October 23, 2017

Today I learned a new word: Pigmentocracy

Filed under: Africa, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch writes about the recent Nivea skin cream video to explain why the ad is so controversial:

“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.

Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.

These days the marketing has become much more sophisticated. Ads speak of “toning” as code for whitening. Lancôme, which a few years ago got in trouble for using Emma Watson’s image to market its Blanc Expert line in Asia, emphasised that it does not lighten, but rather “evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion … an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines”.


Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg. Celebrities with darker complexions, such as the Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech – nicknamed Queen of the Dark – and actors such as Lupita Nyong’o, are so often discussed in the context of having achieved the seemingly impossible by being both dark and beautiful, that they become the exceptions that prove the rule.

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect. They are, however, still black women and therefore not immune from the pressure to lighten – most recently by fans following a new Photoshopping trend of posting pictures of whitened versions of their faces and remarking upon the improvement.

In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.

October 19, 2017

QotD: Confirmation bias and anecdata

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

First, identify some linguistic thing everyone believes, or can be persuaded to believe, that women do (for this purpose it doesn’t matter whether they really do it, or whether men do it just as much). You could choose something that’s already been defined as a problem (like uptalk or vocal fry), or, more ambitiously, you could go for something no one’s been paying close attention to (like women over-using the word ‘just’ at work). Pitch a piece on ‘Why this thing women do with language is damaging to women’ to the editor of just about any publication. It’s a perennially popular formula and there’s always a place for it somewhere.

You can establish that the thing is a real thing by using anecdata and exploiting confirmation bias. ‘Have you noticed that thing women do?’ you might begin. If the thing is already a cliché, like uptalk, then you’ll immediately have them nodding; if it’s not then they probably won’t have noticed it, but many of them will think that’s only because they’re not as observant or as keenly attuned to the zeitgeist as you are. Either way, you’re priming them to accept your premise. Then you can follow up with a tedious anecdote involving some everyday scenario your reader can relate to. Like, ‘the other day at my office, a woman made a presentation where she did X a heck of a lot; my interest was piqued and I started counting Xs, which confirmed that women do X far more than men.’

Once people have accepted that there’s something to be noticed, they’ll be susceptible to the phenomenon known as ‘confirmation bias’ — a tendency to notice things that match your expectations (in this case that would be instances of women doing X), while failing to register counter-examples (women not doing X, or men doing X). Soon, everyone will be sharing your article on Facebook with comments like ‘This is so true! I’d never noticed women doing X before, but after I read this piece I heard it everywhere!’

debuk, “How to write a bullshit article about women’s language”, language: a feminist guide, 2015-08-03.

October 18, 2017

Wheel of Future History

Filed under: Environment, History, Humour, Space — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 16 Oct 2017

It’s 2017. No jet packs yet, but 3D printed beer will be here soon so just shhhhhhhhh.
The poem near the end is ripped off from Rudyard Kipling’s “If”. It’s a good one. Check it out ► https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46473/if—

Are There Parts of German WW1 Warships in Space?

Filed under: Germany, History, Military, Space, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Real Engineering
Published on 19 Jul 2017

October 16, 2017

What Happens When You Inbreed? – Brit Lab

Filed under: Health, History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BBC Earth Lab
Published on 17 Dec 2015

Does inbreeding really lead to deformities and nasty diseases could inbreeding actually be a good thing? Greg Foot finds out the answers.

October 15, 2017

David Suzuki’s (incomplete) economic understanding

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Environment — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Several years ago in the Literary Review of Canada, Joseph Heath explained how he tried “being green” and in the process discovered that Canada’s secular environmental saint David Suzuki literally didn’t have a clue about economics:

David Suzuki’s most recent, The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future, is billed as an attempt by “one of the planet’s preeminent elders” to “sum up in one last lecture all that he has learned over his lifetime.” Suzuki is, of course, one of the most influential public intellectuals in this country. Like most Canadians of my generation, I grew up watching The Nature of Things, and so tend to think of Suzuki as a constant in the universe.

