My Very Own Tesla

I’ve been a Tesla fan since the Roadster was unveiled in 2006. I’ve been an electric car fan since before that, but no one made a good electric car, or one that was easily accessible. I think with Tesla’s current success, the bit automakers are seeing that was a mistake on their part.

Electric is sexy. I should know, I’m an electrical engineer.

Many people push electric because it doesn’t produce exhaust, it’s quieter, it’s better for the environment… But not me. Those are all nice, but I want an electric car because they are better. An AC motor beats a gasoline engine hands down, every time. You know when you press the gas, and your car has to “rev up”? Electric doesn’t do that. You get 100% of the torque as soon as you need it.

No waiting until you are at 3,000 RPM, no turbos, no transmission to shift the torque… Electric gives you the full power of the car when you need it. And Tesla isn’t shy about showing this capability off. Their fastest Model S can go from 0-100km/h in 3 seconds, putting it in super-car territory. It’s that sort of engineering that tickles me where I love to be ticketed. Damn good engineering.

To that end, I got up early on March 31st and headed to the mall at 4:30 AM to line up to buy a car. I was 9th in line as some people had camped overnight to secure their spot. I estimate about 80 people were lined up behind me when the doors opened at 9:30 AM. As it turns out, a few hundred thousand people around the world also lined up to buy a car they had never seen and will have to wait 1.5 years to get.

Doors are open and pre sales for the #model3 are being sold. 80 in line #yyc #model3yyc

A photo posted by Zac Trolley (@zactrolley) on

So, now I play the waiting game. It’s been 8 years waiting for a Tesla model that I could afford, I think I can wait a little more. This time when I play with the online configurations, I won’t be dreaming, I’ll be choosing colors on my dream car.

I liked you better as a Minister

This is a post about the change of demeanor I’ve seen in The Honorable Michelle Rempel since the election. Michelle was the minster for Western Economic Diversification from 2013 until the election in 2015. The mandate of this department is to:

“Promote the development and diversification of the economy of Western Canada and to advance the interests of the West in national economic policy, program and project development and implementation.”

Her job was to diversify the western economy. That roughly translates to creating businesses that don’t deal in oil. To do this, she create the WINN, a $100 million fund available to small and medium enterprises. From the website:

Over the next five years, WINN will provide up to $100 million in repayable assistance to SMEs working to commercialize their products, processes, and services.

$20 million a year that a company would have to repay at some point. An loan basically. As a SME, a kickstarter campaign might get you more traction. That criticism aside, I enjoyed Michelle’s work. She was my local MP, and I enjoyed her (usually) straight talk and approachable manner. She routinely visited non-standard Albertan industries and opened some new facilities. All this changed when she became an opposition MP. Watch this video in this link.

To recap, her job from 2013 until 2015 was to diversify the western economy to remove it’s reliance on a single industry or commodity.

In the video, she says “The bottom line is that there are over 100,000 people out of work in my Province” Somehow completely skipping over the part where it was her job to provide opportunities for their employment.

“This is a major concern for the national economy” Yes it is. It was your mandate for two years to diversity the western economy to be more resilient, but you didn’t.

“We’ve got this industry that’s in crisis..” It was your job to make sure if a crisis happened, there would be other industries to keep us afloat. That’s what diversification means.

“We have to care about the people who are out of work, not just in Alberta but the ripple effect this is going to have across the country” Probably should have done something about shoring up the economy while you were the minster in charge. Take advantage of a sunny day to build a better foundation perhaps? Michelle, you were in charge of the economic safe guards to thwart unemployment in this very situation.

You get the idea. She is becoming a master at this type of Orwellian doublespeak. Pointing fingers and the very same problem she created.

 

There is no spin! Those are the facts! The Conservatives did nothing to protect Canada against falling oil prices. They are now pointing the finger at the Liberal government for not bolstering the very same industry that got us into this mess.

Yes, we need the Energy East pipeline. We should absolutely use Canadian resources for Canada. The application was filled in October 2014. These applications take time. In the meantime it would be nice to fall back on a few secondary industries… but someone didn’t create enough incentives for them to grow. In the interest of politics, Michelle is attacking with all her ammunition, regardless if her guns are pointed at the department she use to run.

