Evolutionary Psychology Is Neither
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Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
In a decade or so, when most people her age will be retiring from their working lives, Elena Shateni, now 58, plans to be starting a new life planting the human flag on Mars.
George Hatcher welcomed a guest at his Merritt Island home last week with 5-month-old daughter Io, named for one of Jupiter's moons, tucked in a baby carrier on his chest.
Inside, the NASA engineer's wife, Lorenia, took the baby and their 2-year-old son, Rafael, offered a small stuffed lamb and a Thomas the Tank Engine train for inspection.
Hatcher stretched out with Rafael on the living room floor to work on an animal puzzle, then played a game of "tickling spiders" and swung his son high up with his legs, to squeals of delight.
It's family time the 35-year-old father cherishes after a day at work at Kennedy Space Center. But he increasingly has reason to think about the day he might leave it all behind.
Hatcher recently advanced to the final round of 100 candidates vying to be selected as astronauts by the Mars One Foundation, which wants to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet in the next decade.
Mars One estimates it will cost $6 billion to get the first crew to Mars, a figure many consider optimistic.
A Stoneham man is one small step closer to being picked for an ambitious one-way mission to colonize Mars.The list of concerns is both incomplete (check out our last few posts) and comically understated. Lansdorp's claim of welcoming criticism is also good for a laugh. Still, it could be worse. Here's the opening to a recent report from a local NBC station in Philadelphia:
Peter Degen-Portnoy was selected as a semifinalist for the “Mars One” project, a nonprofit venture aiming to populate the distant planet within the next 12 years — a plan some say is far-fetched and unachievable.
“The whole thing is a dream come true,” Degen-Portnoy, 51, said. “I can totally see myself . . . in that habitat, working with my team and working every day to make sure our systems are functioning and our resources are sufficient.”
Two years ago, Mars One put out a call for submissions from people interested in volunteering their efforts to bring life to the Red Planet. The Dutch organization says it received more than 200,000 inquiries [There's also a bit of a story behind that 200K claim -- MP] before whittling the list down to 100 applicants last month. Degen-Portnoy made the cut. Known as “The Hundred,” the group consists of 50 men and 50 women from around the world.
If all goes well, the husband and father of five could make it to the last round of the process, and join 24 finalists for what Mars One says will be an intense training regimen to prepare for takeoff. Groups of four will then tentatively be launched into space every two years beginning in 2026, with the first landing planned for 2027, according to the Mars One timetable, an aggressive goal that has been challenged by researchers and the public.
Degen-Portnoy remains optimistic about the journey to the planet, despite skepticism about the feasibility of the mission. A recent independent study conducted by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pointed out how difficult it would be for Mars One to ship enough supplies to sustain a new civilization. One of “The Hundred” also came forward in a recent interview and called the selection process, financial stability, and goals of the mission into question.
Last week, Bas Lansdorp, chief executive and cofounder of Mars One, tried to put some of those concerns to rest, and invited criticism.
“At Mars One we really value good criticism because it helps us to improve our mission,” he said in a statement.
Even if nothing comes of the actual mission, Degen-Portnoy said the experience and his involvement so far have been worth it. “I have met some incredible people, and we spend a lot of time chatting in our social group, exchanging ideas, and also boosting and supporting one another,” he said.
Sara Director has a bright future ahead of her here on earth, but the 26-year-old — originally from the Philadelphia suburbs — is competing for an opportunity to leave that all behind for a one-way ticket to Mars. Upon discovering she made it to the third round of candidates in the Mars One mission, there’s a 25% percent chance that Director will spend the rest of her life on the Red Planet, leaving family and friends behind.
The articles described fantastic animals on the Moon, including bison, goats, unicorns, bipedal tail-less beavers and bat-like winged humanoids ("Vespertilio-homo") who built temples. There were trees, oceans and beaches. These discoveries were supposedly made with "an immense telescope of an entirely new principle."
Eventually, the authors announced that the observations had been terminated by the destruction of the telescope, by means of the Sun causing the lens to act as a "burning glass," setting fire to the observatory
About twelve years ago, I think, “The New York Sun,” a daily paper, price one penny, was established in the city of New York by Mr. Moses [column 2:] Y. Beach, who engaged Mr. Richard Adams Locke as its editor. In a well-written prospectus, the object of the journal professed to be that of “supplying the public with the news of the day at so cheap a rate as to lie within the means of all.” The consequences of the scheme, in their influence on the whole newspaper business of the country, and through this business on the interests of the country at large, are probably beyond all calculation.
