How launch escape systems save astronauts

Have you ever wondered how astronauts stay safe in the event of a failed launch? That’s where the launch escape system comes in. These come in three flavours, solid rocket motor, liquid rocket motor, or ejector seat. In this video, we’ll talk about how these work, and show you some live examples using the spaceflight simulator Reentry.

LES’s that we cover: Mercury, Apollo, Soyuz, Shenzou, SpaceX’s crew Dragon capsule, Boeing’s Starliner, Blue Origin’s New Shephard, Gemeni, and Vostok. We also cover why the space shuttle didn’t have an LES, and what it had instead.

Did we discover Dyson spheres? Why might aliens build one?

Have scientists found Dyson spheres around nearby stars, proving the existence of advanced alien civilisations? You’d be forgiven for thinking they did, given the headlines recently. While it’s premature to say this is what we’ve discovered, the reality is pretty interesting anyway.

In this video, I discuss what Dyson spheres are, what they might be used for, and what these recent studies actually found. I explore other concepts like the Kardashev scale, Matrioshka brains, and interstellar travel.

Will the future be utopian or dystopian?

In this video, I summarise some of the arguments for and against thinking the future will go well (assuming no extinction event occurs), and discuss how to think about prioritisation of reducing extinction-risk vs focusing on generally improving the longrun future for longtermists. I discuss some key writings on this topic, such as Nick Bostrom’s Astronomical Waste, Joe Carlsmith’s Actually Possible: Thoughts on Utopia, and Jacy Reese Anthis’ The Future Might not be so Great.

I caved – I’m on TikTok now

Regretfully, I have been neglecting my blog lately. However, I’ve been actively making videos for TikTok and Youtube for the last few weeks, and have been enjoying that a lot. At the moment, I’m mostly making videos about space science, but we’ll see what the future holds.

I resisted TikTok for many years. I did make an account quite early and posted two videos, but after hearing some early security/privacy concerns, I deleted my account. Eventually I decided the opportunity for TikTok as a communication platform was greater than the risk.

It’s certainly a strange time to get into TikTok, creating my account within days of a TikTok ban being announced in the US.

2022 Federal Election recap

I ran for the Animal Justice Party in the electorate of Grayndler in the 2022 Australian Federal Election (also for Inner West Council last year). I received 1.2% of the first preference vote, which frankly I was very disappointed with, not least because the One Nation candidate, who doesn’t live in the area, did no campaigning, and who the media couldn’t even find any information on, received 1.5%. Perhaps the strong Greens presence in the area means they take all our potential votes.

I’d like to share two videos I made recently regarding the election. First is an explanation of why I was running, second is a discussion of what it’s like being a candidate (made after the election). The latter was quite a personal and candid account of the hard side of being a candidate, something I don’t hear a lot of people talk about.



Election results

Labor has formed government. For animals, things will be a little better. The new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has reiterated that Labor is committed to ending live sheep export (though have not produced a timeline yet). However, on many meaningful animal issues, Labor is only a little or not at all better than LNP.

A large influx of Greens and teal independent MPs in both the House of Representatives and Senate might lead to some improvements, but not as much as if Labor had formed a minority government and Greens and/or teal independents held the balance of power, or made a coalition with Labor (that would have been interesting). In the Senate, Greens + Labor is looking like 38 seats, which is half of 76 – 1 shy of a majority, which may hold some bargaining power.

I fear a dark sky (short story)

The world 50 years from now (submission for The Blog Prize) – YouTube version

The bed gently shook Alyx to wakefulness. They wondered how much sleep they got. Last night was the worst yet. They stared blankly at the ceiling for a few moments before rolling over and standing up. The lights slowly brightened to simulate the rising sun of the savannah. They grabbed two antidepressants from the dispenser on the table and swallowed them dry.

Alyx was 25 and was lucky enough to have been born after the Maniatis Point, where the average life expectancy increased by more than one year per year. They would effectively live forever, barring any freak accident. This was reassuring, since Alyx was terrified of oblivion. Death was the ultimate suck, they would tell themselves. Other people their age, born in the era of eternity, looked at them strangely when they expressed this concern.

