Mine crafts

I recently did a Twitter thread having a bit of a go at Aaron Bastani’s forthcoming book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto,

Because it was Twitter thread I mainly poked fun, rather than look in depth at any of the futurology he was spouting. Some of it seemed iffy – his proof that “information wants to be free”, which is a cornerstone of his argument, is the growth, and reduction of price, in hard-disk storage and the ever increasing speed of Internet connections, for example.

bastani interview
“One day soon, love, hard-disks will be so large, and so cheap, that all intellectual property laws will just vanish. A real scientist told me that.”

Really, though, it was space I wanted to talk about.

I’m no expert. Hell, I’ve never even been there, but I am interested in it, and his argument that we could end scarcity of materials by mining Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) seemed to need a bit of work.

Bastani waffles on about rockets getting cheaper, 3D printing of rockets, private companies trialling their own rockets, etc., as if making rockets cheaper or reusable makes everything else about getting into space a technicality.

It doesn’t of course. Space isn’t very far away (if you live in, say, London then space is closer to you than Birmingham is), but it takes a huge amount of energy to lift off from our planet and, so far, we don’t have a better way of doing it than burning massive amounts of rocket fuel.

The reason that the fuel costs are so high is a bit like Zeno’s paradox of the tortoise, where Achilles can never overtake a tortoise in a race, because by the time he has run to where the tortoise was it has moved on a little further, and when he’s run to there the tortoise has moved further still, and so on.

So it is with rockets. If we want to launch a payload into space then we need a certain amount of fuel, but then we need extra fuel – to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload. The we need more fuel, to lift the fuel that we need to lift the fuel that we need to lift the payload, and so on. This is called the tyranny of the rocket equation and, more than anything else, is why we haven’t found a cheap way to get into space yet.

To give you an idea of just how big a difficulty this is; if we were planning a mission to Mars, more than 30 million miles away (at its closest), then half of the fuel costs would be getting out of Earth’s gravity, less than 0.01% of the trip.

There are other ways to get there, in principle at least, ranging from the sane, but not yet possible (such as space elevators, which would work wonderfully, if we had an unbreakable rope, long enough to reach the Earth from a geostationary orbit – 26,000 miles up) to the downright crazy sounding (detonate a nuclear bomb, and ride the shockwave into space). Some of these may come to fruition but, for the moment, we’re stuck with burning lots and lots of fuel…which fits poorly with the heavily green policies in the rest of Bastani’s book.

Then you hit the problem that real space, and real physics, don’t work like science-fiction does. You can’t just point your rocket at a NEO, fire up the thrusters and fly there. Well, you can, but then you arrive at it way too fast and either sail straight by it and off into the darkness, or you crash into it at insanely high speeds, destroying all of the stuff that you wanted to send there in the first place.

Nor can you take up enough fuel to slow you down, because of the rocket equation, so you have to take an indirect path to your NEO. The lander, Philae, which touched down on a NEO in November 2014, took 10 years to reach its destination…and then didn’t deploy its landing anchors correctly, rolled into a patch of permanent shade and powered down forever.

Philae was one relatively small lander. To set up a full automated luxury mining operation on a NEO we’d be looking at multiple, much larger, craft, with each one being a roll of the dice as to whether it successfully reached its target, landed in the right place, or just smashed into all of the previous stuff you’d sent up, setting the project back to square one. The long lead-times, high start-up costs and enormous risks make this project even shakier than Labour Live.

Assuming we did get tonnes of autonomous, or semi-autonomous, machinery landed; drilling equipment, solar cells, processing equipment and got it all linked up and working, then what?

Let’s say it digs up 500 tonnes of iron ore, what does it do with it? Launching something from the micro-gravity of a NEO is much cheaper than launching something from Earth, but, again, we can’t just point our payload in the direction of the Earth and fire the rockets.

Anything heading towards Earth is accelerated by Earth’s gravity-well to escape velocity, which is around 30 times the speed of sound. A 500 tonne lump of iron ore hitting the Earth at that speed would impart the energy of a nuclear bomb exploding.

