Category Archives: Dragon Con 2015

Dr. DNA, Supervillain, Found Dead in Lair

Dr. Paul Grigoli has died. He was found dead, suicide, on May 28th, 2016. Paul was better known, in Dragon Con circles, as Dr. DNA. I think he’d like the page title.


Dr. DNA strode around the Con in his trademark spotted lab coat, mouse lab-assistant in his pocket. He was one of the evil villains who manned the “Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow” Panel. He also won the “Who wants to be a Supervillain?” contest. His rants were epic. I was going to build a “DNA Mixer” for the next contest, but it involved alcohol (He loved Patron) and we were told to stop the booze on stage. I did get my wife to sew him a Pandagator. Head of a panda, body of an alligator. Apex ambush predator, very dangerous. (Just ask Dr. Granade about that one, long joke.)

I don’t really know what to say beyond that. He was a genius, a great guy and a good friend. Sure, he wanted to take over the world, but he promised me that I could have the first cloned T-rex. (Hey, I personally EVOLVED to eat that guy, I think I deserve at least a leg!)   jurassic

He had a lot to say, loudly, about all the time. But, at the moment you think he’s just crazy, he says something so amazing, science or philosophy, that you have to back him up to repeat it. Genius, on tap. One of the smartest men I’ve met, and I’ve met a lot. Maybe he wasn’t particularly adept socially, (he really worked at eccentric) but he had a lot of heart.

Paul hit some hard times, turned down for tenure at Vanderbilt and Murray state. He was finishing his exams to teach Physics in High School. I asked him to come out to DC, but between his dad, his kid, his ex-wife, his minions, and his friends, he didn’t want to leave Oklahoma. He didn’t want to leave his Lair.

He loved explosions. I was talking to one of his minions last night and she wanted me out in OK if just to blow something up, in memory. (They don’t really like it when you bring that stuff on planes, just saying.) But an explosion for old times sake.

Bikini Atol 1946

Oh, was THAT your secret superhero headquarters? Wow, you’re going to need a new one. yup.

Well, now the superheroes can sleep a little easier knowing Dr. DNA won’t be out to get them. probably. I mean, villains have been known to come back for revenge. I’d just beware of Pandagators, if I were you.


Wherever Dr. DNA is now, his secret Lair will safe forever.


Space Mining

asteroidsCongress Passes the Space Act,411747

Space Mining is now legal.

So, technically, you can go mine your asteroid and bring home the materials for profit. A few small problems:

  1. No spaceship can get to the asteroids right now
  2. No mining ships have even been seriously designed
  3. No fuel depots in space
  4. No customer base for space materials

This is one of those self-squaring circles. Once you have space miners, you’ll need fuel depots, which will need/buy space materials, which it can buy from miners, who it is fueling up to go back ….

Unfortunately, absent A -> B there is not B-> A.

There were some presentations at Dragon Con about this state of affairs and I think they’ll go far. It might take a few years, decades, but I think it will happen. Robotics will lead, robotic miners, water depots. Smelters, metal printers.

The real problem lies in creating a self-sufficient world in orbit. That world can have humans in it, then there will be humans there. We’ll begin to live in space sometime, I hope soon.



The Future of Space Flight – Nuclear Propulsion

Nuclear propulsion is the simplest thing in the world. Obviously, the word NUCLEAR is scary. Apparently, the presence of this world has destroyed more projects than the Congressional Budget Office. But still, Nuclear Thermal Propulsion, to be specific, is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

nuclear thermal propulsion

Figure 1. The simple view of a Nuclear Thermal Rocket.

To start with, you get a tank of water. Then you boil it. Then you squirt it behind you. Yeah, that’s about it. You can use Helium, Hydrogen, Water, Liquid just about anything will work. The boiling process is run by a hot nuclear fission reactor.

Now, a couple of points:

  1. It doesn’t turn off and on like your stove. It takes hours to heat up and days to cool off.
  2. The waste is slightly radioactive.
  3. The thing could melt if run too hot without propellant. So, accidents could happen.
  4. You get a lot of thrust per pound of fuel.
  5. It is very efficient. ISP around 1000, twice as good as a chemical engine.
  6. It can last for tens of years, used carefully.

Well, looking at those points, what is the engineering argument? You probably shouldn’t light one off on the ground. They save literally tons of fuel, but with a high thrust, so you can use them in a gravity well. (Super high efficiency engines often have almost no thrust, gravity and atmospheric drag can defeat their efforts.)

The best locations for nuclear rockets are planetary orbits, possibly the occasional moon landing or Mars launch. Good bang for the buck.

