Russian Naval Renaissance

Russian Navy Commissions 1st Project 20385 Corvette ‘Gremyashchy’
From NavalNews.Com

The Russian Navy has a peculiarly multi faced history and reputation. As a land power with huge boarders and vast empty sectors it would seem more than a little excess to needs. In imperial splendor it has burgeoned into one of the greatest navies in history, in troubled times it has rotted or rusted away. It has lost a whole fleet in battle at the far end of the world after a voyage that would have been hailed as incredible except for the ending. It has built ships, particularly submarines second to none in technological innovation, then had to let them rot. Always a technological arm the Navy has often attracted the best and the brightest and being world spanning it has attracted funding to grow hugely when the money was available….

So today Russia is as troubled as ever, but it does sit astride Eurasia and if you consider the polar region is near the Americas. It has intimate contact with the sea and it needs a Navy for reasons both local and global.

The cycles of growth and rot have shown that one should never count the Russian Navy out. While the end Soviet Era strategic Navy is rotting away the latest revival appears to be underway. The article above and others, point to the fact that after a period of grim news about over runs, decades long builds, etc the lates Corvette program and its predecessor appear successful even given quite sever supply chain issues of geopolitical nature.

While one can poo poo a Corvette as a ‘little ship’ the reality is that this firecracker could conceivably sink a fleet of ships boasting the best of 1980’s technology without a scratch. The US navy and others are rapidly rethinking the efficacy and rational for cruiser sized destroyers in this modern age of omnipresent satellite reconnaissance and hypersonic smart munitions.

But beyond this ship the Russians are once again showing their intellectual metal with A New “Universal Sea Complex” ‘Varan.’

Russia Designs A New Class Of Ship: Universal Sea Complex ‘Varan’

“It is a new approach in domestic and global shipbuilding. The project will represent a new class of naval hardware — universal sea complexes (UMK),”

Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.).
Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.).
Nevskoe Bureau (a major Russian designer of ships and the sole designer of aircraft carriers and simulators.).

The approach appears well suited to modern ship building practices. At modestly sized commercial yards. It is very much in line with the skeptics view of aircraft carriers as a modestly sized vessels with a reasonable strike force. It is not at all a competitor to a US Nuclear Super Carrier in itself but is well suited for power projection and strike warfare in a fleet setting.

Noting the sea gate at the stern you could see this ship as having a significant landing force either standard or optionally providing a strong ‘swing’ capacity. This might be an ideal Marine Amphibious warfare ship.

Looking at it one can see that it is unlikely to be able to support even the noted 24 aircraft wing for long periods at sea. But is that really necessary if you have enough ships so that in peace time they only spend a couple of months at sea at a time?

You can also see that it is unlikely to be able to support a fleet commanders facilities and staff. Again that makes sense, with high bandwidth covert data links the fleet commander can and ought to be separated from the strike asset.

If there was a significant Marine contingent the air arm would have to shrink. But once more you need to think of distributed capability and building your fleet from blocks of assets rather than one Super Duper anything.

So once more the Russians have set the fox among the hens, at least in an intellectual sense. They are always listening and watching the rest of the world and trying to conceive of a ‘system’ that gives them an advantage versus the rest. It’s always a good idea to understand what they are thinking…as in chess and mathematics they are often leaders in the intellectual sphere.

Oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh, I saw this coming !

Last Cassette Player Standing, in American Conservative
From the article: Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Money Quote:

There are several lessons here. The most politically salient is that in manufacturing, as in cooking, it is possible to “lose the recipe.” And with an accelerating pace of technological progress, it is possible to lose it in an alarmingly short span of time. This is perhaps the strongest argument for some form of industrial policy or trade protection: the recognition that the national value of manufacturing often lies not so much in the end product itself, but in the accumulated knowledge that goes into it, and the possibility of old processes and knowledge sparking new innovation. Of course, innovation is itself what killed the high-end cassette player. But many otherwise viable industries have struggled under the free-trade regime.

The fact is that technology is not embodied in a drawing or set of drawings or any set of instructions. It is embodied in human knowledge. One of the key problems in the industry is the loss of control a customer or prime has when they let a contractor develop the ‘data package’ and ‘product’ with no significant oversight. While the customer or prime may ‘own’ the IP because they paid for it, the fact is that the majority of the capability is embodied in the people and culture of the contractor not in any set of information.

The Hellenic world had machines as complex as early clocks and steam engines of a sort but lost the recipe in a few generations or less. Various complex building skills and wooden machines, metalworking and early chemistry were discovered then lost again and again because the data package was in human brains and examples. This is why the printing press and its ilk were so incredibly important to technological lift off. Along with a culture of progress and invention.

