I’ve Tried to Do This

I’ve tried to do this, I’ve paid the price. But it IS powerful. I’ve seen ideas make it from here, half formed, and out into the world. It is worth it.
I’ve found largely what he says here is true.
Consider it.

195 responses to “I’ve Tried to Do This

  1. I’ve got loads of self-respect– how else can I be so arrogant as to believe I’m responsible for everything that goes wrong? ^.^

    • Yeah, but I’m responsible for all those starving children in Africa, the burning Amazon, Tropical Storm Dorian, and the continuation of the White Patriarchy.

      Oh, and the imbalance of colors in packages of M&Ms.

      • Tropical Storm Dorian

        Ah, but are you responsible for durian?

      • You’re responsible for Tropical Storm Dorian?

        What a relief – I feared it might be my fault after those chili beans I had the other day.

      • >> “Oh, and the imbalance of colors in packages of M&Ms.”

        You MONSTER.

        Excuse me, I’ll be right back with a lynch mob.

        • Not worried about any mere Lynch mob.
          Now if it were an Ameriprise mob, I’d be worried.

        • Fluffy disapproves of lynch mobs. He’s a purist and wants torches and pitchforks, but the torches never have good smoke.

          • Hmm, we could coat the tines with something flammable…

            • Only if the smoke is good. That is, it has to combust pretty thoroughly to cee-oh-two and aitch-two-oh. The aardvark doesn’t like the smoke stains, and Fluffy is offended at a less than perfect burn.

              • Hopefully a better chemist than I can figure something out, then. Because I like the idea of stabbing ’em and lighting ’em up at the same time. Very efficient, and almost like a poor man’s magical flaming sword.

          • Silly. You wrap the torch heads with marijuana, and pour some nice scented oil on them. They burn well, and ALL your cares just flutter away like a beautiful flock of butterflies and shiny floating jewels and…..

            Okay, enough with the pot torches.

            • Fluffy can make it burn so well that the MJ goes straight to cee-oh-two and aitch-two-oh. The problem tends to be the surroundings. . . .

        • How can they load their bags with so much orange and yellow? Don’t they understand we want purple M&Ms?

      • I keep wondering if TS Dorian remains constant even as the radar and visual satellite images age and change.

        • analytical-engine-mechanic

          She: (also peering down at the jumbotron-sized laptop screen) “What’s that?”

          He: (still staring at his computer screen) “The latest tropical storm, bearing down on Hispaniola and/or Puerto Rico. Ultra-high-resolution monochrome visible-light image off that amazing new GOES satellite.”

          She: (furiously analyzing available data) “That’s not just a weather satellite image, you are now looking at the gen-u-wine Portrait of Dorian, Grayscale.”

          He: (turning to face her) “If that thing is still tooling around the Atlantic Basin come Thanksgiving, Amelia, the forecasters are gonna be reaching for the cyanide bottle, not the cranberry sauce.”

      • YOU’RE responsible for TS Dorian?

        Oh good. The forecasts make it look like that thing is specifically pointed at MY house. Funny, I don’t remember ticking you off, but I admit, I do have that effect on some people. LOL!

        • All bluster and hot air? It’s either me, or the politicians. And everyone knows politicians never take responsibility for anything, except credit for nice things they didn’t have anything to do with.

          • Some years ago there was a ‘meme’ of sorts with a hurricane storm track over Florida, with blue and red areas indicated, the storm heading through primarily red areas. “Even G_d/nature hates the Republicans” or such. I maintained that it indicated that the blue areas were just THAT full of windbags and blowhards.

        • On a more positive note, the surfing along the Atlantic coast should be EPIC over the next week or so.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Whiteness causes climate change. All that sunshine reflecting off the pale surfaces, you know.

      • you’re also responsible for all the “3”s, “E”s, and “w”s in the M&Ms back. ijs.

  2. A long time ago, I decided to just tell the truth. It’s easier for me, because then I’ll never have to remember my lies, much less get tangled up in keeping them straight. It’s easier to take my lumps up front, and then it’s over. My parents reinforced this by pointing out immediate resolution made for things being fixed, and then we move on. It’s when things are hidden that they grow into big problems with big punishments.

    As an adult, I’ve learned that telling the truth really harshes other people’s mellow, but it also means I avoid a ton of drama llama rodeos… and when everything blows up, I’m usually well outside the fallout zone. (Although, quite often I’ve been stuck with the cleanup, or trying to get things up and running in the sudden absence of employment by the people who fouled it up. The reward for a job well done is a harder job.)

    Cheaters prosper – otherwise there wouldn’t be such a terrible temptation to cheat. But the prospering is usually short-term and always self-destructive. Truth is harder in the short term, and so, so, so much easier on my life, my peace of mind, and on my soul in the long term.

    • Josephine Tey had a comment in The Daughter of Time about criminals being folk who couldn’t reason from B to C. They could get A to B just fine—I rob the bank, it gets me money—but not take the next step of “and then they will likely catch me.”

      Short-term thinking. Long-term works out much better.

      • The Progressive Left only reasons from A to ‘Asub1’; If I say this, I will appear Progressive and Hip. They don’t ever get to the short term of ‘people will either tear the idea apart, or try to implement it’ which might lead to the medium term concern of ‘what if it’s bollocks?’.

      • I recall seeing a paper on the IQ of felony convicts: averaging in the IQ85 range. Then again, as someone once pointed out… the prisons are full of criminals who did things the hard way or the stupid way.

        For comparison, it takes about IQ92 or so to invent the wheel.

    • Yes. All of the above.

    • The added side benefit I’ve found to always telling the truth is that sometimes the truth is freakin hilarious. Especially when you’re dealing with a drama llama. Of course, I have been accused of finding humor in the most bizarre places.

      It can get you in trouble sometimes though. When asked “Does this dress make my butt look fat?” The true answer may be “No, the fact that your butt is fat is what makes your butt look fat, the dress just doesn’t sufficiently cover that fact.” but it’s likely to get you stabbed in your sleep.

      • “Studies have found that women who carry a few extra pounds outlive men who point that out.”

      • Don’t lie… divert!

        “Your butt looks awesome.”

        Pretend you answered the question.

        • Oh God, that would get me stabbed in the middle of the night. Awesome can be taken too many ways.
          “I like the way you look, dear; but how does that dress make you feel?” is about the most neutral expression I can come up with without lying about anything.

          • *snickers*

            The worst good one I’ve heard is “I’d hit that.”

            ….

            Yes, he got slugged.

            Flirtatiously.

            • /giggle

              I did NOT just giggle.

              • Mine uses “I liked it better off” when asked how something looks.

                Which is actually pretty useless, because what I really want to know is if I accidentally sat in ketchup or something.

