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On-The-Horizon Technology

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Posted on Dec 22, 2010, 8:23:26 PM PST
More likely it will be a Chinese "Great Wall Pegasus" hitting you. (There really is such a car company and name in China.)

But not to worry, Ron, we'll all also have emergency flush evacuation technology that will suck you away to safety in the nick of time. (Didn't we post somewhere that tube travel technology story link a week or so ago in one of these threads?)

Posted on Dec 22, 2010, 9:27:02 PM PST
And I don't want a semi truck or a city bus coming through my front door. Or a 747 coming through my roof, for that matter. Life in the modern age can't be risk-free.

Machines fail, but humans are worse.

Posted on Dec 23, 2010, 5:09:28 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2010, 5:11:44 AM PST


In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2010, 11:22:54 AM PST
Sparhawk says:
747s and semi trucks require special licensing for their human pilots, though. To have single-passenger commuter flying cars would be inherently more dangerous than either. This doesn't address the takeoff and landing zones, either!

Just this week a regular private plane crashed here after taking off from an Executive Airport, killing the passenger and destroying the car it crashed into atop the parking structure. This office I'm in also had the manager die after someone fell asleep in the next-door McDonalds drivethrough and drove through the fence and wall and desk. I consider end-user flying cars unwise.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2010, 5:26:15 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:


(That's our Marilyn, with her finger firmly on the pulse of technological development. Maybe if you tried driving the mouse with both hands, dearie?)

Posted on Dec 26, 2010, 5:26:49 PM PST
eventually they will have bionic eyes to replace all the bad eyes like mine. but it will probably been in at least 70+++ or more years, but maybe less, or maybe way more,
but just imagine it. they would replace bad eyes and put in fantastic ones that they could connect to your optic nerve somehow. I have heard of some startling things done for blind eyes lately though with interesting tech posibilities.

Posted on Dec 27, 2010, 4:45:34 AM PST
Michael -

I read a few years ago, that some companies were making implantable cataract replacement "corrective" lenses. I haven't seen much about them since, but that would sure be a boost for those of us with "bad eyes".

Posted on Dec 29, 2010, 6:27:05 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 29, 2010, 6:41:36 AM PST
Electronics, spacecraft and military technology are about to hit a brick wall, in terms of not having enough "rare earth minerals" needed to complete their products and missions. There are more and more stories in the national media about China, the world's leading miner of rare earth minerals, tightening exports.

Some out-of-the-box thinking is clearly called for. Here are some ideas:
Background and current news about rare earth mining.
Plans to re-open the once-biggest mine in the world for rare earth minerals - in Nevada.
A good and recent article about a radical idea - mining rare earth minerals from our seafloor.
An article about mining the moon for rare earth elements. Could this be the commercial-push needed to get us to the moon to stay?

Posted on Dec 31, 2010, 12:02:37 PM PST
I greatly look forward to being able to kick back and enjoy the ride as my car drives me where I tell it to go. If the car can fly, all the better. I have no problem giving up control, once computer driving is proven to be safer and more efficient than human drivers.

NASA has failed us at every level. We landed on the moon almost 50 years ago. By now, we should have thriving colonies there on its surface. We should have a modern earth-orbiting space station, like the space wheel depicted in Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It seemed achievable at the time, but politics and lack of funding has held us back for decades. I'm looking forward to seeing private companies like Virgin Galactic succeed where NASA failed. Profit, rather than politics, will lead us into space. We can't keep all our eggs in one basket. All life on earth could all be wiped out by a giant meteor at any moment. Well, okay, NASA might give us a few days notice. Maybe.

Joseph Mitchell
Shard Mountain

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2010, 10:23:28 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"All life on earth could all be wiped out by a giant meteor at any moment."

Better hurry up and flog some more books then! LOL.

Posted on Jan 1, 2011, 8:35:21 AM PST
Another way to look at it is: the Soviets and NASA both proved people could survive and even enjoy a trip to Space, fifty years ago this April and May, respectively. Why has the private sector dallied for five decades before doing for profit what two nations did for politics and progress?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 1, 2011, 8:59:00 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 1, 2011, 9:02:10 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:

"Why has the private sector dallied for five decades before doing for profit what two nations did for politics and progress?"

