Monday assorted links


Universal suffrage is appropriately named.

We all suffer because idiots vote.

Ha! Can anyone say things are better since women and blacks were given the vote?


Is that you, Jussie?

That stuff seriously this really is a thing thats sometimes forgotten about in my opinion. Appreciate your the post and I will be sure to follow your progress

Can you honestly say you'd hop in a time machine to go live in the 19th century ? The 18th?

We do not suffer at all from unintelligent people voting. Higher education is run by highly intelligent people, and it's just about the most bloated, inefficient, and systemically dishonorable segment of society. The news and entertainment media might be grosser, the court system more inefficient, and primary and secondary schooling more bloated. Higher education places second in every category.

Start by disenfranchising the propertyless and the young.

Then the blacks, then women.


1. A problem with airships is that they cannot "fly" (fly seems like a misnomer since they are slow - it's like a sailboat "race") in windy conditions. Well, they can, but I would not recommend it. And then there's the image of the Hindenburg disaster. I know, the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen. It was designed to be filled with helium, but because of trade restrictions, helium was in short supply, so hydrogen was substituted. Today's airships would never be filled with hydrogen. And we don't have trade restrictions today either. By the way, in WWI the Germans made extensive use of airships. They would fly the things over Britain at night and randomly drop bombs on the terrorized British. Those Germans, they are a fun bunch.

it's not my impression that there's enough helium available to run a giant industry like the one contemplated.

" And then there's the image of the Hindenburg disaster."

Absolutely. That Led Zeppelin cover is iconic.

@ dave schutz:

I think it's somewhat uncertain how much helium is available in the Earth's crust. Drive up demand and we might be pleasantly surprised.

But yes, this type of giant airship industry looks a lot more likely if hydrogen airships can be made tolerably safe. In case anyone doesn't know this already, it wasn't the hydrogen that made the Hindenburg burn up so fast, but ingredients in the paint.

>Today's airships would never be filled with hydrogen.

Why not? Tomorrow's airships probably won't be manned.

Don't rule out a manned hydrogen airship. Lots of technologies involve risk, and hydrogen might prove manageable/tolerable. Airplanes are in some respects more inherently dangerous than airships, since if the engine fails, you crash and burn real fast, whereas the airship can lose its engines and keep floating. And yet we eventually made airplanes very safe. Cars are dangerous, too. And nuclear power. We've managed to get used to some things which might be casually perceived as scary.

" A problem with airships is that they cannot "fly" (fly seems like a misnomer since they are slow - it's like a sailboat "race") in windy conditions."

+1, kudos to rayward. He nailed it.

Airships suffer from intermittency. They can't be used or deployed in adverse weather. And they are more limited than even aircraft.

Routine cargo deliveries require a robust service that has a high availability. There's no indication that airships can meet that requirement. To be competitive they would have to be much cheaper than the competition.

The article makes this note about rail: "60 (but with transshipment delays)"
It should have made a similar note regarding airships.

#1 - +1 to Rayward and to Rat. - stormy weather on the ground is to blimps/ dirigibles as Storm Daniels is to Trump, so this quote is suspect: "As for the estimates of cost and speed for a giant cargo airship, suffice it to say, for the time being, that I do have some basis for suggesting that 100 miles per hour and 5-10¢ per ton-mile are attainable performance goals for a giant cargo airship, though it will take a lot of investment to get there. I’m not asking readers to trust me on that, except for the sake of argument. I plan to come back to that in future posts."

Bonus trivia: zeppelins achieved in WWI the same altitude as modern jet aircraft, so high that WWI biplanes could not catch them in time (it took close to 30 minutes to reach those heights) considering the airships moved at 100 mph. Stable flight however, if the winds are not too strong.

"Bonus trivia: zeppelins achieved in WWI the same altitude as modern jet aircraft,"

Bonus maybe, but also wrong. Zeppelins in WW1 topped out at 20K feet. Modern aircraft routinely fly at twice that altitude.

@ RatInPutinsMaze: Good points about intermittency and transshipment delays but it's not a deal breaker. You write "To be competitive they would have to be much cheaper than the competition." Yes, and they could be. See Table 1 in my post.

