Colby Cosh on Richard Branson’s suborbital dreams:
Here, with talk of satellites and zero-G research, Branson seems to be cynically availing himself of the public’s confusion between “going into space” and “going into orbit”. It is a bit like confusing a walk around the block with an ascent of K2. SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital system designed to reach an altitude just above 100 km, and thus barely breach the arbitrary technical line between the atmosphere and space-in other words, to repeat, with a passenger load, what SpaceShipOne already did in 2004. This will be no mean feat, but as Mark Wade’s authoritative Encyclopedia Astronautica observes, “Orbital flight to space is a whole different order of magnitude than suborbital tosses. To reach 100 km altitude typically requires a vertical cut-off velocity of 1100 m/s at 40 km altitude. To reach orbit requires a cut-off velocity of 7800 m/s at 185 km altitude—over…7 times the cut-off velocity, and 20 times the energy.”
The wealthy buyers who have already lined up to ride SpaceShipTwo will be in free fall only at the very peak of the winged capsule’s trajectory, and as a microgravity research platform it will be about as much use as the cardboard box your kid turned into the Millennium Falcon with his crayons. Branson has the vague plans to design a SpaceShipThree capable of orbital flight, but the relatively humble materials and fuels he is using for SpaceShipTwo won’t cut the mustard.
If it’s possible to get ordinary civilians into orbit through sheer marketing ability, Branson is the man to bet on. What the general public may not know is that other private commercial enterprises are currently tackling the challenge of manned orbital flight, and could conceivably one day put tourists into low earth orbit at relatively sensible prices..
Michael Totten describes The Bin Ladens of the Balkans, Part II
I met Shpetim Mahmudi at a covered outdoor cafe on a cold day in late spring in the ethnic Albanian region of Macedonia. Black clouds hung low over the city of Tetovo. Fat rain drops pelted the sidewalk and the awning over my head as I shivered in my light black leather jacket. “Let’s go inside,” he said, “where it’s warmer and drier.” We found a table and ordered coffee. He leaned in close to whisper when the waiter stepped out of earshot. “We are really in trouble here,” he said. “We are really in trouble with the Wahhabis.”
After the Kosovo War ended in 1999, well-heeled Gulf Arabs with Saudi money moved in to rebuild mosques destroyed by Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces. They’re still there trying to impose a stern Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on indigenous Europeans, and they’re having an awfully difficult time getting much traction. Almost everyone in Kosovo despises these people. They are known as the Binladensa, the people of Osama bin Laden.
Things are different in next-door Macedonia. I had driven two hours from Kosovo’s capital Prishtina through beautifully sculpted mountains and forest to Tetovo near the Kosovo and Albanian borders.
What I saw there was startling…
Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) gives his last lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” *
For more, visit cmu.edu/randyslecture
* Link thanks to Bruce
I’ve been kicked out of my apartment while they do the floors. Posting will be even more sporadic than usual…
Belmar waves and Don Henley..
Some Beirut residents see Nasrallah’s speech as entirely political. Tony, a student at the American University of Beirut, who watched the speech with others at an open-air café commented, “the speech makes it sound as if this was pre-planned, like it’s just a continuation of what Hizbullah wanted the whole time. But it’s not. Why did he do it now?
“For political reasons, he is politicizing something that should unite all of Lebanon.”
Ghassan, a shop owner in Beirut’s Hamra district and a supporter of Sunni political leader Sa’ad A-Din Al-Hariri, contests Hizbullah’s victorious claims arguing, “this is not just about the prisoners. Hizbullah got the prisoners, but it is not about the numbers in the exchange. Thousands of people in Lebanon died in the 2006 war. It was destruction. The economy was ruined. For what? You cannot start a war for just this.”
Dana M., an employee at a Beirut public relations firm, observed, “I am so angry with the Sunni political leadership, who are bending over backwards to praise Hizbullah’s prisoner release. I supported [Prime Minister] Siniora and [Future Movement leader] Al-Hariri through all the conflicts, even after they did nothing to protect their supporters in Beirut [during Hizbullah’s May 2008 invasion], but now I’m angry.
