Hephaestus's Blog

A Different Kind of Space Elevator
August 27, 2015, 07:04
Filed under: Space stuff

In my space elevator post last Thursday, I mentioned a different kind of ‘space elevator’ patented by Thoth Technology Inc. This is an intriguing concept, and I thought I would share it.

While a normal space elevator is a tensile structure reaching out past geostationary orbit, the concept by Thoth is rather… different.

Their idea is a 20 km-tall tower, “pneumatically pressurized” (inflatable), with elevators inside. On the top of the tower would be, essentially, a spaceport, from which spaceplanes could launch, thus beginning their journey above the thickest parts of the atmosphere.

According to Thoth Technology’s website, the tower could also be used for wind power generation and tourism (the latter presumably via some sort of observation deck).

While this tower would probably be quite the undertaking to build, not to mention becoming by far the tallest structure in the world, mind-bogglingly high by any measure save that of space elevators, it would still be many times easier to build than a bona fide Tsiolkovsky-Artsutanov space elevator.

Why Terra Needs a Space Elevator
August 20, 2015, 09:32
Filed under: Space stuff

First of all, we need to know: What exactly is a space elevator?

At its heart, a space elevator is a very long tether, running from the surface of Earth to a counterweight placed in Geostationary orbit.

Compared to other forms of space launch, such as rockets, the space elevator is a remarkably economic, if nearly impossible and prohibitively difficult to build, solution to the great challenge: Getting what’s down here up there.

Now why we need it.

Spaceflight is expensive. The cheapest (and also really small) launch vehicles still cost thousands of dollars per kilogram of cargo. As you can imagine, this puts the cost of placing anything larger than a loaf of bread into orbit out of reach of all but governments, institutions, and large corporations like SES or Boeing.

A space elevator is perhaps the only way of bringing the price of an orbital jaunt within the reach of the general public, or making possible voyages to space on a large scale; even a re-usable rocket vehicle, such as that being developed by SpaceX, will only cut the price to about one-third to one-sixth of the current figure.*

But there’s more. Rocketry is, by its very nature, a fast, dangerous and somewhat tenuous way of getting anywhere; if you can, it’s probably better to walk. A space elevator would have this crucial difference from rocket travel: it would automatically be 1) a permanent fixture on the planet, unable to move significantly, and 2) a slower, safer, more comfortable ride. (This applies to cargo as well: imagine if satellites didn’t have to be designed to take prodigious acceleration and vibration).

Although it may seem hard to believe, there are several groups dedicated to creating a space elevator. Among these are the International Space Elevator Consortium and LiftPort Group (who want to build one on the Moon).

Additionally, a company called Thoth Technology recently patented a very different kind of “space elevator”, an inflatable tower and launch platform, but that is beyond the scope of the current post.

In closing, a hypothetical space elevator would probably be a cheaper, safer and more reliable way of reaching space than any we have today. Good luck to the daring and maybe crazy engineers trying to make it happen in our lifetimes.

*These are all estimates; exact numbers on this kind of thing are extremely hard to find.

Sonnet: On Courtly Love
August 12, 2015, 15:00
Filed under: Poetry

I would not glorify it by the name

Of love, nor would I with those poets stand,

Who’ve given it such undeserving fame,

And sung its praises all throughout the land.

They, saying that its passion is in truth

True love, deserving everyone’s devote,

Did thus deceive impressionable youth

Who chose on ones unknown to them to dote.

Though Shakespeare with his talent gave it worth,

And Dante lived it, both of them were fools,

To speak of it as real as stony earth,

For such quick passion just as quickly cools.

I think that ‘courtly love’ is no more true

Than cake is stone, or planet Venus blue.

Word of the Month: synchronicity
August 8, 2015, 08:14
Filed under: Words of the Months

Etymology: 1953; coined by C. G. Jung from synchronic (itself from Late Latin synchronus, meaning ‘synchronous’, derived from Greek synkhronos… from –syn meaning ‘together’ and khronos ‘time’. That was an awful lot of the same word over and over again.)

Definition: The Jungian concept of meaningful coincidences, or “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events.”

Ignoring synchrony (symphony, euphony, Eubalaena glacialis) for the moment, the concept of synchronicity is a somewhat thorny one. It appears that Jung, at a loss for how to explain ‘paranormal’ events, coined the term as an alternative to normal causality. This would seem to make the possibility of synchronicity somewhat dubious, as based on a too strict idea of causality. Probability theory holds that with enough occurrences (every sentient being thinking all the time, for example) events will eventually occur which seem to defy causality, just as if you throw ten dice enough, you will eventually throw ten sixes (or ten fives, fours, et cetera). This leaves the field open to have everything caused by something far, far in the past, therefore nothing is ever acausal, only random. This is, of course, always assuming that causes even exist… but if you go that far, nothing can save you, and synchronicity becomes meaningless anyway.

Critics of synchronicity also point out that there is a tendency in the mind to see patterns in data where there are none. The word for this is apophenia; but more on that next month.

Please let me know if there are any words you would like featured by posting a comment on this post.