* Posts by Semianonymous Megacoward

12 publicly visible posts • joined 20 Apr 2011

Field trip! European Space Agency sends astronauts abroad to learn about rocks

Semianonymous Megacoward

Re: Geologist on the Moon

Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Jack Schmitt all walked on the Moon and are still alive. Four out of twelve.


We've heard of littering but this is ridiculous: Asteroid dumps up to 50 quadrillion kg of space dirt on Earth, Moon

Semianonymous Megacoward

About that crater erasure

Not only erosion and volcanism can obscure craters; consider the dino-killing Chicxulub impact crater, buried under sedimentary rock. Also, most asteroid strikes on Earth will occur in oceans, and the ocean floor is vigorously recycled into the mantle via subduction. The average age of the ocean floor is only about one sixth the age of the Cryogenian, and none of the ocean floor is as old as old as the impacts discussed in this article. So evidence of bombardment from 800 million years ago would likely be indirect, such as layers of shocked quartz in sedimentary rock.

Incidentally, the current interpretation of Martian history has the red planet dry, frozen and (relatively) airless before the impacts described here ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geological_history_of_Mars ). Researchers from Elon Musk's Mars colonists might look for a spike in crater ages around 800 million years ago.

'That roar is terrific... look at that rocket go!' It's been 52 years since first Saturn V left the pad

Semianonymous Megacoward

Re: in the next few years,

Actually, I think NASA's Artemis effort will be the *third* government program to return to the Moon; in addition to GWBush's Constellation program there was GHWBush's Space Exploration Initiative in 1989.


U.S. presidents set space policy, and the first thing many do is reverse the previous president's policy. SEI died under Clinton and Constellation -- apart from Orion -- died under Obama. If Artemis gets pushed out to 2028, as it appears it may, then it could easily go away as well.

What's different this time is SpaceX and, possibly, Blue Origin. SpaceX has picked up several experienced NASA engineers and may actually have a shot at getting people to the Moon. It's about time.

Semianonymous Megacoward

The good news is...

...If either SpaceX or NASA succeeds in landing on the Moon in the next few years, these arguments will be over. Or maybe not, given the depth of conviction displayed.

The practical reason people haven't gone to the Moon in the last fifty years is because there hasn't been the political will to spend the money. That's a much less interesting reason than a conspiracy.

The Moon's surface area is roughly comparable to Africa's -- there's still plenty to explore there. Ice and other frozen volatiles, lava tubes, the lunar farside, odd features like Ina, just to name a few.

Incidentally, Apollo 16 did (allegedly) place a telescope on the Moon's surface in the shadow of the LM, as described here:


The SpaceX schedule includes cargo flights to the Moon in just three years, and if that happens surely a McDonald's can't be far behind (Lunar Lander game reference). With luck, in five to ten years we'll have either proof the Apollo missions landed as advertised, or a large selection of new CGI to argue over.

I've got way too much cash, thinks Jeff Bezos. Hmmm, pay more tax? Pay staff more? Nah, let's just go into space

Semianonymous Megacoward

The money is spent on Earth

Amazon's difficult working environment is well-known. Is the same true of Blue Origin?

The money is being spent on this planet and is buying groceries and making house payments for the engineers, machinists, managers, and others employed at Blue Origin. Are they being pushed as hard as Amazon employees? If they are, then how the money is distributed between companies is a bit of a wash. If they're not, then there's an even stronger argument for the editorial's thesis.

Semianonymous Megacoward

The money is spent on Earth

Poor working conditions at Amazon are well known -- is the same is true of Blue Origin?

The money is, after all, being spent on Earth, and is buying groceries and making house payments for the engineers, machinists, managers, and many others employed to make the rockets go up.

2001: A Space Odyssey has haunted pop culture with anxiety about rogue AIs for half a century

Semianonymous Megacoward

Minor Correction

"Kubrick's masterpiece followed closely in the wake of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek on US TV network CBS in 1966."

Star Trek is currently owned by CBS but was first broadcast by NBC. See


Musk: Come ride my Big F**king Rocket to Mars

Semianonymous Megacoward

Pedantic point

Launch windows to Mars occur roughly every 26 months, not every 18 as implied by the article. A window opens not when Earth and Mars are closest, but when the target planet will be located at the far end of the spacecraft's most efficient transfer orbit.

e.g., https://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/launchwindows.html

Texas says 'howdy' to completely driverless robo-cars on its roads

Semianonymous Megacoward

Chris Rea's Texas

Great song. First heard it in Glasgow before being posted to Texas -- 26 years ago.



Regarding driving in Texas, robo-cars can't be worse than those piloted by the meat sacks in the state.

Scientists love MacBooks (true) – but what about you?

Semianonymous Megacoward

Everybody has an opinion

Here's a perspective from someone who worked in scientific/engineering (not IT) positions in industry. Oddly enough, I was introduced to Macs by BP, which originally used them for user desktops before Windows PCs. We used assorted mainframes and DEC machines for scientific and engineering work, and the minicomputers were replaced by Unix workstations around 1990. Unix had a steep learning curve, but it was also very stable compared to Windows back then. For business applications, PCs replaced the Macs, and after a few more years Linux boxes replaced the Unix workstations for technical work. Both changes were cost-driven: PCs were cheaper than Macs, and Linux machines were cheaper than Unix machines.

Folks working in big companies often have little choice of the hardware and operating system they're made to use, but scientists in academia may have more freedom to choose. Old-time scientific types invested in Unix had two choices when migrating off proprietary (Sun, IBM, H-P, etc.) Unix workstations: Linux or Mac OS X. The Apple logos seen at JPL and the like reflect the choice of Mac OS X. They got to keep the Unix environment they were already familiar with, plus get Microsoft Office and a consistent GUI. IT types may have been more likely to choose Linux, but scientists were less likely to do so because they didn't want to get involved with configuring and tweaking their computers.

I suspect that zealotry often results from defensiveness; folks who are heavily invested in a particular way of doing things will defend their turf loudly when they feel threatened, especially when they're in the minority. It's just human nature.

COMET DIAMONDS from SPACE found in Libya's glass desert

Semianonymous Megacoward

It's elementary

Picking nits here: the material is carbonaceous -- carbon-rich -- and probably not carboniferous, the word used in the article. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing" and was a geologic time period ending about 300 million years ago, much younger than cometary material. Coal-bearing comets would be pretty cool, but the only fossils I've seen in comets or meteorites to date have been in science fiction stories.

Carbonaceous chondrites are a carbon-rich class of meteorites, some of which contain inclusions predating our solar system. Carbonaceous chondrites presumably derive from C-type asteroids.

Google pours millions into wind power

Semianonymous Megacoward
Big Brother

The U.S. EPA says 5.5 tons


"annual emissions from a typical passenger vehicle should be equated to 5.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or 1.5 metric tons of carbon equivalent."