Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Speed of Light and Interstellar Colonization

Sci Fi author Charlie Stross has a great essay on the inplausibility of interstellar travel using current technology. The last line essentially sums up my view of manned space exploration:

Colonize the Gobi desert, colonise the North Atlantic in winter — then get back to me about the rest of the solar system!

First, there is no business case for it, with the possible exception of LEO, GSO and maybe (if there is ice at the pole caps) the Moon. Riffing off of JFK, various presidents have called for going to Mars, but really that's both impractical and a huge waste of money. If it were up to me, I'd shut down almost all manned space flight from NASA, let private industry find a business case for humans and restrict government spending to robots (for which we get *some* scientific use) and technology development.

Second, our current technology is just not up to this. Yes, we put a man on the Moon, but it was hugely expensive and kind of a one-off. The shuttle was a good idea, but it's really technology as old as I am and aging less well.

Third, if you really want to do this, invest in something like the space elevator. That combines a practical business case, humans in space and technology within our current understanding of physics.

Not to say a) I dont want to see someone go to Proxima and b) I think it isn't possible ever. A breakthrough in our understanding of any of a number fundemental physical laws could open the way to the stars. If MOND were to turn out to be true, if we understood the HIggs field, if we re-wrote the laws of interia, it could be quite possible. But given chemical rocks, sunlight and "gumption", I dont think we can get there from here.

Not yet.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Gold Standard

I am running around with an ounce of gold in my pocket.

I bought it this morning at a wholesale gold distributer I know of in NY at a price 2.4% above the last fixed price in London. Not too shabby really.

It is, of course, just gorgeous. I got a bar with a stylized Art Deco imprint on the “face” side and the usual 999.9 fine declaration on the back. The bar is sealed in a transparent plastic container, bordered by an assay certificate from PAMP of Switzerland. Like a kid with a new toy, I have showed this to everyone I know and, so far without exception, this is the very first bar of gold they have ever seen. It’s wicked cool.

In doing some pricing research before the purchase, I came across this site, which is a very interesting gold blog. This article, had a view of gold I hadn’t really thought of before:

The value of gold has not materially changed for the past 50 years or so. You can still purchase the same material good or services with an ounce of gold as you could 50 years ago. This does not apply to the value of the dollar of course. It takes a lot more dollars to buy the same goods as you could have bought 50 years ago.The question, for investment purposes then, is what do you invest in? Dollars or gold?Investing in dollars leaves one open to the manipulative fluctuations resulting in the dramatic variations of value in the dollar and the devaluation caused by the continual printing of more dollars (we are talking US dollars here) to fund debts such as the federal government debts as well as public and private debts.Gold however, remains consistent and in fact does not increase in value in terms of purchasing power. Rather the value of the dollar decreases, in the long term, against the value of the dollar. Once upon a time 20 dollars would have bought one ounce of gold. Now it takes between 600 and 700 dollars and is quite likely to go higher.However what you could buy for 20 dollars 50 years ago will now cost around 600 to 700 dollars. Interesting! This tells one immediately where to put one's money if you want to retain the purchasing power of your assets.

Although I have know academically that gold is one of the axels around which commerce spins, I hadn’t really thought of it like that before. Kind of interesting.

As to WHY I bought the gold? It has to do with work (I expect to be reimbursed for it), and doubtless will be the source of another blog post in July. At this point though, I doubt this will be my last gold purchase.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Tokyo Letter

Like the Nigerian Letter, but with a few twists. I am half tempted to make up some info and send it back to see what the next phase of the con looks like. I am, after all, a very "hornest" guy evidently.

