The Inexcusability of Poor Reading Comprehension July 27, 2015Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
When i was a science geek growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I used to wait expectantly every month for the arrival of a magazine which promised insights into fascinating aspects of the universe across a wide range of scientific disciplines – opening up the universe for me and exposing me to great insights and discoveries that were truly awe-inspiring.
When Scientific American would fall through our mail slot, i would gleefully rip off the brown paper wrapper, go sit under a lamp in my room and start reading, savoring one article at a time over the course of the month – chemistry, physics, biology, neurology, it didn’t matter. Sometimes it would be way over my head, others would have me stretching for understanding, but all kept me wanting more…
In the 1990s, when i started working in the Space Industry, i was disappointed to find that, much like J Geils’ song about the childhood sweetheart turned centerfold, my cherished SciAm had devolved into a fancier version of… Popular Science. Its pages were being filled with nonsensical articles about the coming space age that, as an “insider” and non Kool-Aid drinker, I knew to be utter [insert expletive here]. Which made me start to wonder about all of the other articles in the magazine, from disciplines that were not my forte. Were experts in those fields (chemists, physicists, etc) reading articles in their areas of specialty and similarly rolling their eyes in exasperation..?
So I suppose it is no surprise that they would publish this:
One hardly knows where to begin in explaining how poorly written this piece is.
But i’ll give it a shot.
Clearly, one would not be remiss in assuming that Dr Linda* has an issue with space development or settlement, as she has clearly stated exactly that in her own writings on her blog.
The idea of establishing a permanent and expanding human presence in space makes me queasy.
So it should come as no surprise that she would write an entire essay attacking the Space Frontier Foundation – an organization that I will in full disclosure admit I am an Advocate of, although long-lapsed as I have not paid dues in years since I more or less gave up on the commercial and government space industry ever changing for reasons that we have blogged about many times in various places here.
What is also no longer surprising, for reasons described above about the quality of Scientific American’s publications, is that they published it.
What was surprising to me is that the entire missive pivoted around a glaring example of poor reading comprehension on her part that was shown in the very first paragraph of her essay – and all that she said afterwards hinges on that mistaken inference.
Take, for example, the credo of the Space Frontier Foundation, an American nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible … creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space.” Such rhetoric reveals an ideology of human spaceflight—a set of beliefs about the nation’s right to expand its boundaries, colonize other lands and exploit their resources.
Where her tragic flaw is revealed is in the bolded section – she makes a giant leap from the (true) position of the Foundation about wanting to open the space frontier to the (false) position that the Foundation is about America expanding to take over the universe.
The truth is that the Foundation is made up of people from many different national backgrounds. Of COURSE it is an American not-for-profit – that is a reality of any corporation or organization (it has to have a country that it is based in), but so what?
The real issue that Dr Linda appears to have is with ANY human settlement or development of space. I believe she would prefer that humanity take the long nap and let the universe progress without our descendants around to witness its majesty and wonders and discover other life that (I certainly believe) is out there. And she is certainly entitled to that opinion if that is the case. But to dress up her personal beliefs in such a poorly written attack on an organization that does good works (Teachers in Space, anyone?) is just mean, and should be beneath her.
More than 30 years of my own observations, along with results from public opinion surveys over at least as many years, indicate that the community of American human exploration advocates is predominantly white and male. The rhetoric of frontier conquest and exploitation may appeal to this demographic, but I doubt it has much allure more broadly.
First off, this author is not white – and space has long had an allure for me (even if the current commercial industry no longer does). As it does for many non-white people (last I checked, the two most aspiring space nations – both nonwhite, by the way – represent over 2.5 BILLION human beings… roughly 8x the population of the United States). Why don’t you ask the Chinese or the Indians how they feel about developing resources in space? You might be surprised.
At a time when the U.S. needs to be building sustainable partnerships with other nations to continue exploring space, “USA, Number One!” is not a good way to start productive conversations.
Again, neither the SFF nor NASA can be accused of this sort of rhetoric, even if that is precisely what Dr Linda is insinuating (I won’t even bother to comment on her ridiculous attempts to link all of this to the Tea Party). To be clear – the US has to build other partnerships for a very simple reason – we are unwilling to spend the $ required to maintain our own presence in space, and now must rely on partners to share the bill. This is a failure of leadership that goes back decades – and begins with the saddling of the US with the Congressionally-designed and poorly thought out STS model for space access. All that has happened since then stems from decisions made in the post-Apollo age. Read the extremely well-written book “This New Ocean” if you need a primer. The $100 BILLION boondoggle known as the Space Station is the vile offspring of that poor decision – sold on a lie to Congress that has been demonstrated after 2 decades to be just that. With, of course, no repercussions for the ones who told the lie.