Suzuki was also an environmentalist long before it was cool to be an environmentalist. Perhaps because of this passionate commitment to the cause, it is startling to discover that Suzuki is oblivious to the logic of collective action. What’s worse, he does not even know what an externality is, and seems unwilling to learn. In The Legacy, he repeats the same incorrect definition that he has been using for years (he equates externalities with anything that is not part of, and hence external to, an economic model, and then claims, on that basis, that economists ignore them). Elsewhere, he even provides a detailed account of where the misunderstanding arose. It was apparently based upon something that the instructor said to him, on the first day of an economics class, which he evidently misinterpreted and never bothered to double check.

It is worth pausing for a moment to reflect upon this. It means that Suzuki does not know the first thing about environmental economics. It means that in 38 years as a university professor, public intellectual and environmental activist, he did not once take the time to find out what social scientists have to say about the problem of global warming. It means that he has never even glanced at the Wikipedia page on environmental economics.

Because of this, Suzuki winds up committing the core fallacy of environmental activism. He thinks that if people only understood the consequences that their actions were having on the environment, they would each be motivated to change their behaviour. And so, to the extent that we are not changing our behaviour, it must be because we do not understand, or that we have not been telling ourselves the right “story.” Yet this is manifestly not the case. My wife understands the science of global warming perfectly well. But she also does not like dandelions growing by the side of the road. And when push comes to shove, the desire to kill dandelions wins over environmental peccadilloes. It is not particularly mysterious. It is called free riding; people do it all the time.

Thus when Suzuki writes “we say we are intelligent, but what intelligent creature, knowing that water is a sacred, life-giving element, would use water as a toxic dump?” he seems genuinely not to know. The answer is easy: we are intelligent creatures who care just slightly more about ourselves than we do about other people. For example, like most residents of Toronto I do not use the water on my land as a toxic dump; I use Lake Ontario for that purpose. Saying that “we are water, and whatever we do to water, we do to ourselves” sounds very nice, but all the “we” talk actually encourages a very serious confusion. What I do to water, I primarily do to other people, not to myself, which is why I care about it just ever-so-slightly less.

In the end, and somewhat contrary to all expectations, Suzuki winds up coming off as a science chauvinist. There are basically two bodies of knowledge that he respects. There is physical science — genetics, biology, the stuff that he studies — and there is what he calls “traditional knowledge” — by which he means the wisdom of aboriginal and indigenous peoples. Conspicuously absent is any interest in what social scientists might have to say about how human beings work, about the political process, about the economy and about how societies mobilize to address collective action problems. As a result, he knows a lot more about the nature of things than he does about the nature of people.

H/T to Andrew Potter, via Stephen Gordon for the link.

The end of the Bronze Age

Filed under: History, Middle East, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh linked to an article discussing a convoluted survival from about 1180BC (the image was preserved, but the work itself was destroyed in the late 19th century), which casts some light on the fall of the great Bronze Age cultures of the eastern Mediterannean:

Luwian Hieroglyphic inscription by the Great King of Mira, Kupanta-Kurunta, composed at about 1180 BC.
Credit: Luwian Studies

The 35-cm tall limestone frieze was found back in 1878 in the village of Beyköy, approximately 34 kilometers north of Afyonkarahisar in modern Turkey. It bears the longest known hieroglyphic inscription from the Bronze Age. Soon after local peasants retrieved the stones from the ground, the French archeologist Georges Perrot was able to carefully copy the inscription. However, the villagers subsequently used the stones as building material for the foundation of their mosque.

From about 1950 onwards, Luwian hieroglyphs could be read. At the time, a Turkish/US-American team of experts was established to translate this and other inscriptions that during the 19th century had made their way into the collections of the Ottoman Empire. However, the publication was delayed again and again. Ultimately, around 1985, all the researchers involved in the project had died. Copies of these inscriptions resurfaced recently in the estate of the English prehistorian James Mellaart, who died in 2012. In June 2017, Mellaart’s son Alan handed over this part of the legacy to the Swiss geoarcheologist Dr. Eberhard Zangger, president of the Luwian Studies foundation, to edit and publish the material in due course.


