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Mining For Minerals On Asteroids, Or Why 'Cornucopians in Space' Deliver A Dangerously Misguided Message

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Chris Martenson contributor Gregor Macdonald

'Cornucopians in Space' Deliver A Dangerously Misguided Message

Once a year the very chic and exclusive TED conference takes place in Southern California, bringing together entrepreneurs, inventors, and thought leaders from every corner of the world.

There, gathered around a stage, a kind of hivemind begins to unfold in which the most cutting edge ideas in healthcare, energy, social development, and behavioral psychology are shared from a very plugged-in, big screen podium. It’s extremely well done.

And despite the reflexive criticism from outside the conference -- that the gathering is inward looking and elitist -- TED usually does manage to disturb the zeitgeist, a little, with its unveilings in technology and innovation. It is good, plainly so, that next step advances in solar technology, data collection, and developing world health initiatives are explained and broadcasted from TED. Especially given that policy makers, or those who have the ear of policy makers, are also often in attendance.

A better charge to level against the TED conference, however, is that it’s routinely if not unfailingly optimistic.

The 2009 conference, held in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, did not address the unpleasantness of that historic event in any meaningful way. Moreover, very few talks in recent years have addressed energy costs, and especially the price revolution in oil.

In some sense, TED is the techno-innovators’ version of the faith expressed by neo-liberal economics, in which the market solves nearly all of its own problems. The enduring posture at TED, therefore, is one that acknowledges serious world problems, ranging from war to famine, water and food availability, but which nearly always concludes that amazing and ingenious people -- geniuses -- are working to solve the problem. The Great Man theory of history would find each TED conference a comfortable place to be.

So it was perhaps surprising but also encouraging that the January 2012 TED conference finally addressed the subject of Collapse, by inviting Paul Gilding to give his talk The Earth is Full (opens to video).

I’d actually seen a version of Gilding's talk at the Ilhahee Lecture Series here in Portland last fall. Gilding’s view is that we’ve reached a relationship between global population and available natural resources, that makes it inevitable that the economy---a converter of natural resources into goods---will sharply slow down, if it has not started to slow down already. Gilding can be thought of not as a neo-Malthusian, or a doomer, but rather as an ecological economist. (As most readers know, I share this same view.) Gilding looks at trailing historical growth rates -- again, the rate at which natural resources are converted to industrial and population growth -- and concludes that the future size of the economy at these growth rates would create a machine that the earth simply cannot sustain. Again, I agree.

But Gilding’s TED talk was countered, if you will, with a more typical and rousing plea from Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation.

Diamandis, grounded heavily by a personal background in science and medicine, is not naive. His talk, Abundance is Our Future, was a laundry list of fast-moving technological innovations that have transformed poverty rates historically, and which promise to transform quality of life in the years ahead.

One of the most laudable, and humanistic beliefs, advanced by Diamandis is that the 3 billion people remaining to come online to the Internet and telecom networks represents a vast and underutilized supply of human thinking. As a previous educator myself, I find this argument to be powerful.

My quibble with Diamandis and his talk is that the magnitude of the world’s present challenges cannot wait for the array of potential solutions that may start to work at the margins of humanity, even despite his core belief that innovation and its impacts will actually start to speed up. After all, Diamandis is an adherent to technological singularity, the notion that exponential growth in technology will eventually reach a crescendo, thus offering humankind super-solutions at a kind of hyperspeed rate of change. (By the way, I don’t agree with this view.)

Diamandis would go on to further test my ability to follow his arguments, however, when he recently announced a team that will explore the possibility of mineral mining on moving asteroids. I’ve no doubt the public has reacted to this prospect as either impossible, or as another silly story about the grandiose dreams of tech millionaires.

I had a different reaction: why is Diamandis thinking about mineral mining in space, when resources here on Earth -- in his view -- are so abundant?

Blue Sky (Asteroid) Mining 

Although here in America we tend to dumb down complex subjects into simple 'Either-Or' arguments, it was useful to hear the Gilding vs Diamandis debate at TED. In addition to their respective presentations, they had an onstage exchange which you can see here, hosted by Chris Anderson.

One of the major default lines between cornucopian technologists like Diamandis, and thinkers like Gilding, is the role that technology plays in the creation and extraction of resources. In ecological-economics, technology helps us extract resources. But, for folks like Diamandis, technology creates resources. It is both a distinction without a difference and also a distinction with a huge difference, depending on your perspective.

And the implications, depending on that difference, for the future price path of commodities, for inflation, for industrial growth are enormous.

Ask yourself the following. For the technologies which allowed for the increased rate of extraction of coal in the 19th century, or,  which now allow for the increased rate of extraction of natural gas from shale in the 21st century: did those technologies create the resources or merely extract them as they already existed? The answer seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, I want to be sympathetic to the view that technology creates resources, in the sense that technology makes previous unrecognized or unrecoverable resources available. But a threshold I cannot cross, however, is that idea that there are always a new resources waiting to be discovered, if we can only create a technology to obtain them.

Which brings us back to mining for minerals. On asteroids.

Why is Diamandis not pursuing technologies for material upgrading, for example? In material upgrading, the task is to substitute materials once thought inapplicable, for example, to the task of solar manufacturing or electricity transmission. If copper gets too expensive to use for electrical transmission, then some other metal, or combination of metals, or even liquids or gases are used. That’s the theory, anyway.

Why mount energy-intensive missions into space, and run heavy payloads back to earth? Surely the ROI (return on investment) to such efforts would be low, even if the minerals involved commanded a very high price....back on earth.

I think I have one answer to this question, but first, let’s review the business plan, the mission, of Planetary Resources, Inc. From the Los Angeles Times:

A group of 21st-century private space entrepreneurs is expected to unveil an ambitious new venture to mine the surface of near-Earth asteroids in search of precious metals and rare metallic elements. The plan may seem like it was torn from a science fiction novel, and critics say the idea may be far-fetched and difficult for a small company to accomplish. But the company, Planetary Resources Inc., has already drawn an A-list of investors and advisors. The backers include Google Inc. Chief Executive Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, "Avatar" director James Cameron and Microsoft Corp.'s former chief software architect Charles Simonyi...."Humanity has been driven for thousands of years to explore the Earth for resources," said Peter H. Diamandis, the company's co-founder and co-chairman. "The next step is to expand the economic sphere of humanity beyond Earth's confines."

You have to wonder: is it possible that the team behind Planetary Resources accepts that many crucial natural resources, necessary for mobile, greentech, and telecom development are--in truth neither replicable, nor substitutable, nor sufficiently recoverable here on our fair and blue planet?

The Abundance Movement

A flowering of new books, heralding a new age of abundance, have recently appeared, including one from Mr Diamandis.

However, it is worth noting this cultural theme comes after a decade in which the production rate of many natural resources, from oil to gold, to more recently copper, did not speed up but instead either slowed or stagnated in the face of quickly rising prices. Crude oil production has been trapped below a ceiling since 2005. Global production of gold actually fell every year of the past decade until the last two years, but is once again stagnating. Copper production managed to rise the past decade. However, ore grades of copper have been declining for a century, and this is why copper has now repriced at much higher levels, closer to $4.00 per pound. Recent data shows also that the rate of growth of global copper production in the last decade slowed significantly, and stagnated also in the past 24 months.

There’s an important distinction to make, therefore, between an Abundance movement that simply posits we’ll have more of everything, at cheaper prices, in the same style as the past, as opposed to an Abundance movement that is tethered to reality, and realizes that large changes in consumption, values, and lifestyle will be needed to create the next phase of “wealth.”

Authors such as Juliet Schor, who wrote Plentitude, are much more reflective of and respectful of limits, and therefore does not dream of the next phase of mineral mining in outer space. Rather, many “new wealth” thinkers have gravitated instead to a less is more pathway, in which a lot of our previous consumption and time-bankruptcy is finally recognized as waste.

