Tech Tuesday – Ludicrous Lobster vs Jumbo Jellyfish Edition! – 01/16/18

Busy 6 weeks ahead, since a coworker has decided to leave, and I am inheriting his project.

Tech Tuesday - Ludicrous Lobster vs Jumbo Jellyfish Edition! - 01/16/18


AERO1 – The Hypatia Stone isn’t just from out of this world…

AERO2 – Even the Universe loves the Beatles “Twist and Shout”.

AERO3 – A nearly COTs cubesat is the first space prospector.  This one is just looking for water, but I imagine, as we get ready for asteroid mining, little guys like this will be sent out to do close up scans of potential asteroids to mine.  Cheap to build and cheap to launch.

AERO4 – Navigating by the stars is a lot easier when you have X-Ray lighthouses identified for easy reference.

AERO5Gliding from on high at Mach 0.9.


AG1 – Continuous light can be used to speed up the growth cycle of plants.  At some point, it really will be more efficient to just bring the crops indoors.  Seriously, old warehouses, or malls, or big box stores could all be refitted into multi-tier grow houses.


ARCH1 – If we are going to increase density by building up, we are probably going to need more ideas like this, not only because a lot of people like seeing greenery out there window, but also because plants do a great job keeping the air cleaner and cooler.


BIO1 – Anaesthetics – it’s not just hard to spell, it’s also difficult to understand how they work.  Turns out, you aren’t just going to sleep.

BIO2 – Growing muscle from skin.  This seems like it’s a pretty big deal, since they convinced skin cells to turn back into stem cells and then turn into muscle cells.

BIO3 – A graphene emulsion could make sensors small enough to be embedded in infant clothing to monitor for health (like SIDS).

BIO4 – Gut sensor that you swallow reveals a new line of immune defense.  And hopefully will make colonoscopies less humiliating.  PS, the fact that we have a little pill you can swallow that will probe all along the digestive tract is one reason I doubt aliens who can cross the vast interstellar distances would have to resort to anal probes.

BIO5 – Let’s talk about that price tag for gene therapies.

BIO6 – It’s a treatment, not a cure, but it’s a better treatment that what was available before.

BIO7 – I am starting to wonder just how far we can take MRI technology?

BIO8 – Using a virus to treat cancer.  Man, I hope they know what they are doing…

BIO9 – Taking the ‘oral’ out of antibiotics can help combat drug resistance.

BIO10 – Lobsters like to eat jellyfish, which is actually kind of important.


COMPU1 – Intel has a 49-qubit test chip.  If it helps, when thinking about how much processing power that is, 5 qubits is equivalent to 32 bits, but it’s an exponential relationship, like this: N-qubits = 2^N classical bits.  So 49 qubits is on the order of 500 Trillion bit processor.  Now if we only had an OS for it…


ENRG1 – Algae fuel cells get a redesign.  Still not powerful enough for grid or vehicle usage, but small, off grid applications are within reach.


MAT1Work on graphene and light absorption may lead to better and smaller IR and night vision equipment.

MAT2 – Even more ultrafine, exceptionally strong fibers for armor, etc.


MATH1 – There is so much more to symmetry than just a mirror image.


PHYS1 – A pair of teeny mirrors can be used to create negative mass, and laser light with very little input power.


TECH1 – Behold, the genesis of the Astromech droid!

TECH2 – Hrmm, is that drone spying on me?  This is pretty smart, one could almost work in some Morse code into it.


TRAN1 – This isn’t an unreasonable time table.

Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful

WWW1 – A small electric scooter.  Price seems a bit steep, but I like the look, and for some reason, hubless wheels really appeal to me.

WWW2 – Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were on to something.

WWW3 – This could be in Aerospace, but they went with Galactic Lava Lamp, so it has to go here (Hat Tip Aaron W.).

WWW4 – So long Space Man, Fair (Solar) Winds and Following (Gravity) Seas (note, not a repeat from last time)

WWW5 – Radiolab is talking about Emergence, or as us libertarians like to call it, spontaneous order.