So, when it comes time to move Man from low earth orbit (LEO) to geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), or even the Moon. Nuclear Rockets are the best engineering choice.

Again, we first need to develop a solid method of delivering payload and fuel to a LEO space station. Then, we need to develop a strong work horse to deliver these payloads where they need to go. A deep-space dock at a location like L2 (shown below) might be the best choice. But satellites have lots of locations to go to, a good delivery service is worth hundreds of millions each year.


Figure 2. Lagrange (L) points on a map. The closest to Earth are L1 and L2. The others could simply be called “co-orbit with Earth.”

So, when you are looking at the future of space flight. It starts with delivery to LEO, but that is too close for real space work. To get human projects out of the gravity well, we need a workhorse. I recommend a nuclear rocket for near-space travel.

The Future of Space Flight

The other day, on Facebook/Twitter, I reposted a snarky comment.

“It’s amusing seeing NASA try to use The Martian to build support for their Journey to Mars. Using hard sci-fi to help sell fantasy…”

Why can’t NASA launch a manned mission to anywhere?

  1. Because it is a bloated bureaucracy
  2. Because “safe” space travel is nearly impossible, and politicians don’t waste their precious vote capital on anything but sure things.
  3. Because it takes 10 years to do a mission. Presidents only last 8. It makes no political sense to make your predecessor a hero. Obama cancelled Bush’s Constellation, whoever comes next would cancel Obama’s mission priorities…if he had any.

JPL runs a tight ship, so I’ve been told. They put instruments on planets. However, deeply unsexy. They tried hard to sell New Horizon, I doubt anyone heard about the Pluto fly-by that didn’t have a space-geek in the family. The last popular mission was Mars, Spirit… landed in 2004. It has been a decade since “normal people” downloaded space images from the internet.

SO, NASA needs a road map that is unsexy and can be followed without glorifying the name of any sitting president, meaning cheap as well.

  1. Get to Low Earth Orbit, LEO


I love space planes. Get them up to MACH 9, hit the outer limits of the atmosphere, release the cargo. The cargo is traveling at escape velocity, a little bit of thrust and it docks with the ISS.

There is a bit of trouble with space planes, they need to be going about MACH 3 before the Scramjets will kick-on.


SO, we build an accelerator which gets them up to speed on the ground. (I prefer a 10 mile linear, but the ring is an easier picture.)

Do able? yes. Cheaper than rockets? considerably. Further, they fit into the skillset we currently have, not the one we wish we had. We know all about airplanes, we know very little about space travel. We’ve been working with balloons, gliders, and powered air vehicles since the 1700’s, rockets are new-fangled in comparison. We have MILLIONS of hours of air travel, considerably less in space. Work with what we know.

This is only step one, more soon.

Dragon Con 2015 – After Action Report

I was going to add a big “Wrap Up” article for Dragon con, but I haven’t really been inspired. I loved my panels, but I can’t think of what I’d like to add to them right now. Maybe later.

If you want copies of any of the panels, email Hawk at Madscientist dot name. I’ll send you any of the power points that I have. Mars radiation went extremely well, Space 2050 went well. Space 2050 was the last panel of Dragon Con Space Track, ended at 3:30 Monday Afternoon.


People waited in line to get in, and it got stuffed to the gills.

The science panels were so full that people were left outside. Very Sad. Heck, the only panel that didn’t fill the aisles was “Fighting and Writing” and there were over two hundred people in the room, at 11 pm on Friday night.

I went to a couple panels that had space left. Sadly enough, the Atlanta Radio Theater show was 1/2 empty. Folks, If you have never been to ARTG, go. It is an experience worth having. I go every year. This year was Passion of Frankenstein. I’m buying that next year.

I also got in a swordfight. It cost a fortune to mail my armor to the ring and I’m still getting my son to mail it back, but that’s life.


I will pay extra to have a swordfight. These ladies aren’t just cheesecake, lovely as they are, both are experience fighters. I heard that one of them was running up the ranks, but had decided to help today instead of fight. I much appreciated the water and cheesecake.

Heck, some of the best conversation was during the Scotch tasting at Baen Barflies. I was sitting with a fellow who worked at Fermi Lab. We argued over some basics of physics, I got schooled in triggering for beam detectors. It really was interesting. I’m not sure it all means what he think it means, but I understand the beam-physics researchers point of view a bit better. I may someday get convinced there is a Quark-Gluon plasma. (Heck, I might believe in dark matter, dark energy, and responsible budget processes.)

You all have fun and keep in touch. I’ll try to be responsible about updating the blog.

