The problem is energy density

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Long-haul trucking is an odd choice for Tesla. The problem is energy density:

Batteries take up far more space and weight for a given output of energy than gasoline and diesel. That issue is becoming irrelevant in lighter vehicles like cars and smaller vans because they don’t require much power. But it looms large when it comes to the heavy-duty longer-distance trucks that consume about half of road freight fuel, and are expected to see the biggest demand growth.

Energy Density

Take a look, for instance at Daimler AG’s Urban eTruck, the first fully electric heavy-duty vehicle to go into production earlier this year. The 2.5-metric-ton battery alone on this beast weighs as much as a Chevrolet Suburban, one of the largest SUVs on the road. Furthermore — as the name indicates — it’s only intended for deliveries within cities, with a maximum range of 200 kilometers. That’s not going to do much damage to long-distance routes: A typical semi-trailer can carry enough fuel to travel at least five times that distance.The specifications emerging for the Tesla Semi suggest it may be able to improve on that, with a range of about 800 kilometers when carrying a 36-ton maximum load. There’s no word yet about the weight of the Semi’s battery, but it would have to be colossal to achieve those sorts of specs. That’s probably not the best route to energy efficiency, given that about 25 percent to 30 percent of the time trucks are driven empty. A significant slice of the Semi’s energy will be spent hauling around its massive power plant.

That explains why the numerous competitors to the Semi already out there are mainly focused on shorter-range urban logistics networks. It’s going to require technological breakthroughs — such as the development of commercial lithium-air cells, which could have gasoline-style energy densities — for batteries to really eat into the oil consumed by long-haul trucking and aviation.

Elon Musk is not a robot sent from the future to save humanity

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Over the course of nine months of reporting, Neil Strauss determined that Elon Musk is not a robot sent from the future to save humanity, but he may be the most successful and important entrepreneur in the world:

It’s an easy case to make: He’s probably the only person who has started four billion-dollar companies — PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City. But at his core, Musk is not a businessman or entrepreneur. He’s an engineer, inventor and, as he puts it, “technologist.”

Most of Strauss’s piece is about Musk’s broken relationships — with ex-wives, with his recent ex-girlfriend, and with his “ruthless” estranged father.

Musk tries to do useful things:

Think of the other names that one associates with innovation this century: They’re people who built operating systems, devices, websites or social-media platforms. Even when it didn’t start out that way, the ideology in most cases soon became: How can I make my company the center of my users’ world? Consequently, social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter use a number of tricks to activate the addictive reward centers of a user’s brain.

If Musk’s employees suggested doing something like this, he’d probably look at them like they were crazy. This type of thinking doesn’t compute. “It’s really inconsistent to not be the way you want the world to be,” he says flatly, “and then through some means of trickery, operate according to one moral code while the rest of the world operates according to a different one. This is obviously not something that works. If everyone’s trying to trick everyone all the time, it’s a lot of noise and confusion. It’s better just to be straightforward and try to do useful things.”

He discusses building a permanent moon base, and further funding SpaceX by creating passenger rockets capable of traveling to any city in the world in less than an hour, a form of transport he calls “Earth-to-Earth.” I ask if there’s anything that he believes works that surprises people.

“I think being precise about the truth works. Truthful and precise. I try to tell people, ‘You don’t have to read between the lines with me. I’m saying the lines!’”

He enjoys the usual pop-culture geek favorites: The Onion, Rick and Morty, South Park, The Simpsons, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Pykrete and Habakkuk

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

When commenter Sam J. mentioned building ships out of concrete, I went searching for an old post on Pykrete, only to find that I hadn’t ever posted anything on Project Habakkuk:

Project Habakkuk or Habbakuk (spelling varies; see below) was a plan by the British during the Second World War to construct an aircraft carrier out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice) for use against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic, which were beyond the flight range of land-based planes at that time. The idea came from Geoffrey Pyke, who worked for Combined Operations Headquarters. After promising scale tests and the creation of a prototype on a lake in Alberta, Canada, the project was shelved due to rising costs, added requirements, and the availability of longer-range aircraft and escort carriers which closed the Mid-Atlantic gap the project was intended to address.

[...]

