ASFO 2022–01–28

Graphite leads me to consider the problem of false mental world pictures, with a detour to boggle at the neologism elementeome. I interrogate just what it would mean for The Singularity to come in seven years. And, having considered “population control” from the standpoint of genocide last week, I look at it from the standpoint of eugenics ― which involves a closer examination of that concept. Also there may be just the slightest smidgeon of cult–starting.

ASFO 2022–01–21

In which I announce an Exciting New Initiative, although I’m not yet clear on how to pay for it, and consider non–existent remedies for non–existent maladies, and the question of whether you are really entitled to your own opinion, if you can’t be bothered to inform yourself about the topic. Also… yes, Virginia, reducing the human population of Earth to 2 billion by 2100 would in fact constitute genocide, even if you do it purely by limitation of births. Let’s spend more time on the happier business of the what and how of the Lunar Settlement, shall we?

Cover of a booklet entitled (in German) "Homeopathic Prescriptions for a Future with Radioactivity".
Non–existent remedies for non–existent maladies

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–01–24 Probably the last reading from Man and the Moon. In addition to the notes by Richardson, I read the whole of Where to Land on the Moon by Wilkins, and the first part of Man on the Moon ― The Exploration by Whipple and von Braun (from the famous 1952 Man Will Conquer Space Soon series of illustrated articles in Collier’s). The idea behind this has been to get a feel for the way people were thinking when serious work on space travel began.
  • 2023–01–27 Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience (Finney and Jones, eds) is the proceedings of a conference held at Los Alamos in 1983. And a very interesting volume it is, too! I read the Table of Contents, Prologue, Introduction to Section I Resources : Human, Technological, and Cosmic, and the concluding summary to Solar System Industrialization : Implications for Interstellar Migrations by David Criswell.

ASFO 2023–01–14

Lützerath is a name the world would have been just as happy not knowing. And the insistence of the German people (the people of the world, really) at being upset when they get exactly what they have asked for in no uncertain terms continues to bother me. Instead of focusing on the primary role that fossil fuels continue to hold in world energy supply, with no real end in sight, I would much rather concentrate on the characteristics which I envision for the early lunar settlement. We need hope for the future, after all.

Political ad demanding the use of "Clean Coal" instead of nuclear energy in the German state of Nordrhein Westfälen, and condemning the advanced power reactor prototypes SNR-300 and THTR-300. Circa 1980.
German political ad circa 1980 (mentioned in the show) demanding the use of “ecological coal technologies” instead of atomic energy.
Australian political ad warning that "Nuclear Power Will Kill the Coal Industry" and demanding the use of "Clean Coal" to tackle climate change. Dated 2007-11-19.
Australian political ad from 2007 demanding the use of “clean coal”, not atomic energy, to “tackle” climate change.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–01–17 More from Man and the Moon : The Circular Maria by Ralph Baldwin, a description of the formation of Mare Imbrium which rewards dramatic reading ; and Observations of a Volcanic Process on the Moon by Nikolai Kozyrev, with a prefatory note longer than the article itself, and my own interpretation of the evidence.
  • 2023–01–20 Again from Man and the Moon : two pieces entitled The Other Side of the Moon, one from H Percy Wilkins writing in 1953, and one from Soviet News reporting on the photographs taken by the Luna 3 spacecraft.

ASFO 2023–01–07

Starting off (well, following some technical trouble) with the audio from my contribution to a video–conference event, last month, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17, I proceed to try to generate some hope for the future and forward momentum for the year by discussing the lunar settlement as I envision it developing into Luna City. More of that anon. Also I issue a clarion call for the return of the NS Savannah to service with a modern nuclear powerplant, to serve as a traveling exhibition of civil atomic energy, and a pathfinder for future nuclear merchant vessels in a world eager for decarbonized transportation. You too can read the Draft Agreement between the Department of Transportation and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and e–mail your comment to Senior Technical Advisor Erhard Koehler by the end of January.

Supplementary Shows

  • 2023–01–10 More from Man and the Moon : Development of a Lunar Base by GEV Awdry (reprinted from the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society), and the first part of Richardson’s essay Imaginary Voyages to the Moon.
  • 2023–01–13 Technical troubles at the start again. Then the completion of the Richardson piece, including a synopsis of the movie Frau im Mond and some reminiscences of the production of Destination Moon ; more of the “blurbs” introducing the various excerpts and articles ; and The Formation of the Craters by Richardson, originally published in The Exploration of Mars.

ASFO 2022–12–31

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!

Badges and stickers with an "atomic flower" logo and the motto "Split Atoms Not Wood"
New propaganda!

Supplementary Shows

  • 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.

ASFO 2022–12–24

Christmas Eve, and I am hard at work in my workshop… no, not at the North Pole! Have you met me? As you might infer from my frequent allusions to tapping off gigawatts of heat from large nuclear power stations, I prefer warm conditions. On the subject of “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men”, I contemplate the opportunities for peace which lie before us.

A selection of pin-back badges carrying space- and atomic-energy-themed US postage stamps, mostly from the 1960s
Not exactly masterpieces of graphic design, but it s a start!

Supplementary Show

2022–12–30 The remainder of Chapter 5 of Rockets by Willy Ley, and the first part of Chapter 6, “Success, Failure, and Politics”

ASFO 2022–12–17

Two quotations, one moral imperative, and a great deal of extraneous noise form the matter of this show. I explore the problems, and some alternative views, of the concept of energy efficiency. This is overall a very tub–thumpy episode, in which I repeat a few key phrases over and over again instead of properly expounding my views. Partly that was due to frustration at the noise, the source of which I need to properly work out, if I am going to broadcast remotely with my netbook.

Supplementary Show

2022–12–20 Belatedly realizing that I didn’t really do anything for the 75th anniversary of the first artificial Earth satellite, back in October, I read the preface, by Hermann Oberth, from a 1956 book entitled Satellite! by Erik Bergaust and William Beller ― which leads me down the rabbit–hole of explaining why Oberth could legitimately be called a “Nazi rocket scientist”, and thus to Chapter 5 of Rockets : The Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere (third printing with additional information, 1945 January) by the great Willy Ley, The Battle of the Formulae. More of that anon.

ASFO 2022–12–10

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.

Scan of a card with, drawn on it in pen, the words "Man and Atom" in a blocky style, with "92 U" inside the "o".
“Man and Atom” logo drawn by eskill

Supplementary Shows

  • 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.

ASFO 2022–12–03

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.

Supplementary Show

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.

ASFO 2022–11–26

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.

A sort of drawing of a flower, which is also a schematic atomic nucleus. Around in a circle, the text "Split Atoms Not Wood".
I’m thinking about making some buttons and stickers with this sort of design and motto.

Supplementary Show

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.