Image by holidaypointau Tech Tuesday - Ludicrous Lobster vs Jumbo Jellyfish Edition! - 01/16/18


A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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31 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday – Ludicrous Lobster vs Jumbo Jellyfish Edition! – 01/16/18

  1. bio5 the linked article hints at this, but there is explicit discussion that the cost to the patient of such treatments should not only reflect the development costs, but the costs avoided vs traditional treatments. This reasoning implies the pharms are essentially owed a return on certain diseases even if new therapies cost much less. One approach I’ve read about would require the insurer to pay a large fraction up front, and the continue to make payments until the “mortgage” is paid up or the disease returns.

    What was all that discussion about the need to get health care costs down?

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    • Will had a link last week (I think) to a discussion about how Pharma has largely not held up their end of the social compact.

      In general, I am not a fan of any idea that society, or a market, or anyone ‘owes’ a company profits/returns because the next advance will make previous work obsolete. Not societies responsibility to ensure your profitability, and if you won’t make the advance, someone else will. And if you lock up the IP to prevent the advance, well, I’m a huge fan of IP reform.

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  2. ARCH1 that’s the only way I think I could stand living in a big city.

    TECH1 Slap twin .50 cals on that with armor piercing and incendiary rounds and you’ve got robocop. I bow to my new silicon overlords.

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  3. TRAN1: The term “zero-emissions” has always irritated me. Such vehicles time-shift and space-shift emissions, but unless the power grid where they get charged, or the source of hydrogen for their fuel cells, is also emission free, the shifting is what they’ve accomplished. Not that space- and time-shifting doesn’t have benefits, but.

    California is spending actual money to attempt to expand the market where they can purchase electricity much farther beyond the state’s borders. The other day I downloaded the EIA’s most recent electric power by state and source information for 2017, which is complete through October. The Western Interconnect came out like this:

    Renewables: 42.83%
    — Hydroelectricity: 27.16%
    — Wind: 7.06%
    — Solar: 5.19%
    — Geothermal: 2.09%
    — Wood and wood-derived: 0.85%
    — Other biomass: 0.48%
    Natural gas: 26.45%
    Coal: 22.43%
    Nuclear: 7.65%

    The next few years should be interesting. The Navajo power station in Arizona, largest coal-burner in the West, will close in 2019 (Navajo and Hopi tribal revenues are going to take a nasty hit). The Intermountain power station in Utah, another large coal-burner, will be converted to natural gas. Xcel Energy has asked for permission to retire more than a GW of coal-fired generation in Colorado. The Diablo Canyon nukes will shut down when their licenses expire in 2024/5, or sooner depending on the refueling schedule.

    Xcel Energy’s RFP last year for additional wind power for Colorado drew responses totaling >17 GW with a median bid price of $18/MWh.

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    • Assuming that it’s easier to make net-zero (or at least much lower net) carbon emission electricity than gasoline/diesel/[m]ethanol, then having the vehicles become “zero emission” has to start by having them switch from gasoline to electric propulsion.

      Then every time you manage to shut down one coal or natural gas plant, or bring up one solar, nuclear, or tidal plant, your whole fleet just got a little bit cleaner.

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      • The point I think was trying to make is that if CA wants to go all electric on passenger vehicles in 22 years, they’d had better have a plan for addressing the very significant uptick in consumer electrical usage they will experience, which will be kind of hard to do if all their coal and nuclear generating capacity is busy being shut down.

        So while it is absolutely feasible to have all new cars be electric of some form or another by 2040, having enough electrical capacity to do it is another problem.

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        • While I’m always reluctant to say that any state has a well-thought-out long-term plan for something — the structure of state government makes it difficult — California certainly seems to be heading in a specific direction: buy more low- or no-carbon out-of-state electricity and build infrastructure to allow them to move it around. That’s not necessarily a bad deal for the other states in the Western Interconnect either, if it supports things like Oregon and Colorado swapping hydro and wind power as needed.

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          • Those are two labels for two subsets of “zero emissions” vehicles, I guess.

            Other than those, there would be anything that gets invented between now and 2040, bicycles, sailboats, strandbeests, nuclear submarines, and arguably animal-drawn wagons, off the top of my head…

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            • It’s a poor term of art. The vehicle may not have any emissions (besides water), but chances are pretty good the power it is using did. Better off calling them what they are, or just saying ‘vehicles not directly powered by internal combustion engines”.

