Fun aside, we are indeed at a pretty important turning point, in terms of the space race. In a few years we will start seeing pictures we've never seen before, like rows of orbital launch vehicles lined up for assembly or awaiting a launch window.
Ten years. I am agnostic as to whether this will pay off in the grander scheme of things, but a number of people with mind boggling resources have decided they want to build a bunch of rockets, so whatever else may happen, we're going to be seeing bunches of rockets.
Something that comes out very strongly out of the history of aviation, is that propulsion is usually the critical step, so if you want to see who's ahead look at the engine technologies.
The only ones I saw in the news were the Bezos/Musk/Branson efforts, but there's actually a bunch more private efforts at various stages of development. Undoubtedly many will fizzle out but I think there's enough that some will come through with viable launch vehicles.
An interesting one is @relativityspace, which I had never heard of before, but is designing the entire rocket to be 95% 3D printed in metal basically in one go. In this case I think the design/manufacturing technology is as interesting as the application.
Rocket engines are mazes of plumbing (left). By 3D printing the engine, most of this plumbing can be routed within the material, eliminating hoses, connections, gaskets. The stuff that typically fails in an engine and takes thousands of hours so install and check.
The picture on the right (previous tweet) is the valve body on an automatic transmission, which is cast and then machined. With 3D printing this can be designed to reside entirely within the thickness of the structural components of the engine. This changes everything.
And the same goes for the rocket itself. Instead of various extruded and rolled components bein laboriously shaped and welded, which inevitably introduces weak points that must be reinforced. The Terrar 1 and R in contrast can be designed and manufactured to the optimal shape.
It's the Gaudi' of rocket manufacturing! In contrast most 3D Printing applications I have seen are either relatively simple contraptions, or else specific pieces to be assembled into a conventionally produced machine. This is a technology which will filter down rapidly.
Another nice thing of @relativityspace is that it was founded by two aerospace engineers @theJordanNoone and @thetimellis which as far as I can tell got their funding from outside investors. One could hope this means the company is therefore less tied to specific personalities.

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More from @andreamatranga

20 Jul
There's a famous story that Feynman tells in one of his memoirs, of the measuring of the charge of the electron (I think, @notanastronomer ?). It's a bit embarrassing. The first pioneering measurement was say 86% of the true value, which is actually quite good.
But then the progression went something like 89%, 92%, 95%, 97%, 102%, until finally it converged on the true value. The reason its embarrassing is because you would expect the values to jump on BOTH sides of the actual value, if these were unbiased estimates.
So what seems to have happened is that after the first measurement, whenever a team was making another, if the value was say 120% (very far from the first one), the scientists would suspect they had made a mistake somewhere, check all the vacuum lines, calibrate the balance, etc
Read 13 tweets
20 Jul
My favored immigration policy for Italy would be something like picking 4 or 5 favored states for a guest worker -> "green card" (no expiry, family) -> citizenship path. It would include overhaul of the school system to accomodate these languages.
Each national community would be focused around 4 or 5 cities with schools offering a spectrum of original language-> italian instruction, with the ultimate goal of producing dual fluency.
Each community would get facilitations to build their own "Piana degli Albanesi" somewhere in the countryside, to produce whatever traditional agricultural goods can be adapted to our climate, and to serve as cultural, spiritual, and social center for their community.
Read 7 tweets
20 Jul
My space billionaire-skeptical takes will probably not age well. Oh but to have seen us in our prime!
This is essentially orthogonal to the merits themselves of private space exploration. Think of how many people say "yes WWII was awful, but we got radar and pressurized aircraft and computers out of it.
And well, Apollo. The nature of technology, and more generally knowledge, is that once it exists, others will build on it. And once they do, yhe tendency will be to perceive favorably those blocke further down in the pyramid, and those that layed them
Read 4 tweets
13 Jul
Back in my Civ playing days,I thought it would be better if there was no "research" per se, but rather you would discover new technologies randomly, but more likely if you did more of certain activities.
In particular say you could build ships object with three levels of quality: basic (does the job but falls apart quicker), medium, and improved. In particular the improved ships would be better than medium, but so expensive as to not be cost effective for most purposes.
BUT building improved ships would drastically increase the likelihood of discovering the next big sea tech.

So, hey, maybe the billionaire space race will be as transformative as personal computers or refrigeration. Still seems a bit of a gamble as a society.
Read 7 tweets
13 Jul
I think part of the (anti- vs CRT) divide could be spanned with an analogy with tourist sites. Some places have great natural or historic significance, but have also dangerous features. We don't wipe them off the face of the map, but we do ensure that dangers are clearly marked.
Take Columbus. He was clearly a wretched man, as his conduct towards indigenous and Spanish alike proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. He was also an awful navigator who would have died with all his crew if there hadn't happened to be an entire continent at the right place.
There isn't really much in him to hold as an example for future generations... "Be wrong, but get lucky, then extremely cruel".

But for other figures, where their achievements were in unrelated fields, and the stains on their legacy largely incidental,...
Read 7 tweets
13 Jul
I understand the logic of the officer/enlisted division, but it's becoming increasingly at odds with the norms of western society. It overlapped perfectly with society circa 1700, gentry or can write a sentence -> officer, commoners -> enlisted. But we've come a ways since then.
It's possible that the fundamental issue is that a rigid separation between officer and enlisted is simply optimal for warfighting, and medieval/early modern society molded itself on its requirements.
Now we managed to shift society towards more egalitarian norms, but we still need to preserve the distinction in the military because it's just the right way to do it. But if the societal division was preexisting, we might be dragging around a vestigial organizational form...
Read 7 tweets

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