A Black Official Asks David Sims a Science Question
by David Sims
ON 24 January 2017, Gen. Genesius Mugisha Junior (a Black man living in Fort Portal in western Uganda) asked me (since I write widely on such subjects):
“Hello Mr.David? i would lyk to ask you a question.gravity is a force dat pulls objects towards the earth.what distance should a rocket travel to escape gravity? are there other forces that pull objects in opposite side of the earth?”
I answered: The force of gravity follows the inverse-square law. If you double the distance (r), you reduce the force (F) to 1/4 of what it originally was. The further away from Earth you go, the weaker the Earth’s gravity becomes, but it never becomes zero.
F = ma = −GMm/r²
where M is the mass of the Earth, m is the mass of the spaceship, and the gravitational constant, G = 6.67408e-11 m³ kg⁻¹ sec⁻².
Earth’s mass, M = 5.973e24 kilograms.
The acceleration from gravity is the force divided by the spaceship’s mass:
a = F/m = −GM/r²
The minus sign means that the force is attractive, which means that it tries to reduce the distance between Earth and the space ship over time. That does not mean that gravity will succeed in doing so, but only that reducing the distance is what it will try to do.
Mr. Mugisha, by the way, is said to be a director of the African Space Science Research Programme. I can’t imagine why such a highly placed official in such an august institution would need to ask me such a simple question. And, yes, I presented his question exactly as he wrote it, without any changes whatever.
African Space Pioneers
On SpaceX’s Facebook page, a man named John Miller tried to give credit for that company’s success to “immigrants” because Elon Musk is an immigrant from South Africa. He said: “Important to remember this was done by a US company that was founded by an immigrant.”
I say it is more important to remember that this was done by a US company that was founded by a White man who legally immigrated to America from South Africa. It wasn’t founded by an illegal immigrant Mestizo, nor by any of the Blacks who came to the USA from the same country.
And that’s generally how things are. Of the 90,000 legal immigrants from South Africa to the United States, those with the greatest productivity come mostly from the small fraction who are White, including Elon Musk of SpaceX, Steven Collis of AmerisourceBergen, Peter Jones of Stellenbosch, Dr. Trevor Mundel of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, and Dr. Liam Pedersen of NASA’s robotics division.
One person expressed surprise and doubt when I said that Musk was a White man.
I replied: Elon Musk is from South Africa — but he isn’t Black. Indeed, he looks conspicuously White.
His mother, Maye Haldeman, was born in Canada and looks White.
His father, Errol Musk, was born in South Africa, and he looks White.
His father’s father, Walter Henry James Musk, was Pennsylvania Dutch.
His father’s mother, Cora Amelia Robinson, was British.
His mother’s father, Joshua Norman Haldeman, was an American from Minnesota, a chiropractor, and he looks White.
His mother’s mother was Eve Peters.
It sounds like Elon Musk could be White, yes.
I was then asked: “What african country has a space program?”
My answer: None of them, really. Some Black African countries have a pretense of a space program, and Uganda is one of them.
Uganda’s African Space Research Programme is led by Chris Nsamba, who does have some aptitude for making self-propelled machines. He seems to have created, through spot-welding and carpentry, a propeller-driven go-cart, capable of maybe 15 miles per hour over level road, from parts (e.g. a lawn-mower engine) made in White or Asian countries, which he probably gets by mail.
The wings on this gasoline-powered contraption were added only for looks, to make it resemble an airplane — which it certainly is not. The wings aren’t airfoils. They’re cloth-on-wooden-frame decorations. Removing the wings would make it lighter and enable it to perform better as a ground vehicle.
However, Nsamba can’t really claim to have invented a ground vehicle from scratch because he didn’t design or manufacture the engine that he was using, and I doubt that he built the propeller, either. As is typical, an African did something noteworthy only after getting a helping hand from Whitey, and afterward decided that he would try to keep all of the credit for himself.
In an email, Chris Nsamba challenged me to name “one thing” that I had built with my own hands, even as small a thing as a pen. In reply to him, I provided links to my tutorials for determining an orbit by the method of Gauss and for calculating the changes of velocity needed for insertion into a transfer orbit of one anchored apside. I said that my skills were more intensively engaged with math than his were, and less engaged with such things as hammering, sawing, welding, and sanding.
Gen. Genesius Mugisha Junior wrote to me some time after that, ostensibly to elicit the information that I put in the original post, above. But I suspect that something else might be going on, so I didn’t connect with him directly on Facebook.
Anyway, Uganda’s Africa Space (Science) Research Programme is full of Blacks who do something little and represent it as something big, or as the immediate precursor of something big. It’s nonsense. No African Blacks are really going to launch rockets into Low Earth Orbit by themselves, as White people do. These Africans are merely fantasizing about how it might feel to belong to a superior race.
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