Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who Goes There?

On my weekly foray through the various web newsites, blogs, and occasional entertainment links (such as PostSecret, which I highly recommend) I have made a point of regularly visiting Jeff Foust's blog, Space Politics so I can keep abreast of the goings-on in my old neighborhood (Washington DC) as it pertains to space development.

Sadly, while the articles/columns are still quite informative and well-written (and yes, Robin, the format is more pleasing than a black-background blog, but hey, i'm trying to maintain a space theme here...) it appears that the curse of the space angst has finally hit Jeff's blog.

Let us remember briefly just another one of the oh so many other fora that have since disappeared into the dustbin of space history in the 10+ short years that the WWW has been around...

The Space Arena Board - RIP 2005

What is it that killed this board? Apathy?

Well, eventually, yes.

But first, it began with the sniping and then the personal attacks. Who can forget the ever entertaining debates between the self-appointed geniuses of the "community", who managed to make virtually every thread devolve into a back and forth of name-calling and ad hominem attacks. The use of anonymity often accompanied the postings of these gems of our sector, and it was often the case that the worst offences came from those who were too afraid to post under their own names.

So, it is with sadness i have noticed the increasing use of clever (or not) anonymous handles for comments posted on Jeff's blog, and the corresponding increase in partisan and childish comments as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shubber, I totally agree. I enjoyed that forum while it lasted.

As the engineer in question, yes I'll admit that I'm not an economist. I actually agree with a lot of the conclusions that the economist in question actually came to in his paper. It was the misinterpretation that I disagreed with. He didn't "prove" that space launch could not be elastic. At least from what I understood of what he wrote. My understanding was that he showed that existing and historical markets with existing players don't show much promise for elasticity.

I provided a counterexample, that of the fact that LM believes it can close a business case with Bigelow by offering lower per-flight costs for a higher flight rate. This is a perfect example of elasticity, and seems to poke a hole in the interpretation of the economists theory that you guys have been talking about. And then there's bulk buys of launch vehicles that I've heard some people in the industry talk about--that once again, buying in quanitity does get you a substantial per unit price drop.

Dr H's paper was useful, and interesting, and provided some insight. However, especially in the light of such pieces of counter-evidence, it doesn't appear to "prove" quite what you guys seem to think it proves.


Monday, January 15, 2007 5:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I just noticed that in his article he seemed to jump a little too quickly from assertations to claming he had proven stuff. If he was treating it as merely his opinion, that is definitely different.

As I said, his paper did have many good and useful points. I'm just not a fan of arguments by authority, particularly when there's new evidence that casts doubt on the interpretation that's been given to his findings.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Jurist,

I don't want to seem picky but please be aware that the "engineer with no particular expertise in economics" later stated he had a "BA Int'l Bus. & Econ, magna cum laude".

I guess you may have missed this but it does make me wonder why you made the original accusation without any real evidence... I guess you forgot about Observation (3).

Dave Salt

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 1:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys! I think I'm part of the "engineer with no particular economic experience" deal y'all are talking about. For the record:

1) I am not an engineer. I am a corporate banker. I have the degree noted, plus experience in the financial field dating back to about 1990. Real world experience in global finance, such as being the investment bank credit analyst at Banque Nationale de Paris in NYC back in the late 1990s, or perhaps the internship at the Shearson Lehman Brothers office in Paris back in 1991. I've been a bank teller, a file clerk, a financial analyst, a credit analyst, a portfolio administrator, an investment analyst, and an underwriter (my last profile was a $450Mn commitment that I took to the BoD of the bank), though it looks like I will be transitioning again in the near future, and may get some solid real estate experience this next go-round.

2) I was not on that particular The Space Show (but I was on 05/08/05). Jon Goff was. I made some comments over at the Selenian Boondocks, where Jon is nice enough to let me guest blog. When challenged, I actually sat down and looked through the particular report referenced. My conclusion was that Dr. Hertzfeld's arguments were essentially correct within their context, but saw no particular reason to see why the results would have to be applicable outside of the big industrial contractors building big rockets for big government segment.

3) I did not decline to debate Dr. Hertzfeld, I merely replied that I didn't see where we would have much to disagree about regarding his paper.

So if we're flinging pedigrees around, ;-), being equated with a PhD is a smart guy with a solid international education with decent honors (both AS & BA) followed by a decade and a half of international financial experience, which involves constant doses of economics best compared to trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

The reason that I do not automatically defer or subordinate to a PhD is that I also have a Master of Space Studies from ISU, cum laude, which is a rigorous program so I know a fair amount about the space field. Not enough to be good, perhaps, but certainly enough to be dangerous. I'll back that up with one on-line Lunar Library, of which I hold the physical contents and have actually read a sizeable chunk.

I do intend to get a doctorate, but that's not until my 50s (if I make it that far). Law degree is up next in my 40s. I'm trying to figure out how to tie international commercial law with space law, not necessarily just in a telecomm context.

I do, however, get peeved when I see public news outlets asking guys like IR astronomers about the potential commercial viability of a Moon base. It's no wonder that the public has no clue.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007 7:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I put FFO back up a while ago, but in these more modern days where everyone has a blog, it can't really compete.

I suspect some bloggers will tire of the snipers waiting in the comments and be willing to participate in a posting community again, but I don't think the time is coming soon. At FFO I am willing to provide the police force necessary to enforce a social contract, but the trade off is that the community decides whether you have a full or partial posting voice. Bloggers are used to full freedom on the front end, so the costs on the back are going to have to grow before a conversion is worth it.

Friday, January 26, 2007 7:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool! How about:

Dear Dr. Hertzfeld,

I enjoyed your paper on the relative inelasticity existing in the provision of big rockets to big government programs. While I would tend to agree that this likely holds true in the circumstances you describe, given many of the reasons you cite, I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that this would hold true for all attempts to build a launch system.

At the 2007 International Space Development Conference over the Memorial Day weekend we will be devoting three days of content in a large room to transportation issues. I invite you to submit an abstract for a presentation in that track, and we'll try to squeeze you in. I believe that Dr. Livingston would probably like to get us on a panel, but as co-chair of the conference I'll likely not have much opportunity to do so. Besides, I've already laid claim to a couple of the Moon sessions.

I respectfully hope that you will consider participating at the 2007 ISDC, where transportation issues are getting priority treatment, and likely get a lot of good questions. Details can be found at our website at, or you can visit the Call for Papers that I posted at the Selenian Boondocks which links directly into the paper database.

Thank you in advance for your consideration,

Ken Murphy
Co-chair, 2007 ISDC
VP - NSS of North Texas

Monday, January 29, 2007 4:58:00 PM  

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