Category Archives: Science

Reusability | SpaceX

SpaceX will be returning to flight on January 8th.


SpaceX is targeting return to flight from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) with the Iridium NEXT launch on January 8. SpaceX greatly appreciates the support of our customers and partners throughout this process, and we look forward to fulfilling our manifest in 2017 and beyond.

In preparation for the next launch, we present for your enjoyment and enlightenment a series of videos summarizing the five year history of SpaceX Falcon 9 reusability.

Enjoy …

I never get tired of watching this. It 60s Sci-Fi realized at last.


(not) MARS

It’s always wise to test what you are about to do – in advance. If you want want to live on Mars, isolated, create some kind of HAB module on Earth. Test that in advance. ~ Neil Degrasse Tyson, Mars, Episode 5 / Season 1 (13:20)


HI-SEAS (Hawaii)

Apply to be a crew member

Media Kit (PDF)


Mars Desert Research Station (Utah)


Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS)


Energy Multiplier Module | A Small Modular Reactor

A reactor compact enough that it could be shipped on a truck on the US highway system.

A reactor that could burn for decades without refueling.

We don’t have to reshuffle fuel. Once you put it in there it’ll burn … and it’ll burn uniformly. 

We don’t touch the core. We can seal the core.

You have a fuel that is in a reactor for decades, one core that’s burning for thirty years. In that same amount of time a Light Water Reactor will have changed its core seven times.

The laws of physics tell you what to do, and you know, relying on the laws of physics is a pretty good bet.


the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, POTUS 32


The only thing we need to fear about nuclear power is the fear of nuclear power …

 Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima … and yet 



PS: Petr Beckman wrote   The Health Hazards NOT Going Nuclear   fourty years ago.

I used to buy copies (fourty years ago) and give them to folks to read. Not much has changed. Mining, refining, pollution kills real people every day, every week, every month, every year. 

Not so much for nuclear power.


The Questar 3.5 telescope and I go back a long way … 62 years in fact.

The first Questar debuted in 1954, just months after I was born. I discovered it as a teenager interested in astronomy and all things aerospatial in the giddy years of the 1960s moon race. It has been an unrequited love affair ever since. I followed the Questar with great interest during the 60s, 70s, and 80s – sending in handwritten letters requesting their latest catalogs. In college, while other engineering students were thumbing through their Playboy and Penthouse magazines, I read and reread my Questar catalogs. My lust was every bit as real and unsatisfiable as theirs. (Not that I never read their magazines, but I read them solely for the interviews and journalistic content.)

Married in 76 with profession, mortgage, and children arriving on schedule like most other couples, my attention shifted elsewhere. With the arrival of the Internet I had instant access to better astrophotos than the best telescopes on earth much less any amateur telescope. In the late 90s my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I tell people that I feel more comfortable in hospitals than any non-medical person has a right to feel. So with mortgage company, kids, doctors, hospitals, and big pharma all dependent on my salary – any telescope was out of my price range. Life went on …

Every so often I would google “Questar” just to see if they were even still in business. To my surprise they were. Even more interesting Company Seven had arrived on the scene. But as before, life went on …

Things have stabilized. My wife’s MS and other complications are manageable. I’m not rich, but I’m not broke (yet). In the past few weeks I have reacquainted myself with Company Seven and have been having a very enjoyable and elightening email dialog with Martin Cohen one of the cofounders of Company Seven. I can imagine how busy he must be so I feel honored that he has taken the time to answer my questions personally. Then again he may give all of his customers this personal touch, just one of the many reasons that makes Company Seven special. Company Seven provides a full range of products and services supporting the amateur astronomy community as well as government, security, and corporate customers. They are a fully authorized distributor for Questar (in fact the only one, I believe) and provide a full range of associated products and services. Their online library of current and historical literature is truly amazing.

However Company Seven is not solely a Questar distributor. Their list of products and services reads like an encyclopedia of optics and astronomy.

Company Seven played a key role in the development of the “spectacles” used to correct design deficiencies in the focus of the Hubble Space Telescope primary mirror. They even used a variant of the Questar to quality check the calibration of the optics.