Michelle, I liked you better as a minister. Please go back to positive politics. Work with the Liberals in creating real change and stop worrying about your reelection. Your country needs you.

Mining the Sky

When I’m involved in conversations about resources, there is a phrase that I love to use.

The Earth has a resource problem, but humans don’t

The theory behind this statement is that the universe is unimaginably abundant, yet we restrict our views to the ground. If we wanted, we could collect any resource we needed in infinite amounts from the solar system. Mining the sky isn’t a new idea, but it has yet to penetrate into venture capital thinking and investment. Individuals who want to exploit this resource have long lobbied for laws that allow a company to exploit resources from space.  These individuals have often put their own money and effort into companies to commercialize space mining, creating companies like Shackleton, Moon Express, Planetary Resources, and Deep Space Industries.

There are major hurdles before this becomes a reality. The perception is that technology may be the largest barrier, but in reality it is law holding back the commercial exploration our solar system. The Outer Space Treaty, brought into law in 1967, guides most if not all space activities today. This treaty was drafted before humans steeped on the moon and long before UAVs were children’s toys. We’ve come along way, but the principles of this treaty are still in effect. A few of those principals are:

  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
  • States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

Here’s the catch, the treaty says that object in space are the province of all mankind and cannot be owned by anyone. For example, under UN law, no one may own the moon. This has been interpreted that entities can’t mine these resources, since how can you mine something you don’t own? Also, how can you sell these metals once you mine them, if you can’t own them? If I have a mining machine in space, I can land on an asteroid. I can perform experiments, I can take samples and I can even bring these samples back to Earth. The samples remain the “province of all mankind” so I can’t sell them, I can only study them.

The Apollo missions is the only example we have of this behavior so far. The NASA astronauts returned with 842 pounds of moon rocks between 1969 and 1972. Many of these samples have gone missing over the years, and some have turned up for sale in black markets. You can’t legally own the moon rocks as a private citizen, because the Outer Space Treaty doesn’t allow for it. However, you don’t have to look far to get into grey territory. For example, if you find a meteorite on the ground on Earth, that originated from the moon, then you can keep it.

This grey area was recently given some contrast when the US government passed a law expanding what US companies are allowed to do. The law now says:

‘‘A United States citizen engaged in commercial recovery of an asteroid resource or a space resource under this chapter shall be entitled to any asteroid resource or space resource obtained, including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell the asteroid resource or space resource obtained in accordance with applicable law, including the international obligations of the United States.’’.

The problem is that the applicable law forbids this action. Some agree, others don’t.

 

It’s true, that a company doesn’t own international waters, but can still use them to fish. In that way, space is an analogy for international waters. However, fish will grow back if responsible methods are used, not so much with rocks. The same boats can also fish in the same waters, different equipment can’t mine the same ore.

However, I also said that the resources exist in near infinite quantities. In that respect, there is room for everyone.

There was a Google Hangout on this very subject. I got a version of my question asked at the 13:50 mark.

The people involved are clearly passionate, and spent a lot of time working on this. This law is a fantastic step, don’t get me wrong. However, I don’t think it’s the slam dunk some are making it out to be. Many of our terrestrial notions of how we operate will need to be adapted for space, and the laws will change to suit this. The change will take time, and this is the ever important first step.

The next steps are going to be even more interesting, and I for one, can’t wait.

Blue Origin to Space! Sort of.

On November 23rd, Blue Origin launched a rocket to an altitude of 100 km (where space begins) and landed it. It’s the landing part that’s amazing. Rockets, historically have been built on missile technology. And missiles are not built to be retrieved after. That means 99% of all rockets are one use only. Imagine if every plane was one use only, how expensive flying would be. Well, that’s why getting to space is expensive. This is great news.

However, Blue Origin is only traveling at sub orbital speeds. Their craft, New Shepard, reached a speed of Mach 3.72, or 1.2 km/s. To get into LEO, you need to be going about 8 km/s. The ISS travels at 7.66 km/s, so you need to be going at least that fast to dock with it. Blue Origin isn’t going into space with the ability to stay there, it’s just going really really high.

