March 6th, 2015

#4608: Mining Mars for deuterium

This Arse Technica article talks about how much water Mars used to have. Turns out that the water in Mars' polar ice caps has more deuterium in it than is typical for water found elsewhere. Heavy water doesn't get blown into space as quickly as the regular kind does.

It means that martian ice would be "high grade ore" for fueling fusion reactors, though, and it'd be a heck of a lot easier to boost deuterium out of Mars' gravity field than it would from Jupiter or Saturn. (Or even Uranus or Neptune.)


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The Bureau of Lies and Scams says that unemployment is under control, but the don't appear to be counting the job losses from the price of oil cratering. For several years, North Dakota and Texas were pretty heavy in the petro-job department, as fracking began producing significant amounts of oil, but now that the price of oil is below the production cost of most frack wells, people are being laid off.

No, no no! That's not the narrative! Unemployment is down and wages are up! BLS says so!!

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Democrats will act to keep John Boehner in the Speaker's chair in the House. This alone is proof enough that Boehner is, as Ace quips, the Democrat majority leader in the House of Representatives.'s also proof enough that Boehner has got to go.

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So, I found this web site when searching for go kart parts, and I have to say they have many of the little fiddlybits one needs when he wishes to home-build a hoonmobile.

In my musings and meanderings on this subject, I've managed to make a few key decisions about the specifications of said hoonmobile.

First, it's going to have a live rear axle. It may or may not have a differential, depending on how much one costs over and above a simple one-piece shaft; right now I know of one site which is selling a 36" differential axle for $60, which is the approximate cost of a solid axle from other sites. (36" is probably too narrow for my purposes, but $5 says that careful research would reveal a way to change one of the axle shafts in the diff version for a longer one.) But there's nothing wrong with a solid axle for an off-road cart, anyway. 1" axles can be had for about $60-$70 if you're careful about where and when you order.

Second, I'm going to try to put larger tires on it, at least in back, than the typical go kart. Ideally I'd like to put largish lawn tractor tires on it, something that would provide some bounce to the back (thus saving my spine) but thse are fairly spendy. Harbor Freight has extremely inexpensive wheels that run about $5 on sale, which would be perfectly acceptable for the front; and they also sell larger ones for a bit more that would also do handsomely.

What I would like would be to get small trailer tires for the back, preferably like these, because I like that white spoke steel wheel look. The hard part is finding hubs for a go-kart to which one can mount those tires. Making my own is far beyond the scope of this project since I don't have access to a machine shop. It's really not likely that I'll be able to use them, though, so I'll make do with what I can use.

(Though if I ever build a shifter cart--ie "low-budget sand rail with motorcycle engine" that has a suspension and everything--I'm going to find a way.)

Third, I'm going to have to find a way to put a seat on the thing that doesn't cost an assload. Seats run about $80-$100 for a basic plastic/fiberglass seat, for fuck's sake. My first thought is simply to build one out of tube steel and sheetmetal, and I can then make a cover for it if I really need padding--or simply buy a $5 throw pillow at K-Mart and use that. (You know, I still have that Ikea office chair that Mrs. Fungus replaced with a nicer one, last year. Bonus: in-seat storage!)

Fourth, I can make a butterfly steering wheel with some sheetmetal, broom handles, and a couple of bolts--probably about $20 worth of materials, of which most is the metal. The hardest part of this is getting symmetrical bends in the metal.

Fifth, I've decided I want to paint the thing eye-searing fluorescent yellow, the brighter the better. Ideally I'd like to paint it with bedliner, but I don't think bedliner is available in that color, so I'm still thinking about this. Bedliner is very durable, and since I expect to hoon this bitch I don't want to have to worry about the paint. So do I go for style, or substance? (Style is probably cheaper.)

Sixth, the fiddlybits don't cost much at all, individually--$2 here, $5 there, $1.89 the other place--and those are the things I was really worried about getting. It's fine if you can shell out $90 for a complete steering assembly, but what if you don't want to? What if you just want the $2 bit that you weld on the end of the steering shaft? The web site I found most recently has those bits, under "weldments", and they even sell other useful things like engine mount plates.

You can buy an entire kit for about $600, and build yourself a go kart that way, but where's the fun in that? The frame alone is $200, after which you must literally buy everything else.

Finally, I expect this to take some time, but I expect it to be fun, and the result should be a hoot to drive. We'll see how I do.