Monday: Hili dialogue

July 12, 2021 • 6:30 am

Greetings on Monday: July 12, 2021: National Pecan Pie Day: the Best of All Possible Pies (fresh strawberry pie is a close second). When buying the pecan pie, make sure the pecans are interspersed throughout the pie and don’t just form a thin layer on top of a molasses/gelatin base! It’s also National Eat Your Jell-O Day, Simplicity Day, and a special holiday for cats: Paper Bag Day.  Finally, in a country where I worked on flies, it’s Independence Day, celebrating the independence of São Tomé and Príncipe from Portugal in 1975 (see below). It’s also Julius Caesar’s 2121st birthday (see below).

I am still sad about the bereft duck mother from yesterday, and posting may be light today. If she’s still at the pond quacking for her ducklings, I’ll just die.

News of the Day:

The big news is that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Unity 22 space flight was a success. As the NYT reports:

Cars drove Mr. Branson and his crewmates to the plane on Sunday, and the flight took off on Sunday morning around 10:40 a.m. Eastern time from Spaceport America in New Mexico, about 180 miles south of Albuquerque.

The space plane separated from the carrier ship around 11:25 a.m. and ignited its engine for about 60 seconds, carrying Mr. Branson and the crew into space. Video footage from the live stream showed him and the crew experiencing weightlessness.

Minutes later, the plane began its return to Earth in a glide, and soon landed safely on the spaceport’s runway. Mr. Branson, speaking into a camera in the plane’s cabin during the glide, called it “an experience of a lifetime.”

Branson is a happy billionaire for sure. Is it worth $250,000 for the rest of us? Only if you have the dosh, and even then it seems a bit pricey! And they didn’t really go into “space”—not if you use the international definition (100 km above sea level).

The plane holds two pilots and four people in the cabin. Here’s the entire livestream from Virgin, with the good part beginning about 49 minutes in and the separation from the mothership occurs  at 54:12. The boundary to “space” (as defined by the US) is crossed at 56:23. The landing, as the ship glides in without power, takes place at  1:08:31. Total flight time: about 15 minutes ($17,000/minute fare).

In Europe, though, the biggest news was the match between England and Italy in the finals of the European championship: Euro 2020, played every four years. After regulation time, the score was tied 1-1, but then Italy won on penalty kicks 3-2. Matthew is happy because, though he’s a Brit, he was rooting for Italy. Further, a bunch of fans broke through the security barriers at Wembley Stadium and rushed inside, hoping to get free entrance. I believe they were ferreted out and removed.

Here are the highlights (watch quickly before they’re removed):

I feel a booster shot coming on. The Associated Press reports that officials from Pfizer will meet with U.S. government health officials today to discuss the possibility of a booster shot to deal with the new, more infectious variants. While the Voice of the Pandemic, always referred to as “Dr. Fauci”, says that we don’t have the data now to say boosters are useful, Biden’s own chief medical adviser says that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that we’ll have to get booster shots. And Pfizer says this:

Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier — evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.

Oy! Will there be a mad rush for third shots? Will I have to get my laminated shot card un-laminated? Will Pfizer charge a lot for a booster? My own prediction is that we’ll have to get a COVID shot every year, just as we do now with the flu shot.

An Ohio man stopped for speeding decided he’d better swallow the bag of marijuana he was carrying before the cops found it. He choked on it, and the state trooper had to perform a Heimlich maneuver on the hapless motorist. His life was saved, but now he’s charged with speeding, failing to wear a seatbelt, and possession of marijuana. Marijuana for recreational use is still illegal in the state. (By the way, I think the Heimlich maneuever has been replaced with newer advice to pound the choking victim hard on the back repeatedly, and then reverting to the Heimlich if that doesn’t work, then more back slaps, and so on. See the new procedure here.)

Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 616,316, an increase of 223 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 4050,182, an increase of about 6,200 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on July 12 includes:

  • AD 70 – The armies of Titus attack the walls of Jerusalem after a six-month siege. Three days later they breach the walls, which enables the army to destroy the Second Temple.
  • 1493 – Hartmann Schedel‘s Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the best-documented early printed books, is published.

