All progress is due to the lazy man


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Matt Giwer
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Message 994791 - Posted: 8 May 2010, 10:20:05 UTC

I got that idea from a short essay by Bob Heinlein in which he inferred inventions were labor saving and thus inventors were lazy people. It follows all progress is due to the lazy man. I do not remember enough of the article to say if he was just being clever or had a larger principle in mind. I do have a larger principle in mind.

I have in mind the principle of minimum energy. Everything works in accordance with using the minimum amount of energy needed to accomplish an objective even though this expression anthropomorphises the universe. Those familiar with physics know this under several names. In evolution a trait once needed for survival will be lost if no longer needed, energy is not wasted preserving what it not needed for survival. Survival being an objective in the evolutionary sense uses the available energy to maximize those traits needed for survival and looses those which are not.

Evolution is not like physics where it happens instantly and every time but does happen over enough generations.

My point here is minimum energy, the lazy man principle, is much broader than it would at first seem.

We apply it to our inventions and find a steam engine of a certain horsepower takes less total energy than the same number of horses when one includes all the secondary costs of housing both the horses and the horse handlers and their families. This is why the first steam engines were adopted despite their incredible unit cost and trivial horsepower. They were cheaper than the total cost of horses.

The lazy man principle is the minimum energy principle.

As Hawking's nonsense is in the news let me point out his idea of alien civilizations and what they would do if they were to come here does not satisfy the minimum energy principle. I have to suggest Hawking has been watching too much Hollywood with his idea. (It is in a TV show, Into the Universe with HIM, Aliens which in general is poor but a promo I read said he had editorial control.)

The first error is that aliens would land on planets to strip them of their resources to build more of what they want. Think Independence Day.

Not only is a planet like Earth at the bottom of a gravity well which takes energy to get safely into and out of the only resources available are the ones which happen to be on or near the surface.

On the other hand the material which made the Earth are in the meteors and comets. They have trivial gravity wells. ALL the elements of interest are found in them and they can be consumed completely as opposed to being limited to a thin shell of a planet.

Mining asteroids and comets is the minimum energy solution for an interstellar civilization.

I throw this out for comment in that I intend to develop the idea of interstellar civilizations from this universal lazy man principle and any others principles I can recognize along the way.

I have started two other threads using this idea without explicitly identifying it. One was a credible means for people to get into space and live in space forever with today's technology but perfected. The most obvious minimum energy is the staff of space hotels for the rich taking their vacation in space rather than the more energy expensive trip back to Earth for two weeks if you are an American or six week if you are a European.

People want to live, have children, gripe about what their children do and retire to complain about how the world has changed. Making a living in space does not require returning to a planetary surface as that takes more energy than living in space full time. Mining the earth for use in space requires more energy than mining the asteroids.

However any projections I make from minimum energy requires it be legitimate principle applicable to space. Of course this implies energy is an irreducable fact, that free energy cannot be obtained. And no matter how cheaply obtained there are always better things to use it for than unnecessary trips down and up gravity wells.

No matter how cheap energy only the rich and those with a passionate hobby will expend it when it is not necessary to expend it.

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Message 994823 - Posted: 8 May 2010, 15:48:12 UTC

We prefer to call it 'optimisation'.. but if the shoe fits... ;)
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Message 994917 - Posted: 8 May 2010, 21:56:51 UTC

Yes, the lazy man principle is a very accurate description for curious inventing humans. Probably one of the reasons why aliens have not visited us!

Space is fascinating to us here down on earth. The other mans grass, or lack of it, is always greener (Until you get there!). But if you live on the Moon, or mars, or worse, in empty space, you will soon get tired of it and dream of wanting to come back to the beautiful planet earth where the air is free and you can live easily without much effort.

The lazy man in space will always want to come home to earth.

I like the idea.
John.
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Message 995060 - Posted: 9 May 2010, 7:33:20 UTC - in response to Message 994917.

Yes, the lazy man principle is a very accurate description for curious inventing humans. Probably one of the reasons why aliens have not visited us!


They have better things to do with their energy than climb down gravity wells. But this was not an indictment of people just a thematic lead-in. Evolution is just as lazy as are falling objects. It is a principle of nature.

Space is fascinating to us here down on earth. The other mans grass, or lack of it, is always greener (Until you get there!). But if you live on the Moon, or mars, or worse, in empty space, you will soon get tired of it and dream of wanting to come back to the beautiful planet earth where the air is free and you can live easily without much effort.