Because the infrastructure to actually do something beyond sub-orbital flights requires enormous investment before any profit can be made. There's a massive gap between brief sub-orbital flights and actually getting even to Low Earth Orbit.

The main incentive for private sector enterprise to reach LEO is, and will remain for some time, government money, primarily to service the ISS and any other future stations. It's possible that governments that can't afford the whole package of a manned space flight program would be interested in renting seats/cargo space and part of or an entire module in a space station...

Basically, there has to be major use of facilities in low earth orbit, before making the next step towards commercial exploitation of the Moon or near Earth asteroids. Use of Earth orbit for satellites for telecommunications, weather, resource and environmental monitoring is commercially profitable, but there's a long way to go for any level of industrial scale research and development in orbit.

It is a little like the model of the expansion of the oil industry: initially exploitation of easily obtained resources, with a gradual move towards deeper drilling, coastal and then deep sea drilling (the fact that this has issues with numerous disasters makes it a reasonable model for the hazards of space exploitation) due to economic pressures. In some ways our present exploitation of space is roughly comparable to the use of natural sites of petroleum seepage in pre-industrial times at witnessed by Marco Polo in the 13th century, and our exploration like Polo's journeys.

Posted on Jan 1, 2011, 11:31:21 PM PST
Thank you. This is a *real* explanation, instead of the basic "the reason we're not all in Space already is because NASA is EVIL!!"

The truth is, space travel is difficult and expensive. There hasn't been much way to make it profitable, so the only ones doing it were governments, who don't have to turn a profit.

But as things advance, Space travel will become profitable, and the private sector will then (and only then) step in to make that profit.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 2, 2011, 1:42:49 AM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"But as things advance, Space travel will become profitable, and the private sector will then (and only then) step in to make that profit."

I think the point was that space travel will neither advance nor become profitable until there is sufficient other incentive to drive such developments.

(But I completely agree that the "NASA is evil" and "NASA is inept" nonsense gets old really fast. Really OLD.)

Posted on Jan 2, 2011, 4:45:07 PM PST
I think you're right. Unfortunately, this takes us back to chickens and eggs.

Posted on Jan 2, 2011, 6:11:28 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2011, 6:12:38 PM PST
Maxwell says:
For hostile environments like space, robots provide a far more cost effective solution. Admittedly the current generation of robots are quite limited in their autonomous capabilities, but that is changing rapidly. Launch costs are the limiting factor in space exploration today - and in $ per kg have been remarkably constant for quite a while. Robotics offer an end run - establish robotic factories in space and mine resources & build items, including human habitats, remotely. It will be a lot cheaper to send people when all you have to send is the person, not the person plus the habitat, plus the air, plus the water, plus the food, and so on. My prediction: when we humans finally arrive on Mars to stay, we will be met by robots, who will hand us the keys to our new home....

Posted on Jan 2, 2011, 8:26:43 PM PST
"For hostile environments like space, robots provide a far more cost effective solution."

Solution to what? Don't get me wrong: I believe that robots have a lot to offer even now, and will have even more to offer in the very near future. But one thing robots aren't good at and will not become good at is *being people* who live and work and play in Space. A robot which could walk through lava to study volcanoes, or stay underwater for days observing coral reef ecosystems, might be fine things, but they won't satisfy my desire to go to Hawaii.

Even with robots, launch costs must be brought down. Work on robots will continue because they're just so danged useful, both in Space and on Earth. But launch costs must be brought down.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2011, 12:13:44 AM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"Unfortunately, this takes us back to chickens and eggs."

Well... when you got chickens and eggs, make an oyakodon! :D


In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2011, 12:39:14 AM PST
M. Helsdon says:

"this takes us back to chickens and eggs."

Well, we're definitely in the egg stage and eggs preceded chickens by hundreds of millions of years...

To up the ante if economic pressures aren't enough, we need another cold war space race. Maybe when the Chinese finally get their much delayed station module into orbit and start seriously progressing their plan for a moon base, things will change... We have the tech for a viable space plane but it needs a great deal of investment. The poor unfortunate space shuttle was subject to constant interference to bring the price down from the original concept and instead of a space truck ended as a horse and cart.