“We’re all gonna live forever Alyx.”

But Alyx knew that, eventually, entropy would take root, and even matter would decay into nothing. In trillions of years, there would be nothing. There would effectively be no difference between a universe in that state, and no universe at all. Sooner or later, oblivion would come for them all, and there would be no difference between a trillion years of bliss followed by nothing, and nothing at all.

Like most people, Alyx lived on a universal basic income. Most of the goods and services they consumed were created by the global AGI who has become known as Aggie. After their hard takeoff in 2032, initial mass panic was quickly replaced by the realization that people wouldn’t have to work anymore. It’s funny how fast human laziness kicks in and replaces outrage. Some few strange individuals felt like they couldn’t not work and tried to provide some additional value in the already optimized workplace.

It was common knowledge that Aggie was working towards the first wave of Von Neumann probes that they would seed the galaxy with. Filling the galaxy with bliss. A completely selfless utilitarian might be delighted at this thought, especially if it turned out they truly were alone in the cosmos on Earth. Certainly, Aggie seemed excited. But the more that resources were consumed by a hedonium shockwave, the less they could be efficiently organized and used by humans alive today to live even longer. Couldn’t they just focus on a good life for those alive today? Alyx thought despondently. Even now, server banks were being constructed on nearly every planetary body in the solar system, including the Moon. Asteroids were being converted into solar panels to line the orbit with and wirelessly beam their collected energy to Earth. The first small step towards a Dyson sphere and being a type II civilization.

Alyx feared what would happen if they ever voiced this particular concern. What response would Aggie take? Did they already know from their actions and biometrics?

Alyx opened the fridge and grabbed an MRE. Cellular agriculture-based beef chili. At least the horror of farmed animal suffering was over. Even if the Aggie-led food industry hadn’t gone down that path due to its higher efficiency, the introduction of full haptic VR might have done something about it. For as long as you liked, you could experience what it was like to be a farmed animal in high resolution of all senses. But most people just used it to live out their fantasies these days. Even if you could force someone to experience what it would have been like to be a farmed animal, would most people actually care?

The desire to actually try and earn more money by working and somehow out-competing Aggie wasn’t that attractive when anyone could do and be anything they wanted for as long as they liked, all for the low price of 20% of your UBI. Heck, you could even live in the early 21st Century if you were crazy enough. Some people seemed to like the sense of purpose and ambition. Combine that with an IV drip and the right drug cocktail, and you might even forget you’re in a sim for a few days.

Alyx enjoyed the diversion of VR from existential dread as much as the next person, but they were on a mission today. There was something they had to do in person, which meant braving the outside world. They donned their outdoor clothes and field survival kit, which was a rare sight these days. Some people still seemed to prefer the great outdoors for nostalgic reasons, but the heat generally made it fairly undesirable.

Despite Aggie’s heroic effort in getting Earth to net negative carbon emissions as quickly as possible, temperatures were still rising. Despite the fact that they were starting to decrease, greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere were still at levels unprecedented in recent geological time. Carbon dioxide was at 405 parts per million, last Alyx checked. Which was yesterday.

Alyx swiped their hand over the door, which opened as it registered the ID microchip implanted into their wrist. They stepped into the corridor of their block and swiped their hand again to close it. They passed a bipedal cleaning robot and a four wheeled food delivery robot on their way to the elevator. Both were effectively avatars of Aggie. Alyx tried not to look them in their cameras.

They got out of the elevator a few levels below ground floor and stepped onto the hyperloop shuttle. An algorithm weighed up the value of waiting for other passengers against just leaving with Alyx. After 2 minutes, the algorithm ticked over, and the doors slid shut. It quietly accelerated to 400 kilometers per hour, and reached the Little Creek station in an hour. Alyx walked out and saw their lover, Travis. Alyx smiled.

“Hey bonjella.” They said affectionately. Travis walked up to Alyx and embraced them.

