Glorious Future Year 2022 ends as it began, with A Step Farther Out. I could take this opportunity for a “Year In Review”, but asking the question “what use is a cut–price monarchy?” proved to be more fun. Then, having previously discussed the miseries of living in a metro area with a low enough density of development to actually allow for covering a great part of its energy needs from rooftop solar, and irritated by an (on–line) encounter with “solarpunks”, I draw an analogy between energy supply and transportation. Betweentimes, discussion of the problems raised by our dependency on financial markets… and hey, paper straws in paper wrappers!
2023–01–03 The first Hear Now the Words! of the New Year is occupied with completing Chapter 6, “Success, Failure, and Politics”, of Rockets : The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere (third printing with additional material, January 1945) by Willy Ley.
2023–01–06 Selections from Man and the Moon (1961), mostly the interstitial commentary by astronomer (and frequent Astounding/Analog contributor) RS Richardson, and a more extended piece from him entitled Astronomical Observations from the Moon, as well as a prefatory poem by Adrienne Rich.
Intercontinental air travel having its usual effects on me, compounded by having to be up early in the morning for an Apollo 17 commemorative event (see me at about 1h20m in), doesn’t make for the most coherent show I’ve ever presented. But I think there may nevertheless be a few items of interest, first and foremost, correspondence! from SDF user eskill. There is also some mention of possible upcoming program content, and new propaganda materials and merchandise I have planned. (Does anyone have a suggestion on an alternative to Etsy?) And the geopolitics of fossil fuels, the hollowness of climate commitments, and the possibilities of real progress through committed engineering effort, attract my attention once more.
2022–12–13 Mostly a reading of the last chapter of Commonsense in Nuclear Energy (1980) by (Sir) Fred and Geoff Hoyle. This is itself composed primarily of excerpts from The Lives of the Engineers by Samuel Smiles, illustrating the life of George Stephenson, and in particular the Rainhill Trials which established the position of the locomotive or travelling engine as the key to world transportation. (The reference in the text is to a 1968 edition of this 19th century work.) I also read the preface and the very short first chapter of this very short, trenchant book. If it weren’t in hard covers I’d be inclined to call it a tract.
2022–12–16 Off to a rocky start, but I decided to re–read the bit from Flight Into Space by JN Leonard which got chopped up by a malfunctioning archiver a couple of months back. I occupied the remainder of the time with some extracts from Vignettes in Nuclear Medicine by Marshall Brucer, MD, which are interesting for the way they illustrate the development of scientific practice, in a lively style with personal reflections from someone directly involved in the work.
Belgium, or more particularly a Belgian engineer named van Mele, provides me with the material for an extended meditation on global energy use, and especially the topic of energy efficiency, which many people look to for large gains. Having teased it last time, I remember to explain the practical application for Compressed Air Energy Storage which occurred to me. This in turn proves to be another chance to insist on considering the character of the demand for energy when discussing how to meet it. (A comment directed me to an interesting article peripherally related to the subject of district heating, which I often raise.) And I spend a moment talking about the upcoming Apollo 17 anniversary, of which more anon.
2022–12–06 Conclusion of the brief biography of Count Rumford, from the 2022–11–29 show. I then read Nuclear Energy and Southern Africa by BFJ Schonland from Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy volume 1, which leads me to ramble on about the origins of “apartheid”, possibly without really knowing enough about the topic.
Two quotations form the theme of this episode, which starts a little late, because I had to duck out of a Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I set a timer, but when it went off there was still food on my plate! The meat of the episode is a consideration of the confluence of social and material conditions which define our modern world. Also I muse about aspects of immigration to space settlements, the generic problems of assimilation and diversity, and the great question of escape from the patron–client model of society, which could reasonably be cast as the central social problem of our time. (It all sounds very elevated until I name–check “Professor Steamhead” from Ninja High School.) And at the very end I mention a technological idea I had, which I might explain some more next week.
2022–11–29 I begin reading a biography of Count Rumford, that eminent patron of the sciences and useful arts. This came to me in the form of a little pamphlet reprinted from The Contemporary Review, volume XLIV, which appears to date it to 1883, over the name of J Tyndall. This appears to denote John Tyndall FRS, who was at the time Professor of Physics in the Royal Institution, founded by Rumford. Tyndall was very much interested (as Rumford had been) in the subjects of light and heat, and made a lecture tour of America in 1872, which corresponds to a reference at the beginning of the article.
Normally I strive to avoid a–rantin’ and a–ravin’ and a–frothin’ at the mouth. I won’t say I consistently succeed, but this at least isn’t meant to be that kind of a show! So what has me all worked up this time? Just a little booklet sent around by the Statdwerke München, or city utility company, which reads like a brain aneurysm. Also the USA sends a rocket to the Moon (you can see me talking about it thirteen years ago), climate negotiators in Egypt continue to piddle, twiddle, and resolve, and I muse about constructive responses to the present world situation.
2022–11–22 Addresses to the Twelfth American Assembly (17―20 October 1957) : Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom by Sir John Cockcroft FRS ; and (almost all of) Europe and Atoms for Power by Max Kohnstamm.
2022–11–25 Completion of the Kohnstamm piece, and the Final Report of the Twelfth American Assembly on Atoms for Power : United States Policy in Atomic Energy Development.