Pyke conceived the idea of Habbakuk while he was in the United States organising the production of M29 Weasels for Project Plough, a scheme to assemble an elite unit for winter operations in Norway, Romania and the Italian Alps. He had been considering the problem of how to protect seaborne landings and Atlantic convoys out of reach of aircraft cover. The problem was that steel and aluminium were in short supply, and were required for other purposes. Pyke realized that the answer was ice, which could be manufactured for only 1 percent of the energy needed to make an equivalent mass of steel. He proposed that an iceberg, natural or artificial, be levelled to provide a runway and hollowed out to shelter aircraft.

[...]

The project’s code name seems to have been consistently (mis)spelled Habbakuk in official documents at the time. This may in fact have been Pyke’s own error, as at least one early document apparently written by him (though unsigned) spells it that way. (However, post-war publications by people concerned with the project, such as Perutz and Goodeve, all restore the proper spelling, with one “b” and three “k”s.) The name is a reference to the project’s ambitious goal: “… be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV)

[...]

In early 1942 Pyke and Bernal called in Max Perutz to determine whether an icefloe large enough to withstand Atlantic conditions could be built up fast enough. Perutz pointed out that natural icebergs have too small a surface above water for an airstrip, and are prone to suddenly rolling over. The project would have been abandoned if it had not been for the invention of pykrete, a mixture of water and woodpulp that when frozen was stronger than plain ice, was slower-melting and would not sink. Developed by his government group and named after Pyke, It has been suggested that Pyke was inspired by Inuit sleds reinforced with moss. This is probably apocryphal, as the material was originally described in a paper by Mark and Hohenstein in Brooklyn.

Pykrete could be machined like wood and cast into shapes like metal, and when immersed in water formed an insulating shell of wet wood pulp on its surface that protected its interior from further melting. However, Perutz found a problem: ice flows slowly, in what is known as plastic flow, and his tests showed that a pykrete ship would slowly sag unless it was cooled to –16°C (3°F). To accomplish this the ship’s surface would have to be protected by insulation, and it would need a refrigeration plant and a complicated system of ducts.

Perutz proceeded to conduct experiments on the viability of pykrete and its optimum composition in a secret location underneath Smithfield Meat Market in the City of London. The research took place in a refrigerated meat locker behind a protective screen of frozen animal carcasses.

The decision was made to build a large-scale model at Jasper National Park in Canada to examine insulation and refrigeration techniques, and to see how pykrete would stand up to artillery and explosives. Large ice blocks were constructed at Lake Louise, Alberta, and a small prototype was constructed at Patricia Lake, Alberta, measuring only 60 by 30 feet (18 metres by 9 metres), weighing 1,000 tons and kept frozen by a one-horsepower motor. The work was done by conscientious objectors who did alternative service of various kinds instead of military service. They were never told what they were building. Bernal informed COHQ that the Canadians were building a 1,000-ton model, and that it was expected to take eight men fourteen days to build it. The Chief of Combined Operations (CCO) responded that Churchill had invited the Chiefs of Staff Committee to arrange for an order to be placed for one complete ship at once, with the highest priority, and that further ships were to be ordered immediately if it appeared that the scheme was certain of success.

The Canadians were confident about constructing a vessel for 1944. The necessary materials were available to them in the form of 300,000 tons of wood pulp, 25,000 tons of fibreboard insulation, 35,000 tons of timber and 10,000 tons of steel. The cost was estimated at £700,000.

Meanwhile Perutz had determined via his experiments at Smithfield Market that the optimum structural properties were given by a mixture of 14 per cent wood pulp and 86 per cent water. He wrote to Pyke in early April 1943 and pointed out that if certain tests were not completed in May, there would be no chance of delivering a completed ship in 1944.

By May the problem of cold flow had become serious and it was obvious that more steel reinforcement would be needed, as well as a more effective insulating skin around the vessel’s hull. This caused the cost estimate to increase to £2.5 million. In addition, the Canadians had decided that it was impractical to attempt the project “this coming season”. Bernal and Pyke were forced to conclude that no Habbakuk vessel would be ready in 1944.

Pyke was excluded from the planning for Habbakuk in an effort to secure American participation, a decision that Bernal supported. Pyke’s earlier disagreements with American personnel on Project Plough, which had caused his removal from that project, were the main factor in this decision.