Shin IchiTokyo, JapanFAx: +81-3-4496-6227Reply Email:



I am about to bring to you a lucrative business offer which will improve the lives of both of us. Do not worry that I got your email from your country's business directory. I am of the opinion and do strongly believe that business relationship between people can germinate from any source so long as there is trust , hornesty and tranparency. Be open minded and let us try a letitimate business relationship devoid of all the odds seen in the internet these days.
Before reading this letter, I would like you to exonerate your mind from all forms of negative impressions you may have been having concerning transactions that originate via the internet. I know that many people all over the world, mostly those from the third world have chosen to use the internet as a means of perpetuating negative acts. This is a letitimate business offer and I want you to give it a serious consideration.

I am writting this letter from Tokyo, my name is Shin ichi a Japanese citizen resident in Tokyo. This personal letter is being written to you to bring to your attention a rewarding business offer and a move to innitiate mutual business corperation with you and your company.I know I may have not had prior meeting with you before sending you this letter, please do not get offended by that as the business concern that I am about to bring to your notice is an urgent and rewarding one.Without wasting much of your time, I shall go ahead to explain in details the reasons why I am contacting you.

I went into partnership with Mr. Saito Akihiko, a japanese citizen also and a businessman based in the middle east. We both registered a joint company with which a supply deal was carried out with Abudhabi National Oil company. In the deal we made a net profit of $82.45Million United STates dollars. We also opened a remote account where this funds were secured offshore as we did not wish to bring it directly to our country due to the high tax imposed on funds coming from overseas. Along the course of this transaction, Mr. Akihiko passed away in Al Asad base during an ambush on the 28th of May 2005. Reference: (Please you can click on the website above, scroll down on the list of casualties, he is the only Japanese casualty who was killed in that area (Saito Akihiko) . After the death, I tried my best to contact members of the family and the only one I got was Hironobu Saito who is so miserable about the kidnapp and murder of his late brother and has assured me that I can do anything within my power to get the funds back home since his late brother did not include him as beneficiary of the funds. for information concerning Mr. Hironobu Saito please refer (you can read about him also)The reasons why I am contacting you now is that we need a foreign partner who will act as next of kin to Mr. Akihiko Saito. It does not matter the nationality. I will endorse the process.Hence with the next of kin and I available the bank will release the funds $80.45Million United States dollars.

I shall provide you my national identity, my recent passport identity and also my passport photo for verification before you can make your decision to go along with this business. These days due to internet abuse, it is difficult to believe even when one presents a legitimate business offer. Hence, I shall grant you the liberty to verify and confirm all my identity documents before we carry on with the business.Take note also that subsequently, I shall send you information/details about the supply deal done in Abhudhabi and also information regarding the exact location of the funds at the present moment.For presenting yourself as next of kin in this transaction you shal be entitled to 5% of the total funds.Please if this transaction suites you kindly email me at:

In your email reply please provide me the following information:

1. Your phone number, fax number and mobile phone number (most importantly)2. Name of your company , activity of your company and how long you have been running your business.3. Your full name
Also please kindly answer the following questions in your email replya) Have you travelled overseas before?b) Have you ever managed funds more than 1million dollars?c) Do you have a valid passport to travel?d) How old are you ?e) Do you have any physical disabilities?F) Do you have any criminal records?g) Have you been arrested of any crime before?H) Are you married?I) If yes how many kids do you have ?J) Have you executed any government project before?K) Do you have an attorney ?

Please do not be hesitant to provide us all of the information requested above.(YOU EITHER SEND THE ABOVE INFORMATION BY EMAIL OR YOU CAN SEND BY FAX TO THE FAX NUMBER: +81-3-4496-6227 ) As soon as I receive your email, I shall send you my personal identification, International passport , photos and family photos also to confirm my identity and other documents concerning the said business before we proceed .
In God we trustExpecting your urgent response.

(Take note that I have contacted a consortium to send you this email through their server for confidentiality so Please if you are not interest in this project simply ignore the message.)

Shin IchiTokyo, JapanFAx: +81-3-4496-6227Reply Email:

Oops, I failed to note the following on the bottom (long with an invisible link back to the "law firm"
Equity Law Firm88 Lone Star Ranch - Chiredzi, ZIM Harare ZW
I guess it's african after all.