We are far ahead of that world but as above, not above losing the recipe of a complex technology. This is one of the drivers behind Computer Aided Design, Analysis, Documentation, Fabrication. Our cybernetic tools have the ability to record the data package in detail at least for certain classes of things so that we should be able to maintain the ability to replicate things. Making special, small run, even one off technological objects rational rather than nutty.

But at the same time I think that it is likely that the artisanal ethos and products will remain relevant and even increase in value as people shift away from a mind/economy/culture of scarcity to at least sufficiency and if we survive and expand into the universe eventually richness. These transitions will be extremely difficult because they are at odds with many tens of thousands of years of genetic/mimetic coding of our behaviors based on small group hunter gatherers and kin group bonding. Those transition will be enabled by machines that fabricate, even machines that invent. What will happen when humans loose the recipe for technological advancement, because too few engage in the complex enterprise of development??? Is that the point of the Rise of the Machine???

Let space bring us together

One of the things that stabilizes a civilization (IMO) is the ability to expand. Like an imaginary pressure vessel with a self replicating gas one can see that at the beginning the gas molecules bouncing around have plenty of space, the ‘pressure’ on the cylinder is negligible and the molecules don’t collide that often. As the molecules become more abundant the pressure and the collisions build. If there is some external source of ‘heat’ say the energy of invention etc, the pressure builds even more and the ‘collisions’ are more violent. Eventually the pressure vessel gives way along fracture lines and explodes releasing the gas into the void….

Carry that image a bit longer, this almost mimics what happened to a lot of the early civilizations. They blew up and dissipated into the wilds leaving almost nothing behind except wreckage.

America (and other civilizational islands let’s call them) had an immense (to them) hinterland. The pressure vessel had something like a sealed bellows (or say a metal balloon) that was stiff, wouldn’t expand easily but could expand. The particles would ‘explore’ this even early on. The cold walls ‘cooled / calmed’ the average energy and allowed the particles to rub along with each other better. As the particles multiply the bellows/balloon expands releasing the pressure on the parent pressure vessel, and providing more wall to absorb energy at the same time.

The human ‘particles’ in our pressure vessel continue to multiply, thankfully, hopefully, at an increasingly slower rate. But the ‘energy’ of invention and desire for ‘happiness’ continues to flow and be amplified by those people/particles. Rearranging the particles…partially solidifying them?…in urban masses lowers the pressure in some ways but does not eliminate it. It provides pseudo new space for the really energetic particles say. But in reality do what we can on this world the pressure will grow too great unless we expand into, we need newSpace.

Even the space (volume) of our solar system is almost infinite from the perspective of the human particles today. And the boundaries of ‘our system’ are only imaginary. The universe is here there and everywhere and there is no reason not to make it ours except fear, mostly fear of ourselves.

We need frontiers, we need places where we can be with ourselves, we need challenge but also calm centers. While the homes we create away from our birthplace will be nothing like what we see today, our descendants will love and hold them just as close to their heart as we hold our home and our memories.

To explore you need Access

Photo of a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system from the Rover/NERVA programs (left) and a cutaway schematic with labels (right). SOURCE: M. Houts et. al., NASA’s Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Project, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, August 2018,
Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration
National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
National Academies Press
[ParabolicArc Executive Summary, Findings & Recommendations from National Academies Report on Space Nuclear Propulsion
February 13, 2021 Doug Messier

While a chemically powered trip to Mars is feasible given the ability to lift a lot of mass so orbit, See SpaceX-Elon Musk, this is probably not the solution you would go for first. I think it makes sense as part of the Vision Setting that Musk does but the preference has always been for nuclear propulsion it enables faster (safer) trips and makes reusability even more effective since the ‘shuttles’ are not spending many months in transit each way.

Posit a Freighter something like the illustration below. Departing Mars having dropped of say 2, 3, 4 starships’ worth of cargo. MarsStarships shuttle up and down and provide point to point transport on Mars. EarthStarships shuttle cargo up to earth orbit. Maybe LunarStarships shuttle fuel from production stations on the Moon to reduce the cost of fuel for the starships and the Freighter.

Illustration of a Mars transit habitat and nuclear propulsion system that could one day take astronauts to Mars. (Credits: NASA) [ParabolicArc: Executive Summary, Findings & Recommendations from National Academies Report on Space Nuclear Propulsion February 13, 2021 Doug Messier]

Now you have a system that provides Access to the solar system with significant cargos and the ability to establish and support exploration stations wherever you go.

