of mass from the ice sheets. This is due to the fact that ice occupies more volume than water. Relative to water, ice has only .91 of the density: this is why ice floats on water (Archimedes Principle).

So the ice sheets are breaking down, MELTING FROM BELOW, and they don’t go down, because more water is coming in.

Contemplate an ice cube in a glass: contemplate the top surface of the ice cube. That is what NASA’s satellites look at. If an ice cube melts in the glass, its top surface goes down until it completely disappears, level with the water surface. This loss of altitude is what NASA did not see, and thus it claims there is no melting. However, in the case of an ice sheet, to start with, the ice is resting on the ground, and there is NO water.

As the melting proceeds, water appears below. If the top level of the cube does not come down, it is that more water has been brought in.

How would we know this is happening? Well, if the global Sea Level is rising. Not only that, but SLR is accelerating (by 30% in the last three years).

If I find time, I will draw a little cartoon of the situation, but that’s not easy on a smartphone (I don’t own a tablet…)

Antarctica is breaking up. It’s happening from below, sight unseen. It requires a bit of logic to understand it, as we saw. When the unexplained Sea Level Rise will become blatantly catastrophic, and the climate in public opinion will be safe enough to parrot the reasoning above, said reasoning will be made by all scientists. Of artful parroting, and “hiding one’s sources” a successful scientific career is made… said no less an authority than Albert Einstein. However, that’s not as bad as hiding the main source of accelerating Sea Level Rise, as all climate scientists are presently doing, led by NASA.

A “scientist” is someone who knows. When “scientists” don’t want to know, lest they don’t get a paycheck, are they still “scientists”?

More generally, thinkers, those who think creatively, tend not to get a paycheck, because really new ideas are unsettling to all ideas. Those have most of the money generally have no interest to unsettle the established order upon which their fortunes rest. And it is the more so, the richer the richest individuals are. This is why a state owned by just one family, like Saudi Arabia, is so “conservative”. So, do we want to think, or do we accept to drown? That is the question.

In its own press release, linked above, NASA scientists declared:

“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said. “But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”

Well, it’s coming from Antarctica. It’s your logic which is faulty.

Patrice Ayme’

Nuclear Fusion Or Civilization Fission

June 2, 2013

 Obama diverted billions of dollars of taxpayer money towards private companies, such as battery makers (bankrupt “A123”), solar makers (bankrupt “Solyandra”, cost to The People, half a billion), or luxury car makers (Tesla; bankrupt Fisker). Result? NASA can find only $600,000 for research on propulsive nuclear fusion. Why? NASA was forced to give billions to companies such as “Space X” (owned by a South African billionaire). Never mind there is no market for “Space X”.

 Instead, government ought to finance only technological research that cannot bring immediate profit, from sales. Government ought to never, ever, finance for profit companies. Public money has to be saved for financing what no private company would ever finance. That Obama did not understand this is astounding. Governments should fund, and only fund, instead, big, expensive science:

Provence 2013: 20 Billion+ Fusion Reactor Rising.

Provence 2013: 20 Billion+ Fusion Reactor Rising.

 ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is the most valuable international science project. Ever. (The International Space Station, a good thing, pales relatively speaking, as it requires little science; there are rumors it found something unexpected recently, though… CERN is not really a project, as it’s an organization dating from the early fifties.)

 Such a machine is, literally, priceless. Its real cost will be well above 20 billion, as the participating governments have to feed their research establishments to produce the required new science. In particular a whole new science of materials capable of confronting directly temperatures and pressures only found inside the sun. Just as with propulsive fusion, or maglevs, or contact free bearings, the production, control and efficiency of magnetic fields, an electronic and mathematical problem, has also to be considerably improved.

 ITER will bring near infinite profits. Saving civilization may be one of them.  Be it only from ITER’s diplomatic aspects ITER should be financed. All nations worth anything are funding, and collaborating in ITER, each bringing new science! This has never happened before, except at CERN, not coincidentally also on French territory. Learn, silly and offensive Senator Dianne Feinstein, learn. If your hubris allows you to!

 In the preceding essay, Philosophy Feeds Engineering, I deplored that thermonuclear propulsion studies were not financed more.  Some readers asked me to justify myself a bit more, here it is.

 The rationale for wishing for fusion propulsion, is that, since we use, now, much more of the Earth than the Earth can provide, we have to expand in the solar System. Now.

