More good stuff on the open frontiers – 6/25

I read the news and see wide open frontiers in the worlds of publishing, technology, space, and energy. In terms of opportunities and growth, this reminds me of the wild west and homesteading days in the late 1800s.

Here’s a few of the articles that stretched my understanding of this amazing world we live in.

Perpetual Malthusian foolishness

4/25 – Wall Street Journal – The World’s Resources Aren’t Running Out – Ecologists worry that the world’s resources come in fixed amounts that will run out, but we have broken through such limits again and again – There are constant shouts of fright that we will run out of some resource in a decade or two. Maybe the day after tomorrow. Such predictions are as foolish as they are wrong. Matt Ridley points out that innovation, human creativity in other words, blasts through those limits over and over and over again.

Here is part of the blindness:

Ecologists can’t seem to see that when whale oil starts to run out, petroleum is discovered, or that when farm yields flatten, fertilizer comes along, or that when glass fiber is invented, demand for copper falls.

You would think the horrendous error rate in doom predictions over the last century would give pause to those who say we are about to run out of something, but it doesn’t.

As merely one illustration of innovation, Prof Ridley cites one study that says the amount of land needed to produce a specific amount of food has dropped by 65% in the last 50 years.


6/15 – The Feed – Lawyer-in-Chief Warns Against Law School – The President told the Washington Post we have enough lawyers. A few law schools are starting to deal with the bubble by cutting class sizes or thinking about cutting the third year. Lots more changes are needed and lots more schools need to get on board. Something is going wrong when the president says don’t enter his profession.


5/15 – MIT Technology Review – Intergalactic Entrepreneurs Prepare for Blast-Off – Thirteen of the players in the private space exploration arena gathered for what I’ll describe as a trade show in New York. Article is a survey of the players. Will be quite a blast to look at this article in a decade to see who disappeared and who became the Ford of space exploration.

6/7 – Economist – Nanosats are go! / Small satellites: Taking advantage of smartphones and other consumer technologies, tiny satellites are changing the space business – CubeSats measure 10cm on a side – a cube about 4” x 4” x 4”. With rapid advances in cell phone technology, you can put a lot of stuff inside a box that size. A lot of CubeSats can go up on one launch.

Article says in the next five years around 1,000 cubesats will likely be launched. One can be put in space for a fraction of the cost of a full-sized satellite. Part of that is the tradeoffs. CubeSats won’t last as long since they don’t have propulsion to maintain orbit. They are built in “clean enough rooms” instead of sterile “clean rooms.”

Another factor dropping price is advances in consumer electronics. Consider the tech available just by putting an off-the-shelf cell phone inside a CubeSat:

A typical phone is now likely to contain an accelerometer to measure how fast it is moving, a magnetometer to detect magnetic fields and provide a compass reading, a GPS receiver to pick up satellite data, multiple radios, a gyroscope to measure its position, a barometer to detect pressure, two cameras and much more.

Prices for launching one CubeSat are reportedly in the range of $100,000, which unlike full-sized sats, puts them in range of colleges and startup companies.

Publishing,  Not everything is peachy-keen wonderful as this brand new world of..

6-6 – Poynter – More than 40,000 magazine jobs vanished in the last decade – Graph of employment by magazines shows slight drop from ’03 to ’08, down from around 150K to about 140K. Then sharp drop in ’09 and continued drop through ’13. Down from 140K in ’08 to about 105K in ’13.

Drop from ’03 to ’14 is 41,500.

6/19 – Tony Horwitz at New York Times – I Was Digital Best Seller! Author of Confederates in the Attic, a book I heartily recommend, took a plunge into the exciting world of digital publishing. The first company, which promised a $15K stipend and $5k travel costs, folded in the middle of the night. The disappeared before he got paid more than the travel advance. A second company disappeared into the ether, taking his online book with it. He actually got paid $2k for that. Well, the book reappeared and currently sits at #17,665 in the Kindle store best seller list. Not quite the journey he expected, although he did eventually get the $15k promised. So, that’s $22K and a book sitting okay on the Amazon list. Maybe not so bad. A painful journey, but turned out okay.

Working out the bugs in this brand new world is painful today for all involved and will be painful tomorrow.

In the meantime, the least poorly performing of my published books sits at 965,900th best seller in the Kindle Store. But, I’m not even trying to make a living at writing. I am a published author.

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