What I’m Reading

The Economist: Democracy’s Decline

New Yorker: Obama’s First Year As Storyteller-in-Chief

NYT Opinion: After The Massachusetts Massacre

NYT: Anne Boleyn, Queen For A Day

AS: A Question of Nerve

AS: Now Fight!

Haiti’s Icon of Power, Now Palace for Ghosts

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An entirely feasible idea

Gizmodo: A Ocean-based Space Cannon

If John Hunter—a former physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—is successful, the International Space Station may start receiving their supplies from a cannon. No, it’s no joke.

First postulated by Jules Verne in his novel From the Earth to the Moon, the idea of space cannons is not new. Many engineers have toyed with the concept, but nobody has came up with an actual project that may work. Hunter’s idea is simple: Build a cannon near the equator, submerged in the ocean, hooked to a floating rig. At the cannon’s bottom there is a combustion chamber, which uses natural gas to heat hydrogen up to 2,600ºF, increasing the pressure 500%. When released, the gas will launch a capsule with half a ton of material into space, at a swooshing 13,000mph.

The project itself would only cost $500 million, which is a really stupid amount considering the potential benefits: A system like this will cut launch costs from $5,000 per pound to only $250 per pound. It won’t launch people into space because of the excessive acceleration, but those guys at the ISS can use it to order pizza and real ice cream.

Popular Science: A Cannon for Shooting Supplies into Space

Some stuff on Haiti

New York Times: A Helping Hand for Haiti

By Bill Clinton and George Bush

Throughout both our careers in public service, we have witnessed firsthand the amazing generosity of the American people in the face of calamity. From the Oklahoma City bombings to 9/11, from the tsunami in South Asia to Hurricane Katrina, Americans have rallied to confront disaster — natural or man-made, domestic or abroad — with the determination, compassion and unity that have defined our nation since its founding.

After the tsunami, Americans gave more than $1 billion to help the people of South Asia. The recent earthquake in Haiti is estimated to have had an impact on nearly three million people — 30 percent of Haiti’s population. We know the American people will respond again. Just as any of us would reach out to a neighbor in need here at home, we will do everything we can to give aid, care and comfort to our neighbors in the Caribbean, now and in the months and years to come.

With advances in technology, giving to relief efforts is easier than ever before. Organizations like the Red Cross have been stunned at the amount of money pouring in through an innovative fund-raising effort that allows cellphone users to text a $10 donation that will be added to their cellphone bills. The State Department raised more than $1 million in the first 24 hours, with millions more coming in the days since the earthquake.