The lazy man in space will always want to come home to earth.

I like the idea.
John.


Unless gravity is soon found to be something we can duplicate with ease all long duration space travel will need spinning ships where centrifugal force substitutes for gravity. It works quite nicely to find the bigger the better, Consider a 2001 type Hilton Hotel but as a powered space ship. It is most practical to grow one's own food which produced oxygen. With a closed water cycle the system is complete. There is no particular problem making as much green area as desired. Leave the overhead transparent and there are green vistas in the distance. With expansions it becomes a cylinder. Think Babylon 5 but less high tech and more grass.

The more people the better as weight shifts are more random resulting in less need for dynamic correction. Building it is hardly a problem. 80% of meteors therefore likely asteroids are carbonaceous. So build it out of carbon. Cheaper from asteroids than from earth because the energy required for the delta-V is less.

Not quite like like a walk in the woods but close enough to a park to satisfy us city-folk with all the outdoors we would ever want. It would not be much different from my present everyday life as it has been for decades and not a problem. So there is no particular reason to want to return to earth unless one likes natural bodies over swimming pools. I don't.

So then I ask who is going to really want to come back to earth and why. Vacation? Retirement? Today the popular retirement places are Florida and Arizona where one goes from an A/C home to A/C car to A/C everything else. If they stay in space it is all A/C. And what if born in space? There is nothing to be nostalgic over.

I am not arguing for my tastes being anything other than common enough to populate cities in space. Folks like me would not find a problem with living in space save the outdoors are also A/C which is good. What are we doing in space? If nothing else just living like everyone else with refined elemens and manufactured goods for use and trade.

Back to the aliens. So what if they find us? There is more to get from mining the asteroids and comets and the smaller moons than from Earth or Mars because of the energy needed to deal with the gravity well. There should be no conflict at all even if malevolent as they can take whatever they want without coming down here.

So if there is to be conflict over resources it will be up there. If they come here it is not clear how they can be less than 100,000 years ahead of us so the idea of a conflict is still not clear as there appears to be nothing to have a conflict over. If we get in our time machine and set up a colony 100,000 years in our past I doubt we will be interested in stealing our ancestors flint.

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Message 995184 - Posted: 9 May 2010, 19:56:30 UTC
Last modified: 9 May 2010, 19:59:41 UTC

I see it like this Mark.

The idea of capturing an asteroid, moving it into earth orbit and building on it sounds great. but how big does it need to be? 10 kilometres wide, 20k wide, 50k wide? Its never going to be big enough, there would never be enough land on it to build stuff. The moon is only 3 days away, lots of land and resources, but no atmosphere to breath or protect us from radiation. But plenty of land to build factories.

For humans to live anywhere other than earth, we need almost everything you see around you. The lazy man theory says this is just not going to happen on an asteroid, the moon or mars. And 40 years after the last man stood on the moon, looks like the dream will never materialise.

But Mark Giwer there is a way it can be done. But it could only ever be achieved by people effectively "selling" there whole working life to a communal effort to create a habitable settlement on the moon or mars. Are you up to the challenge? Cos i am if you are!

John.
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Message 995197 - Posted: 9 May 2010, 21:52:20 UTC - in response to Message 995184.

I see it like this Mark.

The idea of capturing an asteroid, moving it into earth orbit and building on it sounds great. but how big does it need to be? 10 kilometres wide, 20k wide, 50k wide? Its never going to be big enough, there would never be enough land on it to build stuff. The moon is only 3 days away, lots of land and resources, but no atmosphere to breath or protect us from radiation. But plenty of land to build factories.


Bottom line on the radiation issue is if it cannot be solved then there can be no long duration space travel beyond the Earth and that ends this discussion. But if it can be solved, whatever methods solve it it is still cheaper to build from raw materials found in space than made on earth and carried into space.

The issue of radiation protection is not trivial but well within our present capability. Presently we are limited to sending aluminum cans into space. That is a significant limitation but it should not make the problem appear worse than it is.

The worst problem is neutrons. Materials with lots of hydrogen does wonders to make them less dangerous. Materials with a lot of hydrogen atoms are water and plastic. The former we need and is found in comets. The latter can be made in so many forms that simply using it as the preferred construction material. Granted no oil in space but carbonaceous asteroids plus hydrogen from water can be made into plastic.

