Scitech Links November 4 2017

China wants to be the first country to build a practical space-based solar power station. Space-based solar power would presumably be much more sustainable and clean than fossil fuels and more efficient than the current sustainable energy sources we have on Earth. There are many problems still to be solved before these power plants can exist so China’s expectations are more wishful thinking than based on reality.

Astronomers have found a massive gas-giant that is astonishingly 23.9% as massive as the star it orbits. For comparison, Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system but its mass is only 0.09% of that of the Sun.

An interesting article about an accident involving a Minuteman I nuclear missile 53 years ago. A short-circuit caused one of the retrorockets to fire and as a result the cone containing the nuclear warhead detached and fell into the silo. Ultimately the warhead casing was intact and nothing more serious happened, but the story reminded me of the Damascus Incident in which a fuel leak on the Titan caused a major accident. Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, is a fantastic tale of this and other “broken arrow” incidents.