So, articles with titles such as “Jeff Bezos 1-0 Elon Musk: Blue Origin New Shepard lands successfully” piss me off. These are two different things. SpaceX is going after the ISS and Mars, where Blue Origin is not leaving Earth. The propagation of misinformation  in the media is.. staggering. We should know this. People should understand what an orbit is. Elon thinks so as well.

So, this is a great step for space flight, no doubt about it. But it isn’t what the media is making it out to be.

So what if the Glaciers melt?

All change carries with it an element of risk. There is no shortage of estimated risk when it comes toa changing climate. It’s very easy to get caught up in one argument or another without making progress. Let’s simplify the discussion a little by removing the cause of the change. I want to be spesific. I want to talk about climate change in the context of the Athabasca Glacier. I want to talk about what we know and what we don’t know.

Simply put, regardless of the cause, our glaciers are melting. It’s a very real and extensively documented occurrence. The Athabasca Glacier is receding at a rate of about 5 meters per year, and has lost over half it’s volume in the past 125 years. I recently visited the glacier, and ran my hands in the water that’s melting off of it.

It’s the water I want to talk about. The glacier is melting, and its feeding our rivers. The glacier is a feed to the Athabasca River, a system that includes 94 rivers, 150 named creeks and 153 lakes. This glacier and the ice field accosiated with it has an important job. It’s runoff is providing water to this system. However, the glacier is retreating, leaving less ice to melt year after year. At some point, the glacier will run out of ice, stop melting and stop feeding water into this system. It’s simple math. We don’t know when but, if this trend continues, it will happen.

Water is a very important resource for life, and we use this river system for a lot of things. One use is industrial. Oil Sands operations licence water for use in their processes. What happens when the water runs out?

As I said earlier, let’s skip over the causation arguments and begin a dialog over the ramifications of this. The Athabasca river system is at risk of losing it’s source.

Water

Conclusion: In Alberta, we base our lively hood on oil. Currently, we use the Athabasca river to help us get at this oil. The river is slowing down it’s flow. The Athabasca glacier that feeds the river is shrinking, and won’t provide water forever. When the river drys up, so does a nessisary asset to the Albertan economy.

If we maintain the present course, this will happen. Lets have a climate conversation about this.

 

 

Our boxing PM and his criminal opponent

[cryout-button-color url=”#” color=”#47AFFF”][/cryout-button-color]Now that Justin Trudeau is our PM, international news outlets are showing pictures of him, including pics from his boxing match with Patrick Brazeau. While it’s all fun and games to post topless pictures of politicians, but I think it’s important to reminisce a little on this boxing match. I’m sure Justin hasn’t forgotten it. At the time he was a junior MP, pitted against a physically stronger Conservative Senate member. The parallels are numerous.
patrickbrazeau

To recap, Justin and Patrick were paired to fight in a boxing match to raise money for cancer. Tickets were $250, and Patrick was the favorite going into the fight. When the dust settled, Justin was the winner, Capital hill was all a buzz, and life went on. Justin was later elected the Liberal Leader and Brazeau started assaulting people outside the ring.

I don’t think anyone much cared about Brazeau after this boxing match. Then he went and committed a few crimes. He was charged with assault and sexual assault, and pleaded guilt to assault and possession of cocaine. He also has a fraud case scheduled to go before the courts in 2016. The way I see it, He’s a scum bag and has no business being in the Government. Now, my big issue here, is why isn’t he in jail? The Conservatives have a strong anti drug stance, so why don’t they make an example of this guy and put him in jail? The guy has prior convictions, and other court cases in his future, but he walks free.

As far as Senators on trail, Brazeau isn’t alone. There’s Duffy, Wallin, Harb… the list goes on.

There are plenty of arguments to be made.

The takeaway I want to leave you with, is Justin is now the leader of the country, and there is a lot of talk about the Senate. When he speaks to Parliament about the Senate, remember he’s not afraid to put on his[cryout-button-dark url=”#”][/cryout-button-dark] gloves and go toe to toe in an actual ring with these guys.

The Terrorists Win

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about the threat of terrorism, and how Canada can protect its populace against it. I’m here to tell you, if you want to win the war on terror, ignore it.

I’ll say that again, ignore terrorism.

