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Transcript

#17: Casey Handmer

Terraform, solar, space, Hyperloop, and how to think

Casey Handmer is the founder and CEO of Terraform Industries and a physicist, immigrant, pilot, dad, solar enthusiast, Caltech physics PhD and former Hyperloop One levitation engineer and NASA JPL software system architect.

Chapters

0:00 - Intro

1:40 - Why don’t other people do what Terraform does?

2:51 - Why is solar better than nuclear fusion?

5:27 - Could carbon emissions actually be good?

8:38 - Why isn’t anyone stopping global warming with sulfur?

13:20 - Can America build something like Terraform?

20:53 - Solar and nuclear

23:10 - Why not terraform Venus instead of Mars?

30:47 - Why did Casey work at NASA instead of SpaceX?

37:18 - Why is Elon the only person with multiple huge companies?

39:59 - Why didn’t the Hyperloop work?

42:26 - Tile the desert with solar

46:03 - How does solar change geopolitics?

48:30 - How does Casey manage his time?

53:24 - How do you develop first principles thinking?

56:28 - Favorite place Casey has traveled to

59:21 - Outro

Links

Casey’s Blog: https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/

Casey’s Website: http://caseyhandmer.com/

Casey’s Twitter: https://x.com/cjhandmer

Terraform Industries: https://terraformindustries.com/

Terraform Blog: https://terraformindustries.wordpress.com/

Transcript: https://www.theojaffee.com/p/17-casey-handmer

More Episodes

YouTube: https://tinyurl.com/57jr42wk

Spotify: https://tinyurl.com/mrxkkhb4

Apple Podcasts: https://tinyurl.com/yck8pnmf

My Twitter: https://x.com/theojaffee

Transcript

Theo Jaffee (01:29)

Hi, welcome back to episode 17 of the Theo Jaffee podcast. We're here today with Casey Handmer.

Casey Handmer (01:36)

Hi, thanks. It's great to be here.

Theo Jaffee (01:39)

Yeah, thank you. So for first question, what you're doing at Terraform, which I'll explain in the intro just to make it clear to everyone, why isn't everyone else doing what Terraform is doing? Like it seems like a very important market need to create like hydrocarbons that will not destroy the environment while also taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Casey Handmer (02:04)

I think they will pretty soon. I think we're just kind of at the cusp where this technology becomes, it goes from being economically extremely unimpressive to economically inevitable.

Theo Jaffee (02:16)

And is that just because solar will continue to get cheaper?

Casey Handmer (02:19)

Yeah, that's the key thing. I mean, if you're making fuel fuels a source of energy, you need a cheap energy input to make that work. And actually for a long time, in many ways, oil and gas has been one of the cheapest energy inputs. So it would be very strange to take some other form of energy that's more expensive and then lossily transform that into oil and gas. But of course, that's not going to be the case. And solar is between five and 10 times cheaper than...

and coal oil now. So actually you can do the reverse conversion and take the efficiency and still win economically.

Theo Jaffee (02:51)

Hmm. So yeah, you're like a huge fan of solar and you've written about why solar is better than wind, why it's better than nuclear. But why is solar better than nuclear fusion? Because fusion would use much less land and it has like almost none of the drawbacks of fission. So why not?

Casey Handmer (03:08)

Well, solar is nuclear fusion. The reactor's in the sky and it comes up every day. And actually, if you think about the platonic ideal of a fusion reactor, you have a completely free heat source, some kind of glowy gas thing that's confined by magnetic fields or something. But you somehow figure out how to build that completely free. And then you have a 25 to 30 % direct energy conversion efficiency system that sits outside that magnetic containment system with zero moving parts, no turbines, no steam handling, no neutron embrittlement, no

Theo Jaffee (03:10)

Well.

Casey Handmer (03:38)

nothing. And then some intervening filtering or shielding of some sort so you don't end up with neutron products and neutron embrittlement and other problems. And then basically the platonic ideal of this energy conversion system is basically just a solar array or a solar panel. And you say, well, why don't we just delete the entire reactor and put that thing outside where it's in the sun and it works. This is slightly tongue in cheek, obviously. I want to say, for the record, I think fusions are a really cool technology. And I

really hope that we figure out how to make it work but in order for Fusion to compete with Solar, this is what it has to do.