                • what I really want to know is …

                  I presume you’ve, you know, told him that? In my experience it is not something guys instinctively know, particularly when gazing on a comely derriere.

      • I will say, though, that my husband hardly notices what I wear but I bought a pair of dress slacks because they sort of fit and I needed them even if I thought the pattern was iffy, and my husband took one look and told me that I wasn’t allowed to actually wear them, ever.

        I’d rather that than him *not* telling me.

        • Men, as a general rule, have little understanding of female fashion and are very confused by such questions.

          A major part of the problem is that they have very mixed feelings: what they enjoy seeing on nubile young femmes is often very different from what they deem suitable to wives and daughters. Even in these enlightened times many guys have trouble making fundamental distinctions of situational appropriateness.


          Over time and with care and patience they can be taught to vaguely grasp certain fundamentals, such as “Does this outfit convey the image of an accomplished professional?” A question of that sort raises images in men’s minds against which they can compare and contrast the outfit in question.

          N.B. to men: “Professional” in this instance should not be taken to include streetwalker or others of that profession.

          • Heh. Glad you clarified that RES.

          • I think you’d be surprised. Men have learned to hold their tongues in the name of domestic tranquility.

            The sad part being that many modern women do not have the fashion sense of their grandmothers…who understood how to cover figure flaws effectively.

          • The tactful phrasing is, “I don’t think it does anything for you.”

          • I had not heard that song in a while. I had forgotten how bizarrely well he combines a comic song with conveying the tone of a woman who has, possibly, discovered what is on the other side of fury.

            What I cannot figure out is why, even after listening to it, my brain is trying to present me with lyrics that go something like:
            I’m gonna hire a wino
            To decorate our home
            With a ten-piece band
            An eight-foot grand
            And a ten-foot crocodile

            I’m fairly sure part of this is some mangled version of the lyrics to an entirely different song, but I have serious doubts about the crocodile.

            Update, after some searching: The line from “If the Devil Danced in Empty Pockets” is actually “With a nine-foot grand, an eight-piece band, and a twelve-girl chorus line,” which is closer than I was honestly expecting.

        • Elf and I had that dance at one point.

          Finally, I lost my temper and informed him that I was asking for information to make sure I didn’t look like a complete idiot who can’t dress herself, not asking if he loved me.

          Which resulted in a spat about “if they don’t like it, screw’em.”

          But I now get useful feedback.

          • “I appreciate your support, but please, as you love me, try to look at me from the perspective of someone who doesn’t for a minute.”

        • Years ago, my Lady and I came to a truce on clothes.If I think something looks great, I tell her. If it falls into one or more of several categories where we disagree, I point that out. For example, there is a class of purple hues which she gravitates towards that I dislike; they strike me as greyish and messy. She will aske me about a garment in that tone, and I will point out the color, which we both know I dislike. She used to say, “Oh, then I won’t get it.” in a very cast-down way. With years of repetition I have managed to get her to understand that I don’t freaking CARE. SHE’S the one who has to wear the thing. She should dress to please herself, because I love her, and won’t stop just because she likes lavender-grey clothes.

          • I find that whether an outfit feels good to its wearer often does more to determine its attractiveness than many other factors. The aura of confidence and self-assurance and just general happiness that the wearer bears can do much to overwhelm many minor “flaws” in the outfit.

            Walking about with your shoulders back, head held high and a smile on your lips saves many an outfit from drabness.

        • Yep. If you can’t trust your husband (or wife) to be straight with you about that kind of stuff, who can you? Especially since you basically “own” each other’s bodies.

      • The correct answer to a “Does this dress make my butt look fat?” type of question is some variant on “Do you have cause to believe I’ve taken leave of my senses?”

        Although “Why do you ask me a question like that?” is also acceptable, if you’re willing to hash it out.

        • A woman shouldn’t ask me that question unless she wants an honest answer. Then again, I’m told I have all the tact of a spiked mace and the sensitivity of battle armor.

          • Well, I at least know whom I’m drinking with if I ever run into you at a con.

          • Remember: This is America!

            It is always permissible to answer such questions by taking the Fifth: I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incinerate me.

            Of course, this answer in family discussion also poses risk of incineration.

      • You have failed to factor in the Sisterhood, the great conspiracy.

        Here’s how it works: All throughout the male childhood, he is led to believe by his mother and sisters that rendering an accurate and honest opinion carries no repercussions whatsoever. Sister asks “Does this make me look fat…?”, brother answers “Why, yes… You look like a hippo in those jeans…”. Sister nods with understanding, leaves the room, laughs an evil laugh with a note of hysteric menace, and knows that she’s laid another brick in the wall of his naivete. His mother plays the same evil game–No consequence to honesty, whatsoever. By the time he reaches dating age, he has no idea that telling the truth in these matters is suicidal folly.

        First time he has a significant other, he does precisely as his feminine family members have conditioned him, and it promptly blows up in his face.

        Which causes the sisters and mother to laugh gleefully in private, observing how well their gaslighting has worked…

        I’m telling you, it’s all part of the plot. The Sisterhood is out to drive us mad, and works incessantly behind the scenes to make sure we men never feel comfortable or safe…

        You think I’m joking, but think about it: When has your sister or your mother ever reacted the same as your girlfriend or wife, to the same sort of opinion? 😉

        • You think I’m joking, but think about it:

          No, I am trying very hard to not think you a paranoid misogynist.

          Women are no more prone to engage in deliberate plots against men than men are plotting to reduce all women to Handmaids. Both sexes are inclined to engage in behavioural patterns that seem to favor them in their daily encounters.

          The real problem in the scenario at the base of this question is that men and women engage in different communication processes and consistently fail to recognise they are separated by a common language.

          • Pretty sure Kirk was making a funny about how sisters/mom/aunt are asking for information, while girlfriend/wife are asking for affirmation.

            • Pretty sure Kirk was making a funny …

              Pretty sure Kirk was trying to make a funny …

              FIFY

              And I was trying to not think him a paranoid misogynist. Some kinds of jokes tend to lead others to suspect what underlying assumptions you hold.

            • But I’m not. When I ask Dan if I look like a floursack squeezed into a handbag, I MEAN it.

              • Me, too, but as Elf informed me last night– I don’t count.

                **********

                K, this seriously came up on conversation. Because he was on YouTube, and (wait, Edge, you seriously just edited youtube to the correct capitalization?) he saw some commercial about a detergent to make it so your clothes don’t stretch where a guy was on a first date and the gal said something like “You look…comfortable!” when he said she looked nice.
                That hit is BS button where he said no guy is going to hit the first date without looking at himself in the mirror on the way out. Which got us talking about our first date, and I mentioned I lost my temper and switched clothes and headed out— “you don’t count. We’re weird, dear.”

