Sunday, April 20, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
From China Airborne: The Test of China's Future, by James Fallows (Pantheon, 2012), Kindle Loc. 3326 of 3816
"All reactionary thought in contemporary China is of the same tradition," that philosopher, Ai Siqi, wrote in 1940. "It emphasizes China's 'national characteristics,' harps on China's 'special nature,' and wipes aside the general principles of humanity, arguing that China's social development can only follow China's own path."
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
The Forgotten Resources of Space
There are no unique raw materials waiting for us in space (possible exception of 3He). There are a lot of hydrocarbons on Titan, but because of delta-v costs, it will always be cheaper to derive them from marginal locations on Earth, like oil shales or biofuels. Even if a platinum-rich asteroid were found, platinum would be obtained cheaper by re-opening a depleted low grade mine on Earth.
If extraterrestrial raw imports will never be economical, is there any motivation for going there? Increasingly, it is processes rather than raw materials that are important for industry. Space processes can control the gravity, vacuum, radiation, temperature, and energy density to a degree impossible on Earth. These characteristics, the forgotten resources of space, can produce high-strength membranes using surface tension effects, long whiskers and gigantic laser crystals grown in microgravity, nano-engineering using ultra pure vapor deposition, strong glassy materials produced by exploiting a steep temperature gradient, and alloys mixed by diffusion alone. Relatively small machinofactured and nano-produced objects, including pharmaceuticals and bio-tech, will be the first space imports to Earth.
Phil Eklund, 2009
High Frontiers is an interesting example in the way how high science diffuses through culture and make accessible concepts and ideas that were once the preserve of the specialized few.