Previous to “The Sun” there had been an unsuccessful attempt at publishing a penny paper in New York, and “The Sun” itself was originally projected and for a short time issued by Messrs. Day & Wisner; its establishment, however, is altogether due to Mr. Beach, who purchased it of its disheartened originators. The first decided movement of the journal, nevertheless, is to be attributed to Mr. Locke; and in so saying I by no means intend any depreciation of Mr. Beach, since in the engagement of Mr. L. he had but given one of the earliest instances of that unusual sagacity for which I am inclined to yield him credit.
At all events, “The Sun” was revolving in a comparatively narrow orbit when, one fine day, there appeared in its editorial columns a prefatory article announcing very remarkable astronomical discoveries made at the Cape of Good Hope by Sir John Herschell. The information was said to have been received by “The Sun” from an early copy of “The Edinburgh Journal of Science,” in which appeared a communication from Sir John himself. This preparatory announcement took very well, (there had been no hoaxes in those days,) and was followed by full details of the reputed discoveries, which were now found to have been made chiefly in respect to the moon, and by means of a telescope to which the one lately constructed by the Earl of Rosse is a plaything. As these discoveries were gradually spread before the public, the astonishment of that public grew out of all bounds; but those who questioned the veracity of “The Sun” — the authenticity of the communication to “The Edinburgh Journal of Science” — were really very few indeed; and this I am forced to look upon as a far more wonderful thing than any “man-bat” of them all.
About six months before this occurrence the Harpers had issued an American edition of Sir John Herschell’s “Treatise on Astronomy,” and I had been much interested in what is there said respecting the possibility of future lunar investigations. The theme excited my fancy, and I longed to give free rein to it in depicting my day-dreams about the scenery of the moon — in short, I longed to write a story embodying these dreams. The obvious difficulty, of course, was that of accounting for the narrator’s acquaintance with the satellite; and the equally obvious mode of surmounting the difficulty was the supposition of an extraordinary telescope. I saw at once that the chief interest of such a narrative must depend upon the reader’s yielding his credence in some measure as [page 160:] to details of actual fact. At this stage of my deliberations I spoke of the design to one or two friends — to Mr. John P. Kennedy, the author of “Swallow Barn,” among others — and the result of my conversations with them was that the optical difficulties of constructing such a telescope as I conceived were so rigid and so commonly understood, that it would be in vain to attempt giving due verisimilitude to any fiction having the telescope as a basis. Reluctantly, therefore, and only half convinced, (believing the public, in fact, more readily gullible than did my friends,) I gave up the idea of imparting very close verisimilitude to what I should write — that is to say, so close as really to deceive. I fell back upon a style half plausible[[,]] half bantering, and resolved to give what interest I could to an actual passage from the earth to the moon, describing the lunar scenery as if surveyed and personally examined by the narrator. In this view I wrote a story which I called “Hans Phaall,” publishing it about six months afterwards in “The Southern Literary Messenger,” of which I was then editor.
It was three weeks after the issue of “The Messenger” containing “Hans Phaall,” that the first of the “Moon-hoax” editorials made its appearance in “The Sun,” and no sooner had I seen the paper than I understood the jest, which not for a moment could I doubt had been suggested by my own jeu d’esprit. Some of the New York journals (“The Transcript” among others) saw the matter in the same light, and published the “Moon story” side by side with “Hans Phaall,” thinking that the author of the one had been detected in the author of the other. Although the details are, with some exception, very dissimilar, still I maintain that the general features of the two compositions are nearly identical. Both are hoaxes, (although one is in a tone of mere banter, the other of downright earnest;) both hoaxes are on one subject, astronomy; both on the same point of that subject, the moon; both professed to have derived exclusive information from a foreign country, and both attempt to give plausibility by minuteness of scientific detail. Add to all this that nothing of a similar nature had ever been attempted before these two hoaxes, the one of which followed immediately upon the heels of the other.
Having stated the case, however, in this form, I am bound to do Mr. Locke the justice to say that he denies having seen my article prior to the publication of his own; I am bound to add, also, that I believe him.
Immediately on the completion of the “Moon story,” (it was three or four days in getting finished,) I wrote an examination of its claims to credit, showing distinctly its fictitious character, but was astonished at finding that I could obtain few listeners, so really eager were all to be deceived, so magical were the charms of a style that served as the vehicle of an exceedingly clumsy invention.
It may afford even now some amusement to see pointed out those particulars of the hoax which [column 2:] should have sufficed to establish its real character. Indeed, however rich the imagination displayed in this fiction, it wanted much of the force which might have been given it by a more scrupulous attention to general analogy and to fact. That the public were misled, even for an instant, merely proves the gross ignorance which (ten or twelve years ago) was so prevalent on astronomical topics.