The inscription and a summary of its contents also appear in a book by Eberhard Zangger that is being published in Germany today: Die Luwier und der Trojanische Krieg – Eine Forschungsgeschichte. According to Zangger, the inscription was commissioned by Kupanta-Kurunta, the Great King of Mira, a Late Bronze Age state in western Asia Minor. When Kupanta-Kurunta had reinforced his realm, just before 1190 BC, he ordered his armies to storm toward the east against the vassal states of the Hittites. After successful conquests on land, the united forces of western Asia Minor also formed a fleet and invaded a number of coastal cities (whose names are given) in the south and southeast of Asia Minor, as well as in Syria and Palestine. Four great princes commanded the naval forces, among them Muksus from the Troad, the region of ancient Troy. The Luwians from western Asia Minor advanced all the way to the borders of Egypt, and even built a fortress at Ashkelon in southern Palestine.

QotD: Developmental psychology

Filed under: Quotations, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Developmental psychology describes how children go from helpless infants to reasonable adults. Although a lot of it has to do with sensorimotor skills like walking and talking, the really interesting stuff is cognitive development. Children start off as very buggy reasoners incapable of all but the most superficial forms of logic but gradually go on to develop new abilities and insights that allow them to navigate adult life.

Maybe the most famous of these is “theory of mind”, the ability to view things from other people’s perspective. In a classic demonstration, researchers show little Amy a Skittles bag and ask what she thinks is inside. She guesses Skittles, but the researchers open it and reveal it’s actually pennies. Then they close it up and invite little Brayden into the room. Then they ask Amy what Brayden thinks is inside. If Amy’s three years old or younger, she’ll usually say “pennies” – she knows that pennies are inside, so why shouldn’t Brayden know too? If she’s four or older, she’ll usually say “Skittles” – she realizes on a gut level that she and Brayden are separate minds and that Brayden will have his own perspective. Sometimes the same mistake can extend to preferences and beliefs. Wikipedia gives the example of a child saying “I like Sesame Street, so Daddy must like Sesame Street too.” This is another theory of mind failure grounded in an inability to separate self and environment.

Here’s another example which tentatively sounds like a self-environment failure. Young children really don’t get foreign languages. I got a little of this teaching English in Japan, and heard more of it from other people. The really young kids treated English like a cipher; everybody started out knowing things’ real (ie Japanese) names, but Americans insisted on converting them into their own special American-person code before talking about them. Kids would ask weird things like whether American parents would make an exception and speak Japanese to their kids who were too young to have learned English yet, or whether it was a zero-tolerance policy sort of thing and the families would just not communicate until the kids went to English school. And I made fun of them, but I also remember the first time I visited Paris I heard somebody talking to their dog, and for a split second I was like “Why would you expect your dog to know French?” before my brain kicked in and I was like “Duuhhhh….”

The infamous “magical thinking” which kids display until age 7 or so also involves confused self-environment boundaries. Maybe little Amy gets mad at Brayden and shouts “I HATE HIM” to her mother. The next day, Brayden falls off a step and skins his knee. Amy intuits a cause-and-effect relationship between her hatred and Brayden’s accident and feels guilty. She doesn’t realize that her hatred is internal to herself and can’t affect the world directly. Or kids displaying animism at this age, and expecting that the TV doesn’t work because it’s angry, or the car’s not starting because it’s tired.

Scott Alexander, “What Developmental Milestones Are You Missing?”, Slate Star Codex, 2015-11-03.

October 13, 2017

QotD: The danger of sewer gas

Filed under: Health, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Confined space entry training dwells on sewer gas a lot. Sewer gas is the chemical equivalent of both barrels to the forehead, so it’s worth the attention. There is a long laundry list of things you need to be aware of, and equipment you need to have on hand to deal with potential sewer gas exposure. The first man is required to enter the confined space wearing a harness which is attached to a winch on a tripod placed over the hole. If he’s incapacitated, the second man yanks him out without doubling down on the problem by jumping in after him. This never happens. The first man goes in without any equipment, and the second man dives in after him and dies on top of him.

Here in Maine, it happened a year or two ago. OSHA prosecuted the owner of a business that lost two men in a sewer because of sewer gas. OSHA didn’t care that the company had trained the men for confined space entry. OSHA didn’t care that the company had supplied the men with all the equipment necessary to do the job safely. The workers left all the equipment in the truck and went in the hole and died, even though they must have known the risk. OSHA prosecutes the business because it’s easier than speaking ill of the dead.

