26 July 2016

30 March 2015

Blue Yonder

Back in the Seventies, my high school friend Andy called me up and said his dad would take us for an airplane ride. Right now! Get over here!
His father LeRoy was a damned impressive man. A security guard at the local prison, he was tall and broad, with a Louisiana accent and a Roman nose that could open beer bottles. Probably. When I first saw him I thought "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands..."
He had called the local airport and arranged for a plane, but when we got there it turned out to be a two-seater. So he decided to take us up one at a time.
First came the pre-flight inspection. LeRoy walked around the plane, peering up at this and that, wiggling flaps and opening doors. He was serious about it; no flying until he was satisfied.
He started up the engine; the plane shook with energy. Another couple of minutes of playing with the controls then he yelled "Okay Andy! You first!"
With the doors shut he drove it forward, then turned it around and taxied to the end of the runway, turned it again and started speeding faster and faster and it lifted off the ground.
I watched as it got smaller and smaller and then it was gone.
Forty minutes later it was my turn.
I didn't fly again for more than a decade, but that was really only half a flight as I jumped out around 2000 feet.

14 October 2013

One Shot

Project Orion has problems.

You have to toss nuclear bombs under the pusher plate and explode them right on schedule. Plans on how to do this has only been generally sketched out. A trap door, exposed to regular fission blasts and that will work without fail? Catapult(s) on the rim of the plate, tossing them to go off at just the right time and place? There are no detailed plans on the delivery method.

The bombs would have to be rebuilt to fit whatever catapult is used. Machining radioactive metal is a delicate operation. Wouldn't it be nice to use existing, surplus weapons for propulsion?

This twist is promising. One blast, underground, pushes the craft up a collapsing tunnel past escape velocity. The explosion is largely contained and the plate only endures one blast. At the right moment small rockets can kick it into orbit.

The acceleration is too fierce for people, but most kinds of cargo won't mind. And we're talking about a lot of cargo; easily 100,000 tons. The greater the load the less the atmosphere effects the trajectory.

This also uses up existing bombs. Of course, one could surround the bomb pit with garden variety Uranium-238 and make Plutonium for further use...

Of all the plans that probably won't happen this is one of my favorites.


09 October 2013

lil' x

Announcing the little x prize.

Hard cash handed out when a goal is met.

The initial award goes to the first to send a living ecosystem round Mars and back. The ecosystem will be fully monitored and recorded and consist of at least two species, one of which must be macroscopic. It must be alive on return to Earth's orbit.

For this achievement I will pay the sum of ten U. S. dollars.

This pledge is not exclusive. Anyone believing it worthy is welcome to add their pledge. Reference #littlexprize

07 October 2013

The Master Plan, revealed at last.

Create a negative income tax, also called a guaranteed annual income.

For example, if an individual's annual income falls beneath $20,000 the Federal government would cut a check for the difference. As a refinement dependent children would be granted a lesser amount, say, $7,000, into the guardian's care.

Eliminate Social Security and other federal welfare programs.

All Federal departments offering retirement plans, such as the military, should be directed to move to a supplemental income allowance.

Tax all income over $20,000 at a flat rate, say five percent.

Eliminate tax deductions, except:

Any income under $150,000 may be set aside, tax free, into a restricted Health and Retirement Account (HRA).

It may be wise to allow the individual more liberal access to a HRA after a period of time, say ten years, tax being paid when used for other than health or retirement. After a certain age the fund is fully accessible, open, perhaps, to taxation on interest.

The Federal government will add an additional annual $1,000 to all individual HRAs.

Eliminate corporate taxes and the impact of capitol gains and losses. This is not strictly necessary to a negative income tax but is a fine idea on it's own.

All figures are for illustration but I think they are fairly considered. For example, in 2012 about twenty percent of Americans had an income of $20,000 or less. A negative income tax using that amount should cost significantly less than a trillion dollars a year, well within the budget.

One may want a higher income tax and here we could compromise. Say we start out with a ten percent tax and lower it every 3 years until it reached  5 percent.

The actual guaranteed income should probably be pegged to some standard. Perhaps 150% of the average rent in the lowest quintile.

A tax system with an easily predictable rate and without deductions or favors would remove a large accounting cost to doing business. Ideally tax code will become simple and stable and politicians would sharpen their knives elsewhere.

With everyone guaranteed a basic living we should be able to eliminate most subsidies. Agricultural comes to mind. A negative income tax creates a protective buffer for both individuals and businesses.

27 February 2013

Too many books, part one

Do we still need phone books? Somehow I can't throw this one away.

Note the billard parlor listed at 4326 University Way. This pleasant and healthful concern was quickly evicted to make way for the first off-campus digs of the Associated Students of the University of Washington's book store, who have squatted there ever since.