Category Archives: Science/Engineering

Uber’s flying taxis

The daily reports that the Army and UT-Austin engineers will cooperate with Uber on developing “stacked rotors” for electric flying taxis. A scifi dream come true.

If all goes well, Uber plans to have a demonstration flight by 2020 and commercial operation in 2023.

“The technology exists,” said Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering at Uber Elevate. “It’s not science fiction. “It’s not a pipe dream…It’s such a compelling experience that people will want to experience it.”

Some might. Not me, thanks. Not after Uber’s self-driving taxi killed a woman pedestrian in Arizona.

Via 512tech

Mars landing too risky

“In “Not Close Enough, a team consisting of NASA and international astronauts sits in orbit around Mars but doesn’t get to go to the surface.  NASA has decided it’s too risky.”

The story is from a good new book Blue Collar Space by Martin Shoemaker. Wherein NASA’s fear of losing astronaut lives is explored. That fear has crippled our space program, space lawyer Laura Montgomery argues. And it makes sense. Such that our only hope to ever land on Mars or do anything else except at great expense is with commercial space, and blowhards like Elon Musk.

Via Ground Based Space Matters

That first moon landing…

…was actually today, Greenwich Mean Time, though to Americans it will always be July 20th. Me, I was patrolling in Viet Nam during the landing and so was too preoccupied to notice until the the next day.

Revulsion over the war and Watergate killed lunar exploration before its time. We keep hearing presidential promises to go back at some later date but we never have.

Via Instapundit

Mining moon ice

For oxygen and water and rocket fuel.

“We’re at the tipping point of a new era in space commerce, where private industry, NASA and international collaborators are joining together to realize the dream of launching humanity into the solar system,” said Hunter Williams, a Colorado School of Mines researcher. “There has never been a more exciting time for furthering science, turning a profit or promoting international cooperation than right now.”

It’s ten years out, but that’s shorter than previous lunar exploration plans.

Via Space dot com

Blue collar space

This collection of short stories recommended by novelist Sarah Hoyt looks good so far. The theme and characters remind me of Allen Steele’s novels of men living and working in orbit. Also the rough and tumble Belters of the Expanse.

The future, as the author says, won’t just happen. Someone has to build it.

UPDATE:  The author, Martin Shoemaker, wrote Today I Am Paul, a good short story about a sophisticated android who cares for the dying. It’s free here.

Ripped off by CarMax

True, you can get a cheaper used car from CarMax, America’s largest automobile discounter/retailer, at cheaper than usual loan rates. Also true you can get your CarMax used vehicle periodically serviced by CarMax techs.

The bad part is that the CarMax used car may be mechanically shit to begin with and the service techs, at least in Austin, only work at their convenience, not yours. They’re on duty weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 pm. Sometimes. Generally, they’re only available until 4 pm.

It’s a pitiful after the sale “service.” But CarMax knows that its customers generally are too poor—living paycheck-to-paycheck—to complain too loudly, let alone to sue.

The Expanse, Season 3

I still have a hard time hearing the dialogue, but the hardware and software are dazzling. So much so I almost don’t care about the story. How long can this go on? At least as long as the books I hope.