 It’s a pressing problem, a very practical solution should one want to avoid a holocaust: human population augments at the rate of 100 million a year, at this point. Thus as much as the entire Earth can support with pre-1900 technology, about 500 millions, is added every five years (500 million humans on the whole planet was passed around 1550 CE).

 Some will sneer that they don’t see what’s out there in space that we can use. Sure, as we have not been out there. Clearly, with energy at will, Mars could be colonized right away. And even the Moon, as there is water there, in the rocks, so oxygen could be obtained. Again, if we had a plentiful energy source.

 We can’t expand through the solar system with chemistry (that is, by burning stuff), as the energy production of that prehistoric method is barely enough to send robots to planet. And even then: a successor to the Curiosity Rover won’t happen before 2020, because, although the demand is great, it’s too expensive, and we have run out of Plutonium generators, so we simply do not have the energy source for a new rover! (I hope the rabid anti-nuclear lobby is satisfied!)

 However, there is the energy of the sun, thermonuclear fusion, and we know how it works. Much of the science is here. Can the engineering follow?

 Old Geezer Pilot, a faithful commenter on this site, loves the photovoltaic effect and he reminds us that: “Fusion is just 20 years away. And it always has been.”

 That’s an old joke, always good to hear. However, it’s getting a bit too long in the tooth. Indeed, two points:

 a) the photovoltaic effect was discovered by an obscure Frenchman,  Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in1839. It took about 150 years to make the PV effect able to produce electricity economically.

 b) the Joint European Torus, the JET, in the UK, achieved, with its Tokamak design, not just thermonuclear ignition, but break-even (or so), producing nearly  as much energy through fusion as was put in to confine the plasma and heat it up. That was in the 1990s. (Tokamak is from the Russian for toroidal kamera aksial; the great Andrei Sakharov got the idea of the toroidal chamber with an axial magnetic field.) Since then tremendous progress has been made.

 ITER is supposed to produce ten times the energy put in.

 Tokamak designs aim to put the sun in a box. A tall order. Have the sun turn around in a torus, as a magnetically controlled plasma, never touching the walls. It’s ambitious. Maybe too ambitious.

 The first problem is to confine magnetically the 100 million degrees Celsius plasma, so that it does not touch the walls. Initially, plasma could be confined for only a fraction of a second. But, in the last decade, a Tokamak in France at Cadarache, where ITER is built, achieved around ten minutes of confinement. After some subtle computations by a woman mathematician uncovered new tricks for stabilizing a plasma.

 Plasma are the fourth state of matter, beyond gas, liquid and solid. Stars are made of plasmas. It’s not like we don’t need to know about plasmas. Sometimes, stars blow up. The French Corot satellite found that most stars are much more unstable than the sun. (This discovery could lead to very practical applications, say in the search for extraterrestrial life, or just Sol surveillance.)

 Other designs for thermonuclear fusion than the tokamak, are imaginable, or have been achieved. No, this is not a joke about “cold fusion”.

 Electrostatic thermonuclear fusion machines do exist and are for sale. In them a beam of particles is shot into a thermonuclear fuel target, fusion is achieved. They generate copious amounts of neutrons (that’s why people buy them).

 The lack of success of the presently governmentally financed fusion efforts has been caused from their very ambition, in particular the necessity to avoid contact with plasma and to handle waste… something that is irrelevant in space.

 A few years back, the confinement of the Tokamak at Princeton failed catastrophically for a second, or so. The plasma touched the wall, or something. The machine is 10,000 metric tons (heavier than the Eifel Tower). It jerked up by a foot.

 10,000 tons, jumping. Fusion is mighty.

 The scheme for fusion as propulsion is a variant of a system long proposed to achieve energy production. The idea was to use some material to crush fusion fuel (Deuterium and, maybe, also Tritium), to the point temperatures and pressures similar to those of the sun would be achieved.

 This is how a so called thermonuclear bomb works. In such a bomb, the enormous pressure of the electromagnetic blast from a fission bomb is used to compress a so called tamper that surrounds a mantle made of thermonuclear fuel with a plutonium fission core. The tamper gathers heat and kinetic energy, and, in turn, compresses its interior to sun like conditions.

 In a nuclear bomb, the tamper participates to energy generation: if made out of U238, it fissions. That, however, generates nasty radioactive waste.