This is a history book, and one of the pages is reproduced in Wikipedia: “Woodcut from 1493 depicting the burning of Jews in the 14th century. Today in the Jewish Museum of Switzerland‘s collection.

  • 1543 – King Henry VIII of England marries his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court Palace.
  • 1776 – Captain James Cook begins his third voyage.
  • 1862 – The Medal of Honor is authorized by the United States Congress.

This is the highest award America gives for acts of bravery in the military. Wikipedia notes that “According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, there have been 3,527 Medals of Honor awarded to 3,508 individuals since the decoration’s creation, with over 40% awarded for actions during the American Civil War.”  There are three versions, one each for the Air Force, Army, and Navy (in order below). I met one man who had won won: Lew Millett, an Army buddy of my dad’s, who was awarded the medal for leading the last major American bayonet charge; it was during the Korean War. 

  • 1962 – The Rolling Stones perform for the first time at London’s Marquee Club.
  • 1963 – Pauline Reade, 16, disappears in Gorton, England, the first victim in the Moors murders.

I hadn’t heard about these murders and wonder how many Brits still know about them.

Here’s the flag:

  • 1975 – São Tomé and Príncipe declare independence from Portugal.

Notables born on this day include:

Wedgewood, the grandfather of both Charles Darwin and his wife Emma (who were therefore first cousins), was already an abolitionist in the eighteenth century. Here’s his famous engraving of a slave asking for equality, though some moderns criticize this for being too supplicating. It was later made into a Wedgwood medallion.

  • 1813 – Claude Bernard, French physiologist and academic (d. 1878)
  • 1817 – Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet, and philosopher (d. 1862)

I didn’t realize that there were photos of Thoreau but Wikipedia gives two. Here’s one:

  • 1884 – Louis B. Mayer, Russian-born American film producer, co-founded Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (d. 1957)
  • 1895 – Kirsten Flagstad, Norwegian soprano (d. 1962)

Flagstad, a world famous singer, is touted as one of the best sopranos of all time, though I haven’t heard her voice. Here she is painted on the side of a Norwegian Air Shuttle plane:

  • 1895 – Buckminster Fuller, American architect and engineer, designed the Montreal Biosphère (d. 1983)
  • 1904 – Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet and diplomat, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1973)
  • 1917 – Andrew Wyeth, American artist (d. 2009)

Here’s Wyeth’s painting of “Christina’s Bedroom” (1947, and yes, it’s that Christina), featuring a cat:


  • 1934 – Van Cliburn, American pianist and composer (d. 2013)
  • 1937 – Bill Cosby, American actor, comedian, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1943 – Christine McVie, English singer-songwriter and keyboard player

In honor of McVie’s birthday, here’s one of her best songs with Fleetwood Mac (she wrote it). This is a live performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those four could produce a lot of sound!

  • 1971 – Kristi Yamaguchi, American figure skater

Those who were no more on the 12th of July include:

  • 1804 – Alexander Hamilton, American general, economist, and politician, 1st United States Secretary of the Treasury (b. 1755)
  • 1935 – Alfred Dreyfus, French colonel (b. 1859)
  • 1966 – D. T. Suzuki, Japanese philosopher and author (b. 1870)
  • 1979 – Minnie Riperton, American singer-songwriter (b. 1947)

Riperton had the ability to sing remarkably high. As Wikipedia notes,

Riperton had a coloratura soprano vocal range. Aside from her various hits, she is perhaps best remembered today for her ability to sing in high head voice (occasionally the whistle register which is often mistakenly confused with the former), in which she had rare facility. She is known as The Nightingale, and a Songbird. Her rare ability to enunciate in the high registers set her apart from most other whistle-register singers. This feature is most notably heard in the song “Here We Go” (a duet with Peabo Bryson), where she sings “here we go” in the whistle register. Whistle-register enunciation can also be heard in songs such as “Inside My Love”, “Adventures in Paradise”, “Expecting”, “Only When I’m Dreaming”, and also in “Teach Me How to Fly” and “Like a Rolling Stone” with the Rotary Connection.