CPU’s the Universe and Everything

The image from an interesting article on the ultimate in cloud computing. Hubble image of the asymptotic giant branch star U Camelopardalis. This star, nearing the end of its life, is losing mass as it coughs out shells of gas. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory).

Seems like there must have been a mash up of astrophysics/cosmology/cybernetics a couple of weeks ago there have been a series of articles about computers and the universe. One series pointing out that once could conceive of using the AGB stars in their ‘dusting mode’ (above) as a computing engine.

But on the other side there have been a couple of articles that touch on the metaphysical (philosophical basis of reality) concept that we and our universe, are one vast simulation.

…Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s philosophical thought experiment that the universe is a computer simulation. If that were true, then fundamental physical laws should reveal that the universe consists of individual chunks of space-time, like pixels in a video game. “If we live in a simulation, our world has to be discrete,”….

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

….a discrete field theory, which views the universe as composed of individual bits and differs from the theories that people normally create. While scientists typically devise overarching concepts of how the physical world behaves, computers just assemble a collection of data points…..

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

…A novel computer algorithm, or set of rules, that accurately predicts the orbits of planets in the solar system….

… devised by a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), applies machine learning, the form of artificial intelligence (AI) that learns from experience, to develop the predictions.

Qin (pronounced Chin) created a computer program into which he fed data from past observations of the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and the dwarf planet Ceres. This program, along with an additional program known as a ‘serving algorithm,’ then made accurate predictions of the orbits of other planets in the solar system without using Newton’s laws of motion and gravitation. “Essentially, I bypassed all the fundamental ingredients of physics. I go directly from data to data,” Qin said. “There is no law of physics in the middle…

…”Usually in physics, you make observations, create a theory based on those observations, and then use that theory to predict new observations,” said PPPL physicist Hong Qin, author of a paper detailing the concept in Scientific Reports. “What I’m doing is replacing this process with a type of black box that can produce accurate predictions without using a traditional theory or law.”…

From: New machine learning theory raises questions about nature of science

Ok so now I am going to go a bit sideways and you may want to just go on about your internet day. But while I laude Qin and his team I have a bit of an issue with what he claims re the basis is Philosophy. Not the claim that the discrete field theory sparked his concept exploration. But that the actual system he developed has anything to say about that metaphysical theory.

Taking nothing away from the team what I see seems like a straightforward application of machine learning. In fact a relatively simple one though I would laude the whole idea of applying it to physics in general. A very interesting though, like many interesting insights, oddly obvious is retrospect. (Sorry for the repeated Though clauses…I absolutely see this as fascinating insight…and possibly extremely important…it just seems like D’oh in retrospect.)

As physics is very much aligned with mathematics (I think because the discovery of each was feedback on the other) and mathematics and cybernetics are also deeply intwined it should come as no surprise that computer systems designed to create black box solutions, when fed the right kind of data, will create a black box model of physical phenomena.

The output of science are tools that allow us to predict finite things about the universe we live in, repeatably and accurately. These tools are often used by engineers to enable technologyy that make life better for everyone.

But in many ways this is an engineers (relatively narrow) viewpoint. To some large degree an engineer does not care why the tool works, only that it does and how accurately. Counter to that, a strength of the theory based + mathematical model approach is that it gives you a tool to link the rest of reality to the ‘discrete’ piece you are working on right now. A jumping off point or a linking point to other theories that allows us to move onto other problems and link the

And/But (you knew it was coming) i wonder if this has anything to do with discrete field theory per se. Maybe if the learning algorithm used had that in it this would show something of that nature, but otherwise I do not see this as showing anything in particular other than the ability of learning systems which are in some sense continuous not discrete systems to develop predictive models directly from the data (as Qin says) rather than through the labor intensive methods of theory extraction and proof that has been the basis for scientific exploration since it first evolved in the Middle Ages.

Again BUT, it has been getting harder to develop these ‘deep’ theories. Look at the colliders and other tools that physicists use these days to probe the depths of our reality. In this world there are many things, like Qin’s next test with Nuclear Fusion, where an engineering model might be much more valuable than a ‘theory of this’ if it can be captured and used in a fraction of the time.

It’s all good, fascinating, wonderful…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

SPACE Rabbits !

Crew Dragon (NASA Webcast/via Parabolic Arc

Private Space Missions Multiplying Like Rabbits

by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor (Parabolic Arc)

With the spate of announcements about private space missions over the past year, it’s easy to lose track of the who, what, where, when, why and how of the flights.

As a public service, Parabolic Arc has collected information about all five of the announced missions.

Nuff said