Helium may never be economical.

"Helium’s non-flammable nature makes it the only practical lifting gas for manned lighter-than-air flight, but it is scarce and expensive, and the use of helium can reduce a rigid airship’s payload by more than half."

1. and 5. need to be read together.

(If it works)

Airships will use very likely use hydrogen unless a source of helium can be found. (Fusion?) Helium is too expensive.

Hydrogen only burns when mixed oxygen, that's the key. The materials available now are orders of magnitude better than Zeppelin times. It's also likely that by the time they are available, cargo airships won't need pilots which makes them a bit more expendable. I've heard experts say the planes should actually be flown by automatic systems right now but passenger resistance is the problem.

Airships will absolutely require meteorologically optimised flight paths. Airlines do this routinely now but with airships the requirement is critical, for fuel usage, travel time and possibly even making some targets. This requires high quality, detailed forecasting but we more-or-less have that now. Landing in high/gusty winds could be a problem, as a balloon pilot will tell you. I would guess that airships would be unsuitable for some climatic regions, eg, high latitudes southern hemisphere, but this depends. Airship economics will be cheap delivery, not guaranteed timeliness.

Bravo, Jim Birch! I can see that you get it. :) Would you be interested in blogging at Roadless Revolution? If yes (or possibly yes), feel free to e-mail me at Nathan - underscore - Smith - dot - ksg03 - dot - harvard - dot - edu. I'm planning for Roadless Revolution to be more than a blog, but we can discuss privately over e-mail if you wish.

You should also study why Cargolifter AG failed. Large infrastructure and R&D companies are a tricky management challenge, and expensive. Now if you add in that those huge expensive capex items are fragile concerning wind conditions, rebooting a giant airship project would be too risky for any but the most foolhardy.

Cargolifter's failure is easy: it was a giant nonrigid, and super slow, and targeting the heavy lift market in the construction space more than the actual transportation market. It was a weird design and a weird strategy. The winning version of an airship technology is likely to be a lot closer to the old Zeppelins of the 1930s: rigid, dirigible, fast, and very big, but with modern materials and more for the freight than the passenger market.

But boy, oh boy, are you right about capex being a problem! One of these days I'll write a post about the capital hurdle. 21st-century capitalism is imbued with a spirit of evolutionary, empiricist rationality, extrapolating from experience. It's not good at visionary transformative type investments. As the author of *The Complacent Class* well understands! Just how we get from here to a trillion dollar airship industry, even assuming that the technological optimism is perfectly correct, is very unclear.

Hall and Woodward's work on "the burden of nondiversifiable entrepreneurial risk" is relevant here.

@ rayward: "Slow" is relative. Top speed of the Graf Zeppelin was 80 mph. New models envisioned by technologists today could go faster. They'll never be as fast as airplanes (they have to have a lot of volume for lifting gas and that causes drag), but giant airships can be fast enough to overcome any but the very strongest winds. Don't extrapolate from non-rigid blimps, that's a quite different technology.

#1 If they were able to create one in the '100 ton' payload class that was reliable and could use existing infrastructure I think yes.

#5 You betcha and the cultural innovation that I do see is dystopian in the extreme.

Liberals are indeed more intolerant. I make it a point to subscribe to, or at least read online, Leftist publications. It's worth being familiar with what your opponents have to say, in their own words, free of any third-party filter. I suspect part of it is the emotionalism the Left suffers from--they regard their opponents as "bad people" (rather than merely incorrect), and fear some sort of "contamination."

they regard their opponents as "bad people" (rather than merely incorrect), and fear some sort of "contamination."

This is pretty true of modern conservatives as well. It used to not be true, but it is increasingly so.

It is not coincidence that as the push by the Left for redistribution from Conservatives to "others" gains critical mass, Conservatives feel more and more threatened. And view those threatening them as "bad people".

That the rational for redistribution is largely justified by considerations outside of the control of Conservatives only makes matters worse.

Well, Trump did redistribute more of the tax burden to me, so.

You have it wrong. What Trump did is red blooded capitalism. When liberals redistribute, we call that socialism.