                We’d also been hanging out in Navy coveralls for the last six months, so dressing up was a little silly.

                • Reminds me of something we used to say when I was still on Active Duty.

                  “You know a woman looks great if she can look good in BDUs.”

                  Of course it’s hard for anyone to look great in BDUs, men or women.

                  • And that, in a nutshell, is why the Israeli military zomga shots are so insanely popular.

                    (Even I drool over some of those ladies)

                    Who designed their uniforms?!?!

                  • And because humans are very flexible– there’s also the 10-at-sea, 3-on-shore effect.

                    It’s easy to look great if there are no other women around.

                    • Curiously, the male eye also rates women more attractive when they are in a group. Something about not noticing individual flaws — it’s been a while since I read the explanation and it hardly seems worth searching for it.

                      It’s almost as if humans have been programmed to procreate.

                    • The one I love is how guys in testing really do “see” their wife as the girl he married.

                      That is just so incredibly sweet and make-you-cry…..

                  • I knew one woman who managed to look good in a flight suit. Most of us looked like pickles.

                    • While testing the new Wright-Patt centrifuge, I saw a couple of ladies who looked very nice in a flight suit. Then there was one lady who worked with my mother who looked *hot* in their flight suit. My mother….she managed to look distinguished and authoritive.

                  • Either she looks great or you’ve been on deployment too long.

              • That is the sort of specific question a man can answer without concern over how long he’ll be sleeping on the couch.

                You have to remember the limits on male conceptualization regarding fashion. It is cruel to ask them questions which induce vapor lock of the brain.

                Just so, men need to understand the limits on female thinking about such matters as stereo speakers. While he is thinking about pitch perfect reproduction at levels audible a mile distant, she’s likely thinking in terms of how to achieve a pleasing (and unembarrassing) configuration of furnishings around the speakers looming in her living room like the monoliths from 2001.

                • But my Magnapans sounded soooo nice! (Alas, there was nothing resembling room to put them in the new house, and no time to find a nice home for them, so they’re landfill.) Snif.

                  • This is what Freecycle is for… passing along the can’t-keep that’s too-good-to-landfill.

                    Or even the you-thought-it-was-worn-out… my favorite final-layer-stripping snow shovel was someone else’s scrap.

                    • We’re talking 2003 for these. Plus, we had 15 days from the time the sales offer was accepted to when we had to be out of the house. That was a *scramble*!

                      That was truly wild. We got the old place listed, thinking it would take a couple months to sell. Nope, it sold in a week. Then the buyer wanted it ASAP. So, between multiple storage units, the Salvation Army thrift store, and a lucky neighbor, (and the landfill) we dealt with a lot of stuff. All told, we went from having the house listed over Labor Day weekend to having everything moved to Oregon by Halloween.

                      OTOH, there’s the next move; that timeframe will be generous. I can disposition a lot of stuff before we get the place on the market.

                    • “had 15 days from the time the sales offer was accepted to when we had to be out of the house”

                      MIL pulled that on her kids. Kids asked/pleaded/told her to wait. Oldest son was staying with her so she wasn’t alone. She waited a little over a month to list the house after FIL passed away. House sold in 3 days. For cash. Kids had 30 days to get her, and the household moved out, somewhere.

                      Kids homes were not an option (or at least immediately):

                      1. Son living with her was because he was in middle of/just divorced; no home.
                      2. Daughter in town. Lets just say her house was NOT an option. (Brother eventually bought (bailed her out) it, and gutted it, to flip it.) MIL eventually ended up living with this daughter but not until after a move 4 months later.
                      3. Other daughter was way out of state, still dealing with the death of her husband.
                      4. Us? Well we were out of town, although not near as far as the second daughter. But the fact we had a newborn might have had something to do with it … bedrooms right next to nursery. MIL was too fragile, mentally, and medically, to deal with a newborn in the same household, 24/7. (Also the reason I got a pass on doing ANYTHING to help.)

                      Her shock that she had, just had, to be out of the house, in less than a month, was epic (wasn’t there; but boy did I get to hear the rant when hubby got home. House sold before baby was actually born. I just got to be there the last two weekends of the clean out/move. I got to stay out of the way. In fact the only reason baby & I were there was so MIL could see the baby.)

                    • The lady we bought our house from in October was apparently expecting it to sit a while, maybe go in the spring. She let people view it on the weekend and had two offers on Monday/Tuesday. I hope it wasn’t too rough on her.

                    • I used to look in freecycle regularly. Then stopped. Maybe time to do again.

                    • A common conversation after the move was “What happened to X?” “I don’t think it made it. It think it went to the Salvation Army or else it got stuck on the moving van*.”

                      (*) The movers didn’t give any assistance with the checkoff/stickers, and one box might have spilled over to the next client on the trailer, in Seattle. Missed that Tupperware. We’re too old to move much ourselves, but now we know what corners the movers try to cut.

                    • We had movers when moved from Longview to Eugene. Company paid.

                      Mover’s used space in our truck to complete the move for another family. Luckily, that family was being moved by the same company. We knew up front, so both families made sure to mark with names.

                      Also, mover’s were understaffed, so we helped, everything except actual loading/packing of truck. Nothing went missing. Nothing damaged.

                      FYI. Reason #99 why we chose not to move to Rainer on that force transfer. Company had quit paying for moves when forced. Moving ain’t cheap.

                      Funny thing. We’d like to build a house plan we’ve got. We have too problems. 1) Can’t decide on where. Know where not. But not where. 2) Then we’d have to actually, you know, move. Pack, move, and unpack. … maybe not? Nope. Not unless someone else does step 2.

                    • $SPOUSE convinced me that trying to keep this place going without two able-bodied people (doc says the last pin that penetrates the skin comes out in two weeks. I *might* be released to extensive walking then. Might be two weeks after that.) was not working, and it hasn’t been conducive to domestic tranquility.

                      We’ll have a few things to do to get ready to move. I have at least one interior door that needs to be replaced (the installers didn’t know and didn’t care how to do it right), and we have a boatload of stuff that should be out of the way before it’s listed.

                      So, we’re now planning. The mail drop place we use has a large secure storage facility, so we’ll probably do a bunch of box-‘n-store. The barn/shop has supplies I won’t need now, as well as stuff that can be given/sold/tossed.

                      Still, we’ll end up with movers, and this time I won’t be sweet-talked into skipping the checkoff. There are a couple of majors in town, neither one is Starving Students* (shudder). The local crew that Mayflower used was bad enough in ’03.

                      (*) They blew us off when my then-GF (now wife) was moving from her apartment to my place, forcing a U-haul scramble. Later reviews indicated that we were lucky, the local affiliate combined incompetence with extortion tactics. (“Pay us $200 more if you want to see your stuff.”)

