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Is Elon Musk an Alien?

Is Elon Musk an Alien?

Elon has a BS and an MS in Physics [0]

Consider his career. [1]
He dropped out of the Stanford Physics PhD. Program after two days in 1995.
He made his first money selling yellow pages on the web (Zip2; sold to Compaq in 1999 for $309m, Elon got 7%.)
Then he founded and merged with Confinity and renamed Paypal in 2001 and went public in 2002 and raised $61 million. [2]
Sold to Ebay for $1.5 billion dollars later that year. [3]
Then Elon declared he wanted to settle humans on Mars.

Not just land people on Mars, but start a self-sustaining colony.

He started SpaceX with his own money, a company built to fly things to Mars.
He bought Tesla and makes cars with electric engines that will work in a vacuum, like on Mars.
He founded (with his cousins) and then bought SolarCity, a company that turns sunlight into energy (can you imagine sending oil to Mars?) This company makes solar panels. A critical skill needed to populate Mars.
He's building the largest manufacturing plant in the world, in the middle of the Nevadan desert, (in a remote place like Mars where everything needs to be shipped in.) This factory can produce battery storage technology that will work on Mars. And he's learning what it takes to operate a factory in a remote area, like Mars.
He proposed to build a hyperloop; vacuum tunnels that accommodate high speed tunnels: cheaper on Mars than Earth (no atmosphere on Mars presently.)
One of his most recently formed companies is the "Boring" company. This company builds electrically powered Tunnel Boring Machines that will make tunnels for his hyperloop that will use his electric cars to drive around on Mars.
His SpaceX company is under contract to put up a set of Internet satellites in low Earth orbit, just like the set of Internet communication satellites he's going to put in low Mars orbit.

Elon Musk is seriously building all the necessary technology needed to settle on Mars.

Yep. Elon Musk is an alien. And he wants to settle on Mars.
Why? Because it will help the human race survive.
Maybe he's not an alien.

Elon Musk is the first Martian.

Now consider two things about this Big Hairy Audacious Goal:

1. How much will it really cost to build a sustainable colony on Mars?

2. His newest company: Neuralink; is a Neural Brain Interface developer. What does this have to do with Mars?

Let's consider each of these questions in turn.

First: how do you make a sustainable economy on Mars?
How much does it cost to keep it supplied from the Earth to boot strap the Mars colony?
And the real question: when can the colony afford to create another colony?

We could compare the costs of our Antarctic colony. The first person to get to the south pole happened in 1911. In 2017 there are about 4000 people there in summer and 400 in winter. There are about 2000 tourists there during the summer. Nobody stays for more than a year at a time. This is not a sustainable colony. It's been there for 100 years. They import 95% of their food. Remember, Antarctica is much easier to live in than Mars.

1. Antarctica is 30,000 times closer to San Francisco than Mars is.

2. Antarctica and Mars are essentially the same temperature on average, although Mars has much larger variations.
3. Antarctica has the same atmosphere as the rest of the Earth, Mars has 1% of that, mostly carbon dioxide.

So except for the atmosphere and the distance, no problem! And no life.

SpaceX is hoping to bring the costs down to $140k per ton of cargo or $70/kilo.If you need 2000 calories per day, given that there are 5-10 calories per gram, you need 200 to 400 grams of food per day. So about 2 kg per week. So a ton will feed you for about 500 weeks or 10 years. Plenty of time to get that farm running! However, the Falcon XX is only taking 140 tons to Mars each trip (see chart below.) So taking one ton for each of a few hundred people isn't going to work,... Better be able to grow your own food very, very quickly. Otherwise you will quickly starve. Not a good thing to happen in a remote colony. Let's say three years. So about a third of your cargo is food. How do you carry the solar cells (need a solar factory, building materials and some Tunnel Boring Machines to create enough space to grow the food you need. This is tough to do. What do you send back to Earth so that you can afford to pay for all this stuff you need to bring up. An expensive house in California doesn't begin to pay for this.


How big does the farm have to be? According to this article you need about half an acre to produce the food you need for an entire year. Suppose you assume that the society spends about 5% of its money on food. So you have to provide food for 20 people to claim revenue equal to the average GDP of the US today. Assume that you make 5% profit on your food. To make a salary of the average GDP you have to feed 400 people. That would take 200 acres to make a viable farm per person. So for a family of 5 you'd need 1000 acres or about 1.5 square miles.


How much glass is that? Assume that it needs to hold one atmosphere. 1 foot span of glass needs to be 5/8" thick to hold that much weight. The glass panel of this size weighs 8 pounds. You need 5.4M of these panels to cover your farm. You'll get lots of energy! [4] but how did you get these panels to Mars? This glass would take $1B to bring to Mars on rockets. Probably not a good idea. So you need to send a solar panel factory to Mars. And a battery factory, you don't want to send batteries by rocket either. Now you can see why Elon is building his giga-factory and learning how to build batteries. You need Oxygen and water creating factories. Wholly cow!

Assume all that manages to get to Mars. Still you will still die because you'll get cancer from radiation (Mars has no magnetic field which, on earth, shields us from high energy particles that inhabit the universe.) You probably want to dig your house out of the ground (lots of radiation that you need shielded from) so you need a Tunnel Boring Machine. Those currently are huge, you probably want to build a smaller one.

