Pixel Scroll 9/18/23 Take A Pixel, Leave A Pixel

(1) WORLDCON VENUE DISPLAY. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Blogger skyxiang1991, who posts photos of the Chengdu SF museum/convention centre, uploaded a video earlier today showing a test of the light/laser (?) display at what is perhaps the entrance. See the video here.

The 2 characters on the left of the entrance are 科幻 (kehuan/science fiction), I can’t make out the stuff on the right.

(2) WORLDCON INVITATION. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Whilst looking for any relevant posts or updates on the Xiaohongshu social media platform, I came across this post from September 5, which — based on the footer — indicates that the Chengdu organizers were still sending out invitations as of September 4. [Click for larger images.]

Google Translate indicates that the English and Chinese language pages have broadly the same information.  There’s nothing about the nature of the invitation though e.g. will they be appearing on panels, that says the Worldcon is offering any assistance towards their attendance, etc.

One of the comments is from a volunteer, who says that they have started training for the event.

I have no idea who Chen Ming Da / 晨鸣达 is, although their Xiahongshu bio and posts indicate they are a street artist in Guangdong province.

(3) BACK YOUR FAVORITE MAGAZINES. Jason Sanford says “Don’t Let Our Current Golden Age of Genre Magazines Fade Away” in a post at Apex Magazine.

…Last month, Fantasy Magazine announced they’re closing their doors, in part because of Amazon’s change to Kindle Newsstand. And there are fears more magazines could follow.

As magazines deal with the fallout from Amazon nuking the digital subscription landscape, people will no doubt be told that magazines are no longer relevant in today’s genre. That it is the magazine’s fault for trusting Amazon. Or that only writers read these magazines (an outright myth, with Neil Clarke’s recent analysis of Clarkeworld’s readership data showing that only 13% of his known subscribers are writers who also submitted to the magazine).

The truth is that in today’s fragmented online world, genre magazines are even more vital to the SF/F/H genre. Magazines are where new and marginalized voices can be heard. Magazines are where genre communities and connections can be formed. Magazines are where our genre futures are being created today….

(4) FIND OUT “HOW TO”. Mary Soon Lee’s How to Navigate Our Universe, released this past week, is a collection of 128 poems, ranging from whimsical to serious — poems about planets, stars, black holes, and astronomers, complete with essential advice such as “How to End the Universe”.

 Here’s an example —

How to Be a Star

Gravitationally collapse a nebula.
Fuse hydrogen into helium.
If desired, explode.

And there is other How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as “How to Surprise Saturn”, “How to Blush Like Betelgeuse”, and “How to Survive a Black Hole”.

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award.

The book is self-published, and available through Amazon.com.

This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time.

(5) I COULD SING THIS ALL DAY. “Captain America’s MCU Musical is Now Streaming”Gizmodo alerts the media.

You usually go to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a lot of things, but memorable original music isn’t really one of them. But Rogers: The Musicala corny Hamilton-alike that told a very condensed story of Chris Evans’ Captain America—is one of the more successful attempts at musically spicing things up for the films, if only because people seemed to like its brief appearance in the first episode of Hawkeye. It even took off well enough that Disney brought it to its theme parks for the summer—which is why Disney’s now putting the album out on streaming.

Marvel released Rogers’ 12-track album at the start of the weekend, which comes from the most recent performance held at Disney’s California Adventure Park at the Hyperion Theater. Beyond the novelty of being an MCU musical, the album boasts five brand new original songs that were made specifically for the production.

(6) ONLY 97 SHOPPING DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. This is what someone at TrekCore.com is getting this year: “Hallmark Honors Data and His Cat with 2023 ‘Ode to Spot’ STAR TREK Ornament”.

…Featured in the episode “Schisms” — did that episode mess anyone else up? Just me? — the poem “Ode to Spot” has a special place in this 90s kid’s Star Trek lovin’ heart. I was delighted to see that Hallmark decided to immortalize this iconic TNG moment in this year’s ornament line up.

The push button audio includes the first and final stanzas of the poem…

(7) A DEAL, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I see that Amazon is currently offering three free months of Kindle Unlimited. (Just noticed after pre-ordering a book, by an author I’m overdue to write a scroll about.)

I’m well aware that while this is good for us voracious read’n’release readers, it’s arguably trebleplusungood for creators. OTOH, IMHO much of the reader/creator $ chain seems problematic, e.g., as mostly library/e-library user, not to mention a frequent rereader of the books I own, and still-occasional used-book buyer, creators aren’t being remunerated for much of my eyeball input (ditto audio, etc.)