The moon’s distance from the earth is, in round numbers, 240,000 miles. If we wish to ascertain how near, apparently, a lens would bring the satellite, (or any distant object,) we, of course, have but to divide the distance by the magnifying, or, more strictly, by the space-penetrating power of the glass. Mr. Locke gives his lens a power of 42,000 times. By this divide 240,000, (the moon’s real distance,) and we have five miles and five-sevenths as the apparent distance. No animal could be seen so far, much less the minute points particularized in the story. Mr. L. speaks about Sir John Herschell’s perceiving flowers, (the papaver Rheas, etc.), and even detecting the color and the shape of the eyes of small birds. Shortly before, too, the author himself observes that the lens would not render perceptible objects less than eighteen inches in diameter; but even this, as I have said, is giving the glass far too great a power.
On page 18, (of the pamphlet edition,) speaking of “a hairy veil” over the eyes of a species of bison, Mr. L. says — “It immediately occurred to the acute mind of Doctor Herschell that this was a providential contrivance to protect the eyes of the animal from the great extremes of light and darkness to which all the inhabitants of our side of the moon are periodically subjected.” But this should not be thought a very “acute” observation of the Doctor’s. The inhabitants of our side of the moon have, evidently, no darkness at all; in the absence of the sun they have a light from the earth equal to that of thirteen full moons, so that there can be nothing of the extremes mentioned.
The topography throughout, even when professing to accord with Blunt’s Lunar Chart, is at variance with that and all other lunar charts, and even at variance with itself. The points of the compass, too, are in sad confusion; the writer seeming to be unaware that, on a lunar map, these are not in accordance with terrestrial points — the east being to the left, and so forth.
Deceived, perhaps, by the vague titles Mare Nubium, Mare Tranquilitatis, Mare Fæcunditatis, etc., given by astronomers of former times to the dark patches on the moon’s surface, Mr. L. has long details respecting oceans and other large bodies of water in the moon; whereas there is no astronomical point more positively ascertained than that no such bodies exist there. In examining the boundary between light and darkness in a crescent or gibbous moon, where this boundary crosses any of the dark places, the line of division is found to be jagged; but were these dark places liquid they would evidently be even. [page 161:]
The description of the wings of the man-bat (on page 21) is but a literal copy of Peter Wilkins’ account of the wings of his flying islanders. This simple fact should at least have induced suspicion.
On page 23 we read thus — “What a prodigious influence must our thirteen times larger globe have exercised upon this satellite when an embryo in the womb of time, the passive subject of chemical affinity!” Now, this is very fine; but it should be observed that no astronomer could have made such a remark, especially to any “Journal of Science,” for the earth in the sense intended (that of bulk) is not only thirteen but forty-nine times larger than the moon. A similar objection applies to the five or six concluding pages of the pamphlet, where, by way of introduction to some discoveries in Saturn, the philosophical correspondent is made to give a minute school-boy account of that planet — an account quite supererogatory, it might be presumed, in the case of “The Edinburgh Journal of Science.”
But there is one point, in especial, which should have instantly betrayed the fiction. Let us imagine the power really possessed of seeing animals on the moon’s surface — what in such case would first arrest the attention of an observer from the earth? Certainly neither the shape, size, nor any other peculiarity in these animals so soon as their remarkable position — they would seem to be walking heels up and head down, after the fashion of flies on a ceiling. The real observer (however prepared by previous knowledge) would have commented on this odd phenomenon before proceeding to other details; the fictitious observer has not even alluded to the subject, but in the case of the man-bats speaks of seeing their entire bodies, when it is demonstrable that he could have seen little more than the apparently flat hemisphere of the head.
I may as well observe, in conclusion, that the size and especially the powers of the man-bats (for example, their ability to fly in so rare an atmosphere — if, indeed, the moon has any) with most of the other fancies in regard to animal and vegetable existence, are at variance generally with alt [[all]] analogical reasoning on these themes, and that analogy here will often amount to the most positive demonstration. The temperature of the moon, for instance, is rather above that of boiling water, and Mr. Locke, consequently, has committed a serious oversight in not representing his man-bats, his bisons, his game of all kinds — to say nothing of his vegetables — as each and all done to a turn.