You see, terrorism is a military tactic to get political change through threats of violence. You don’t actually have to commit violence for it to work. And it turns out Canadians are not victims of violence from terrorists activities. Before you read on, take a guess on how many Canadians were killed as a result of terrorists activities. And then think about if that number constitutes a risk to the average Canadian.

The number of  Canadian deaths attributed never rises above 5 people a year going back as far as 1970. 5 people a year hardly seems like a threat to the Country. Highway 63 in Alberta has seen 46 deaths in 5 years, why isn’t infrastructure the higher priority?  The average Canadian is under no statistical risk due to terrorism, so why is it such a big topic? It’s not even a risk to US citizens; in 2010, 8 US civilians died due to terrorism, and 29 died by lighting.

Yes, I realise that destabilization is a concern for the Global safety, and that deaths, globally, are on the rise. But, we are the ones destabilising these regions. Canada may have killed 27 Iraqi civilians in Jan of 2015 during an airstrike. So, Canada has potentially killed half the amount people in one incident that Canada has lost to terror in 40 years. Some estimates from the 2001 Afghan war say that 91,000 deaths are directly related to combat, including 26,000 civilians. Canadians would be wise not to forget the Somalia Affair, where Canadian forces tortured and killed a boy.

So, this begs the question, who is the terrorist in this scenario? Why are we spending our time, money, and effort to kill other people in the name of safeguarding Canadians, for a risk that statistically doesn’t merit mentioning?

Fear, that’s why. And because we harbour that fear, the terrorists win.

 

Exploration Mindset

Talk of Mars is getting more and more media attention. Because of that, reporters have been calling astronauts, agencies, schools and government officials to get their take on a mission to Mars. Much of the conversation has been centered around Mars One, a newcomer to the Mars race. Being the newcomer, the established players are rightly skeptical. However, I’ve found that skepticism has turned into negativity. It’s very easy to find criticism of the mission and difficult to find optimism. I find this troubling.

I find it especially troubling coming from Canadian astronauts. As a Canadian, I want my country’s astronauts to be the embodiment of the “can do” attitude. Their responses to the Mars One mission, a company up against formidable odds, shows me the Canadian Space Agency is becoming more and more risk averse. More than that, a general unwillingness to entertain new ideas seems prevalent in their culture.  to A sad state of affairs for the third nation in space.

Compare these two statements: It can’t be done vs How can it be done.

The knee jerk reaction I’m seeing is that a mission to Mars can’t be done. Everyone hopes it will, but they aren’t making a personal effort to get it done. They are more than willing to offer excuses as to why it won’t work, instead of solutions to get it to work. There is a big difference in thinking between the two mindsets.

Chris Hadfield

Hadfield is a household name around Canada. I’ve never met him, but I’ve watched his talks online and read his book. As the ISS commander, he no doubt understands leadership and determination. That makes it all the more confusing to me when a bold plan is announced, he’s against it.

“There’s a great, I don’t know, self-defeating optimism in the way that this project has been set up, I fear that it’s going to be a little disillusioning for people, because it’s presented as if for sure it’s going to happen.”

But that’s exactly how you set goals. You set an objective, a time line then start working the details. You don’t set a goal to “maybe”. You set a goal to “we are doing this”. As ISS commander I’m sure he did this over and over again. There were goals in place, and he had to make them happen. You set your goals and adjust your strategy as time goes on to ensure they happen. You may not know all the details when you start towards a goal; the most important thing is that you start.

“I want to know: How does a space suit on Mars work? Show me how it is pressurized, and how it is cooled. What’s the glove design? None of that stuff can be bought off the rack. It does not exist. You can’t just go to SpaceMart and buy those things.”

Hadfield is talking about the details. The short answer is they haven’t been worked out yet. However, MIT and NASA are both working on new suits for Mars. The details are being worked on. Why didn’t he say “I’m anxious to see how the new prototypes work” rather than tell the media they don’t exist. I’m sure he’s aware of the efforts being made. He choose to talk in the negative; implying that it’s better not to even try. As for Space Mart, it’s looking like the aerospace business is going in the direction.

Why isn’t he using his public clout to get people excited and engaged with new space ventures?