And you'd better be a socialist or very, very rich (0.1% won't cut it.) To be safe you should share half of your payload for group resources: for tunnel boring machines, electric motors, metal foundries, rocket fuel foundry, 3D printers, original above ground structures, shovels, backhoes, cars, solar panels that pass light for roofs. If you don't have ALL of this stuff, how do you build a truck farm? You need to dig roads out of the ground (hyperloops with Tesla cars on them to get your food to the colonists.) You need Internet satellites (or wires to start), communication devices, cell phones and computers. Data centers. Water (can you mine enough?) Electricity from solar panels. Batteries to store power. Oxygen creation (along with a shared rocket fuel foundry so you could get back.) That's a lot of gear. So when Elon talks about $140k/ton, that's just the transport charges.

You have to buy all of this stuff, too.

It's almost all custom stuff because you want to minimize the total costs of building it so since it's so expensive to transport you can afford to pay to make it lighter weight. A Tesla 3 costs $35,000. A car weighs about 2 tons. That's $280k for that car. So you want to make sure you can build new electric motors and new cars. So you have to send up a car factory. So you buy shares in everything. You need to double the transport costs to factor in the cost of the material. And you aren't going to send a chip factory up there for a long time... So computers are going to be very expensive. So while Elon Musk is claiming it will only cost a few $100,000 to get to Mars, including food, factories, and raw material the cosd could be 4 to 5x that, which would be super expensive. Elon has to bring the price of everything down.

Now, why Neuralink?

Elon's next company is NeuraLink: they are building a neural-brain interface. It's a way to become part of a computer, communicate with the computer faster, extend your reach and speed of understanding. Eventually this communication channel should be able to read the state of your mind and to store an accurate copy of your brain: to store your soul. Someday this NeuraLink ought to be able to write into the brain as it will increase the communication rate. If the NeuraLink can write in all the places it can read (everywhere) and quickly enough then you can restore your brain state. Life after death if your brain is still around... If it's destroyed, then we have to recreate the physical state of your brain. That's going to take a few more years. The NeuraLink is the first step on the way to bring you back to life if your body is destroyed.

Now why wouldn't you want a NeuraLink? You can't do the soul-saving part until you increase the interface speed. Once you can talk to the computer fast enough, all the other stuff are just natural extensions that people will pay for. You've created a technology that will provide it's own funding. This is not an accident. Elon Musk has used this same business Meta-model in the past to get a technology invented. Look at PayPal, first it only talked to other Palm Pilots through an IR port, then it moved up the stack of abstraction and it can use email, a much large market. Look at Tesla: a hand-built sports car with an outrageous price that shows you know how to build a car and can use its success to raise money to build a luxury car that sells huge numbers and you can use that to raise money to build an inexpensive electric car for the masses. Same with SpaceX: build a Low Earth Orbit rocket that can be paid to take cargo to the International Space Station and then use that success to raise more money to pay for building the technology that takes us to Mars. The Boring Company fits this model as well. Solar City fits this model. So does NeuraLink.

Elon has created a model to bootstrap technology. He's been thinking about how to do this and practicing this for years. He's getting pretty good at it. He's getting very good at it. I'm totally impressed. The only other person on this planet that I think is in the same league as Elon (not Gates, not Buffet, but...): Craig Venter.

I will certainly be blogging about Craig in the future.
Thanks for reading!
-Dr. Mike

[0] We both attended Stanford and studied physics, although I was long gone form my Postdoc (8 years) when he showed up.

An excellent set of blog posts on what Elon Musk's companies are doing and how they are doing it. The author's contention is that every company has an overriding goal. In order to achieve this overriding goal the company must change the way the industry operates (Autos: Tesla, Renewable Energy: Solar, Space Flight: SpaceX, Road Building: The Boring Co., etc.) In order to achieve the overriding goal the solution is going to be 10x better than the existing industry. First you need to figure out a way to generate enough cash to move forward to improve the technology enough that you can come out with a second version of it that is more efficient and helps to fund the next level of improvements until you get to where your overriding vision is now possible.

[2] Originally a startup that allowed Palm Pilots to send money to each other through their infrared port. (Indeed, it was awesome, except hardly anyone had Palm Pilots.) I tested the product but was underwhelmed. However, soon I could send money to anyone by using their email address and Paypal. You could tell Paypal to send money to a particular email address. Paypal would send them a link and allow them to create an account to get the money. the ultimate viral app. Then they started charging transfer fees and floating transfers for 4 days. So not even as good as my bank. But that was long after they got sold to ebay for $1.5B.

[3] And here's a sadder story of a missed sale. I joined Metricom in 1994, the year before Elon started Zip2. Metricom raised $84 Million the week I joined to invent the Ricochet Wireless Internet. We did invent it. In 1999 we raised $1.4B to deploy the Ricochet wireless network across the country. In 2001 we declared bankruptcy with $200 million in the bank. Oh yeah. WorldCom threw in a $250 million investment against a $250 million contract for communication services. The WorldCom CEO is still in jail. Metricom's CEO turned down a 9 figure sale to AT&T to go with the investment by Paul Allen and World Com. Talk about your bad business decisions.

[4] at 600 W/square meter you will be generating 60 W per panel or 32MW. That should be enough to run your farm, but not a huge amount.


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