              Unless, of course, we manage to come up with a way to use algae/microbes to produce hydrocarbons on an industrial scale, then an IC engine could be ‘zero-net-emissions’.

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              • Unless, of course, we manage to come up with a way to use algae/microbes to produce hydrocarbons on an industrial scale, then an IC engine could be ‘zero-net-emissions’.

                Up there in my original comment, when I mentioned time- and space-shifting? Absent some breakthrough, ICEs fueled with algal hydrocarbons will still release uncombusted volatiles, nitrous oxides, ozone, etc — all smog precursors. Contemporary definitions for ZEVs mean those have to be eliminated as well. If nothing else, space-shifting the emissions from ground-level downtown vehicles to a tall stack at the power plant in the country, and time-shifting them from a couple of peak rush hours to a longer period overnight, has benefits.

                Showing my parochial bias, those benefits are much larger in the West than in other parts of the country.

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          • At least originally, both the California Air Resources Board and the federal EPA wanted to be technology agnostic. For example, there was no reason to rule out the possibility of an ammonia-fueled internal combustion engine with catalytic converter that produced only H2O, N2, and warm air*. Or zinc fuel cells (unfortunately also referred to as zinc-air batteries).

            * Because I’m an energy pessimist, there is a reason — ICEs have poor thermal efficiency compared to power generating stations. In really round numbers, the electric transportation solutions have about a 2:1 advantage in efficiency due to 35% thermal efficiency versus 15%. I assert that we are within shouting distance of the time when we can’t afford to throw away that 2:1 advantage.

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            • This is very true. And we are only going to get better with electric motor power and torque output, and battery capacity, whereas with IC engines that we can mount in a vehicle, we are hitting a limit with regard to efficiency versus cost effectiveness (you can make an IC engine extremely efficient, but it gets really expensive in a hurry, and mounting that engine in a vehicle just complicates things even more).

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  4. AERO5 – Congratulations to my ex-wife and the rest of her team. Hopefully, things are in good shape as they test their rockets. After the very sad incident three years ago, they’re slowing down their safety testing, and that’s a big part of what’s being reported here.

    I was just in Mojave over the weekend, and the whole community is rallying around the Virgin project as the local icon. You see pictures of the VSS Unity on billboards, business advertisements, and chamber of commerce type signage all over the place.

    Though for some reason there seems to be a lot of confusion amongst people not directly involved with the industry between the Elon Musk/Space-X project and the Richard Branson/Virgin project. They are technically competitors, although the competition is friendly (all the engineering folks know each other and frequently switch back and forth between companies for one reason or another) and the modalities are different (Musk’s project uses traditional ground-based rocketry with retrievable, reusable parts; Branson’s project uses the carrier aircraft to substitute for the launch stage of the atmospheric exit).

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  5. ARCH1 is a pretty nifty idea but it raises some serious maintenance and engineering concerns. The planters will probably require irrigation systems because they’ll be more prone to drying out than soil in the ground would be. The structural engineer will have to account for the possibility that a drain may clog and the soil may become totally saturated by an irrigation system malfunction, adding some serious weight. What happens if a planter freezes while totally saturated; how does the engineer ensure that the planter walls aren’t blown out? Lastly, who makes sure that the plants stay alive, and who gets to decide what is planted? (Will there be a rule against watermelons for safety reasons?)

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    • Good points all.
      The idea of high rises with planters is a terrific idea, but historically has been expensive for all the reasons you list.
      Modern technology is helping, with lighter weight soils and drip irrigation rather than simply flooding the planter. And the popularity of xeriscape planting helps as well.

      Vertical gardens, green walls, seem like a better design solution to me since they more naturally lend themselves to a light weight planting palette.

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    • Wind is also a big issue with these “vertical forest” ideas. Trees don’t grow very well in the wind conditions generally prevalent in canyons – manufactured or natural.

      Wind also blows down branches all the time in neighbourhoods with mature trees, which is mostly fine because there’s not a lot of foot traffic so the branches tend, at worst, to mess up someone’s windshield or car paint job. Downtowns get a lot more foot traffic, and the branches would be falling from a lot higher up too.

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