Naval architects and engineers continued to work on Habbakuk with Bernal and Perutz during the summer of 1943. The requirements for the vessel became more demanding: it had to have a range of 7,000 miles (11,000 km) and be able to withstand the largest waves recorded, and the Admiralty wanted it to be torpedo-proof, which meant that the hull had to be at least 40 ft (12 m) thick. The Fleet Air Arm decided that heavy bombers should be able to take off from it, which meant that the deck had to be 2,000 ft (610 m) long. Steering also raised problems; it was initially projected that the ship would be steered by varying the speed of the motors on either side, but the Royal Navy decided that a rudder was essential. However, the problem of mounting and controlling a rudder over 100 ft (30 m) high was never solved.

We’ll all end up with extended warranties and after-market undercoating

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

We are witnessing the collision of two megatrends that have permeated our daily lives — the widespread use of video, and persuasion:

The appeal of Khan Academy is immediately obvious to anyone who has encountered barriers in learning, like taking a college class taught by a graduate teaching assistant for whom English was a second language. The website has helped my children for years.

But there are other messages that people want to put in front of us, many aimed at separating us from our cash.

I recently bought my younger daughter a used car. Her current ride, a Ford F150 4×4, had developed rust, which never ends well. So we quickly found a replacement. (Yes, it’s another F150 4×4, but it’s what she likes.)

I wrote a check for the difference between vehicles, but still had to sit down with the dealer’s finance manager.

At one point my daughter asked about the thick, black device that he seemed to be using as a desktop. He told us it was a computer monitor and cost $18,000, and that a third-party sold it to the dealership, not the parent company automaker.

When operational, it will display the different things consumers can add to their car purchases, like warranties and dealer add-ons.

I thought about this, and asked if the display simply showed documents, or video? He answered the latter, and that all buyers will be required to watch it.

Bingo.

Now I knew several things.

The dealership had contracted with a third-party to provide a presentation for each after-market possibility, like warranties, that had the highest probability of success. There’s no doubt that such video presentations, like candidate Trump’s election musings and the videos on Khan Academy, are full of the persuasive language described by Scott Adams.

I’m also certain that this language has been tested in focus groups and used in beta-test situations nationwide to prove its effectiveness. Why else would a dealership shell out almost $20,000 for a display system that will do the same thing the finance manager is supposed to do?

I explained to my daughter that the point of the system was to guarantee that the selling process had the highest chance of success, and to ensure that it wasn’t left to the skill level and whims of each finance officer.

I also told her the eventual goal was to cut headcount, which reduced payroll. I said all of this as we sat with the finance manager filling out forms.

He assured me there was no way to get rid of finance people. The dealership was much too busy.

Those were famous last words from a guy who never presented me the option of an extended warranty on a used vehicle.

That screen, and those videos, are intended to replace him and persuade me.

Technology is bringing the best sales techniques to every situation.

As consumers, if we don’t continually educate ourselves on what we need and what we can decline, we don’t stand a chance.

Meaning we’ll all end up with extended warranties and after-market undercoating.

Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

We’ve known since at least 2012 that Facebook was a powerful, non-neutral force in electoral politics:

In that year, a combined University of California, San Diego and Facebook research team led by James Fowler published a study in Nature, which argued that Facebook’s “I Voted” button had driven a small but measurable increase in turnout, primarily among young people.

Rebecca Rosen’s 2012 story, “Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand?” relied on new research from Fowler, et al., about the presidential election that year. Again, the conclusion of their work was that Facebook’s get-out-the-vote message could have driven a substantial chunk of the increase in youth voter participation in the 2012 general election. Fowler told Rosen that it was “even possible that Facebook is completely responsible” for the youth voter increase. And because a higher proportion of young people vote Democratic than the general population, the net effect of Facebook’s GOTV effort would have been to help the Dems.

The research showed that a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions, especially with America’s electoral-college format in which a few hotly contested states have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome. And the pro-liberal effect it implied became enshrined as an axiom of how campaign staffers, reporters, and academics viewed social media.

In June 2014, Harvard Law scholar Jonathan Zittrain wrote an essay in New Republic called, “Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out,” in which he called attention to the possibility of Facebook selectively depressing voter turnout. (He also suggested that Facebook be seen as an “information fiduciary,” charged with certain special roles and responsibilities because it controls so much personal data.)