Disagree, if you will, with the mission of the Foundation and of people who advocate for human expansion to the stars. Freedom of expression is one of the things that does make America great. And i’ll defend your right to disagree with the Foundation every day – i certainly have from time to time.
Just don’t take cheap, and patently false, shots in the process.
The Founding Cynic
*note – I refer to her as “Dr Linda” not to be disrespectful, but as that is how she chooses to refer to herself on her blog: drlinda.wordpress.com
Heard about “Operation Jade Helm”?
Read this great blog post then come back here.
Let’s say this really was a thing.
Sure, just for the sake of argument, let’s say Obama really is planning on herding Texans into FEMA death camps disguised as Wal-Marts.
Why would he need the army?
Think about it. Why would you need some secret plot to get Texans into a Wal-Mart?
Announce a Veterans Day sale with 50% off all ammunition, Duck Dynasty camouflage, and frozen chicken nuggets, unlock the doors, and step the hell out of the way before you get trampled.
Honestly, where does the Army come in?
You can’t make this shit up.
Ted Cruz and his ilk are the buffoons – i won’t sully the word “leader” by associating it with people like this – who have been elected to Congress (and the Governorship of Texas, in the case of Greg Abbott).
The Congress that is supposed to somehow muster the vision and leadership to restart manned exploration of space?
This ain’t no stinkin’ drone… (wait for it) April 30, 2015Posted by shubber in CRATS, Manned Space, space, space tourism.
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Just received this press release.
Although they have been operating under a fairly good shroud of secrecy, the wrapper is starting to be removed, and, like Christmas, we are beginning to see the awesome present that was under the tree…
So congratulations to another disrupter of the staid launch industry, Blue Origin, for the first developmental test flight of the New Shepard!
Although they didn’t stick the landing, they are already hard at work on getting their VTVL RLV technology working.
Which begs the question – how long until Amazon Prime provides 2-day free shipping to ISS..?
As the 31st National Space Symposium comes to an end (congrats to my friend Elliot Holokauahi Pulham and the entire team there at the Space Foundation for another great event – sorry I missed it!), it is clear that there must have been not just a few refeers passed around by execs in the old school launch industry, judging from the ridiculous PR that is passing for news these days at places like CNN.
Apparently, United Launch Alliance has announced that their Vulcan rocket will be ready in 2019 (or 2023, depending on the configuration). Because, as we know, the old school space industry is SO good at forecasting when something will actually become operational. More on that later, though. At least they did some heavy duty work on the graphics for the thing, right?
The 1990’s called – they want their clipart rocket graphics back. Nice gratuitous use of the Stars and Stripes, though.
The name I can only assume was picked to try to appeal to the Trek-fanboys amongst the aerospace world by using a crowdsourcing campaign for naming – otherwise known as, “We’re just too lazy to come up with a name, so let’s use the interwebs”… but was poorly chosen as Paul Allen has made them aware, something that you’d think ULA’s trademark lawyers might have noticed if they, too, weren’t possibly enjoying the legal herbs now available readily in Colorado..? Their response was amusing:
ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said she is confident the company took all necessary steps to use the name.
“We have done our due diligence regarding the legal right to use the name Vulcan,” she said via e-mail. ” ULA is committed to taking every reasonable step to avoid any confusion with other entities using this name and we are confident we can do so.”
There’s a lot of confidence wrapped up in this particular program – in the vehicle’s reusability, in the new engines that Blue Origin will be providing (powered by natural gas – at least they didn’t say they were just going to strap a few Blue Rhino LP tanks on from the local gas station…), or in the helicopter crew that is supposed to catch the plummeting engine before it comes crashing back down to Earth, so that it can be refurbished and reused…
It’s not because they are trying to play hide the ball with Congress while SpaceX is breathing down their necks and (rightfully) contesting the latest multi-billion dollar national security payload awards when ULA is busy using RUSSIAN rocket engines (how’s that for putting all your national security eggs in the wrong basket?), because they don’t know how to build their own engines (unlike, you know, SpaceX) and were making claims that are laughable at multiple levels (the following is from an article featuring Michael Gass, who was head of ULA in 2014):
“The whole tenor of the campaign is to make perfectly clear that there is a lot at stake when it comes to successful space launches — literally lives are at stake,” Gass said. “We also want to make clear that there is a big distinction between a company that has a 100-year combined heritage in successfully delivering satellites into orbit and a company that is not yet even certified to conduct one [national security] launch.”