I am not suggesting hollowing out an asteroid, rather refining them for construction materials instead of refining planetside sources into construction materials and raising them from the surface.

For humans to live anywhere other than earth, we need almost everything you see around you. The lazy man theory says this is just not going to happen on an asteroid, the moon or mars. And 40 years after the last man stood on the moon, looks like the dream will never materialise.


Fine. What do I see around me? Walls, furniture, electronics, food. Outside I have transportation to other places with the same things. At one time I lived in a business/apartment complex with shopping mall and professional building. I never had to leave. What is it space cannot have?

Looking to 40 years is a very short term view. I was promised flying cars and vacations on the moon too but 400 or 4000 years is quite reasonable. 6000 years would be only the time from the oldest (unquestionable) city to now. Now to the first city in space being equally long is not all that long. We have been around well over 100,000 years as a species. 12,000 as 10% of our species time is relatively trivial.

But Mark Giwer there is a way it can be done. But it could only ever be achieved by people effectively "selling" there whole working life to a communal effort to create a habitable settlement on the moon or mars. Are you up to the challenge? Cos i am if you are!

John.


It cannot be sold now as selling requires at least breaking even else it is a bottomless money pit. Once it can pay for itself there will be no stopping it. This is not new. Farming rocky ground was impractical at one time. Population was limited by farming technology. People would fight wars over easy farmland as it was the only farmland.

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Message 995208 - Posted: 9 May 2010, 22:30:23 UTC
Last modified: 9 May 2010, 22:32:34 UTC

Shielding against radiation is easy, plenty Lead on asteroids! Running out of the correct materials needed to survive on an asteroid could be very costly, having to get them shipped by DHL to earth orbit.

The moon has everything we need. You just need enough people with the will to want to go and live there. People who are willing to give up everything in the quest to live on a moon with no air, 1/6th gravity and radiation that will kill you.

I foresee a future with many more Hollywood movies being made before anyone ever actually goes to live there.

(Mark,you have a very interesting website! Educational reading and viewing.)

John.
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Message 995288 - Posted: 10 May 2010, 8:19:35 UTC - in response to Message 995208.

Shielding against radiation is easy, plenty Lead on asteroids! Running out of the correct materials needed to survive on an asteroid could be very costly, having to get them shipped by DHL to earth orbit.


At this time nothing has been found which is cheaper to manufacture in space than on earth. After 40 years of crystal growing one would think NASA would move on.</sarcasm> Once there are low earth orbit vacation hotels food will be a high value commodity. Food is 90% water and 1 lb of food to orbit is $1000 or so.

That leads to a general principle. The most valuable things to be made in space will be those needed to live in space. The things which are the most essential will also be those manufactured. Water, air and food are the essentials. Water purification and waste processing (compost making) are the essentials.

The moon has everything we need. You just need enough people with the will to want to go and live there. People who are willing to give up everything in the quest to live on a moon with no air, 1/6th gravity and radiation that will kill you.


What the moon has the asteroids have without no appreciable gravity well. Living in space still wins. Consider the current search for a place to live on the moon is hoping for a nature volcanic tunnel still around after so many billion years. If none then bring your lead shielding with you. The first job is pickaxes and shovels to dig in.

OTOH that search for objects passing close to earth in case they hit also finds those worth exploiting first for construction materials. Consider we recently had a second moon for some eight years. If Clinton had set visiting an asteroid could have been there.

I foresee a future with many more Hollywood movies being made before anyone ever actually goes to live there.


The way I see it, the path to living in is space is the rich vacationing in space. It you can sell a pound of radishes grown in space for $900 you can undercut the price of earth grown radishes. And the economics may make collecting the waste CO2 and returning oxygen at a profit.

(Mark,you have a very interesting website! Educational reading and viewing.)

John.


Thank you. There are several different groups that reads it and then tries to get me banned. I do try to offend everyone equally.

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Message 995350 - Posted: 10 May 2010, 16:10:54 UTC - in response to Message 995288.

