After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct (old habits die hard!) Also, don't ask me why I called it "Volewica". It's too late, now.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Coal phaseout, willy-nilly

 No matter what Australia does, its coal exports are going to plunge.  This is the reality politicians ought to be facing.  Instead they lie to coal miners and people in the coal economy that coal has a future.  It doesn't.

From Simon Evans

Nearly two-thirds of the value of Australian coal exports in 2018 went to countries with coal phaseouts or net-zero targets:

26% / $14.8bn = Japan

19% / $10.6bn = China

11% / $6bn = South Korea


From The Guardian



Constitutional originalism

 A cartoon by Marc Murphy

Friday, October 23, 2020

Starship SN8 ready to fly

 Over the last few weeks, SpaceX has been testing various prototypes of its Starship spaceship.  Today, it's assembled a working version ready for a hop test to 150 metres.  If that works, and they may do several hop tests to suss out all the problems, then they'll do a flight to 15 kms.  

(Picture from SPadre)

On its way down from the 15 km 'hop', the Starship will test out the 'skydiving' manoeuvre, using its flaps to slow itself down, before turning vertical (tail first) to land retro-propulsively.  This will be a key test, because SpaceX is relying on this technique to bleed off the very high velocities that will happen on re-entry from orbit.  If Starship cannot stand up to the stresses of a 15 km 'hop', then it will be unable to handle re-entry.

If the 15 km flight is successful, then Musk has said that the next step is orbit.  I don't think  Starship will be able to fly to 160km and still have enough fuel for a retro-propulsive burn, and the first stage (Super Heavy) has only just started construction, so Musk may just mean a flight to the Kármán line (100 km above the Earth) which is the conventionally accepted definition of where space begins.  But Super Heavy may be finished early next year, and genuine orbital flight will begin.    For faster re-entry from orbit, Starship will need a heat shield made of ceramic tiles and this will be when they start testing them.

If this works, it means that regular launches with payload will start soon after.  In a video from the Mars Society's annual conference, Musk hinted at a new timetable for Mars, with unmanned flights starting in 2024, instead of 2022.  (Mars is in opposition in December 2022 and January 2025) But if Starship has proved itself be safe, we may yet have crewed flights in late 2022. Starship is so cheap that the fleet heading to Mars could take 6 or 8 cargo Starships as well as 3 or 4 crewed ones.  

We shall see.  The probability is high that something will go wrong, delaying the whole timetable.  But I hope it doesn't.  I want to see the vids as the first humans on Mars open the hatches and look out on the red planet's surface.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

September hottest ever recorded

From The Guardian.


The world this year experienced its hottest September on record, scientists have reported.

Surface air temperatures last month were 0.05C warmer than in September 2019, making it the hottest September on record globally, experts from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

It was also the hottest September Europe has seen, beating the previous record for the continent, set in 2018, by around 0.2C. Temperatures were also well above average in other parts of the world including in the Middle East, parts of South America and Australia, the scientists said.

And temperatures in the Siberian Arctic continued to be warmer than average, continuing the hot spell that has affected parts of the region since early spring.

Monitoring by C3S also confirms that the average Arctic sea ice extent was the second lowest recorded for September, the month when sea ice is at its lowest after the summer melt before it refreezes in winter, after 2012.

The C3S, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), monitors the global and European climate, producing computer-generated analyses using billions of measurements from satellites, ships, aircraft and weather stations around the world.