Thursday Throughput: Yes, the Big Bang Happened

Michael Siegel

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

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37 Responses

  1. Michael Cain
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    Long enough to let serious commenters have a say…

    The first launch window for Artemis 1/SLS/Orion is next Monday. If they launch, regardless of how good or bad things look by Thursday, I expect a discussion of whether paying the $4B price tag — per the NASA IG, and excluding development costs — makes any sense.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain
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      a) the four-billion-dollar cost doesn’t actually exclude development
      b) it also includes the cost of missions that NASA has proposed but not actually started planning for or working on
      c) along with several things that NASA will use to support Artemis but would probably do anyway (and would pay for from a separate budget in either case)
      d) we’re still well below the cost of the Apollo program both in an actual-dollars sense and in a percentage-of-GDP senseReport

      • Michael Cain in reply to DensityDuck
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        From the IG’s report:

        We project the cost to fly a single SLS/Orion system through at least Artemis IV to be $4.1 billion per launch at a cadence of approximately one mission per year…. The $4.1 billion total cost represents production of the rocket and the operations needed to launch the SLS/Orion system including materials, labor, facilities, and overhead, but does not include any money spent either on prior development of the system or for next- generation technologies such as the SLS’s Exploration Upper Stage, Orion’s docking system, or Mobile Launcher 2.

        Report

  2. Kazzy
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    ThTh15: A-yup.

    But remember… those of us who advocated for children were really just death cultists who wanted kids and teachers dead.

    That was a fun smear for this teacher/father.Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to Kazzy
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      There were legitimate concerns, sure. But there were also people who just glommed onto anything they could to take the side of the virus. And they still do. The existence of the latter made it hard for the former to be heard.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Michael Siegel
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        That’s my point.

        The virus posed risks.
        Virus mitigation efforts had risks.

        Acknowledging the latter — even in conjunction with the former — made one a teacher and child-hating death cultist.

        On a local FB board I was told I didn’t care about kids or teachers… a weird charge for someone who’s dedicated his life to being a teacher and working with kids.Report

        • Damon in reply to Kazzy
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          For the majority of kids it’ll probably be a medium or minor issue, for those poor kids, it’ll be devastating. The last time I paid attention, because I have friends who work there, the Baltimore city public schools had kids years behind where they should have been BEFORE the pandemic (which they were “graduating”, and it’s only gotten worse. Given the incompetent administration and teacher’s union, those kids are now even farther back and, essentially, lost.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Damon
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            It is A LOT more complicated than this and obviously nothing is universal but one of the major negatives that arose for schools/students as a result of the pandemic was that existing inequities were exacerbated.

            Some of this was unavoidable… a result of the inequities already present in schools and broader society. But some of it could have been avoided and/or better accounted for.

            I mean, even on a micro-level… my sons are generally typically developing and have fared much better than my stepdaughter who has some developmental/neuro differences and who just got slammed by everything.

            ETA: By “this” in the first sentence I mean what I’m about to say.Report

            • Damon in reply to Kazzy
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              Yep: “Some of this was unavoidable… a result of the inequities already present in schools and broader society. But some of it could have been avoided and/or better accounted for.” Yep, yet nothing was done…..and, as far as I know RE Baltimore, still isn’t.Report

      • KenB in reply to Michael Siegel
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        The existence of the latter made it hard for the former to be heard.

        Not exactly — people’s tribalism and resistance to doubt made them focus on the worst of their outgroup to reinforce their own sense of rightness rather than wrestle with the complexities of the actual situation. And some others who didn’t suffer from this themselves found that they could capitalize on it for their own benefit. Like with every other politicized topic.Report

  3. DensityDuck
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    Lerner’s article is being touted by a bunch of religious folks who think the Big Bang theory contradicts Genesis. This is ironic, because plasma cosmology was first designed by Alfven because he felt the Big Bang Theory had a whiff of creationism about it.

