Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg

In economics, ethics, politics, research, science, science fiction, space, technology, transportation on January 5, 2013 at 05:42

From: Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg, The New Atlantis,

Space contains valuable resources. These provide a compelling reason for entrepreneurs, investors, and governments to pursue space exploration and settlement. Asteroids are known to be rich in valuable elements like neodymium, scandium, yttrium, iridium, platinum, and palladium, most of which are rare on Earth. Because of the high price that these minerals command, harvesting them from space could possibly justify even very costly mining expeditions. This is the hope of Planetary Resources, a company recently formed and funded by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt with the intent of mining asteroids. Similarly, Microsoft billionaire Naveen Jain has founded the company Moon Express, with plans to use robots to start mining the Moon — as early as next year, it claims. Meanwhile, Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company plans to mine ice in Shackleton Crater at the lunar south pole to provide propellant for planetary missions, and is raising funds for the venture now.

The basic technology for space travel necessary for off-planet development has of course existed for several decades; the United States did, after all, put a man on the Moon in 1969. And recent advances in spacefaring technology, like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, promise to reduce the cost of transporting people and goods to and from outer space. This new rocket will deliver about fifty metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit at a price of $120 million, allowing material to be shipped to space for about a thousand dollars per pound — far less than the tens of thousands of dollars per pound that technologies like NASA’s retired space shuttle cost to ferry cargo. And if SpaceX or some other company can achieve the goal of partial or full reusability, the price of launching goods into orbit will likely drop much further, especially if market forces bring more competitors into the field.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis


America’s Love Affair with Cars by Leigh Donaldson

In civilisation, culture, economics, North America, politics, psychology, sociology, transportation on November 18, 2012 at 22:47

From: America’s Love Affair with Cars by Leigh Donaldson, The Montreal Review,

In his essay, “Driven Societies“, Daniel Miller writes about telling his young son a story about seeing the earth from the sky and discovering that it is the car and the infrastructure associated with it, not the human being, that dominates the landscape. He expounds on what he terms the humanity of the car, what people achieve through its use, and how it is an integral part of our cultural environment within which we see ourselves as human. He writes: “The car today is associated with the aggregate of vast systems of transport and roadways that make the car’s environment, and yet, at the same time, there are highly personal and intimate relationships which individuals have found through the possession and use of cars.” Personally, I resist any implication that a piece of tin, chrome and plastic, in any manner, defines me as a person. Short of having to live in a car because I was rendered homeless, knock on wood, I don’t see how a person could get that intimate with a noisy, gas-guzzling, money-eating machine you can never quite fully rely on. But, I can see that the car can, for many, be an extension of self and a communicative device. These days they are readily available with innumerable credit arrangements, including no money down, so that almost anyone can drive off a car lot in one the same day. Here, we find that the product, especially  the pricier model, represents dreams and aspirations, and this often trumps whether or not a person can afford it or not. Advertisers, more than ever, create and nurture appetites for products outside the consumers pocketbook limitations. Catering to the general buyers’ irrationality, their psychological vulnerabilities, they make the car a “must have” item for everyone.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

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