Wednesday saw me in Berlin, demonstrating in front of the Bundestag with the fine folks from Nuklearia eV over the “Stuttgarter Erklärung”, a petition for the continued use of atomic power in Germany. I discuss this experience, as well as the ghastly architecture of the Federal Government complex, before getting into the substantive part of the broadcast. And what, you might ask, is all that about? Well, in response to some comments a week or two ago, I talk about world population. It’s nothing I haven’t said before, but hopefully it’s put into a clearer form here. Simply put, no, I don’t think there are “too many people” ― but there certainly are too many people who deserve a better world than the one they have. We have the tools we need, and we know how to apply them ― as Sir John Hill said about the fast breeder reactor (itself not the least of those tools), all that is left now is to get on with the work. Will the warmongers and dictators allow us to do it?
Remember, remember, the fifth of November, unmute your dang microphone, guy! Well, once I got over that little bobble, this show from Munich, capitol of the Free State of Bavaria in Southern Europe, mostly wound up being a response to a question from the audience (in SDF’s com chat) : “what is the safest type of civil nuclear power reactor?” It’s an inherently difficult question to answer, because only one type, the RBMK–1000, has ever killed anybody. But I give it a fair shot.
2022–11–08 Further readings from Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, vol 1, are interspersed with my editorial commentary. Somehow I manage to get through Estimate of Energy Requirements by P Ailleret of Electricité de France. And I do math live on the air!
2022–11–11 I tarried too long at the grocery, so this show actually started about 15 minutes late. Everything up to that point in the archive is a repeat. As you have perhaps come to expect from me, I began by commemorating the date with Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. Then I started reading American foreign policy and the peaceful uses of atomic energy by Klaus Knorr, out of the volume Atoms for Power : United States Policy in Atomic Energy Development, the report of the Twelfth American Assembly, 17―20 October 1957. I have quite a bit to say in response to Knorr’s analysis.
Next week I will be coming to you from Munich, and that fact causes me to reflect on the dangers which arise when politicians ignore expert advice about what effects policies will have, and consistently lie to the public. Social pressure (such as arises when people are losing their livelihoods or seeing their heat and light bills exceed their rent) tends to drive people toward radical political movements, and that tendency is only reinforced when the political main stream has been insisting there is no problem. Also I talk for a while about the badge press which I have acquired with the gratefully–acknowledged assistance of Generation Atomic, and in general my efforts to disseminate pro–nuclear propaganda. And I explain some important facts about the latest saber–rattling from Russia.
2022–11–04 Testing the audio setup in Munich. I read a letter I have been draughting to the head of Ontario Power Generation, relating to the planned life extension of the Pickering nuclear station near Toronto, and then The Outlook for Nuclear Power in Puerto Rico by Alvin Mayne and Philip Mullenbach, from Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (the proceedings of the 1955 Geneva Conference), volume 1. Puerto Rico is definitely a place that could use atomic power, relying as it does on fuel oil for its electricity, but the only power reactor that has ever been built there was the experimental (and largely unsuccessful) BONUS superheating BWR.
You may never have heard someone called a “dirtsucker” in anger before, but the news of the death of Jim McDivitt leads me to do just that. (Unfortunately, the archiver didn’t capture the whole show, so it’s less coherent than the actual broadcast was.) Also I spend a little more time talking about immigration, emigration, social policies, and the concept of “vampire states” ; and I make an impassioned plea for curiosity and play, specifically in the natural sciences.
2022–10–25 As a counterpoint to the description from the Leonard book, last week, I read about a rocket launch at White Sands from the perspective of that eminent rocketeer, G Harry Stine : chapter 7, “Missile Away!”, from his 1957 book Rocket Power and Space Flight. Then, to round out the time, I read chapter 11, Space Travel and Our Lives.
2022–10–28 From Analog magazine, 1992 April, a resounding plea for the science fiction illustrator from Frank Kelly Freas (whom we have heard from before, also from Stine and Freas here), entitled The Story Between the Words, and an Alternate View column from G Harry Stine about “Intermittents”. Then, from the 1990 November number, the first part of Forging Planet–Stuff, an article about nucleosynthesis and its implications for planetary formation (and thus the kinds of stories one can credibly write), by Stephen L Gillett, PhD. He mentions another article, from 1983, which we may also want to read here.
What do Leopold and Loeb have to do with space settlement? Perhaps more than I am at all comfortable with. Most of this show has to do with immigration and emigration, and the concept of space settlements as Petri dishes for testing new ideas in human societies. I also take the opportunity to remind everyone that coal kills, and firms investing in fossil–fuel infrastructure are counting on “renewables” to not interfere with their business. But at least I have a new office chair.
2022–10–18 The central place of biodynamic research in space activities is explored, with an extract from a 1961 paperback entitled Man Into Space, penned by journalist, novelist, and aviator Martin Caidin. In addition to attempting to explain weightlessness and orbital mechanics in simplified terms for the interested layman, our author gives us extended quotations from John Paul Stapp and Joseph Kittinger, two pioneers in the field, who put their own lives at risk for the sake of science.
2022–10–21 I read from another ephemeral journalistic book about space travel, Flight Into Space (1953) by JN Leonard, science editor of Time magazine. There is a vivid description of a rocket launch at White Sands, framed as some kind of sacrificial ritual conducted by witch–doctors or barbaric priests masquerading as scientists and technicians, and a chapter in which Milton Rosen of the Naval Research Laboratory (head of the closest thing America had at the time to a civilian space program, Project Viking, which became Project Vanguard) explains how any attempt to realize proposals of the sort put forward by Wernher von Braun would lead, not only to inevitable failure, but also to the collapse of the US economy, and Soviet victory in the Cold War. Unfortunately, the archive bot glitched, and only recorded parts of it, which you can get here and here. (Ultimately, I re–read it.)