Click to access 19910003124_1991003124.pdf

Trust me – if the general topic of telescopes, optics, accessories … and the history of the above interests you – then the Company Seven website will give you hours if not days of reading enjoyment.

Even more impressive (at least to me) is the level of Quality Assurance and Testing they give to each and every product they sell. Their webpage below on testing is both enlightening and entertaining. After reading it I am going to be purchasing ALL of my optical gear through Company Seven – especially my Questar.

If you are in the market for quality optics of any kind, do yourself a favor and contact Company Seven first.

And now for the obligatory Questar YouTube video courtesy of Dave Trott.

Lest there be any doubt, please realize that the Questar is as much an objet d’art as it is a mere telescope. It is a handmade sculpture of engineering excellence. A future heirloom. A “bucket list” item. Proudly made entirely in the USA throughout its 62 year history.

Company Seven

Questar Corporation


And now for an entirely different perspective – the modern Apochromatic (Apo) Refracter vs the Questar.

MARS | NatGeo Channel

On November 14, the National Geographic Channel will debut the the new mini-series MARS by executive producer Ron Howard. MARS is a novel alternation of fiction and documentary featuring commentary by Elon Musk, Andy Weir, Robert Zubrin, and other experts on Mars and space flight.

But why wait until November 14? You can stream the prequel BEFORE MARS and the first episode NOVO MUNDO right now (below). You can also watch THE MAKING OF MARS with Ron Howard and other short videos – behind the scenes and other related videos.

This is great stuff! Watch it. Seriously. I mean it. 


Tiny1 AstroCamera

As a teenager growing up in the 60s … at the height of the space race … I could never have comprehended that we would develop the level of technology that would allow the Tiny1 to exist. Now 50 years later, I am no longer surprised by anything.

If you are a child of the Space Age, love to look at the night sky, or just want to be amazed at how far technology has come, check out Tiny1 on Indiegogo.

A Brief History


• One-time pad cypher (a key form of cryptology used in World War 2)


• Discovery of radio waves emanating from the center of the galaxy

• Stereophonic recordings and transmission

• First electronic speech synthesizer


• First photovoltaic cell

• Invention of the transistor


• First binary code systems

• First solar cell

• Concept of the laser described


• First continuous light laser

• Invention of the Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor (MOSFET)

• Discover of Cosmic Background Radiation (Basis of Big Bang Theory)

• Invention of the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) used in imaging cameras


• C Programming Language

• UNIX Operating System

• First single-chip 32-bit microprocessor


• TDMA and CDMA digital cellular telephone technology

• Laser cooling

• First fiber optic transatlantic cable

The above is a highly abbreviated list of accomplishments. 

All of these accomplishments came from one source – AT&T Bell Labs.

Stupidification …

YouTube, the Internet, and the Stupidification of Mankind (A Rant)



1) making one less intelligent

2) filling people’s mind with patently false concepts, ideas, or historical information

3) reducing or eliminating common sense and rational thought in others


Verb (see stupidification)

I can’t stand it anymore. If I don’t rant my head will explode.

I am a child of the 60s. I was there when it happened I saw it with my own eyes. I am also a man of rational thought and historical perspective. I understand and follow the scientific method and I have a good grasp of recent and ancient history.

Humankind has made incredible advances in the last 5000 years. We have gone from wandering about foraging for food, living in fear of nature, disease, and the elements to almost totally mastery of our environment. We have greatly improved the life expectancy and quality of life of the majority of people living on this planet. We have identified, studied, and cured numerous diseases. We have dramatically improved the food supply. We have improved sanitation, the quality of the water we drink and the safety of our work environment.

In the past 5000 years our concept of mathematics has gone from one / few / many to calculus and higher forms of mathematics. This has enabled the advancement of the sciences and our understanding of chemistry, physics, and the world around us, below us, and above us. We have gone from walking on foot to spanning the globe by land, sea, air, and space. Our roads and automobiles allow us to travel farther in an hour than ancient people could travel in a day. Modern air transportation can take us nearly anywhere in the world in less than a day. Manned and unmanned spacecraft circle the Earth in 90 minutes.