“Hizbullah started a war to free a notoriously evil man who is in Israeli prison for smashing a little girl’s head with a rock. This man definitely does not deserve a hero’s welcome.”
Hizbullah tarnished its image when it, along with other Lebanese opposition parties, attacked Beirut and the Chouf mountains in May 2008. The party claimed it would never use its weapons against other Lebanese and would only use them to protect Lebanon against Israel, but then struck at the heart of the nation.
Hizbullah’s prisoner exchange is seen as an effort by the party to return to the media spotlight as a victor against Israel, not as an abuser of its countrymen…
According to Business Week: *
Will Saudi Arabia manage to raise their production to 12.5 million barrels per day? BusinessWeek has a reliable source that says the Saudis can not ramp up their production nearly as much as they claim they will.
But the detailed document, obtained from a person with access to Saudi oil officials, suggests that Saudi Aramco will be limited to sustained production of just 12 million barrels a day in 2010, and will be able to maintain that volume only for short, temporary periods such as emergencies. Then it will scale back to a sustainable production level of about 10.4 million barrels a day, according to the data. BusinessWeek obtained a field-by-field breakdown of estimated Saudi oil production from 2009 through 2013. It was provided by an oil industry executive who said he had confirmed it with a ranking Saudi energy official who has access to the field data. The executive, who has proven reliable over several years of reporting interaction, provided the data on condition of anonymity to protect his access to the kingdom and the identity of the inside contact who confirmed the information.
Among those who dismiss Peak Oil fears oil reserves in Saudi Arabia were supposed to provide so much increased production that world oil consumption could continue to rise along with economic growth and increasing demand. But the great Saudi hope is a dud…
…On oil matters, the kingdom’s credibility has been clouded by intense secrecy. The Saudis, for instance, refuse, unlike Russia, Venezuela, and Norway, to release detailed assessments of their oil reserves, which has made many skeptical. “They are just a bunch of empty boasts,” Matthew Simmons, chairman of Houston investment bank Simmons & Co. International, says of the kingdom’s recent promises of 12.5 million barrels a day. He is also skeptical of Saudi reserve estimates.
One dramatic part of the data concerns a site called Ghawar, which has been the kingdom’s workhorse field for decades. It shows the field producing 5.4 million barrels a day next year, but the volume then falling off rapidly, to 4.475 million daily barrels in 2013. “That’s why Khurais is so important—to make up for that decrease,” said the oil industry executive who released the data. He was referring to a supergiant field that is to come online later this year and produce an estimated 500,000 barrels a day of crude. In last month’s gathering in Saudi Arabia, officials of the kingdom told journalists that Ghawar had produced just under 5 million barrels a day from 1993 through 2007.
Mainly the data show flat production; apart from the addition of Khurais and a heavy oil field called Manifa, no increases appear in any of the fields during the next five years. Production at Manifa is to begin in 2011 with 125,000 barrels a day, according to the data, and rise rapidly to 900,000 barrels a day two years later. Though 2014 is not included in the data, one of the fields listed—Shaybah—is to have a volume increase to 1 million barrels a day that year, from 750,000 barrels a day from 2009 to 2013, according to the oil executive.
Still, despite its enormous reserves and bullish statements, Saudi Arabia appears likely to fall well short of the daily production it has targeted in the near term.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to invest all of our hopes and dreams in the hub of world terrorism. But, now that we know better, isn’t it about time we told them to f*ck off?
From Michael Totten’s An Abominable Blood-Logged Plain
It’s European, but it isn’t Christian. It’s majority-Muslim, but it is not anti-American. Foreign soldiers are hailed as liberators and protectors rather than occupiers. Most Western countries recognize the majority-Muslim nation’s recent declaration of independence from Serbia, but not a single Arab country has done so – partly, perhaps, because Israelis as well as Americans are thought of as allies and friends. The United Nations is widely perceived as offensive, incompetent, corrupt, and deserving of banishment.