She died at only 31 of breast cancer. Here’s a live version of what became her greatest hit:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn: Hili escapes the heat (power is still wonky there, and I get the dialogues from Listy):

Hili: It was too hot in the sun.
Andrzej: And here?
Hili: It’s optimal here.

In Polish:

Hili: W słońcu było mi zbyt gorąco.
Ja: A tu?
Hili: Tu jest optymalnie.

Paulina has a few more photos of Baby Kulka:

Caption: Another portion of Paulina’s photos. (In Polish: “Jeszcze porcja zdjęć Pauliny.”)

From Facebook:

From Barry:

From Jesus of the Day:

In Islam, dogs are considered “impure”, and in Iran it’s illegal to walk your dog.  Two tweets from Masih about that:

Tweets from Matthew. As far as I know, these claims are true—at least the first one.

It’s so sad that this amazing animal, the Irrawaddy Dolphin of southeast Asia, is on the verge of extinction:

Here’s a short video of the animal. Cambodia is protecting it, and tourism may save it, but I’m worried:

Bats are meticulous animals; sound up:

Here is a lovely bird with young:

Caution: scorpions at work:


76 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue

        1. Nobody knows, because we never found out who he is/was.

          Speaking seriously, Jack the Ripper was never caught and we don’t know who he was and so that contributed to the legend. He’s almost part of British folklore and has been written about many times because of that.

          I think, had he been caught and hanged, he wouldn’t be in the British consciousness to the same extent.

    1. 3 eggs
      1 c dark karo
      1 c sugar
      2 Tb butter, melted
      1 tsp vanilla
      1/8 tsp salt
      1 c chopped pecans, + ½ c halves
      1 9” pie crust

      Beat the eggs lightly, mix in the karo, sugar, melted butter, vanilla, & salt; mix in the chopped pecans; turn into the pie shell; spread the halves on top; bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then at 350 for 30 or so minutes, until a knife in the center comes out clean.

      Accept no substitutes.

    1. Bizarrely, I may actually have been in Myra Hindley’s prison cell – shortly before Cookham Wood prison opened we were taken around it on a school trip and were each locked in a cell for a few minutes. (The prison was originally intended to be a male young offenders institution, and I think that the idea was to put us off a life of crime.) I’ve no idea how many cells there were, but there’s a teeny chance that the one I was briefly incarcerated in was the one occupied by Hindley when it became a women’s prison years later.

    2. I can’t believe you DIDN’T know about them. I’m from Australia and we knew all about that dreadful follie a deux. It is a great, gruesome story.

  1. By the way, I think the Heimlich maneuever has been replaced with newer advice to pound the choking victim hard on the back repeatedly, and then reverting to the Heimlich if that doesn’t work, then more back slaps, and so on. See the new procedure here.

    This is what I was taught 30 years ago.

    I have saved my Mom twice from choking and my wife and son once each. In every case, I thumped them hard on the back and that was enough. Certainly I was prepared to do the Heimlich (sounds like a dance number from the Rocky Horror Show).

    I had to save myself once at 4:00 am at home (no one else was awake; I couldn’t call out; the clock is ticking by very quickly …) I performed a self-Heimlich using the back of a straight-backed chair.

    1. Oddly, from the linked article, Heimlich’s son: Bluntly put, the younger Heimlich has repeatedly accused his father of being “a fraud” and “one of history’s great medical charlatans,” while also dismissing his lifetime’s medical research as “completely bogus.” Peter Heimlich also accuses his father of stealing credit for the maneuver, which he claims was actually invented by another researcher.

    2. The key for the back-thumping is: Get the person standing, bend them over at the waist (horizontal upper body) and then thump them hard between the should blades.