The linked study indicates otherwise:

"At the same time, however, we find asymmetries in individuals’ willingness to venture into cross-cutting spaces, with conservatives more likely to follow media and political accounts classified as left-leaning than the reverse. "

Granted it says conservatives are more likely to follow left-leaning media. But it would seem logical that if you are more likely to read the other side's media you have relatively less "fear of contamination".

Cancel the fear of contamination part. Still, it does seem as if the average "conservative" media outlets are more insular and further to the right than the average "liberal" media outlet. It's hard to find any right wing media that isn't unabashedly biased, whereas most "liberal" media at least tries to be somewhat objective.

whereas most "liberal" media at least tries to be somewhat objective.

That has to be the most obtuse assessment of Judy Woodruff's modus operandi I've seen yet.

Most of the left wing media is incredibly biased, as is their right. I give Fox some kudos as they separate the two functions news and editorial. You go to CNN, MSNBC and others and it's all mixed as one.

Yes, it's so unbiased for say, NPR, to start with a story related to class and then segue to story involving identity politics and reverse the order the next day.

1) is very cool. Endorse both the idea and the ambition. This is the kind of positive-sum thinking the internet needs more of.

The problem with airships is wind and Helium supply. Helium comes from Natural gas wells, but is more limited in supply. Because it is a small molecule, it easily leaks like Hydrogen gas. Perhaps the airships could be based on hot air, like a hot air balloon rather than Helium. A cost/lift capability comparison could be done for Helium vs. hot air.

Or we finally embrace the so-called hydrogen economy. Blimps move the stuff from wind/solar rich areas to where it's needed.

Hydrogen gas is also made by catalytic process from Natural gas. Hydrogen gas has the same problems as Helium, plus it is flammable (recombination with atmospheric Oxygen). The Hydrogen economy is a hype.

>plus it is flammable

Of course; that's the whole point of the hydrogen economy.

Hot air doesn't work. How do you keep the air hot? Plus, not enough lift. Helium might turn out to be less scarce than we think, or we might decide to tolerate, while doing everything technological possible to minimize, the risks of hydrogen.

So, just checking, casual-like: does anyone else experience a pang at the sight of a balloon let go by a child? On two levels - my balloon! - and - there goes a nonrenewable resource ...

I do get a pang of nostalgia recalling how we'd suck in some helium so we could talk in comically high voices

3. Conservatives don't have much choice. Both because liberal outlets are so ubiquitous, and because conservative outlets (though smaller in number) are even more horrifying dens of conformity.
Given a choice between a diet of Breitbart and Daily Caller vs. the New York Times and The Atlantic, one is more or less forced to hold one's nose and read the NYT and the Atlantic.

It was odd to begin the week in the other’s part of town, rather disorienting but hopeful.

are even more horrifying dens of conformity.

No, Hazel. They challenge you and you find that horrifying.

It's the other way around. I challenge you.

No, you annoy me.

Challenge you to what? Be a mindless retard like everyone who reads Breitbart?

+1. Right wing publications are slowing dying out so only a few loud ones are around and they are annoyingly conformist and nothing is serious. I don't want to know what AOC had for breakfast. Yeah, Jonah Goldberg gets another shot but in general its trending down.

Breitbart and Daily Caller maybe, but they are tiny. Fox News is about as close to the middle as major outlets get.

MSNBC and NPR maybe, but they are tiny. CNN is about as close to the middle as major outlets get.

None of the major TV networks is worth watching.
Actual news comes from online media, almost exclusively from sites like WaPo and NYT. Right wing online media is uniformly awful, the articles are unreadable fits of hysterics and the comments sections are cesspool of conspiracy theorizing. I'd rather read Crooked Timber where at least the commenters aren't insane. Vox may be biased, but they're often informative and readable. I'd rather read a website that contains factual information with a biased spin and then correct for the bias and read between the lines than try to dissect whatever conniption fit Breitbart is having today.

The Wall Street Journal is a high-quality conservative news source, but their articles are usually behind a paywall, so they have a lot less reach.

That's a good observation, and the WSJ tends to have more articles about economics and business (duh, it's the WSJ) than other newspapers do.

