@interplanetary I worry about the disproportionate political power of the wealthy, but AFAICT the idea we can fund social problems from their wealth makes no sense. (And I do support social programs that are pragmatic — I’m not arguing against that. I’m politically 100% moderate.) 1/n
@interplanetary 2/ The main problem with the idea that taxing the wealthy will fix things is that most of their “wealth” is not liquid but is the valuation of companies they (co-)own, which cannot be converted into food, medical services, or housing w/o dismantling the companies. And...
@interplanetary 3/ ...mist of the value of the companies is the intangible organization of materials, skills, knowledge, customer channels, and processes that make them productive. By disassembling the companies to get something else instead you destroy not convert that value, by definition.
@interplanetary 4/ You would get pennies on the dollar (or less!) if you raided companies to convert that “wealth” into food, medical services, or housing for the underprivileged. Pretty much the only thing wealthy people have that can be taxed is whatever they spend on themselves yearly. But...
@interplanetary 5/ ...that is utterly trivial. Bezos might spend $1M to $10M on himself annually on average, buying houses yachts or taking vacations. (You don’t buy one house per year). Divide that by 7B people and each of us gets 0.014 to 0.14 penny per year. Trivial!
@interplanetary 6/ For a simplistic model, if we divide all people into rich vs non-rich, and force the rich to sell all their assets to give the resulting cash to the non-rich, the only buyers of those assets would be the non-rich, so we would only get our own money back; no net gain. But...
@interplanetary 7/ ...we might argue, yeah, but now we have control over the companies. So we can extract wealth yearly from them. Yeah we could, and it would be the amount the rich get from the companies and spend on themselves yearly, which is the utterly trivial amount just calculated above.
@interplanetary 8/ I think ultimately ppl are confused by the abstraction of money or wealth, that we mix the concepts of paying for food and evaluating a company’s productivity into the same units of dollars although they are not directly convertible. And I think...
@interplanetary 9/ ppl don’t think clearly to sort it out because of cognitive bias, because they hate the wealthy for various reasons, which may include legitimate reasons (no judgement on anybody intended — I’m arguing this as an academic observing the phenomena).
@interplanetary 10/ But IMO, bad thinking usually produces failed results, so people who want to promote social justice (as we both do) are more effective through clear thinking, which recognizes that taxing the wealthy really cannot fund social programs. They constitute far too small a fraction
@interplanetary 11/ ... of the annual disposable income that is spent every year in the overall economy. There just isn’t anything of significance there. OTOH, I do think that control of companies gives ppl political power, and if power is too imbalanced then it threatens democracy. That must be
@interplanetary 12/ weighed against the pragmatic value of having the successful business ppl controlling their own businesses because historically that has been the most successful engine of value for all people in the world throughout history.
@interplanetary 13/13 And we must weigh whether we can mitigate the political risks and environmental or labor excesses of free market capitalism via govt regulation (we can!), in order to form a complete (not one-sided) pragmatic ethics argument. So there are my thoughts on it.

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More from @DrPhiltill

17 Jul
True! Short thread 🧵

First, this article is an example from 2017 of NASA stating that NASA budgets are not enough to do Mars missions: arstechnica.com/science/2017/0…
(2) An example from 2013, former NASA Admin Bolden explaining that NASA cannot afford to do Mars missions because it can only afford to build SLS and Orion. It cannot afford transfer vehicles, landers, Mars habitat & power systems, ascent vehicle, etc. spacenews.com/37808bolden-ca…
(3) The Agency finally realized and admitted in the mid 2010s that it needed to develop a new economic strategy if it wanted to ever get to Mars. It did, & called the strategy “Sustainable Exploration.” It had about 10 bullet points, including the following ideas...
Read 20 tweets
15 Jul
I agree with the piece on this: there are risks as we enter space. We must solve them! But IMO the piece is not a real ethics argument since it weighs only risks, not benefits, & the arguments fall short of justifying th claim that forcing ppl to stay on Earth is pragmatic & good
I would argue it this way instead: we can't pragmatically keep the cat in the box (considering global realpolitik) even if it were good to do so. But it isn't good to do so, becoz the benefits vastly outweigh the risks & becoz the risks are inherently solvable. Therefore,...
...the best way forward--indeed the only pragmatic way forward--is for nations that value ethics (as imperfect as we are) to do the *best we can* in leading ethically and proactively, so we are operating from the best possible position to create a good outcome. But that means...
Read 10 tweets
11 Jul
I might as well dive into the other argument, too. Kármán Line vs. 50 miles up. Where does space begin?

Well let’s start by saying the Kármán line is based on a silly thought experiment so it provides no real basis to define the limit of space. It means nothing and is silly.
2/ The Kármán altitude is based on how fast a vehicle has to travel to produce enough aerodynamic lift on its wings to support its weight. It depends on how thin the atmosphere is. The higher you go, the thinner the air, so the faster you must move to use wings to stay up. But...
3/ If you go fast enough, then ignoring atmospheric drag you would not need wings at all because you’d be in orbit. So the height where the required speed to use wings is the same as the speed if there were no air — that is the Kármán altitude. But.../
Read 10 tweets
11 May
A paper just came out analyzing rocket exhaust blowing lunar soil. It is important for at least 2 reasons. 1/n

Reference: Chinnapan et al., "Modeling of dusty gas flows due to plume impingement on a lunar surface," Physics of Fluids 33, 053307 (2021) aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.10….
2/n First, there is great uncertainty in how *fast* the lunar dust goes. It is hard to model rocket exhaust physics on the Moon because fluid flow equations break down as the gas spreads into vacuum. The relevant equation is the Navier-Stokes equation. (screenshot from Wikipedia)
3/n In that equation, the constant μ is gas viscosity. It is not really a fundamental thing in nature. It was invented by averaging lots of molecules bouncing in a small volume of space. It tells us how much the momentum from one volume diffuses into nearby volumes.
Read 14 tweets
8 May
I love this quote for so many reasons, I’m going to translate it into a modern writing style. 1/n
“It used to be there weren’t many people bold enough to cross the ocean, but now it’s so easy even fearful and faint-hearted people can cross it. So maybe someone will invent a way to travel to the Moon, even though it seems like such a terrible voyage across vast, empty sky! /2
[I’m translating a mix of two versions of his book to get his entire thought.]

“And without a doubt there will be bold people to take that venture, just like crossing the sea!

You might be thinking we have no way to sail into the sky, unless the poet’s fantasies were true.

Read 9 tweets
7 May
What I find cool about successfully hearing this sound isn't just the low density of the atmosphere, but also the fact that the atmosphere is almost pure carbon dioxide. CO2 is unusual among gases for having very high bulk viscosity, which vastly reduces sound propagation.
2/ Viscosity tells how momentum diffuses through a gas. Honey has high shear viscosity, meaning if flows slowly. Water has low shear viscosity, so it flows easily. In addition to shear viscosity, there is the lesser-known "bulk viscosity" related to the rotation of molecules.
3/ In most gases, the bulk viscosity is ~ zero, but in carbon dioxide the bulk viscosity κ is 1000 times greater than the shear viscosity η. The attenuation of sound is described by this equation. So (order of magnitude) sound attenuates about 1000x more on Mars than on Earth.
Read 4 tweets

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