“I told you it was a mistake to put the Bastaniosaurus in charge”

Incoming space-craft have heat-shields, to use the atmosphere as a brake, slowing them enough to deploy parachutes, so that they can splash-down at non-lethal speeds and be recovered. Potentially, our mining operation could have a supply of enormous heat-shields and parachutes, but we’re talking about a situation where an error made by an autonomous system, millions of miles away could see the equivalent of a nuclear strike at a random location anywhere on Earth.

Or, in theory, we could have a fuel-producing station on, say, the Moon. Mining water-ice and using solar power to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, to use as fuel. It’s conceivable that our incoming lump of iron ore could be intercepted, slowed down and dropped more gently into the Earth’s atmosphere…where it would sink to the bottom of the ocean, because iron ore doesn’t float.

That would also still leave the possibility of a lump of iron ore not being intercepted properly, which would put the whole world back on Russian-Roulette alert, or of it being intercepted and then something going wrong, potentially seeing the Earth being hit at high velocity by 500 tonnes of iron, loaded up with huge quantities of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

These may be one-in-a-million risks, but to match current, Earthbound, iron ore extraction rates we’d have to receive more than 65,000,000 of these 500 tonne packages every year.

None of these problems are insurmountable, Mankind has proved itself to be an ingenious species, and off-world mining is almost certainly going to be essential if we’re to expand our species off Earth, and onto other planets, but the post-scarcity world isn’t imminent…no matter how cheap rockets get.


Tourist in the war zone

“It’s not my fight,” I told myself for a long time. I’m not a woman, I’m not a trans-woman, I’m not a feminist, or a lawyer, or a human rights campaigner, or a biologist, sociologist, politician or anything, really.

I’m just a bloke, and me, and the millions of others who are just blokes are a long way from the argument about what the definition of a woman is. We’ll remain a long way from it as well, because…well, ultimately because it will be a billion years before the top hit for “lesbian” on Pornhub delivers a video of two people with beards and penises going at it.

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a Woman’s Place UK meeting. I mainly sat quietly at the back, trying not to be too penis-ey, hoping that nobody would shout, “Sit down, this isn’t for you!” at me during the many standing ovations. It was an amazing event.

The solidarity, the sisterhood, the anger and frustration that what is being asked is not support for, or acceptance of, trans people, but a flat out denial of facts and reason and complicity in the trampling of women’s rights.

I arrived at the event with women who were worrying about protests, milkshakes, and violence and left with a crowd who would fight an army for women who don’t want to cause a fuss, or upset a powerful lobby, or seem un-progressive, women who don’t know they need feminism…yet.

As just a bloke this was the first time I’ve seen feminism up-close and visceral, and it’s incredible. The women who spoke were powerful and funny, sad and angry, strongly bound together, yet feeling isolated. They imparted to me – a man whose knowledge of the history of feminism can be summed up as, “Something, something, something, Page 3,” – a sense of just how long and hard the struggle has been to make women a class whose thoughts, beliefs, actions and very essence aren’t defined by men, and of how insidious and, frequently, effective the shaming and bullying of women for defining themselves has been.

And I found myself wondering how to stop men thinking, “This isn’t my fight”. We could sit by, nobody is ever going to make us actually act like trans-women are women. If we’re happy that our lesbian porn will always have multiple fannies and no willies then we could let everything else slide.

That would be easy…and an admission that the most man-hating, Page-3-bashing caricature of a feminist ever had pegged us exactly right. That we have no thoughts beyond those that begin and end with our dicks. If we’re going to make the effort to show that we’re also creatures with brains then inherent in that is we must defend ourselves from accepting nonsense and dogma because it’s easy and convenient, without worrying about who gets thrown under the bus.

If we can’t say that trans-women are not women, that it is physically impossible to change sex, that biology is not a fantasy and that gender-politics is harmful then we’ve lost something. We’ve lost what should be the most important 6 inches of our body – those between our ears.

I saw inspiring women last night, but I also saw plenty of empty seats, where men could have been. No to speak, not to lead, not to be woke feminists, but to show our support and show women that they don’t have to stand alone on this.

This isn’t my fight. I’m not a feminist…but I’ve seen those who are, and who are willing to risk everything to win their fight, and I want to be on their side because, fuck me, they’re the real women with balls.