Three Crucial Problems with the “More is More” Abundance Movement

Peter Thiel recently debated George Gilder at ISI (you can open the video at YouTube, here). Thiel made a familiar point, which is that the impact of technological progress has become more narrow. I have treated this issue in previous reports, and pointed to some of the data on which this thesis relies, including the stagnation of Total Factor Productivity, for example.

But Thiel goes on to make a second point which is that belief in rapid, even accelerating technological progress is surely going to cause tremendous mis-allocation of capital. And that’s the first crucial problem I see with the cornucopian abundance movement.

Like a financial system that refuses to accept that tightly coupled structures are risky, and that risk itself grows with in tandem with complexity, the cornucopian abundance approach simply won’t take no for an answer. That means instead of focusing on smaller solutions with more immediate effects, grandiose solutions with long timelines are pursued instead.

The second crucial problem is a failure to consider the limit outlined by Paul Gilding, which is that present growth rates of energy consumption, for example, imply an economy that just about everyone can agree is simply too large for the planet to handle. You simply cannot keep growing the size of the human-created heat engine up to the level of a star. This was articulated beautifully by physicist Tom Murphy in his recent and very wide read post Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist. When problem solvers entirely avoid the subject of limits it is both appealing, and exciting, but eventually it becomes vaguely pathological.

Finally, there are a number of pressing issues already on the planet, which range from the risk created when food production is outsourced by water-starved populations to other continents, to large regions of the world such as Asia attempting to provide increased electrified transport for billions of people. Leapfrog adoption of mobile telecom, and the rise of social networks will no doubt serve to get these emerging voices out to a world eager to learn, and to help with solutions. But celebrating the success of solutions before they’ve actually arrived, indeed well before they’ve arrived, is no solution at all.

Repricing the Planet: Real World Copper as Opposed to Metals in Space

In Part II: The Looming Dislocation Risks Posed By Resource Scarcity, we dive further into the challenges that accompany the acceleration of technology, which relate to de-industrialization and the displacement of human labor with automation.

Previously in the past century this dynamic gave rise to increased productivity, and wealth. But that may no longer be the case. We are not living in a world where any of our critical natural resources are forecasting a radical upswing in supply. Oil and copper, for example, remain decidedly unconcerned about substitution or miracles from space.

Importantly, we will take a closer look at the red metal (no, not the red planet!), also known as Dr. Copper. What happened to global copper production this past decade as the price rose? And how crucial will copper become, as the world tries to transition away from transport based on liquid BTU?

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access) 


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Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:19 | 2410955 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

The poetry of an article on ZH accusing another organization of posessing a 'hivemind' is just beautiful :)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:26 | 2410986 GeneMarchbanks
GeneMarchbanks's picture

Martensons people don't really reflect the ZH crowd, IMO.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:30 | 2411004 Aziz
Aziz's picture

We tend, I think to be quite anti-Malthusian. 

Also I think asteroid mining seems f'n cool, and it's their own money (private investment in a free market, whodathunk??) not some government subsidy cash like Solyndra.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:35 | 2411023 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Talk about f'n cool.

At $1,500 an ounce... nudging an 88,888 tonne platinum meteorite down out of orbit to Beijing pays off our $4T debt.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:36 | 2411032 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

Except for what that would do to the price of platinum, of course :)

Though, to his credit, Diamandis claims nothing would make him happier than to see platinum-group metals and gold become super cheap as a result of a big haul because of how much it would reduce the price of important technologies.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:44 | 2411041 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Since when have financial markets ever been constrained by actual physical supply and demand?

I'd be a bit more worried about Beijing myself... :)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:46 | 2411065 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

Actually, there is no plan to bring asteroids to the surface of earth, only to capture them in near-earth orbit where they can be safely mined.  Even then, the biggest benefit is not necessarily from bringing the resources back to earth.  While that is probably economical for platinum-group metals and gold, the bigger win may well be mining the ice and iron for use in space itself.  It turns out those resources are very useful in space, and the cost to get them there from earth per ounce is far more than the preciousest of metals.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:00 | 2411139 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Yup... 'safely' mined in NEO when it's light years cheaper to do it on the ground or in deep water. Hmm... where have I heard that before?

(Just so long as BP and and the Interplanetary MMS aren't involved! ;)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:26 | 2411217 Ying-Yang
Ying-Yang's picture

Just a thought.... if a company mines an asteroid and in doing so changes the asteroid's trajectory would they be held liable for damages if it slammed into the earth?

Asteroid Mining Liability Insurance anyone?

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 02:04 | 2412347 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Yin Yang, actually it's much worse than that. Asteroids are nto random wanderers in the system. In inter-connectivity of evverything and the resulting balance, Asteroids are carriers/messengers/balancers. I'd encourage anyone who thinks this has a chance in hell of suceeding, check out the Electric Universe theory of Thornhill and Someone.

This is typical human over-reach. Keeping people distracted farther and farther away, while the world in front of your nose collapses.

NASA should be shut down, tomorrow. Waste of money, dark projects galore, false information disseminated....



Thu, 05/10/2012 - 08:00 | 2412623 Ar-Pharazôn
Ar-Pharazôn's picture

a 100 meters asteroid is enough to destroy everything on earth... so i would not worry about who is liable for the dmgs.......

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:28 | 2411230 ihedgemyhedges
ihedgemyhedges's picture

If Obama gets a second term, this would be an ideal place to use Al Gore's genius. I can see the headline now:


Mining Asteroids Spacestation To Unleash Rare Black Aggregates Toward Energy Requirements

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:38 | 2411252 Jena
Jena's picture

With a Taiwanese reinactment of uhm.. any scene, whether you wanted it or not.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:15 | 2411517 dumbfounded
dumbfounded's picture

Thanks for pointing that out. Seems most people have a too earth centric view of this venture. Indeed the case for in-space utilisation of the resources seems to be the more compelling one, albeit not necessarily an easy one to make either. The long term idea, I guess, is to have parts of the economy that are located in space and completely driven by materials and energy obtained in space. Is this easy ? Certainly not! Is it possible ? Maybe, maybe not, but we won’t know till someone tries.

Oh and regardless of the answer we still need to get our shit together down here.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 05:45 | 2412494 margaris
margaris's picture

Thats the plan.

And the next problem will be how to get to space cheap and easily, and back to earth.

The coolest idea to achieve that is a Space Elevator:

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 05:46 | 2412495 margaris
margaris's picture

Double post

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:19 | 2411519 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

Why in the hell do they think that water will be valuable? Don't you need people and a business producing tangible goods to use the water to make it have value?. The scientific study platform of the space station is already in place but no great quantities of supervaluable product is coming back from there, is there? Plus doesn't any loose water in space if in the sun just boil off into gas molecules? Most asteroids rotate and none of the pictures show white snowy patches. Is the water bound to other chemicals? Are they planning on shipping up water based acids to unbind the asteroid water?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:51 | 2411593 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

So yea, water is heavy and necessary for humans in space, so it would be nice to have it already out of the giant gravity well that is earth. 

However, the more important point is that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, both of which make damned fine rocket fuels.  An ice-heavy asteroid in NEO could be a gas station of immense value.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 03:03 | 2412395 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Hydrolysis powered by solar panels?

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 18:24 | 2415101 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

To go where and do what for value?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:51 | 2411096 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Why go into space to mine an asteroid?  Gravity is always pulling asteroids down to earth, however they always seem to burn up.

That's the good news.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:43 | 2411276 rocker
rocker's picture

Why mine in space. If all the mining stocks are going down as are all commodity prices.