It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to add, that all the suggestions attributed to Brewster and Herschell in the beginning of the hoax, about the “transfusion of artificial light through the focal object of vision,” etc. etc., belong to that species of figurative writing which comes most properly under the head of rigmarole. There is a real and very definite limit to optical discovery among the stars, a limit whose nature need only be stated to be understood. If, indeed, the casting of large [column 2:] lenses were all that is required, the ingenuity of man would ultimately prove equal to the task, and we might have them of any size demanded;* but, unhappily, in proportion to the increase of size in the lens, and consequently of space-penetrating power, is the diminution of light from the object by diffusion of the rays. And for this evil there is no remedy within human reach; for an object is seen by means of that light alone, whether direct or reflected, which proceeds from the object itself. Thus the only artificial light which could avail Mr. Locke would be such as he should be able to throw, not upon “the focal object of vision,” but upon the moon. It has been easily calculated that when the light proceeding from a heavenly body becomes so diffused as to be as weak as the natural light given out by the stars collectively in a clear, moonless night, then the heavenly body for any practical purpose is no longer visible.
The singular blunders to which I have referred being properly understood, we shall have all the better reason for wonder at the prodigious success of the hoax. Not one person in ten discredited it, and (strangest point of all!) the doubters were chiefly those who doubted without being able to say why — the ignorant, those uninformed in astronomy, people who would not believe because the thing was so novel, so entirely “out of the usual way.” A grave professor of mathematics in a Virginian college told me seriously that he had no doubt of the truth of the whole affair! The great effect wrought upon the public mind is referable, first, to the novelty of the idea; secondly, to the fancy-exciting and reason-repressing character of the alleged discoveries; thirdly, to the consummate tact with which the deception was brought forth; fourthly, to the exquisite vraisemblance of the narration. The hoax was circulated to an immense extent, was translated into various languages — was even made the subject of (quizzical) discussion in astronomical societies; drew down upon itself the grave denunciation of Dick, and was, upon the whole, decidedly the greatest hit in the way of sensation — of merely popular sensation — ever made by any similar fiction either in America or in Europe.
Having read the Moon story to an end and found it anticipative of all the main points of my “Hans Phaall,” I suffered the latter to remain unfinished. The chief design in carrying my hero to the moon was to afford him an opportunity of describing the lunar scenery, but I found that he could add very little to the minute and authentic account of Sir John Herschell. The first part of “Hans Phaall,” occupying about eighteen pages of “The Messenger,” embraced merely a journal of the passage between the two orbs and a few words of general [page 162:] observation on the most obvious features of the satellite; the second part will most probably never appear. I did not think it advisable even to bring my voyager back to his parent earth. He remains where I left him, and is still, I believe, “the man in the moon.”
The Dutch non-profit group behind the project recently announced that it was pushing back the planned launch to 2027, due to a lack of funds for a robotic mission that was scheduled to precede the first human launch. The aim of the robotic mission is to test out the technologies required for human survival on Mars.
The Dutch-based Mars One venture is closing in on choosing its crews for one-way trips to the Red Planet, but will they be all dressed up in spacesuits with no place to go? Over the past week, there's been a string of reports that highlight the huge challenges facing Mars One.
Space News reports that the project's leaders haven't followed up on concept studies for robotic missions aimed at sending a lander and an orbiter to Mars in 2018. The Daily Mail says Mars One's deal with Endemol's global TV production team has fizzled out. Meanwhile, the Guardian quotes one of Mars One's initial supporters, astronomer Gerard 't Hooft, as saying the mission "will take quite a bit longer and be quite a bit more expensive" than advertised.
Still, a Dutch venture called Mars One has captured the public's imagination with its plan to colonize Mars by 2025. Bas Lansdorp, the group's CEO, says they've been featured in major media outlets like CNN and the New York Times. "We've been on NPR — I think twice already," Lansdorp says.
"For some reason that I really cannot explain, I wanted to go to Mars and build a new human settlement there," he says.
Lansdorp believes the voyage will likely pay for itself because it will be a media spectacle. Everyone in the world will want to watch the whole adventure, he says. Mars One is planning a reality TV show with sponsorships and advertising.
"We expect it's worth up to 10 Olympic Games' [worth] of media revenue, which is $45 billion," says Lansdorp.
Of course, sponsors of the Olympics can be pretty confident that their games will happen. When asked how he responds to skeptics who say that Mars One is basically just a website and a marketing plan, Lansdorp says, "I think that the people who say that really haven't paid attention to what we've achieved already."
Lots of people applied to be part of the Mars One astronaut corps — paying a fee to do so. And the group has commissioned a couple of studies from established aerospace companies.
The Mars One plan calls for first sending out a small robotic lander in 2018. Lansdorp says he can do this more cheaply than NASA. But missions like that typically cost hundreds of millions of dollars. When told that it didn't sound like he'd raised anything like that amount of money, Lansdorp replied that "we don't need that kind of money yet because we're not yet building the actual lander. But these are the kinds of investments that we're currently in negotiation for."
How much has he raised? He won't say.
