More good stuff on the open frontiers – 3-20-14

A few articles on technology, energy, and publishing that are worth a read and a brief comment. Reusable first stages of rockets, several updates on Yutu (Chinese lunar rover), commercial drones, lightly armed drones, and another shale field with big potential.


3/4 – The Feed – Home-Schooling for Higher Ed – Mentioned this idea before. How ‘bout hiring a college professor to privately tutor you for your first year of college. Read the article and think about it a few minutes. Intriguing idea, huh?


3/13 – Technology Review – SpaceX Set to Launch the World’s First Reusable BoosterLate in March SpaceX will try a soft landing in the ocean of a first stage booster. When successful, reusable boosters will drop the cost of a space launch dramatically, since most of the cost is in the first stage (according to the article). This is an extension of the work mentioned in this post. Very cool.

3/3 – Universe Today – China’s Yutu Moon Rover Unable to Properly Maneuver Solar Panels – Reason for malfunctions was the rover’s mast wasn’t able to retract. During the two week lunar night, the mast along with the attached camera, antennae and solar panels should retract into a heated box. That is necessary to protect the equipment from the negative 292 degrees (Fahrenheit) temp for two weeks. Yutu (Jade Rabbit) didn’t go into sleep mode during the first lunar night but did for the second and third. I hope it keeps working.

3/16 – Shanghaiist – Yutu awakens after 3rd dormancy, still malfunctioning – The rover started up after the third lunar night. Most systems functioning but some aren’t. It has now operated longer than its designed three-month lifespan.

3/20 – Forbes – China’s Lunar Rover Is Working But Not Moving –  It is functioning, but can’t move. It can use its ground penetrating radar to study the moon and communicate the results. Yutu was expected to work for three months and has now exceeded its life expectancy.


3/7 – Daily Mail – The app controlled smart security drone with a STUN GUN built in to zap intruders with an 80,000 volt dart– Company demonstrates drone that has ability to hover over a suspect, request permission to detain, and if the operator grants permission, the drone will fire a stun gun at target, immobilizing said person until police arrive.

Cool concept. Frightening implications. As one commenter pointed out, what could possibly go wrong?

3/10 – Wall Street Journal – Drones Find Fans Among Farmers, Filmmakers – Using drones in commercial applications is catching on around the world. Surveying, construction, mining, spraying rice crops, and filmmaking are a few areas drones are in productive use. Inside the US we have the densest, most complex airspace in the world. We are also the most litigious place on the planet. It will take the FAA a few more years to figure out the rules for commercial operation. Article has cool pictures and key stats on three different common drones.

3/20 – TymShft – Pong was just a training exercise. It trained the entire video game industry. – For your ancient (for technology) history lesson today, consider Pong. John Bredehoft points out that was the breakthrough product that showed lots of money can be made from computer games. He gives a link to where you can see and play Pong. If you’ve never seen Pong, check it out to see what a breakthrough looked like in 1972. If you wanted to play again what was so much fun then, check out his link.


3/11 – Why not wind power – How to get people to leave the lights on – If people are persuaded to reduce energy consumption through turning off the lights, buying super efficient appliances, and converting all their bulbs to CFL and LED, the use of electricity will drop. The author suggests this means utilities will need a rate increase to make up for the loss of revenue. If there is pushback on the per KW rate, the rate increase may come through a flat monthly fee. The point? If there doesn’t seem to be much success persuading people to reduce their home-based energy consumption, it may just possibly be due to the realization doing so won’t save any money. Something to think about in the category of unintended consequences.

Energy – Mississippian Lime

Definitely time to keep an eye on this field.

Undated report from Oil Independents – The Mississippian Lime: Not New, But Reinvented – The field stretches across southern Kansas and north central Oklahoma. It has long been a vertically drilled field. Horizontal drilling provides lots of opportunity. The shale is at the 3,000 to 6,000 foot level, and the oil bearing layer is 300 to 500 feet thick. That makes it far cheaper to drill than Bakken or Eagle Ford.  Reports say there are up to 90 horizontal drilling rigs in the play, which is around half the number in Bakken. Production is around 120,000 BOPD in late 2012 and early 2013.

Very cool.

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