Please. Mining Stocks are a bad investment here. What would make them better in space?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:35 | 2411415 Matt
Matt's picture

Well, except for that time when the asteroid wiped out 90 percent of all life on Earth. Or that one ~12,900 years ago that wiped out everyone in North America. Or that one that luckily blew up in Siberia, rather than over a large inhabited area. Or that huge cluster that fortunately slammed into Jupiter instead of us a few years ago.

Once you have the mining equipment in space, and the fuel is all produced in space, you save the obscene costs of transporting materials unto space. Would be nice to see a projected cost-benefit analysis as to how much of which minerals would have to be mined to pay for the initial investment.

However, if you consider protecting humanity from extinction by falling rock a national security issue, and you view space mining as using the same equipment you would use to divert asteroids, comets and meteors from killing all of us, you might see some place for public money involvement.

Could be NASA builds the lunar fuel station, and sells the fuel at a profit to private companies that mine the asteroids. There definitely needs to be a clear line between what is private and what is publicly funded.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 22:39 | 2412032 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

I will agree to this extent.  Let's mine any asteroid with real potential to wipe out the earth.  The minerals would be a bonus.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 22:58 | 2412083 Nassim
Nassim's picture

I am interested in their take on healthcare - what many people I know consider to be "sickcare". The one thing they will never promote is prevention. Yes, prevention is the low-cost fruit - a fruit that the sickcare industry prefers to ignore. They prefer complexity, because that is how they get rich on your backs.

Here is how a whole host of infectious sexually-transmitted diseases can be consigned to the dustbin of history. Do you think they care? No chance.

When I dreamt this FDA-approved concept, there was no Facebook or internet. Cell phones were still in the future. It hardly bears mentioning that these devices make my concept that much more feasible ... if they really cared

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:39 | 2411426 Piranhanoia
Piranhanoia's picture

Do you recognize that you are a part of the problem?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:43 | 2411056 Levadiakos
Levadiakos's picture

Thar's gold in dem dare hills............Oh Wait

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 08:16 | 2412653 margaris
margaris's picture

asteroids have hills.

Its only that after you climb two hills, you see the same hills before you again.

(you go around the asteroid in 2 minutes walking)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:50 | 2411829 Taint Boil
Taint Boil's picture



Ah, the new space bubble coming, hmmm sounds good huh, more fodder for the sheeple:


Such a mining operation would retrieve 300 times more energy than it uses (including all the energy to fly to the moon and back), Kulcinski estimates. In comparison, mining coal returns 15-20 times the energy put in. His team has estimated that it might cost around $800 million to bring back each ton of lunar helium-3.


This might sound like a lot, but if you could sell the fusion energy at a price comparable to gasoline based on oil at $100 per barrel, the helium-3 would be worth $10 billion per ton.




Martensons people don't really reflect the ZH crowd, IMO.


Martenson is good - really good (and smart). But the site and his followers do have a bit of a nerdy aftertaste.


Thu, 05/10/2012 - 17:53 | 2414927 NaN
NaN's picture

Nerdy is now a compliment; smart without an axe to grind. 


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:34 | 2411021 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture

Timothy Leary

While he continued to use drugs frequently on a private basis, rather than evangelizing and proselytizing the use of psychedelics as he had in the 1960s, the latter day Leary emphasized the importance of space colonization and an ensuing extension of the human lifespan while also providing a detailed explanation of the eight-circuit model of consciousness in books such as Info-Psychology, among several others. He adopted the acronym "SMI²LE" as a succinct summary of his pre-transhumanist agenda: SM (Space Migration) + (intelligence increase) + LE (Life extension). Leary credited L5 co-founder Keith Henson with helping develop his interest in space migration.

Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and John C. Lilly in 1991

Leary's colonization plan varied greatly through the years. Because he believed that he would soon migrate into space, Leary was opposed to the ecology movement. He dismissed many of Earth's problems and labeled the entire field of ecology "a seductive dinosaur science." Leary stated that only the "larval," intellectually and philosophically backward humans, would choose to remain in "the fouled nest." According to his initial plan to leave the planet, 5,000 of Earth's most virile and intelligent individuals would be launched on a vessel (Starseed 1) equipped with luxurious amenities. This idea was inspired by the plotline of Paul Kantner's concept album Blows Against The Empire, which in turn was derived from Robert A. Heinlein's Lazarus Long series. In the 1980s, he came to embrace NASA scientist Gerard O'Neill's more realistic and egalitarian plans to construct giant Eden-like High Orbital Mini-Earths (documented in the Robert Anton Wilson lecture H.O.M.E.s on LaGrange) using existing technology and raw materials from the Moon, orbital rock and obsolete satellites.

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure originally described by Freeman Dyson. Such a "sphere" would be a system of orbiting solar power satellites meant to completely encompass a star and capture most or all of its energy output. Dyson speculated that such structures would be the logical consequence of the long-term survival and escalating energy needs of a technological civilization, and proposed that searching for evidence of the existence of such structures might lead to the detection of advanced intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Since then, other variant designs involving building an artificial structure or series of structures to encompass a star have been proposed in exploratory engineering or described in science fiction under the name "Dyson sphere". These later proposals have not been limited to solar-power stations. Many involve habitation or industrial elements. Most fictional depictions describe a solid shell of matter enclosing a star, which is considered the least plausible variant of the idea (see below).


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:16 | 2411720 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

Acid has a distinct technological/transhumanist agenda.  It's not just Leary.  Read anything written by Rudy Rucker and crew.  It has inspired technologies (mostly computer and DNA related, most notably PCR).  Some friends and I also know of this agenda directly.  The ultimate goal is to link up with aliens and turn the whole universe into a transcendent emergent mind.  By controlling wavefunction collapse, God creates from the future and draws skeins of reality towards Him.  This creation event is as important as the Big Bang.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. 

After the Illuminati are exposed and crippled, there will be a great technological renaissance.  This is also part of the agenda.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:26 | 2411772 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

"Acid" is just a chemical, it doesn't have an agenda.

It sure has helped some people achieve some insights, though, eh?

The intersection of the spiritual and the physical is chemical.

Sat, 05/12/2012 - 04:02 | 2419556 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

P.S.  The beings of light can Will each other into existence in a cosmic blink of an eye.  All civilizations can light up together.  It is happening now.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:21 | 2410957 Manthong
Manthong's picture

Can I interest anyone in my start-up to design the world's first commercially viable replicators, warp drives, transporters, and holo-decks?

The phasers and disruptors are already spoken for by China.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:21 | 2410966 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

That depends - do you have a realistic path for developing these technologies, broken into incremental achievable steps with sound cost analysis for each, and billions of dollars in supporting funds from entrepreneurs with proven track records?  If so, then yes, I am interested.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:34 | 2411018 pods
pods's picture

He has none of that, but actually has something better.

He has the ear of a Senator who sits on the DARPA committee and plays golf with several honchos at the DOE.

Why work hard when you can work smart?


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:47 | 2411077 Manthong
Manthong's picture

Um.. sometimes you just have to have hope for change that you can win the future with fundamental transformation because we are the ones we have been waiting for.

It’s not a matter of winning life’s lottery when you have a thousand points of light to illuminate the shining city on a hill and vanquish the nattering nabobs of negativity.

You have nothing to fear but fear itself and  can get in on the ground floor in this opportunity that will help produce a great society and win the wars on poverty, crime, drugs and terror.

Isn’t that good enough you? It’s good enough to keep millions of people handing over trillions of dollars for similar schemes and illusions.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:38 | 2411255 XitSam
XitSam's picture

"we are the ones we have been waiting for" always struck me as strange.  Like Godot was in the room the whole time.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:21 | 2410965 deepsouthdoug
deepsouthdoug's picture

RELAX - It will never be economical.  Market forces will prevail.  Now if they ever find large blobs of oil floating in space, then it will be drill baby drill.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:28 | 2410994 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

It will be very economical the instant the UN outlaws most terrestrial mining activities. Politcal forces will prevail (sponsored by "Save the Earth" idiots), enriching themselves and their crony monoplists it will empower.