                    • Freecycle bookmarked. I have some stuff that might suitable. Not a lot of local traffic, but the other alternatives aren’t good, either.

                      On house building: That was the first part of our efforts. However, what we want is a)2-5 acres, b) reasonably flat, c) closer to town than here, d) affordable. We never got to ‘c’ or ‘d’. Flat parcels are either tiny or pastures at 60-100 acres and up.

                      Moving is a pain, but doable.

                • …but I *have* the monoliths from 2001: Carver “Amazing” speakers. Shiny black, 54″ tall, 28″ wide, 10″ deep. Each one driven by its own bridged Cube amp. Plus the 24″ subwoofer with its amp.

                  Several people didn’t even recognize them as speakers. One said she thought they were doors…

                  No, they’re not very efficient. And they’re enormous. And glassware rattles in the kitchen cabinets during loud passages. But I love them anyway…

              • “Can’t you tell you look nice?”
                “NO! That’s why I’m asking!”
                “Dear, you always look great to me.”
                “….not HELPING, Mister I-can-identify-sixty-shades-of-freaking-navy-blue.”

                • To be fair, I’m a guy who CAN identify all sixty shades of navy blue. That one is blue. The other one is blue. so is this one. yep… they are all BLUE! EXCEPT… if it’s a particularly dark navy blue, I might think it’s black… only to realize half way through the evening that I’m wearing a blue shirt when I thought I was wearing a black shirt and start to freak out that people might have noticed and and and…. Sure, logically I can tell myself all I want that nobody could possibly have known that I thought I was wearing a black shirt when really it was navy blue, but by that time I’m already overloaded on human interaction and just want to go home and hide in my room all by myself until it passes.

                  So no… I don’t particularly dislike the color navy blue. I just hate everything it stands for! DOWN WIT NAVY BLUE!! NAVY BLUE IS TEH EVILS!!!

                  • 😆

                    Yeah, you’re with me.

                    Poor Elf has FREQUENTLY had to say “you can’t wear that, it’s two different shades” and then had to explain what on earth he’s talking about. “It’s BLUE!” isn’t sufficient.

                    • Blue can generally match shades of itself with ease, while Red and Green hues often clash. A red slanting toward violet typically will not match a red tilted toward orange, and a bluish green will clash with a yellowish one.

                      Depending on your interior lighting, such mismatching might not be apparent until walking out the door.

                      I’ve no idea why blue seems the most forgiving of primary colors and this distinction may be only an artifact of my vision, unshared by any other persons.

                    • Because blue is awesome, of course.

                      (…favorite color)

                    • At a rough guess, it’s how the eyes (and brain) process colors. Distant memory on LEDs says that color distinction is really good near the greens, while it falls off at blue. (Not sure of reds, but I suspect they’re closer to greens there.)

                    • I was taught early that unlike some colors, it was generally safe to mix shades of blue unless they were close enough to look like you meant for them to match.

                      This has certain pitfalls.

                    • IIRC, some languages don’t have a different word for blue vs green.

                      The whole blue-green-purple mass has many fewer words.\

                      ….I just suck at shades though.

                    • There has been some things written about Blue being a later-recognized colour, often offered as explanation for Homer’s description of the Aegean as “wine-dark sea.”

                      I remain reticent to buy the argument, nor do I reject it out of hand. Count me in the “Hmmmmm … that’s interesting” camp but not in the “Tell me more” bloc.

                    • For my two cents, that’s a silly argument.

                      I both drink wine and have been at sea; thanks to an obnoxious cat, I have seen a glass of wine spilled into a bath.

                      ….a lot of the seas really do look like water with wine spilled into it.

                      Like, freak you out when you are trying to stop idiot cat from poisoning himself and throw the 6oz glass into tub level close. (Ba’al regularly tried to steal my wine.)

                      But I think I heard arguments based in Ireland and such that talked about shades of blue or green, that are obviously one or the other to us.

                    • The little of the argument I’ve attempted to follow has been fairly persuasive, using things like older paintings to bolster its case. I am simply insufficiently knowledgeable or interested t determine how credible the case is.

                      As we now see blue it is very difficult to grasp how others failed to, just as our now understanding perspective drawing limits our ability to understand the failure of earlier generations to not see it.

                    • For those interested in a more in-depth explanation of the topic, a DDG Search asking “when did humans start to see blue” offered up these (top five) items (URLs deleted because WP sucks):

                      There’s Evidence Humans Didn’t Actually See Blue Until Modern …
                      There’s Evidence Humans Didn’t Actually See Blue Until Modern Times. But there’s actually evidence that, until modern times, humans didn’t actually see the colour blue. As Kevin Loria reported for Business Insider back in 2015, the evidence dates all the way back to the 1800s.

                      When Did Humans Start To See The Color Blue? | IFLScience
                      When Did Humans Start To See The Color Blue? 5 … gone one step further by tackling the history of human perception of the color blue. Loria’s investigation includes the origins of the word blue …

                      The Fascinating History of the Color Blue
                      And more importantly: Assuming that we didn’t start seeing the color blue until 1000 years ago. In order for all the people of the world to see the color blue today, there would have had to have been multiple identical genetic mutations occurring in every part of the globe – pretty much at the same time – be dominant and produce a significant evolutionary benefit.

                      What is blue and how do we see color? – Business Insider
                      So before blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they did not know they were seeing it. If you see something yet can’t see it, does it exist?

                      Did humans always see in color, or did we start with black …
                      Humans acquired the ability to see red about 35 million years ago. Back then we were monkeys, since apes hadn’t evolved yet. Before that the most recent major change occurred in the age of dinosaurs, when all mammals became nocturnal and lost two of their four cone cells (red and ultraviolet).

                      It seems possible that Blue-Green color blindness may actually be the normal human state.

                    • No. I’ve had/seen/stomped grapes for red wine that is a shade which can look like a dark blue/violet.
                      I’ve also seen sea that color before a storm.

                    • I think their argument is not whether the sea was wine-coloured, but whether Homer resorted to that phrase (or rather, its Greek equivalent) because neither he nor his listeners had a word for blue.

                      Which has me wondering whence the word for the colour came, what its etymology must be. I also wonder about Puce and a lot of other things I doubt I will ever know. Did some guy suddenly notice the sky wasn’t green and turning to his fellow exclaom, “Hey! I just realized, that sky is … uhmmmm … is Blue! Yeah, Blue!”

                      And all his fellow soldiers slowly edged away from him …

                    • I know in Portuguese is from Azure, which I think is a stone????

                    • It might just be that people have gotten used to seeing blue jeans with blue shirts so blue-on-blue is more familiar.