It's a top quality newspaper, but I haven't noticed that its news coverage is markedly different from what the NYT, etc. have.

Its editorials of course are very different. But the news was so similar that I never felt a need to subscribe to it.

5. Is there an innovation stagnation? Except in information technology, it seems so. And even in information technology, the devices for transmitting information may be new but not the information being transmitted. Indeed, "tech" is great at information (collecting it, storing it, mining it) but not so great at building tangible things. Tech attempted to build a reliable car and quickly gave up on that pipe dream. The cultural innovations described in the linked article were almost always triggered by technological innovations: trains for carriages, cars for horses, planes for cars, etc. What life-altering technological innovations have occurred in the past 20 years? Twitter.

Look at incentives. Everyone wants to be the next Steve Jobs, because that's actually reasonably possible to the common person. Who wants to be the next Sir William Armstrong? Sir William has done more to advance human civilization, including improving the quality of life of every human in the industrialized world--yet that requires effort, and knowing complex things like physics and engineering. And those simply aren't sexy right now.

That said, I'd put Doppler Radar on par with any advancement of the 1900s. My wife is alive because of it, so it's somewhat personal. I also really hope that the tech in the Mars rovers comes down to Earth soon. I mean, they're basically doing exactly my job, only with a turnaround time that's a few orders of magnitude less. It'd revolutionize CERCLA and RCRA remedial efforts.

"Tech attempted to build a reliable car and quickly gave up on that pipe dream. "


Clearly, the stock fall of Lufthansa is correlated to the volatility in Petrobras since 2018.

Yet, after years of red ink running down as waters, now profits are running down as a might stream. Petrobras has posted its first profit in four years. Maybe Mr. Bolsonaro is not that bad.

"It need hardly be pointed out that a profession of this kind is tiring, especially as I have also—this is my specialty—mastered the art of infectious laughter." Heinrich Boell

#5 is from January 2012, speaking of stagnation.

Perhaps the fact that an article from over 7 years ago still feels current is proof that he was onto something.

I had the same thought. The article could have been written today. Even the historical and technological explanations he gives -- 9/11, great recession, smart phones, AI, etc. -- are the same ones we still hear about today. However, I would emphasize economic inequality as a major cause of this stagnation. The poor, young, marginalized people who have historically driven cultural change simply can't afford to do so anymore, or they are too over-worked to give it their energy. Where are all the 20-year-old art-school dropouts who used to bum around Manhattan trying to create the next "scene"? They simply don't exist anymore. Student loans and rising housing costs have forced them into "real" jobs. That, or a life of cultural isolation back home in Mom's basement.

I had the same thought. The article could have been written today
except it starts out by talking about "20 years ago" in a way that is obviously false if we start from today. It was that that made me go look for the date, and see that it was really old, and that Tyler was probably just skimming and riding his hobby-horse here. (For example, it's not the case that email was an obscure thing in 1999 - my 70+ year old grandmother used email regularly then.)

3. "representative survey of Americans with data from respondents’ public Twitter accounts"

Things are worse than I thought if Twitter accurately reflects America at large.

1. "Uh, hello, airplanes? Yeah, it's blimps. You win. Bye!"

2. The rising returns to genius.

Geniuses are lazy, perform poorly except they make it easy for everyone else to do their job. Most of them get buried in the history of math, unknown to general population, get a theorem named after them. But unbeknownst to anyone, that theorem makes combustion engines work for everyone, electricity becomes uniform. The electron better harnessed. All those key breakthroughs get some bizarre theorem name, no one outside of the sciences knows, even most engineers. The genius was that someone said, I am not doing this over an over, I will find the rule so anyone can do it.

#3 From the article: "The individual-level pattern also appears to be asymmetric: When compared with fixed points on the ideological continuum, conservatives are more likely to follow accounts at or to the left of MSNBC than liberals are to follow accounts at or to the right of Fox News, even though the measure of ideological slant we employ places the two outlets at roughly equidistant positions from the midpoint."

Seems like they've got some methodology problems. They're saying MSNBC is as far to the left as Fox News is to the right, and measuring how often liberals follow stuff right of Fox News and comparing that to conservatives following stuff left of MSNBC.