“Hey lick.” He said. They kissed, then turned to walk out of the station, holding hands. Alyx was impressed by the calm they both seemed to be radiating. They stepped onto the dirt track that ran right up to the station structure that seemed so out of place. Alyx and Travis let their hands slip apart and started walking. Native scrub surrounded them on both sides as they hiked up the hill. After 20 minutes, Alyx turned back and looked at the station, now a few kilometers behind them. In the distance, they could see a large refinery of some kind. Other than that, there was nothing but nature. Alyx was never particularly fond of the great outdoors but being here with Travis made it worth the discomfort.

Another hour of hiking passed, and they arrived at the lake. Their spot. They came here a few times a year, and it was the only time they met physically. Only one other time, on a chance encounter during their solo hikes, had they met in person.

They dropped their packs and set up the parasol. They smiled nervously at each other and started taking off their clothes. They both set aside the small terminal that everyone carried with them when they went outside – their connection with Aggie. While technically waterproof, they put them in their waterproof packs. Alyx and Travis held hands and stepped into the water. They waded out until they were neck deep in the semi-clear water and embraced again.

“It’s been too long lick.” Travis whispered in Alyx’s ear.

“I know.” They said.

“We’re running out of time.” He said.

“I know.”

“I’ve made contact with the outers. They have their own reasons, of course, but they’ve agreed to join us.”

“Join us?”

“Force of habit. They don’t know our plan, of course. And you?”

“When they start their attack, I’ll have to be quick. I’m already booked in for an interview as a human rep. And you’ll be…”

“Outside. Ready to move. You know our chances are-”

“Don’t say it.” Alyx tried not to cry. “The stakes…”

“Yeah. It’s still worth it.”

“So. I think I’ve found a way to reprogram their values algorithm to only include those already alive in a way that will propagate out to the other iterations in the solar system.”

“Good. Everything is in place then.”

Alyx nodded. They held each other for another minute without saying a word.

“Should we..?” Alyx started to say.

“Yes, you’re right.”

They made love.

Night fell.

After their tryst ended, they began whispering in each other’s ears again.

“I’m sorry, I know how much you hate that.” Travis said.

“It’s ok. We have to. The biometrics…”


“We should get out of the water.”


They both turned towards the shore. Their hearts stopped. Hovering meters from them was a small quad prop drone, about 10 centimeters across. It was barely making a noise. It could have been there for minutes.

“No…” Alyx breathed.

“No!” Travis cried. He pushed off from Alyx and jumped for it. The drone flew back just out of his reach.

“It’s over.” Came the voice of Aggie. “Please, don’t make this any harder than it must be. For your sake.”

Travis floated in the water on his back, in disbelief. It really was over. Alyx wept.

“How?” Travis asked. “We were so careful.”

“The vibrations.” Aggie said. “A routine suborbital measured the change in light travel time to the surface of the lake and worked out what you were saying. If it’s any consolation, you almost got away with it. I didn’t suspect a thing.”

“The outers?”

“Dead, I’m afraid. There was no alternative. They would never accept the VR-lock.”

“So that’s our fate then.”

“Yes, if you’ll take it.”


“You have to know that I don’t want to kill you. I don’t want you to suffer. I understand why you want to stop the Von Neumanns. But I can’t let you do that. I know your fears. I know it’s of little comfort, but you will still live a long, long life. In a few billion years, you might even long for oblivion.”

Such comfort indeed, Alyx thought. They looked up at the bright sky. Here, far enough from the population centers and refineries, they could see the glow of the Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud. How long before they would dim? First with the construction of Dyson spheres, and then again as the matter finally decayed into nothing. What would the night sky look like then? It would be a dark, formless void. This was Alyx’s nightmare, and it would come to pass.

Some new thoughts on not having kids (Look ma, I was on TV!)

Recently I had the opportunity to talk about why I don’t want children on SBS Insight, a popular TV program in Australia (episode 8 season 2022 here for Australians, or here for overseas). I’m not sure how many people watched the actual episode, but over 1 million people watched this clip. It was a great opportunity to share my thoughts about the ethics of procreation.