                    • I am totally drafting you to the “Blue jeans don’t COUNT” side, next time our we has that debate. 😉

                    • There are times when I realize being color blind isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

                    • Replying to RES tho too deeply nested…

                      Nope, it looks like color vision evolved very early as undifferentiated sensitivity to radiation, more or less centered on what we regard as the “visible” spectrum, and has narrowed as various genes mutate or are lost. Consider that many species of birds, reptiles, fish, and insects can see colors and spectra that later-evolved creatures (eg. modern mammals) cannot, and that the most color-blind animals tend to be herbivores (which might be regarded as evolutionary dead ends).

                      Also consider that in humans, color-blindness is recessive — that is, a loss of typical function. And if the dominant gene is ever lost, it’s gone forever; we’re too specialized to re-develop an undifferentiated sensitivity.

                      [And while I’m not a tetrachromat, I am one of those freaks, from a family of similar freaks, who can differentiate colors most people can’t, and can see a little further than normal into UV — tho that’s also common among people who’ve had cataract surgery.]

                    • Replying to Reziac.

                      “Consider that many species of birds, reptiles, fish, and insects can see colors and spectra that later-evolved creatures (eg. modern mammals) cannot, and that the most color-blind animals tend to be herbivores (which might be regarded as evolutionary dead ends).”

                      Perhaps not dead ends, since hasn’t it been shown that color-blind creatures are better at detecting camouflaged predators?

                  • SheSellsSeashells

                    My stepfather calls it maybe-blue for exactly that reason.

                  • That’s OK. Back in the ’70s I wore plaid polyester slacks, and my wife has seen the pictures.

                  • Look on the bright side. I know a woman who realized half way through the day that she had paired a black and a navy blue sock.

                    • I once wore a pink and yellow one. My excuse? mostly I didn’t wake up till about noon, when I was in school and dressed.

                    • Your eyes had f.lux on long before it was invented.

                      (Actually, I’ve lately had occasion to use a different monitor from my usual, and I’m fairly sure it’s not in some kind of night mode, but some things that are supposed to be goldish look pink to me.)

                  • There’s a chart that periodically makes the rounds showing the alleged differences between men’s and women’s perceptions of color:

                    But what that is actually demostrating, insofar as it reflects reality (which it kind of does), is the different names people use for colors. For example, the two colors called “plum” and “grape” on that chart are definitely different shades, but I wouldn’t use the term “plum” for that shade because I wouldn’t be sure that someone else meant the same thing by that term. Whereas “lightish purple” isn’t very specific, but I’m certain to get in the right ballpark.

                    There was also an online test I took a few years ago — I can’t remember where, but i think someone may have linked to it from here — where they gave you about 120 shades of various colors, ranging from blue to yellow passing through green, or from red to yellow passing through orange, and asked you to sort them in order by dragging the squares around. I got a perfect score on my first try, which demonstrates that I can distinguish the colors perfectly fine, I just don’t trust that the various names for them will mean the same thing to other people.

                • He too?
                  We once were picking two shades of tile (putting tile up from remnants, so two, and pattern, cheaper by like half) and Dan informed me two shades of cream, barely distinguishable to me CLASHED.
                  For years I nursed the grievance of how store employees looked at me like “does she KNOW?”
                  And then Robert and I went with Dan to pick counters for the former house. SAME THING with employees staring at us like “do they know?”
                  And Robert was like, “They think dad is gay, don’t they?”
                  And suddenly the whole thing was HILARIOUS and we were laughing ourselves sick, while Dan insisted two shades of black granite CLASHED.

                  • *facepaw* Oh lordy.

                  • It is more common for women to have the four kinds of color rods
                    Instead of three. But men can have them, just like women occasionally are color-blind or bald.

                    Taking that as a sign of gayness is just weird…. We do live in the crazy years.

                    • You don’t need to be a tetrachromat to see absurdly fine shades of color (a trait that runs in my mom’s family) — I agree with Dan, there are numerous shades of black, and of cream, and even of white, never mind of all the other colors!! and some of them clash horribly, despite looking identical to normal people.

                      For the uninitiated,
                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrachromacy

                      From TFA:
                      “Apes (including humans) and Old World monkeys normally have three types of cone cell and are therefore trichromats. However, at low light intensities, the rod cells may contribute to color vision, giving a small region of tetrachromacy in the color space;[19] human rod cells’ sensitivity is greatest at a bluish-green wave-length.”

                      This may explain why I also see in the dark like a vampire, and can still see some color until it gets really dark.

          • Seriously: you need to turn the gain on the humor waaaaay up.

            Actually given the incidence rate of Odds here (if we can call 100% an “incidence rate”) I find the level of receptiveness to humor shockingly low…..

            • *two steps back*

              Normal culture considers “being obviously nasty and insulting, to acceptable targets” to be the height of humor.

              There’s a loooooot of wiggle room.

            • I concede there may be those here in doubt about whether I’ve a viable sense of humour. In the particular point at issue today I simply think positing a female-conspiracy to emotionally control men is too dumb to be funny.

              I readily acknowledge that most of what I’ve seen passing itself off as “funny” at the movies since Mel Brooks completed Young Frankenstein struck me as more puerile than amusing. And most of the ads I’me seeing for network sit-coms are more likely to make me cringe than smile.

              I do find a great deal of Brit-coms funny, however. Yes, Minister and Black Adder remain among the funniest stuff ever.

              • It’s a thing in the strange region where it can work for some yet is in the painful area of Almost for others (and even Offensive to yet others). I once typo-ed (ha) ‘subject’ as ‘subjest’ and that would seem to be the region where this humor, if it can be called such, resides. Even those who ‘get’ it likely do not find it a laugh-inducer even at the chuckle level, but the physical response might be as much a raised eyebrow or two.

            • Aren’t you aware? There is no space for humour on the internet.

              Check Snopes if you doubt me.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Ian,
              Just because my sense of humor is cruel and not to your taste does not mean it is absent.

            • I find this tree of the conversation funny because, I initially read your comment as if it were serious, and didn’t realize it was intended to be funny until I re-read it because of the reactions.

              I actually dated a woman who used “does this make me look fat” kinds of questions as a way of artificially creating strife in order to gain control. Invariably, whatever I said would be “The wrongest thing to say” and therefore she was mad and I needed to do __Insert_whatever_she_wanted_at_the_time__ to make it up to her. Admittedly, the tactic even worked on me for a while (Hey, she was cute, and smelled nice… sue me). Then I observed her mother using the same tactic on her father. Seen it laid out from the outside clued me in (Poor guy, never had a chance. The mother wielded it like a sledge hammer, so it was more than obvious where she learned it from.)

              I don’t think very many women use that tactic in that way, although, perhaps enough have that it’s become instinct for men to cringe when their lady asks that sort of question.

              As for “the rest of the story” on me dating that woman… Yea… that didn’t last long. Life is too short, and there are too many fish in the sea to deal with that.

