Thursday Throughput: Exploding Betelgeuse Edition

Avatar

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

Related Post Roulette

9 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    I agree we don’t spend enough on R&D, but I don’t trust government to not piss such money away on obvious crap (solar roadways!) or graft/giveaways.

    We’d need some kind of governing body that is politically disconnected. Congress just hands them $X B a year and they figure out where to target it.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Oscar Gordon
      Ignored
      says:

      Agreed absolutely. This is why the NSF and (to some degree) NASA and DOE are successful. Congress gives them a budget and scientists decide what it goes it. It’s not perfect but it’s way better than deciding contracts based on campaign donations.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Siegel
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m not sure how well that would apply to NASA. To make it politically viable, NASA spending was spread throughout key states and districts, and big contracts are divvied up between both the major centers and the various big contractors, who spread the funding to subcontractors. Military spending shows the same pattern, with all the important Congressional districts getting components of whatever super-fighter is being built.

        Funding for astronomy just generally isn’t big enough to be that important to campaigns except for the occasional big-ticket item like the James Webb space telescope.

        The pork must flow.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to George Turner
          Ignored
          says:

          I’ve wondered about SpaceX and the spreading-the-production-around model. As of a few years ago, they were bringing more and more parts production in-house. Musk said it was because of price gauging by the parts providers, and also hinted at the costs of dealing with the steady trickle of outside companies that get caught faking testing and QC reports.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain
            Ignored
            says:

            That’s exactly the issue. One of the first things Musk did when he became interested in launching a probe to Mars is ask why rockets were so ridiculously expensive. It seems much of the problem is the standard aerospace (DoD) contracting model, which is designed to appease as many powers-that-be as possible instead of producing low-cost high-end products.

            There were certainly other elements that drive up costs, such as low-volume production of sophisticated rocket turbo pumps. The machine tooling required to produce them is staggeringly expensive, yet the number made are very small, so obviously the cost per unit is extremely high. Musk went with a commercial pump manufacturer, Barber-Nichols, whose volumes were high and who’d already done some work on rocket turbopumps as part of some NASA cost-savings experiments.

            Of course another element beyond the old Henry Ford philosophy of doing everything under one roof is Musk’s focus on simplicity and cost.

            I’m not sure how much astronomy could gain by trying to go for high-volume standardized production of fairly large telescopes. As it is, almost all the projects are one-offs, so there’s no basis for comparison once the scopes are much bigger than retail Meades and Celestrons.Report

  2. Avatar Em Carpenter
    Ignored
    says:

    What do you think of this (by another Siegel!) which says it could have exploded already?

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/03/22/what-will-happen-when-betelgeuse-explodes/amp/Report

  3. Avatar George Turner
    Ignored
    says:

    I was intrigued by a story about cotton candy planets.

    NASA.gov news story

    The planets are the size of Jupiter but their mass is not much different from Earth’s. They are thought to be very young, and so haven’t had much of their hydrogen-helium atmospheres stripped away yet.

    I’ll have to think about how gas laws are going to scale where the upper reaches of the atmosphere are feeling only a weak pull from the planet’s core.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *