SWP Weapon Order Form

This is for Sly’s Wolf Pack to order weapons from the crafters within the guild. Currently  it is in beta test phase. If you are another guild and would like something similar to help out please send a message using the contact form on this website.

Your @name and level ( example: @Faugaun/vr16)*
Weapon Type Select:*
Trait Select:*
Style Select:*
Item Set (could make it a drop down box list):*
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Space Colonization Technology Ideas

Colonizing the Moon

The moon, our ever present and eternal neighbor in space, is an astral body that has captured the attention of humanity for millennia. Mankind first visited the moon in 1969 and the last time we were on the moon was in 1972. Since then we haven’t travelled beyond low earth orbit but this has not stopped man from eyeing big goals. Currently there are efforts to colonize both Mars and the Moon. This is a discussion of potential ideas for space exploration, colonization and technological developments that will simultaneously help us terrestrials. In order to brainstorm we first need to consider some difficulties that might be encountered when colonizing the Moon and Mars. Due to the complexity of the system as a whole and the Authors ignorance this article will by necessity be limited in scope.

Difficulty 1 – Energy on a moon or planet

Let’s face it no matter what planet or point in space we (humanity) ultimately decide to colonize energy will be something necessary to keep things running. In open space energy can be obtained from solar collection (which can occur constantly). This means that in near sun orbits electric generation is not very problematic. However, if the colony is moved further from the sun or placed on a planet or moon then the system becomes more complicated. Consider that a heavy atmosphere may prevent solar radiation from reaching the earth or a slow rotation of the planet may cause lengthy nights requiring non-solar solutions. Non-solar solutions could be a long power grid or nuclear but such projects require substantial infrastructure development (though some work is being conducted on micro nuclear reactors, which may make nuclear a viable option). I propose some existing technologies as candidates to be developed into potential space colony energy solutions.

Organic Batteries

Recently this year California scientists have published research focusing on utilizing mushrooms as a part of batteries. If this technology can be expanded to essentially grow a portion of batteries (either in flight or on arrival) then the weight and shipping space for transporting batteries can be greatly reduced. This has an additional benefit since the mushrooms are decomposers and can be utilized to recycle waste thus allowing for greater efficiency of resources in space as well.

Citation: Campbell, B. et al.Bio-Derived, Binderless, Hierarchically Porous Carbon Anodes for Li-ion Batteries.Sci. Rep. 5, 14575; doi: 10.1038/srep14575 (2015).

Larger Batteries

It may be necessary to cope with longer periods of darkness, like on Earth’s moon where night is two weeks. A second kind of potential battery would be a gravity battery. It may be possible to use modern materials to create a very tall storage container or utilize a deep crater; the preferred technology would be dependant on the gravity of the specific planet or moon. A body with a higher gravity would require a smaller elevation change while a body with lower gravity would require a much greater elevation change. During the day energy can be used to move mass to the higher elevation storage and at night it can be released to the lower elevation and this energy can be converted into electric. This is exactly what the Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant just outside of Chattanooga, TN has been doing since 1978. There are a variety of modifications that can be made to the system, such as utilizing sand instead of water (obviously durability of parts would be impacted with sand), or bricks, alternatively the system could be powered off of solar steam.

Solar Steam

This is probably my favorite idea because it involves nano-particles, steam electric generation, distillation, and hydroelectric generation from a reservoir style battery. Essentially you create steam directly and efficiently utilizing carbon or gold plated nano-particles (the original research utilized silicon if I recall, I would seek to modify the core to a magnetic material to allow easy separation of the catalytic nanoparticles). The steam intensity would be increased because the Moon’s atmosphere is lower than earths which would allow more energy to penetrate and reach the steam generator. A large Fresnel lens, or reflective mirrors could be utilized as a solar concentrator to allow higher pressure steam. This steam could then be piped to a steam turbine which would generate electricity from the steam and then the pipes would go underground (at the bottom of a mountain) and after the prescribed length the pipes would emerge at the top of the mountain where the cooled steam would condense into water.