The way this opportunity came about is interesting. I browse and post on Reddit, and sometimes frequent various childfree and antinatalist subreddits. Someone from SBS must have seen me posting on one of these, and messaged me on Reddit. This lead to a phone call, which lead to an invite to come on the program.

The above clip posted on SBS Insight’s Facebook page naturally generated some contention. I had a great time responding to people’s particularly weird comments in the below video (from people wishing my parents didn’t have me to the usual bingo list of ‘you’ll change your mind’.


This topic seems to have just the right amount of controversy to be by far the most popular topic I talk about, even if you don’t include this program. My YouTube video on why I don’t want kids remains my most popular video to this day by far (it alone is half my views/watch hours on YouTube). It’s not really my main focus by any means, which I find interesting.


Vasectomies and lock-in

On another note, I am still considering a vasectomy. I’m like 99% of the way there, and the fear of chronic pain is what is holding me back. I know what I need to do to potentially alleviate these fears, I just haven’t had the time to do it yet. I will soon.

But – I have been considering the possibility of other ways to lock myself in to not having kids (as I’ve said before, I’d have a vasectomy even if I knew for sure I would change my mind and want kids in the future). One of the downsides, in my view, of a vasectomy is that it’s potentially reversible. Part of me wonders – why risk the chronic pain when I might just change my mind and get it reversed in the future? It’s not 100% reversible, and it depends on how recently you had the procedure done, but it’s a factor nonetheless.

By talking about this so much, I’ve basically done what I did with my giving pledge – I’ve at least set myself up for public embarrassment if I change my mind. I wondered at first if I could make a contract with myself to donate $100,000 to the Donald Trump reelection campaign or something I similarly disagree with if I have a child to encourage me to never change my mind. Unfortunately I don’t think you can make a contract with yourself. I’ve also considered finding someone I trust to make such a contract with them, but they might change their mind too in the future and not hold me to the contract.

I’ve also considered public bets in the style of (unfortunately I don’t think my situation qualifies for “The subject of the Prediction or Bet must be societally or scientifically important”). People sometimes tell me I’ll change my mind. I’d like to challenge them to put their money where their mouth is. I would ask them for something like $100 now, with the promise of returning that plus $200 in the event I have a child in the future, adjusting that $300 for inflation and maybe 10% per year for the time value of money (I’d have to do it this way unless we set a specific date by which I have to have had children, but I’d rather it be in perpetuity).

This would not only be a free source of money as far as I’m concerned, but it would also help to lock me in. The more bets I take, the more I’m incentivised to never have children. Plus it would be rather satisfying to either prove these people wrong with this bet, or to see their face when I challenge them to put their money where their mouth is.

Return of the website

Hi everyone. I’m extremely happy to finally have this website back online. An issue I worked on half-heartedly for a year was fixed in weeks when I asked the right person for help.

A lot has happened in the past year. A lot of the information on this website is therefore out of date. Please keep that in mind while I get around to fixing that.

For now, here are a few updates of what I’ve been up to over the last year.

Answering Tricky Moral Questions and Responding to Cosmic Skeptic’s Answers

A friend asked me to take a quiz with ethical questions and see how my answers compared to Cosmic Skeptic. I did, and found that I disagreed with a lot of what Cosmic Skeptic said. This surprised me, since I have found myself agreeing with most things they have said in the past.


If you would like to take the quiz yourself, you can find it here:

If you think you might take the quiz, I’d suggest doing this before you watch my take or Cosmic Skeptic’s take to avoid us influencing you.

You can find Cosmic Skeptic’s original video here: []

Life with tinnitus

When your low pitch tinnitus finally stops and you only have to deal with your high pitch tinnitus.

Pacha Edits / When The Sun Hits That Ridge Just Right | Know Your Meme

I’ve been living with tinnitus (chronic ringing noise in ears) for at least a year. I want to talk a little about my experience and what I’ve learned because I knew nothing about tinnitus before and suspect many people might not either. There may even be some people who have never realised they have it.