"Mars One is an extraordinarily daring initiative by people with vision and imagination. All confronted with it will, like I did, respond with skepticism: This will never work. NASA has had ideas like this on the books for decades, American President Bush wanted to launch a manned Mars mission too, and it never happened. Too costly, too complicated, and too chancy, even for NASA!Perhaps even more telling is this 2013 interview from New Scientist reprinted here by Slate.
But look and listen to this proposal properly! Problems are there to be solved. What is being put forward here is achievable! Here we have an enterprise that is financed exclusively by private firms, not the taxpayer’s dime. Rather than political mumbo-jumbo, we have real discussion with the general public. Only people who, like myself, are inspired by the project can contribute if they want. It will certainly be a spectacle worth watching. And, naturally, one thing stands front and centre: the technical feasibility.
This is when you ask me: aren’t you a scientist? What does science gain from this? Well, there are also scientific Mars missions. They cost a fraction of what this project will allocate. They are all robotic missions, but in the end science will be guaranteed to gain a great deal from human presence on various celestial bodies in our solar system. Universities don’t have the money for that. National governments have immediate priorities elsewhere. This project seems to me to be the only way to fulfill dreams of mankind’s expansion into space. It sounds like an amazingly fascinating experiment. Let’s get started!"
Govert Schilling: How did you get involved with a project that sells one-way tickets to Mars?In addition to the previously mentioned desire to believe which runs palpably through these statements, there are a couple of other aspects that should be noted. The first is the dissatisfaction with the pace of government-fund manned exploration. The second is the note of doubt that creeps in among the cheer-leading when the subject of budget and schedule comes up.
Gerard 't Hooft: The concept fits in with my own ideas about human exploration of space, which I described in my book, Playing with Planets. In fact, the co-founder and general director of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, once attended one of my lectures. When he asked me to become an ambassador for Mars One, my first reaction was that it will take much longer and cost much more than they currently envision. However, after learning more about the research they had carried out, I became convinced that human flights to Mars could become a reality within 10 years. So in the end, I said yes.
GS: Wouldn't you prefer to be involved in a more scientific mission?
GtH: In a sense, this is a scientific project. There are many scientific questions that need to be addressed, and I am sure there will be plenty of scientific spin-offs, too. A lot of technological research on all aspects of the mission has already been carried out, and many of the major problems have been identified. One of the toughest problems is the radiation environment in interplanetary space. Then there needs to be research into the design of the space suits, the choice of the best location for the outpost on Mars, and the availability of water on the planet, in the form of ice. The plan is to grow food in greenhouses with artificial lighting, powered by efficient solar cells—this will involve a lot of interesting research. The most exciting question might be whether the whole idea is feasible at all. I welcome suggestions and queries from fellow scientists.
GS: How do you feel about being associated with a project funded by reality TV shows? Might you live to regret it?
GtH: Well, if people blame me for it, I have brought it on myself. However, this is the world we live in today—governments are not prepared to finance projects like Mars One, so the money has to come from some other source, and if it is a TV show like Big Brother or X Factor, then so be it.
Then again, I would rather not be involved with the TV show itself. And yes, at times I have asked myself what I have got myself into. After all, it does sound like a crazy plan. But so far, it is still fun, everything is still on track, and there do not appear to be any major obstacles. So I would tell my critics to let the facts speak for themselves.
GS: Would you encourage younger scientists to get involved?
GtH: It would not surprise me if it takes Mars One more than 10 years to put the first humans on Mars, and I can imagine it will cost more than the $6 billion currently envisioned. I have always been careful about those claims. If the project fails, my reputation may sustain some damage, but I am pretty sure I will survive that. Younger scientists, with their careers ahead of them, might run a bigger risk in that respect. Then again, I do not see how it could be held against you if you were to take part in technological design studies or in addressing various scientific issues.
The budget and timeline for plans by a Dutch organisation to colonise Mars are highly unrealistic, one of the project’s most eminent supporters has suggested.Later
Gerard ’t Hooft, a Dutch Nobel laureate and ambassador for Mars One, said he did not believe the mission could take off by 2024 as planned.
“It will take quite a bit longer and be quite a bit more expensive. When they first asked me to be involved I told them ‘you have to put a zero after everything’,” he said, implying that a launch date 100 years from now with a budget of tens of billions of dollars would be an achievable goal. But, ’t Hooft added, “People don’t want something 100 years from now.”
A recent analysis by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) identified crucial flaws with Mars One’s published plans and predicted that even if the astronauts got to the surface unscathed, the first person would suffocate within 68 days because of a lack of equipment to balance oxygen levels effectively.Just to review, all three major stages of the Mars One proposal have turned out to be fatally flawed:
T’Hooft, of Utrecht University, said he was concerned by the findings. “I understand the scepticism very well. People from outside will say ‘wait a minute, you have to be careful with what you’re doing and what you’re claiming’. Maybe there’s a need to reassess,” he said.