Interestingly this could generate electricity while moving water to a higher elevation (greater potential energy) and purifying the water (this could dual purpose for desalination on earth to provide electric generation and salt (to sell) and distilled water). Once in the reservoir the water would collect until night when the distilled water would be released, through pipes to turbines, and generate electricity. If you would like a more detailed explanation please see: http://asolutionaday.com/environmental/martian-combination-plant/

Neumann, O., Urban, A. S., Day, J., Lal, S., Nordlander, P., & Halas, N. J. (2012). Solar vapor generation enabled by nanoparticles. Acs Nano7(1), 42-49.

Difficulty 2 – Food on a moon or planet

Non-Photosynthetic Fungi

Mushrooms are nutritious (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3050/2) and delicious and their use goes well beyond just batteries. They are edible and can be grown with minimal photosynthetic requirements. Additionally, they come in many flavors Laetiporus sulphureus, is a potential chicken substitute or Hericium erinaceus which can be cooked to a seafood like texture and a crab like flavor. There are thousands of potentially useful mushrooms for space application and dozens (maybe hundreds) of choice edibles. The opportunity to research and take specific ones that maximize use in space should be thoroughly examined. There are some examples of lichens (a fungus/plant dual organism) that are capable of surviving in very harsh conditions and they may even be capable of surviving on Mars.  They provide many nutrients not easily obtainable from plant based products this makes them a great supplement to a space diet. This is partially due to fungus being more closely related to cows and fish than they are to plants.

Space Goats

Yup….I said it…  “Space Goats” … Goats can produce milk which is an excellent source of nutrition. Additionally the excess (non-dairy) goats can be slaughtered to produce meat for the astronauts. This operation is not sun dependant (though a reliable food source would be necessary for the goats during the night). The biggest advantage of goats is that they require about 1/6’th the area that cows require and this reduced space requirement can allow a viable population in a much smaller space. An even lower space animal would be chickens which produce eggs. The bio-waste from these animals could be converted into soil creating a complete system. The goat field could double as a solar generation facility modern research has determined that pastures of grazing animals with shade yields more milk of equal quality. Thus some sort of shade would need to be provided, either trees or solar panels or something else that would be productive.

Difficulty 3 – Building supplies on a moon or planet

Insulation and Building Materials

Not to keep pushing for fungus in space but there is a company called Ecovative they produce Myco Board, Myco Foam and other products. Myco Board is essentially a fungal building material that remains stable for long lengths of time (as long as it stays dry, not a problem in space).  Myco Foam is a grown insulation which can replace Styrofoam and other products and again be grown at the destination which allows more flexibility for transporting the product from Earth to the colony.

Bio-Luminescence

This one is admittedly a long shot but there are mushrooms that naturally produce light (other organisms as well but mushrooms are stationary). If we started a breeding program which focused on selectively breeding the mushrooms that produced the most light then over time the mushrooms might produce enough light to reduce the night time electrical needs of a colony. On earth these could be sold as novelty space mushrooms or specialty lighting (high electric cost areas such as California might be all to happy to replace conventional lighting with mushroom lighting in the name of saving money and conservation) to help recover a portion of the development costs. Geneticist consultation might be warranted to see how difficult it would be to identify the genes responsible for the bio-luminescence and insert them in more desirable edible species then begin the breeding program.

Volkswagen’s Potential Liabilities

What are Volkswagen’s potential liabilities in the diesel emissions scandal?

Chattanooga, TN, has been a very exciting place to live recently. We have won Outside Magazines “Best Town Ever” competition for the second time and hosted numerous large greatly positive events. However, the year has not been without its woes. Probably the biggest woe faced by this community was the shooting incident in which five service members were killed by an apparent lone wolf attack. The second largest it appears will be the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal which has the potential to impact an estimated 10,000 employees (local suppliers and actual employees (including ones that would have been hired for the SUV line being added)).

