Electric food is climate immune food from a factory!

Electric food? It’s here – they’ve just got to get the scale up to bring the price down. The only thing grown here with photosynthesis was the salad flavourings.

The buns, meat, and even mayo are all SOLEIN!

Solein is “electric food”. That is, they use solar power to split water and get hydrogen, which they feed to various cultures and bacteria. They can cook up all the protein, fats and carbs we need from Solein. It’s solar-powered food grown in a factory.

It’s climate safe food that protects the climate from land use changes associated with farming, but also protects our food supply from global warming. This could be a solution to one of climate change’s most dire threats (to us humans at least). This could hypothetically replace wheat and corn and rice farming, and cattle grazing. This could eventually return about 40% of the (non-ice) land on earth back to nature!

Posted in Conservation: saving life, Food & Farming, Soil | Leave a comment

IF Labor wins, Libs will mainly whinge about rising interest rates

All we’ll hear from them will be “Labor’s economic emergency” and all that blah blah, even though interest rates are a macro-economic tool to combat global economic issues like inflation. You know – inflation caused by the Russian war raising energy prices, etc. They gonna blame Labor for that as well?¬†ūüėȬ†At least we probably won’t hear them whining about ‘Labor’s debt disaster’ after they multiplied it tenfold – WHICH I SUPPORTED at the time given they were dealing with Covid. But it just goes to show that Tony Abbott’s ‘debt disaster’ claims were not legitimate. Civilisation is still standing – despite the (ironic) fact that the Liberal government increased our debt tenfold!

I sometimes wish we had more proportional representation, more parties, and basically a more BORING administrative government that just got on with it. The two party system just becomes so combative. But then that seems to be worse these days with the culture wars becoming more acidic. And if the Libs win, there’s another 3 years of inaction on climate change. We’ll just have to hope that market forces and the ever cheaper price of renewable energy will get us part of the way there.

Posted in Australian Politics | Leave a comment

Which country is the best at ‘Upcycling’ waste?

Recycling is so yesterday. Why turn bottles into bottles if you can turn them into value added products like houses or hospitals and make a profit?

Posted in Waste | Leave a comment

The Batman brings Gotham – and a warning

The one area I would fault the Nolan Batman trilogy (which I loved!) is it was missing one of the main characters – Gotham. Especially in the second movie where he was trying to say psychopaths can be born even in cities of wealthy glass towers and big business. Matt Reeves brings Gotham back to us – but not in the fantastical industrial hell-scape of Tim Burton. This is New York – but from a darker dimension. I was chatting with my young-adult son about how some complain that The Batman himself, Bruce Wayne, is not very accessible. We do not immediately relate to him or invest in him, especially as most of the movie he is armoured up in the Bat-suit. But my son answered that this was the whole point of the plot! Bruce was unhinged and losing touch with himself. As others have commented, he was such a creature of the night he winced in simple daylight. He had to wear shades. Only near the end of the movie – as some of the darkness lifts – can he confront daylight without wincing.

Gotham is back. It’s a warning to us in Australia as – like the proverbial frog in boiling water – we gradually acclimatise to government corruption. Under the Morrison government we have lost 4 percentage points according to Transparency International – and there are now at 18th position. It’s time to do better.

Posted in Australian Politics, Movies and TV | Leave a comment

Will the first off-world city of a million people be on Mars or in a Space Habitat?

Mars

I’ve always been a fan of Mars because I think I could more easily imagine how such a thing could grow from a village of 500 to a town of 10,000 to a city of millions to a planet of billions. That is, much more immediate benefits. People living there and living rewarding lives immediately. But also over time their combined efforts slowly accumulating in infrastructure, agriculture, cities, economy, and eventually their own unique culture.

My misconceptions

Space habitats always seemed the opposite to me. It was like they had to be finished before anyone moved in. Especially the ultimate habitat – the O’Neil cylinder!

It’s a huge steel can 32km long and 8km wide, spun up so people have spin-gravity on the inside. I thought it had to be built and thoroughly completed¬†before¬†anyone could move in. But that’s the problem! It’s like building the whole of Manhattan City before the first person moves in. Also, think about the eye-watering financing! It’s like building thousands of air-craft carriers in one go, on a MASSIVE mortgage, before you get your first paying customer. This all came from two concerns:-

  1. The tin can myth. I had been influenced by retro-futurist art that mostly emphasised living inside the finished Centre of this giant tin-can. Like it was only a giant tin-can with thin walls separating inhabitants from the vacuum of space. So of course the entire 32km length and 8km width had to be finished before anyone moved in, right? Otherwise everything would just be sucked out into space? My error was just seeing it as a tin can with thin walls. But the walls themselves are probably better thought of as giant spinning space-stations in their own right. They would be steel decks many stories thick, more like air-craft carriers than the wall of a tin can.