He added that the “proper thing” would be for Mars One to publish its own analysis to demonstrate that their own more favourable projections about life on the Red Planet were sound.
Despite being sceptical about the details, t’Hooft said he still supported the project’s overall goals. “Let them be optimistic and see how far they get,” he said.
Though it took him a long while to master the art of musket making, Whitney was quick to master the art of obtaining extensions from government authorities. Part of his technique was to insist upon the revolutionary nature of the production methods he was developing. As early as July 1799, he explained to worried officials that his factory would embody a “new principle” of manufacturing: “One of my primary objects,” he wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, “is to form the tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion—which when once accomplished, will give expedition, uniformity, and exactness to the whole....In short, the tools which I contemplate are similar to an engraving on a copper plate from which may be taken a great number of impressions perceptibly alike.”
This is a description, and an elegant one, of the principle of “interchangeable parts.” If machine tools make parts of a weapon (or other product) so “perceptibly alike” that broken parts can be replaced without special fitting, then the parts are said to be interchangeable.
Though Whitney spoke of adopting a “new principle” in his factory, not even his most ardent defenders credit him with discovering the principle of interchangeable parts. Years before Whitney contracted to manufacture muskets, a Frenchman, Honoré Blanc, was making musket firing mechanisms (“locks”) on the interchangeable system. Thomas Jefferson saw a demonstration of Blanc’s work in 1785: “He presented me with the parts of fifty locks taken to pieces, and arranged in compartments. I put several together myself, taking pieces at hazzard as they came to hand, and they fitted in a most perfect manner.”
If Whitney did not introduce the principle of interchangeable parts, might he not have been the first American to make practical use of the principle? Modern researchers have tested the Whitney firearms that survive, with results that astonished those who had grown up believing the Whitney legend. The tests showed that, in some respects, the parts of Whitney’s firearms were not even approximately interchangeable. Moreover, many parts of Whitney’s muskets are engraved with special marks—marks that would only be necessary if the manufacturer had failed to achieve interchangeability.
These discoveries raise another question. An episode that figures prominently in the Whitney legend is a demonstration that he made in Washington in January 1801 before an audience that included President Adams and Presidentelect Jefferson. “Mr. Whitney,” Jefferson later wrote to James Monroe, “has invented moulds and machines for making all the pieces of his locks so exactly equal, that...the hundred locks may be put together as well by taking the first pieces which come to hand.”
In view of the deficiencies of the firearms that survive, how are we to explain the demonstration of 1801? Merritt Roe Smith, one of our foremost authorities on the history of arms manufacture, concludes that only one explanation makes sense: “Whitney must have staged his famous 1801 demonstration with specimens specially prepared for the occasion....it appears that Whitney purposely duped government authorities...[and] encouraged the notion that he had successfully developed a system for producing uniform parts.”
So far, so bad, but there’s more! “By his tenacity he so perfected the manufacture of arms that with the subsequent adoption of his system...the government saved $25,000 annually”—so says the Dictionary of American Biography, which goes on to give Whitney credit (as do Nevins and Mirksy) for an invention of exceptional importance in the history of manufacturing: “Of the various machines designed and used by Whitney only one is known to exist. This is a plain milling machine which was built prior to 1818, and is believed to be the first successful machine of its kind ever made.”
It’s bad enough to discover that you can’t count on the things you learned in the seventh grade, but you know you’re really in trouble when you realize that you can’t count on the Dictionary of American Biography. In “Eli Whitney and the Milling Machine,” published in the Smithsonian Journal of History in 1966, Edward A. Battison concludes: “There is no evidence that Whitney developed or used a true milling machine.” The so-called Whitney machine of 1818 seems actually to have been made after Whitney’s death in 1825. The first true milling machine was made not by Whitney, Battison suggests, but by Robert Johnson of Middletown, Connecticut.
But eventually Joseph — who is actually Dr. Joseph Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College’s School of Education in Dublin, with a Ph.D. in physics and astrophysics — found himself on the group’s shortlist of 100 candidates all willing to undertake the theoretical journey. And that’s when he started talking to me about the big problems he was seeing with Mars One.
It was difficult for him to break his silence, but he was spurred into speaking out by the uncritical news coverage. Many basic assumptions about the project remain unchallenged. Most egregiously, many media outlets continue to report that Mars One received applications from 200,000 people who would be happy to die on another planet — when the number it actually received was 2,761.