In late 2014, The Daily Dot called attention to an obscure Facebook-produced case study on how strategists defeated a statewide measure in Florida by relentlessly focusing Facebook ads on Broward and Dade counties, Democratic strongholds. Working with a tiny budget that would have allowed them to send a single mailer to just 150,000 households, the digital-advertising firm Chong and Koster was able to obtain remarkable results. “Where the Facebook ads appeared, we did almost 20 percentage points better than where they didn’t,” testified a leader of the firm. “Within that area, the people who saw the ads were 17 percent more likely to vote our way than the people who didn’t. Within that group, the people who voted the way we wanted them to, when asked why, often cited the messages they learned from the Facebook ads.”

In April 2016, Rob Meyer published “How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election” after a company meeting in which some employees apparently put the stopping-Trump question to Mark Zuckerberg. Based on Fowler’s research, Meyer reimagined Zittrain’s hypothetical as a direct Facebook intervention to depress turnout among non-college graduates, who leaned Trump as a whole.

Facebook, of course, said it would never do such a thing. “Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community,” a spokesperson said. “We as a company are neutral — we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”

They wouldn’t do it intentionally, at least.

There’s much more.

Supercavitating ammunition won’t skip

Friday, October 20th, 2017

DSG Technology has a new line of supercavitating ammunition, Cav-X, which won’t skip off the surface when shot into water — and which will penetrate another 60 meters, in the case of its .50-caliber round:

Online dating is changing society

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Online dating appears to be increasing interracial dating and marriage and leading to stronger marriages in general:

Next, the researchers compare the results of their models to the observed rates of interracial marriage in the U.S. This has been on the increase for some time, but the rates are still low, not least because interracial marriage was banned in some parts of the country until 1967.

But the rate of increase changed at about the time that online dating become popular. “It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” say the researchers.

The increase became steeper in the 2000s, when online dating became even more popular.  Then, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages jumped again. “It is interesting that this increase occurs shortly after the creation of Tinder, considered the most popular online dating app,” they say.

Tinder has some 50 million users and produces more than 12 million matches a day.

Of course, this data doesn’t prove that online dating caused the rise in interracial marriages. But it is consistent with the hypothesis that it does.

Meanwhile, research into the strength of marriage has found some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup than those who meet traditionally. That has the potential to significantly benefit society. And it’s exactly what Ortega and Hergovich’s model predicts.

Of course, there are other factors that could contribute to the increase in interracial marriage. One is that the trend is the result of a reduction in the percentage of Americans who are white. If marriages were random, this should increase the number of interracial marriages, but not by the observed amount. “The change in the population composition in the U.S. cannot explain the huge increase in intermarriage that we observe,” say Ortega and Hergovich.

Give support and encouragement to competent people who have ideas they want to try out

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis reminds the Systems Analyst to take technical estimates for complicated systems with some skepticism if not cynicism:

The best that can be done is to push the state of the art in a whole series of component fields, give support and encouragement to competent people who have ideas they want to try out, be on the alert to extract by-product and bonus values and, most important of all, examine the programs as a whole to see if they are complete. The Systems Analyst should especially concentrate on the last two things. After all, almost everyone else is tied up with either specific projects, administration, budget crises, or congressional investigations. In some cases, he is just about the only Indian who can spend full time looking at the broader aspects of a program. What is also important, he often has a full-time and technically competent group of associates to help him look.

Even quite competent engineers can be very unreliable

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

While discussing how development programs can go awry, Techniques of Systems Analysis paraphrases the cover story from Time magazine’s January 30, 1956 issue:

The ICBM program suffered from a lack of support because the guidance problems were so severe that the rest of the program was not pushed. The unexpected development of the H-bomb suddenly made even very inaccurate ICBM’s useful. We were unfortunately at that time in no position to benefit immediately from this development. We would have been in an even worse position but, luckily, an entirely different program — the rocket booster for the Navaho cruise type missile — had been pushed so far that we could use it as a basis for the ICBM engine.

Time Magazine 1956-01-30 The Missile

Techniques of Systems Analysis continues:

It is also important to realize that even quite competent engineers and technical people can be very unreliable when it comes to estimating either the short or long range performance of systems undergoing Research and Development. This seems to be particularly true in the fields of electronics, aeronautics, and nuclear engineering. In the past 20 years there has been an exponential increase in the state of the art of all of those fields. Both as a cause and an effect of this exponential increase, these same fields play a central role in current military technology. For this reason military technology is much more unstable than most civilian technology and as a result the two very common mistakes mentioned occur. (Even first rate engineers will overestimate their ability to apply the new ideas in the immediate future and at the same time underestimate the rate at which long term development is proceeding.) To give a recent unclassified example form the electronics industry, let us consider the high-speed computer.