(8) SUING ANOTHER INTERNET BOOK INFRINGER. “Four large US publishers sue ‘shadow library’ for alleged copyright infringement” – the Guardian briefs readers about the case.

Four leading US publishers have sued an online “shadow library” that allows visitors to download textbooks and other copyrighted materials free.

Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw Hill and Pearson Education filed the suit against Library Genesis, also known as LibGen, in Manhattan federal court, citing “extensive violations” of copyright law.

LibGen operates a collection of different domains that allow users to search for and download pdf versions of books. The suit, filed on Thursday, said LibGen holds more than 20,000 files published by the four suing companies.

“LibGen’s massive infringement completely undermines the incentive for creation and the rights of authors, who earn no royalties for the millions of books LibGen illegally distributes,” Matt Oppenheim, the attorney representing the publishing companies, told the Guardian.

The publishers asked for an unspecified amount of money in damages and called for LibGen domain names to be deleted or transferred to the four companies. The complaint said that LibGen’s activities cause “serious financial and creative harm” because they devalue the textbook market and deprive publishers of income from textbook purchases, which may lead companies to stop publishing “deserving” titles that have low sales….

(9) IS STRIKE AGAINST VIDEO GAME COMPANIES NEXT? “SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Urges Members To Approve Strike Authorization Against Video Game Companies” at Deadline.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, saying that “right now is the time to show our solidarity,” is urging her members to authorize a strike against the video game industry. The guild, which has been on strike against the film and TV industries since July 14, could go on strike against the gaming companies any time after September 25, when voting on the strike authorization ends. The guild’s first and only strike against the gaming companies lasted 183 days in 2016-17.

In a new video, Drescher notes that voting for a strike authorization doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a strike. But rather, it authorizes the board to “to call a strike if needed.”

“It’s been nearly a year since SAG-AFTRA began negotiating the Interactive Media Agreement with video game companies, “she says in the video. “Despite many multi-day bargaining sessions, the companies are refusing to meet our members’ needs in vital areas.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late teens and early twenties, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that both iBooks and Kindle are heavily stocked with her works. (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear over here courtesy of WB Kids. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a most touching remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1946 Struan Rodger, 77. He was the Bishop in Stardust, and shows up in the A Discovery of Witches as John Dee. (Loved the novels, skipped the series as I always do.) He voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”.  More interestingly he’s got multiple roles in Doctor Who. First he’s The Voice of The Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories, “New Earth” and “Gridlock”, next he’s Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Women Who Lived” and finally he’s a voice again, that of Kasaavin in “Skyfall, Part One”, a Thirteenth Doctor story. 
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 75. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (to whom she was married for awhile) the Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (All twelve volumes!) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her later work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is.
  • Born September 18, 1951 — Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones bassist. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 18, 1953 Michael R. Nelson, 70. Conrunner from the BaltiWash area who got into fandom in 1989. He chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 and co-chaired the DC17 Worldcon bid. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association.
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 39. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home features a super-proud dad.
  • The Argyle Sweater imagines climate change affecting Westeros.
  • Dog Eat Doug is another Game of Thrones gag – and don’t you wonder what kind of seed they’re using?
  • A Tom Gauld doubleheader.
https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/1701537595858059723

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! where a couple contestants were stumped by the show’s final item.

Final Jeopardy: Authors

Answer: He dedicated books to each of his 4 wives, including Hadley Richardson and Martha Gelhorn.

Wrong questions: Who is [C.S. crossed out] Tolkien? Who is Mark Twain?

Correct question: Who is Hemingway?

(13) THE OPPOSITE OF DÉJÀ VU IS NOT DEJAH THORIS. But ScienceAlert will be happy to tell you what it is in “The Opposite of Déjà Vu Exists, And It’s Even More Uncanny”.

…The opposite of déjà vu is “jamais vu”, when something you know to be familiar feels unreal or novel in some way. In our recent research, which has just won an Ig Nobel award for literature, we investigated the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

Jamais vu may involve looking at a familiar face and finding it suddenly unusual or unknown. Musicians have it momentarily – losing their way in a very familiar passage of music. You may have had it going to a familiar place and becoming disorientated or seeing it with “new eyes”.

It’s an experience which is even rarer than déjà vu and perhaps even more unusual and unsettling. When you ask people to describe it in questionnaires about experiences in daily life they give accounts like: “While writing in my exams, I write a word correctly like ‘appetite’ but I keep looking at the word over and over again because I have second thoughts that it might be wrong.”…

(14) SHOULD THESE HOMINID FOSSILS HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A RIDE? According to BGR, “Archaeologists are losing it over Virgin Galactic’s latest spaceflight”.

