atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#3324: Asteroid mining: coming soon to a solar system near you. long, that is, as we can keep the idiots out of the way.

It's raining soup! Grab a bucket!

And one of Arse Technica's section headings for this article is: "Shouldn't the government put a stop to all this trillionaire tomfoolery?"

The short answer is "No."

The long answer:


I'm convinced that the next free state will evolve out in the solar system somewhere. Maybe on the Moon, or in the asteroid belt. There'll be a war of independence and the Earth--sitting at the bottom of a steep gravity gradient--can't win it.

Okay: right now it's essentially 1500. Colombus has been back for a while from discovering the "East Indies" and everyone is trying to figure out how to carve out a chunk of the pie for themselves, and various countries are doing various things to get their feet in the door.

It took 276 years from that point for the United States of America to be born. I don't expect this one to take that long, but it'll certainly be longer than my expected remaining lifespan; and even if I am still alive by the time it happens I'll be too old to take advantage of it. *sigh*

But it's encouraging to see private industry finally get around to understanding something SF fans have known for years: there is no ecology in space. You don't have to do an environmental impact survey when you're surrounded by literally nothing. There is no "fragile lunar ecosystem" to worry about.

Please note that the plan detailed by this article is talking about Earth-crossing asteroids which are 50 meters and less in diameter. This isn't a "dinosaur killer"; if you accidentally drop a rock like that, it's 78% likely to hit an ocean, where it'll vanish without a trace. It won't even cause a big splash. C'mon--we build bigger ships than that.

And if it hits land? It's still unlikely to hit a densely-populated area. Humans use about 30% of the land surface of the planet.

And each 50-meter rock is potentially worth tens of billions of dollars. Okay, the Chinese have a near-monopoly on rare earths because they don't worry about the environmental impacts of mining and smelting the things, and simply don't care that parts of their country are becoming lifeless, toxic wastelands. (After all, the commisars don't live in those places!) What if we had corporations that could go get asteroids, mine them for rare-earths, sell the smelted metals at market prices and still make huge profits despite the enormously greater up-front investment in equipment?

A mining colony on the Moon could--after constructing smelter and power systems--turn out aluminum ingots. The electricity required could come from solar panels made of lunar materials; only processing chemicals would have to be boosted there. It would take some doing--it would certainly not be a turnkey operation!--but once the place was up and running its cost to smelt aluminum from the lunar soil would be pennies on the ton. Shipping it back to Earth is all downhill, and simply selling their product at market prices the venture would make money hand over fist once it got going.

And aluminum is only one of the useful things we know are up there on the Moon, where no spotted owl dwells. There's no snail darter or mole rat or prothonotary warbler to be displaced by industrialization; if you emit a greenhouse gas on the moon it's going to diffuse into space long before Michael Mann's great-grandson can get around to inventing a hockey stick graph "proving" anthropogenic lunar warming.

Just like it was 500 years ago, people are looking across the gulf at a new world where they can do all kinds of things without a government representative coming by and making them stop because regulation D-42.18 subsection 6 requires them to fill out form Y-1176.32-A and submit a processing fee with triplicate copies of a report from a government-licensed independent inspector certifying that the low-flush toilets in their employee restrooms have been properly modified to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and federal law prohibits such activity until you can prove that you're in compliance with all 500,000,000 federal regulations...including the ones that contradict other ones.

* * *

The headline should say "never before published photographs" to be completely accurate. I mean, someone must have seen them, if only the guy who developed the film and the other guy--later--who scanned them into the computer.

...but the article provides a link to the database, which--predictably--is being hammered by people wanting to look at the pictures. There's 800,000 of them in there.

Here's the archive home page for future reference.

* * *

Concealed carry classes for Illinois residents. This is so IL residents can get CCW permits from states which issue them to people from other states. The site says that if you get a Utah CCW permit, you can then carry in 29 states.
Don't wait for the state legislature to pass concealed carry in Illinois - It probably won't happen!
Not as long as the Democrats run things here, it won't. Illinois is the Democrats' redoubt of gun control. It's the least-free state in the union and they aim to keep it that way.

* * *

You need an associate's degree to drive a truck with an automatic meter reader in it. No, I don't know why, since it's a pickup truck or van. (In IL you'd need a Class D license, which lets you drive anything up to about 6 tons GVWR.)

And the machine that actually reads the meters is automatic.

* * *

The BATFE can apparently violate federal law with impunity. Well, there's that whole "Gunwalker" thing, and now they're creating a gun registry.

Which is a violation of federal law. But they're the police, right?


* * *

Promethean science fiction is not in style.

It was out of style in the 1970s, too. Same reason: the economy was shitty and we had thousands of commie-lib doomsayers talking down the future.

My own work tends to be promethean, for a few reasons:

1) I don't like depressing stories.

2) I like stories about people accomplishing cool things.

3) Dystopian and epimethean stories tend to be boring.

4) I can't stand stories where the protagonist is a bad guy or "anti-hero".

Okay, Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly is neither a bad guy nor an "anti-hero"--just take a look at the story wherein he and his crew steal some pharmaceuticals...and then gives them back when he learns that they were slated for a town hard-hit by an epidemic of fatal disease. He incurs the wrath of a seriously bad person in the process. A real "anti-hero" would have said, "ah, too bad, so sad!" and delivered his cargo to the real bad guy badass.

Malcolm Reynolds is a guy living in circumstances which require a certain...flexibility...when it comes to earing a paycheck. That he is willing to do these things doesn't make him evil; if he were evil he wouldn't have done the right thing in the end even though it earned him the enmity of a powerful and viscious person.

But in too many stories these days, the creators concentrate on the bad guy and elevate him to protagonist--sometimes relegating the good guy to the role of antagonist. This kind of story has its place in the ouerve of human artwork but it should always be a cautionary tale--ie "don't do this"--rather than "hey, isn't this awesome?"

One of the most interesting epiphanies I had about the Star Wars universe was that--"from a certain point of view", to borrow a phrase--Luke Skywalker and his buddies were the bad guys. They were in rebellion against the legitimate (however totalitarian) government of the galaxy, after all.

The whole issue comes down to one of discernment. In SW, Luke et al are in the right because the Galactic Empire was in fact solely an edifice to Palpatine's desire for power and control.

(Somewhere in there is a discussion of why Palpatine's entire scheme was completely, totally pointless...but much of that stems from the fact that George Lucas is incompetent.)

Moorcock's Elric saga is a good example. It set the tone for fantasy fiction to this day, being full of unsavory characters you wouldn't want to associate with in real life. Elric himself comes from an evil culture.

Side note: there's a scene where Moorcock talks about a musical instrument made of slaves. Each slave has been surgically altered to scream in register, and the instrument is played by inflicting pain on the slaves so they scream.

This is what that scene made me think of (skip to 1:35 to see what I mean):


...where was I? I got distracted by muppets.

Anyway, one of the big reasons I can't get into fantasy comes from this: lots of fantasy is just seriously depressing.

* * *

As I said, I got distracted by muppets.

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