2. Construction zones are dangerous.¬†Imagine the safety implications of living in a construction zone in zero gravity? A city on a planet has gravity. It keeps stuff in place. Drop a spanner? It’s there. On the ground. Crash a truck into the side of a building? Maybe a wall falls down. But what if you’re building a gigantic structure like an O’Neil Cylinder around a planet? If something collides, it might spin off and hit satellites that then hit other things all travelling at about 7 km per second. From my old army days I know the SLR fired 7.62 NATO rimless rounds at 823 metres per second, but in an accident space-junk is flying at 7 kilometres per second! It’s all locked into free-fall orbiting around our planet, and at those velocities flecks of paint become bullets and stray spanners become bombs. It called the Kessler Syndrome, and describes a cascading chain-reaction of metal shrapnel that shreds everything – including satellites and habitats and people – into spare parts and space junk. Let’s not do that!

My point: living near a construction zone is dangerous enough, but living near one in zero gravity could be really interesting. I honestly could not visualise how to do this incrementally.

But Kessler Syndrome has some easy, if blunt, answers. Build stuff with lots of netting and safety protocols. Or even limit the bigger construction projects like O’Neil Cylinders to around asteroids. Without the gravity of Earth to keep stuff trapped in orbit, a few stray parts would just expand outwards.

Now back to the problem of incremental growth. How do we build O’Neil Cylinders in stages that can be enjoyed in the meantime, like that first village on Mars of 500 people?

Tube rings are the answer

The following image is where it all clicked for me. It’s less art, and more a construction manual. I finally get it. Tubes. Added together.¬†Accumulating. Growing the infrastructure and economy with an attractive lifestyle – but with accumulating benefits for all as achieve new milestones. Build it like this, and each tube is a viable space-station in its own right. The village lives in the ‘walls’ of what will become an O’Neill Cylinder – and as we add more tubes it becomes a town, city, and finally a full nation.

Accumulating habitat Rings

What would it feel like to live there? Let’s orientate ourselves to this behemouth. It’s spinning around, so let’s call the outside steel deck pulling your feet towards it ‘Down’. Going in towards the Centre is going ‘Up’ to the top floor. You live inside these tube-rings – each of them several stories tall.

The Outside Cylinder

The Outside¬†cylinder protects you from radiation, and can be fixed still in place – with an interior cylinder spinning (and magnetically repulsed from the first.) The outside has asteroid dirt ‘glued’ to the surface – probably with just frozen water. This protects against cosmic radiation, solar radiation, and even micrometeorites. It also protects you from any loose spanner or tug boat that might go off course and crash! Camera towers could stick out that scan around, monitoring which areas might need some work or more dirt glued to the ring. That’s outside, several layers of steel under your feet.

The Rings

The Rings¬†are like living inside an aircraft carrier custom built for civilian comfort. These are attractive enough places to live¬†in their own right. There might be big malls or parks in the tube rings themselves. After all, we’re talking about slowly building thousands of aircraft carriers worth of steel habitat here. It’s got to be¬†functional AND fun, while the rest of this monster is built. Maybe some huge future space economy might mass produce these things on an assembly line. But until then – we’ve got to build in a way that allows a lifestyle and economy to grow organically during the construction process itself. It needs to accommodate the various stages of village, town, city and nation – and have some fun at each step of the journey.

Factory Sector on the “North” Wall

It all started quite modest. Generations ago the first Space-X Starships already ferried out the first inflatable modules. They funded the whole venture, firing platinum and valuable rare earths back to Earth as those first few habitats finally grew into a little spun up space-village. But then it could quickly start to funnel outwards in diameter as each next stage grew. Let’s call this the “North” Wall. (No matter which way the habitat itself is facing.) The steel plating here would become extra fortified to withstand receiving tens of thousands of tons of ore from the nearby asteroid. It’s all loading dock and conveyor belts, power-plants and forges, factories and fabricators. Having this Industrial Sector built in the spun up O’Neil habitat itself just makes sense. It avoids as many people (or even VR operated robots) floating around outside in zero g. It’s safety first. We can plan more intuitive gravity based factory systems like we have here on earth. Huge space tugs dock on the Outside North Wall, and the conveyor belts move ore down to be sifted below. Everything is useful. There will be construction metals and rare earths, uranium and thorium for power, silicon for computers and water and dirt for ecosystems and radiation shielding Outside.

