More good stuff on the open frontiers – 3-3-14

More good stuff on the open frontiers: energy, space, education, publishing. Good info but only time to summarize in a paragraph:  


2-9 – Grumpy Economist – Mooconomics – Superb article assessing current state of MOOCs from a professor who actually taught one. Most of the technology looks like it is still very much version 1.0. Fascinating point: there are very high fixed costs to develop a MOOC, which affects the major conceptual issue of how to price a product with zero or near-zero marginal costs. The fixed costs will be incurred year after year to revise and update the material.

Other interesting point: some classes are great for the MOOC format, specifically introductory courses, overview courses (get a “taste” of the field), or practical classes with clear right and wrong answers (pass your pilot license test).

On the value of having a professor who is doing research: that prof will be familiar with essentially all of the literature and knowledge of the field from the last 40 or 50 years. That is a very deep knowledge base.

Superb article; check it out.

3/1 – Marginal Revolution – Questions that are rarely asked (are we ready for ‘home college’?)That would be home colleged for college work as home schooled is for K-12. Here’s a radical idea – have your family (or pool with a few other families) hire a multi-discipline professor to be your tutor for the first year of college. The individual attention and accelerated learning would be incredible. Fascinating. 


2-9 – The Verge – NASA is now accepting applications from companies that want to mine the moon – First step is landing and deploying prospecting vehicles. Get you application in soon! Highest value would not be returning the rare earth minerals to earth but using them to build other spacecraft.

2-13 – Wall Street Journal – China’s Stricken Jake Rabbit Hops Back to Life – China’s lunar rover had some technical problems. After the long lunar night was over, it had trouble getting started again. Looks like it has a few hops left. I sure do hope so.

2/20 – NASASpaceFlight – CRS-3 Falcon 9 first stage to sport legs and attempt soft splashdown – The next SpaceX resupply launch to the ISS will have legs on the first stage. Why? To test making a soft landing on water. Why? Because they want to have reusable first stages to reduce cost. Amazing part to me (yeah, I’m slow to catch on) is combining a major test, which will further their program, with a revenue producing launch. Very cool way to slash R&D costs.


2/28 – Forbes – The 3D Printers are Coming: Dig More Coal? – Survey of the types of 3D printers that are in use and possibilities. Home 3D printers consume far more electricity than a 2D printer. Good discussion.

3/3 – Schneier on Security – Choosing Secure Passwords – Technology for cracking passwords can get to 60% or 90% of passwords. Article has tips on how to improve your security.


3/2 – Dickinson Press – Southwest ND wind development grows: Hettinger wind farm to boost MDU’s wind energy portfolio – Same info as mentioned before. MDU is buying 105MW from the Thunder Spirit Wind project near Hettinger ND on a 25 year contract. Five projects are underway in the state. After federal tax credits expired, North Dakota created its own tax incentives to build wind farms.

A Ducks Unlimited project banded 200 female Mallards. In two years it confirmed one was sliced-and-diced by a turbine. That’s half a percent in two years of very few turbines turning. No indication of how many birds took a glancing blow but were able to fly a while before dying thus not counting as a turbine strike.

Density of wind towers – Check out the accompanying aerial photo of a wind farm. The towers are closer together than I thought. The distance between them appears to be about twice the height of a tower. How would you like to have that view out the window for the next 25 years?


2/12 – Author Earnings – The 7K Report – Broad ranging analysis of sales of e-books. Shows lots of surprising info. You can take it or leave it, but as the first set of sort of roughed out data on e-book sales, the report is pretty cool. E-books in general, and kindle in particular, at taking over the market. You can pull several stats you would like on the portion of sales.

One of the most amazing pieces of info is the mid-tier of authors (not the tip-top of best-sellers, but the next several thousand on the list), are generating as  much unit sales and as much (more likely more) revenue from e-books than through traditionally publishing.

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