Roundup March ’22 Edition

Greetings FutureBlind readers!

In this roundup edition:

  • ⚡️ Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution
  • 🧪 The new wave of science and research models
  • 🔦 Startup spotlights: Terraform, Hypar
  • 🚀 A few space updates
  • 🛰 Investment: Planet Labs

⚡️ Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution

There is as much headroom in physics and engineering for energy as there is in computation; what is stopping us is not lack of technology but lack of will and good sense. — J. Storrs Hall

There have been three industrial revolutions. The first two spanned from the late 1700s to the early 1900s and essentially created the technological world we know today. Energy, transportation, housing, and most “core” infrastructure is pretty similar now as it was at the end of this period — especially if you extend it into the 1970s.

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🧪 The new wave of science and research models

There has been an increasing amount of experimentation in the philanthropic and scientific funding space over the past few years. This is good news — as I mentioned in my last post, we need better ways to fund crazy ideas.

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🔦 Startup spotlights: Terraform, Hypar

Terraform Industries is a carbon capture startup that wants to turn atmospheric carbon into natural gas. So basically “reforming” the emissions of the past into usable fuel. This process requires more energy of course, and they’re banking on the falling cost of solar cells to get it. In the end the Terraform fuel plants will combine carbon from air + sunlight + waternatural gas. In other words, the plant is like a plant. They recently raised a $5M seed round and are hiring. If you’re interested in more details check out cofounder Casey Handmer’s whitepaper on Terraform. (Prometheus Fuels is another interesting startup with a similar goal.)

Hypar makes software that automates the building design process. It supplements the existing design software from AutoDesk. Rather than have to design a building wall by wall, you can specify the general parameters and constraints and Hypar creates the final design. So “design a 3,000 square foot, 2 story farmhouse home with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms” translates into exportable blueprints/CAD files with all the necessary infrastructure, and you can further refine from there. Most architects are implicitly using design patterns anyway — this just turns those patterns into code.

I strongly believe that generative design is just beginning and that this will be a huge trend going forward. As technology progresses, complexity inevitably increases. And with complexity, humans will still be the higher level creative force but software is needed for the heavy lifting. Check out cofounder Anthony Hauck in this interview with Brian Potter for more.

🚀 A few space updates

  • Starship still making progress and waiting for FAA clearance. The FAA has now delayed their environmental determination a few times now, with the current ETA end of this month. Regulatory delays are frustrating, but there may be legitimate concerns, and it seems like the delay may not be actually on the critical path given SpaceX’s revamp of the Raptor engine. Worst case scenario is they move orbital launches to Florida. In Musk’s Starship update last month, he showed off the new v2 Raptor engine, targeting an eventual production rate of 1 engine per day.
  • Jared Isaacman is funding a new civilian space program. The Polaris Program plans to launch at least 3 missions, each of them testing new capabilities related to human spaceflight. Polaris Dawn will launch later this year on a Falcon 9 / Crew Dragon, and plans to test a new SpaceX-developed EVA suit for a spacewalk along with other research related tasks.
  • 25 theses on space. Joe Carroll lists 25 theses related to Starship and the future of space. I’m skeptical of some of these, but here are my favorite though-provoking points:
    • Once launch prices drop ~4-fold, most customers will focus on launch vibration & reliability.
    • It is harder to live in the best place off Earth than the worst place on Earth (except volcanoes).
    • Growing food in LEO can get us closer to living off Earth than putting people on Mars can.
    • After decades of refining 0g health countermeasures, human health still goes downhill in 0g.
    • We know nothing about sustained human health between 0g & 1g (Apollo stayed 1-3 days).
  • There are a bunch of new Moon rovers being developed. See: The bevy of rovers heading for the Moon.
  • James Webb launch and journey was 100% (200%?) successful — All phases of the JWST deployment have completed successfully so far, and it has reached its destination at the L2 Lagrange point between the Sun and Earth. The precision of the Ariane 5 launch was so efficient in fact that it increased estimated lifespan of the telescope from 10 to 20 years! On Feb. 3, it detected its first photons and is currently still calibrating before being able to send actual imagery back sometime this summer. The best way to keep up with updates is to follow @NASAWebb on Twitter.

🛰 Investment: Planet Labs

Even though FutureBlind started as an investment blog, I almost never write about investments anymore. I’m still an investor of course but writing about it just isn’t as interesting to me anymore. ¯\(ツ)

This is an exception. I first purchased shares of Planet ($PL) in the private markets almost 4 years ago.

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