Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Earthside - Indoor farms

This is more of a movement than a single example. In many former industrial centers, abandoned warehouses and factories are being converted to grow food. The approaches vary but generally focus on water and energy efficiency and year-round productivity. Keywords are urban farms, vertical farms, etc. I'll list two examples and then discuss pros and cons, plus the (fairly obvious) synergies with space-based agriculture after the break.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


 One of the basic necessities not yet mentioned is clothing.

 Most clothing is made, not surprisingly, of cloth. That in turn is made of woven threads, which are made either of plastic, animal hair or plant fiber.

 I'm going to eliminate animal fibers simply on an efficiency basis. The varieties of animals that are raised for fur (sheep, rabbits, goats, yaks) can also produce meat and milk, but are much less efficient than purpose-bred varieties. Sheep are probably the best all-round performers (~5.4kg wool per animal per year eating about 2kg/day of feed), but we can still do much better than that. Of course any incidental fur, skin, etc. will be used for filling, lining, leather and such, but we cannot assume there will be enough of that material to clothe everyone.

Read on for the rest. This turned out to require a lot more growing space than I would have thought, 10.26m² per person.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Current hygiene in space leaves much to be desired. Ask an astronaut, or a recovery crewmember who pulls them out of their capsule. We've found a balance point that minimizes the use of consumables without causing significantly harmful effects, but it's a system most people wouldn't be able to stand for ten minutes, let alone years.

 Key to our clean civilization is soap, or more recently detergent. Humans have been making soap for at least 4,200 years, perhaps as much as 4,800 years. For the vast majority of that time the process was much the same: mix ashes, fat or oil and water, apply heat and hope the result doesn't dissolve your skin.

For the TL;DR:
Roughly 3.8kg of detergent per person per year. A mix of traditional soap and modern surfactants in the form of bar soap, liquid hand and dish soap, shampoo and laundry soap. Making these chemicals will cost fats, oils and sodium hydroxide. Making some of the modern compounds will require a bit more chemistry using the same raw material.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Edits and updates

Regular readers (all two of you) may notice that most of my past posts have been edited to include a page break.
I will make an effort to page-break all future posts so the main page isn't such a massive run-on article.

Additional note:
 I started this blog to store my thoughts because I was getting obsessive, compelled to work through scenarios in my head and build endless spreadsheets and projections. Putting things down in print has really helped me to stabilize, to be able to work on a problem for a little bit and put it down without worrying about losing my progress. I am finally out of draft posts, which means I will be backfilling some of my earlier posts with additional reference links. New posts may not be as frequent, and I will try to keep them fairly short.

 If anyone reading this has questions or comments about any posts, please ask. I like to be distracted by new or different problems from time to time.

 I am also putting some solid work into a meal planning spreadsheet that will help allocate space to various plants in a hydroponic system while cross-referencing those crops against USDA nutritional data. My goal there is to be able to demonstrate whether or not a given allocation of space meets nutrition guidelines on a weekly basis. This feeds back into my long-term goal of designing a self-sufficient habitat, so I feel good about that progress.

As an editorial note, I considered removing my budget post entirely since it is a political animal and is quite subjective. In the end, I've decided to leave it as is. Suffice to say, I'm voting Sanders. His budget is strongly backed by evidence and reflects the consensus opinion of most professional economists (the ones doing economics, not the ones appearing on TV to support their generous benefactors). Hopefully any who disagree will be able to objectively consider the rest of the blog's content.