Last week, Virgin Galactic completed yet another flight, sending three passengers and an instructor to the edge of space. But it wasn’t the living passengers onboard the VSS Unity that had a lot of people in an uproar. Instead, reports note that archaeologists worldwide are upset that one of the passengers carried ancient human fossils into space aboard the flight….

The taking of these ancient human fossils into space was part of an elaborate publicity stunt to draw attention to “science, exploration, human origins, and South Africa,” Berger’s request noted. Despite the possible exposure it could bring, archaeologists say that the move put the remains in danger and could have led to the loss of one of the key identifying references for A. sediba, as the shoulder bone taken into space is actually the first A. sediba fossil to be discovered, and thus a reference that helps define the species.

Of course, this story would probably be a lot different if the flight hadn’t been successful, not only because of the loss of life, but because of the loss of history possible if the flight had not gone so smoothly. Luckily, that isn’t the case….

(15) PERMISSION DENIED. “Space Drugs Factory Denied Reentry to Earth” reports Gizmodo.

After manufacturing crystals of an HIV drug in space, the first orbital factory is stuck in orbit after being denied reentry back to Earth due to safety concerns.

The U.S. Air Force denied a request from Varda Space Industries to land its in-space manufacturing capsule at a Utah training area, while the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not grant the company permission to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, leaving its spacecraft hanging as the company scrambles to find a solution, TechCrunch first reported. A spokesperson from the FAA told TechCrunch in an emailed statement that the company’s request was not granted at this time “due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis.”

Varda Space launched its spacecraft on board a Falcon 9 rocket on June 12. The 264-pound (120-kilogram) capsule is designed to manufacture products in a microgravity environment and transport them back to Earth. On June 30, its first drug-manufacturing experiment succeeded in growing crystals of the drug ritonavir, which is used for the treatment of HIV, in orbit. The microgravity environment provides some benefits that could make for better production in space, overall reducing gravity-induced defects. Protein crystals made in space form larger and more perfect crystals than those created on Earth, according to NASA

(16) IT’S A GAS. “Jupiter’s Moon Callisto Has a Whole Lot of Oxygen Scientists Struggle to Explain”CNET has the story.

…It isn’t clear what’s happening at Callisto to produce so much oxygen, but Carberry Mogan hopes to get a better understanding of processes active in the moon’s surface that may yield an explanation or clues. 

“That’s probably Callisto’s most enigmatic feature is its surface,” said Carberry Mogan, who’s a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s supposed to be an icy body, but when you look at it, it’s mostly this dark surface, anywhere from millimeters to kilometers deep.”

It’s still up for debate whether Callisto’s surface is more rock or ice. The dark material on its surface could also be ice-rich, providing a plentiful source for the mysterious amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. 

For help with the mystery, Carberry Mogan is looking to upcoming robotic missions like ESA’s Juice and NASA’s Europa Clipper, which may swing close enough to Callisto to gather new data that could shed light on the puzzle….

(17) NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur YouTube channel marked its ninth year this weekend.  Its first ever YouTube video was on ‘Megastructures in Space’ that came out on September 17, 2014.  To mark this anniversary at the weekend the month’s “Sci-Fi Sunday” with an episode “The Fermi Paradox: Fallen Empires”. In it he contemplated what the ruins of ancient Galactic Empires and the remains of their mega-structures of ancient, interstellar civilizations floating around the Galaxy might look like….

The cosmos seem silent and empty of any great interstellar empires, but perhaps they once existed, and if so, what titanic ruins might they have left behind?

(18) IF THE ROARING TWENTIES WERE SUPER. Today’s ShortyVerse — lots of nice close-ups! Interestingly, a mix of DC and Marvel characters. And an ad for Hulk Chocolate Protein Bars! “Epic Superhero Moments Throughout History”.

Let’s imagine what current movies/series would be like in 1920

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Mary Soon Lee, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]


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49 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/18/23 Take A Pixel, Leave A Pixel

  1. No, I’m not claiming a First as they should be left to run wild and free. No, I’m just dropping in to see what condition my condition is in. Bonus points for remembering where that comes from.

  2. I’m not always right announcing there has been no notification sent to subscribers, but when I am, I wish I could drink a Dos Equis.