I find it amusing that this article was as devoid of reality (ala the criminals and their "Law of Rule") as the TED conferences. Summing it all up...

"My delusion is better than yours!"


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:30 | 2411002 El Viejo
El Viejo's picture

or "I reject your reality and substitute my own."  Mythbusters

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:38 | 2411040 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Speaking of reality. EVERY discussion of "peak population" requires the phrase "at a certain standard of living." Yet, rarely, if ever, is it included. Instead you'll see one aggregate equation after another without any accounting for it.

Why? Because it brings up the question of what standard is too low, or too high, which is always a matter of personal preference. And individuals, as we all have been taught, are inferior to "the greater good," which can only be determined by TEDbots et al.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:54 | 2411111 El Viejo
El Viejo's picture

"You will always have the poor with you."  Jesus

Must be something to do with bell shaped curves.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 00:05 | 2412204 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

It's because "Poor" is a state of mind!

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:48 | 2411079 Seer
Seer's picture

Obviously you're not in one of trashed countries that doesn't care about protecting the environment.

I encourage people to stop painting in broad brush strokes.  There is legitimate environmental concerns and then there are those who would profit (fairly or unfairly) off of promoting a given stance.  Sadly, those who are intellectually lazy cannot make the distinction.

More people need to see how livestock are managed to understand what can happen when there's little regard for an environment. (or, conversely, how WELL an environment can be maintained with livestock loading)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:48 | 2411451 smb12321
smb12321's picture

I blame the "environmentalists" for their general dislike.  Their absurd pronouncements  - "massive, frequent hurricanes" after Katrina (period since is quietest on record) or "will run out of ____ (fill in natural resource)0 or half the world will "soon" be dying of famine or 2/3 of all species will be extinct in 10 years, etc.   There's the emphasis on the US & Europe while ignoring the real problem (Asia).

I come from a long line of "conservationists" who were "green" and buying "local" long before it became MSM buzz words. The politicalization of the environmental movement has done exactly opposite of the space program - engendered hatred, authoritarianism, held back accomplishments and turned what should be a popular subject into one for universal debate.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:27 | 2411652 Diet Coke and F...
Diet Coke and Floozies's picture

LMAO at "My delusion is better than yours!"

This comment applies to everyone!

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:28 | 2410995 Uncle Remus
Uncle Remus's picture

Suck baby suck.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:13 | 2410969 El Viejo
El Viejo's picture

While they are at it they might wanna bring back some oxygen and something that will absorb radiation and CO2. HMM maybe we could move all manufacturing and toxic dumps to the moon.

I like the old idea of a rail gun shooting toxic waste off the planet and into the Sun.  

Put it down as one of the three - now four choices for death row inmates. (A rail gun ride to never land.)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:23 | 2410970 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Ummm... does this article have a point?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:24 | 2410980 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

Billionaires are privvy to a special form of delusion and stupidity.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:29 | 2410998 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

Funny, I just used the word delusion to describe this article AND TED.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:18 | 2411203 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

I too am a TED hater. It is pseudointellectual, anti-philosophical claptrap designed to thoughtlessly extend the most ridiculous civilization ever created: the Totalitarian Mercantile System known as "Consumer Society."

But I mispelled "privy" above, so I'm not that smart either.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:26 | 2410982 Sophist Economicus
Sophist Economicus's picture

YEs.   Chris is really, really smart because he was once an engineer and a teacher, and unlike all the other folks that have preceeded him over the centuries, THIS TIME, we really are going to run out of resources and all starve to death.   Geez...

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:59 | 2411331 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

You do realize that in the boy who cried wolf story, the wolf really does eventually show up and kill everyone?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:08 | 2411493 geoffb
geoffb's picture

Pleny of mass starvation going on here just in case you missed the last few 1000 years. We just have to make sure some elites make it through in the space pod to save the gene pool. Oh wait, that means I don't . . .

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:26 | 2410988 Non-overlapping...
Non-overlappingMagicCereal's picture

Why yes, to piggyback on the notoriety of a legitimate and cutting-edge enterprise in order to hawk subscriptions to a personal website/newsletter by exploiting an emotional attachment to the performance of a particular sort of asset.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:27 | 2410990 GeneMarchbanks
GeneMarchbanks's picture

The point is drugs are bad.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:33 | 2411020 ThirdWorldDude
ThirdWorldDude's picture


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:52 | 2411700 tmosley
tmosley's picture

"You can't do X."

Replace X with any technological challenge, whether it is flight, men walking on the moon, or feeding 7 billion people.  Pure, abject defeatism.

We have already gone through one singularity, the industrial revolution.  During that singularity, we went from relying purely on wood fuels and manual and animal labor to a number of modern energy sources, and mechanical labor supplimented by electricity.  The notion that such a revolution can't or won't ever happen again is just idiotic.

He also misses the point of asteroid mining, which is NOT the delivery of PMs to the Earth, but the delivery of air, water, and other basic resources to Earth orbit, something that will reduce the cost of manned missions by an order of magnitude, and allow for the construction of much larger space stations, spaceships, zero-g factories, solar cell manufacturing centers (for use in geostationary power stations), etc.

Defeatists can get the fuck out of the way, and let the MEN do the work.  Don't whine when you wind up as a member of the lowest class in the new society, only able to afford a small apartment on a remote asteroid with access to products and technologies that we can't even dream of today, but less so than those who actually did things with their lives other than whining and cringing about peak theory.

Resources are EVERYWHERE.  Technology allows us to exploit them.  The next step in energy production is thorium.  After that, who knows?  Maybe fusion, maybe something much better, like matter editation ie direct conversion of matter to energy and back as you like it.  Sure, oil won't take us all the way there, just like charcoal and whale oil didn't take us to the Moon.  But so what?  There are other resources out there, and in enormous abundance.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 03:09 | 2412401 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

During that singularity, we went from relying purely on wood fuels and manual and animal labor to a number of modern energy sources, and mechanical labor supplimented by electricity. The notion that such a revolution can't or won't ever happen again is just idiotic.


Machines existed prior the industrial period.

Cranes are machines. That is the origin of the name.

Mills are machines. They were powered by wind or hydraulics before the industrial revolution.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 04:53 | 2412467 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous said:


Machines existed prior the industrial period.

Yes, it is truth, and all of them invented by US citizenism.

Cranes are machines. That is the origin of the name.

Mills are machines. They were powered by wind or hydraulics before the industrial revolution.

All powered by US citizenism for the benefit of humanity.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:22 | 2410972 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture
I am reminded of the great Alfred Bester, who cast an asteroid miner as an independent space jockey quoting self-written poetry:
Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination
Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:26 | 2410993 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture

Jim in MN


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:23 | 2410973 CharliePrince
CharliePrince's picture


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:24 | 2410974 F. Bastiat
F. Bastiat's picture

Quite frankly, it's probably easier to mine for minerals on asteroids than in South Africa, for example.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:23 | 2410975 bugs_
bugs_'s picture

Collateralized Asteroid Swaps

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:33 | 2410981 LouisDega
LouisDega's picture

Man, This is fucking deep. I listened to Pink Floyds Several species of small furry animals gathered together in a cave and grooving with a pict from Ummagumma whilst reading it. It sure beats weed.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:35 | 2411027 pods
pods's picture

Funny, I actually have on The Final Cut as I type this.


Thu, 05/10/2012 - 18:01 | 2414961 NaN
NaN's picture

Ah, Ummagumma, I know it well, and the legendary bootleg Ohm Sweet Ohm.