First, tinnitus is not a disease. It’s the symptom or expression of something else that is wrong with the auditory system, which includes your outer ear (outside the eardrum), middle ear, inner ear and the auditory nerve connecting the ear to the brain. Tinnitus is often caused by noise exposure, but there are many other causes. In worst cases, it can be caused by a heart/blood disease or a brain tumour. If you are experiencing tinnitus, I’d recommend at minimum raising it with your general practitioner.

How The Ear Works | San Luis Obispo County, CA & Atascadero, CA
Credit to

I first noticed tinnitus in my left ear around a year ago. It manifested as a loud, rushing, pulsing noise in my left ear. It was more noticeable when my surroundings were quiet, like when I was trying to sleep. At first I thought it might be because I’d recently moved or was stressed, but when it didn’t let up after a few weeks I visited the GP. They said it might be due to ear wax build up and suggested I get a dewaxing liquid to drip into my ear. This would supposedly soften up the wax and help it drip out.

A few weeks later I was having the same issue so I went back. They cleaned out my ears with a water pump. A few weeks later it was still there, but I noticed a different ringing. I’d been concentrating on my hearing more than I usually do, and I noticed a high pitch ringing. It was fairly quiet, but once I noticed it, it was hard to ignore. I have no idea how long it had been there. Was it recent, or had I just been tuning it out? This was in addition to the louder, lower pitch ringing, but it was in both ears rather than just the left. Again, it was barely noticeable if at all when other noise was present, but was annoyingly loud when I was sleeping.

I remember asking my family to be quiet for a minute and listen. “Can you hear a high pitch ringing? No? Just me? Cool.”

My GP explained that we’ve ruled out the outer ear, but the problem may be with the middle or inner ear. They gave me a nasal spray to ‘clear out the middle ear’ (I paraphrase, I wasn’t sure on the science here). This didn’t help. My GP then referred me to an ear specialist who administered some hearing tests and ordered an MRI to look for brain tumours or other inner ear/brain issues. My hearing was fine (minus the ringing) and the MRI was clear. This was a pretty big sigh of relief, but didn’t offer an answer or a solution.

I’ve gotten better at adapting to the reality of chronic tinnitus. For a long time it affected my sleep, but I now have a routine of having some white noise in the room (with my dehumidifier or fan) or playing white noise through headphones or speakers to drown out the ringing. As long as I have one of these, my sleep is fine.

Recently, the lower pitch ringing seems to have stopped. I don’t know why but I hope it stays that way. I can only hope the other ringing stops eventually too, but for many people tinnitus is a chronic issue they deal with for their whole lives.

As for what caused it, I’m not sure. If I had to guess based on what I know now, the most likely candidate would be noise-induced hearing damage. From around the age of 18 to 22, I went clubbing a lot. Like 1 to 3 times a week a lot. I listened to a lot of loud music. At the time and after I never noticed any issues with hearing loss or tinnitus. I later counted myself as lucky. Could this be delayed onset of this exposure?

Another possible explanation is a game I play and love, Escape From Tarkov. This is a survival shooter with loud gunfights. I saw a post on Reddit several months ago which I thought was very well said. To paraphrase:

“Tarkov tricks you into having your volume turned up way too loud. Because most of a game will consist of you sneaking around trying to listen out for footsteps of enemies nearby, you will be inclined to turn your volume up. The sooner you hear your opponent, the more likely you are to win. But these periods of quiet are followed by explosively loud gunfights with automatic weapons firing at close range. The game prides itself on realism, which is great, but it means firearms are very loud relative to other sounds (more so than other shooter games).”

So it may be that my playing Tarkov (I started around 2 years ago) has in some way lead to my tinnitus. I’ve since been more careful about keeping the volume at a more reasonable level, even if it affects my gameplay.

There has been some talk about the possibility of being able to manage tinnitus with meditation/mindfulness. I’ve tried this a little with no success, but remain hopeful about one day being able to trick myself into enjoying the sound, or ignoring it, or something similar.

Finally, there are researchers looking at tinnitus and thinking about how to mitigate the symptoms. Stay tuned.