Sunday, April 06, 2008

Pyrophobia, PSH and "Eww, We Don't Know Enough."

They're at it again. Y'know why you can't lease a hunting-lodge on Mars* right now? 'Cos of scary, terribilifyin' cosmic rays. See, they're like radioactive an' stuff, and accordin' to space biologists, space biology has not been given enough money to understand why and how. Why, we're relyin' on studies of atom-bomb victims, they complain. Besides: radiation. Ewww!

I'm not sure exactly how they plan to fix this by tossin' money at it. Hire winos to get irradiated? And we have a well-documented pool of experimental animals that have been out where the van Allens chill out; you may remember them as Lunar Astronauts. Surely they'd volunteer to have their medical records peeked at? A good many are former .mil, so odds are good Uncle Sam has already got their records, for no additional cost.

So-called "Cosmic Rays" are spooky: energetic particles that go zipping along and will crash right through you, leaving a tiny path of destruction, but they're not fundamentally different from the Earthbound versions. We know what they do; we know what the risks are. Spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in a lunge for more slops from the public trough is reprehensible. Waving the "Ew, radiation" flag over it is yet another example of the fear of fire L. Neil Smith points out is a common thread in foes of firearms, internal combustion, nuclear power and smoking.

Dang, what're they gonna do when they learn the Russians have had guns, nuke plants and smoking areas on their space stations?

Much more of this and I'm gonna suggest learning Mandarin if you hope to ever visit Mars. Oh, and getting realllll comfy with Maoism and Great Leaps Forward. Or maybe Russian; they seem to understand that with progress comes risk and if they can figure out the funding, they'll give it a try.

The only way "we" are ever going to "know enough" is by going and doing. Trying to Nerf the universe is a prescription for failure.

Dark thoughts on a dark night. I've got to pull an early morning shift at the Skunk Works and it's got me simply thrilled.

* The planet's likely lifeless, you say? My fave sort of hunting: tramping about in the rough with a gun an' not havin' to dress and clean nothin'. Besides, what if there's rocklizards?


Gregg said...

"The planet's likely lifeless, you say? My fave sort of hunting: tramping about in the rough with a gun an' not havin' to dress and clean nothin'. "

Darlin, out here in Azirona that there's called hiking.

Roberta X said...

H'mmm, y'have a point, Gregg. --Seriously, that's how my Dad hunted most of the time; it was really just an excuse to get out in the woods, maybe do a little plinking.

But the Old Man (a term I use in respect and affection) had a problem: squirrel offered him no challenge other than, later in life, finding real silver fifty-cent pieces to squeak together. His little Remington .22 is an utter tackdriver (even today) and, in his hands, missing wasn't a possibility. On the other hand, deer irked him. It was not that he lacked patience but rather that he so enjoyed being in the outdoors and had so little time for it that, well, he simply could not stand to be still and wait.

It's a pity we didn't live in varmit-shootin' country. He would have enjoyed it.

Carteach0 said...

Perhaps.... it might be worthwhile to research a sidearm that can be used to shoot those dangerous cosmic rays from the sky?

ZZZZZTttttttt "There, see? I got one!"

"You don't believe me? Prove it!"

Stingray said...

Having actually just been looking into exactly this for other reasons, cosmic rays are, more or less, a non-issue. The bigger problem is the cost of raising adequate shielding off this rather sucky gravity well we're on.

Roughly 1' thickness of good old fashioned H20 is in my unprofessional hobbyist opinion adequate for a pretty good level of safety. Getting enough water up to go all the way around, on the other hand may pose something of a weight challenge. By no means insurmountable, even today, but definitely a few more cents than I've got in the piggy bank.

Lorimor said...

It's those darn neutrinos I'm tellin' ya! Anything that goes by the handle of top, bottom, charmed, or strange has got to have something wrong with it.

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

All tags set!?

HTRN said...

Like others have mentioned the problem isn't shielding from cosmic rays, it's getting it into orbit. Last I heard, it cost $1K/Kg to put something in orbit. This is why we should be focusing on beanstalks/space elevators/whatever. Once we get the cost of putting stuff outside the gravity well down, colonizing becomes a very real possibility.

As for the Russians and Chinese, well, The Chinese only recently mannaged to put a man in orbit and are more interested in modernizing their country, and the Russians? well, they've got other problems to worry about.

If anybody is gonna put a colony on mars, it's gonna be us. We're the only ones that have the money, technology and drive to do it.

Ritchie said...

Well, you know, a quick zip through the vanderhood isn't the same as a leisurely transplanetary cruise. Still, I'm totally down with infernal combustion, having witnessed, among other things, a 53liter Bristol Centaurus dragging a Sea Fury around. Briskly.

phlegmfatale said...

Ahhhhhh, so THIS is why the word "pyrophobia" was bandied about in my dreams last night.