But if left and right are equally likely to follow stuff an arbitrary distance opposite them and Fox News is much further right than MSNBC is left, you'd get this same result.

#2 directly implies that we should institute a national Eugenics program. It might sound dystopian, but the alternative is far worse. If you doubt me, check out data on declining reaction times (a great proxy for fluid IQ) and genetic load:

There are lots of geneticists and scientists who understand our present dysgenic situation and its implications, but are terrified to speak out about it.

The 'geniuses' of the early 20th century were largely in favor of eugenics, until a young, angry, mustachioed German man peed in the pool and made everybody afraid to swim.

#1: the author is right, in that transforming a chunk of the valuable transportation industry would be worth a lot.


Airships have been a commercial/military technology for over 100 years, and they’re not getting any better, are they? I recall serious commercialization efforts in the 1980s, to go along with all the other serious efforts dating back to WWI. The only difference I can think of today is there might be more private equity money available, if the missing piece is a lot of startup money.

Don’t bet on airships to beat trains: if there is money in it, we can already make trains go 100 mph.

Don’t bet on airships to beat ships: we already have a slow/fast split for air and shipping across oceans, so at best I see airships poaching a bit from airplanes and a bit from ships.

There might be a niche for airships, but I predict it is only a niche: something like replacing heli-logging, or doing runs to the Far North, where any form of transport is challenging.

My guess, if the perfect working cargo airship arrives, is that it would take away a modest amount of business from ships and aircraft, and dominate several niche roles, mostly taking over jobs we do with helicopters.

And yeah, they are very challenged by wind.

And to substitute for some truck traffic. I could also imagine seasonal loads (e.g., small ag town during harvest) and pairs of cities not well served by the train network (e.g., St. Louis to Minneapolis requires transit through Chicago).

Thanks for the friendly comment, but take another look at Table 1. If you don't believe Table 1, I can respect that; I expect giant airship advocates to have to fight a healthy incredulity for a while. But if you accept Table 1, and giant airships could offer under one-tenth the per ton-mile price of planes while going more than five times as fast as ships (and not only on water), then it makes no sense to suggest that airships would merely "poach a bit from airplanes and a bit from ships." They'd be the middle option for trans-oceanic shipping and trucks and rail are for land, and there's every reason to expect they'd capture a similar market share. And that makes them a trillion dollar industry.

I don't think giant airships will be very competitive with heli-logging. They're just too big. Makes no sense to have a 1,000-foot machine picking up a measly little tree.

This airship stuff reminds me of those witty Bruce McCall illustrations depicting The Exciting World of Tomorrow in '30s Moderne style

#3 - Is Twitter an accurate representation of the American political views? Is the Twitter user space an accurate sample of Americans? Also, although I am not on twitter, if I *was* on twitter, I would probably not be following a lot of conservative feeds, but I do listen to quite a bit of conservative AM talk radio. I would not show up as "cross-cutting" from liberal spaces into conservative ones. Although maybe I am an outlier of sorts.

#5 I thought this article seemed dated as I was reading it. I had to check the publication date. Much of it still rings relevant I guess, but I feel like maybe culture *has* lurched forward since then. Dubsteb, Trap, and certain forms of rap seem like they would be unintelligible to someone from 1999. Meme culture seems very much like a new thing. Much of the youtube culture feels new relative to any time prior to the past few years. Advertising from the 90's definitely feels like it from another time. Car designs are definitely changing again. Compare any Toyota to one from 20 years ago. Compare the ford f-150 1999 vs 2019. I think it as different as 1979 -1999 evolution. Athleisure-wear is a thing now. So many photos now are over-exposed – it is a notable aesthetic to current photography. 90’s music definitely feels like 90’s music. Modern country seems distinct from late 90’s country. Cartoons like Big Mouth , Archer, and Bojack seem like a move forward since cartoons of 20 years ago (although that seems less obvious to me). I would be willing to bet that 20 years from now, people will look back at the kitchens that were built and designed up until to the financial crisis and say, that’s is so early 2000’s. I’m sure there are other examples out there, but I’m not that hip that I would be able to identify them.