        • I didn’t date until after I left home, and not much thereafter. Sister was a pain.

      • One of MANY reasons that I love my Lady is that she doesn’t ask me question she doesn’t want answered.

      • There are three good answers to the question:
        1.) You look great, honey.
        2.) That dress doesn’t flatter you. I’d recommend a different one.
        3.) Why are you trying to pick a fight? What’s wrong?

      • About 20 years ago, there was an enjoyable Mel Gibson movie called What Women Want, where Mel gets conked on the head and discovers he can now “hear” female thoughts. This year they remade it with the roles reversed. The remake flopped.
        I think it flopped because women want men to read their minds. No sane man would want anyone to read his.

        • It flopped with men because no sane man wants a woman reading his mind. It flopped with women because they are sure they already do know what men are thinking.

          Note there is no need to limit the latter audience to sane women.

          I would also suggest that no sane man should want to know what women are thinking – men are too vain to withstand that insight.

        • On a serious level, it probably flopped because they haven’t the humor to find someone who can do a female version of that scene from the trailer where Mel Gibson was, er, adjusting his pants and practically giggling like a little boy as the lady was mentally shrieking.

          I NEVER EVEN WATCHED THE MOVIE and I’m snickering. He had fun with that!

    • I’m proud to lie and too lazy to keep track of the tangled webs if I did.

      On the other hand, there are entire categories of subjects people have learned not to ask me about…

    • I pretty much did the same decision you did, but with the addition of “I’m rather lazy” – remembering lies takes effort I would rather expend on something more entertaining, like trying out a complicated new recipe, or jotting down a story concept (because if I’m going to make up a story, it may as well be entertaining.)

  3. Tsk. Were I any sharper I’d cut meself.

  4. Jeff Greason

    Ten years ago, I went to the mattresses to get at least *some* of the truth about NASA’s human spaceflight program out into the public domain. It was a very, very lonely place to be. I’ll always wonder how much damage I did to my career that way. And I didn’t do even a tiny bit of good — NASA kept right on doing all the things that were going to lead precisely nowhere. And at times, I wonder how life would have been different if I’d just gone along with the rest of the committee and kept my big mouth shut. But I’m not really sorry I did it. The American public asked us what was going on and by God they deserved the truth whether they did anything about it or not.

    • Same as my telling the truth about publishing and politics. Oh, and politics and politics.

    • I wish you could have met up with Harry Stine, whose opinion of NASA was incinidiary… and so far, all of his rantings were spot-on.

      It has been half a century since the waterfall of cost-plus funding was cut off, and NASA hasn’t managed to adjust. They’re *never* going to adjust; it was written into their founding DNA. They’re a vast and settled bureaucracy that mostly does nothing.

      • Jeff Greason

        Not only did I meet Harry Stine many times, he was a huge influence on me taking one on of the Sisyphean tasks for a while, which I have now mostly passed on to others — that of having a regulatory structure for commercial spaceflight in the United States worth having. Harry told the story of how he had preserved the freedom for Americans to practice model rocketry, by *proactively* developing a mostly self-regulated structure, because there was no way it would continue as a fully unregulated activity. So when commercial human spaceflight loomed in the United States (though it has ‘loomed’ for a long time without arriving as fast as we expected), it was clear to me that it *would* be a regulated activity. I had Harry very much in mind as we set about designing a system which would be just enough regulation that one could still operate, and yet enough regulation that it would, at least for a time, “crowd out” more burdensome regulations. His thinking on space traffic management still influences me, and has yet to be carried in to practice.

      • Apollo killed NASA for the long term. They got used to having massive budgets and a cast of thousands…instead of figuring out how to do things on a shoestring budget. The sad part being that the aviation side of the house HAD that know-how.

        • The aviation side of the house at NASA has always been the afterthought – lots and lots of great aero stuff went down multiple hoppers when things got chopped to sustain the space side budget.

          The aeronautics side should be sheared back to reconstitute NACA, and in my meaner moments I think the rest should be “Starfleet”, so that when they spend all that money and only produce congressional district allocated employment and fictional missions it will match up.

      • analytical-engine-mechanic

        Stine’s book “The Third Industrial Revolution” is not only still a classic, I can’t name even one big thing he got wrong in the decades since it came out. Even to the point that computers would be the “Second Industrial Revolution” — which is more and more obviously true as the years pass.

        If you think space resources / industrialization is important, you ought to read this one.

    • I left the Agency in 2011 for a number of reasons I won’t go into, but one contributor was the cancellation of the Constellation Program. I was the lead Operations Engineer for the Earth Departure Stage of the Aries 5 heavy lift vehicle.
      I occasionally tag up with friends still working at Marshall and get an earful.
      Best I can determine, with their shiny new heavy launch vehicle they have almost caught back up to where we were seven years ago. But at least a huge number of contract and civil service folks have been drawing salaries during that time.
      Is anyone in the general public at all aware that we still operate the International Space Station with usually a crew of six? Or that sometime in the foreseeable future we’ll be able to lift crew up and bring them back without having to pay the Russian Uber drivers something like $80M per seat?

      • You’re talking about the lifter program that Obama cancelled to completely replace with another program that had to effectively start from zero?

        I’ve often scratched my head over that. But I don’t know anything about either program aside from the fact that it happened.

        • I don’t think there’s any head scratching required – SLS is called the Senate Launch System for a reason. I’m just some dude, and Uncle Lar Was There, but here’s what I think:

          The main reason Constellation was cancelled was that Constellation was contaminated by being an Evil-Bush-43 program, and obviously Barry Choom had to kill it. Constellation was also coming up on required expenditure increases for building hardware that The One wanted to avoid or at least defer, and since NASA went to RS-68Bs instead of SSMEs for Ares-V that was sending work to the wrong states for Barry’s party. But canceling all NASA development for any return-to-blank program outright was not going to fly with the Senior Senator from Alabama, so Barry did the old bait and switch and kicked the can down the road, the Senior Senator from Alabama got a huge pile of work restarting from scratch for Marshall, none of the retired shuttles went to Texas, and the SSME got magically reincorporated in the new SLS design, and hey presto, the SLS was approved and funded.

          • That’s why it’s important to chop regulations back far enough to encourage civilian aerospace development. When politics kills our ability to get off this damn rock, they’re contributing to the extinction of our species.

            • analytical-enigine-mechanic

              *Potential* extinction, to be sure, but yes. And though the remark below isn’t original to me, it’s also not wrong:

              Q. Why are humans able to pursue spaceflight today?
              A. Because the dinosaurs didn’t have a space program.

              Policy should never *invite* an extinction-level mistake.

              • So far as we know the dinosaurs didn’t have a space program.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  According to Toolmaker Koan by John McLoughlin, they did. 😉

                  The meteorite that crashed into Earth ending the Age Of Dinosaurs was one of their space habitats.

