All posts by Robert Smith

Yellow, Grey and Brown

Back during the holiday break, about when a young researcher was looking for overview pointers on closed loops, I came across an Irish government proposal on human waste recycling for crop fertilization. And for the life of me I can’t find that now. Going through my phone’s search history – why the heck did I want to know how tall Karl Urban is? – I find a number of related papers but not that exact one. And that one is important because it clearly goes into the positives of human grey, brown and yellow waste recycling in the real world.
 
And that one, I think it was dated 2018, was interesting for an American because it based its points on how some European countries, like Ireland, process their wastes already which are fundamentally different from how things are done traditionally here in the States. It being targeted at Irish government readers, these points were made very casually because things in Ireland are simply known to the people of Ireland,
 
My memory tells me that after being quite intrigued by reading this proposal, that just after I went looking for more information and my phone history shows an article that I know I read shortly after that one, from a site called USLUDGEFREE.org. The domain name of that one sounds like a big alert to bias but actually the article was pretty good. It did make me go “darn, guess this isn’t a way after all to get over O’Neill’s saying in The High Frontier that Nitrogen will be one of the biggest uploads to spinning habs for a while.” But then I re-read it and spotted the line:
 
“In some European countries, household waste is separated from business and industrial waste so land application of sewage sludge is safer for the communities and food supply.”
 
That was one of those casually mentioned things in the Irish proposal, its target audience grew up with different separation traditions so they aren’t as stuck with the piping that we traditionally have in the US where home sewage is merged into the same pipes as factory and mill and pharma and petro industrial sewage and it all ends up mixed together before it gets dumped into our local treatment plants as one big mess.
 
What’s this got to do with SSI O’Neill style Space living? A lot. Fundamentally, Nitrogen is a big hole in closed looping offplanet agro, and animal (Human) waste does have Nitrogen and Phosphorus so if you get a big spinner with 50 or a hundred or more Humans then about twice a day from each of them you have raw sources becoming available.  Part of your facility should be efficiently pulling them out of the flow and using as much of the rest as possible for anything and everything they can be used for. Plus, there is that whole “High Fronter Concept” which is, by definition: “Using the material and energy resources of space to improve the human condition on Earth.” Those O’Neillian resources will include People, if People are going to be truly living off planet at some point then some of the most important of them will be those who do Waste Recycling.
 
If you are laughing then you have never been a home owner who had their bathroom stop working correctly – how much were you willing to pay 6 hours after a big breakfast, and how much did you end up paying because that’s just the going rate for the experts.
 
Waste Recycling is going to be a VERY important job, and those who do it up there, efficiently, with the cutting edges of the tech, will surely be a great value even to the folks down here who have no interest in ever going more than a few miles from the place they were born.
 
I wish I could find that darned proposal. But here’re a few things maybe worth looking at:
 
 
The book “Pipe Dreams” by Chelsea Wald. It’s a new book, I just got it at Barnes & Noble, it was right on the shelf in the Science section.
 
And there are the books: “The Humanure Handbook, 4th Edition: S**t in a Nutshell” by Joseph C Jenkins and, maybe, “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters” by Rose George. I haven’t read these yet, they may be interesting or somewhat helpful as starters.

Nothing new under the sun, alas

Comments on the previous post brought this little item to mind, Gerard K. O’Neill on a why of the Space Studies Institute.  The age old dilemma, working on doing real things vs working on all of the facets of getting the funds to be able to work on real things.  It was one thing when the world was government and citizen, and not at all easier in the day of government, private-proprietary and citizen.

Play a part, make it work, prove it matters to you and that People aren’t all just followers: Donate Now.

from the SSI Facebook page

you don’t need a facebook account to view the latest SSI posts.  just click https://www.facebook.com/SpaceStudiesInstitute and scroll past the nag banners.

Freeman Dyson on VSE

Question: Are the recent posts “official”?
Answer: The facebook posts are for anyone who isn’t up to their ears in taking care of the Office and Library or out there actively talking to people with expendable income who want to pitch in personally on the technical jobs required for Space Manufacturing and Off-Surface Human living. Your question looks like a polite way of saying that it would be good to clearly be aware of Opinion or personal perspectives versus Cold Facts and just neat links. If I read you right, you are absolutely right. Every day is for learning, Thank you!

– – –

Opinion Or Personal Perspective:

I remember sitting in Dyson’s office and him telling me the story of O’Neill calling him and saying ‘I am just too sick, you have to do this for me. You know everything about it. Please.’ and how he drove over to his friend’s house and got the model and drove down to DC for the presentation. I asked Freeman why it didn’t work, WHY? The tech was (and is) sound and so helpful and even someone as slow as I am can understand it. And he said, with the glint of a tear showing in the corner of his left eye:

“I am no Gerard O’Neill.”