Our accumulated knowledge of the past 5000 years has allowed us to develop the technology required to build computers, routers, switches, fiber-optic cables, the Internet, online banking, video communication, websites, blogs, YouTube, streaming music, smart phones, tablets, and much much more. Geosynchronous satellites provide weather information and satellite television. Google, Bing, and other search engines provide us instantaneous access to all of mankind’s knowledge. Men and women graduating college today have never known a time without this technology and we all take it for granted.

Eratosthenes first determined that the Earth was a sphere in the first century BC and actually calculated its circumference to within 15% of its currently accepted value. The fields of surveying and geodesy have established to the nth decimal point the shape of the earth as an oblate spheroid and have developed a vast selection of projection systems (aka Coordinate Reference Systems) used by map makers and the global GIS community to map sections of the three dimensional earth to the two dimensional maps used by governments, companies, and individuals. The map applications on our smart phones rely heavily on this body knowledge. The global network of fiber-optic subsea cables that empower the global Internet could not have been laid without this body of knowledge.

Mankind has been a spacefaring nation since the late 1950s with launch of Sputnik by the former Soviet Union. Humanity has had a more or less continuous human presence in low earth orbit since the early 1960s beginning with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. To date Russia / Soviet Union, the United States, and China have launched men and women into space. Each of these countries has had multiple long duration space stations in orbit. A total of 544 people have been in orbit. Twelve Americans walked on the surface of the moon during the Apollo program of the late 1960s – early 1970s. The total time spent by humans in space is in excess of 131.3 man-years. The following countries have some form of manned and/or unmanned space program: America, Canada, China, Europe, Japan, India, and Russia. Unmanned scientific probes have studied every planet in our solar system. India has a robust unmanned space program and it successfully placed the Mangalayaan probe into Martian orbit on its first try in 2014. World Space Flight has documented every manned and unmanned mission to date.

The knowledge mankind has acquired in the past 5000 years is vast and deep. The technologies we have developed with this knowledge are nothing short of magical.


The “straw the broke the camels back” occurred while preparing my previous post on the Falcon 9.  I ran across a YouTube video on “FakeX” whereby the vlogger reviewed footage of the last SpaceX CRS-8 launch and step-by-step pointed out how every aspect of the video was fake. His explanation and reasoning for each of his points indicated how truly clueless, ignorant, and stupid he was … and yet this video had thousands of views and the vlogger had thousands of followers. Most of the comments and commenters agreed with him. I won’t give you the link because I don’t want to give him another view. Across the Internet and YouTube you will find hundreds (thousands?) of videos “proving” how we have been lied to about:

The Earth is really flat and not a sphere – we’ve been lied to

NASA is lying to us – all spaceflight is faked

The Moon landings were all faked

9/11 – the Twin Towers were brought down by controlled demolition, not planes

The holocaust never happened

Pretty much if you can name an established fact, you will find a blog and a host of YouTube videos “proving” that it is obviously not true and that we have been lied to. A vast global conspiracy has lied to us about pretty much everything we have ever been taught in school or college.

Funny you think? Maybe, until you realize that this counter-culture numbers in the hundreds with followers numbering in the thousands or more. Globally. Millions of views. It is not so much a disbelief in reality as it is a readiness to BELIEVE that everything we have been told or taught about [insert topic] is a lie.

How do you teach science to kids when an Internet search is just as likely bring up even more sites and YouTube videos refuting the science. In a world where everyone gets equal time the “NASA lies crowd” get as many hits as the “NASA crowd”. Even worse Google and YouTube give you suggestions based on your viewing history. Months ago I watched some flat Earth videos and faked Moon landing videos. Now most of videos suggested for me by YouTube are exactly these kinds of videos. “There must be some truth to this if there are that many videos.” And … if someone tries to refute the “we’re being lied to video” the vlogger responds with “wow look at how hard they are working to prop up the big lie.”

Think I’m over reacting? Go to YouTube and search on “NASA lies” or “flat earth” or “Moon landing hoax” or “holocaust hoax” or “9/11 hoax” or … or … or … Look at the number of views. Look at the comments. If you personally did not experience it how do you know what is truth? Science? Laws of Physics? All lies.

Lies lies lies everything you have ever been taught about anything is a lie. AND YOU CAN’T PROVE OTHERWISE.


Whew, OK I’m calmer now … but I’m not done yet.