  3. Well, bet this would be a first, except I read the scroll….
    Birthdays: What?! Natasha Fatal died at 100?
    (13) Rare? Come on, how many times in the last year have any of you stared at the letters “t h e”, and it took a minute before you knew what it meant?
    (15) Wonderful. What are they afraid of? It’s a cure, not a disease. And this is exactly one of the arguments for doing things in orbit.

  4. (5) I watched the Rogers musical a few weeks back – fun stuff.

    On an unrelated issue, I bought two memberships for the Buffalo NASFIC a few weeks ago, and haven’t heard anything back from them (I also dropped them an email). Any ideas?

  5. The one problem with the superheros in the past? They’re too muscle-bound. Look at, say, Steve Reeves. Or Buster Crabbe. All of them have smooth muscle, like you get from working, not veins-a-poppin where you body build for bulk.

  6. 10) Michael Nelson, Happy Birthday Michael and many many more.
    Many are called Gentlemen, but few have epitomized the concept as well as Michael.

  7. Tonight, Mike is the Most Interesting Man in the World.

    (3) I have started subscribing to some SFF magazines in various forms (print, Patreon, etc.). My next trick is finding out how to find time to read them. Maybe if I cut back on bad TV shows… 😉

    (6) OMG I want one! 🙂

    (7) I wonder if they’re doing this because some readers left after the price hike (or they left after their favorite authors left because they weren’t getting paid enough)?

    (13) Wasn’t there a famous book (circa the 1970s) where the hero decides he is undergoing “jamais vu”? It might have been a science fiction novel, or maybe something like “A Confederacy of Dunces” or maybe a Richard Brautigan book.

    (14) Have they forgotten the loss of Peking Man fossils during World War II?

  8. (15). Shouldn’t they have made arrangements to land before launching the factory in the first place? Am I overlooking something obvious here?

  9. (6) I have had a number of instances of jamais vu in my life, of which I will only bore you with one. Around 1979, I suddenly became quite certain that the word “ought” did not exist, a feeling that persisted until I noticed that I had said, “There shouldn’t ought to be such a word,” and the jamais vu imploded, along with a bit of my brain.

  10. (4)
    Here’s one that’s anonymous.
    I discovered it in a compilation of various poems and limericks, and it’s relevant to our earth:

    To smash the simple atom
    All mankind was intent
    Now any day
    The atom may
    Return the compliment

  11. 15) This is particularly irksome because ritonavir has become a lot harder to make since it was introduced, for a truly fascinating reason.

  12. (13) I often experience this when I’m riding in the passenger seat on a route that I typically drive.

    (15) Between this and the way that the FAA and EPA are holding up the next launch of Starship Superheavy, you’d get the impression that the administration doesn’t care much for private enterprise in space.

  13. Bill:

    Between this and the way that the FAA and EPA are holding up the next launch of Starship Superheavy, you’d get the impression that the administration doesn’t care much for private enterprise in space.

    To be fair, I don’t think that antipathy is limited to just space. It doesn’t appear that they care for it all that much down here, either.

  14. 3) Grimdark Magazine provides a subscription model using Patreon that seems to work well. Additionally, they later sell each issue as “book” via Amazon.

    Cirsova sells individual volumes via Amazon as well. Marketing seems to be largely via X (formerly known as Twitter) and their website.

    Amazon may have discontinued the magazine subscription model for their platform. But it still exists in various forms in other places. Patreon seems to be an obvious platform for magazines looking to continue the subscription model. It requires a little more work by readers, but it isn’t enough to break the subscription model, IMO.

    Regards,
    Dann
    In a room full of ducks, sometimes the one that woofs is needed to point out the quacks.

  15. @bill:

    Between this and the way that the FAA and EPA are holding up the next launch of Starship Superheavy, you’d get the impression that the administration doesn’t care much for private enterprise in space.

    The EPA doesn’t care much for private enterprise anywhere. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is actually quite favorably inclined to private enterprise in space because it is composed of A: space geeks and B: regulatory bureaucrats who need something to regulate – there’s a pretty direct connection between the amount of private enterprise in space and the budget, power, and prestige of OCST.

    However, the FAA is very much opposed to risking the lives of innocent bystanders (as opposed to space flight participants), and in space transportation that’s pretty much their sole mandate. The first attempt at launching a Starship could have killed a bunch of innocent people if things had gone even modestly worse than they did, and at the same time inspired little confidence in SpaceX’s “trust us, we know what we’re doing, things won’t go disastrously wrong” aptitude.

    The case with Varda Space is less clear because we don’t have many details, but if you propose to drop a few hundred pounds onto Utah from Low Earth Orbit, the FAA is going to ask how you can be confident that it’s not going to land on someone’s head. Which shouldn’t be too hard to manage, but if Varda was sloppy and/or cavalier with the paperwork, FAA is properly going to tell them to get it right before doing the reentry.

