Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

San Francisco requires new buildings have solar panels

Another reason to leave California: San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has unanimously passed a local law that will require all new buildings, both commercial and residential, that are lower than 10 stories tall to install solar panels on their roofs.

San Francisco’s new regulations add to already existing Californian laws which require 15 percent of rooftops on buildings of 10 stories or less to be unshaded and solar ready. Under the new law, buildings must have either solar photovoltaic or solar water panels installed, or a mix of the two.

As part of a concerted effort to one day run the city entirely on renewables, the mayor set up a taskforce in 2011 to develop policies and programs that steer it in this direction. It hopes to achieve this goal by 2025.

1. This will add a significant cost to the construction of new buildings, guaranteeing that there will be a decline in construction of such buildings in San Francisco.

2. I am certain that the task force that the mayor set up in 2011 was dominated by individuals in the solar power industry, all of whom are going to benefit greatly by this new law. I would also not be surprised if I learned that they donated money to the mayor’s campaign fund.

3. This law, as well as the city’s plan to run itself entirely on renewables by 2025, are pure fantasies based on ideology that no law can dictate. They must evolve, based on the realities of economics and technological discovery. That San Francisco’s political leadership can’t understand this fundamental fact of life indicates that this city is going to bankrupt itself in the near future, especially since its population overwhelming agrees with the fantasies of their political leaders. Expect more stupid laws like this, and except the situation there to become increasingly oppressive as these ideologues increasingly impose their unworkable fantasies on everyone.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over

I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.

Thank you again!

Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

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  • Cotour

    I just got done with re-coating my flat black roof with two coats of a white acrylic, there are 3 or so main reasons.

    1. My torch down roof is at the end of its life and this coating will reseal it and probably give it another 5 years or more.

    2. Seeing that this is a verifiable El Nino year and the weather in general is a bit “unusual” to say the least and as I remember from the last one it was one hell of a hot summer (and I do not like it too hot / humid) and the white coating gives a very highly improved temperature absorption characteristic. The measured difference? On a bright sunny day at high noon during April the black roof measured @ 150 degrees F, and the new white coating, 106 degrees F. A full 44 degree F difference.

    3. I am building a new internal AC system which will cycle cool cellar air past my cooling system and refrigeration system while exhausting all warm air out of a new powered roof exhaust. I am also expecting along with the hot weather some intermittent power brown outs and / or black outs so I will be able to independently power my entire buildings systems with a very nice and very quiet Yamaha gen system. I will in time also be harvesting that 150 plus degrees in the form of a simple solar hot water collector.

    To my point, I also do not need the government to set what a minimum wage or any wage for that matter is that I should be paying. When government makes decisions sure for the people then the people are no longer free, they are merely managed.

    I again post this Thomas Sowel article about how the American government is now managing regulation to the point where it is one step removed from fascism and so it avoids the definition, and again we have come full circle to the redefining of words and their meaning.

  • NormD

    They are constructing buildings in SF? Who knew.

    I didn’t think they had built anything in like 20 years.

  • Cotour

    Its got to be an interesting experience planning, building and buying a high rise in SF knowing the potential for disruption and destruction.

  • NormD


    I wasn’t thinking of high-rises. I doubt putting solar panels on the roof of a 50 story building does much of anything. Also the cost would be de minimus compared to total costs. I was thinking of, I don’t know, houses.

  • Edward and Norm,

    The law specifically requires solar panels to buildings “10 stores or less”, which means it isn’t going to effect big high rises.

    Isn’t it interesting that the politicians here excluded the big buildings, built by people with money who are likely to contribute a lot to their campaigns. Ordinary home-owners and small commercial operations, however, have been screwed, big time.

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    Can you put up just one panel and comply with the SF law?

    By the way, my electric bill last month was $9.15 thanks to my 24-panel solar system. It would have been lower but Duke Energy charges a connection fee, and there is a small tax. Did I install this system to save the whales or rain forest? “No.” My decision was purely economic. Federal and State tax credits and a $6,000 Duke rebate brought the cost down to about a six-year payback. Of course, I might not live that long. That would be a bummer.

  • To Cotour:

    I would like to see a schematic for your planned system, particularly #3. I worked for HVAC engineering companies in Oregon and Washington specializing in solar and geothermal energy systems. I am intrigued by your design. You can reach me at

  • Cotour


    This is a relatively small system, schematic in my head. This building is 1000 sq ft which is split in half by a glass wall, my desire is to seriously cool the front 500 sq ft and draw some cool to the rear 500 by a powered 8″ duct.

    My concept is to create a powered 390 CFM 6″ vent system with variable speed control for fine tuning which will draw cool 65 degree cellar air past a 15,500 btu (11 amps) through the wall AC unit installed in a sealed shelf / cabinet which will also cool a refrigeration unit below. My thinking is to draw off all hot air produced inside to the outside while pumping in the cool, and the system will be modular for easy replacement of components. Drain condensed H20 by tube right to the sewer system below.

    I tested this entire concept out last year with a smaller 6000 btu unit which did a decent job under moderate conditions but was much too small to really be effective. I have my electrics set up so that my essential systems are coming from one phase which I can easily power under a power outage or brown out condition with my Yamaha 3000 w (I love this unit, powerful, all automatic and quiet as a mouse. Always pay extra for the quality and quiet).

    Under normal conditions I use a swamp cooler (maybe the only one in NYC, 5 amp draw) in my front transom which works very well up to about 60 percent humidity. At about 50 % humidity I can achieve a max of about about an 18 degree difference between the outside temperature and inside. I keep my door open and its like a cool breeze all day long. This as I am sure you know all falls apart and crashes above that 60 or so percent humidity level and this is where the new system will be utilized. Summer here can get to the 80+ % humidity level and 90+ degree temperature, I do not like that.

    Thanks for your interest and I am open to any professional suggestions that might improve my results.

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