    3. I had a choking experience a few years ago. It was at breakfast, with my parents visiting. I took my vitamins and then a fork-full of scrambled eggs, and when I swallowed the eggs didn’t go down and suddenly I couldn’t breath. I stood up and went to the kitchen sink. I couldn’t talk but everyone figured out what was wrong pretty quick. My mother called 911 and my stepfather performed several iterations of the Heimlich maneuver, but it didn’t work. I was trying to stay calm and wondering how this was going to play out. Suddenly my body had some sort of autonomic spasm that ejected the material, vitamins and eggs, right out into the sink. Talk about relief. Scared the crap out of me.

      1. Yeah, Darrell: Very scary.

        Did your Dad have trouble due to your big, muscled frame? They did the right things: One calls 911 and the other tries to clear the airway.

        Each time I had to clear someone else’s airway, that was very scary too. But I am very cool in a crisis (just “made” that way I guess) and my training kicks in immediately. I go into Mountaineering First Aid mode: Take charge and do what needs to be done.

        1. I’m not very big, but pretty solid so it’s possible. And he is no spring chicken. But, yes, they both handled it very well. Like you my mother has always been cool under fire.

    4. When I did my first aid at work course twenty years ago it was the same. The Heimlich manoeuvre is not without its own risks and it was presented to us as the last resort.

    5. I performed a self-Heimlich using the back of a straight-backed chair.

      This is what I was taught at my last training – throw yourself, hard, onto the back of a chair or sofa. “Go big or go home” is what I recall them saying.

      1. That’s good. I was not taught this. I was only 18 or 19 at the time and hadn’t had any formal FA training yet. But the idea seemed pretty clear to me in that moment.

    6. I suffer from laryngospasm , which happens to me occasionally (about once a year on average), and scares the shit out of me. If even the tiniest amount of liquid goes down the wrong way, my larynx goes in to spasm, and closes completely. At that point I get to breath out my last breath, but can no longer breathe in. Usually lasts about a minute, which turns out to be a helluva long time when you can’t breathe. As I try to breathe, It makes a hideous high-pitched screech, which others around me find “disturbing”. I’ve been assured that if I actually pass out, the whole body will relax and I’ll start breathing again. It’s a theory I’m not too keen to test.

  2. “When buying the pecan pie, make sure the pecans are interspersed throughout the pie and don’t just form a thin layer on top of a molasses/gelatin base!”


    We don’t BUY our pies, we make them! I don’t use either molasses or gelatin. Eggs, brown sugar, butter, Karo, and vanilla (REAL vanilla, not the stuff made from petroleum) and chopped pecans go into the filling. The pie is then topped with pecan halves, so there are nuts both in the mix and on top.

    We also don’t make them this time of year. NM pecans are harvested in the fall, so we make pies when the nuts are fresh.


      1. I notice that someone posted a recipe above. It’s almost the same as mine; I use brown sugar instead of white.

        We make everything from scratch. It’s one of my great pleasures to hear customers ask where we get our baked goods.


  3. One note on sport: Novak Djokovic won his 6th Wimbledon tile yesterday.

    This brings him level with Federer and Rafa in all time Majors wins at 20. It also sets up the possibility of a Grand Slam for him (all four Majors in one calendar year), which hasn’t been done in singles since 1988 by Steffi Graf (Women’s Singles) and 1969 by Rod Laver (Men’s Singles; he did it twice: 1952, 1969).

    So far in 2021, Djokovic has won: The Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon. And he’s certainly going to go for his 4th US Open championship in August: The Grand Slam plus most Men’s Singles Major titles.

    1. Yes, Novak lost the first set to Matteo Berrettini and I was worried that if Berrettini won the match it would be a bad omen for England’s chances against Italy in the football later in the day. Djokovic fought back to take the title – and so did the Italian team at Wembley. Oh well, two years until the World Cup…

      1. Yeah, it was an excellent match (though my favorite this year was Djokovic-Nadal at the semis at Roland Garros).

        Berrettini played an excellent match (as was graciously acknowledged by Djokovic in the post-match interview); but Djoko was just too good. There were some amazing points in the match. Berrettini is a guy to watch. I predict he’ll get a major win in the next few years.

