Starlink

CNBC: SpaceX is manufacturing 120 Starlink internet satellites per month.

Says Instapundit’s Stephen Green: Wow.

And it does sound pretty exciting. High speed internet connections in hitherto uninternetted places. Will politicians be able to spare us all that stressing and straining to narrow the “digital gap” between the cities and the countryside, by threatening to dig up the latter at vast expense to everyone? Will everyone just be connected from now on, wherever they live? Sounds like it, doesn’t it? Working at home, wherever your home happens to be, is just about to get that little bit easier.

Of course, if you are a regular BMNB reader, you already know about Starlink.

Why I disagree with Alice Smith about “the BLM movement”

Alice Smith tweets:

“The BLM movement is totally different from the BLM organisation.”

Yes, just the same way that the Marxist movement is different from Marxist organisations.

And your point is?

Setting aside that bit of snark at the end, which I only include for completeness (that is the whole tweet), I think Alice Smith is wrong about this. I often do agree with her, which is why I follow her on Twitter, but on this, not.

I think that the “Marxist movement” is a lot more similar to “Marxist organisations” than the “BLM movement” is to BLM.

For instance, before they embark upon a test match, England’s cricketers and their test match opponents this summer have together been “taking the knee”. That makes them, in their way, part of the “Black Lives Matter movement”. I know why they’ve been doing this. They’re saying that back lives matter. They are saying that, what with cricket being very multi-racial and multi-cultural, everyone should be treated with respect, there should be no racial insults, etc. etc. And the world in general ought be like that too. It may be a bit virtue-signally, but they really are signalling actual virtues by doing this. Which is why I do not object.

If, on the other hand, I thought that by kneeling thus, these cricketers had been signalling their approval for the demolition of Western Civilisation and its replacement by tyrannical barbarism, which is what BLM, the organisation, believes in and is doing everything it can to bring about, I’d be angry. But if these cricketers thought that that was what taking the knee actually meant, or what the rest of us watching this on our televisions also thought it meant, they’d not be doing it.

Insofar as the BLM organisation actually succeeds in convincing us all that taking the knee does indeed mean favouring the destruction of Western Civilisation, then the practise will become confined to those groups of people who actually believe in the destruction of Western Civilisation. My understanding is that this is happening, somewhat, in America, which is why taking the knee is now losing some of its appeal. But it is not happening, or has not yet happened very much, in Britain.

I like Trump because of his vices

This guy, Shmuel Klatzkin, almost says why I so like the Trump Presidency:

But I think it will become clearer that the only antidote to the clever dishonesty of the Obama years was the blunt, bulldozing, free-talking, bragging Trump. For all his many faults, he has kept the most basic faith between the electorate and an elected leader — he tells the people what he means to do, and then he does it.

The point is that only blunt bulldozing would have sufficed. Where it says “for all his many faults”, it should have said something more like “because of his virtues and because of his faults …”. Trump is operating at a time when “virtue” would have rendered him utterly ineffective. Trump would either come out swinging and yelling and bragging. Or, he’d fail. Klatzkin said all that, but then, when it came to summarising his piece, he missed the nail and hit timber.

I recall writing a piece for Samizdata not long after Trump was elected, in which I expressed the hope that he would not stop tweeting. I hoped he would not turn over a new leaf and become “Presidential”. He has not turned over that new leaf. Good. It was essential that he did not.

Some more creature tweets

A scary tweet:

The other thing I found out was that the female monarch butterfly has an array of chitinous teeth inside her ‘vagina’ …

Chitinous? Excuse me while I google that. Here we go.

A nitrogen-containing polysaccharide that is a tough, protective, semitransparent substance and is the principal component of arthropod exoskeletons and the cell walls of certain fungi.

A tweet about how They solved a life-threatening problem for this glorious pelican.

A scornful tweet, about how the brother of a lion was also a lion. Or so CNN claimed.

A tweet about a beautiful, very long but only two-door, charger. Which is a creature.

A tweet about Mama monkey making funny faces at baby.

A tweet about what someone joining in the tweeting called a beautiful bird, which means I can include it in this list. What it really is is a huge nuclear bomber airplane called the Convair B-36, which had both propellers and jets to drive it along. It reminds me of those big old sailing ships that also had coal-powered engines:

Anyone know where that photo was taken? It should be recognisable, if you recognise it I mean.