Robert Thirsk

Bob is a fantastic man. I’ve personally been to his lectures, chatted with him and shared a few beers. I’ve even spoken to students about Mars at the high school named after him. He’s very knowledgeable, calculated and detail oriented. He’s also said an effort to colonize Mars would be a suicide mission.

“I don’t think we’re ready … we don’t yet have the reliable technology to support a one-way trip to Mars … It’s naive to think we’re ready to colonize Mars — it’d be a suicide mission.”

He doesn’t say “let’s get ready” or “here are the steps” or even “I would rather see…”. He said it’s naive to think we are ready, and trying is the same thing as suicide. That to me is uncompromisingly defeatist. I will agree, we do not have reliable technology. My solution would be to get reliable technology, not to call it adempted suicide. When confronted with an obstacle, the winner starts to think how they will overcome it; the loser goes home. It’s a frame of mind that seems to be missing from the Canadian astronaut alumni.

Bob is the current University of Calgary Chancellor, a position that carries academic visibility. The UofC has a department of space research and an observatory. So why the negative comments about a new space venture? Why wouldn’t he use his position to encourage students to critically examine the mission? Instead honest effort is causally dismissed.

Julie Payette

Julie is one of the few women who’ve made it into space. When I heard her talk in Montreal, she spoke about overcoming the male dominated aerospace industry during her journey to becoming an astronaut. She spoke about the uphill battle against the preconceived notions of the day. That makes her harsh words for the mission all the more baffling.

“So, if you meet any of those people, don’t tell them they’re courageous because the only courage they had was to sign up on a website.”

I wonder if any of her male colleges told her the same sort of thing as she was trying to prove herself. I wonder if they said things like, “Don’t pay attention to Julie, she’s a woman”. Yes, the Mars One mission looks completely different than what’s been done in the past. It goes against conventional mission planning. So did women in aerospace and engineering at one point. How she doesn’t see that parallel is baffling to me. Her reaction is to say it can’t be done, instead of asking how it can be done.

“We don’t have the technology to go to Mars, with everything we know today, so I don’t think that a marketing company and a TV-type of selection, is sending anybody anywhere,”

She goes on to say:

“We are going to go to space on a commercial basis and it’s at our doors, It’s a reality that will become the norm in the next decades.”

She’s saying it both ways. A marketing company can’t get into the space business, but space will become commercial in the next decades. This is the positive talking that I’m referring to. Looking to what’s possible and what’s on the horizon. Commercial space will become a reality and space travel will become monetized. Why then, such negativity when a company attempts to do just that? She displays outright hostility to those who want to follow her footsteps and reach for something bigger than themselves. She believes that taking steps to Mars, small as they may be, are worthless.

This attitude is coming from the Chief Operating Officer of the Montreal Science Centre. A centre whose mission is to “… to help visitors of all ages acquire an understanding of science and technology for use in building their future” Why is she lashing out at people who are trying to do just that?

 

 

I ask my questions with the hope of an answer. Why are Canadian astronauts so negative towards new ventures?

Mars One Round 3

Today the Mars One Round 3 candidates were selected, and I was not among them.

It was nearly 14 months ago when I was first chosen to be a Mars One candidate; part of the 1058 in Round 1. Since that time my life has changed quite a bit. I’m a much more capable person now, I’ve had experiences that I otherwise would have not done. The past 14 months has been an adventure for me and I’m going to take what I’ve learned and continue that adventure.

Since learning that I was a candidate for the Mars One mission, I’ve spoken to hundreds of adults and thousands of kids about Mars and space exploration. I spent 9 weeks at the International Space University increasing my knowledge about everything space. I’ve gained new skills I’m not about to stop now. While the decision is disappointing, it’s reassuring to have an answer. Now I can fully commit to other endeavours that I was unsure about.

I’ve signed up with the Alberta Science Network and I will continue to talk to people about Mars and space exploration. I have a new job and I will be honing my project engineering skills. I will continue to physically train myself and set ever higher goals.  I will continue to support Mars One and any mission that brings people closer to the surface of Mars and exploring our solar system. 2015 is going to be a busy year and I’m absolutely looking forward to it.

Life on Mars won’t be awful

Is life a disgusting toil of never ending disappointment to you?