 Thus, the main problem of controlled thermonuclear fusion has been, what do you do with the crushing mechanism, once it has become some sort of obnoxious plasma?

 In a so called fusion bomb, the crushing mechanism, which is crucial, can either be made of lead (to reduce yield), or U238 (to augment yield, by supplementary fission).

 Then how come the usage of lasers to ignite a pellet has, so far, failed to achieve ignition? (Differently from the tokamaks which do this routinely.) Because, precisely, in this NIF, the National Ignition Facility, there is not much of a crushing mechanism. Instead light is asked, directly, to crush. But light is made of bosons, particles that like to pile up at the same place, they don’t crush very well.

 In the rocket engine, the crushing mechanism becomes ejected fuel. Presto, no more waste. So I think it should work.

 Why having fusion obsession as a moral order? We don’t want to do like the Romans, and wake up some day, out of energy to do what needs to be done. Going to Mars. Among other things.

 Just like the Romans had to go to Eastern Europe, to find the metals they needed. But they never made it there, because, the one and only time, the entire Roman army was ready, capable and determined to make it there, its imperator was assassinated.

 His name was Julius Caesar.

 Never again would a Roman army be capable of that mission. Eastern Europe would turn into Rome’s Achilles Heel. In several ways. Those romanized Germans, the Franks, were fully aware that progress of law, order and civilization had to cover all of Europe, so, as soon as 407 CE, they fought as the old republican Romans used to, and conquered Eastern Europe by the 8C.

 After this not so accidental happenstance of history, the assassination of the transgender Caesar, the hostile attitude of emperors to any sort of new adventures, especially in all aspects of the mind (hence technology) insured debilitating degeneracy.  That’s why the initiative of plutophile senator Feinstein (Demoncrat, California) to defund the modest USA contribution to ITER should be seen for what it is. Rage against the progress of understanding. Rage against progress: an attempt to spoil our only chance.

 Either we will master fusion, and will go beyond prehistory, or civilization, just as unable to hold together as a nucleus with too many nucleons, will fission.


Patrice Ayme


 P/S: Some will say that we can just do with PhotoVoltaics. Not true. However the fusion propulsion project will use PV to create the electrical power it needs. So, as fusion products don’t fission (having too few nucleons), fusion propulsion will be very clean, allowing to use it even in low orbit. Add this to the space elevator, and we have our access to space, cheap, easy and safe.

Nuke Bad Comets

March 10, 2013


Abstract: Appropriate use of technology is paramount, as civilization tremble, and the Earth turns into a gas chamber. The way drones have been used to kill extra-judicially in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, is deeply inappropriate. Yet, drones can be used very appropriately on a battlefield. But to use them to bomb millennia of Western morality, is definitively inappropriate. Our technology is turning us into gods, but we better be smarter than the Greek ones of lore. Remember what happened to the Greeks.

The way nuclear energy has been used has often been inappropriate. Yet, nuclear energy shortened up World War Two by several million deaths. Nukes could also save billions, should a bad comet suddenly appear.

Comet Pan-STARRS Visible This Weekend

Comet Pan-STARRS Visible This Weekend

The comet pictured above was detected by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawai’i. It’s a “sun-grazer” comet with an elliptic orbit of 106,000 years (so it’s predictable). Perihelion: .302 AU, March 10 (today!). So it is getting as close to the sun as Mercury gets periodically.

Guess what? By a troubling coincidence one such bad comet has precisely just surprised us. OK, it’s not coming for us, but how many of those are there out there? Obviously more than we thought.

Space faring nations with the appropriate technology, nuclear, military, electronic and ballistic, such as France and the USA, should make well financed contingency plans to prepare to engage such a giant object with a nuclear bomb upon very short notice. This is not trivial, because of the unusual speeds and energies involved. The technology would also allow to intercept “city killer” asteroid, even with only a few hours’ warning (after dialing down the megatonnage of the bomb).

Only nuclear energy would work to deal with large impactors, forget big tales for small children, about painting them blue or something. One does not deflect comets with brooms, or firecrackers, but with an explosive energy a million times greater than what Genghis Khan used. That we fortunately have mastered. If we are masters of our souls, we can be masters of fusion.



Cosmic warnings are piling up. On January 3, 2013, a comet was discovered. It’s called C/2013 A1. It is on a hyperbolic trajectory, and moves in a retrograde orbit. That means it may be extra solar, and should be leaving the solar system. Maybe it is coming from outside the solar system.