    Which makes it something of the opposite of Occam’s Razor, which is often cited as an argument in favor of atheism but was in fact proposed as an argument against it, in support of what we’d today call Intelligent Design.Report

  4. DensityDuck
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    [ThTh7] another useful rebuttal to the people who explain cosmological weirdness by saying that the laws of physics are Just Different when you’re in space or far away or really bigReport

  5. Kazzy
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    The animal twitter thread is awesome… I expected it to be a subjective ranking so it was really cool to see the classification used. But… how is a snake a tetrapod?!Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy
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      They have the genes to grow legs, and many actually do form tiny legs for a brief period during embryo development; some even keep remnants of these legs as little spurs that stick out past their scales.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy
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      As the duck says, they have vestigial bits of leg, but that’s not what makes them tetrapods. A tetrapod is not defined as any animal with four legs, but rather as any animal descended from the last common ancestor of all tetrapods.

      That sounds a bit circular, but it really isn’t. Biologists identified a bunch of animals that were more closely related to each other than to other animals (indicating descent from a common ancestor), noticed that the vast majority of them had four limbs, and called that group of animals tetrapods.

      So I think extant tetrapods include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Dinosaurs were tetrapods too, of course.

      Taxonomic names can be confusing. There’s an order of mammals called Carnivora. Not all members of this order are carnivorous (e.g. pandas), and many carnivorous mammals are not members of this order.Report

  6. Damon
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    [ThTh3] The US didn’t follow it’s own pandemic protocols (per a reliable person who knows). Emergency supplies had been allowed to be reduced and not replaced on prior administrations. I’m not assigning blame, it would likely have happened under ANY prior administration. Fauci lied INTENTIONALLY, and admitted it so on national television. The guidelines? Pretty much what you should do during flu season. The real issue was the panic and the related control steps that crushed the economy.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Damon
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      “Emergency supplies had been allowed to be reduced and not replaced on prior administrations. I’m not assigning blame, it would likely have happened under ANY prior administration.”

      This seems to me not only entirely unsurprising but maybe not even wrong.

      Maintaining a vast emergency supply takes lots of resources. You need storage space, you need to buy/maintain/replace supplies based on their approved shelf life, you need to pay people to do all that, etc.

      In 50 years, when most of us with a real working memory of everything that transpired around the pandemic are old and/or dead, 30 or 40-year-old hospital administrators are going to say, “Why are we spending so much on a room full of masks that we have to throw out and replace every decade?” and most people are going to shrug and they’ll empty the room and add beds and divert those resources to patient care. And will they be obviously *wrong* to do that?Report

      • Damon in reply to Kazzy
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        Yes they will be wrong. Just like people will say it was “wrong” to allow our manufacturing capability to be offshored to countries 8000 miles from us, ESPECIALLY if and when our manufacturing sector is called upon to help us fight in a war.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Damon
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          Not sure if you are being serious or not. At the very least, I don’t think it is “obviously right” that we should live every day with an eye towards a once-in-every-100-years-event happening.Report

          • Damon in reply to Kazzy
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            I am. The us has very little manufacturing base anymore. What defense products that are made are heavily reliant on Taiwan and Japan (among others) for chips. There’s no way that the us could sustain a long term military conflict against anyone but third world countries for any length of time, not especially when we’ve given a lot of our stockpile to Ukraine (and so has a lot of western Europe)Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Damon
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              Maintaining some here may be prudent… but as a society are we all willing to pay increased prices to keep it all here? Pretty sure we collectively decided no.Report

              • Damon in reply to Kazzy
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                Funny, I don’t seem to recall a vote on that, or even an election where that was a campaign issue.:)Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Damon
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                Do you pay more to exclusively buy American?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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                The question isn’t whether American parts cost more, it’s whether there are American parts to buy.

                There are three companies in the world that can build leading-edge ICs (10nm and below): TSMC in Taiwan, Samsung in South Korea, and Intel. While all of them operate fabs in lots of places around the world, TSMC is notorious for only fabricating their leading-edge stuff in Taiwan.

                It’s not just leading edge stuff. Consider automotive ICs. Most are manufactured by one company in Japan, not because they’re so complicated but because there’s a bunch of old specific standards those chips have to meet. The Japanese company has carved out a niche for themselves, including all of the design help and software tools the auto companies need. They stay in Japan because there are more cars built in India and East Asia than in the US and Europe. (Presumably, US Army vehicles use the same sorts of chips to run their transmissions as the civilian companies.)