I would like to provide an independent evaluation of the potential U.S. liabilities that the company faces and some ideas for the company to survive the scandal. I have read various estimates of the potential “worst-case scenario” costs to the company. These estimates range from $7 billion to $50 billion (internationally) and while they are indeed very large numbers I do not think the represent a realistic worst case scenario very accurately. I will begin with some basic figures regarding the financial position of the company then follow with potential costs looming over their company from the crisis. Finally, I will share my thoughts on the situation.

Volkswagen Company Assets

The company has a liquid cash fund of approximately $25 billion dollars. Earlier this year the company has a market valuation of approximately $125 billion (which has been reduced significantly, the 52 week high around $255 per share to a current $108 per share up from the low of $92 that occurred 10 days ago). I haven’t completely examined the financials thoroughly but the company puts their overall assets in the ballpark of $374.02 billion (http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/vlkay/financials/balance-sheet/quarter). This seems reasonable and for this valuation it will be accepted at face value for this article. Their total liabilities stand at a $285.37 billion which leaves about $88.65 billion (as of June 30’Th this year) that is potentially available (without external help) to resolve this crisis. Finally the company’s net income for the four quarters is $10.83 billion

Volkswagen Emissions Crisis Cost in the U.S.

The simplest worst case cost to determine is the U.S. EPA maximum fine value. This number alone for the 500,000 (11,000,000 world wide) illegally operating vehicles it sold in the U.S. is approximately $18 billion. There is currently a large cohort of analysts who believe the actual fine will be much lower. The historical highest actual fined amount is only $1.2 billion paid by Toyota for the faulty ignition switches. General Motors paid $900 million for their ignition switch scandal which killed 124 people. Putting this in perspective the VW emissions scandal has probably (it is practically impossible to get an actual count) killed between 16-94 people inside the United States. As a result some analysts anticipate the actual fines being much lower than the $18 billion. However, I differ in my opinion that the VW crisis will end up being much larger than many people anticipate (I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. EPA seriously considers the maximum penalty). The big difference is that VW intentionally designed and implemented technology then sold it to consumers illegally and falsely advertised knowing that the emissions released would hurt people. This is much worse than previous recalls where damage was primarily cause by accident (or lack of proper review) instead of willfully and intentionally causing harm. In my mind this is the difference in a plane engine failing and the plane crashing due to the malfunction versus the pilot intentionally crashing the plane. One scenario is exponentially worse than the other though both are tragic. My gut tells me that many others, including the EPA, can also easily see this distinction and as a result I believe the end fine will be between $12-18 billion.

The more difficult to calculate expenses will result from litigation ranging from states to customers and dealers and potentially even suppliers adversely impacted by VW’s willful deception. I am not a lawyer or economist but I know that damages in court are often calculated at three times the calculated value. On the supplier and dealer side there are most certainly negative economic consequences that are/will directly result from this scandal. Will these damages be recoverable in a court of law? I’m not really sure. The state and local governments whose laws VW has violated will certainly have some recourse. These costs are unknown (perhaps even to those directly involved) but substantial.

The most significant loss is the loss to the consumer who purchased a “clean vehicle” at a premium of about $3,000 (the price over a gasoline engine) and received a vehicle that is the opposite of clean. The reputation on these vehicles is likely to take a long term hit and cause problems reselling the vehicles. The worst case scenario is that these vehicles will be valueless and the company will be requested to buy them back at the sale price which is much higher than $3,000. Due to lack of an average price point that accurately represents the 500,000 diesels sold in the U.S. I will low ball this value at $30,000 per vehicle.

Quickly the math:

$3,000 * 500,000 = $1.50 Billion

$30,000 * 500,000 = $15 Billion

Suppose the drivers of each of these vehicles decided to sue for 3x the value they paid (punitive/pain and suffering for being sold a vehicle under false pretense) this equates to $90,000 * 500,000 = $45 Billion in damages, not including legal fees paid by the corporation.

