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. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

The world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge

Link here. Lots of great pictures of this new pedestrian bridge in China, including one of a reporter trying (and failing) to use a sledge hammer to break the glass.

China’s economy might have a lot of holes and might face collapse, as many experts have been telling me for years, but at the same time they seem to be successfully harnessing the success they’ve had in the past few decades to get very creative. That creativity suggests to me the collapse is not guaranteed, and will not be as severe as predicted.


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  • wayne

    Cool bridge, no doubt.
    I would however put forth; it’s more of a commie show-project than it is any sort of testament to something. (I get the point but would quibble over the conclusion.)
    Their economy will “collapse,” but I don’t think we have a good handle at all on what that will look like from the outside, nor do I believe it’s a death-blow to them. (by “collapse” I mean severe recession and/or global-depression, or maybe a trade-war. Despite excellent growth-rates the past 20-30 years, a lot of that is pure mal-investment. When push-comes-to-shove, they’ve shown they know how to push their people down.) Given we can’t really apply a lot of western-style economic-analysis to their system. It’s inherently unstable ala the USSR or any primarily command-economy, but in a different way than we’ve heretofore witnessed.
    (Concurrently, I also believe *our* economy will “collapse.” It no longer a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when it will happen.)

  • Wayne wrote, “It’s more of a commie show-project than it is any sort of testament to something.”

    I don’t quite agree. I think this bridge was built for profit, as a tourist attraction that can make money, similar to things built here at the Grand Canyon by local Indian tribes.

    Unlike Russia, China’s boom has largely been based on profit. They still have the same rulers and are not a democracy, but those rulers decided two decades ago to abandon the full communist model and have been encouraging private enterprise. This decision has allowed the Chinese economy to prosper. And unlike Russia, the Chinese have encouraged competition and the success of new businesses and new ideas.

    Will they collapse? Maybe. I think however they have a better foundation for avoiding that failure than many experts have predicted.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Actually, the abandonment of formal “socialism” in the Chinese domestic economic sphere started almost immediately upon the death of Mao 40 years ago.

    The recent deceleration of the Chinese economic growth rate is, to some extent, a product of its own past successes. From a small base, and following a “trail” already well-trod by previous “travelers” from peasant agricultural to urban industrial societies, it is fairly easily possible to rack up impressive early statistics simply by ceasing to do egregiously stupid things – hence, the abandonment of socialism.

    At each step, though, the economic base from which the next step upward must be made is larger and the effort to make the same advance, in percentage terms, grows larger. The Chinese had a good run, but their economy is now very large. It’s a lot harder to get 10% annual growth than it was 20 years ago. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese have failed to achieve this sort of growth for the last several years.

    The Chinese also have other problems never faced by a Chinese central government over that nation’s long history.

    One is a looming demographic collapse caused partly by the natural tendency for overall fertility rates to decline in industrial, as opposed to subsistence agricultural, societies. This has been badly exacerbated by the One Child Policy of population control. Upcoming Chinese generations will be appreciably smaller than preceding ones and will also suffer a serious gender imbalance owing to the combination of the One Child Policy and the Chinese cultural preference for male offspring.

    China’s demographic problems are “baked in” in the sense that there is really nothing, at this late date, that can be done about them except muddle through as best China is able. In the China of yore, there were a lot fewer people living to ripe old ages. The ones that did typically had ample descendants to look after them. Modern medicine and less strenuous lives are radically increasing the number of Chinese elders in current generations. The One Child Policy pretty well guarantees that elder care is going to gobble up more and more of future Chinese generations’ time and resources.

    On the economic side, while the Chinese have, de facto, abandoned socialism, they have hardly abandoned large-scale statism in their economy. Many of the largest Chinese enterprises are not private and commercial in the Western sense, but state-owned enterprises that are often appendages of the Chinese armed forces. Many of these enterprises are not solvent and subsist only on constant infusions of politically mandated “loan” money from Chinese banks that will never even be serviced, let alone paid back. The successful private enterprises in China, of which there are now many, are, in essence, being heavily taxed to keep these state-owned monstrosities alive. And the banks, in consequence, have huge amounts of non-performing debt on their books that would never pass muster with an agency like the U.S. FDIC.

    As assets, the Chinese have their actually profitable private sector, which is large, but hardly infinite, and also – ironically – their trillion or so dollar stash of U.S. Treasury securities. They don’t have a lot else. Those huge piles of T-bills, which some here in the U.S. seem to think give China a whip hand anent the U.S., are closer to being a whip hand the U.S. has anent China. There’s an old joke to the effect that, “When you owe the bank $10,000 and can’t pay, you have a problem. When you owe the bank $1,000,000,000 and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.”

    The ideal solution would be for the U.S. to abandon the orgy of statist economic interventions implemented under Obama and get back to 4% or better annual growth. This would allow the U.S. to simultaneously improve its unemployment and labor participation rates and the amount of inexpensive stuff we can buy from China to the benefit of poorer Americans. Even a decrease in the rate of increase in our national debt to below the level of GDP growth would do wonders for U.S. creditworthiness and make all those T-bills in China’s till worth more as well. A win-win with China is certainly possible.

    It is not, however, highly probable. Unfortunately, there are significant actors in both China and the U.S. who have other plans entirely. One seldom goes broke, it would seem, betting against great nations doing the reasonable thing.

    In addition to China facing growing demographic and economic crises, it also faces a future in which its increasingly educated and affluent population – without which it cannot maintain, let alone enhance, its economic standing in the world – increasingly differs from the normative illiterate Chinese peasantry that has constituted the majority of China’s population throughout its national history. Ruthless authoritarianism “works” – at least to a degree – with unlettered peasant populations, but it has never been shown to be sustainable as a model of rule over the educated and well-off.

  • Localfluff

    Part of the Chinese economy is pure bubble and will collapse. But part is rock solid industrialization. Much like the mountain(?) ravine(?) landscape in the second image in the link. “Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China’s Hunan province”.
    Unpossible. But there it is.

  • Cotour

    My understanding of China:

    *China, command economy V market economy.

    *Empty ghost cities / highways to nowhere a result of the command type economy.

    *Chinese / government “company’s” / military receive loans at very low favorable rates, actual private Chinese company’s can only borrow funds at very high rates and can never compete.

    *To do business in China company’s must surrender their patents and processes to the state.

    *China building a blue water navy in order to dominate the world.

    *China confiscating reefs and manufacturing islands / floating air craft carriers in the South China sea in order to facilitate their world ambitions.

    *China freely steals what ever technology that it needs from the West / America, for example the F-35, they call their version the J-20.

    *The Chinese believe that they are the true masters of the universe and have all the time in the world to accomplish that, they have a very long term view.

    *They own a lot of American debt, they have the problem.

    *You must be strong and tough to deal with the Chinese, in other words you must project confidence and demand respect. Obama is the exact opposite of the personality that should be dealing with them.

    Just some thoughts.

  • After looking at the article, I was pleased to see the Chinese have discovered PPE.

  • Localfluff

    I’m afraid that our perception of capitalism versus socialism is just a temporary cultural bias in our contemporary Western eyes. Not applicable to China. I know from black West Africa, which was in turn influenced by the muslims, the European colonialists, the Soviets, the US capitalists that they don’t really care. Doesn’t make any real impact. They just roll their eyes and say “Ah, les blancs, and their funny ideas” and go on living according to their own values which cannot be plotted on a left-right one dimensional scale. It’s just like weather to them, on a collective scale, good and bad which comes and goes.

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