Re: metaTHAAD was: Son of Star Wars

Robert J. Bradbury (
Thu, 14 Oct 1999 03:14:05 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 13 Oct 1999, Spike Jones wrote:

Commenting on my comment that defensively one cannot compete against someone of similar economic capacity who puts the funds into offsense.

> Oh ye of little faith Robert. Looks to me like we
> could defend ourselves against a hellishly determined
> nuclear attack, given enough THAAD missiles and support radar.

Well Spike, if we have gotten to the point where we can build very fast and very cheap anti-missle missles then I will be in favor of that. You would have to sit me down and show me quite concretely however that such devices would cost less than the offensive weapons they are attempting to destroy. Now, in theory, I will admit that this *may* be possible. A very cheap bullet can stop a much more expensive person. In theory, a small smart defensive weapon should be less expensive than an intercontinental weapon that is much larger and requires expensive radioactive material handling to put together. However, my comments are based on historical anaylsis of the cold war MAD approaches and previous efforts to develop anti-ballistic missle systems. Perhaps the costs in the equation have shifted enough to require a re-examination.

> Re: discussion of sales of escalating missle technologies...

Well, I don't think in general promoting the selling of advanced technologies to emerging countries that have had little time or history to mitigate their aggressive tendencies is a good idea. In general it results in an increase in my tax bill when we have to send in machines & people to keep those "local" conflicts from growing into larger scale situations that get really expensive.

But on the note of cheap defensive weapons and the requirements for highly accurate positioning of said weapons, you might want to suggest or consider whether these requirements could be diminished through the use of a "smart dust" warhead. I just read through the article about the work on Smart Dust being done by UCB. I could envision a situation where an anti-missle missle could release a bunch of smart dust directly in front of an incoming missle. Since it could "explode" the dust into a large cloud its accuracy requirements would be diminished. The smart dust could then adhere to the missle and provide local micro-explosions, or balloon itself (creating friction) or activate micro actuators on one side of the missle that deflect it, etc. If you can make the dust as cheap as conventional explosives (which seems like it should eventually be true), then it seems you might have a much more effective shield.

Regarding the use of the uranium/plutonium as a "clean" energy source -- you should know better. Fission will never be a clean energy source until you have nanotech microscales to isolate each atom of radioactive isotopes generated for "safe" disposal. There is a use for the materials which is in breeder reactors for alpha-particle emitting Gandolinium for use in our own personal (body) nuclear power sources. The only "clean" power source is solar (or perhaps hydrothermal) since one could argue cooling the core of the earth would eventually stop continental drift and eliminate earthquakes.

Interesting question for the tree huggers:

RB "Do you favor stopping continental drift?"
TH "Why would we want to do that?"
RB "Because over geologic time scales, the continents will

probably be repositioned in places that wipe out millions of species."
TH "Ok, then yes, we should stop continental drift." RB "Do you have any ideas on how to do that without using advanced

TH "Not at this moment..."
RB "I thought so."