Comet C/2013 A1 is on a collision course with Mars.

October 2014?

October 2014?

Even The Economist, the rogue free market magazine I subscribe to, in “Hits Keep Coming”, thinks that the big governments’ program promoted by the present essay is a good idea, and would give something meaningful for NASA to do

A crucial articulation of the present Greater Depression is that people in Western countries are running out of meaningful things to do, as the plutocracy has deliberately robbed them of employment and power, thus meaning. This essay speaks of struggling against comets, but that will not happen, before a bit of class struggle.

C/2013 A1 is a completely different style of comet from Pan-STARRS. C/2013 A1 is hyperbolic, not elliptic. It means that the comet has so much kinetic energy that, should it not collide this something first, it will escape the Solar System.

C/2013 A1 will come so close to Mars that it may well hit it (comets, because they emit jets of steam, behave a bit like rockets: they can go sideways). Should C/2013 A1 collide with Mars, the event should be most remarkable.

The current estimate of the absolute magnitude of the nucleus M2 = 10.3 indicates a diameter from 10 to 50 km. Worse: the energy imparted is proportional to the square of the velocity, and that velocity is very high, much more than what is needed to escape the sun. C/2013 A1’s speed would be approximately 56 km/s by the time it approaches Mars. By comparison the Solar System’s escape velocity in the vicinity of Mars is 34km/s! The comet has more than twice the energy needed to go visit other stars.  

The energy of impact on Mars, should it happen, might reach the equivalent of staggering 20 billion megatons of TNT!



We are lucky that C/2013 A1 is heading towards Mars and not Earth! One has to understand that big planets are for comets like honey strips for flies. They attract them.

That effect protects us. Jupiter is our existing Spaceguard system: it sucks in comets. Jupiter has 318 times the mass of the Earth, making it literally 318 times more attractive for comets (from the gravitation law that Isaac Newton reminded us a scientifically minded French priest had found earlier; often misattributed to Newton nowadays, in a spirit of manifest Anglo-Saxon, hence Wall Street-City of London supremacy).

Two large comets collided with Jupiter in the last two decades. That changed the mood among professionals.

Pre-Socratic philosophers would have been fascinated by all the understanding we have gathered on all these celestial bodies. They were already fascinated, as all this astronomy shook their metaphysics to the core. Before Socrates, it was thought that thinking had to do with learning about what was out there. (After Socrates-Plato-Pluto, it was thought the universe was all about what was in one’s heads. And, sure enough, within a century, plutocracy, Macedonian backed plutocracy, had won all over… Except the Roman republic. Who said metaphysics had no impact?)

In 466 BCE, Halley’s comet passed by for the longest time, 75 days. Simultaneously, an enormous meteor (perhaps associated to the comet) crashed into Northern Greece. A piece, as large as a wagon, landed on the ground and stayed a tourist attraction for more than 5 centuries. That shattered the ancient theories of the Greeks about the heavens. Anaxagoras’ science came to the fore.

The Greeks would  have been fascinated by Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9. Irresistibly attracted by the giant planet, that 15 kilometers diameter comet came too close to Jupiter. Shoemaker-Levy, quartered by Jupiter mighty gravitation, broke in 70 pieces or so, and went back to space. Still irresistibly attracted, the comet, now a train of comets of all sizes, hit the gas giant on its next pass. The pieces entered the Jovian atmosphere, making giant black impacts in it.

Each of the largest 7 fragments’ explosion was bigger than Earth herself. One explosion made a giant dark spot over 12,000 km across, and released an energy equivalent to 6 million megatons of TNT. That unreal succession of impacts into Jupiter in July 1994 blasted smugness about the stability of heavens to smithereens. Astronomer David Levy stated: “The giggle factor disappeared after Shoemaker-Levy 9”.

As the comet would pack 20 billion tons of TNT, something packing a few million tons of TNT may help Earth to negotiate with it. I want pacifists munching grass placidly in those vast, awesome Elysian fields in their heads, to meditate upon that.



Nuclear energy, because of the basic reason that, by a factor of a million, nuclear energy is the greatest energy source we have. This is why the main problem of our civilization has become the problem of nuclear energy. How to use it appropriately, and not freak out.

