Wired has published an article that ties the present space program to the highly successful Apollo program many decades ago. We might be on the verge of recreating the F1 rocket engine. Lots of amazing facts and figures here:
There has never been anything like the Saturn V, the launch vehicle that powered the United States past the Soviet Union to a series of manned lunar landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The rocket redefined “massive,” standing 110 metres in height and producing a ludicrous 34 meganewtons of thrust from the five monstrous, kerosene-gulping Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines that made up its first stage.
According to this plan, there will be a rocket leaving for Mars in 2013. Before signing up, you need to know that you’ll only get a one-way ticket.
I hiked through some mud in north St. Louis this afternoon to capture this photo of the new Interstate 70 Bridge, which is almost spanning the Mississippi River. Due to open in 2014.[caption id="attachment_24814" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Image by Erich Vieth[/caption]
As I do much of the time, I commuted to my job on a bicycle. It’s a 4 1/2 mile trip that offers me many benefits. I park on the 6th floor of the garage. Though I sometimes ride up the circular garage ramps, today I decided to take the garage elevator. A woman stepped in; then I joined her with my bike.
“Oh, I suppose you are delivering something, but you are taking your bicycle with you in this elevator?”
“No, actually, I’m an attorney and I work in this office building.”
“Oh . . . ” [Giving me the expression of "Why would a lawyer ride a bike to work?"]
I work in a building that probably has more than 1,000 employees, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only person who rides a bike to work. That’s not how it would be in many cities, such as Denver or San Francisco, but that’s how it is here in St. Louis.
One of the many benefits of bicycling is the cost savings, and it’s not just about gasoline. On Thursday, a local bike shop is going to change out my chain and give the bike a complete overhaul, essentially for the cost of two gasoline fill-ups. Other than that, yearly maintenance mostly consists of a few tire tubes and some chain lube. Further, when the commute is less than five miles in city riding, it takes only a a bit longer than it takes to commute by car. It’s win, win, win, but a lot of people won’t consider switching over to bicycle because it’s undignified, or a “toy,” or you might get wet if it rains, or it’s simply not the way that they have commuted for years, and they are not going to consider changing. They should reconsider, because they are losing out.
I often commute by bicycle, so this article caught my eye. In three separate incidents, three cyclists in San Francisco have killed pedestrians by running into them. This most recent example suggests flagrant and reckless conduct on behalf of the cyclist.
I sometimes tell people that I prefer riding a bike to driving a car, because although I might get myself killed, it’s not like I’m going to kill someone else on my bike. Well, I need to rethink that.
Jonathan Patz is the author of a new study indicating the “Four Way Win” that occurs when people choose bicycling over the use of automobiles. I’m completely on board, and I speak from experience as a person who commutes by bicycle more often than not to my job, which is about 5 miles from my home. The study by Patz offers some impressive numbers:
In the study, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, Patz and his colleagues looked to the more than 30 million people residing in urban and suburban areas of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. They asked: What if during the nicest six months of the year, those residents left their cars at home for round-trips of five miles or less? And what if they chose to replace half of those short car trips, which account for about 20 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, with cycling? According to their calculations, making those short trips on bicycles could save approximately four trillion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 1,100 lives and $7 billion in mortality and health care costs for the region every year. “Fighting global climate change could be one of the greatest public health opportunities we’ve had in a century.”
My daughter and I just returned from a trip to Europe, where travel guru Rick Steves served as our primary guide. We relied heavily on his travel books regarding Berlin, Paris and London. These travel guides are detailed, well-organized and well-written. I highly recommend them to anyone intending to travel to Europe.
What I especially like about Rick Steves, though, is his constant urging to live close to the ground while traveling, to work hard to interact with real people and to avoid expensive travel arrangements that prevent you from interacting with others on their terms. This approach does not come naturally to many Americans. Steves thus works hard to prepare Americans for visiting places that are not America. He doesn’t mince his words. Consider, for example, this passage from his London 2011 book, at page 17:
We travel all the way to Europe to enjoy differences-to become temporary locals. You’ll experience frustrations. Certain truths that we find “God-given” or “self-evident,” such as cold beer, ice in drinks, bottomless cups of coffee, hot showers, and bigger being better, are suddenly not so true. One of the benefits of travel is the eye-opening realization that there are logical, civil, and even better alternatives. Europeans generally like Americans. But if there is a negative aspect to the image the British have of Americans, it’s that we are big, loud, aggressive, impolite, rich, superficially friendly, and a bit naive.
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As the new year began, I found myself finishing up the January, 2011 edition of National Geographic. This is not a magazine to be merely scanned. In my experience, National Geographic deserves its own special time. It needs to be read slowly so that its exquisite prose and photography can be deeply appreciated. Every minute invested is paid back tenfold, and National Geographic has been written in this high-quality way for as long as I can remember. So… If you’re going to put me on a deserted island and I can only have one magazine subscription, please make it National Geographic.
The cover story of the current issue is “Population 7 Billion: How Your World Will Change.” In the introduction, the Editor notes that “the issues associated with population growth seem endless: poverty, food and water supply, world health, climate change, before station, fertility rates, and more.” Therefore, it would seem that we would insist on discussing the carrying capacity of Earth. We talk about the capacity of motor vehicles and houses and hotel rooms and conference centers, because we can’t deny that human animals take up space and use up resources. We can’t put 12 people in a boat that is designed to carry four, because it would cause a disaster. Yet many of us simply refuse to consider whether there is such a thing as a carrying capacity of the earth, and we utterly refuse to attempt any sort of quantification of the carrying capacity of the earth. Therefore, as we are approaching 7 billion people on earth, it is preordained by many people that population is simply not a problem, even though societies all over the earth, rich and poor, traditional and modern, are exhausting the resources that are available to them.