There is a reason why early Pink Floyd is know to be First in Space.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:26 | 2410989 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Yes, if the earth resources are indeed so abundant why go anywhere else.  I don't worry about the planet, Nature will indeed fix all this;

peak human arrogance.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:31 | 2411007 NotApplicable
NotApplicable's picture

It'd be hilarious to hijack TED's AV system and run that video at their conference.

They'd likely burn the building down just to destroy all evidence of it ever occurring.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:00 | 2411150 Seer
Seer's picture

It's just another in the never-(seeming to)-ending means by which the elites control the masses- give them busy work so they don't see that they're performing slave labor.


1) Humans DO have an impact on the environment AND they can delay some of the consequences of their actions;

2) There WILL be a next glacial period AND there's nothing that humans can do to stop it (perhaps the time-frame could be somewhat altered, though the impact would likely be insignificant).

The other end of this spectrum is the Doomsday Seed Vault.  This is already in operation/production.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:58 | 2411709 tmosley
tmosley's picture

To get away from our oppressive and overbearing (not to mention self destructing) governments?

Besides that, why do men have to have a reason to go to where resources float, unclaimed?

Humans aren't arrogant so much as capable.  We don't need to suffer fools who say "You can't" anymore than we needed them in the past.  "You can't go faster than 30mph." "You can't fly."  "You can't go faster than the speed of sound." "You can't survive in space." "You can't walk upon the Moon." "You can't dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench."

Every time, the fools are proven wrong.  For someone with the user name "Laws of Physics", you sure don't have much trust in man's ability to understand and exploit science and technology.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:31 | 2411008 Uncle Remus
Uncle Remus's picture

Paging Ellen Ripley.


I say we move the Statue of Liberty to the Moon.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:39 | 2411045 HD
HD's picture

They blew it up. Damn dirty apes.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:32 | 2411009 Dr. Acula
Dr. Acula's picture

"present growth rates of energy consumption, for example, imply an economy that just about everyone can agree is simply too large for the planet to handle. "

It's not profitable to get off this dump yet. Maybe in a couple centuries.

"we dive further into the challenges that accompany the acceleration of technology, which relate to de-industrialization and the displacement of human labor with automation."

This is an old topic. Read Economics in One Lesson.

"Oil and copper, for example, remain decidedly unconcerned about substitution or miracles from space."

They respond to demand elasticity.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:33 | 2411015 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Anti-gravity dollars from Helicopter Ben.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:34 | 2411017 Miles Kendig
Miles Kendig's picture

Gregor, always a great read, agreed or not.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:37 | 2411033 Zymurguy
Zymurguy's picture

Off topic, sorry:

Japan to nationalize TEPCO???

Marketwatch is reporting...

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:38 | 2411038 HD
HD's picture

There is a barbarous relic gold nugget the size of a grown mans fist deep within Ben Bernanke's skull. First one to mine it out wins!*

 *Attempted humor - for comedic purpose only. Statement is not a threat or advocation of homicide. However, if you get the chance to kick Ben in the balls...that would probably cool with everyone.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:45 | 2411063 kevinearick
kevinearick's picture

Bad Banks (Hunting Asteroids)

You already have a bad bank, hiding US & Japanese municipal bankruptcies, among other sordid sins, and it’s imploding. It’s called China, which has neither the demographic nor the natural resource bases to become the next empire, and it has already learned its lesson in empire economics anyway, which is why the Chinese scoff at the hypocrite nations when they plead for civil rights or currency revaluation. Americans may temporarily choose not to see Apple/Google for what it is, empire TV on a tablet, but the Chinese do not have that luxury.

Empires are built from the bottom up. Their operation is a derivative of derivatives. All fingers pointing at the other side of the balloon is make-work. Bank prints the money/credit/debt and determines who gets to spend it on issue. After that, it relies upon population anxiety driven by the empire’s divide and conquer regime to get something for nothing from the income feedback, as participants sell each other out. Future children are the easiest to sell out and the system implodes when the demographic ponzi collapses.

Those commodity contracts are not worth the space they occupy in the digital currency black box, because the participating governments, along with all other fraudulent claims, are illegitimate, like the offspring they propagate. If you look at the fundamental economic drivers, you will see that they are parents, many of which allow themselves to be controlled by the digital misdirection feedback, and some that do not.

Provide proper feedback to your effective parents and they will provide you with the necessary education. Your energy problems will solve themselves, first in spirit, then in mind, and then in body politic. The empire is a system, and all mature systems have very few individual errors. Life is all about trial and error, and the intelligent employ its result effectively.

Let’s see, we can leave intelligent people alone to work and raise their families, which benefits us all, or we can regulate them into poverty and put them in jail for failing to pay their taxes. When the idiots that think they are in charge choke, to set the price, the Navy will be rolled out. In the meantime, principal sunk cost grows exponentially upon reversion.

Quantum results only appear to be something for nothing, because the investments are not recognized at the time they are made. Time is an empire perception of recognition. Dumb and full of cum has no probability of recovering its pension promise. Take 2 Viagra and call again.

With a second kid under 21 in the car, the probability of a fatal wreck increases by over 40%, and over 300% with 3. Is the solution:

 A)    increasing the premium; B) implementing smart cars; C) raising the age to drive;

D) raising the age to vote; or E) none of the above?

Those little thingies sleeping, and processing, in a crib at night are observing people lie all day long, first in spirit, then in mind, and then in body. Parents retire their debt to God, the unknown, when they die.

How does your job improve the character of your nation? What is the product, how does it serve nature, and what is your profit? Who is the ultimate taxpayer that provides others with the means to pay taxes and collect tax subsidies?

The original bid was dismantling Family Law. The next bid was $2T. The current bid is $16T. The likely outcome is replacing the American Enterprise System.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:45 | 2411067 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Help. There is a young snorgtee girl in her underwear advertising something but the ad doesn't say what.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:13 | 2411190 LFMayor
LFMayor's picture

and why are you bitching?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:49 | 2411078 spentCartridge
spentCartridge's picture

I want them to mine the Moon.

More specifically, the acre my father bought me for Christmas several years ago, if they go there and start digging holes on my land without my permission, well, I want my cut.


Or else :)

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:54 | 2411112 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

The moon  is made of green cheese.  And that is precisely what we do not need: more green cheese.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:02 | 2411483 Piranhanoia
Piranhanoia's picture

Orange cheese. If your cow or goat give orange milk,  green cheese looks better and better. Maybe it is only green on the outside?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:50 | 2411089 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

  One of the major default lines between cornucopian technologists like Diamandis, and thinkers like Gilding, is the role that technology plays in the creation and extraction of resources. In ecological-economics, technology helps us extract resources. But, for folks like Diamandis, technology creates resources. It is both a distinction without a difference and also a distinction with a huge difference, depending on your perspective.

And the implications, depending on that difference, for the future price path of commodities, for inflation, for industrial growth are enormous.

Ya really kinda need to clarify what you mean by "resource" or the question framed here doesn't make any sense.

People have a tendency to think of money as a "resource," but it can't be mapped meaningfully onto things like rocks or chemicals because it's more just a placeholder.

So is it?  Is "money" a resource?  Or do you want to restrict focus to physical objects only?

Of course, people have a tendency to think of time as a resource, too, and that's not a physical object at all, no matter how you look at it.

And "energy" must surely be a resource independent of the various storage media.  The overwhelming majority of energy flowing into the Earth's ecosystem is ignored by mankind.  If we harvested 1% of that flow, would that be "creation" or "extraction"?  Does that question even make sense?

The reason guys want to fly into space and mine asteroids is because it's a cool idea, and because it would require the creation of infrastructure which would be early steps towards getting us off this fuckin' rock.  It's not about money, and if you can't think of such things in terms OTHER THAN profitability, you'll never understand the folks who do.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:35 | 2411247 Seer
Seer's picture

If we harvested 1% of that flow, would that be "creation" or "extraction"?