In 1945, 1946, and 1947, a large number of very competent engineers were going around promising to have wonderful electronic computers available in a year or two. In spite of these promises, by 1949, only computers of very modest attainments (as compared to the promises) had been built an the slippage of the more ambitious machines had become a joke. For example some of the engineers were saying “We are really very reliable. No matter when you ask us we will always reply that the computer will be ready in 18 months.” However, by 1950, a number of these better machines had achieved semi-reliable operation and, by 1951, they were almost all working well. Today, only 5 years later, there are machines on the shelf whose performance exceeds even the wilder and most futuristic extrapolations made in 1946. Furthermore, computers which will soon be available are an order of magnitude better than the current ones.

Nobody should object to buying insurance even if he doesn’t have a fire

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Development projects provide options, Techniques of Systems Analysis emphasizes:

We often hear statements that the major reason for doing a Systems Analysis is that development programs are so expensive and it is crucial that none of them be wasted; therefore, all development programs should be tied into a system, designed as a whole. Nothing could be more wrong. Development people have a saying, “It may or may not be a mistake to develop something which is not procured, but it is always a mistake to procure something which is not developed.”

The most important thing the Department of Defense can do is see to it that we maintain a great deal of flexibility in our capability and have available a great variety of on-the-shelf items to meet a variety of contingencies. This ordinarily means that many of our development projects will never reach the stage of large-scale procurement. This may create very difficult relations with both Congress and the public. The problem has to be faced directly and preferably adroitly, but it is a mistake to cut back on potentially valuable development programs just to prevent possible criticism in the event they do nut turn out to be needed. Nobody should object to buying insurance even if he doesn’t have a fire.

Six turning and four burning

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built, with the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built:

The genesis of the B-36 can be traced to early 1941, prior to the entry of the United States into World War II. At the time it appeared there was a very real chance that Britain might fall to the German “Blitz”, making a strategic bombing effort by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) against Germany impossible with the aircraft of the time.

[...]

After the establishment of an independent United States Air Force in 1947, the beginning in earnest of the Cold War with the 1948 Berlin Airlift, and the 1949 atmospheric test of the first Soviet atomic bomb, American military planners sought bombers capable of delivering the very large and heavy first-generation atomic bombs.

The B-36 was the only American aircraft with the range and payload to carry such bombs from airfields on American soil to targets in the USSR. The modification to allow the use of larger atomic weapons on the B-36 was called the “Grand Slam Installation”.

[...]

Beginning with the B-36D, Convair added a pair of General Electric J47-19 jet engines suspended near the end of each wing; these were also retrofitted to all extant B-36Bs. Consequently, the B-36 was configured to have ten engines, six radial propeller engines and four jet engines, leading to the B-36 slogan of “six turning and four burning”. The B-36 had more engines than any other mass-produced aircraft. The jet pods greatly improved takeoff performance and dash speed over the target. In normal cruising flight, the jet engines were shut down to conserve fuel. When the jet engines were shut down, louvers closed off the front of the pods to reduce drag and to prevent ingestion of sand and dirt.

The B-36 features prominently in the 1955 film Strategic Air Command, along with Jimmy Stewart, who was a real-life military pilot:

It would be sensible to spend even a few billion dollars

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The history of the B-36 is a “slightly atypical but not extreme” example of how difficult it is to prepare for an uncertain future, Techniques of Systems Analysis explains:

It was designed during World War II when people were thinking first of Germany and then of Japan as the enemy. It was designed to carry high explosives. It was designed when its chief enemy was thought to be the propeller-driven interceptor.

None of the analyses which went into it and determined how we should trade range, weight, altitude and speed considered the possibility that:

  • it might carry atomic bombs
  • the enemy might be Russia
  • it would have to fight its way through jet fighters and guided ground-to-air missiles
  • we would have overseas bases
  • refueling techniques would be available

Any one of these changes might have been sufficient either to eliminate its value completely or to increase it enormously. Somehow, it is up to the man who is designing such vehicles to produce equipment which will be able to fight effectively in almost unpredictable situations.