Not all inventions are "lazy" take shoes for instance. I don't think the guy that strapped animal hides to his feet was thinking he'd save time by that action. The guy that invented the drive through car wash had something though. I certainly can't wash my car that fast even on a good day. It may be lazy but it certainly is a more efficient use of time though it uses more water than I would. I think the idea is making things efficient time wise and not necessarily energy wise. I'd also like to point out that my car is a much more efficient way of traveling to my current work place. It would take me much longer by any other mode of ground transportation sans train travel

Certainly many household inventions are just that lazy inventions. I just got done reading a Ray Bradbury storie and one of the main characters noted that even with all the great time saving devices that have been created the average person doesnt save any time compared to a person from around 1900. What it means is we spend a lot of $$$ to get a zero sum gain. this is dumb really. I've backed away from household gadgets for cleaning other than a vaccuum. a cleaning rag and some solution to clean with is sufficient.

An electric Razor still takes 5 minutes to shave a face just like a straight razor or the old schick single blade
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Message 996914 - Posted: 18 May 2010, 9:32:23 UTC - in response to Message 995350.

Not all inventions are "lazy" take shoes for instance. I don't think the guy that strapped animal hides to his feet was thinking he'd save time by that action. The guy that invented the drive through car wash had something though. I certainly can't wash my car that fast even on a good day. It may be lazy but it certainly is a more efficient use of time though it uses more water than I would. I think the idea is making things efficient time wise and not necessarily energy wise. I'd also like to point out that my car is a much more efficient way of traveling to my current work place. It would take me much longer by any other mode of ground transportation sans train travel

Certainly many household inventions are just that lazy inventions. I just got done reading a Ray Bradbury storie and one of the main characters noted that even with all the great time saving devices that have been created the average person doesnt save any time compared to a person from around 1900. What it means is we spend a lot of $$$ to get a zero sum gain. this is dumb really. I've backed away from household gadgets for cleaning other than a vaccuum. a cleaning rag and some solution to clean with is sufficient.

An electric Razor still takes 5 minutes to shave a face just like a straight razor or the old schick single blade


Work expands to fill the time available. But the more you can do more quickly means a greater output. Of course we have this puritanical streak in us. If productive work can be done faster then we must do more of it even if it it not productive. Witness the computerized office used to do the same thing but was thick printouts of data instead of finding it on a local database server. Rather than sticking with the same amount of data that was needed we add all kinds of useless data to keep things as slow as they once were. Office productivity is no greater than it was before computers.

Of course offices were never all that productive but you get the point.

Same thing happened with computers. Back in the good old days it took forever for a file to come through at 300 baud. Now that 1 MBaud is common we get big pictures along with the same few kB of text we used to get.

I collect news articles such as used to be on usenet from AFP. They were a few kBytes. Today on the Web I capture a news article without any pictures and it is typically between 50 and 150 kB with all the links and HTML. With the images and icons and other graphics it would be at least double that size.

I run that through lynx which strips most of the formatting and it loses 10-20kB. For those of real interest I hand edit and kill all the references which are to ads and other articles and whatever else is not needed. The size of the final article is the same few kB as were the old AFP articles.

Communication increases to fill the bandwidth available.

You can follow this with programs increase to fill the available RAM.

And if you are a gamer you know system requirements are always greater than the system you have.

On the bright side there is always enough time to drink the beer available.

And if you trying to get volunteers for the military you encourage people to be all they can be.

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Message 997030 - Posted: 19 May 2010, 4:07:49 UTC

Matt,
With your lazy man theory, it seems that the industrial revolution must have been driven by the laziest pack of no-good-ers in history. Each man's new invention was created by lazier and lazier guys!

But then along can the ultimate lazy man of all time. Albert Einstein's famous E = MxC2 must have been the ultimate lazy solution. So much energy you don't even need people any more. So some more lazy people said lets build a bomb with it.
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Message 997061 - Posted: 19 May 2010, 9:24:26 UTC - in response to Message 997030.

Matt,
With your lazy man theory, it seems that the industrial revolution must have been driven by the laziest pack of no-good-ers in history. Each man's new invention was created by lazier and lazier guys!

But then along can the ultimate lazy man of all time. Albert Einstein's famous E = MxC2 must have been the ultimate lazy solution. So much energy you don't even need people any more. So some more lazy people said lets build a bomb with it.


Do not forget I attribute the idea to Heinlein. I am simply trying to establish a minimum energy criteria for interaction with alien civilizations as well as our expansion into space.

Once we or any civilization expands into space the greatest waste of energy it raising things from the surface of the home world into space. It is always a lesser expenditure of energy for people living in space to get their resources from space rather than from the home world.

Thus like leaving the sea for land, once in space it takes less effort to stay in space than to travel back and forth.

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