The principle of explosion made me the woman I am

There is a principle in systems of formal logic called the principle of explosion. Without getting all technical what it says is that if you introduce into your logic two contradictory statements, which are both assumed to be true, then you can use them to prove that any other statement is also true (or false, if your preference takes you that way).

While the principle of explosion has a fancy name, and a formal proof, and even italics, it’s basically saying something that anybody older than, say, 10 could work out; that if you assume something false is true then all of your logic from there on in is fucked into a tin hat (10 year-olds may not say it exactly like that, depends where they’re from, I guess).

principle of explosion
The principle of explosion, pictured yesterday

Which brings us to 2019’s most controversial axiom, “Trans-women are women”

As a slogan it has a lot going for it. It sounds a lot like it means, “Trans-women should be treated as women” or “Trans-women have the same rights as women” or “It would be incredibly rude to point out that trans-women aren’t women”.

But it doesn’t mean any of those those defensible and rational points. It means, literally, that trans-women are women.

You can go onto social media and see people arguing that this is the case. There are hundreds of blogs you can read stating it as fact. It is already accepted as such in some of the mainstream media. More and more organisations are accepting it as an article of faith.

Thousands of words are poured into studiously ignoring a million years of human evolution, with one class of people who give birth and one class who do not, instead, advancing edge cases and unwillingly co-opt those with disorders of sexual development to prove that there is no meaningful biological difference between men and women.

All that is allowed to remain to separate the classes of ‘male’ and ‘female’ is a belief in an un-testable, un-falsifiable, un-scientific innate sense of gender, a gendered soul.

This is the principle of explosion in action. When it is axiomatic that males are female then biology must be irrelevant, so the relevant difference must be something outside of the realms of biology.

By assuming something contradictory we have proved that souls exist, ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet.

It doesn’t stop there, of course. As we’ve seen, the contradictory axiom drags the idea that homosexuality is a choice out of its last refuges in golf clubs and fundamentalist churches, provides a proof that it’s true, and then frames any voices raised in objection as those of  bigots.

It makes it OK to prevent women from meeting and speaking, because the train of logic shows that you are doing so to protect the rights of women to meet and speak. Women must be willing to give up their spaces where men are not allowed so that women can continue to have men-free spaces.

And, of course, it allows you to draw parallels with the struggle for gay rights, or black civil rights. Because when you have constructed an increasingly tall tower of pure imagination you could draw parallels with the Apollo Moon missions, or the history of glass-making, or the story-arcs of the characters in Friends. When everything is based on a fundamental flaw then it can look and feel like whatever you want.

Most damaging of all, it legitimises of abuse towards, threatening of, and violence to women, because it allows those guilty of such actions to say that their ultimate goal is the protection of women.

You start with “A=B and A≠B” and end up with a man punching a women in the face, yelling, “This is for your own good!”

Trans-rights activists have proved fond of suggesting that “Trans-women are women” is no different to stating that “Black women are women”. Looking at it through the lens of the principle of explosion shows this to be false. Stating that black women are women does not require long threads about albinism or getting lesbians to renounce their sexual preferences, or for broad restructuring of the language, to make it inclusive.

What that lens also shows is that most of the arguments one sees are, sadly, pointless. Lord knows how many millions of words have been argued, from both side, about the biological difference and similarities between males and females, and chromosomal abnormalities, and other edge cases, in the mistaken belief that these are the pillars supporting the argument that trans-women are women. Rather, they are the logical consequences of it. They are the grappling hooks thrown out by those defending a fundamentally illogical position to shore up only their own refusal to abandon it, not to support the argument itself.

Which is a shame. There are undoubtedly men who suffer from genuine dysphoria, and others who desperately want to be female, and undoubtedly they need support, acceptance and allyship – and can be inspirational, brave and pioneering.

Those things cannot be at the expense of not only a willingness, but a demand, that facts are ignored, logic is trampled and reasonable dissent is seen as abuse, because the principle of explosion says that just one contradiction is enough to prove anything and everything, and women – actual natal women – have lengthy experience of where giving men the power to determine everything leads.