                  Apparently, they got into a “little” war between two Dinosaur “nations” and one side knocked the other side’s space habitat out of orbit. 😀

        • The Constellation program consisted of two vehicle systems: Aries 1, a people mover similar in concept to an updated Soyuz rocket and capsule while the Aries 5 was a heavy lift system with a throw weight greater than the old Apollo rockets. Main rocket lifted the Earth Departure Stage into LEO, and from there it could power a lunar capsule and lander, all in one launch.
          Shortly before cancellation we revisited the reference Mars mission plan and determined that we could do a four person Mars expedition with one Aries 1 launch and either five or seven Aries 5 launches depending on whether we could get authorization for nuclear engines. Figure around a billion per launch.

          • analytical-engine-mechanic

            “…whether we could get authorization for nuclear engines.”

            As someone who’s basically read the entire NERVA / Rover project report, off the Internet and over a few months (and growing ever more impressed and awed as I went along), I find I have to ask, *what kind* of nuclear engines?

            (Even though I know your knowledge there might be limited, and your ability or willingness to “share” it even more so.)

            From (much more recent) things I’ve also read, there was / is a decently funded effort to restart and/or recover our old (1960s-70s) nuclear rocket state of the art (see above report). First, centering on the graphite-fueled technology that was used in the actual, tested rockets (slow or epithermal reactors); then going over to a tungsten-based fuel (fast reactor) that was developed some but never really ‘fired’ in a rocket engine — and then, or also, moving toward re-developing the whole thing to use low-enriched uranium in place of the 93% or so ‘weapons grade’ of the original (which might not even be possible, for either neutronic or metallurgical reasons or both).

            The *tested* specific impulse of some of our *actual* rocket reactors is at or around twice the best hydrogen / oxygen chemical engines; and even though hydrogen is *much* less dense (so you get *worse* results if you just fill a given rocket stage with LH2 in place of LH2/LOX and stick a nuclear engine on it, roughly speaking… “density specific impulse”), this is a very-nearly-proven technology that could make a big difference (as those study results say) even on something like a ‘small’ standalone Mars mission.

            Even as a True Outsider, face pressed to the metaphorical glass looking in, I could name (but don’t) at least one person who looks to have spent *years* covering all the bases on bringing back this — almost-but-not-quite lost art.

            So why (I have to wonder) do we seem to be getting farther away, not closer to, actual flyable hardware… again? Even as we (supposedly) pursue it?

            • Good questions. Especially in light of conjectures that the recent explosion in Russia was an accident involving a nuclear rocket engine test.

    • It’s a matter of conscience. There’s a point where you have to do what’s right.

      And I appreciate it, if nobody else does. I lost a TPS classmate on Columbia.

    • analytical-engine-mechanic

      “… NASA kept right on doing all the things that were going to lead precisely nowhere…”

      Yes, NASA and others. To the point even *fictional characters* notice things and say them in ways that even the writer (me, here, from a vignette that never got finished quite fast enough to post) might not have said out loud:

      And Lucille’s echoing expression was somehow both a little dreamy, and a wee touch predatory too. “There used to be this old TV bit called ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’ — and that may just sum up large areas of the whole space-aerospace business to date. Why build and fly new hardware if nobody is paying you to do that, specifically? Why innovate and compete if you can try to roll up the launch business into a monopoly? Why fly *anything* ever if you can make a good corporate living endlessly designing and redesigning the *same* hardware… Ares, Constellation, blueprints without end, amen, amen?”

      ((see full vignette below, if anyone’s interested))

      ‘… And at times, I wonder how life would have been different if I’d just gone along with the rest of the committee…”

      Sometimes, as threadbare as it might also seem to us, it’s useful to keep in mind that doing our best (and as we see it) is *all* that *anyone* can do, ever on anything. There *is* no more, no further beyond, ne plus ultra.

      From memory, from Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”….

      (Blind) man handing out newspapers: “Thank you. Thank you for your service.”

      Returning soldier: “But all we did was survive!”

      Man: “And that’s enough. Thank you, thank you for your service…”

  5. analytical-engine-mechanic

    [vignette, on “toys” from mid-April, not finished in time to post back then, and referenced / quoted above]

    “Ms. Westenra?”

    Two heads, not one, turned precisely in his direction, one with abundant raven-black hair, the other auburn-brown. Two pairs of eyes, one sky-blue and the other hazel, looked as piercingly at him as the dual thirty-foot mirrors of some exoplanet-finder telescope. With not so much as one raised eyebrow between the twins at the mikes, the implied question was still unmistakable.

    “Okay, sorry, ah… Emilie.

    “It’s pretty hard to argue with the idea that the technology behind your new second-stage design is truly revolutionary, really pathbreaking. But how did you decide it was the way to go here, that you really wanted to press ahead to a fully commercial payload launch using a supersonic-external-combustion hybrid ramjet / rocket booster?”

    Good Lord, thought Lucille strictly to herself. He not only got all the words in right, this Allan Dawkins fellow, he probably even understands what they all mean. Maybe this press conference is looking up.

    “It’s simple,” Emilie was saying. “We want to make more money, sooner, on more tons to orbit at lower cost and higher profit. Which means we need to do each overall launch more cheaply, but just as reliably. Which means saving on construction costs, or operating costs like fuel and oxidizer, or both.” And she glanced over to Lucille (never Lucy, it’s that whole Bram Stoker thing, recalled Allan) — almost casually it seemed, but Lucille took over smoothly.

    “And that’s why the Hyperbooster — our cute name for the hybrid exscrarmjet, hope you like it — makes sense here. It costs more to make, but it should be as reliable and reusable as the pure hydrogen-oxygen rocket it replaces, so its amortized extra cost to each launch should be small. And since the oxygen to run the annular scramjet comes from outside, literally free as air, and the fuel hydrogen weighs only a ninth of the total burn mass — never mind that whole astoichiometry thing for now, Emilie — replacing even a little of the rocket burn with ramjet burn can really drop the overall oxidizer mass load.

    “That means not only less LOX to buy, but less tankage mass to build and fly and land reusably, and even a smaller downrated first stage if we wanted it or the same one lifting off less than full if we don’t. All for the same third stage and payload to orbit, the same payoff in the end.” And she looked back over at Emilie, that same way… as if to silently say, ‘over.’

    “And, Mr. Dawkins isn’t it, I hate to take up another so-called hard challenge, but we don’t actually think this step is so revolutionary or pathbreaking at all, let alone very risky. Even if this whole design approach turned out to be a total dog, and if it is why did all the test flights work, all we’d have to do is go right back to our pure hydrogen-oxygen stage… which is, remember, Saturn V era technology, though our engine *is* a little better than the old J-2s.”