Lives at stake? Elaborate.
100-year combined heritage? Leaving aside how stupid that sounds, because… you know, we didn’t have rockets 100 years ago, so you’re just trying to make it sound like a big number – what you really should be looking at is the experience of the people working AT the company as it pertains to building rockets, launching them successfully, etc. Because i’m pretty sure that just because someone in the distant past at Boeing or Lockheed (or one of the other myriad companies that was absorbed by one of those two) may have worked on a rocket program like the Saturn V, it in no way means ULA today has a particular competency that competitors lack. And, from what i understand, you couldn’t build any of those older rockets today if someone put a gun to your head – which is why you are relying on the Russians for rocket engines while actual INNOVATORS like the folks at SpaceX are building and flying their own hardware.
For the record, going to Blue Origin for an engine doesn’t make you any more innovative. Just like buying an iPhone 6 doesn’t make you innovative.
“Whether it is scientific missions, medical advancements, national security or new economic opportunities for businesses, ULA’s new Vulcan rocket is a game-changer in terms of creating endless possibilities in space,” said Bruno (CEO of ULA). “It will open up new opportunities for the nation’s use of space.”
Wait… that sounds vaguely familiar.
Kind of like what was said back in 2000 about this:
Shhh… we don’t talk about that program anymore. After all, it’s no coincidence that Voldemort and VentureStar both begin with V.
Or maybe i’m just being paranoid. After all, they say that’s one of the dangers of the recently legalized herb.
Not that I would know.
Fellow Spacers: Light the Night! August 12, 2014Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
New Spacers, Alt Spacers, Space Tragics:
I’m raising $ for the Light the Night Foundation (Leukemia/Lymphoma Society) in memory of my dad, who passed away last year – he spent his life as an Oncologist/Hematologist at Kaiser fighting these terrible cancers in others so i wanted to do my part to help out.
I would GREATLY appreciate any donation you’d be kind enough to make at my fundraising page:
Thank you in advance!
Don’t forget, if your firm matches you can double the value of your donation.
(Don’t) “go the distance, Ray.” August 9, 2014Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
If you’re old enough to remember the line, you know how this movie turns out.
A farmer (kevin costner) has a vision that inspires him to turn his prime farmland into a baseball field. Never mind that he is WAAAY behind on his mortgage and will be foreclosed on… He keeps telling everyone that ghosts show up to practice on the field, but only he can see them.
Of course, like any good Hollywood film, he perseveres and eventually is proven right, lots of people show up with cash in hand to watch the game, and the farm is saved.
“Space may be the final frontier,
but it’s made in a hollywood basement.”
-the Red Hot Chili Peppers
It was in 1999, while I was a manager at KPMG for the Aerospace and Defense group, that we conducted our assessment of the commercial viability of the International Space Station. Back then, it was still early days for the program, and while the promises from NASA were full of hopes and dreams (and echoed by the space enthusiast community, who had dreams of a Babylon 5 station that they could run if NASA would only let them….) our hard nosed analysis of the actual “customers” found a major red flag:
NO ONE was interested.
15 years later, with the shuttle fleet ground and the US reliant on foreign nations (and soon) on our private sector to simply GET to the ISS, the question can be asked: what has been accomplished with the $100 Billion (with a “b”) we’ve thrown at the Great White Hope?
Well, according to Google searches… not much.
more to come, but it bears repeating the great quote from Carl Sagan at this point:
“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
Quick interesting factoid July 20, 2014Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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On the 45th anniversary of this photo…
Unless you believe in alien abduction.
In which case, never mind (on a whole lot of levels…)
Attention Scotland: You may ALREADY be a winner! July 14, 2014Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.
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In what can only be the most ridiculously transparent and laughable attempt to entice Scotland into not leaving the “United” Kingdom, the British Government has announced that it is planning to create a spaceport for commercial spaceflights by 2018, and SIX out of the eight potential sites are in Scotland.