Let’s talk about hate

It’s been the best part of 25 years since I first started communicating via on-line groups. First it was Usenet, then web forums, Facebook and, now, Twitter. In that time one factor has been constant; people have disagreed with me.

Obviously this is pretty distressing for me, as I’ve never knowingly admitted to being wrong about anything. To reconcile my inability to process any opinion other than my own as being correct, and the willingness of countless people to tell me that I’m wrong, I’ve decided that everybody who disagrees with me is doing so for malicious reasons, borne out of fear and hatred for me.

I’m going to call this Andrewphobia. Androphobia sounds better, but it turns out that’s already a real, and entirely rational, thing – making it doubly unsuitable for my purpose. So Andrewphobia it is.

Let me give you a trivial example. The greatest film ever made is Lair of the White Worm. Now, you may have some silly ideas about it being The Godfather, or Citizen Kane, or Police Academy, or whatever, but scientists can now prove that none of those films have Peter Capaldi playing the bagpipes, and therefore can’t be the greatest film ever. This means that your attempts to suggest that LotWW isn’t the best film were really examples of conscious or subconscious Andrewphobia.

Peter capaldi bagpipes
Science, bitches, pictured yesterday

Why do you hate me so?

And don’t let me hear you sniggering at this, because Andrewphobia is bigotry, and you know else who was bigoted, don’t you?

great dictator
Yeah, this guy. Not laughing now, are you?

Not that Andrewphobics are as bad as Nazis, of course…they’re much worse. At least Nazis hated lots of different people, whereas I’m far more oppressed because there’s just one of me. There literally couldn’t be any less of me, unless I went on some sort of diet (and you’d better believe that suggesting that I desperately need to go on a diet is hideous Andrewphobia. Yes, Doctor S_____, you’ll be hearing from the GMTV. You bet on it!)

It’s because Andrewphobia is so bad that anything I do to defend myself is not only defensible, but basically absolutely fine. You criticise one of my tweets, I set fire to your house while you’re asleep, and we’re even. You ‘call me out’ on my ‘bullshit’ and I send you a video of your kids, and a note telling you where to leave the money if you want to see them again, and the universe is in balance. You tell me that Andrewphobia is just something I made up and I send an anonymous report to the police, saying that they need to check your hard-drive, and that’s a balanced and proportionate response.

I’ve had a long chat with Twitter support about this and, based on the fact that I’ve got a penis, they say it’s all pretty much fine. Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just ruthlessly exploit them to get my own way.

burning house
You’re welcome to disagree. Check your smoke-detector batteries first, though

I hope, by now, you fully accept that Andrewphobia is, literally, the worst thing ever, and that you will help me fighting the bigots and Nazis who propagate it, whatever it takes, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be on the right side of history.

If you’re not woke enough to feel that way then comments are open.

Please be sure to leave your address.

Black holes: A guide

The original concept of black holes comes from the work of Albert Einstein, who would often conduct thought experiments (gedachtfürze in German), such as wondering why he couldn’t find a pencil, even though he’d been to WHSmith only last week and bought a brand new pack of 10.

Eventually this led him to his theory that space and time were not separate entities, but merged together to form the fabric of the universe, space-time.

This was a bold new idea, but explained perfectly why he might put a pencil down on his desk and then not see it again until August. It also explained the orbits of the planets with a high-degree of precision, by describing how what an orbit was just the planet moving in a straight-line through space-time. The straight line looked like a wonky circle to us because we’re really bad at judging time, which also explained why those, “Want to feel old? 9/11 was closer to the premier of Spitting Image than to the present day!” things work, and why it always takes exactly 45 minutes for your pizza to arrive, even though it feels like much, much longer.

In the 1930s the Indian physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar used Einstein’s theory to show that if you had something really heavy – like even heavier than all of the clinky bags when you do the big Christmas shop – space-time might get so bent that all of the space was in the middle and all of the time was on the outside, making it invisible, because we can’t see time.

When a star exceeded Chandrasekhar Limit (4 pints of stout and Babysham) it would die with a massive explosion, and then form an invisible-time-on-the-outside-bubble, which was later renamed a ‘black hole’, by physicists working for Saatchi & Saatchi.

