Monday, December 27, 2010

Helicopter flight school

Excerpt from a toy helicopter's directions: "In if the flight does not have the impetus to change the operating lever, but the helicopter still in airborne spun, by now might adjust in your hand on remote control's vernier adjustment knob, balanced does not spin until the helicopter."

My translation: "Fly the helicopter to a steady height with the Throttle stick. Then adjust the Vernier adjustment knob so that the helicopter does not spin left or right."

Note that the diagram shows the Throttle stick and the Vernier adjustment knob.

Note to companies: I charge $100 per hour for translations. That's real cheap. This entire manual could be fixed in under an hour. Then your company won't be so embarrassed, and more of your customers will be able to figure out how to use their Holiday Gifts. Lowered childhood frustration might lead to world peace.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Neil Armstrong sent Robert Krulwich, of Radiolab on National Public Radio fame, a letter. And he talks a bit about what he and Buzz did on the Moon in '69. And, I agree with everything he said. I'd love to hear Neil make an appearance on Radiolab.

And, i haven't changed my opinion about what NASA is currently doing. Going to the Moon was dangerous. And worth it. As far as the space program goes, i'm not risk averse. While one should do everything one can think of to limit risk, it's required to make progress.

The Shuttle accident rate is 2%. That's the worst of any vehicle that carried anyone into space. In my opinion, that's unwarranted risk. Use more reliable rockets. Further, the Shuttle program promised that it would be cheaper, through reuse of systems, than other vehicles. But it hasn't delivered on the cost promise. It's easily twice as expensive. Don't get me wrong - the Shuttle is amazing. While the external booster issue that the Challenger disaster exposed seems to have been solved, the wing problem that the Columbia disaster exposed was not solved. The program should have been terminated. I understand that the long-canceled National AeroSpace Plane did solve the wing problem. But that's not something that could be retrofit into the Shuttle.

So, the recent success that NASA has had with SpaceX is encouraging news. I was hoping that when the Constellation program was canceled, that something like this would emerge.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Over at The Seanachai, Patrick has a new book - Unkillable. I've listened to the first seven chapters. If you loved How To Succeed In Evil, you'll love Unkillable. If you haven't yet succeeded in evil, you should do yourself a favor now. Then, do me a favor. Send him a few bucks. Maybe he'll write some more.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Be Unreasonable

The reasonable man adapts himself to his environment.
The unreasonable man adapts his environment to himself.
Therefore, all progress is due to unreasonable men.

In this case, NASA is taking the reasonable approach. If the astronauts experience bone loss, radiation damage, etc., then change their diet, give them drugs, or whatever to get them through it.

The unreasonable approach is to notice that astronauts do not have millions of years of evolution in near zero G conditions. So, provide them with artificial gravity. This can be achieved by spinning. Radiation shielding is expensive, but possible. 10 meters of water all around should do it. Since this weighs as much as a battleship, one should consider electrostatic and magnetic deflection as lighter and therefore cheaper alternatives. And one should test these technologies. Half a trillion dollars has been spent on the International Space Station.

Going to the Moon was unreasonable. Audacious aeronautical research, like the X15, was unreasonable. That's what NASA was created for. NASA is being reasonable when being unreasonable is called for.