If the comet were heading towards Earth we would be scrambling to put together a giant thermonuclear weapon. It could be done. The French republic, by itself, could do it, using in-house equipment. The chance of success, though would approach 100% if, and only if, one were to prepare well, in an international program.

Lots of Uranium 235, and Lithium 7, for a bigger bang, in the monster fission-fusion-fission thermonuclear device we would be hastening to prepare. One of several (because we would need back-ups). If we were really pressed for time, we could rigged together several conventional nuclear warheads, packed together to explode simultaneously. 

As NASA puts it in 2012: For non-technical reasons, this would likely be a last resort, but IT IS ALSO THE MOST POWERFUL TECHNIQUE and could take several different forms, as discussed in the report. The nuclear option would be usable for objects up to a few kilometers in diameter.

The efficiency of a thermonuclear explosion is augmented by an order of magnitude if it happens three meters below the surface rather than on contact, one centimeter above the surface. So NASA (2012) has proposed to extend the Nuclear Explosive Device with a frontal penetrator which would create a three meter crater. Easy computations show that, had the hyperbolic comet headed towards Earth, the interception speed would have been at least 80km/s, meaning that the thermonuclear fusion sequence would have to be started just before first contact.

Fast Electronics Required @ 80km/s

Fast Electronics Required @ 80km/s

Of the shelf H bombs could take care of comets a few kilometers across.

The power of nuclear devices is hard to fathom. The Castle Bravo device made a crater in the atoll reef. Although it was exploded 7 feet above the reef, the crater  had a diameter of 2 kilometers (6510 ft), with a depth of 80 meters (250 ft). It would have been much worse if it had been buried by 3 meters (five kilometers across, 160 meters deep).

For larger comets, a true bomb from hell would have to be devised: a fission-fusion-fission with a powerful third stage. A third stage is simply a Uranium envelope around the thermonuclear bomb. When it gets hit by “fast neutron” from the H bomb, it fissions in turn. The largest bomb ever tested, Tsar Bomba, over the arctic island of Novaya Zemlya, was 58 megatons TNT. It was deliberately made with NO third stage. (And the second stage may have contained some lead, instead of uranium.)

It’s not that a third stage is hard to make; it’s just uranium metal. But Soviet physicists computed that, with a third stage, Tsar Bomba would have been too powerful. The plane dropping the bomb and its parachute would have been destroyed, to start with. As it was windows were broken more than 1,000 kilometers away, in Finland and Norway. Because so little uranium was used, relative to the Lithium Deuteride fusion fuel, the mightiest bomb ever was also the cleanest, ever, at 97% pure fusion. (Fusion is cleaner because it fuses light elements to create slightly heavier, but still light, elements, and light elements tend not to be fission, or then not for long.)

By enriching the third stage tamper with U235, one could probably go beyond 200 Megatons (and such a tamper could be rigged around conventional warheads, too!).

Thus, contrarily to urban legend from luddites in denial, the largest thermonuclear bombs could take care of the largest comets.

Man-Made Fireball 8 Kilometers Across.

Man-Made Fireball 8 Kilometers Across.

The largest comets are 60% larger than the entire picture, if one uses the fireball as a measuring unit.

Even the largest comet would fragment and the pieces would rocket away. If done a few weeks before Earth impact, clearly all the pieces would miss (another rocket or two would be in back up, just in case).



So let’s suppose again that C would be headed towards Earth instead of mars.

The next Ariane V would have to be modified hastily. Why Ariane V? First, that flight is already being assembled. It is Flight VA213, signifying the 213th launch of an Ariane from French Guiana since the family’s maiden liftoff in 1979. Its Automatic Transfer Vehicle, named Albert Einstein, would have to be modified with a booster, interception electronic package and basically a boom system in the front to detonate fast enough the nuke in the back, at the staggering speeds involved, so that the bomb can explode at 3 meter depth in the comet… 200 megatons against 20 billion megatons. Fun. Unreal reality.

In general, Ariane is the most dependable, most frequently launched rocket in the West’s arsenal. So it should be part of the quick reaction force to be assembled, as one would need to fling a hefty load.



When “experts” come, and talk about the frequency of impacts, the truth is that we do not have any idea what it is, up to a factor of ten, or more. It is certainly higher than what experts used to believe. three cometary impacts, or near impacts of comets on planets close to us in 20 years is a bad omen.