      2. Also: I expect Federer to retire now. He looked surprisingly good up to his QF loss to Hurkacz (who then pretty much got his clock cleaned by Berrettini). He’ll be 40 by the time the US Open starts in August. I’m thinking he won’t want to go out on a low note.

        1. Who is hosting (I guess I could just look it up). By lucky chance, we happened to be in France in 2018 when France won. That was fun. We watched many of the games.

          I remember sitting in our gites outside of Chamonix and when France scored, the whole mountainside erupted in noise. Kids came out of the nearby houses and sang and chanted.

          1. “Who is hosting ?” – Qatar! They’ve had to move the tournament to November and December because of the heat (despite FIFA denying any such change would be necessary when announcing the winning bid in what seems to have been a corrupt process…).

    2. The Rocket won the Slam twice even though he was barred from playing the majors for five years during his prime, since he turned pro before the open era, back when only so-called “amateurs” could compete.

  4. A big congratulations to Sir Richard and all others involved in the development program since 2004 that culminated in yesterday’s flight. I think the original engineering design concept was Burt Rutan’s at Scaled Composites which won the Ansari X Prize in 2004 for two crewed flights to 100km (approx 60 miles) within a two-week period. This 2004 flight was privately bankrolled by Paul Allen, an early software billionaire with Rutan as designer and builder. It was different from Nasa sponsored spacecraft in that it was only meant for suborbital flight which is MUCH less demanding in energy budget compared with even low earth orbit. But the challenges are many as one might infer from the 17 year development period in going to the larger craft. Looking at the altitude tape on the video, it appears the ship made it to 280k ft, just over 53 miles altitude which is very impressive to me. Let’s see where things go from here. Great to see private investors supporting these engineering endeavours that are interesting but of no obvious economic or military interest to governments. Though I still see it as too risky for me!

  5. 1979 – Minnie Riperton, American singer-songwriter (b. 1947)

    I saw Minnie Riperton perform at a little theater in ’75, shortly before “Lovin’ You” broke on the charts. I’d never heard of her before, but my bestie grabbed me that day and said we had to go see this chick that was in town with a crazy four-octave range. She hit some notes that night that I swear were at the edge of the human hearing range.

    She’s the mother of Maya Rudolph of Saturday Night Live fame (and whose first name you can hear Minnie singing at the end of “Lovin’ You”). Maya’s got a great voice, too, though, oddly enough, unlike her mom, she seems to be contralto. Here she is playing the chanteuse on on SNL:

    1. I was a big fan of Minnie Riperton. Somewhere in the NBC archives is video of her appearance on the Johnny Carson show. I believe it was on this show that she revealed that she was battling cancer. The highlight of the show was her incredible performance of the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”. I had hoped that it would be included on her next album, but it wasn’t. And then she was gone. Maybe there is a studio version of the song somewhere. It deserves to be heard.

  6. That Tweet on Disability is a good example of why you shouldn’t get information from Twitter. My wife is on full disability, and, the last time I checked, we were married.

    1. I was puzzled too. The confusion comes from the fact that there are 2 different kinds of disability in the US. SSDI that your (and my) wife are on are based on earnings before the disability and have no limits like the video is talking about. It just becomes taxable if your spouse makes money. The girl in the video is referring to a program called SSI (Supplemental Security Insurance) which is a needs based program and is not dependent on SS taxes paid but only on poverty in addition to disability.

  7. 1962 – The Rolling Stones perform for the first time at London’s Marquee Club.

    A year before they became the house band at the Crawdaddy Club.

  8. ”In honor of McVie’s birthday, here’s one of her best songs with Fleetwood Mac (she wrote it). This is a live performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those four could produce a lot of sound“

    Fleetwood Mac went through many lineup changes, and the famous Rumours was preceded by a dozen or so other albums. However, the “classic” lineup of the two McVies (Christine’s maiden name: Perfect), Fleetwood, Buckingham, and Nicks had 5 people and, along with some guest musicians, they are all in that video.