Black holes are black because not even light can escape from them, because inside there’s no time and outside there’s only time, with nowhere for it to go, making it a bit like an office in Slough, except that people are interested in what’s happening in there.

For a long time black holes were entirely theoretical. Knowing they’d be black, astrologers spent a long time searching for a white bit of sky, where they’d be able see one clearly. However, we now know that the only white bits of the sky are clouds, and they only come out in daytime, when astrologers – who are naturally nocturnal – aren’t around to see them.

Fortunately, scientists realised that a patch of orange sky would work nearly as well as white and have found a bit of orange space which, by good luck, has a black-hole right in the middle of it. But it was  so hard to find that it’s taken 55 million light years to get a slightly blurry photo of it.

black hole
A black hole 55 million years ago, pictured yesterday

Still, now that a live black-hole has been found scientists hope they can soon find a couple more, and a breeding colony can be established.

Today it may just look like a photograph of a child with a sparkler, taken on a late-90s camera phone, but in the future – when we all live in space – our great-grandchildren may be able to go to a space-petting-zoo and actually touch a black-hole, which really is something to get excited about.

Give me my space




bike parking sign



DAVE: You can’t park there, mate, that’s a ‘Bikes only’ space

TARQUIN: It’s OK. I’m a biker.

DAVE: What?


TARQUIN: See. I’m a biker.

DAVE: You might be a biker, but that [DAVE POINTS AT THE CAR] isn’t a bike.

TARQUIN: Don’t be like that!

DAVE: Like what?

TARQUIN: All angry with me. I thought us bikers were supposed to stick together.

DAVE: How is you taking my parking space “sticking together”?

TARQUIN: Oh, it’s your space now, is it? Nice way to be inclusive, man.

DAVE: It’s a space for bikes!

TARQUIN: And I’m a biker.

DAVE: Carrying a crash-helmet in your car…

TARQUIN [INTERRUPTING]: I sometimes wear it when I’m driving

DAVE: OK, wearing a crash-helmet in your car doesn’t make you a biker.

TARQUIN: And who put you in charge of deciding who is and is not a biker, eh?

DAVE: Bikers ride motorbikes, and that [DAVE POINTS AT THE CAR AGAIN] is not a motorbike.


TARQUIN: Well, if you’re the ultimate arbiter of what is and isn’t a motorbike, how are you defining one, then?

DAVE: For a start, they’ve got two wheels and…

TARQUIN [INTERRUPTING]: What about bikes with sidecars? Or trikes? What about some bloke who lost a leg in a horrific bike accident and now has to ride a trike? Are you going to tell him he’s not a real biker?


TARQUIN [POINTING AT DAVE]: That bloke reckons somebody who’s been paralysed for life in a bike accident doesn’t count as real biker!

DAVE: That isn’t wh…

COLIN [INTERRUPTING]: You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you judgemental twat!

DAVE: But this bloke’s taken my parking space!

COLIN: That gives you the right to decide who’s a real biker, does it?

DAVE: I wasn’t doing tha…

COLIN: My mate got his back broken in a bike accident, and he’s still twice the biker you’ll ever be! You should get yourself a bus-pass!


TARQUIN: See. Other bikers are on my side. It’s just you who’s being a bigot.

DAVE: It’s not bigoted to say that bikes only have 2 wheels!


TARQUIN: Oh, we’re back to wheels again, are we? What are you, a wheel fetishist?

DAVE: Well…well, bikes are open to the elements as well

TARQUIN: Like that bike?


TARQUIN: That was just an isolated incident. You can’t judge all of us 4-wheel bikers by that. Totally atypical.

DAVE: Look, I’m going to be late for work, and now the other bike bay is full of Mercedes. Are you going to move your car or what?

TARQUIN: No. I’m a biker. I’m entitled to park here. Making me move is just another way for arseholes like you to exclude me.

DAVE: Exclude you?

TARQUIN: Yes! I always wanted a bike, but my mum wouldn’t let me get one, but I can still be a biker! [HE WAVES HIS CRASH HELMET] But then bastards like you find every possible way to exclude me. [TARQUIN ADOPTS A MOCKING TONE] Oooo, let’s do some wheelies. Let’s have our own parking spaces. Let’s filter through traffic jams and leave the stupid 4-wheeled biker stuck in a queue.