I was listening to National Public Radio where some scientist from John Hopkins pontificated that the asteroid strike in Siberia (which, a few tens of seconds off could well have annihilated a  major city) happened only every century. In truth, on land three impacts about ten times bigger are known in the last century. Scaling with the ocean, one gets nearly ten of these ten times bigger impacts. Not to say that this is the long term average: it could be a fluke. The same stupid guy was saying that, if we had only 6 months warning, we could not do anything.

And he works on preventing impacts! NPR said.

But what he forgot to say is that his program strictly uses the explosive technology Genghis Khan already had at his disposal. (And what happened? After a costly victory in Hungary, the Tumens had to turn back, them and their fancy black powder rockets.)

(Scientists should stop pontificating, or talk as if they knew, when they don’t, reserve that to the Pope.)

There may have been other impacts in historical times. Unrecorded.

Strange events happening in the Sixth Century, recorded by Chinese and Romans (the only civilizations recording anything reliably at the time) could be explained by impact(s) at sea. (Or then a large volcanic eruption, unidentified so far.) Those events, whatever they were, altered the climate.

Some will smirk, and ask to see the craters. Celestial bodies colliding with the Earth are not on any kind of trajectories. They are ruled by the sun, that is they tend to have trajectories similar to the Earth, but at an angle. So a typical impact will involve a low angle atmospheric entry, spreading death, fires, shock waves and devastation for thousands of kilometers. A crater will not necessary form (elongated craters have been found in Argentina). And remember, 2/3 of Earth is water.

Speaking of which, a proposed impact, the Mahuika impact, 1443 CE, off the south coast of New Zealand, would have been gigantic, typical of a mini comet 500 meters across. There is some evidence for such a cometary impact, from the existence of a crater, from Maori evacuation of the area, to suspected tektites, to suspicious ice cores in Antarctica, to megatsunamis, up to 220 meters high in the region (and 143 meters high in Australia).

So much for these things being rare.



In recapitulation: learn to do what you can do about what matters.

Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Nobel Laureate, etc. in Science Mag. editorial “Denial of Catastrophic Risks”, March 8, 2013: “In a media landscape saturated with sensational Science stories and “End of the World” Hollywood productions, it may be hard to persuade the wide public that real catastrophes could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis, and have a far greater impact. Society could be dealt shattering blows by the misapplication of technologies that exist already … we should be more concerned about events that have not yet happened but which, if they occurred even once, could cause worldwide devastation.”

What Rees is saying is that we should change MOODS. We should change our system of mood. Preparing for a comet impact, and how to defeat it would help to change the mood we have about moods.

We need to learn to deny our Denial of Catastrophic Risks.

And we learn to do something about catastrophic risks we have identified (I call this new way of thinking catastrophic calculus). Having an active Spaceguard program against asteroids and comets of all sizes and origins, hyperbolic or not, would be a good symbol of the new attitude we need to adopt. Besides, it would reduce unemployment, and push technology forward.  That’s appropriate.


Patrice Ayme

Out With NASA Decadence, In With Better Union

February 1, 2010



Let me add my spice to the excellent decision of Obama to change the strategy of NASA back to what it used to be, and what it ought to be: shaping the sharp edge of science and technology, where the profit motive does not provide enough lift.

Obama proposes to drop Bush’s going-back-to-the-moon-because-it-is-there-and-we-can-do-it-with-wheelbarrow "Constellation" program. "Constellation" is a nice French word, that was the best to be said about it, before burying it in shame.

"Constellation" was only going to use old technologies for a backbone, with a varnish of new gimmicks. When I say old, I mean really old. Example: the Ares I idea came from China, a millennium ago (the inventor died in the process).

Instead of using obsolete technologies that ought to, and could have been, deployed 30 years ago, Obama proposes to push for new technologies, an unusually bold, courageous and clever plan (for an administration known for its Summers of our discontent).

Inventing really new technologies was what NASA used to do in the 1950s (with the glorious X program). At the time the idea was to push for new technology, and new science. Going to orbit, and then the moon, qualified as such, back then. But we have been to the moon, and we do not have the technologies to stay to the moon sustainably (which would be the only way to progress scientifically, technologically and economically there).

True, sending explorers to Mars would bring a huge scientific progress, but we simply do not have the means to do this reasonably yet… Considering that robots can do plenty there (pushing robot tech in the process, no doubt most profitably in the most down to earth manner.) in particular, a French-American robotic Mars sample return mission that was scrapped (too expensive, said the USA), could be revived.