Summary of potential U.S. Expenses

High Estimate:

U.S. EPA Fine – $18 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $45 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $18 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 10% of the total settlement $77 Billion * .10 = $7.7 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $7 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $18 Billion + $18 Billion + $45 Billion + $7.7 Billion + $7 Billion = $95.7 Billion

Midrange Estimate:

U.S. EPA Fine – $12 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $15 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $12 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 6.5% of the total settlement $39 Billion * .065 = $2.535 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $4.2 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $12 Billion + $12 Billion + $25 Billion + $2.535 Billion + $4.2 Billion = $55.735 Billion

Low Estimate

U.S. EPA Fine – $1.2 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $1.5 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $1.2 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 3% of the total settlement $3.9 Billion * .03 = $0.117 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $1.2 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $1.2 Billion + $1.2 Billion + $1.5 Billion + $0.117 Billion + $1.2 Billion = $5.217 Billion

The three estimates above range again are: $5.217 Billion, $55.735 Billion and $95.7 Billion. Recall that VW only has a total positive value of $88.65 Billion. This means that the U.S. alone could potentially (in a worst case scenario) bankrupt the company single handedly. This doesn’t even add in other responsibilities internationally just for fun (and to put the entire crisis into perspective) I have calculated their international liabilities under three different scenarios: The world on average fines them 100% of what the U.S. does on a per car basis, 50% and 10% are the additional two values. I think the U.S. has some of the more strict regulations worldwide but some other countries may have more strict regulations than the U.S.

The cost per car to Volkswagen based on my estimates at the three price points is:

High Estimate: $191,400

Midrange Estimate: $111,470

Low Estimate: $10,434

Please remember the EPA alone can fine VW up to $37,500 per vehicle so the low estimate really is extremely low. Here is a table showing various combinations of international cost at the different estimates and international penalty points:

International Costs
Low Estimate Midrange Estimate High Estimate
100% $109,557,000,000.00 $1,170,435,000,000.00 $2,009,700,000,000.00
50% 54,778,500,000 585,217,500,000 1,004,850,000,000
10% 10,955,700,000 117,043,500,000 200,970,000,000
International Costs + U.S. Costs
Low Estimate Midrange Estimate High Estimate
100% $114,774,000,000.00 $1,226,170,000,000.00 $2,105,400,000,000.00
50% $59,995,500,000.00 $640,952,500,000.00 $1,100,550,000,000.00
10% $16,172,700,000.00 $172,778,500,000.00 $296,670,000,000.00

 

The potential liabilities range from $16 Billion (best case scenario) to $2.1 Trillion (worst case scenario). In fact only the low estimates (on the table) where the international community only puts 50% or 10% the severity of the penalty that the U.S. does will result in VW still maintaining a positive value. If they survive this disaster as a company there is still the hit to their reputation, their suppliers and the broader effects on the European manufacturing reputation that could cause further monetary issues on economies worldwide. Remember these estimates do not include any penalties associated with repairing the harm done to the environment, VW’s dealers and VW’s suppliers.

My thoughts As a Chattanoogan on the VW Emissions Scandal

As promised I would include a portion on my thoughts. Chattanooga is at an epicenter of this controversy we have about 10,000 jobs resulting from the Volkswagen manufacturing plant located in our city. Optimistically, I hope that in 2 to 5 years all these people still have healthy jobs and careers. Looking at the scandal I believe that based on the current information Volkswagen will likely end up being responsible for $60 to $200 billion in total damages. They can certainly withstand $88 billion without outside assets. Additionally they can probably sell stock to raise funds and cut costs to increase profit margins. Perhaps they will even receive a bailout from the German government, the Tennessee Government and China since these economies have many jobs that the company provides. I would put them at a 50% chance of bankruptcy depending on on going investigation and litigation.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I want Volkswagen to survive after purposefully harming so many people just for the sake of profits and growth. Perhaps the best outcome would be a buyout from another major auto player and drastic changes within the management of the company. What would excite me the most on a local scale is if Tesla Motors purchased the Volkswagen plant and Chattanooga became the new hub for electric vehicles in the United States.