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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


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August 26, 2020 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast

Embedded below the fold in two parts.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • MadRocketSci

    Re: Beta-Voltaic batteries: I’ve advocated looking into this sort of technology for years. Glad someone is doing it. The limitation is energy density (per mass, per volume), but the prospect of having the power last as long as the half-life of the driving isotope is very real. For low-power devices, this could be huge. It will require an outbreak of sanity wrt our civilization’s hysteria about radiation, radioactivity, and nuclear technology in general.

  • MadRocketSci

    Re: China: I don’t think it’s automatically “stealing” to start trying to do reasonable things like reusing a booster stage or doing water landing of boosters on a platform downrange. That’s not SpaceX’s idea, that’s Isaac Newton’s idea! (SpaceX acknowledged its debt to the DC-X program, for example. I’d hate to have had some defunct government program trying to extract rent from them for doing a reasonable thing.) We should be happy that more people are building reasonable things that the physics of rocket flight require of us.

    I suppose I’m souring on the concept of intellectual property in general, seeing how it is usually used. I’ve seen the most ridiculous things patented and used to destroy people. I’ve seen “inventions” patented before the patenter had any idea how to actually build it, then used to sue the actual inventor who later figured out how to actually build the thing. I’ve seen obvious use cases for a technology patented to prevent the actual inventors from being able to sell to certain types of customers. I’ve seen *math* patented. Supposedly patents reward inventors, scientists, and engineers, but has it worked that way for the past few decades? Patents these days are taken by the employers of the inventors, scientists, and engineers, who often had to do their work in defiance of narrow short-term management, on their own time. Independent shops almost never are able to gain any advantage from them, but large concerns use them to harass independent startups all the time. Whatever intellectual property was conceptually supposed to do, we have to realize what it’s actually doing to us.

    The Chinese might have the right idea: A technique, technology, invention, concept etc, “belongs” to whoever is capable of comprehending it and making use of it. Defection from this perverse system is certainly providing them with an advantage relative to the legally strangled west.

  • MadRocketSci

    I’ve patented something myself (as a resume item), but I almost wish I hadn’t. It’s a little lab instrument that will let us take a particular measurement faster than with a standard setup. My employer has told me they don’t want me “wasting my time” actually trying to build it though, and that we don’t have the money. But they’ll patent it and sue any other lab that tries to do something similar in the future. The wheels were already in motion when they changed their minds about building it. Annoying, because I had the parts list and quotes ready to go.

    I think we could have a Rennaisance just by nuking the patent system (and copyright also, while we’re at it.) Or doing some drastic reform like making patents and copyrights non-transferrable from the inventor/author, so that the inventors/authors can maintain their professional independence, instead of being reduced to techno-serfs.

  • James Street

    I saw this article on Yahoo Finance yesterday about a new battery from Elon Musk. I don’t know if it’s related to Robert’s nuclear diamond battery, and also Yahoo News is not a reliable news source. But it’s worth keeping an eye on the news on September 22:

    “We are watching to see if Tesla and Elon Musk will reveal a ‘million-mile’ battery: Xpeng CEO”

    “Musk is widely expected to reveal a major advancement in battery technology at its Sept. 22 celebration. The anticipation is a small part of the reason Tesla’s stock has exploded 190% inside of six months.

    ‘In our opinion this battery technology will be very advanced, potentially last for decades, withstand all types of weather/terrain, and be another major milestone for the Tesla ecosystem. In theory this battery will support an electric vehicle for 1 million miles and be a major step forward when competing vs. traditional gasoline powered automotive competitors from both an ROI and environmental perspective,’ says Wedbush Securities analyst and Tesla bull Dan Ives.”

  • Edward

    You wrote: “I think we could have a Rennaisance just by nuking the patent system (and copyright also, while we’re at it.)

    Actually, it is the other way around. It was when intellectual property became protected that innovation blossomed.

    You may disagree with how your employer used or misused your invention, but that does not mean that the patent system is a bad idea or that it hinders innovation. You had other examples that show how the U.S. patent system degraded after they dropped the requirement that a working model be made, demonstrating the importance of how a patent system is implemented.

    James Street,
    I’m pretty sure that the technology that the article discusses is for rechargeable batteries. One of the more limiting and expensive factors for electric cars is the limited life of batteries and the way batteries are managed during use. If a battery set can outlast the car, then it is like not having to replace an expensive gas tank every 100,000 miles or so.

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