Primarily, the hope of this post is that you will look into V.S.E., the true background *and technical details* that are hard but not impossible to find if you start looking.

Secondarily, when you have nothing else to think about, consider the risks vs the benefits of great big ideas having, and possibly needing, “a face.”

I can’t tell you how many people over the years have made it clear that they think that they are “The Next Gerard K. O’Neill.” Some of them come right out and say those words, others have better legal and marketing crews. I don’t know, I just don’t know. Do we need a *Next* Gerard K. O’Neill? We already had one and those are big polymath shoes to try to fill. Legend says that GKON himself wasn’t into big huge spinning cities back when he stood at the front of the original 103 classes at Princeton hoping to just teach some Newton, it was when the numbers started coming up saying over and over to him: ‘You can’t ignore it anymore, this weird stuff that your own colleagues do not want you talking about after so many recent years of losing their funding to Apollo can actually work.’  That’s when it all started. The Numbers were the core that he couldn’t ignore. And they still are. But… without a Face…

We have to add, his was a Face, a nice face, that rode out in front of a very well trained speaker – a teacher – who could fit into any group of Humans, rich or poor, officially educated or passionately self-learning, at Congress or at the Rotary Club or at hole in the wall diners like the oft’ mentioned Dutch Goose. “Face” for a technical message does have to be deeper than just the paper holding the image on the magazine covers.

You are reading this because you are interested in Space. Space is more than rockets – at the colleges, community, junior and ivy, I see herds of rocket kids and often wonder how many actual jobs they will be killing each other over in 4 to 8 years, when perhaps Space Agriculturists and Plumbing and Sewage Recycling Engineers may end up with more demand than supply – on earth, as it may be in heaven.

Like many of us, I recently lost a hard working person who was dear to me. And it got me resetting. Life is truly short. If you are serious about your interest in Space then getting it to happen, to truly happen, is all on your shoulders and all about Now. You don’t have to be an existentialist bore at parties but How will you be a part of making good stuff happen? What is the best way? Does it take being or following a Face, or just getting to the very heart of the numbers and putting them in perspective so that they can tell their solutions to regular people all by themselves?

If this Space stuff is truly something that you think matters then Think about it, Ponder it as something bigger than just nozzle design that everyone and their brother are already working on, then Plot a course, and DO. Punt when you have to to survive but keep your pole star in your sight.

And let us all know how it goes because, while books about post mortems of accomplishments are just my tiny corner of the work, exposing and exploring the day to day minutia of the Business of getting beneficial Space done is truly a more important Study for the people, all of the Us together, who are The Space Studies Institute.

-Smith

by the way, it’s January, good time for Senior Associates to pay in our pledges.  Use the yellow button at: https://ssi.org/join. Pay a goodly amount using the bottom button and maybe they can hire someone better than me to put stuff here!

Small World

Around Sand Hill Road you see lots of odd books under people’s arms. It’s an unusual location with the SLAC on one side of the street and the rows of 1980s styled venture capital offices on the other; while both sides are technically tech, the workers of the area tend to have very different ideas of their customer’s needs and for their own personal goals.

Last week at a little table outside the local’s bakery I saw a person with a coffee and copy of the book Doomsday Has Been Cancelled, and I couldn’t figure out which side of Sand Hill he came from. So, what the heck, this complete stranger said to him: ‘that’s a tough thing to believe these days’ and he said ‘it was tough back when it was written too.’ I had a minute so I asked him what the book was about and he said ‘some things that might be actually possible, technically anyway, if people wanted them.’ And he went on, talking about how the word Crisis isn’t exactly used today to fit its original meaning, and he spoke of options in the book and in some others he had been reading lately.

And then he said ‘have you ever considered how important energy is to (and he emphasized this word) Everything?’ He asked me, kind of shyly, just that side of sheepishly, in the way many things that are personally important to people seem to be brought up these days, if I had ever considered that the fuels we use for everything in every minute of every single day are just batteries for a small amount of photons that made it to the Earth millions of years ago? And then, looking around like to see if someone else was watching us, he asked ‘what if we didn’t have to wait millions of years to charge the batteries and what if we could not get stuck with all of the used up batteries from watches to Teslas filling up landfills and eventually leaking into drinking water supplies?’

Now I looked around for the candid camera. But I took the chance… ‘Like Solar Power from satellites?’

The look on his face. He wasn’t alone in knowing about this strange idea. And so he said that he had started looking into it after someone years back had sent him a link to a youtube video. Was funny that admitting “youtube” visibly put him on edge, that’s of course the place where lots of crazy stupid ideas are floating. But as he described this particular video, I opened my phone and put in the google “Youtube SSI High Frontier Concept Overview” and I handed him my screen. He said ‘that’s the one! how did you get to that?’

Small world.