I have a long experience with exactly the type of person who ends up dead in a sewer. Without knowing any particulars of the case, I can tell you that no workman will use any safety device of any kind that interferes with smoking cigarettes — and they all smoke. You can train them and yell at them and equip them to a fare-thee-well, but the moment they’re out of your sight, they’ll do exactly as they please. Texting while driving is the poindexter version of this phenomenon.

Sippican Cottage, “Interestingly, ‘Malfunction of Unknown Provenance’ Is the Name of My Men Without Hats Tribute Band. But I Digress”, Sippican Cottage, 2016-02-25.

October 9, 2017

What does “predictive processing” have to do with religious experiences?

Filed under: Religion, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR linked to this article by Connor Wood, saying “This is the best job of synthesis/summary I’ve ever seen on the topic”:

The theory of predictive processing posits that much of the brain’s activity is geared toward building and correcting internal models using feedback from both the body and the environment. This goes for everything from basic motor acts, like reaching for a cup, to more complicated, higher-level experiences like taking part in a religious service.

For example, if you reach for a cup and saucer, your brain uses feed-forward models to generate internal simulations of the consequences of that motor action, and it uses feedback to correct those simulations if those predicted consequences don’t actually match what happens.

Say you’re on a cruise ship. The seas are rough and the ship is heaving to and fro, so your cup slides a few inches away on the table as you reach for it. The simulated prediction your brain had generated falls flat. Fortunately, you’re probably able to grasp the cup in its new position, because your brain uses that sensory feedback to hastily update its model of your body’s relationship to the room, including your table, cup, and saucer. It even incorporates the rhythmic seesawing of the ship into its models.

(Incidentally, this is part of why you get “sea legs” after you’ve been onboard a boat or ship for a few hours – your brain has learned to dynamically compensate for the constant, rhythmic rocking of the boat. Then, when you set foot back on dry land, your motor repertoire is still trying to match the rhythm of the waves, but there are no waves to match. So you feel wobbly, as the electro-chemical memory of the ocean sloshes around inside your nervous system, telling your brain to expect and compensate for a rhythmic rocking that isn’t there anymore.)

According to van Elk and Aleman, this cognitive process of constantly building and correcting models – or selectively failing to correct them – may explain a lot of what we call religious phenomena. How? A core feature of their model is that religious experiences emerge from changes in how the brain processes the external (or exteroceptive) versus the internal (or interoceptive) data that it receives.

For example, they describe intense experiences of personal prayer as resulting from more intense focus on interoceptive signals. Inward focus enables us to simulate the internal mental processes of other people, creating predictive models of what we would likely be feeling, or what plans we’d probably be hatching, if we were in their circumstances. So, when we’re highly focused on our own interoceptive signals, we may be more primed to attribute mental and emotional states to others – even imaginary or invisible others. In the prediction processing model, then, personal prayer – talking to God or gods – involves focusing so intently on our own internal experiences that we become easily able to attribute mental states, emotions, and desires to whatever divine being we (believe we) are engaging with.

Mystical experiences are another type of religious phenomenon, one that’s often characterized by feelings of expansiveness or loss of identification with one’s own ego or consciousness. In the predictive processing model, mystical experience – unlike personal prayer – is most likely to result from an increased attention to exteroceptive data. That is, the brain becomes focused on external sense data to the exclusion of internal information, and this absorption in external input actually decouples the brain’s self-understanding from its own bodily signals. As a result, one suddenly seems to exist outside of, or to transcend, the body.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonreligion/2017/09/predictive-processing-religion/#sxXKrZ2pPzXWMCUw.99

October 7, 2017

QotD: Madman or academic on the loose?

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Chesterton, somewhere, memorably notes that the madman is not without reason. Verily, in the mental department, he has lost everything except his reason. I remember this every time I find myself arguing with an atheist: that it is best not to. The mere idea of “pure reason” enabled a certain Immanuel Kant to anticipate post-modernity, set the stage for some bizarre descendants, and reset all our metaphysical dials to an atheist default position. Not that he was intending this. He was only taking a step beyond Hume. “Fully autonomous reason,” shall we call it, is a powerfully destructive force. Perfection of the intellect is no more possible, down here on earth, than a life entirely without sin. The belief that we can elevate ourselves by the synaptic bootstraps of our wee tiny brains, has much for which to answer.

