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Archive for August, 2014

Getting to orbit

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Hybrid balloon / vehicle approaches

Saw a recent news item about JP Aerospace. They are working on a two step to orbit approach. The basic plan is to put a large lighter than air (LTA) craft at 200,000 ft, and then accelerate it using a ion thruster to reach orbital velocity.

So I was interested in how this would work, and what the basic parameters (mass, thrust, time) are for approaches of this type.

The benefit of starting from a high altitude is very low air pressure. A balloon can provide steady support so a low thrust vehicle has time to accelerate.

Orbital velocity is roughly 9500 m/s.

What size solid fuel rocket would be required to put a 10 kb payload into orbit?

Local history

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Bit of local history I never knew about. I had noticed, but no one ever mentioned the court case…

“But the fight didn’t end there; it just moved to the courts and the states. The 1970s saw a tidal wave of high-profile civil rights lawsuits taking aim at restrictive zoning laws, virtually all of which were lost. Most crucially, in 1977 the Supreme Court upheld a law that banned apartment buildings in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, denying an affordable housing developer’s claim that the law made integration almost impossible. (At the time, Arlington Heights had about 27 black residents out of a population of 64,000. In the nearly four decades since, its zoning has largely remained intact, and its black population is still under 1,000.)”

One of the best ways to fight inequality in cities: zoning By Daniel Hertz

Future bloging, because the future is in full text

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

OK, this is quite annoying. It was plenty annoying when I was at a univerisity and 90% of the articles were available at publication, but that 10% always included a handful of important articles so it has always been a PITA. So now I’ll start future blogging!

I’ll tag interesting articles when they get published and follow up when I can actually read them. Many journals now are open access, but some release an article six months or a year after publication. Or sometimes the pdf gets posted. So I’ll tag intertesting articles when they hit the news and write a follow up when I can read them. Because titles and abstracts aren’t enough for articles with useful information!

Duration of urination does not change with body size. Patricia J. Yanga, Jonathan Phama, Jerome Chooa, and David L. Hu. PNAS vol. 111 no. 33p11932–11937.

BTW, PNAS used to release articles at publication. When did they go dark?!

2014 Hugos

Monday, August 18th, 2014


These look interesting:

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)
“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (, 04-2013)
“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (, 02-2013)

Best Related Work (752 nominating ballots)
“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Wesley Chu
Max Gladstone*
Ramez Naam*
Sofia Samatar*
Benjanun Sriduangkaew


Kegging my first beer!

Monday, August 4th, 2014

I’m now set up for kegging beer, and am putting a brown ale into a keg. I want to hurry things along. Kegging usually takes 1-2 weeks, but I want the beer ready in 5 days. To speed things along, I’m doubling the pressure to 20 psi for the first two days, lowing the temperature, and shaking the keg a few times a day. After the first two days, I’ll reduce pressure to 10 psi. If I shake it after that and CO2 still goes in, I haven’t over carbonated. I’ll bring the temperature up to 38F the last day.

Here are instructions I found:

Kegging instructions

A carbonation table: Handy-Dandy Slow Force Carbonation Chart featuring Pressure vs. Temperature

Getting A Good Pour – Kegged Beer CO2 Line Length and Pressure

Cold and a long tap line help reduce foaming.

Links for August 2014

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Turns out that the ‘crack baby’ epidemic was another racist popular delusion
Just like the ‘juvenile super-predator’ panic of the 1990’s
Angelina Fanny Hess invents agar culture of bacteria in the 1880s
Pot legalization has no effect on teen use (study pdf)
Invasive species in the Great Lakes
Spectrometer tests for drugged drinks (interesting to see if this turns out to be real)
The Higgs boson and the purpose of a republic
Two Americas: Ferguson, Missouri Versus the Bundy Ranch, Nevada
Republican House Benghazi committee finds bupkis
Confirmation that Nixon committed treason to win 1968 election Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush, who else…
Ferguson PD Video Backfires; Brown Seen Paying For Cigarillos
Bob Altemeyer’s – The Authoritarians. Explores some of the roots of conservatism.
Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party
Welcome Trust historical images