The key word (used) is "mining."  That would suggest that it's operating against a limited quantity.  Solar is and isn't limited; well, for the sake of this current inter-glacial human occupation solar will be around "forever;" but, the sun WILL burn out eventually, so in this longer-horizon it IS limited.  Oh, and yes, there's a limit on the amount of solar that can be captured on a daily basis: and no, it can't all be used for human consumption.

The reason guys want to fly into space and mine asteroids is because it's a cool idea, and because it would require the creation of infrastructure which would be early steps towards getting us off this fuckin' rock.

Not all ideas should be acted upon.

Seems both religion and science are engrossed in escapism.  I'd love for BOTH to just leave the planet and allow those who like this "fuckin' rock" to live in peace.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:49 | 2411293 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Are you saying you're opposed to exploring options in space?

As you noted: the sun is expected to burn out.  One of the popular sci-fi premises for interstellar travel is that a species' home planet becomes uninhabitable.  This planet is expected to be uninhabitable someday, so being opposed to exploring space might imply preferring the extinction of humanity.

If you're a homebody, more power to you.  My feelings aren't that strong on the subject either way.  I'd definitely like to visit space for a bit, but I'm pretty happy here too and don't (thus far) want to leave. 

I also don't have anything against the human species, and would be delighted to see us get our shit together. 

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:50 | 2411091 reTARD
reTARD's picture

Because it takes no energy at all to go to space let alone mine for resources off asteroids or other planets to then transport back for possible refining. EROI (energy return on investments) as Srrocco would agree is the ultimate key regarding energy and resources.

People dream that alternative and green energy would save the day but so far every form requires energy input in order to re-organize molecules into a more usable form of stored energy. Look for the following words as they all mean required energy inputs: process, heat, convert.

In my mind there is only one currently utilized, truly "free" energy and that is sunlight. Sunlight has been difficult to store (batteries/capacitors aren't easy or cheap) when the sun sets. And the only truly "free" storage of sunlight energy has been "black gold" or crude oil and to some extent as plant food with the plants doing the photosynthesis processing.

We might eventually add one more "free" energy if we figure out how to ulitize the natural +/- magnetically repelling forces into useful motion.

But in general, nothing in the universe technically gets consume or destroyed. The molecules only get rearranged into less useful forms.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:38 | 2411260 Seer
Seer's picture

Yup!  Matter can neither be created or destroyed (I'm sure that given enough energy it's possible, though such energy would probably consume every one of us).

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:51 | 2411093 Borodog
Borodog's picture

I couldn't even finish reading this it's so bad. Very, very obviously the author has zero conception of the quantity and quality of resources available in asteroids. Nickel-iron asteroids, for example, are practically pure metal. That means that you do no have to go through tons of ore to get a few pounds of metal. The quantities involved are almost inconceivable; a single nickel-iron asteroid would contain literally trillions of dollars worth of minerals, a greater volume that all minerals ever extracted in the history of the world. There are literally billions of these things floating around. Some are in very easily accessible near-Earth orbit. It would quite literally transform markets utterly, totally, completely. It would be a phase change in resource availability. Not to mention, who would NOT want to mine asteroids rather than strip mine and pollute the Earth? Isn't that a no brainer? As for getting the stuff back to Earth, that's the easy part. The hard part is getting UP the gravity well, not back down it.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:17 | 2411198 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

LOL.  And what will the energetic  return on the energetic investment be?  If you don't get back more energy every time you spend it getting out of that well, then eventually you are stuck in the well forever.

I sure hope you don't balance your checkbook with your logic.  Unless you are bringing back huge energy reserves (is there oil in space?) then this a fucking huge mal-investment of resources.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:40 | 2411265 Seer
Seer's picture

"I sure hope you don't balance your checkbook with your logic."

The larger fear would be that it/he/she would propagate!

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:59 | 2411717 tmosley
tmosley's picture

I'm sure there are no sources of energy in space.  Ignore the gigantic fucking floating fission reactor, as well as all the fissile material throughout the solar system.  

lol, as if they Spanish came to America in search of WOOD.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 21:37 | 2411889 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

The Rotovator (rotating space elevator) efficiently exchanges energy and angular momentum between arriving and departing ships.  The physics checkbook balances without needing to use rockets except to get the thing up there and counter small amounts of atmospheric drag.  It's short enough it doesn't even need to be made of carbon nanotubes.  The economics should be very favorable if there is a large amount of ore coming to Earth and an equal mass of machinery leaving.

We will need something like this in order to establish self-sufficient outposts away from this prison planet.  Which is probably why we haven't built this yet.  The puppetmasters are afraid we will get our mojo back with Space Wild West.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:06 | 2411344 bIlluminati
bIlluminati's picture

And the energy cost to retrieve is close to zero. It only takes concentrated energy to move UP the gravity well. DOWN can be done by friction, and is practically free. Strictly an engineering problem.

But the mining companies and the Sierra Club would unite to oppse it, so it's not going to be a U.S. company that does it. My guess is the Chinese, with Russia and India second and third. And I wouldn't rule out Saudi Arabia funding and Pakistani rocket company. Point is, when we are talking trillions in minerals, the job will get done.

In 2012, energy is a political problem, not an engineering one. Note the recent price curve for natural gas. The Sierra Club does not have deep enough pockets to oppse that alone, but with Buffett owning a big railroad, it's jest a matter of following the money.

By 2030,  it will be back to an engineering problem, but one with at least three solutions. Choices are good (thorium, breeder reactors, and space based solutions).

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:35 | 2411669 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

That metal stuff is just junk slag. Didn't you read planetary resources press release? The real money is in water!!! It's worth it's weight in credit default swaps that are paid off one hundred cents on the dollar.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 22:25 | 2411780 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

I propose the giant metal asteroid 16 Psyche.  It seems to be the core of a protoplanet which was later smashed and then re-assembled under its own gravity.  Fragments from the center of the core could now be on the surface.  Guess where all the very dense gold and platinum would have been concentrated when the core was molten?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:51 | 2411106 viator
viator's picture

Martenson is a peak oil Ehrlichian.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:53 | 2411110 youngman
youngman's picture

I have this problem of a very heavy weight ship coming back into our orbit.....seems like there might be a little physics problems there......why not just buy everyone a baseball glove and have them stand outside and try to catch the ones coming here every day and night.....they are easier to see at night....

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:38 | 2411254 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

That is the problem I have with the whole thing. We can barely land a small capsule, the shuttle was a major undertaking. How in the hell are they going to land tons of ore, enough to make the venture meaningful? Even if they wanted to utilize it on the moon , then you have the problem of processing it.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:05 | 2411726 tmosley
tmosley's picture

We can barely land a capsule without it flying off into space or burning up in the atmosphere.  The problem with getting back has never been crash landing, because by the time you get to land, there is nothing left.

Also, it is hard to get something to crash onto a planet.  You either have to be travelling at super speed relative to Earth, or you have to nudge it with spectacular precision.  It simply isn't going to happen by accident.

Also, the main point isn't the ore, it's the water and the air, which are very expensive to get out of Earth's gravity well.  Ore is only a happy byproduct of that process.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:44 | 2411685 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

Just let those super ingots randomly wreck up the place on the way down. Even if they fall in the marianas trench we will make money by selling the rights to the story of how we went down and got it out. Chances are that it will land right next to a super factory anyway and it will still be hot so we can roll it right into the stamping presses at minimal cost.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:54 | 2411119 bankruptcylawyer
bankruptcylawyer's picture

I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut but there is zero chance anyone would invest in these projects. They are beyond unrealistic. The annou.cement of private space projects is a cover for our military to engage in deceptive space tactics.