In addition to proper design, there is one very important thing which can be done to alleviate this particular problem — to defer decisions. One shouldn’t decide today whether he wants to have a long-range slow airplane or a short-range high speed one in 1965. He should carry both projects through the paper design stages. If he still doesn’t know in a couple of years which he needs, then he might carry both projects through the mock-up and possibly even the tooling stages. While the cost of doing this may be high, it is measured in millions and not in billions. It is therefore small compared to the total cost of the strategic air force.

One should always remember that the total investment in an organization like SAC runs between fifty and one hundred billion dollars. Therefore, in principle it would be sensible to spend even a few billion dollars to increase the effectiveness of this force by only 10%. Under these circumstances, one can clearly afford some very expensive development and preliminary tooling programs if they enable you to defer making crucial decisions until you can make them wisely.

Professors tend to be poor businessmen

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Some of the most crucial uncertainties that bedevil a Systems Analysis come in the realm of technological progress, Techniques of Systems Analysis explains:

It is at least partly because these are so hard to predict that the scholarly type has become useful on the policy level.

We think that, if experienced men are available whose experience has been obtained in competitive situations such that the incompetent are almost automatically eliminated, it is best to rely on their experience rather than on analytical techniques and analytical people. It is generally believed and probably correct that professors tend to be rather poor business men, even when their field is business administration.

However, it is characteristic of the current world that the effective rate of technological progress has been enormously increased. In a real sense, on many of the problems faced by the Department of Defense nobody has relevant practical experience. Furthermore, the need for good advance planning is also more important. Even in small wars, the pace of events may be so fast and the lead-time for development and procurement of forces or even for making operating changes so long, that it is practically impossible to correct mistakes in planning after the war has broken out. This is, of course, even more likely to be true in large wars. In this situation, one must somehow wed whatever experience is available to analysis. This means making scholars out of some of the military and military out of some of the scholars.

Near-net forging for larger, less expensive aircraft structures

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Arconic in Pittsburgh manufactures parts for the F-35, including some really big parts:

What sets Arconic apart from its competitors is the strength of the alloys it produces — often using patented formulas — and its ability to take many components and manufacture them as a single piece, reducing weight and bulk, said Eric Roegner, president of Arconic Defense.

The company manufactures the F-35’s bulkheads in entirely one piece, using techniques Arconic developed for the inner rear spars on Airbus’ A380 airliner, which first flew in 2005.

“[At] that point, we had been talking to Lockheed, and they were a little skeptical, but when they saw the part flying on the A380, they came to the table,” Roegner said in a Sept. 21 interview.

Arconic forges the bulkheads in one piece out of aluminum or titanium using a 50,000-ton machine at its facility in Cleveland, Ohio. Only one such machine exists anywhere in the world, he said.

To make the 21 foot long, 7 foot tall bulkheads through a more traditional manufacturing process would require machining multiple large pieces of titanium or aluminum, fastening them together, and then putting additional forgings on it, he said. But by using a process called near-net forging — along with some technologies developed and patented by Arconic — the company can make the bulkheads in one piece and dramatically reduce the cost and weight of the component.

F-35 Bulkhead

“Some of the bulkheads [initially] were composed of upwards of 100 different parts. We could make them in one piece. Just wham, you get your titanium forging or your aluminum forging,” he said. “This one application across six bulkheads took 400 pounds out, and it got the installed cost of the final part down 25 percent.”

First time anyone came up to my average

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

An important source of uncertainty, Techniques of Systems Analysis notes, is degradation of estimated performance:

Notice we said degradation, not variation.

The reader is undoubtedly familiar with examples of this effect. For instance one might ask a porter what his average tip is. He answers $2.00. You give him $2.00 and he says, “First time anybody came up to my average.”

It should be understood that most of the estimates of average performance are of this sort. They are goals, often idealized and optimistic goals, rather than sober predictions. We are talking here about more than the (very important) question of the degradation of performance of individual soldiers and organizations. The Systems Analyst is equally concerned with the degradation of performance of equipment undergoing Research and Development as compared to the predictions of the designers. It is amazing how uniformly optimistic most of the contracts and official sources seem to be — at least for the short term estimates. For the long term the same sources tend systematically to underestimate long term improvements.

There is another aspect of the degradation of our performance which is of extreme importance. It is related to or identical with the “battleship thinking” of the prewar Navy. The battleship was a fine object in its day but, when it day had passed, some of our naval officers were reluctant to give it up. They placed a reliance on it which proved to be costly.