“Spaceports will be key to us opening up the final frontier of commercial space travel,” said UK treasury minister Danny Alexander.
I have visions of a car with live camera feed driving up to the house of the leader of Scotland (the future “Space Heart”?) and bringing up a big check for a surprise award on live national television (although I don’t think even the BBC would stoop to that level of tripe on their channels…). “Congratulations! You just won a spaceport!” (followed by said Scottish leader grumbling something about needing more coffee, that it must be a thursday, and he’s going back inside to read the paper…).
Aside from the fact that there is no spaceplane to fly from said spaceport, the 300 Million pounds of funding the UK government could be better spent on other space-related activities (such as funding of nano-sat incubators where student engineers and entrepreneurs could work on building such technology and developing real skills). Of course, the UK government actually wants Sir Richard Branson to build the port – which is silly as it flies in the face of the model for airports and seaports. If you believe that commercial demand is there and that it will drive $ into the local economy, then invest in infrastructure.
However, if you realize that it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and unlikely to be anything more than window dressing and a great PR stunt, then by all means continue.
Having just had a delightful catch-up-after-much-too-long dinner with my good friend Dr. Livingston (no presumptions needed), it was agreed that it is time to relaunch the Space Cynics blog as, it turns out, the need for Cynics in this industry has not only NOT diminished, but apparently become even more apparent than ever.
So here’s a warning to all of you purveyors of various flavors of sugary sweet beverages that prey on the undiscriminating minds of those who love Space – WE ARE BACK.
But, as times *have* changed since the inception of the blog, and the mechanism of crowd-sourcing and collaboration and social media have become the dominant model in this decade, we are taking our next logical evolution from the Space Cynics you knew and loved to add you all to the rank of Cynics in training. Guest posts will be welcome from would-be cynics – they must be submitted by tuesday COB each week, and we will (barring objectionable, or non-cynic-worthy, content which we will attempt to contact you about) publish them on each friday in time for people to enjoy and mull over during the weekend…
This isn’t a big change, but rather the next logical evolution – after all, I originally started this blog as a solo effort, but then expanded it to include fellow Cynics when I recognized that I wasn’t alone in the effort to dispel the rampant Kool-Aid that had coursed through the veins of the alt space community (and, to be honest, the Big Establishment space community as well). So if you see/read/hear something which doesn’t add up, now you have a place to talk about it.
Tags: asteroid mining, Commercial space, Dr. John Jurist, Kool Aid, media reporting, Space Cynics, space economics, space fantasy, space markets, space new media., Space Solar Power, Tom Olson, Walking Eagle Award
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Tom Olson, Dr. John Jurist, Dr. Space “Bringing Cynics Back,” Friday, 6-22-12
Guests: Tom Olson, Dr. John Jurist. Topics: The return to life of the Space Cynic blog, https://spacecynic.wordpress.com. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed Tom Olson and Dr. John Jurist to discuss our plans to reactivate the Space Cynic blog, https://spacecynic.wordpress.com. Tom started our Space Show discussion with an historical overview of why the Space Cynic blog was created by Shubber Ali and the three of us. We talked about some of the past programs, themes we wrote about, the goal of the blog, and the Walking Eagle Award. We mostly focused on the business side of issues, the engineering, human factors, and other issues that can make or break any venture, including a space venture. We each mentioned some examples that highlight the themes we respectively focused on with the blog, including asteroid mining and space solar power. We also talked about themes we have in common with one another. Each of us mentioned some new themes we are interested in once the blog becomes active again, probably by September at the latest. A new feature of the rebirth of the Cynics blog will be the opportunity to be a guest Space Cynic blogger. Details on this will soon be posted on the Space Cynic blog but we did mention of few of the obvious guidelines during our discussion. We also talked about making comments on the blog and opening up the Walking Eagle Award to a blog reader nomination process. Note that I will archive this program on Space Cynics as well as The Space Show blog but do understand that The Space Show has no formal relationship to Space Cynics other than as an individual, I am one of the four space cynic contributors. We welcome your feedback on bringing the Space Cynic blog back to active life.
Post your comments on either blog or both of them. If you want to email either of the guests on this show or space cynic founder Shubber Ali, you can do so through me and I will forward your email to the person of your choice.