DAVE: You want me to stop filtering through traffic…because it upsets you???

TARQUIN: Of course it upsets me! Why do you have to centre your mobility?

DAVE: Uh, you’re a grown man, you could just buy yourself a bike.

TARQUIN: You’re a grown man as well. Why won’t you just accept me as a biker, without me having to go through the stress of a huge financial operation like that?


TARQUIN [GROWING ANGRY]: You want to demand that I expose myself to the danger, to the angry car drivers, to the weather, to weekends in the garage, lubing and adjusting chains…all that, just so you’ll deign to believe that I’m a biker.

DAVE: Yes! That’s what being a biker is! It’s not driving around in a flash car, wearing a crash-helmet when you feel like it!

TARQUIN: No! Stop spreading lies like that! Being a biker is about how you feel, not how many wheels you happen to have, Mr Wheel-fanatic!


TARQUIN [INTERRUPTING]: Anyway, do you think I’d have got to be a junior vice-president if I’d turned up looking like that every day?

DAVE: Look, screw you! I’m going to have to go and find somewhere else to park. I hope the police tow your CAR away and scrap it!



TARQUIN: Hello? Police? Yes, thank goodness, I’ve just had a motorcyclist behave very aggressively towards me and I’m worried about my safety…Yes, yes, I’ve got his number.


————-END OF PLAY————-


Consider a photo of a penis. How long you want to consider it for is up to you – most people I know don’t find them particularly photogenic.

Now, answer this question…

Does the penis belong to man or a woman?

In the bad old, unenlightened, days the question would have been a no-brainer. The penis was seen as invariably male. More than that, a swinging dong was the very quintessence of masculinity.

Now, of course, we live in a better world, and know that transwomen are women and, thus, that penises may belong to men or women.

Visually, males and females have incredibly similar penises, so there’s no way to tell, from the photograph, the gender of owner of the penis. You would need external information.

katie hopkins

If, for example, we are told that the photograph is of a trans-woman’s penis then we know that the penis is female.

Or do we? It’s not uncommon for men not to transition until middle-age. Would a photo of their penis, taken pre-transition, remain a photo of a male penis, or would it retrospectively become a photograph of a female penis at the moment of transition?

In some ways this is not unlike the miracle of transubstantiation, an article of faith for Catholics, where the communion wafer becomes the body of Christ (although, of course, during transubstantiation the wafer becomes chewed, soggy and unappetising…completely unlike a middle-aged man’s penis)

Of course, the issue isn’t just limited to your collection of penis photographs. Even if you were holding the real thing in your hand, you still would not be able to tell if it was male or female, without speaking to the owner (which, to be fair, you probably should have done before you started holding his/her penis). Unless you commune with the host, there is no way to know whether the penis has undergone transubstantiation or not.


This could be problematic. Matters relating to who has, and who has not, had Holy Communion are principally of interest to God, who presumably has his own methods for finding out. Knowing who has a female penis has more practical applications; knowing which women are at risk of testicular cancer, for example, or knowing which women are stunning and brave for doing exactly what they want, or even just knowing which women are most eligible for accolades and women’s roles.

We could ask, “Do you have a penis?”, but that seems awfully blunt while, at the same time, managing to carry a certain degree of ambiguity about just what your intentions are.

There are different problems with the term ‘cis-woman’ – at the moment it’s seen as acceptable way to refer to the people who don’t have a penis, but it’s clearly exclusionary. How can it possibly be fair that transwomen can be women, but they can’t be cis-women? This is just another barrier that bitter women have thrown up to protect their privilege. The next battle will clearly be for female penis-owners to claim ‘cis’ for their own, so its long-term use is problematic.

These are all weighty problems, that need long-term consideration.

With transubstantiation the matter was decided by a lot of old men in dresses threatening eternal punishment if it wasn’t accepted as truth, and people getting down on their knees, professing their belief and having it fingered into their mouths.


There, of course, the analogy breaks down, because the mysteries of the female penis are nothing like that.