The irony in all of this is that the Internet and YouTube would not even exist were it not for the very technological advances and hard earned knowledge that the conspiracy theorists tell us are all lies. Global subsea cables and communications satellites are the backbone of the Internet. Flat Earth? I don’t think so.

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. – Carl Sagan

So back to the title of this rant … YouTube, the Internet, and the Stupidification of Mankind

YouTube and the Internet give anyone regardless of intellegence, education, or cognitive function equal footing with the brightest and most learned among us. It is the great equalizer … and the great stupidifier … on a global scale … 24×7.



We’re doomed.



See also The War on Science

Falcon 9

OMG I am just a little kid in old man’s body. Tears are running down my cheeks as I watch this. It is like being back in the 60s watching the moon launches or 2001 A Space Odyssey. I have always been very emotional about spaceflight (and music).

Less than four years. I have been blogging on SpaceX since the inception of this blog in 2013.

People of SpaceX and Elon Musk … thank you for a great ride!


… sticks the landing

And it …

As part of Friday’s CRS-8 successful resupply launch to the International Space Station, SpaceX accomplished its first ever ocean landing of the Falcon 9 on the ASDS (Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship) Of Course I Still Love You. Prior to this SpaceX successfully returned to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. See The Falcon Has Landed.

Another take on Friday’s landing 

Release the Kraken

I have decided to call my new toy tool The Kraken, mostly because I love saying “Release the Kraken.”

Below we see the Scooba 450 in action, as filmed by one of my Arlo wireless security cameras. Note the infrared eyes on the front of The Kraken. These are invisible to the naked eye, but detected by the infrared-sensitive Arlo camera.

And now with the camera riding The Kraken … yee haw ride ’em Arlo!

From more info see:

Interview with Roy Sebag

October 2015 interview with Roy Sebag Founder of BitGold and CEO of GoldMoney

This is a one hour interview with the founder of BitGold. Roy Sebag is a smart, knowledgable, articulate dude.  

Regardless of your current feelings about gold, if you work and want to safeguard the value of your earnings you owe it to yourself to watch (listen really) to this video. Roy talks about concepts of money, value, investments, and of course … the BitGold platform. 

No hype. No scare tactics. Just information. 

I hope you find it interesting.


For more info go to

PS   I was just notified that this was my 1,000th post 😎

Elon Explains

… some of the background for last nights successful Falcon 9 landing

 A lot about how things work in space is counter-intuitive, as all of our intuition is gained from daily experiences where the air is thick, gravity doesn’t seem to change and movement is relatively slow. We do see lots of movies about space, but, unless you’re watching an IMAX documentary, they vary from slightly wrong, like The Martian (good movie!), to mostly absurdly wrong, like Red Planet (don’t watch this, it will hurt your brain), which also doesn’t help intuition.

• • •

In the case of the Falcon 9 rocket, the boost stage is able to accelerate a payload mass of 125 metric tons to 8000 km/h and land on an ocean platform or to 5000 km/h and land back at the launch site. The second one is lower because the rocket is moving super fast away from the launch site, so it has to do a screetching U-turn with nitrogen attitude thrusters, then fire the engines to create a reversed ballistic arc, then reorient again for atmospheric entry and have the engines pointed in the right direction for the landing burn. Since the propellant is liquid, it wants to centrifuge out during these maneuvers, so there has to be a system of baffles and internal holding tanks to keep it in place. It also needs three axis control surfaces that don’t melt easily and work well from hypersonic through subsonic speeds.

For a sea platform landing, the Falcon 9 figure of merit is therefore roughly 300 gigajoules (GJ) of kinetic energy and for a return to launch site landing, the number is about 120 GJ. These are fairly sizable by terrestrial standards. To put it into perspective, the city of San Francisco uses about 1 GJ per second of electricity, so the Falcon 9 booster transfers enough energy to power a city of almost a million people for five minutes. 

• • •

Read more about the physics and technology involved in first stage Return To Launch site, plus a short history of SpaceX’s efforts in this regard at:

We Are Here

Reblogged with video

For the Global Warming deniers

Looking to God

Our waterways are a mess. Our infrastructure is crumbling. The idea of a society connected through a common medium has rendered us isolated. What’s more? We’re on the brink of total environmental collapse. How do I know? Let’s find out and file this Monday Mayhem post under pending doom. No fear mongering here. Just fiction. Or is it?