First of all, it has to quite a great work. We have to achieve Q greater than one in a real world nuclear fusion reactor. Then we have to achieve Q high enough that we can extract heat from the reactor to boil water or otherwise allow direct conversion of electricity. Then we have to do that at a good enough price that we can compete on price with other forms of energy that are notionally available 24 hours a day, which is on the order of 50 bucks a megawatt hour. Then we have to be able to produce these reactors at a sensible pace. And I'm talking like,

at least hundreds of gigawatts of production capacity of these reactors per year. And that's a really tough problem, right? You have to solve the science problem, then you have to solve the economic problem, then you have to solve the manufacturing problem. And you have to do all of that before solar solves the problem for all of us anyway, which it's pretty close to doing. So in terms of the time window for this to occur, if fusion arrives in 2050, that'll be too late, really. It will not be able to, even if it's able to compete on the cost, I think it'll find it has very marginal markets because solar will already kind of own everything. If it becomes extremely compelling on cost, which I think is quite a lack.

because just diffusion reactors are inherently more complicated than solar arrays. Then, you know, we can always rip up the solar arrays and put them in a hole in the ground and switch over to fusion, and that would be a pretty cool thing as well. I think that would be a win -win situation.

Theo Jaffee (05:27)

So is there any possibility that, I've seen this argument before, so I wanted to get your take on it, but could carbon emissions actually be good? Like in a world that we don't reduce them, first of all, lots of climate predictions from like the seventies have been like wildly pessimistic compared to what's actually happened. This has been like a consistent theme and CO2 boosts plant growth, including for agriculture. Like could the offset of like higher wet bulb temperatures in poor countries be...

Casey Handmer (05:38)

Mm.

Mm -hmm.

Theo Jaffee (05:56)

essentially like counteracted by like it being easier to grow food. And then the relationship between CO2 emissions and warming is logarithmic. So like you can increase CO2 a lot and it only warms the planet a little.

Casey Handmer (06:06)

Yeah.

Yeah, all these things are true enough.

And it's not controversial that plants are growing like crazy now because of longer growing seasons and higher CO2 levels in the air. And I think if you had the choice to set the CO2 level in the atmosphere at any level we desire, which we're going to have that ability to do in the next decade or two. So it's probably figure out now what we think a good set point is. I would say about 350 ppm is quite good. So that means that the grasslands are no longer starving forests for CO2 availability due to the inherent inefficiency.

of different forms of photosynthesis or their CO2 uptake capability. You also get a little bit warming, slightly milder winters, particularly in the north, which generally speaking, cold kills 10 times more people than heat. And then of course we've got solar powered air conditioning which can help make the hotter areas more livable in summer. But the default plan, which is we just keep on cranking up CO2 in the atmosphere by two or three or four ppm every year, is absolutely crazy. And I think that we're totally

totally playing Russian roulette here. Because there will definitely come points when the atmosphere and surface gas exchange mechanisms destabilize in far more catastrophic ways than they already have. And so here I'm talking about once the Greenland ice sheet or the Western Antarctic ice sheet starts moving, we will not be able to stop it. At that point, our coastal cities will be flooded and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. And much of our arable land as well. And winding that back will take tens of thousands of years. So we should probably not do it.

that. And also if we get to the point where we melt the permafrost and release a lot of biogenic methane that's trapped there, then that will also really put a thumb on the scales that will require us to take much, much more drastic solar geoengineering response to that in order to keep a lid on temperature. It's kind of a crazy thing, but what Terraform is doing is finding a carbon neutral supply chain source for hydrocarbons for everyone forever. We will be there in 20 years. And so the critical thing is, A, find some way to stop heat from

getting out of control in the next 20 -30 years and then find some way to wind back the existing CO2 levels to a more sustainable maybe around 350 ppm or thereabouts in that intervening time so that we don't have to do solid resource management, solid radiation management with sulfur in the atmosphere or something forever and then ultimately turn that process off as well once we're on the fully synthetic hydrocarbon supply chain.