I think part of the issue might be that this person is writing in 2012, a time during which the US and world are still recovering from the aftermath of the 2008 financial fallout. Maybe sometimes financial crisis spurs radical changes in style? And sometimes it makes people want to hunker down? And I am wondering if maybe the writer is a bit out of touch with what is trendy and hip? And due to cultural fragmentation, no one style comes to dominate like it did in the past?

Right or wrong, conservative is inherently more boring. It's not like your going to be possessed with a burning need to find out what they are up to.

Then in which speech after pōhaku. Sounds like (is at) a for sure dog to me??

#2 feels convincing, important, and scary.

#1...Can't happen. Too many people have seen that Led Zeppelin cover.

The one with Lucille Ball on the cover.

1: Bizarre. Over the past couple of decades we've had a couple of waves of people who claimed that zeppelins and other dirigibles were going to make a comeback, usually during times of rising fuel prices when airplanes became relatively expensive. I'm not sure what's inspired this latest article, given that fuel prices are low at the moment.

Do you want a transportation system based on ultra-cheap, totally renewable energy? I've got one: sailboats.

And there's a reason why we don't use sailboats to move cargo anymore: wind.

And as others have already commented, wind is also the reason why dirigibles are not a serious choice.

Maybe the next cloud-cuckooland proposal will try to face the wind issue by suggesting use of two technologies: dirigibles when the wind is low, sailboats when the wind is high.

History kills this objection. In the age of the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg, airships flew millions of miles of commercial service and ran regular mail and passenger routes across oceans. Yes, they failed, but not because of wind. Of course you'd have to be careful and there'd be delays and occasional losses. But it's not a killer.

If it wasn't the wind, then what was it? They couldn't compete with even the rickety airplanes of the 1930s (which made leaps in technology thanks to World War II, making the gap even larger).

Sure they flew for years and miles. That means nothing. Horsecarts also travelled millions of miles -- and lost to superior technology. Steam-powered cars also gave riders years and miles of service -- and lost to superior technology.

Even today's jets take an hour longer to cross the USA going westbound than eastbound, due to the prevailing winds.

1. I'm inherently rather skeptical of predictions about the Rebirth of Big Airships. It's been promised before, and they struggle to find a market that can pay for it.

Not that there aren't uses. The biggest would be to haul stuff that would otherwise either require an Oversized Load permit and route plan, or which would require lots of disassembling.

There'd be markets galore for giant airships. The trouble with airships is scalability. Only at gigantic sizes do they have enough lift to accommodate all the features you want to pack in to make them really useful. (The deeper principle is that the lift of an airship is proportional to the cube of the dimension, the weight to the square, with the payload a residual of lift-weight...) Smaller airships-- less than 500 feet, say-- have to settle for a lot fewer features and it is somewhat hard to find paying markets. But look at Table 1 in the post. If you can haul goods across oceans for 10 cents per ton-mile at 100 miles per hour, could there seriously not be a market for that? It makes no sense.

And yes, Oversized Load is a very interesting market, too, though initially a niche market; at present, people generally don't make things that are too big to fit in a truck lane. Pure trans-oceanic shipping of goods with middling value-to-weight ratios is where a trillion dollar industry is most foreseeable.

#2...Genius has lost all meaning. Godel was a genius. What did he get paid? What should he have been paid? Or Einstein? Turing? Real genius cannot be compensated. John Berger's "The Success and Failure of Picasso" deals with this issue well.

My favorite link today:

1. Electric flight, helped along by automation, has the potential to reduce the cost of air freight. While electric flight may seem nuts the savings in maintenance and fuel costs have the potential to make it worthwhile. Assuming it "takes off" this won't help the economics of air ships.

Interesting, but the basic technological advantages of airship come from the principle by which they fly. Aerostatic lift lets you hover and saves fuel. No matter how much you improve planes, they have to burn fuel for lift as well as propulsion and they can't stand still. I'd have to see numbers to assess it more confidently, but my knee-jerk reaction is that electric flight can't really affect the economic competitiveness of giant airships much.

They might even be complementary.

I wrote electric flight won't help the economics of airships because it will lower costs for the heavier-than-air competition.

