Whirling Debris

The latest issue of the Orbital Debris Quarterly News (home page here, back issues here).

I used to think (not very clearly) that there wasn’t a whole lot of danger unless you were traversing an area whose circular orbital velocity was different from your own (e.g., you’re accelerating for a higher orbit, and just passing through). If you’re in an orbit like the one that the Shuttle uses, everything would be drifting along pretty much at the same speed you are, no worries. You’re only in trouble if you try the Frogger thing.

The problem is that there’s a ton (well, many, many tons) of stuff up there in highly elliptical orbits, and some of it is breaking up. So you can get whacked by something going many miles a second, from practically any direction. A fifty gram blob of radioactive coolant with a relative velocity of 10 miles/second would ruin your whole day.

Apparently the various space agencies take passivation measures these days. Even the Chinese are doing research.

I don’t know what you clean this stuff up with (nano-bots that stick solar sails onto the small debris? Smart aerogels, kilometers wide, that sponge up everything that hits them? There’s too much volume to cover). In all probability, spacecraft armor will be standard eqiupment for the next few thousand years.


Stems cells in the fight against going bald.

Prediction: All the pro-life-based politicization against harvesting and using stem cells in research will go out the window when the applications include one or more of: hair restoration, “enhancing” various parts of the anatomy, or a beauty treatment. (There are probably more, add ’em yourself).

Politician: “My constituents are dead set against the killing of unborn babies for research that is –”

Aid: “Can it. They found out about Rogain-SC.”

P: “Uh oh.”

Aid: “Yeah, the latest polls say to heck with babies, the voters want their hair back. And other, ah . . . stuff.”

P: “Where’s a nice, solid moral issue when you need one? Get me a few minutes with the Speaker, I’m gonna propose a bill.”

This is clearly a model for boosting other unpopular or Proxmired programs; get on the side of the voters with solid, selfish issues, ones that are easily understood. Who cares if lunar soil won’t really make you look ten years younger, the billion-year-old Helium-III just might do the trick (our researchers will get right on it). And Martian blueberries? Well, rumour has it that. . .


With races like “Gryrognome,” “Half Halfling” and “Enchanted Motorcycle,” weapons like “Stabbity Polished Spontoon” and “Cone of Annoyance,” and spells like “Big Sister” and “Tumor,” the land of ProgressQuest is a funny place indeed. With only one control to remember (Alt-F4 quits), all you have to do is start the game and walk away — everything else is played for you. I’ve not played any online time-drains such as EverQuest, and now I don’t have to.


Along with my high school friends, I played Zork in the late 70s on the MIT mainframes. There was also this strange, hard adventure game called Haunt that a few of us played a few hours of.

Anyway, here are some references to Haunt, and some interesting AI work being done in RTS games.

A Texan for free speech?

Yeah, Ron Paul of TX has this to say about the Broadcast Indecency Bill.

“…This atrocious piece of legislation should be defeated. It cannot improve the moral behavior of U.S. citizens, but it can do irreparable harm to our cherished right to freedom of speech…. Merely writing laws and threatening huge fines will not improve the moral standards of the people.”

Nice to see a politicritter raise its head from the vote-trough long enough to make a little sense.