“When you join the ‘Mars One Community,’ which happens automatically if you applied as a candidate, they start giving you points,” Roche explained to me in an email. “You get points for getting through each round of the selection process (but just an arbitrary number of points, not anything to do with ranking), and then the only way to get more points is to buy merchandise from Mars One or to donate money to them.”
“Community members” can redeem points by purchasing merchandise like T-shirts, hoodies, and posters, as well as through gifts and donations: The group also solicits larger investment from its supporters. Others have been encouraged to help the group make financial gains on flurries of media interest. In February, finalists received a list of “tips and tricks” for dealing with press requests, which included this: “If you are offered payment for an interview then feel free to accept it. We do kindly ask for you to donate 75% of your profit to Mars One.” [Bold in original.]
So, here are the facts as we understand them: Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.
Mars One Suspends Work on Robotic Missions by Jeff Foust — February 18, 2015Another area of concern was funding. The original plan was wildly ambitious, requiring Olympic-level profits from a proposed reality show, but the company had managed to line up an experienced partner to produce the show. Now even that is in question.
WASHINGTON — A private organization that recently selected finalists for one-way human missions to Mars in the mid-2020s has quietly suspended work on a pair of robotic missions, putting into question plans to launch those spacecraft in 2018.
Mars One, a Dutch-based nonprofit organization, announced in December 2013 it was starting work on two robotic missions it planned to launch in 2018 as precursors to its human expeditions to Mars. One spacecraft would orbit Mars and serve as a communications relay, while the other would be a lander to test technologies planned for later crewed missions.
At that time, Mars One announced it had selected Lockheed Martin to begin work on the lander mission and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to start work on the orbiter. Mars One awarded contracts to each company to perform concept studies of the planned missions.
“These missions are the first step in Mars One’s overall plan of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars,” Bas Landsorp, Mars One chief executive and co-founder, said in a December 2013 press conference here announcing the missions. “We believe we are in very good shape to make this happen.”
However, both companies confirmed with SpaceNews that, since the completion of those study contracts, they have not received additional contracts from Mars One to continue work on those missions.
“SSTL delivered the concept study for the Mars One communications system last year,” SSTL spokeswoman Joelle Sykes said Feb. 16. “There are no follow-on activities underway at the moment.”
“Lockheed Martin has concluded the initial contract with Mars One in which we performed mission formulation studies and developed payload interface specifications to support the selection of a payload suite for the 2018 Mars robotic lander,” the company said in a statement Feb. 17. “We continue to maintain an open channel of communications with Mars One and await initiation of the next phase of the program.”
Those plans, though, may depend on the progress Mars One makes on its robotic missions, and there time is of the essence. Lockheed Martin noted in its statement that its proposed Mars One lander is based on a “very mature” design used on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission launched in 2007 and the InSight lander it is building for launch in March 2016.
Despite that heritage, the company said, “we would have to start construction very soon to launch an InSight clone in the 2018 window.”
No more 'Big Brother' on the red planet: Endemol axes plans for reality TV show that would record life of Mars One explorers - but a documentary will still be made
By SARAH GRIFFITHS and JONATHAN O'CALLAGHAN, 23 February 2015
Last week Mars One announced a list of 100 people who will train on Earth for a one-way mission to the red planet in 2025.
But the venture's accompanying reality TV show - which was to be made by the makers of Big Brother to document their training and new lives on the red planet - has been shelved after the companies were 'unable to reach an agreement on details', MailOnline has learned.
Instead, Mars One is working with a new production company to record the colonists' progress.
It is unclear whether the breakdown in communications may blow a hole in Mars One's already tight $6 billion (£4 billion) budget because TV rights were expected to help finance the majority of the mission.
So far less than $760,000 (£496,000) has been donated to cover the estimated total cost, and time is of the essence.
However, Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of Mars One, told MailOnline that the idea of a television programme providing a hefty chunk of funding was a 'big misconception'.
'Media exposure is one of our business cases. Funding for the mission will come mostly from equity investors,' he said.
'The return on their investment will come when the first crew leaves or even when it lands: that's when the revenues from the media exposure are much larger than the cost of the mission.'
He said the documentary will 'involve more people in our adventure,' but declined to name the production company that will make the programme.
Initially, there were plans for Endemol to make a reality TV programme documenting the selection process and training of the colonists.
It was to be made by Endemol-owned Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP) and was dubbed 'Big Brother on Mars'.
But DSP told MailOnline: ‘DSP and Mars One were unable reach agreement on the details of the contract and DSP is no longer involved in the project.
'We wish Bas and the team all the very best.’
It is unclear when the decision was made, although Endemol originally said that the first installments of the TV show would air in early 2015.