  16. @bill: (15) Between this and the way that the FAA and EPA are holding up the next launch of Starship Superheavy, you’d get the impression that the administration doesn’t care much for private enterprise in space.

    Sure, I mean, it’s not like the launch caused massive amounts of environmental damage to the surroundings due to completely inadequate launch infrastructure, throwing car-engine-sized blocks of concrete and steel sheets for three-quarters of a mile and spreading a cloud of pulverized concrete for more than six miles, or that the people whose homes and businesses were sandblasted by the launch have filed a lawsuit against SpaceX because they don’t feel like being an involuntary part of Musk’s science experiment. How dare the little people get in the Great Man’s way?

  17. @PhilRM
    “launch caused massive amounts of environmental damage to the surroundings”
    If it did, it’s not described in the article you linked. Some stuff got broken — that’s not environmental damage. A bunch of pulverized concrete (sand and calcium compounds) got distributed over several hundred acres of beach front property (which consists of, you guessed it, sand and calcium compounds). Most of what the article describes would be hard to find after a few days of tidying up and the next rain storm.

    And BTW, before he became EPA Administrator, Michael Regan lived in the Camden Carolinian, a high end condo complex immediately adjacent to the Carolina Country Club (Regan’s golfer), 170 acres of intensely fertilized, herbicided, pesticided and irrigated non-native grass. If you were wild life, where would you rather live — on the SpaceX compound, which will have to stay undeveloped for safety reasons, or on the 14th Fairway at Regan’s home?

    The idea that launch complexes are environmentally problematic is belied by Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge being immediately adjacent to Kennedy Space Center; Wallops Flight Facility being carved out of Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge; and Kodiak’s Pacific Spaceport being right next to Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

    In the decade from its founding until 1970 (when the EPA was founded), NASA went from suborbital rockets to putting a man on the moon. In the 50+ years since then, all of its programs have been massively over budget and behind schedule. Now the government wants to apply the same constraints to SpaceX, which has done more to advance rocketry than anyone since von Braun.

  18. A bunch of pulverized concrete

    It wasn’t all that pulverized. From the FWS FOIA:

    Stephanie and I will put something together in a bit more detail. Willy Cupit from TPWD joined us. Large concrete chunks hurled thousands of feet away most apparent at first impression overall. One chunk with rebar

    measuring 47 inches x 12 inches was found about over 1,000 feet away. On the north side a large area of white powdery coating which I believe is pulverized concrete blanketed the tidal flats. This I believe was part of a plume which deposited this powdery concrete all the way to Port Isabel. No dead birds were found in any of the areas we searched. Concrete chunks were distributed all over the tidal flats along with impact craters; some of which were more than a foot deep. About 4ac burned on State Park lands south of the launch site. All impacted areas were on State Park lands or SpaceX property. No debris was found on refuge fee owned land. The furthest concrete chunk was found about 2,680 feet away from the pad site. Concrete chunks and rebar were scattered on the beach east of the launch pad.

    p.s. I think those kind of golf courses should be illegal too.

  19. Reminds me of “The Man Who Sold the Moon”

    “He caught his breath and went on, ?“Take safety for instance. Do you know why I let LeCroix take that ship out instead of taking it myself? Do you think I was afraid? No! I wanted it to come back-safely. I didn’t want space travel getting another set-back. Do you know why we have to have a monopoly, for a few years at least? Because every so-and-so and his brother is going to want to build a Moon ship, now that they know it can be done. Remember the first days of ocean flying? After Lindbergh did it, every so-called pilot who could lay hands on a crate took off for some over-water point. Some of them even took their kids along. And most of them landed in the drink. Airplanes get a reputation for being dangerous. A few years after that the airlines got so hungry for quick money in a highly competitive field that you couldn’t pick up a paper without seeing headlines about another airliner crash.

    “That’s not going to happen to space travel! I’m not going to let it happen.
    Space ships are too big and too expensive; if they get a reputation for being unsafe as well, we might as well have stayed in bed. I run things.”

  20. @bill: From the first of the linked articles: “The launch pad’s destruction could be seen in the mudflats and dunes south of it and in the algal flats to the north. Broken concrete — some pieces the size of golf balls, others the size of car engine blocks or larger — was spread out over nearly three-quarters of a mile in some directions.