Theo Jaffee (08:38)

On the topic of solar radiation management, we already asked why isn't everyone doing what Terraform is doing, but why aren't anyone doing solar radiation management with sulfur? It seems like it would be relatively easy for someone with the resources of a nation state. Yeah, it's like a few billion dollars, right?

Casey Handmer (08:53)

It is. you could do it as a retired Googler. Yeah, yeah, yeah, less than that, less than that. That's astonishingly cheap. And I actually don't know for sure that people aren't doing it on the sly. I know of a number of entities that are doing it officially, but at a relatively small scale, but doing it publicly at a small scale. It seems insane to me that we've kind of built this.

cultural precedent of the precautionary principles just in the last generation or two that will, if we don't kind of agitate about it, it will end our civilization because we'll kind of by default prefer stasis and stasis will take us off the edge of the cliff.

But the thing is, you can go from nothing to a full deployment of SRM in less than a year if you really want to. There are numerous countries on Earth that remove sulfur from fuels and stockpile it. You don't have to burn very many of those and you basically have the effect that you want.

my position would be that we should start doing it now incrementally so that we can measure the effects more precisely and avoid kind of the impacts of catastrophic or very rapid changes in solar radiation hitting the surface of the Earth. And I think people are waking up to that right now. I think that this was, compared to say three or four years ago, it's much, much more mainstream and we should continue to talk about it.

Theo Jaffee (10:14)

Yeah, but why hasn't, like, China or someone just spent, like, a couple billion dollars?

Casey Handmer (10:16)

We don't know they haven't. We don't know they haven't.

Theo Jaffee (10:24)

they had when we see effects on global temperature.

Casey Handmer (10:27)

Well, in some ways, the largest short -term effect on global temperature that we've seen is the effect of desulphurization of coal and marine fuel.

So just this last couple of years, we've had incredible heating in the North Atlantic, and it seems like at least half of that signal is accounted for by taking sulfur out of marine diesels. So in some ways, we've taken the accidental geoengineering that we're doing with CO2 emissions, which we've done mostly over the last 100 years, and we've turned that up to 11 by taking the sulfur out of fuels. And there are good reasons to take the sulfur out of fuels. Sulfur is acid and so on, because acid rain and problems, respiratory problems and so on in port areas.

of environmental consequences. But it is also true that it roughly masks half to three quarters of the effect of CO2 -induced global warming. And by taking it out, it comes out of the atmosphere in a year or two, and we're actually getting the full brunt of it now. And we're in the midst of a months -long heat wave in India right now. And there'll be mostly ones across the American South and much of the world. And I think severe flooding is occurring all over the world at any one time. There's always severe floods.

occurred somewhere and I think people are gradually waking up to the fact that...

that we need to be a little bit more deliberate about how we manage our use of fossil hydrocarbons and the sulfur that often comes with them in order to make sure that we don't inadvertently rip off yet another band -aid and make this situation far, far, far worse than it currently is. And it's easy to kind of talk about this in the abstract, but sooner or later we'll have a mass casualty event, right? And the hypothesis that we've seen in some science fiction that's been published recently is that sooner or later, India or China or countries,

in Africa or someone will experience mass casualty event and then they will unilaterally engage in solar radiation management and there's not a damn thing that anyone will be able to do to stop them unless they want to you know, decapitate the government via force of war which I think is hopefully off the table. And so what I'm saying, what I'm continuing to say is like the United States ideally should be a country that you know legalizes and promotes this technology and uses its incredible array of you know NASA based space sensors and so on to monitor and regulate and understand

the effects of this technology so that a, we never have the mass casualty event at all. Ideally, let's not kill tens of millions of people for no reason. And b, by avoiding that mass casualty event, we avoid a kind of panic response that we'd otherwise have. I didn't mean to bang on my SRM for like 15 minutes of your podcast, but it's something I'm quite passionate about.

Theo Jaffee (12:56)

No, Serum is cool.

Casey Handmer (12:58)

There's a company called Make Sunsets. So I'll give them a shout out. Super cool guys have started that and they're doing, you can go on their website and you can buy basically heat offset credits. They'll launch a balloon for you and then send you a certificate. And I think that, you know, they're tiny, tiny operation right now. But I think that's a step in the right direction.