'acvidents' and other supposed failures and stories are cover for actual secret projects. Tgere is little that can be described as more top secret than our military space operations. They are at the heart of our near real time omniscience all seeing calabilities.
East space dust....bitchez.
Talk about assymetric warfare. Sattelites and space craft have redefined assymetry by about 300 miles worth of orbital altitude.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:44 | 2411275 Seer
Seer's picture

"I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut but there is zero chance anyone would WILLINGLY invest in these projects."

Fixed it! (Think: "cash for comet clunkers!")

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:55 | 2411121 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

Many of the world's problems could be solved if governments were to spend their moneys on solving the problems of the future.  Instead, governments all tend toward spending all their money on the past.  Think about the U.S. budget.  How much of it is actually spent developing solutions for energy, food, shelter, etc?  Even the few real Fed R&D programs are all oriented toward channeling money toward the same dogmatic wastrels: military, pharma, coal, oil, nuclear, etc.  Just think what would happen if $100B a year went toward solar photovoltaic research.  Panels would ride a Moore's Law to 80% efficiency and people would fossil fuels for the filthy beasts that they are.  Am I dreaming?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:50 | 2411294 Seer
Seer's picture

"Am I dreaming?"

Well, you're missing the BIG PICTURE, and that's that energy is only PART of the equation.  Look around you and see what people are actually doing with energy- imagine much more of the same being done.  You can completely remove govt and apply all such energy toward what you see going on.

Reminder: 2/3 of the world's population lives on $3/day or less; if you can get rid of these people then everyone will prosper! (</sarc>)

Regarding efficiency: Jevons Paradox.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 21:39 | 2411924 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

When it comes to the standard of living ... energy is the big picture.  The two go hand in hand.  The government throws trillions at the military, the elderly, boondoggle projects, bureaucrats, and zero or negative return expenditures.  All I'm saying is take a few percent of that and invest in the future. That's not hard economically.  Impossible politically.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:50 | 2411298 OldTrooper
OldTrooper's picture

Just think what would happen if $100B a year went toward solar photovoltaic research.

Let me guess - we'd have to pay another $100B a year in taxes so that political hacks could give it to political cronies?  Many of the world's problems could be solved if people relized that governments don't have any money of their own.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:14 | 2411513 Piranhanoia
Piranhanoia's picture

The money pie gets sliced for bribes and the project was created for that purpose.  Too bad,  because solar works great for everyone except the power company, oil burners, and the bribees.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:57 | 2411131 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Lord knows I loved the 1950s and early 1960s and all the optimism based on technology.  But now I am shocked to find that I will never have a flying car or a space vacation.  Energy will never be to cheap to meter. 

A few nights ago I put on Disney's "Tomorrowland".  In 1960 I would have watched it in awe.  Now I simply laughed my ass off.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:05 | 2411734 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Flying car has been killed repeatedly by the FAA, private space ventures only became legal a little more than a decade ago.

Reality didn't kill your dream, the government did.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 22:37 | 2412026 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

"Reality didn't kill your dream, the government did."

I agree.  Our problems are political, not technological.  I just find it funny that people expected science to trump politics.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 18:17 | 2415065 NaN
NaN's picture

Flying cars are undesirable because they would be too damn noisy.  Imagine all your neighbors turning into tiny airports.  Leaf blower harmony would seem like heaven by contrast. 

Even a humming bird is noisy, so hovering is right out.  Perhaps a system of catapults, huge foldable wings, and big nets would work, but it would feel like bungy cord jumping and you might spill your drink...


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:58 | 2411134 AchtungAffen
AchtungAffen's picture

Well, I do think this is a good article. I'm tired of seeing all these people chanting the goods of technology becoming a god that everything solves. "We have no choice but nuclear" "Technology will solve that" etc... Bullshit. Limits to Growth was published in fucking 1972, but nobody seemed to care. Specially when you had ZH's god Hayek telling people these Limits to Growth were simply "pretension of knowledge". Now that we're tasting the physical limits of the world in first person, what can I do to stop hating the humanity that brought us to this point even though limits were known for so long...

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:06 | 2411172 AnAnonymous
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Making it a humanity achievement is very US citizen.

Lets return what belongs to US citizen to US citizens: the current stage has been reached thanks to the massive efforts of US citizens.

Other parts of humanity opposed or frowned on such efforts.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:12 | 2411194 ffart
ffart's picture


Thu, 05/10/2012 - 03:14 | 2412406 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

A report on US citizen nature is bound to US citizen nature, not to me. Anyone else can do it.

The report will change as soon as US citizen nature changes.

US citizen nature is eternal.


Thu, 05/10/2012 - 04:58 | 2412473 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

It is a special talent which you have mastered, beyond any ken.

Amusing how you say one thing about US citizenism and then quickly turn around and say the opposite thing about US citizenism. Very Chinese citizenismistic.

When someone points out your contrary statements, you fly into a blind rage of denial.

Alas, alas, when shown the very words you wrote which are being contrary to the very nature of one against the other, what then when Chinese citizenism denialism fails to remedy?

Denial, running dog ignoration, denial, running dog ignoration. Repeation to eternity and beyond.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:47 | 2411571 Errol
Errol's picture

AchtungAffen, you're on the right track.  The TED is a cargo cult - their podium is an altar, where you can see arrayed their magic totems: an iPad, a solar cell, a hydrogen fuel cell, a vial of shale oil.  They believe if they just have the right technoshaman, and the magical formulas, and all wish REAL hard, they can continue parabolic growth rates on a finite planet.

I blame Walt Disney.  He programmed an entire generation while they were impressionable little children, singing "If you wish upon a star, your dreams...come...true!"

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:06 | 2411160 NuYawkFrankie
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Mining 'roids for minerals? Sounds pretty damn painful to me.

Next thing you know, they'll be drilling Uranus.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:12 | 2411180 ffart
ffart's picture

I hope these asteroid mining startups have some place I can send my resume soon. Prerequisite: The cabin intercom must play "Space Oddity" and "Rocketman" at all times. Also, I didn't really read the article and have no idea who the author was, but the title makes him sound like a dick.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:23 | 2411216 blunderdog
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  Also, I didn't really read the article and have no idea who the author was, but the title makes him sound like a dick.

Send that resume of yours to CNBC, they need you.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:48 | 2411587 ffart
ffart's picture

Do you know of any cash only third-world doctors willing to do a sex change operation on 2-3 days notice?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:55 | 2411603 blunderdog
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Not personally, but I might be able to get a few names, I briefly worked for a fashion magazine.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:10 | 2411182 tranchefoot
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Oh, come on, Chris!  You know better.  This space-mining nonsense is just a front for money laundering.  Forget the Intercontinental Exchange- just grab an asteroid, call it a new world, plunk a solar powered server on it and -presto!- completely unregulated banking, trading, etc..  Mark my dystopic words- banking will be the first (major) commercial use for space.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 18:26 | 2415103 NaN
NaN's picture

Exactly!  No need to mine it, just leverage the estimated minerals and have proof that no one else has planted a flag on it. ;^)


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:22 | 2411210 devo
devo's picture

Who needs asteroids when we have ipads.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:48 | 2411287 earleflorida
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last i checked, water covered ~70% of planet earth --- the vast oceans and seas are calculated at ~65% of that total --- can you even dare imagine the valuable resources just waiting to be harvested if mankind can build 'self containing' mining processing plants underseas - at depths of one half to a nautical mile

nice read, chris  

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:31 | 2411313 Seer
Seer's picture

"can you even dare imagine the valuable resources just waiting to be harvested if mankind can build 'self containing' mining processing plants underseas - at depths of one half to a nautical mile"

Deepwater Horizon.

Likely plenty of whale shit I suppose...

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 11:09 | 2413208 earleflorida
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last i checked the Arabian desert consisted of lush lakes, flowing rivers through green pastures and large spacious forest scattered about. i  suppose you could call it an oasis -- sea level's go up & sea level's come down ie., Mediterranean Sea?