The Blob [Photo Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] The Blob [Photo Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] The other day I came upon an article in the news describing of place in the ocean where no life exists. Apparently, science has labeled the phenomenon a “blob” If you’re familiar with the 1950’s movie that goes by the same name, the condition is relatively dissimilar in concept but still scary. The blob has taken over a good chunk of ocean and is growing. No one knows where it came from, and no one knows when it will stop consuming vital…

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Enceladus Flyby


The North Pole of Enceladus during the October 30th, 2015 Cassini Flyby (NASA/ESA/ASI) The North Pole of Enceladus during the October 30th, 2015 Cassini Flyby (NASA/ESA/ASI)

Since 2004, the Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn. The robot probe (a joint effort of NASA, ESA, and the Italian space agency) received the most press when it launched a flying saucer lander onto Saturn’s planet-like moon Titan, but it is still out there doing amazing work. Last week, while I was busy writing about Halloween themes, the probe made its closest pass yet to Saturn’s ice moon, Enceladus. Enceladus is only 500 kilometers in diameter and it is coated in ice, but it is of great interest to scientists because ice plumes venting from the moon’s south pole seem to indicate a large polar subsurface ocean of liquid water. Warmed above freezing by tidal flux, this ocean beneath the ice probably has a thickness of around 10 km.

View of Enceladus’ south pole geyser, backlit by Saturn View of Enceladus’ south pole…

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We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
Carl Sagan

Perhaps society has always been at war with science. Science challenges belief systems. Science threatens the status quo. Scientific thinking requires one to question everything. 

However scientific thought does not grant one the ability to throw out centuries of hard-won knowledge just because the doubter does not “believe” it. The Internet is chock full of blogs decrying the “lies” perpetuated by scientists, NASA, the media, the government. It is truly ironic that the science and technology that made computers, smart phones, tablets, and the Internet possible is the very science under attack on the Internet. So much of the “information” on the Internet is opinion and belief offered up as fact. The Internet gives everyone an equal voice.

Instead of making us smarter, the Internet is making us dumber. Our knowledge is based on “factoids” and “sound bites”. Few people bother to dig deeper. TL;DR

Sadly, I ran across this video on one of those “anti-science”, “we have been lied to” blogs. The author comments:

This is just such a great example of how sometimes the propaganda gets so heavy in it’s shaming tactics that it only serves to show how desperate and panicky the official side is seemingly becoming.

Science = propaganda 


Whatever other titles I have held during my professional career …

I proudly claim the title of Scientist.

The Martian 3D

I just saw The Martian in 3D on the wide screen.

Excellent. Seriously excellent. The cinematography was superb. So was the acting. Although there was scrupulous attention paid to the scientific and technological aspects, it did not in any way overshadow the human drama. There was humor. There was frustration. There was elation. Aspects of Apollo 13 and Castaway were strong. There were even reminisces of 2001 A Space Odyssey (without the monolith, monkey men, or crazed computer). I would see this again in the theater.

I previously posted that I had listened to the unabridged audio book. The movie was true to the book, somehow condensing 10hr 53min down to 2hr 21min without loosing anything. Yes, yes the book goes into much more detail on the underlying science and isolation of Mark Watney, but you can read the book later.






What genetic engineering and organic farming have in common

If you can excuse the pun … food for thought …

Genetic engineering and organic farming are often set up in opposition to one another. After all, how could one agricultural practice that eschews any influence other than Nature coexist with another that is cultivated in a lab? Well, in the household of Pam Ronald (TED Talk: The case for engineering our food) and Raoul Adamchak, they live together up close and personally, as the genetic scientist and organic farmer are married. Recently, the couple discussed the complexity of modern agriculture, what they see as common misconceptions of genetically engineered crops — and the implications these have on those who need food the most. Here’s their take on this hot topic.

The problem with genetic engineering is the communication. “Most consumers accept most science. But there are a few cases where established science is rejected by a segment of the population. Consider for example: vaccination, evolution, global climate change and plant…

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