Theo Jaffee (13:20)

So you talk about Terraform in the Terraform blog, kind of like a thing that will happen almost by default as solar gets cheaper. Like, yeah, you know, as solar gets cheaper, we'll tile the desert with solar panels and we'll build like tens of thousands of factories at a rate of like one every few days for like decades.

Casey Handmer (13:29)

Yeah.

Yeah, we might build some bigger factories and fewer of them, but yeah, that's the basic idea.

Theo Jaffee (13:44)

Yeah, but is this actually true with the level of social organization and anti -builder mindset that we currently have in America? It seems like we can't outbuild China right now, not because China has more capitalism or a stronger economy even, but just because they allow companies to build things like high -speed rail or massive solar farms.

Casey Handmer (13:53)

Mm.

Yeah.

Well actually when it comes to manufacturing, China is probably more capitalist than the United States. And I think that's often lost in the mix. China is initially a communist country, but really it's an authoritarian dictatorship and its economy has been, since stone -shoving deregulated the command aspects of the economy, it's been as capitalist did not more than the United States, at least in the kind of private sector manufacturing sphere. But that said, sorry, the United States is currently experiencing an unprecedented manufacturing boom. There's more money.

and more factories being built than at any time in history, including the lead up to World War II. And so I think this idea that all we can do for China is no longer a valid notion and that we should probably prepare ourselves for another decade or two of US manufacturing dominance, particularly with higher tech and automated manufacturing.

Theo Jaffee (14:55)

Well, that's the thing. We have the manufacturing capacity. But it doesn't matter if you have the capacity to build millions of solar panels if you can't actually get the permits to put the solar panels in the desert.

Casey Handmer (15:04)

Hmm.

Well, that actually is kind of the challenge, if that makes any sense. But actually, I would say that in contrast to SRM,

oil and gas production, the United States has always been kind of devolved between like tens of thousands of family owned independent oil drillers and oil producers. And so there's kind of an economic precedent for small scrappy startup to enter this space and all the economic framework is already in place to make that work, which is wonderful as far as I'm concerned. The challenge as far as like mass scale solar deployment is that there is currently a very expensive and time expensive process required to deploy solar arrays whose major effect is that it just

kills tens of thousands of Americans every year for no reason from the effects of legacy coal plant power production that would otherwise be displaced by new solar development. But the thing is, when it comes to oil and gas, the outcome is never in doubt. You might delay it, you might slow it down, but sooner or later the infrastructure will be built and will be deployed because the economic arbitrage, if you like, the pressure between the amount of value that can be generated versus not becomes so great that even the organs of state are unable to affect it.

resist them. And that actually has been a continuing frustration for opponents of oil development and offshore oil drilling and export terminal development and refineries and so on. But it will actually be a source of, I think, major joy for much of the justifiably environmentally concerned activist community when they realize that the same economic forcing function is now fighting for them as opposed to against the ideals that they hold dear. And we're already seeing that. So,

So that's kind of exciting. It's just economics. At the end of the day, if you found some way of making some fundamental product that everyone needs, and everyone pays a lot of money for, and you found some way of making it three times cheaper, well, that's just what's going to happen. And that's what has happened essentially in every country on Earth since forever. It doesn't matter what their economic system is. Everyone needs oil.

Theo Jaffee (17:07)

So a lot of people are now talking about like, America can't build. We no longer have this mindset. We have this, yeah, like what you talked about with the precautionary principle. But the reason that we developed the precautionary principle with building industrial mega projects is because we may have been getting to a point in the beginning of the 20th century where people may have been too far in the other direction. So like the famous like 1950s plan,

in the San Francisco Bay Area to drain half of the bay and replace it with reclaimed land with shipping channels and stuff. A lot of Californians didn't like that because it would have meant significantly impacting the ecology of the area. So what's the right balance, do you think, of building megaprojects and preserving the environment?

Casey Handmer (17:54)

Yeah.

Yeah, well that's a good question. At the time, of course, San Francisco Bay was mostly just a dump, right, like there are a whole series of hills and islands along the shore of the peninsula which are, you know, remediated dumps.