Ps. the whale shit is somewhere in n. america

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 16:53 | 2411304 Hobbleknee
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As long as they don't steal from me to do it, more power to 'em.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:02 | 2411335 max2205
max2205's picture

Tour of duty on asteroid= 3 million years. I'll be faithful till you get back. ;0)

This is nonsense

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:07 | 2411339 michael_engineer
michael_engineer's picture

Looks like the editors took the hint that I dropped for them on debunking asteroid mining from a week ago or so. But the link I reference still does a better job of debunking it.

Hey you, ZH editor. You should do an article to debunk this asteroid mining concept. This link is a good start : The asteroid mining news blurb may have been part of some disinformation campaign or an attempt to mislead the public perception on resource depletion issues. Or somebody might have been looking to dupe some investors. Questions for those mining guys : What concentration of valuable minerals are you expecting to find out there? Are those concentrations typical in meteorites that are already on the earth? If these minerals are embedded in rock or iron or manganese and impure and separation needs to be done then exactly which process is going to be used? Which machines and chemicals will you be taking to an asteroid? Do those processes work in zero gravity and zero atmosphere? How much tonnage are you bringing back per mission? What are the energy calculations for de-orbiting that mass? How big a heat shield will be needed? Shirley, someone must have done some calculations on weight, volume, and the amount of fuel to get out of orbit, get back, and de-orbit. Is the back of that envelope or that napkin still available? Or did it get tossed out after those "wannabe mining" guys ate lunch together? Talk about building a proverbial bridge to nowhere. Hope they are not going to be using government money for any funding. WAIT!!! That just might be it. Maybe they are just tring to divert some public funds to pad some corporations bottom lines with no real hope for a profitable business model. Wouldn't that be a swindle?

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:10 | 2411351 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture



OK, here's the plan:  We rocket into space, find the asteroid, cut it up, and melt it into ingots using a solar concentrator (AKA 1970s parabolic dish hot dog cooker).

Then we line up all the ingots in orbit and count them.  Whee!  We're rich.

Then, as the ingots slowly lose orbital altitude and become super-hazardous space junk shredding valuable assets, we say 'oops' and become orbital garbage collectors.

A much more profitable venture than 'space mining'.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:18 | 2411359 Itgoestoeleven
Itgoestoeleven's picture

a byproduct of mining anywhere is dust. without an effective means of control, dust particals traveling at 22k miles per hour relative to a craft would sand blast through the hull in no time. Dust would stop high speed travel. Unless, Spock turned on the deflector dish.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:09 | 2411739 tmosley
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Which craft is blasting through orbit at 22,000 MPH?  None.  Except maybe some aliens just passing through dangerously close to a planet.  The dust will be traveling very slowly relative to any ships that are in the same orbit.  No sand blasting.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:18 | 2411360 Itgoestoeleven
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a byproduct of mining anywhere is dust. without an effective means of control, dust particals traveling at 22k miles per hour relative to a craft would sand blast through the hull in no time. Dust would stop high speed travel. Unless, Spock turned on the deflector dish.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:21 | 2411367 mjk0259
mjk0259's picture

Billions to maybe mine asteroids or billions for a Iphone game that has a life expectancy of 3 months or a photo sharing app that will last 3 years. I would rather bet on the asteroids. Even if it fails, they might develop some technology that is useful later at creating real wealth. Most people didn't think we would mine gold in the America's or get whale oil from Antartica at the time.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:37 | 2411420 Seer
Seer's picture

"Even if it fails, they might develop some technology that is useful later at creating real wealth. Most people didn't think we would mine gold in the America's or get whale oil from Antartica at the time."

OK, just need to sign up your children as slaves...

Humans are nihilistic, simple as that.  This mindset needs to go away; humans need to learn to live in the ONLY environment that is suited for them- the earth!

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:40 | 2411427 mjk0259
mjk0259's picture

My children are already signed up as slaves - about $150K each in federal USA debt alone. And almost zero chance of whatever that was spent on resulting in a positive return.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 17:41 | 2411436 mjk0259
mjk0259's picture

That's what most Europeans said upon discovery of America's. And they were right in a way - almost all of the earliest immigrants died of starvation, disease or being killed by Indians. But in the longer run, wrong. No culture has collapsed from excessive exploration. Lot's that did none collapsed.


Wed, 05/09/2012 - 20:10 | 2411741 tmosley
tmosley's picture

Your forefathers weep in shame.

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 18:51 | 2411594 Fix It Again Timmy
Fix It Again Timmy's picture

One must realize at some point that what is keeping this planet habitable is not nature and its safeguards to protect us from harmful radiation but merely circulating water in nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools.  That is our weakest link and it is not being addressed with any sense of urgency. 

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 19:29 | 2411660 imamonkey
Wed, 05/09/2012 - 23:17 | 2412102 Dapper Dan
Dapper Dan's picture

After reading about this assamining, asinine thing weeks ago I recalled a news article from years ago about mining for manganese nodules,  now called the Jennifer Project. just a thought.

The Hughes Glomar Explorer [HGE] was built in 1973 by Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. for an intricate CIA undertaking. The mission of Glomar Explorer was to raise a Soviet nuclear submarine that had sunk in the Pacific, resting on the ocean floor nearly 17,000 ft. (5,200 m) down. The Soviet Golf-II Class ballistic missile submarine sank on April 11, 1968, approximately 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. Naval intelligence at Pearl Harbor had tracked the submarine and learned of its fate through underwater listening devices. After months of futile searching by Soviet vessels, it became apparent that only the US knew the location of the sunken submarine.

Oceanographers have long known that parts of the Pacific sea floor at depths between 14,000 ft. and 17,000 ft. are carpeted with so-called manganese nodules, potato-size chunks of manganese mixed with iron, nickel, cobalt and other useful metals. In the 1970s, Howard Hughes used the Deep Ocean Mining Project [DOMP] search for nodules as a cover for building the ship Glomar Explorer. Global Marine supervised construction of the Glomar Explorer , at a cost in excess of $200 million dollars, and operated it from 1973 to 1975 under contract to the US government. Glomar Explorer went to sea on June 20, 1974, found the sub, and began to bring a portion of it to the surface. The Soviets watched the "deep-sea mining" operation with interest, but did not attempt to thwart it. An accident during the lifting operation caused the fragile hulk to break apart, resulting in the loss of a critical portion of the submarine, its nuclear missiles and crypto codes. However, according to other accounts, material recovered included three nuclear missiles, two nuclear torpedoes, the ship's code machine, and various code books.

The Los Angeles Times broke the story in February 1975, and by March 1975 numerous news stories linked the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship publicly listed as a research vessel owned and operated by Summa Corporation, and the secret US government operation. After subsequent stories that the CIA had approached the news media to convince them to discontinue publication of stories related to the Glomar Explorer, Harriet Ann Phillippi, a journalist, filed a FOIA request with the CIA for any records that might exist which reveal the CIA?s contact with members of the media to attempt to persuade them not to publish articles concerning the activities of the Glomar Explorer. The CIA responded by refusing to neither confirm nor deny the existence of any responsive records. The CIA claimed that any records that might exist which may reveal any CIA connection with or interest in the activities of the Glomar Explorer, or any evidence that might reveal the existence of records of this type would be classified, and therefore, exempt from disclosure under exemption 1 of the FOIA. They also insisted that exemption 3 applied, as the National Security Act of 1947 precluded them from releasing information related to the functions of CIA personnel. This was the first instance of an agency using the "can neither confirm nor deny" answer in response to a FOIA request.

Since then, the terms "Glomar response," and "Glomarization" are used to describe an agency?s response when they can neither confirm nor deny whether records exist.

Thu, 05/10/2012 - 11:24 | 2413253 earleflorida
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nice link, thankyou dd :)

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