Lansdorp also told MailOnline: 'We have ended our cooperation with Endemol because we could not reach agreement on the details of the contract.
'We have contracted a new production company that will produce the documentary series for us.
'They have already produced the trailer on our Youtube channel and progress is good.'
In the past 40 years, mankind has ventured into space using well-established rocket technology involving liquid fuels and/or solid propellants. This approach has the advantage for astronauts and fragile payloads that the rocket starts slowly from the surface of the Earth with its full fuel load, and, as the fuel is burned off, the altitude and speed increase. In addition to minimizing the aerodynamic and aerothermal loads, this provides relatively modest accelerations—maximum values of a few “gees” are used for human passengers. Because only a small fraction of the initial mass reaches orbit, rockets of substantial size are required to place tens of tons into near-Earth orbit. Offsetting these remarkable successes is the very high cost of burning chemical fuel with a modest efficiency in a rocket engine to get out of the Earth’s gravitational well. Present estimates are that it costs $20 000 to get one kilogram of material into orbit. Unless alternatives can be found, it seems likely that mankind’s ventures into space will be limited to a few adventures that can only be undertaken by wealthy nations—the science-fiction writer’s dream of colonizing the planets and stars may be unaffordable.
Proposed solutions fall into four general categories: better rocket propellants; the space elevator; gun launch from the Earth’s surface; and laser launch. Although these options will not be discussed in detail, a few comments are appropriate. First, there appear to be no acceptable alternative rocket propellants that can offer substantial improvements compared with present choices. Second, although the space elevator seems to have great promise as a concept for the future, its practical realization awaits the development of a material that is strong enough to be able to carry its own weight (and that of the payloads it will lift) from the Earth’s surface to geosynchronous orbit. Third, estimates indicate that to launch payloads of less than a ton with a laser would require multigigawatt lasers far larger than any presently in existence
[Having concluded that gun launches are currently the most viable option, McNab starts drilling down into the details.]
If the launcher is sufficiently long, the acceleration can be reduced to a level that is compatible with present component technology, although the acceleration forces will not allow people or fragile payloads to be launched with feasible launcher lengths. Guns may therefore be limited to launching robust packages such as food, water, fuel, and replaceable components. This may be an important support function for the International Space Station (ISS) or other missionsI don't want to get into whether or not we should be spending more on space exploration, and I certainly don't want to argue the merits of this proposal (that topic would take me out of my depth almost immediately). For now, I want to stay meta and discuss the discussion.
A disadvantage of gun launch is that the launch package has to leave the gun barrel at a very high velocity ( 7500 m/s) through the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to a very high aerothermal load on the projectile. The reentry vehicle community has successfully developed techniques to overcome this situation (when traveling in the reverse direction), and it seems possible that similar techniques can resolve this problem, either through the use of refractory or ablative nose materials or by evaporative cooling techniques. The mass of coolant required for this appears to be acceptable, as discussed below. The second concern for a gun is the size of the package that can be launched. Unless a very large gun can be built, the payload launched into orbit per launch will be a few hundred kilograms, which will require a large number of launches per year. For example, to provide 500 tons/year to orbit would require 2000 launches/year—a little over five per day on average. An infrastructure in space for handling this traffic and distributing the payloads will have to be created. Issues to be addressed will include decisions on handling or recycling the nonpayload components that reach orbit.
This piece is what my old next-door office neighbor Jack DeVore, then Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen's Assistant Secretary for Public Relations, called a "beat sweetener": the point of such an article is not to inform the article's readers about some person regarded as either being influential or typical in an interesting way, but rather to burnish the reputation of the subject. As such, it omits key parts of the story and so misleads the readers in the interest of achieving that goal. The hope is that the subject of the article will at some future point then open up and preferentially dish to the reporter who has done him the favor of burnishing his reputation.
That is it. No observations about publishing the wrong numbers. No observations about how Stephen Moore has been a huge backer of Sam Brownback's Kansas tax-cut state revenue disaster. Nothing about how Herman Cain' 9-9-9 plan blew up in his face because no analyst who could add could get it to work arithmetically no matter how many thumbs they put on these scale. No critical quotes from anybody about the quality of Stephen Moore's analytical work--which would have been the easiest thing in the world to get. In fact, no positive quotes at all from any economist about Stephen Moore as an economist or an analyst.
So the message I get from this is that there is, still, an enormous need for publications and platforms that will call a spade a goddam shovel, afflict the comfortable, entertain-along-with-informing rather than entertain-instead-of-informing, and be trusted information intermediaries in which the words on the page are there to inform you about what is what rather than to mislead you in the hope that those in whose interest you have been misled will at some point in the future dish the writer a scoop.