    Craters from large pieces of concrete were as large as six feet across and a few feet deep. Some pieces hit the ground so hard they were submerged in the sand, leaving only an empty crater with rebar jutting from it.”

    Not exactly “Some stuff got broken”, is it?

  21. PhilRM, I remember the news stories at the time by the failure of that launch. The stories made it clear that chunks of concretes some as large as Volkswagens, that’s how the reporters described them, did as you say travel as far as three quarters of a mile. That’s a lot of destructive force.

    And despite bill saying that Musk has advanced space flight more than NASA than in fifty years, no he hasn’t. All he’s done is commercialise it. All of that engineering that Space X had done was built off of what NASA did.

    Neither he or Bezos knows efff all about engineering,They want to go into space as an egotistical thing, not a way of advancing knowledge. I don’t think either one of them has a shred of intellectual curiosity.

  22. @Cat Eldridge
    “And despite bill saying that Musk has advanced space flight more than NASA than in fifty years, no he hasn’t. ”
    Read what I said carefully. I did not say Musk advanced space flight, I said SpaceX advanced rocketry. Specifically, they have reduced the cost of a pound into orbit drastically. “SpaceX is 10X cheaper with 30X lower cost overrun than NASA in lifting payload into space.” link
    And I didn’t credit it solely to Musk, as you have (so you can knock down that straw man) — credit goes to his team of engineers, scientists and managers. A big rocket is too complex to give credit to a single individual when it is successful.
    And I’ll say again — the Starship launch was not an environmental disaster. Holes in mud flats that get obliterated by the next tide just aren’t that big of a deal. A 4 acre brush fire isn’t either — the military base I work on routinely does prescribed burns of 10 – 100 times that size.

  23. @Cat Eldridge

    Neither he or Bezos knows efff all about engineering,They want to go into space as an egotistical thing, not a way of advancing knowledge. I don’t think either one of them has a shred of intellectual curiosity.

    I disagree that human activity in space should be restricted to some esoteric concepts about advancing knowledge or demonstrating intellectual curiosity. We are going to learn a lot when we finally start mining the moon and building habitats there. But the underlying motivation would not be intellectual curiosity. It will be the desire to expand human habitation and activity on the moon (and beyond).

    Musk and Bezos are dramatically decreasing the cost of lifting things into orbit. That process necessarily advances knowledge in manufacturing and process management. And profit (as always) will foster greater opportunities in orbital (and beyond) expansion of the human existence.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Mussolini, Kemal, Pilsudski, Hitler and the rest can all depend on me to judge them by their ability to deliver the goods and not by Swinburne’s comfortable notions of freedom. – George Bernard Shaw

  24. @bill: And I’ll say again — the Starship launch was not an environmental disaster.
    Funnily enough, the people who actually inspected the area, and those who live in the nearby towns, don’t agree with your assessment.

    Tell you what, bill, why don’t you inhale a few lungfuls of pulverized concrete dust and get back to us on the health effects.

  25. I don’t disagree that breathing dust is bad — my grandfather was a coal miner in the 1940s, and he died when my mom was young and I never met him. What I dispute is that localized short-lived clouds of dust and holes in the mud can reasonably be called “environmental damage” (your words). The launch was essentially a bomb going off. Any damage to “the environment” was quickly picked up or healed on its own.

  26. @bill: Any damage to “the environment” was quickly picked up or healed on its own.
    That, again, is your assessment, not that of people at the scene.

    In any case, since, in your own words, “the launch was essentially a bomb going off”, a bomb that sprayed concrete blocks, steel sheets, and chunks of metal for thousands of feet and produced a massive dust cloud that spread for miles in every direction because of Musk’s willful negligence in not constructing the sort of launch infrastructure that is designed to prevent exactly this kind of occurrence (Musk’s own words, pre-launch, on the lack of a flame channel and water deluge system: “It’s possible this was a mistake.” A mistake he made, overruling the recommendations of his engineers), why on Earth wouldn’t the FAA and the EPA demand a slew of changes before allowing another launch? This isn’t about those evil government bureaucrats hindering private space exploration, it’s about preventing irresponsible idiots from wreaking havoc.

    Here’s an interesting rundown on the many, many things that failed during the Starship launch.