  9. Re Kirsten Flagstad; she was, of course, a great Wagnerian soprano, but I happen to love her rendition of “Erbarme dich” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. I’m an atheist, so I’m only held spellbound by the gorgeous, impeccable singing, not the words.

  10. With the Virgin Galactic flight, one thing stood out to me. The company has no clue how to run a livestream of an event like this. They must have spent a fortune on it but couldn’t keep the transmissions from the spaceship going at crucial times, despite having done many practice flights over a decade. Unlike with the expected blackouts during reentry of orbital spacecraft, this should be a solvable problem. Perhaps they need to start using Elon Musk’s StarLink technology.

    1. That was a shame but coms is icing on the cake (priorities are aviate, navigate, communicate). I am glad that they maybe were focussed on safety of flight and completing this mission successfully without the added requirements of getting the ‘show’ perfect for observers. I was on the phone this morning with a former Nasa colleague, charlie camarda, who was a thermal structures engineer who flew on the shuttle return to flight mission after Columbia. Charlie likened yesterday’s flight to the start of barnstorming days for airplanes in early 20th century…just getting the public used to flying to the edge of space and back for now. I thought that that was good insight.

      1. I’ll have to disagree. They could certainly have gone that route, just keeping things simple and focusing on completing the mission, but they didn’t do that. Instead, Branson realizes that this is an advertising opportunity and spent a lot of money building it into an event. Dropping the ball on one crucial aspect of that event is a huge, and avoidable, screwup.

        It will be interesting to see what Bezos comes up with for his event. On the one hand, Blue Origin has big plans for commercial space flight that go far beyond sending tourists up for 4 mins of weightlessness. It’s really just a sideline. On the other hand, if he is serious about selling tickets going forward then he is in direct competition with Virgin Galactic. There’s also the risk of being outdone by his rival billionaire. That said, I suspect he will focus more on the technical achievement and not try to outdo Virgin. Best to avoid the potential farce.

      2. Very interesting.

        “Space tourism” (like supersonic air transport) will be only for the super-wealthy. I wonder when it will become socially frowned upon (elitist, only for the wealthy, huge carbon footprint, too many white people, etc.)

    2. Perhaps they need to start using Elon Musk’s StarLink technology.

      How would that help? AIUI, the normal reason for radio dropouts during re-entry is that the friction between shockwave and atmosphere generates a plasma of charged particles at a significant density (mol/m^3), and that attenuates electromagnetic waves effectively. The last time I looked, Musk’s stuff consisted of radio waves with the pixie dust and unicorn poo being in the marketing.
      If you want to get a signal out during re-entry, you’d probably do best by using a carrier signal from a laser on a gun-mount gimbal, and targetting a “conventional” chase plane. Boston Dynamics (of the cuddly robot dog videos) probably have something more-or-less off the shelf? Oh, it’s not important enough for that expenditure? Weaponising the Branson-mobile would probably do bad things to the PR department’s nerves.

      1. My point is that Virgin Galactic’s flights do NOT experience the plasma problem that reentering orbital spacecraft do. Their reentry speed is a small fraction of orbital velocities. StarLink is testing their stuff on airliners in order to greatly improve inflight internet. This should work with VG’s craft as well. Their higher altitude won’t make any difference to communication to StarLink satellites.

        SpaceX is testing StarLink equipment installed on their new Starship that’s about to attempt its first orbital flight. Obviously the plasma problem on reentry is an issue. Elon Musk has claimed that they might actually be able to keep the connection working throughout reentry because communication is upward from Starship to the satellite while the plasma is below. Also, the larger size of Starship will also help.

        1. StarLink is testing their stuff on airliners in order to greatly improve inflight internet.

          What – not providing internet to dirt-poor African farmers? Have the PR people been lieing in their teeth again?
          AIUI, much of the problem of getting internet on planes is not particularly one of signal strength (we used to be able to get internet from inside a helicopter in the 1990s, until the security staff included them in the “remove and sequester” list of items) but the short duration within range of each cell, and the speed of hand-off between cells.
          If Musk’s transceiver design covers that adequately (due to the high satellite speed), then it should work adequately.
          I’m not sure how the size of [whatever] helps – you still need your antenna to be a simple factor (small number ratio) of the wavelength of your carrier signal for optimal transmission. If you’re able to do it with sub-optimal antennae, then that’s great. But you still want to try to get your antenna matched as closely as you can to the inductance and reluctance of your drive circuit until you know that you’re above your minimal SNR.

