Broadly Focused Podcast – Episode 16

Well, I took so long publishing Episode 15, I’ll bet you thought we’d missed a week – no no!  Here’s Episode 16 of our little podcast- a bit late, but not as late as the last one!  We should start recording on Monday nights pretty consistently now, and that means you should have them in your paws by Wednesday or Thursday night.  Sorry for the delays and such, but It’s been crazy out here.

News Items:

Mustafa Drive “to the stars”

Remember the name, because you might see it again: Aisha Mustafa, a 19-year-old Egyptian physics student, patented a new type of propulsion system for spacecraft that uses cutting edge quantum physics instead of thrusters.

First, a little background: One of the strange quantum facts at work in Mustafa’s engine idea is that there’s no such thing as a vacuum, devoid of particles, waves, and energy. Instead the universe’s supposedly empty spaces are filled with a roiling sea of particles and anti-particles that pop into existence, then annihilate each other in such a short space of time that you can’t readily detect them.

Mustafa invented a way of tapping this quantum effect via what’s known as the dynamic Casimir effect. This uses a “moving mirror” cavity, where two very reflective very flat plates are held close together, and then moved slightly to interact with the quantum particle sea. It’s horribly technical, but the end result is that Mustafa’s use of shaped silicon plates similar to those used in solar power cells results in a net force being delivered. A force, of course, means a push or a pull and in space this equates to a drive or engine.

This 19 year old Egyptian girl has put us to shame, and made a mockery of our empty lives by designing a starship propulsion system. Uses a modified Casimir field effect to generate thrust. Damn her.  Next, she’ll probably publish a podcast far superior to ours.

North Carolina wins the Stupidest State Competition – for now…

North Carolina is at it again… but this time, it’s not the creationists, or the pro-life activists.This time, it’s the coastal development community people! House Replacement Bill 89 ( would require that sea level rise be determined by linearly extrapolating from a data set beginning in 1900. Oh, and it would make it illegal to make any such determination unless at the request of the state. Science loses again!

The Rabbi, The Diamonds, and The Prophecy

Inspired by the words of a revered rabbi who prophesized that precious stones were divinely buried in the area, the diamond firm Shefa Yamim ( been mining for about a decade along the steep hills and lush valleys that surround the city of Haifa.Now, Shefa Yamim, the first and only diamond explorer in Israel, says it has found strong signs that significant diamond deposits are indeed hidden in the Holy Land, surprising many who had dismissed the mission as a pipe dream.In 1999, Taub founded Shefa Yamim, which means “bounty of the seas” in Hebrew, based on a conversation that took place 11 years earlier in Brooklyn, New York between the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson and the then mayor of Haifa. The dialogue was caught on video.Many of Schneerson’s followers believe him to be the messiah, making the comments a decree of sorts, and Taub answered the call.

So, have they found any actual diamonds yet?

Are there more gay republicans or homophobic Democrats?

In 2008, Barack Obama took aim at the “pew gap,” the overwhelming Republican edge among voters who regularly attend church. The Democratic presidential nominee came nowhere near closing it, but he didn’t have to. He just needed an extra percentage point or two among traditional GOP constituents, and he got it.

The Democratic National Committee is promising a repeat performance in 2012. But some religious leaders and scholars who backed Obama in 2008 are skeptical. They say the Democrats have, through neglect and lack of focus, squandered the substantial gains they made with religious moderates and worry it will hurt Obama in a tight race against Republican Mitt Romney.

We pretty much agree that this was political, and that he will be fine.

Items of interest:

Brian –

Baen Books puts a substantial portion of their library online, for absolutely free. Why? Because they believe, and have the numbers to prove it, that providing free copies of an author’s work will drive increased sales of their back catalog. I was also happy to find out that they provide free Teacher’s Guides to a number of the titles.  FREE!


Mars One will establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. A habitable settlement will be waiting for the settlers when they land. The settlement will support them while they live and work on Mars the rest of their lives. Every two years after 2023 an additional crew will arrive, such that there is a real living, growing community on Mars. Mars One has created a technical plan for this mission that is as simple as possible. For every component of the mission we have identified at least one potential supplier. Mars One invites you to join us in this next giant leap for mankind!

So, a bunch of it sounds reasonable, but I’d have to see if there are any plans for self-sustainability.  Also, they plan on financing through media exposure – I wonder what they are prepared to do to keep (or get, potentially) ratings up high enough to continue the mission.

Follow Up:

No follow up or listener feedback this week, as we recorded the podcast before we published Episode 15 – a first for us.


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