And one of the consequences of these kind of major thought thinking plans for provisioning additional development space and so on is that San Francisco is now by far the richest city in the history of humanity with some of the oldest and most dilapidated housing stock at some of the most highly unaffordable prices. So high in fact that it cannot function as a city because the diversity of workers that you need to make a city function cannot afford to live there. And so it's in, you know.

I don't know, like San Francisco has always been a city that's capable of reinventing itself and rebuilding itself, but it's never been more clear that like something desperately needs to change there. Anyway, I don't want to get kind of on that horse too much. But yes, I'm totally, yeah, yeah. So I totally, you may well be, I totally agree that,

Theo Jaffee (18:51)

Yeah, we way overreacted. And I think I'm on reclaimed land in San Francisco right now. Yeah.

Casey Handmer (19:04)

that the precautionary principle exists for a reason and that environmental protection regulations exist for a reason and that the fraction of the Earth's surface that has not been affected negatively in some way by human activity is relatively small and that we should probably do what we can to preserve those areas. But at the same time,

we are an economy that's not standing still, right? And so doing nothing is a choice. And if you do nothing about kind of retrofitting and replacing legacy energy production infrastructure that we all depend on to avoid starving to death, then you continue to accept the consequences of that in terms of the environmental and health impacts of those technologies, which we know now are many, many, many times worse than the impacts of putting out a solar array. And the nice thing about solar arrays is that, unlike pouring a bunch of concrete and installing a nuclear

power plant or something like that. If you decide after 30 years you're done with it and you want to replace it, then you just derack it, rip the racks out of the ground and it goes back to being pretty much exactly the same as once before. You don't have to break up any any subsystem, you don't have to decontaminate any areas, you don't have to do a bunch of like you know settling ponds, cooling ponds, ash tailing ponds etc etc which are standard practice for for coal generation, for nuclear generation etc. And so I think that when it comes to sensible changes to environmental permitting

regulations, there should be a recognition of the fact that if you were displacing existing use, which is far more damaging, then you should probably get a pass. And if your displacement or if your thing you're building is extremely easy to undo, then you should also get a pass that's proportional to that. So for example, it is completely conceivable when you are developing a solar array that you could put cash in escrow that would completely pay for the cleanup and remediation of that site.

whereas that is impossible with almost any other kind of development.

Theo Jaffee (20:53)

Yeah, I think reading your blog has turned me into like much more of a solar bowl. And this is still like something that very few people, even on like optimist, like, yak builder Twitter are talking about. They're all like, we need to build more nuclear, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear. And like, they're kind of right. And that nuclear is probably better than like coal, but yeah, like not many people are talking about solar.

Casey Handmer (21:12)

Yeah, for sure. I mean, that's quite clear. Look at what's happening in France, right? Like, France for a variety of interesting...

of socio -political reasons decided that it wanted to have energy independence and also large sources of its own supply chain for fissile materials. And they went and did it, and the results speak for themselves. And I think that if you were wondering about energy policy in the 1960s and 1970s, and you had sufficient access to uranium deposits in your own country and also a large industrial base, so you can support that technology, then it's a no -brainer to have then developed nuclear in the way that France did. That said, we are now at the

point where it will suit me cheaper for France to decommission or turn off their nuclear power plants or at least mothball them and deploy new solar and get their electricity from solar. And I think that relatively few people have run those numbers and seen that that's the case. But it is already the case and has been the case for many years now that it is cheaper to build and operate a new solar plant than it is to continue to operate an existing fully depreciated coal plant, for example. And that is also the case with gas beaker plants. If it is not

already shortly be the case with gas -combined cycle plants. Solar has overtaken wind in the last few years as well and so it's just a matter of time. It's like the Grim Reaper meme as it works its way down. Because it's true that a fully -appreciated nuclear plant you don't have to pay for its construction cost anymore but...

But it's also true that those materials and systems don't last forever. And so, for example, about two years ago now, France encountered an issue with their reactors that affected lots of them. It took something like a third or two thirds of them offline for a season as they repaired something to do with corrosion in an exchanger. And that's not cheap. It's extremely expensive to get these things online and working indefinitely. It's certainly cheaper than losing an energy war with Russia, Germany if you're listening, but it's certainly not free.