          1. Dealing with satellites that go in an out of range quickly is a key part of StarLink technology. Compared to the movement of satellites, the speed of the planes is inconsequential.

          2. What – not providing internet to dirt-poor African farmers? Have the PR people been lieing in their teeth again?

            Of course. It’s Elon Musk.

            Starlink costs subscribers $100 per month and there is a one off charge of $500 for the receiving equipment, not exactly “dirt poor African farmer” territory.

            Even at those prices, it’s not obvious that Starlink can be made profitable. The receiver equipment costs SpaceX more than $500 per unit – estimates vary between $1,000 and $2,500 and also, they’ve got to launch 12,000 satellites (with aspirations to launch 42,000 satellites). That’s 200 Falcon 9 launches (or 700 for the 42,000) and more than 5% of the satellites they have launched so far have already failed. A SpaceX executive recently admitted that the design lifetime of the satellites is around five years.

            So they will be launching nearly 9,000 satellites every year at a cost of $250,000 per satellite i.e. an annual spend of $2 billion for the satellites alone.

            My prediction is that SpaceX will hive off the company as a separate enterprise, it’s get into financial trouble and have to be bought by Tesla, much like the solar panel company.

            1. As with most things, sheer volume is expected to bring the cost of the receivers way down. Remember, StarLink is still in a limited rollout phase.

              The cost of launching a StarLink satellite and, presumably, the rate of technological change are such that SpaceX is going to start putting them in an even lower orbit so that they can be more easily de-orbited after a few years. While Falcon 9 can *only* launch 64 satellites at a time, their new fully reusable Starship will be capable of putting up many more (1000?) at a similar price.

              As far as African farmers are concerned, it is not suggested that each farmer will have a StarLink receiver or that the farmers themselves will pay for it. In terms of total cost of bringing fast internet to a community, it will be a new low, making it easier for governments and other organizations to supply internet connections to “African farmers” and the like.

            2. I don’t follow the machinations of financial maniacs. It’s not worth the effort.

      2. This is true for ablative reentry. The Virgin vehicle glided in. I’m not sure there was significant ion generation. (E.g. the SR-71 gets (got) very hot in places but still could maintain RF communications.)

        They appeared to have telemetry issues while still on the ascent phase. On reentry (starting at about 58:00 in the video), it seems like they only went through supersonic level (ish) flight, passing into sub-sonic flight. So the temperatures/pressures probably never got to the point where they were enveloped in ions. Seems to me.

        1. Frankly, long distance telemetry is only important if you’ve no real hope of getting any of your recording equipment back intact. We’ll tolerate 1 to 1.25 bits/sec communications at work because it’s good enough for our uses and not worth spending another 2 or 3 M$ on improving the telemetry.
          (Should it be M$ or $M?)

      3. I don’t think ionization from re-entry is a significant problem for suborbital flights like this one, or at least not nearly on the same scale as re-entry from orbit. Though technically I suppose it is re-entry it is quite different from re-entry at orbital speeds. Note that though also not perfect video feeds from SpaceX’s F9 boosters re-entering are often without interruption, and even though they too are not reaching orbit they are going a good deal faster than VSS Unity does. More than twice as fast even on their slowest launches.

        On this flight VSS Unity topped out at just under 2,000 mph (3,225 kph) under power, coasted up to their maximum altitude of about 280,000 feet (85,344 meters) and then fell / glided down to a landing. On their fall back from apogee they momentarily peaked at about 1,935 mph (Mach 2.7, 3,120 kph). That’s fast for an airplane, but not fast for a spacecraft, and not fast enough to cause a blackout.