In Parkdale for instance: a district of this city renowned for its accumulation of “outpatients,” on and off their “meds.” They also illustrate Chesterton’s aphorism. Often they are reasoning, aloud; and seldom on my walks do I detect any logical errors. From the facts or premisses that they have supposed, their (often angry) mutterings to themselves flow quite naturally. I have even overheard some impressive hair-splitting; and have often thought that, with a little anger management, they could be candidates for tenure — at Ryerson, if not the U of T.

David Warren, “Not all there”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-12-15.

October 6, 2017

Are Branded Drugs Better? – Earth Lab

Filed under: Business, Health, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

BBC Earth Lab
Published on 22 Jun 2017

When you’ve got a cold and need some medicine, do you ever wonder if there’s a difference between branded and non-branded drugs? Greg Foot explains the world of pharmaceuticals, backed up with some stonking examples and unexpected findings!

October 3, 2017

Viking warrior women?

Filed under: Cancon, History, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR posted a link to this article by Julia Dent on the much ballyhoo’d “discovery” of the grave of a Viking woman warrior:

You may have heard of L’Anse aux Meadows, the discovered Viking site in Canada (because I repeat, Vikings actually settled in North America, even if it didn’t last long), but did you know that they uncovered another Viking site only last year? If you listen to Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast (which I highly recommend), you may have heard about it, but I only saw a couple of articles about the discovery. This finding is further proof that Leif Eriksson and his fellow Vikings actually settled in North America years before Christopher Columbus was even born, so it isn’t insignificant in the least.

But Leif Eriksson was overshadowed once again—this time by an unknown woman’s grave. However, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. I’ve written about the danger of people leaping to conclusions before, and it appears that it’s happened again. While there may have been female Viking warriors, there isn’t strong evidence that this Viking woman was actually a “high-ranking officer” or even a warrior. University of Nottingham professor of Viking studies Judith Jesch burst everyone’s bubbles with an article going through the “evidence” from the grave site and contesting it all. I highly encourage you to read her analysis in full, but here’s a quick summary of some of her points about the authors who published the “evidence” that the grave site was for a female Viking military officer:

    The authors listed on the article don’t include a language specialist, even though it starts with referencing “’narratives about fierce female Vikings fighting alongside men’, and concludes with a quotation from an Eddic poem in translation.” The authors even referenced one of Jesch’s books but not the book where she actually writes about women. The authors also make a lot of references to “historical records” without specifying which ones they’re talking about.

    The authors pretty much decide that this Viking woman is a high-ranking officer based on what she was buried with. The grave contained “’a full set of gaming pieces’ which apparently ‘indicates knowledge of tactics and strategy’” and “’the exclusive grave goods and two horses are worthy of an individual with responsibilities concerning strategy and battle tactics.’” There isn’t even any conclusive evidence that men buried with those items were military leaders.

    This gravesite was actually excavated over a century ago and things weren’t labeled well, so the female Viking bones may not have even been buried with all those items. Someone even commented on Jesch’s article that there was a third femur found with this woman’s bones, but the authors just ignored it. There were also no signs of harm to the bones, which means she was either one heck of a warrior who never got injured, or that she wasn’t a warrior at all.

So the authors assumed this female Viking was a military leader without any actual evidence and they ignored evidence that didn’t go along with their theory. Like many people today, they leapt to conclusions, and everyone was eager to agree that this woman was definitely a military leader because that suited a contemporary narrative, not a historical fact. This doesn’t mean that people in the future won’t find hard evidence that female Vikings could be military leaders, but you can’t “confirm” that this Viking was a military leader quite yet. Even if there weren’t female Viking warriors, women in Viking times were actually well-respected and enjoyed many rights and freedoms; they could divorce their husbands, own land, and could even have government representation. Women like Freydis and Gudrun had a significant impact on their societies, even if they didn’t lead troops into battle.

ESR also commented on the more direct physiological arguments against the “warrior woman” theory:

Accessible treatment of why to be skeptical of the recent media buzz about female Viking warriors.