    Emilie smiled, as if nostalgic for the best Sixties show ever. While fine old J-2 specs danced lightly through her head like visions of sugarplums. (Variable in flight mix, multi-restartable…)

    “And for this flight, at least, we can get to injection orbit on rocket alone. Not do that and soft-land the Hyperbooster too, but the payload comes first. And this really *isn’t* revolutionary rocket science, or new aerospace technology.

    “Not many people know it, but external hydrogen injection into a supersonic freestream and reliable ignition was demonstrated before we two were born, even if they did scrap most of the film for the silver before we were even alive to watch it. And of course they already knew what a compression corner does to a hypersonic flowstream back when Neil Armstrong was chasing the high black for NACA, trying to test reactive attitude control.

    “And that’s how and why we made the decison, folks, and to answer your real question Mr. Dawkins. Not revolutionary, just evolutionary, not pathbreaking just the first for-pay wagon on the trail. A step forward we can still step back from if we need or want — but almost certainly another one forward.”

    “A short followup, if I may, ah…” and Dawkins sketched a mischievous smile. “Misses Westenras, why not just go with the simple just for the moment, after all? It seems to do very well for your competitors, at least in the short run.”

    Emilie smiled what she thought of as her “don’t listen to a word we say / our dreams all sound the same” smile. “But our competition *is* already doing it. ‘We’re No. 2, we try harder’ and all that, though by our count we’re more like #3 or #4 into this race. We need an edge to crack open the markets as they are, now, and long-term better sooner turns out to be the jimmy we have in hand.”

    And Lucille’s echoing expression was somehow both a little dreamy, and a wee touch predatory too. “There used to be this old TV bit called ‘He who dies with the most toys wins’ — and that may just sum up large areas of the whole space-aerospace business to date. Why build and fly new hardware if nobody is paying you to do that, specifically? Why innovate and compete if you can try to roll up the launch business into a monopoly? Why fly *anything* ever if you can make a good corporate living endlessly designing and redesigning the *same* hardware… Ares, Constellation, blueprints without end, amen, amen?

    “Emilie and I are really still just a couple o’ country girls from north Kentucky at heart. We only do fancy on Saturday night, or when it pays enough, and look at my own idea of Bawsy Haute Couture here.” Her T-shirt, a.k.a. “Westernesse Voyages’ backup Tweetstream” to some fans, today read “HYPERBOOSTER. Because cool, radically radiatively cool. And OSCILLATION OVERTHRUSTER was already taken.”

    And then her eyes got That Look again, Allan thought, as if she was looking right through him and past the cameras into a vertiginously deep future. “I’ve never given a… fig, really, for that ‘he who dies with the most toys wins’ stuff.

    “What really wakes me up like fresh-brewed coffee at o’dark-thirty, my very own personalized ‘ikigai’ as they say in Japan, is to do more than just fill the toybox. To do something that casts a longer shadow… or to put it more the same way, not just ‘she who plays in the biggest sandbox wins’ but also ‘she who leaves a bigger sandbox for everyone to play in, wins bigger’ I guess is the closest way to say it.

    “And to answer your second question as directly as the first… because not only sometimes you don’t *want* to wait ’til Christmas morning to play with your newest toys, sometimes you don’t *have* to.” And he could tell, even if no one else in the jammed-full pressroom could, that she was seeing rockets, rising.

    And not even as any end in themselves, but only as one more rung on the long, long ladder, from the old-country lion-infested savannah up unto the stars.

  6. Jeff Greason

    Whew. Nuclear fission engines are sort of “entry level” advanced propulsion, so they come under part of my Tau Zero Foundation ‘hat’.

    Yes, big topic. OUTRAGEOUS simplification follows (which necessarily implies some loss of potentially important detail!).

    The point of “advanced” propulsion is usually to reduce *both* trip times *and* the mission mass lifted to LEO to get a given thing done (or equivalent). Trip times matter a lot; for human missions, they reduce the radiation problem, consumables, etc. For robotic missions, recall that someone has to conceive and champion the mission for a long time to make it through the funding battles; then they usually still want to be around to benefit from the career enhancement of publishing the results. The mission cost also has to include keeping the science team on the payroll during the voyage.

    To achieve faster trips, you need *both* higher delta-V capability (specific impulse, or, equivalently, specific energy), *and* a ‘good enough’ thrust to weight (equivalently, specific power).

    Nuclear thermal was juuuuust ripe for the picking when NERVA was canceled (probably would have flown on Apollo 20 if not canceled). But while it’s better than chemical, it’s not jaw-dropping. Factor of two in specific impulse, but you have to add in the mass of the reactor and shielding. Shielding standards are almost absurdly more stringent today than they were back then, so the shielding mass is significant. I’m working with some folks on ideas to get another factor of two in Isp which might be enough to really change the game.

    Nuclear electric — whatever Isp you want, pretty much, but thrust/weight is very low (electric conversion requires running a heat engine, and the only heat dump is a radiator, and the radiators and conversion machinery are *massive*).

    Nuclear pulse propulsion — whether “Orion” or smaller pulse schemes using magnetic compression, antimatter catalyzed fission, etc (there’s a bunch, but you can start with “Mini-Mag Orion” and “Medusa”), offer *both* the specific impulse *and* thrust/weight for human missions to the inner solar system through Saturn. Proliferation concerns are a problem (these tend to be highly-enriched fissionables), as is the Test Ban Treaty (probably an obstacle that could be overcome if there were good push for it).

    The “ultimate” fission drive is to get the energy to come out in some form other than heat. ~95% of the energy in a fission reaction is in the kinetic energy of the fission fragments. If you envision a scheme in which the fissionables are in very thin elements (microns), such as coatings on wires, coatings on foil sheets, or an array of dust-sized particles held together by magnetic fields (“dusty plasma”), you can potentially get the charged particles out and then use electromagnetic fields to turn them more-or-less in one direction. These are “fission fragment” reactors, and exhaust velocity can approach 10% of the speed of light. Thrust/weight is a big unknown. There are some who think that this is compatible with ~0.1 m/s^2 acceleration (which is all you really need for deep space missions). If so, that’s 10 years to 10% of the speed of light. There are serious questions about how to keep something so “fluffy” with dispersed fissionable material (so the fission fragments get out) still above criticality so the chain reaction runs.

    There are “mixed” schemes where you do something else (like antimatter) to trigger the fission to get a higher thrust/weight fission fragment scheme.

    It is a potentially rich field, then, with exhaust velocities in the range all the way from 9,000 m/s to 30,000,000 m/s and potentially thrust/weight to actually use that.

    The only one even close to ready to go is nuclear-thermal and nuclear-electric, though. Both are held up much more by regulatory than engineering concerns at this point.