Are you bored with all these creatures tweets? Well then, here, especially for you, is a tweet about a snake yawning.

Splashdown for SpaceX

John Stossel:

2 Americans just landed safely after spending 2 months in space.

11 years ago, an Obama committee concluded that would take 12 years and cost $26 billion. Elon Musk did it in 6 years– for less than $1 billion.

Private competition is always better.

On the other hand, says the LA Times:

Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies

Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

“He definitely goes where there is government money,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”

Like the government is liable to cut Boeing off. Because now, it can.

I’m guessing Musk reckons he could find other customers, if the government stopped paying. But I’m guessing further that a chunk of all that money goes to schmoozing the government to keep on paying. In a decade or two, Musk could be no better than Boeing.

This is “privatisation”, and privatisation isn’t the same as a real market, hence the sneer quotes. Private competition is always better. So are lots of customers spending their own money, instead of just the one, getting its money at gunpoint. Let’s hope that in this case it will turn out to be a step in the right direction. As big as it now feels.

Elon Musk’s rockets are cheap because he wants them to be cheap

I have had this article open (see this) for quite a while, and I now see that it dates back to January 2012. What a difference it makes when you can dig up old articles like this. I learned a lot from reading this, which is perhaps because I am now playing catch-up concerning Elon Musk and his many activities, and this piece feels like it was written when a lot of people were first learning about this guy.

In addition to being about Elon Musk, this piece focuses in on why Musk’s rockets cost so much less than the regular rockets that the US government has been buying up until now for its space endeavours. It turns out it’s not been rocket science. Basically, they are cheap because Musk is the first person who has tried to make them cheap:

United Launch Alliance, the consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that produces both the Delta and the Atlas, does not make its prices public. But budget documents show that in 2010 the EELV program received $1.14 billion for three rockets—an average of $380 million per launch. And prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government’s traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at a n executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you’d be fired,” he says. “Because you’ve got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”

I recall once upon a time GodDaughter1’s Dad, who is a structural engineer, telling me how depressed he was that his firm got paid not according to how much extra effort and cleverness they put into designing good structures, but according to how much concrete and steel they wasted, by not putting in that extra effort and cleverness. The good news was that, like Elon Musk, he and his mates were trying to change that.

See also this earlier posting here and in particular Michael J’s comment on it. Musk is now covering himself in glory. Boeing and Lockheed are covering themselves in something else.

James Lindsay talks to and with Joe Rogan

I’ve had my morning deranged by watching and listening to this video of … well, see above. Lots of wisdom in this. Lots.

James Lindsay is a new name to me, and towards the end of this he talked about another new name to me, someone called Derek Bell. I don’t know how to spell Derek, so let’s see if I got it right.

No. Derrick Bell.

I note that the wokists are now saying that nobody really ever really gets cancelled, and I sort of agree with this. I don’t see a world in which any chosen person can be completely silenced. I see a world of unprecedented freedom of expression, but also a huge number of people who really, really do not like this, and are trying to shout down the people they don’t like. But they are not succeeding, or rather, only succeeding somewhat. If the wokists could pick their biggest enemies out and silence the lot of them, this James Lindsay guy would be literally dead now and nobody would even remember him. As it is, he gets to talk to and with Joe Rogan for three hours on end, and I get to watch it, on the other side of a quite big ocean.

As for all those lower-down-the-pundit-pecking-order people who dare not say anything because they want to keep their jobs, well, yes there are still lots of people like that. All effective people have to specialise and there are indeed lots of jobs, and always have been, where you have to keep a lot of what you think to yourself. (My Dad had to keep shtum about being an atheist, because if he hadn’t his job as a big-cheese lawyer might have stalled very badly. Me and my siblings only learned about these heretical opinions of his after he retired. (He couldn’t afford to have us even saying things about what he thought (just like dissidents and their kids in the old USSR))). But, now, you can adopt a pseudonym and say whatever the hell you like on the old www, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll keep your job.

As this James Lindsay video illustrates, anyone who wants to dissent in the privacy of their own home, from the (actually ex-) Mainstream Media, and then vote accordingly, can easily do that. And nothing the wokists are doing can change that.