My wife Cathy and I are subject-matter experts on this. We’ve trained to use period weapons and have studied both the archeological and saga evidence. And we can tell there’s a lot of PC horse exhaust being emitted on this topic.

On average, men are so much faster and stronger than women that what would happen to women using using lethal contact weapons on a pre-modern battlefield is highly predictable. They’d die. They’d die quickly.

The mean difference in physical ability (especially at burst exertion and upper-body strength) is so great that it takes a woman way over in the right tail of the Gaussian to stand against an average male. My wife is one of those exceptions, but we don’t fool ourselves that this is the typical case.

See also the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team being defeated by a squad of 15-year-old boys. That is what’s normal for humans.

Primitive Technology: Mud Bricks

Filed under: Environment, History, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Primitive Technology
Published on 22 Sep 2017

(Turn on captions [CC] in the lower right corner for more information while viewing.)
I made a brick mold that makes bricks 25 x 12.5 x 7.5 cm from wood. A log was split and mortise and tenon joints were carved using a stone chisel and sharp rocks. The mold was lashed together with cane to prevent it from coming apart when used.

Next, I made a mixture of mud and palm fiber to make the bricks. This was then placed into the mold to be shaped and taken to a drying area. 140 bricks were made.

When dry, the bricks were then assembled into a kiln. 32 roof tiles were then made of mud and fired in the kiln. It only took 3 hours to fire the tiles sufficiently. The mud bricks and tiles were a bit weaker than objects made from my regular clay source because of the silt, sand and gravel content of the soil. Because of this, I will look at refining mud into clay in future projects instead of just using mud.

Interestingly, the kiln got hot enough so that iron oxide containing stones began to melt out of the tiles. This is not metallic iron, but only slag (iron oxide and silica) and the temperature was probably not very high, but only enough to slowly melt or soften the stones when heated for 3 hours.

The kiln performed as well as the monolithic ones I’ve built in the past and has a good volume. It can also be taken down and transported to other areas. But the bricks are very brittle and next time I’d use better clay devoid of sand/silt, and use grog instead of temper made of plant fiber which burns out in firing. The mold works satisfactorily. I aim to make better quality bricks for use in furnaces and buildings in future.

WordPress: https://primitivetechnology.wordpress.com
Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=2945881
I have no face book page, instagram, twitter etc. Beware of fake pages.

September 28, 2017

Back to the Moon in 2019?

Filed under: Space, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Charles Stross thinks a US circumlunar expedition is on the cards for just two years ahead, and he might well be right:

If Donald Trump is still president, US astronauts will return to circumlunar space around July 16th, 2019 …

That’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. It’s also 6-12 months on from the projected date of Musk’s translunar tourist trip on a Falcon Heavy.

I expect Falcon Heavy to be delayed a few months, minimum, because no new launch vehicle ever flies on time, especially a crew-rated one, but it’s currently due to fly around December this year for the first time, with a vehicle currently undergoing integration at Cape Canaveral and commercial orders for subsequent flights. It’s rather hard to describe it as vaporware at this point. The same goes for the Dragon 2 crewed capsule; it’s due for a first uncrewed orbital flight test in March 2018, and a crewed orbital test flight later in 2018.


I’m making this a prediction, however, because the POTUS factor.

July 2019 lies within the term in office of Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, depending whether impeachment/removal has happened first then). Trump is nothing if not an egomaniac, and offering him the opportunity to make a historic phone call to lunar orbit in front of the TV cameras is a guaranteed ego-stroke. Trump is of an age to have young-adult memories of Apollo and I can’t see the idea not appealing to him if he can take credit for it.

So I’m betting that this is how Musk will fund development of his lunar-orbit capability.

(Terms and conditions: prediction invalid in event of nuclear war, global environmental or economic collapse, Trump and Pence both being impeached, or a Dragon 2 capsule exploding in flight, because any of these things might impact the launch schedule.)

Note: Charles is quite a fan of the impeachment scenario, if you hadn’t picked that up from context. The fact that he’s very much not a Trump fan actually makes his prediction that much more striking: he has no interest or desire to see Trump get a propaganda coup to end his term in office.

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