Obama is thus entirely correct to go back to the way it used to be.

If worse come to worse, and private USA companies cannot go to space safely and effectively, the USA does not have to use Soyuz forever. Indeed the French led European rocket, Ariane V, and its Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle, modulo a bit of tinkering, would be a perfect replacement for the Ares program: whereas Ares I promised to be an even stupider vehicle than the Shuttle, Ariane V, with its hydrogen propulsion, and safety and effectiveness record, is perfectly state of the art. Besides the French have embarked on the future Ariane VI program, and, knowing them, they will not quit.

Indeed, remembering 1940, the French view is that superiority in aerospace is of the strategic essence. The USA can afford to be more relaxed, considering it is better defended by demography, geography, and history.

After Japan attacked at Pearl Harbor, it got quickly defeated because the USA was more mass technological. What do I mean by this? The USA had much more pilots, for example, including thousands of women pilots, who helped crucially the military effort in the Pacific, by flying very dangerous cargo missions. After Midway, when the competent Japanese fliers ended in the drink, or as combustible on the flaming Japanese carriers, Japan did not have enough competent pilots to train others and fly missions. Equivalent losses would not have stopped the American juggernaut.

The USA also had much more technologically competent individuals and private companies than Japan (or Germany) did.

As a result, the USA was a republic of engineers, and had much more advanced technologies than Japan, that it was able to deploy quickly. American carriers with armored decks and steam catapults, the imperial Navy did not have. So quickly the Americans were flying much better, well armored planes into battle, and turning their radars on. Superb Japanese binoculars came short during the night battles the Americans relished. Besides the USA had cracked the Jap codes, and USA submarines were superior, preventing the great rising sun imperial contraption to ship anything much between the dozens of thousands of islands on which it had cleverly spread countless garrisons (sometimes discreetly reduced to cannibalism).

It will be good, this time, for the core of the West, the European Union and the USA, to operate more as a unit, in a timely manner. Things got messy in the Second World War (and also the First world War) precisely because Europe and America did not operate as a unit to start with (instead some rogue American plutocrats went to operate as a unit with… Hitler!).

The USA waited malignantly until France and Britain won the war for them (WWI), or nearly lost it (WWII). It was great for the so called "American Century", but that did not last too long… And the 75 million or so who died in WWII, among others, sure did not find the strategy most profitable (differently from Wall Street, which laughed all the way to its associated banks!)

It is not well known that the "Manhattan Project" truly started with the French "War Ministry" in January 1938 (you will probably not find this information on Wikipedia, and I will not bother putting it there). The French removed all the nuclear patents deposited by French scientists, and insured the cooperation of Norway in a determined nuclear bomb effort, extended later to the UK, and then the USA, which ended by hastening the end of WWII with as little blood and roasted flesh as possible(as everyone does not know yet).

My point? Because of a tradition of technological, scientific, and generally mental supremacy in the West, there is much more to be gained in cooperating, than by having everyone sulking in its corner.

The Eurofighter, and the F35 Lightning, are examples of contemporary major multinational military programs (on these superiority fighters and the Franco-French Rafale does, and will, the air supremacy of the West depends).

Less well known, France used the USA to mass produce the 75mm gun in the First World War, helping to save France (the "75" was perhaps France’s main weapon in WWI).

But not just that: USA private companies learned to mass produce the “75” with higher precision than they could initially muster (the Ford Model T would come out of that new technological tradition of massive precision, a decade later).

So welcome to the future! One of the reasons the European Union was created was to make economies of scale, and synergies of mental efforts. For example, although all Airbus models are assembled in Toulouse, France, all Airbus’ wings are conceived and constructed in Wales (UK).

There is no reason why the same economies of scale could not be extended systematically to the USA, as a collaborator of the EU (the Saturn robot, Huyghens-Cassini, is a splendid example of this; Boeing’s 787 another, with Japan thrown into the mix, as Mitsubishi now traditionally makes Boeing’s wings, which is more crafty than fighting Boeing’s planes; by the way, Airbus is now more of an American company than Boeing itself…)

In other words, nothing prevents its errant colony to come back ever closer to its parent, Europe, in order to achieve a better union… And others should, and ought to join in, which means, democratize (and the eye was on Beijing.)