        Compare to re-entry from even low earth orbit in which the spacecraft hits the atmosphere at about 17,500 mph (28,226 kph). Re-entry from a trans-lunar orbit, for example the Apollo missions, is in the neighborhood of 24,500 mph (39,516 kph).

        Also, they had trouble with video feeds both before and after apogee. But, I don’t think they did too bad myself. Even aside from possible re-entry ionization issues there are all sorts of additional challenges in maintaining multiple live video links in the varying circumstances of a flight like this.

    3. Starlink satellites orbit at 450km. Richard Branson’s spaceship gets to about a quarter of that height. I don’t see how Starlink would be easier than better communications with the ground.

      1. True. StarLink would be only one possible solution to Branson’s communication problem, though perhaps a good one. SpaceX has fairly reliable communication with its Falcon 9 rockets and that is not based on StarLink, although they usually lose communication with their drone ship during the final stages of landing, presumably because all that fire and smoke interferes with it. I’ve always wondered why they don’t fix that. Putting an antenna in a dinghy a few hundred yards away and wired to the drone might do the trick. There livestreaming of launches has to be excellent PR for the company and well worth the small cost of solving these problems.

        1. I’m guessing here, but my guess would be that telemetry – which is what the engineers are interested in – does not require anything like the bandwidth that a video feed needs (which is what the PR people are interested in). Having said that, getting either from outside Earth’s atmosphere seems to be a solved problem judging by the pictures we can get from Mars.

          If there’s a problem that looks easy to solve to me, but hasn’t been, I tend to assume that it’s because I don’t understand the full extent of the difficulties.

          Video feeds failing happens all the time. My work Teams calls frequently run into technical issues and none of us are above a few metres of altitude.

          1. I don’t think the Mars situation shows anything as it isn’t live. One can always send hi-res video data at a non-realtime speed.

            While we all routinely experience dropouts in our video feeds, I suspect this is because solving these problems is just not important enough to us or to the services we pay for. It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist that would solve these problems, just that we aren’t using it for economic reasons. We don’t care enough to use the very best.

  11. ” about 180 miles south of Albuquerque”? Why not “about 40 miles north of Las Cruces”???

  12. In addition to the medallion, Josiah Wedgwood was until his death active in the “London Committee” for the abolition of the slave trade.

  13. We’ll find out what the scoreline for the football match was in a couple of weeks. I’d bet several thousands of cases, and several dozen fatalities.
    Alea iacta est.

  14. 1963 – Pauline Reade, 16, disappears in Gorton, England, the first victim in the Moors murders.

    First known victim. Brady was suspected of several other crimes before his hook-up with Hindley, but kept schtum under questioning.

  15. Re Unhappy Duck Mom. When ranchers haul beef calves to the market or separate them from their moms, they leave behind the cows that bawl for days. And cows, unlike ducks, often have large, sore udders as well. I began fence-line weaning all my calves. The cows were not very happy about it, but at least they could come visit their calves which had to be kept in very strong pipe pens so the cows couldn’t break in or the calves break out. This took about a weak before the new world order was accepted. Then the calves could be moved away. This was a more “humane” way of weaning.

    It’s difficult to watch the suffering moms. The one time a cow lost a calf, she stayed with the calf for a couple of days but I don’t recall the bawling that goes with removing live babies. Hard to bear but you made the right call.

  16. F*** the Islamic Republic: the “dogs are dirty” trope has to be The Stupidest Thing in Islam since.. well almost everything else in it. But it is the one that steams me most. Like the Chriiiistians’ treatment of cats not that long ago. Damn: religion is evil to the core.

    —- You *went* to Sao Tome and Principe? Visas there were VERY difficult. I’ve been interested in ST/P (and Equatorial Guinea) most of my adult life and even meddled in the latter’s politics as a young man. Both countries have grim histories and aren’t much better now.

    —- There was talk when I was younger of using the Aboriginal flag as Australia’s flag – it is waaay more attractive and we’ve stolen pretty much everything else from those people already anyway.

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