Global Warming – In expectations of Arguments at Dragon Con

UAH_LT_1979_thru_June_2015_v6I have many good friends who are ACGW (Anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Warming) believers. I’m not. I was easily persuaded back in the 1990’s that it was real, then I met Lee and was introduced to Roy Spencer and John Christie. They produce this product above. Technically done by the University of Alabama, Huntsville. It is a NASA product. The National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) is a collaboration center for NASA and UAH, this is their work.

So right off, when they say “This is the warmest year ever!” They are lying in two ways. 1) We know 1998 was warmer, 2) The error bars are +/- 0.2 degrees, so heck, almost any year could be the warmest.


The Goddard product is a little more mushy, but it uses land-based measurements and a huge averaging program that seems designed to cut out cooling areas and replace them with “average warm” areas. But Frankly, even with their thumb on the scales, this is it. This is the scary warming.

Do Humans influence global warming? Probably not, or only at the margins. (A 0.1 degree increase may have occurred due to human influence- the addition of CO2 to the atmosphere, however, the margin of error is still in the +/- 0.2 degrees C region, so we can’t really know.)

Is it a Catastrophe? Nope. Mild effects, entirely beneficial.

Are temperatures going up, up, up? Satellite records say no, some land records say yes, but slowly. We are still below the Medieval Warm Period’s warming. The Roman warming was higher than the Medieval and the Minoan was twice the medieval. The Earth appears to warm and cool by some natural cycle. We would like to attribute it to the sun, but it appears to be more complicated than that.

The problem comes out to: You are going to spend trillions of dollars to fix something that doesn’t need fixing. Some scientists prefer the fixes, because they believe it is good to move to solar and wind power. This ignores the environment destruction that this market imbalance is causing. People die without power. Cheap electricity creates food, clean water, and housing around the world. A Trillion dollars have been wasted on this in the US alone, do you think we got our money’s worth?



Mars Radiation on the Space Track


So, I have to thank Rain (boss of the Space Track.) She knows I’ll join in on anybody’s panel and make it more fun. BUT, I really want to talk about radiation. The Martian is “hot” right now, so Mars is a hot topic. (Obviously, Mars is only hot metaphorically or figuratively, because literally it is colder than ice.)

Is radiation important for a Martian Colony? Absolutely. Oddly enough, at NASA we were asked this question many years ago. I wrote the Design Specifications for Natural Environment (pronounced Disney) for some of these missions. I’d love to go over this in great detail…but we’ll wait till Sunday morning. See ya at Dragon Con.

My Dragon Con Panel made me do math

So, if you want to hear some Science at Dragon Con, come to the science track. Saturday, 2:30 pm, we’ll discuss the science behind Military SciFi battles.

I’ve had a lot of ideas on these things for years, practically an obsession of mine. Bullets are too slow, Lasers are too low power, and missiles aren’t much better than bullets. Dr. Davis had an answer involving Anti Matter.

So, if you could constrain 1e15 anti-protons in a laser, this is called neutral beam propagation, fire them at an opponent at a good chunk of light speed, and it would hit like a stick of dynamite. Ok, so right now, 1e9 protons are possible, but you couldn’t get a sack of anti-protons that big. Engineering says it is possible though.

Obviously, when we can constrain a gram of antimatter in a laser, it’ll hit like a photon torpedo.  If someone is shooting those at me, I’ll build a magnetic shield and ionize the incoming beam with counter laser, or perhaps a series of polarized magnetic fields.

Feel free to check my math, harass me, or whatever. That’s what this is all about.


No Updates – An update

Scheduling Conflicts,
Scheduling Conflicts

Sorry folks, I’m heading into Dragon Con in a few weeks and I haven’t updated this page in a year. I have had an unusual job issue, which was fixed by getting a new job. Unfortunately, this meant moving to Washington D.C. The current job doesn’t really like excessive publicity, so I haven’t worked the blog since coming onboard. I’ll consider ways to make it better in the future. (Also, I freaking hate this blog software. I’m changing that first.) So, I’m sorry for the terrible update. I’ll put more out there before Dragon Con, but … my time is limited.

What people think happens at my Day Job

First Nuclear Weapon Test Device
First Nuclear Weapon Test Device

What people think happens at Dragon Con


OH, if anyone wants to borrow any pictures, I rarely post my own. ALMOST EVERYTHING ON THIS BLOG IS STOLEN! I shamelessly rip off Wikipedia and any public pictures. (If you see a picture that you own and want me to remove it, I will.) The only thing that’s mine is words…and the pictures of my kids.