Then as the rings expand “South” they can start to build some of the fun stuff of city life.¬†Trains of course carry prefab steel plates to the South end where there is something like a Tunnel-Boring-Machine – but it’s more of a RBM – a Ring Building Machine. Would the RBM spiral out in a¬†continuous process, sealing off sections as it went? Or would it complete individual rings for other structural reasons? I don’t know.¬†But I like the vision of a dedicated industrial area receiving raw asteroid dirt at one end, and the civilian living quarters and mixed use cities gradually building out from that.

Central Parks

The industrial “North” end of the O’Neil cylinder is probably already sealed off with thick steel plating, to prevent the space tugs accidentally throwing debris down the Centre to hit any interior living decks. We don’t want that. The Habitation Rings accumulate “South” of the factory zone. Now, when would there be a wide enough cluster of rings for the residents to start to demand they seal off the South Wall so they could terraform the middle and make their Central Park? (This puts a whole new ‘spin’ on that phrase – pardon the pun!) How wide would these ring sections have to be before that became viable?¬†

After all, it’s a big investment in steel. It’s an 8km diameter steel wall built with enough strength to hold in an atmosphere of pressure against the vacuum! Maybe it’s only worth it every 4km or so? Every 8km? When would it be worth it? However long they decide to wait the point is they could do this in chunks. There might be residents that enjoyed a Central Park of whatever width for decades before they finally reach the South Wall 32km away. Maybe the very first O’Neil Cylinder will take lifetimes?

But once a section is sealed off against space, the residents can have it all. City living in the walls, and then they just catch a lift ‘Up’ from your home or office to get to the Central Park. This is no rooftop garden. There would be no looking over the edge of a building at the city below. The Rings below are all buried under layers of steel decking and dirt. Instead, you are in sprawling parklands and ecosystems pumping with life. Even if you’re living in the newest rings built kilometres South of the Central Park sealed in section, that park is just a short train trip away. I imagine it being a daily commute for all residents living there.

Finished

When finished they would probably dismantle the inner walls to have the one huge more integrated ecosystem. After all, that’s the whole point of an O’Neil Cylinder in the first place! Let’s imagine what this looks like. Imagine you are a maintenance worker fixing something on the North Wall. You’re suited up, floating above the industrial steel of the North surface – working on something. Then you turn around to gaze down the south end – but the South Wall is in night mode. I love this visualisation!

The next Cylinder

We are talking about building Real Estate – a product that every human being needs. I don’t think the mining would ever stop. They would continue mining that asteroid, and build a new Industrial Sector. Then, after years of construction, maybe it’s ready for Launch Day? They disconnect any plumbing and wiring and train lines, load the hydraulic pumps and gently push their new neighbour away. It gently puffs over to find it’s own region of Psyche to mine. (Psyche has enough material to build a MILLION of these huge habitats!) After all, not everyone wants to live in an Australian themed Koala reserve. Naturally the first habitat will be a koala reserve – everyone loves Koala’s and Australia. It will have a copy of the Blue Mountains and Australian beaches as well! (Winks at own bias.)

The NEXT O’Neill Cylinder could be parked next to the first one, with cross struts on the Outside cylinder joining at the ends. Catch a vac-tube to the next Cylinder for a ski trip, an African Safari, Californian Redwoods, or even ocean themed – with islands and coral reefs and whales. It’s up to each habitat. There can even be mountains built from intruding bulkhead steel and covered in rocks to look natural, or even various ultra-strong but ultra-lightweight industrial ‘sponge’ materials. Or, if built from steel layers, they could have many floors of infrastructure and storage and hidden away malls and living spaces. As long as they don’t ruin the ‘natural’ look from the Centre – who cares, right? Who knows? Maybe some areas will be theme-parks as well. I mean, why not build a Harry Potter themed Hogwarts town on the edge of a forest lake? Why not build the slave quarters from Tatooine if you like deserts, or the rolling hills of The Shire – complete with underground hobbit-holes – if you’re into Tolkien?

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So who gets to a million people first?

We started all this comparing the benefits of an accumulating village on Mars, and my misconceptions about building in space. But with an O’Neil cylinder starting from the humble beginnings of inflatable habitats lifted up in the guts of a few Starships, but gradually and incrementally growing, I honestly don’t know who will get there first. My gut feeling these days, is what is market driven? In pondering this for the last few years, I’m starting to feel like the gravity well of Mars prevents it being as cheap a source of rare earths and metals as Psyche. I think, in writing and rewriting this essay – I’ve become both a “Martian” and a “Belter”. And maybe I would bet on the Asteroid Belt – and especially those habitats around Psyche – being the first place we build an off-world city of a million people. After all, money talks!

Thanks all – and hopefully this Russian invasion of the Ukraine doesn’t escalate into something much worse that might push the ‘reset’ button on all our attempts to get into space!

Posted in Mars, Space | Leave a comment