  27. @PhilRM “why on Earth wouldn’t the FAA and the EPA demand a slew of changes before allowing another launch?”
    Because FAA and EPA bureaucrats are even less likely to be able to design launch facilities than SpaceX.
    Here’s the thing — when you design and test rockets, things blow up. No one has ever been able to design “rapid unplanned disassembly” (whether of the rocket or the launch facility) out of the system. So you allow for that. You put large safety zones in place, you include a self-destruct switch. And if something goes bad, the unintended consequences are minimized. SpaceX did that — none of reports you or I have mentioned included anyone getting hurt. All that happened was some of SpaceX hardware was destroyed (and SpaceX is okay with that), there was a 3-4 acre brush fire, and a large cloud of dust was generated that dissipated quickly. I’m sure it was unpleasant for a short period of time to be downwind of that, but I still don’t see why it is necessary for the government to put the sort of schedule and oversight constraints on the program that have lead to SLS taking 11 years and $23 B to get to the first launch.
    The government’s role should be to make sure that “civilians” don’t get hurt.

  28. @bill: And if something goes bad, the unintended consequences are minimized.

    Given that Musk overrode his engineers who told him that a flame trench and/or water deluge system was needed to prevent exactly the kind of catastrophic failure on lift-off that occurred, “if” and “unintended” don’t belong in that sentence: the consequences were the entirely predictable result of what happens when decisions are made by a guy who finds safety and expertise boring.

  29. They were not predictable. The previous tests, although at lower engine power, did not suggest that the concrete would be destroyed — they were expecting erosion.

    And a flame trench at Boca Chica is ruled out by geology. The water table is too high to dig down, and the local soil (300 odd feet of sand and mud before you hit bedrock) precludes building up as has been done at Canaveral.

    You seem to insist that the launch complex must be built the same way as has been done previously. But SpaceX’s success is predicated on looking for new ways to do things, especially if they are cheaper and faster. The concrete foundation was one of them. It turned out to work for every launch except one, and they were in the process of upgrading it when the Starship launch occurred. That upgrade has been complete for a while They have been ready to relaunch for weeks, but the only thing holding them back is government approval, in particular Fish & Wildlife Service (why does F&WS regulate space launches?).

  30. @bill: You seem to insist that the launch complex must be built the same way as has been done previously.

    I’m not saying that at all. In fact, the launch structure is itself much more complicated than anything done previously, as functionality has been transferred to it in order to make the spaceships cheaper. It costs much more than a SpaceX Starship. That’s all the more reason why you shouldn’t make stupid decisions that cause massive amounts of damage to it.

    Past test flights of the upper stage caused significant concrete spalling and also caused damage to at least one ship. Musk just told them to try different concrete. He based his decision that the concrete would survive on an engine test that was only 50% power.

    If you can’t build a flame trench, the way to proceed is to find another solution to the problem, not to roll the dice and hope it will be okay. (Musk, pre-launch: “It’s possible this was a mistake.”) Supposedly they are working on a massive water-cooled plate that would act as a flame diverter, but Musk didn’t want to wait until it was ready.

    You claim that it wasn’t predictable, but SpaceX’s engineers said otherwise; Musk just didn’t want to listen to them. That they are now facing what’s probably a year-long delay is entirely on him.

  31. @PhilRM You and I obviously aren’t going to change each other’s minds. I’ll sum up by saying that it looks like SpaceX is entirely willing to risk money and launch hardware by trying faster ways of developing technology. “Risk” means that sometimes you lose the bet. So long as all that is at risk is SpaceX money, and not the people who work or live around Boca Chica, then the government should get out of the way. But it’s clear that the administration wants to shut SpaceX down, and is using the regulatory state to do so.

  32. @bill: I’m pretty sure the engineers at SpaceX that Musk refused to listen to would have liked to learn something from the launch besides “hurling huge blocks of concrete at your launch vehicle during liftoff is a really bad idea”. I’m willing to bet they already knew that. At least it’s given new meaning to “Move fast and break things.”

    But it’s clear that the administration wants to shut SpaceX down, and is using the regulatory state to do so.

    Oh, right, that would be the same administration that awarded SpaceX $2.2 billion in federal contracts in 2021 and $2.8 billion in 2022 – SpaceX has received more than $15 billion from the government since 2003. And that doesn’t include classified defense contracts for the Starshield Program, which undoubtedly total billions more over the last four years. That’s some war on SpaceX, alright.

  33. FWIW, there was a recent WSJ piece about the curious timing of multiple federal agency actions being taken against Mr. Musk and his various companies. Relative to SpaceX, apparently even the US Fish and Wildlife Service is interested.

    According to a Bloomberg News report, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scoured the environmental damage after a SpaceX rocket exploded shortly after takeoff. Seven bobwhite quail eggs and a collection of blue land crabs were found to have been charred.

    Regards,
    Dann
    If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. – George Orwell

  34. @Dann: Relative to SpaceX, apparently even the US Fish and Wildlife Service is interested.

