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.