Author Archives: jlredford

The Carboniferous and the Anti-Carboniferous Eras

Here’s a cool recent discovery – the reason the earth has so much coal is that it took fungi 60 million years to figure out how to digest lignin, the compound that gives wood its strength.  Before that the trees … Continue reading

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Mad Science #6: Nazi Fusion Fraud

I can’t believe I’ve never come across this story.   An actual Nazi scientist, Ronald Richter, was working on an actual super-technology, lithium-hydrogen nuclear fusion, in an actual secret lair, the island of Huemul, surrounded by razor wire, machine guns, and … Continue reading

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GM Abandons Green Cars, And Blue Staters

I’ve been a pretty satisfied customer of the Chevy Volt for three years now.  It’s a plug-in hybrid, meaning that it will go for about 50 miles on battery power and then switch over to a gas engine.   It’s quiet, … Continue reading

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A Heinlein Meme Started the Space Race

… according to the excellent Washington Post podcast Moonrise.  It’s an account of what led up to the Apollo 11 moon landing, starting with Robert Goddard, John W. Campbell, Sergei Korolev, and Wernher von Braun in the 1920s and 30s, … Continue reading

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Space Is Not That Big

So we just had the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and there’s renewed interest in doing another landing on the Moon.  That got me thinking about space as the final frontier. How much is there out there really?  I added … Continue reading

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MIT On Climate Change

Every year MIT has a Technology Day on its alumni reunion weekend where faculty discuss what they’re working on.   These are consistently interesting, and I’ve written about them before: The Oceans Are Dissolved Information and Print Your House and … Continue reading

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Is “The Biggest Little Farm” For Real?

This new documentary is so wholesome and uplifting that it immediately raised suspicions in my skeptical heart.  It describes the odyssey of a young couple in Los Angeles who started their own organic farm, Apricot Lane, on 200 acres of … Continue reading

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Mad Science #5: Fluorine-Based Rocket Fuels

One of the purest examples of maniacal engineering is the field of liquid rocket fuels.   These chemicals have to contain as much energy as possible, and so are  dangerous by definition.  A fun and opinionated version of their development … Continue reading

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“Big Lonely Doug” – An Alien Stranded on Humanity’s Earth

There’s a tree in Canada that’s so famous that it now has its own biography, Big Lonely Doug (2018) by Harlan Rustad: It’s a gigantic Douglas fir, ~67 m (220′) tall and 4 m across at the base. It’s one … Continue reading

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“They Shall Not Grow Old” – the Movie Memorial of WW I

This extraordinary restoration of actual World War I footage shows what movies can do that practically no other art form can – take you to places that you’ll never see.  Theater has physical limitations, television has technical ones, and literature … Continue reading

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