I presume the motors on an airship would be electric. Either battery powered or possibly using hydrogen fuel cells. Since there is no point in having a crew there is not much safety objection to hydrogen so the lifting gas could be used as fuel. The trouble is estimates for the cost of hydrogen produced from electrolysis are high even 10 or 20 years in the future, so battery electric may win on cost. Airships definitely have the area for solar electric propulsion if desired.

Heavier-than-air electric flight could bring cargo in and out of hubs while long range airships haul it between hubs, but that's just using them for the roles they're best suited for rather than being complementary. But I suppose large airships, powered by the sun with battery storage for use at night, could travel almost continuously while short range electric flight drones deliver and take cargo as they pass over population centers.

Passengers could also be shuttled to and from airships in flight, but I don't see how passenger airships could compete given the value of passengers' time, unless it was for scenic tourism.

It will lower costs for heavier-than-air flight, but by how much?

Cargo markets are more promising than passenger markets, yes. However, I think airships might be able to compete for passengers on COMFORT. With their massive size (and still room for very large cargo or passenger pays even if most of the volume is lifting gas), airships could offer nice comfortable rooms, beds, play areas, movie theaters, dining spaces... It could easily be a far pleasanter experience than flying coach or even first-class. Passengers in a hurry would still go by plane, but seniors, families with kids, and people who just hate planes could go by airship. And you might have plug-and-play cubicles where people who can telecommute could have a productive work day while traveling.

There might also be room to undersell airplanes for some long-haul flights. Greyhound-of-the-skies sort of thing. Still, I think cargo is the easier market for airships to capture.

Thanks for the thoughtful feedback!

More thoughts on potential giant airship passenger service:

1. The idea of air taxis shuttling passengers to and from airships in flight is incredibly cool. I don't know if it would work but it sure is fun to think about! It would be much more feasible for an airship than an airplane, because of airships' large cargo bays and relatively slow speed. Maybe airship passenger routes could be divided into "express" service at ~100 mph and "local" service at 50 mph with air taxis shuttling passengers on and off. More generally, if air taxis could bring passengers on board, the airship might never have to land. That's taking the Roadless Revolution concept further than I'd even thought of.

2. It's conceivable that airships could compete in passenger space by offering a "car ferry"/drive-on-drive-off service. However, I don't think this would be cheap; quick calculations suggest maybe ~$1,000 per car for a trans-Atlantic flight (+ passenger fares). But a MOTORCYCLE ferry airship service could be very affordable. I understand that motorcycles' relative importance is a lot greater in developing countries and the global South. So I can imagine a future in which giant airships provide a motorcycle drive-on-drive-off trans-oceanic ferry service all over the developing world at Greyhound bus type prices.

A solar powered airship could get buy with solar PV on just one side. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there is any real need for it to have a front and a back. At noon they could turn the airship around so the PV is on the side the light is coming from and start traveling "backwards". It would only travel like this for an average of 6 hours a day, so it would have an end that is usually the front.

In the Vanity Fair piece, Kurt Andersen views culture as physical phenomenon, rather than as a matter of individual experience. He describes a litany of similar artifacts, but doesn’t ask whether the way that people engage with those artifacts may have changed significantly over time. For example, it’s reasonable to assume that, compared with 1992, far more people in 2012, and even more so in 2019, take environmental factors into consideration when making purchases. In 1990, a person buying a Prius might have been derided as a tree hugger; not so much nowadays.

If one is inclined to be a booster for the modern West, it is arguable that we are developing a greater interest in substance over appearance. Today, anyone who follows fashion news has read countless articles about the environmental impact of clothing, and about start up companies seeking to capitalize on heightened awareness of the issue. The body positivity movement proposes that sexiness should be a whole of person concept, and the Miss America contest no longer includes a parade of women in swimsuits. Additionally, recent runway shows indicate a gradual shift away from rigid, binary gender norms, and a deeper interest in global diversity. The clothes might look the same - I don’t know - but the way we think about them seems to be changing.

Andersen’s article is interesting, but it focuses too much on how objects look or sound, rather than on how they are made by businesses, and perceived by consumers.