Posted on Jan 3, 2011, 4:45:23 AM PST
Sailor -

Very well put! And people forget, we've already sent a little robot to Mars. It has wheels to roam around, and seems to get stuck alot. It's not independent, as I assume future Mars robots would be, and JPL spends an enormous amount of time guiding, troubleshooting and un-sticking it.

If future Mars robots are independent, would we even know when they get stuck?

Posted on Jan 3, 2011, 7:50:42 AM PST
"If future Mars robots are independent, would we even know when they get stuck?"

Yes, they will "Phone Home" asking for help.

Posted on Jan 3, 2011, 11:41:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 3, 2011, 11:46:16 AM PST
On oyakodon:
An interesting dish, which I've never had. I not only looked at the pic you linked to, but looked it up on Wikipedia. I thought I was getting out there with okonomiyaki, and now this. Oh well, next time I get to Sushiyama, I'll ask if they have it.

Yes, a pre-chicken egg. There is a tendency to compare the launches of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard with the early flights of the Wright Brothers. Perhaps a better comparison would be the Montgolfier Brothers. Looked at this way, the amazing thing isn't that we haven't gone (figuratively) from Kitty Hawk to 747s in the last fifty years, but that we've gone (again, figuratively) from western Paris to early zeppelins in fifty years.

The Mars rovers are constantly getting stuck because they are operating years after they were expected to quit. It's as if you bought a car with a one-year warranty, never took it to the shop, never so much as changed a tire, drove the HELL out of it, and ten years later you find that it has a tendency to stall if you drive it uphill during a thunderstorm.

Posted on Jan 3, 2011, 12:11:34 PM PST
Maxwell says:
Sailor and Marilyn, here is my logic:

1) I'm not suggesting replacing humans with robots, I'm suggesting robots can accomplish tasks that we could not afford to do with humans.
2) Time-delay (speed-of-light) for communications with robots beyond earth orbit means distant robots have to be able to take care of themselves (be autonomous) or they are very inefficient.
3) Robots are not very autonomous today, and so they can only do simple tasks in unstructured environments without direct human supervision, but they are getting more sophisticated all the time.
4) The growing investment in robotics (in a variety of fields) means the repertoire of tasks which robots can accomplish will continue to expand for the foreseeable future.
5) Robots don't have to be big to accomplish big things. NASA has struggled with this as they have a very high bar for success, but other communities (e.g. the ocean science community) has achieved great things with small, simple robots.
6) Eventually we will have robotic space missions that move beyond exploration to resource extraction, and then manufacturing.
7) Having a mining & manufacturing capability in space will make human space flight practical because one will not have to provide logistical support from the wrong side of the gravity well.
8) If we manage to dramatically drop launch costs, that changes the calculation somewhat in favor of humans. But even on Earth in environments where launch costs are not an issue, e.g. deep ocean, robots are increasingly the cost effective solution industrial activity.

Since the Mars Exploration Rovers were mentioned, it is worth noting that the story of this (incredibly successful) program is in part a story of progressively improving the autonomous capabilities of the robots, even while on the surface of MARS. Autonomous capability has been progressively added to the vehicles as they have lasted longer and longer and the costs of the groundside team have had to be reduced.

Posted on Jan 3, 2011, 5:39:21 PM PST
I don't think that you're wrong, in fact I think you're basically right. I just don't think we should wait until robots can do it all before we put more people in Space. I want *PEOPLE* in Space. Lots of people. The more the better. And soon.

This is one good thing about tourism: you might be able to have robots do your prospecting and still get the job done; you might be able to have robots do your mining and still get the job done; you might even be able to have robots do your manufacturing and still get the job done, but can't replace tourists with robots, because if you do, you've failed at THAT job.

So bring on the robots, please, but PUT PEOPLE IN SPACE! **SOON**

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2011, 10:32:10 PM PST
Ronald Craig says:
"And people forget, we've already sent a little robot to Mars."

You mean like you obviously forgot that there were TWO of them?

"If future Mars robots are independent, would we even know when they get stuck?"

Bob has already answered this, but I'd like to add that it's another example of you posting without really thinking. Being more "independent" in action doesn't mean robotic probes wouldn't be sending back as much information as possible as often as possible. THINK.
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
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Initial post:  Jul 29, 2010
Latest post:  Aug 31, 2013

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