                None of this is new. Back in the 1980s there was a global panic after a major fire at a chemical plant in Japan. It was the only place in the world that the raw plastic resin used for plastic IC packaging was made. IC prices went up a lot for a while.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain
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                Entirely fair.

                My broader point though is that we make consumer choices which indicate our preferences and, collectively, these lead to things like hospitals not keeping massive reserves of PPE.

                If we want hospitals to keep massive reserves of PPE, there are costs associated with that. Are we willing to bear those costs for the next XX years in anticipation of the next pandemic? For the last 100 years, the answer was, “No.” We’ll see what the next few decades indicate.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                If we want hospitals to keep massive reserves of PPE, there are costs associated with that. Are we willing to bear those costs for the next XX years in anticipation of the next pandemic? For the last 100 years, the answer was, “No.” We’ll see what the next few decades indicate.

                If that preference is to be borne out, it will be by government decree, not by individual consumer preferences. The vast majority of hospital care is paid for through insurance. Half of us get our insurance through work, choosing from the small number of insurance plans our employer offers. Whether a hospital is covered by that plan depends on its prices. A hospital that says, “Yes, our prices are higher, but we have a warehouse full of PPE and all of the staff necessary to be sure we’re managing that reasonably well,” is unlikely to be picked by the insurance plans.

                Look at various safety and emission stuff for cars. As a general rule, off the record, the CEOs all said, “Yes, seat belts are the right thing to do. But please mandate it so when I have to increase my prices by $100 to cover those, all my competitors are in the same boat.”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain
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                Yes, a mandate could get us there. But would it shock you in 50 years time when a politician who was 5 when this all happened gets up and says, “We can lower your medical costs if we get rid of these needless stockpiles! Can you believe we require even small rural hospitals to stockpile THOUSANDS of masks?”

                We are learning lessons from this. But how long will we retain them?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy
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                The other thing is that government stockpiles aren’t allowed to just sit in a warehouse forever until someone decides to use them (the way we all did with that two-pack of masks we bought in 2008 and only used one of.) They’re required to keep things in-date and functional.

                And that actually was a problem for things like ventilators, because several states actually did buy a bunch of them for an emergency-supplies stockpile, and then the manufacturer went out of business, which meant that the stockpile managers couldn’t guarantee that they’d be able to get spare parts and service.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to DensityDuck
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                The Strategic National Stockpile — a real thing — had hundreds of ventilators that were unusable because they had not been maintained. I wonder about their stocks of smallpox vaccine, and tetracycline in case of a plague outbreak.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Michael Cain
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                Buying new stuff is sexy and an easy political sell. Maintaining and replacing old stuff is neither.Report

            • Greg In Ak in reply to Damon
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              There is no way ANY advanced military could sustain a high intensity conflict over medium or long term. All advanced weapons are far to complex to crank out like Liberty Ships in ww2.Report

  7. Greg In Ak
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    says:

    We are set with nukes. Yeah the russians fight in the winter. Lol. Yes that is the history. Does the current deeply wounded russian army with poorly trained recruits and mercs suddenly become a juggernaut??? How does that happen.? They are poor in the summer/fall then get super powers in the winter. Ukraine will fight in the winter and still has home field advantage. I assume that some enterprising Ukrainians will be writing graffiti in Finish all around occupied territories during the winter as a reminder.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Greg In Ak
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      The two big advantages for the Russians in winter are supposed to be: (1) their opponents are far from home at the end of really troublesome logistics, and (2) problem-free maneuvering for tanks because the ground is frozen. NATO and the EU largely reverse (1), and 10,000 Javelins and equivalents make (2) unlikely.

      I wonder if Ukraine has asked for full winter kit for 50,000 soldiers yet?Report

      • Greg In Ak in reply to Michael Cain
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        Bet they have. The two big examples of General Winterski fighting for the russians involve invaders blindly stupid to preparing for winter and being generally poor at logistics. Seems unlikely the UKR’s will have those same problems for the reasons you list and being a far more well prepared opponent.Report

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