Stop flattering the pretensions of ugly, egalitarian (I repeat myself) hipsters and academicians.

#5 The answer is Yes. Any questions?

All serious arts and music have mostly been in decline since the various avant-garde and post modern movements began in the early 20th century. Sometimes these morphed into retro or post-modernism. But the answer was the same -- massive cultural decline. And yes, I'm an old man. But I'm right. If you disagree, you're wrong.

4. Democracy without limits is mob rule. Liberals are actively subverting the electoral system.

5. Culture of the 20th century reflects the facts of life in that era: It is all about destruction. Following the great wars and conflicts of that era, art became a destruction of art; music became insensible and destructive of music; culture was extremely affected by the military and total war madness which became a culture of madness, pushing the envelope with obscenity upon obscenity; infanticide; destructive politics; killing; assassinations; and, a welfare state that manufactures poor, ignorant and violent people bent on wholesale destruction of civilized society. It wages war on religion and morals to justify violence.
People like the leftist politicians and media personalities that are never held accountable and are above the law; flaunting the law; and writing books about it. Perpetual destruction like perpetual revolution creates chaos. Every wrong must be avenged no matter how long ago it occurred. All this camouflaged under individual rights and righteous symbols or fashion. People don't even see it.

At least you are here to help us see the light.

#3 tracks. I've encountered a lot of Conservatives who do not believe in evolution, and a lot of Liberals who do. In general, I've found that those who oppose evolution (who I believe are very, very wrong) have a better understanding of their opponent's arguments than those who support evolution. Oddly, smugness is inversely proportional to one's understanding of the opponent's arguments. I'd much rather have a conversation with a Creationist than with many who ostensibly are on my side.

(If it's not clear, I am entirely convinced of the validity of the theory of evolution. I have found transitional forms myself, and have held in my hands sufficient tons of evidence to convince any reasonable person. It's not a question of who agrees with me; it's rather the more depressing question of which unreasonable person is being more unreasonable.)

Surely you have to have a way of deciding what to believe when you don't have the time, inclination, or ability to master a topic. You don't think people who believe in evolution but don't understand it (I'm sure >50% of all people) aren't doing better than those who don't believe in evolution?

I imagine anti-evolution people encounter pro-evolution arguments a bit more since they are mainstream. The typical anti-evolution person is like "where did the universe come from then?"

1. Australia has built a 100+ km/h ferry that can haul 1,000 people and 150 cars. We're quite happy to expand on this and branch out to high cruising speed cargo ships. So that's something else cargo airships would need to compete with.

At the moment the fastest cargo ships are car carriers that might manage close to 30 km/h, thanks to the high capital cost of their cargoes. But with lower interest rates these days, there's not as much pressure for high speeds as there was.

I'm wondering what fits in the "slightly perishable" category where people would be willing to pay a premium for airship freight over rail or ship fright.

Sorry, it seems as though it's not that uncommon for cargo ships to travel at over 30 km/h. It appears that depending on the ship and cargo some will cruise at over 40 km/h.

Very interesting, but how does speed affect fuel efficiency and overall cost?

Ships have a cost advantage over airships at 20 km/h. Do they still, at 100 km/h?

Isn't the fundamental physical principle here, that air is a lot thinner than water, and therefore creates less drag? So airships are more fuel-efficient, and the more you push the speed up, the more that matters.

Feel free to e-mail me at Nathan - underscore - Smith - at - ksg03 - dot - harvard - dot - edu, I'd love to discuss further.

At high speeds hydrofoil ships would be used which rise up out of the water to limit drag. There will, of course, still be water drag and air resistance with air being a lot thicker at sea level than 33,000 feet.

At the moment there is only demand for hydrofoils for high speed passenger service. The fact the technology is in use but at its current cost there is no demand for high speed cargo ships suggests there isn't much of a premium for cargo transported across oceans at 100 km/h. Markets often appear after a service comes into existence, but if I was an investor this is something I would consider. I would be looking into what sort of premium faster rail freight carries over slow rail freight to get an idea of what sort of premium cargo airships could receive.

I will email you and repeat my last comments in case you otherwise don't see them, but I am probably out of ideas now.

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