    The US Fish and Wildlife Service is interested because the launch set fire to part of the Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. (As described in the first piece I linked to above.) Investigating the consequences is part of their job.

    And that’s not a WSJ piece (the WSJ does lots of first-rate reporting), that’s bog standard free-association, connect-the-dots conspiracy nonsense from the WSJ editorial board. From five days ago.

  35. @PhilRM

    The WSJ opinion piece specifically denies claiming that there is a conspiracy involved. They don’t believe (nor do I, FWIW) that there is one person or a small cabal pulling the strings behind these investigations.

    There does appear to be a systemic bias against Mr. Musk (and others). A systemic bias is different than a conspiracy, IMO.

    YMMV

    Regards,
    Dann
    Mussolini, Kemal, Pilsudski, Hitler and the rest can all depend on me to judge them by their ability to deliver the goods and not by Swinburne’s comfortable notions of freedom. – George Bernard Shaw

  36. @Dann: It’s hilarious that you think the WSJ opinion writers are in a position to accuse others of systemic bias. Glass houses, etc.

    Being investigated for myriad questionable acts is not remotely equivalent to being the subject of systemic bias.

  37. Also, the WSJ editorial board can’t claim they’re not suggesting there’s a conspiracy when they are literally insinuating there’s something mysterious about the Fish and Wildlife Service being involved in the investigation of the Starship explosion, when it’s simply the result of SpaceX causing a fire in a national wildlife refuge – a fact the editorial board was careful not to mention to its readers.

  38. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service is interested because the launch set fire to part of the Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.”
    Texas Public Radio says the fire was in Boca Chica State Park.

    “And that’s not a WSJ piece ” Yes it is. It appeared on 9/23, p. A12.

    “they are literally insinuating there’s something mysterious about the Fish and Wildlife Service being involved”
    No, they don’t indicate anything is mysterious about it. They even mention the quail eggs and crabs. The simply list it amongst a number of other investigations into Musk-related businesses.

    You mentioned upstream that the existence of government contracts proves that the administration doesn’t want to shut SpaceX down. I should have been more specific — the government is dependent on some parts of SpaceX (because, despite 60 years and $100s of billions, NASA has no capability to put people on the Space Station). But Starship is in direct competition with SLS (competition like this only exists in the federal government — Starship is faster turnaround, more capable, cheaper, by any reasonable metric; SLS should be sent to the Air & Space Museum and its missions assigned to Starship), so it is being throttled.

  39. @bill: “And that’s not a WSJ piece ” Yes it is. It appeared on 9/23, p. A12.
    Sorry, I should have been more clear: when I said it was not a WSJ “piece”, I meant it was not WSJ reporting, but a WSJ editorial. The WSJ editorial page has the same connection to reality as Baron Munchhausen, just not remotely as entertainingly.

    But Starship is in direct competition with SLS (competition like this only exists in the federal government — Starship is faster turnaround, more capable, cheaper, by any reasonable metric; SLS should be sent to the Air & Space Museum and its missions assigned to Starship), so it is being throttled.

    Your conclusion is nothing but groundless innuendo, and you know it. It’s funny how the only person you express concern for in this matter is Elon Musk, and not any of the people in the nearby towns who are so unhappy with the situation that they have filed a lawsuit.

  40. Alternate take: there was a Musk-related conspiracy but it was based out of the DoD and its goal was to protect him. After the Starlink in Ukraine stuff it started to dissolve and all the investigations we’re seeing now should have kicked off years ago.

    @bill: “because, despite 60 years and $100s of billions, NASA has no capability to put people on the Space Station).”

    This is just one of the consequences of the federal government not controlling the means of production.

  41. @Jake

    This is just one of the consequences of the federal government not controlling the means of production.

    It is the predictable result of when the government attempts to control the means of production.

    Meanwhile, SpaceX and a host of other companies demonstrate why a competitive/free market produces a variety of solutions to meet the needs of humanity.

    Regards,
    Dann
    There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob. – Ayn Rand

  42. A status update on Starship regulatory reviews:

    SpaceX completed its in-house review of the April launch, including hardware/infrastructure/procedure corrective actions they have taken Aug 17; they did a static booster test fire include the water deluge suppression [demanded by PhilRM above] system on Aug 6; the FAA closed out its mishap investigation on Sep 8.
    The Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t even start their review until October 19.
    The FAA has said that it will not issue a launch license until the FWS review is complete, and that depending on what the FWS review says, there may be more environmental reviews required by FAA.

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