LATER: On the other hand, while freedom of expression in total has, I think, and despite all efforts to suppress this freedom, greatly increased because of the internet, on the other hand, freedom of expression for academics has decreased and is decreasing. If you want more freedom of expression and to be, or to go on being, an academic, you picked a bad time. I believe that the doctrine of academic freedom was originally devised to carve out an enclave of freedom of expression for academics, in a world where freedom of expression of the necessary level for academia to do its job was not generally available. Now, academia needs to catch up with the wider world.

Big subject, obviously.

LATER STILL: Good luck cancelling this guy.

That a manufacturer of something complicated is using 3D printing to make it is not news

I get emails from Google concerning 3D printing. These emails happen daily and each contains links to many reports of 3D printing being done by this or that enterprise.

When I first learned about 3D printing, I thought it was a revolutionary technology, one that would “disrupt” all manner of processes and technologies. This was why I told Google to send me these emails. I thought that 3D printing might soon start happening in people’s homes. Because it could, basically. But homes don’t mass produce anything, except food, and 3D printed food is ridiculous. Just for starters, potentially poisonous. It makes as much sense to have a lathe in every home, to sculpt food so that it all looks like chess pieces. Every home could do that. But why would it? A few crazy lathe-using hobbyists do have lathes in their homes. With these lathes they make a few rather pointless things that they could easily buy, far better made, for a tiny fraction of the cost and fuss of having their own lathe. The rest of us, not being crazy, refrain from “domestic lathing”.

3D printing, like using a lathe, is not disruptive. It is simply a way of making things, which was developed quite a long time ago, and which even now keeps on getting better. Recently, people like me noticed 3D printing, because 3D printing makes great videos and photos For the internet. But that didn’t make it disruptive. It just meant that 3D printing was contributing to the internet, just as it also contributes to the pharmaceutical trade and the building trade and the trade of making farm equipment. Wherever stuff is being made and then assembled, there will be 3D printing going on, as part of the process.

Now that I have understood all this, these emails from Google have become rather boring and often very silly.

Consider the headline above this non-story:

XB-1 commercial supersonic jet is real and 3D printing helped make it so

Well, yes, of course it did. Why wouldn’t it? The XB-1, as I have already noted here, is, at least potentially, one hell of a story. That they used 3D printing in the course of making it is not a story. It would only have been a story if they hadn’t.

Transparent plague mask

This actually looks like a pretty good idea:

I found it at This Is Wny I’m Broke, which I make a point of checking out from time to time.

The thing is, masks are annoying, one of the most annoying things about them being that we can’t see lips move when we are talking to each other. The Plague spreads best in confined spaces with prolonged social contact, which is also how a lot of chatting is done. So the temptation is to dump the mask just when it might make a real difference.

Jeppe Hein’s red seat sculptures outside the Royal Festival Hall

There are seven of them, and they are bright red. Here are fourteen photos (two of each) that I photoed in November 2018. The weather was grim, making everything else look decidedly monochrome by comparison:

Which I think worked rather well to show how these bright red objects brighten up a part of London still ruled by orthodox Modernists and their monochromatic prejudice against “imposed ornament”. They prefer imposed boredom. This is called “structural honesty”. And honestly, this can get very boring.

Here are some more photos, photoed on that same November day, of these sculpturised bits of furniture, concentrating more on the Royal Festival Hall context, and making it clear that the point of these things is that they can be sat on. When they can be sat on, that is. The final one above, for instance, is very bum-hostile. Number three is not much better, but as you will see below, a group of people did manage to perch themselves upon it:

These red Things are the work of the Danish sculptor Jeppe Hein, who looks like this.

He calls them Modified Social Benches. The above red London ones were installed in 2016. And he did similar ones for New York, around the same time:

And a more complicated one, not red, in 2019, in Venice:

And various others in various other places.

This guy would appear to be a lot like Antony Gormley in how he operates. Once he has found a formula for a particular family, so to speak, of sculptures, he deploys the formula in various different spots around the world. With Gormley, it was those Gormley Men, lots or just a few of them. With this guy, benches all in the same style with local variations and complications to suit the budget and the location.

Like Gormley, Hein has devised other formulae, which strike me as a lot less appealing than this modified social bench formula.

Also like Gormley, Hein emits the usual dreary ideological orthodoxies of his time concerning such things as climate change, and as soon as he opens his mouth to explain what he reckons he is doing with this or that piece of his work, I switch off. I just like the red benches he did for London, for my reasons rather than for his. If my reasons overlap in any way with his reasons, fine. If not, also fine.

Jeppe Hein has been a very busy man.