Myself, I believed my life, and life in general is rather fantastic. There are those who walk among us who disagree. Gerry Flynn wrote a blog titled “Life On Earth Is Shit, Life On Mars Will Be Just As Awful“. It’s just as full of adolescent name calling and unrealistic hyperbole as one would expect from the title. The first sentence completely sets the tone: It says a lot about our life on Earth that when Mars One announced in April 2013 nearly 200,000 meat-sacks decided that their futile existence of toil, eczema and club-points would be infinitely improved if blasted millions of miles away from the rest of society and into space. The post is a complete fabrication  from the author’s opinions, however I feel it important to tackle the text. Misconception is never a good thing. I realize it’s been posted under comedy, but I don’t find this angry text fun or beneficial to the wider understanding of exploration.

Life On Earth Is Shit, Life On Mars Will Be Just As Awful

Let’s start with the title. We have it good on Earth, despite what the news will tell you. We live in the most peaceful time in human history. We have an ever increasing life expectancy across the world. We are constantly creating an increasing amount of data that tells us more and more who we are. Things are good, and they are getting better.

I absolutely reject that life on Earth is shit. It’s never been better. Life on Mars will be difficult, just as any exploration is. Because something is challenging doesn’t make it awful and extending falsehoods about Earth to future exploration in the solar system is damaging to those explorations.

Firstly, my suspicion was aroused by the involvement of Lockheed Martin – a company who having long since perfected the art of decimating mankind with the ruthlessly efficient innovation of high powered death machines and are now taking time out from their regular schedule of being a real-life version of ACME from Looney Tunes to assist Big Brother in Space (as I’m sure it’ll be renamed before liftoff) in propelling the next generation of humanity into another fruitless existence on an even more barren and inhospitable planet than Staines could ever aspire to.

If your suspicions are aroused by the involvement of Lockheed Martin in a space mission, that tells me you know nothing about space. Lockheed build the Hubble, the spacecraft that gives us all those fantastic background pictures for our computers. They’ve been involved with half a dozen other space telescopes, not to mention being the prime contractor for several Mars missions including the Phoenix lander. This is of particular importance, because the Mars One lander is based off the Phoenix architecture due to the similarities in water extraction for both missions. This is a perfectly reasonable course of action and is no cause for alarm.

What with the Mars One mission statement consisting of barely a single paragraph, namely extolling the virtues of “inspiring future generations,” but chiefly aiming to establish a human settlement on Mars, it’s hard to see what the point of all this interstellar butt-fuckery is.

A mission statement should be clear, easily understood sentence. It reads It is Mars One’s goal to establish a human settlement on Mars. That seems pretty clear to me. The point, as was eloquently put, is to establish a permanent settlement on a celestial body other than Earth. There are many reasons to study Mars, and many more to settling the planet. It’s a big idea, with lots of complex parts. I get that it’s not easy to grasp. It is not, however, butt-fuckery. Nor is it interstellar; that’s something completely different.

Considering what an awful, money-grubbing, bastard society of shit-gobs we’ve crafted down here on Earth, what little hope can be reserved for our colonising cousins – especially when the Mars One website compares its batch of space-monkeys to “Vikings and famed explorers of Old World Europe.” So in essence they’re going to go and introduce credit-lending financial systems to whatever resides out there in the black and crush any resistance they meet with an iron fist, presumably before subjugating any extraterrestrial existence under a brutal regime of rape and murder all in the name of televised entertainment.

I consider the people of Earth to be much more than that. Composers, artists, engineers, dreamers, athletes and comedians. It’s easier than ever to pursue what your passion is, and it’s up to each person to put the effort in. There are those that don’t, true, and it could be argued that the barrier to entry is a bit short in places. The world is full of good, and exploration helps us become better at being us. Without explorers we would all be living in caves, with very little technology to aid us. Getting to Mars is a stretch goal that will aid humanity into becoming even more amazing.

Also, there’s no reason to get mad at the Vikings, they were rather normal people for their time. Almost all the stories that are told about them are exaggerated. They were great explorers and skillful traders. Their culture has a lot to be admired, and I do admire their exploration spirit. I was given a copy of the Viking laws by a Scandinavian man I met at ISU and I keep in on my fridge. I run into a lot of negativity about missions to Mars and it usually dissipates once I get a chance to share some of the facts.