Theo Jaffee (23:10)

So let's talk about Giga projects. You've written a lot about colonizing Mars. And obviously I'm no expert on planetary scale terraforming, but Kurzgesagt, the YouTube channel, has a video that I think is really interesting. That's about terraforming Venus instead of Mars, because Venus has more solar energy, it's closer to the sun, has similar gravity to Earth, it's bigger than Mars. And so their plan is, step one, you make a giant, annular mirror system.

Casey Handmer (23:16)

Yes.

Mmm.

Theo Jaffee (23:39)

that directs solar energy away from the atmosphere that freezes the CO2 atmosphere of Venus. And then you use robots and mass drivers to shoot the excess CO2 and nitrogen into space. Because obviously like too much CO2 means like humans can't breathe on it. And then you fire water in the form of ice from Jupiter's moon Europa using again, robots and mass tethers or mass drivers and space tethers.

Casey Handmer (23:42)

Yep.

Mm -hmm.

Theo Jaffee (24:07)

And then you will add more mirrors so you can heat up the planet gradually without torching it, because if you just remove the existing mirrors, then it would get like grilled by the sun because a Venus day is so much longer, Venus rotates so much slower. So one side of the planet would get cooked. And then you'll add like trillions of cyanobacteria, which will photosynthesize. It'll turn that CO2 into oxygen and it'll fix the atmospheric nitrogen to usable nutrients and then grind down the surface into soil and add plants, trees and animals.

Casey Handmer (24:20)

Yeah.

Theo Jaffee (24:37)

So that would take a very long time to actually work all the way. But why do we hear so much about terraforming Mars and very little about terraforming Venus?

Casey Handmer (24:48)

Yeah, so you've asked the right person. And some of you will remember there is a platform called Quora. And actually one of my first viral posts on Quora was like, what is easier to terraform, Mars or Venus? So maybe you should dig that out and take a look at it. It was like almost 12 years ago now, something like that. It turns out that...

terraforming Mars is about a billion times easier. That's the fundamental reason. Actually, I was involved in a workshop recently where we calculated that you could probably achieve a degree of temperature rise, a Kelvin degree of temperature rise on Mars for about a billion dollars of marginal investment. So if you wanted to heat Mars up by...

actually about a billion dollars per year, something like that. But if you wanted to heat Mars up by, say, 40 Kelvin or something, so it's just about freezing, then that's actually quite affordable. That's much less than, say, Google's cash flow. Whereas the cost to deploy a planetary -scale mirror...

on above Venus in the Venus Sun L1 point and then wait for the atmosphere to freeze out, which will take about 140 years, and then deploy the terawatts of nuclear reactors onto the surface that you would need to use the mass drivers to fling stuff. Actually, if you just want to get rid of the CO2, you can just bury it. You don't actually have to fling it off the planet. But if you wanted to use it as mass to speed the planet's rotation up, then you could fling it off with mass drivers, which would be pretty funny.

And then actually, as far as getting water goes, I would probably advocate just drilling holes and getting it out of Venus's crust because there's way, way more water in Venus's crust than you could get from even an entire moon of Jupiter and it's right there. You don't have to shoot it across the solar system.

Yeah, and then you have to design an atmosphere that is able to support life, but is also significantly more thermally transparent than Earth's atmosphere. So Earth's atmosphere is responsible for something like 15 Kelvin of heating, which prevents the surface of Earth from being largely frozen. But sometimes in the historical past, it was, or prehistoric past, it was frozen like the entire planet basically glaciated in periods called snowball Earth. But on Venus, you would almost certainly have to have some kind of shade system permanently to avoid

once again undergoing runway warming.

Theo Jaffee (27:05)

So if you just bury the CO2, then like, couldn't the CO2 just escape back into the atmosphere if you have like a volcanic eruption or something?

Casey Handmer (27:07)

Hmm.

I mean, impressive, but...

But effectively you treat it as landfill, right? So you just bury it deep enough and it will be stable at that pressure. It's the same idea that people are talking about with CO2 injection for carbon capture and sequestration here on Earth. It's probably somewhere, but we'll come back out. But bear in mind, if you built the infrastructure that's necessary to go and bury how many quintillion tons of CO2 is in Venus' atmosphere underground, and you get it all underground and you build the surface and you find out a rate of like a trillion tons a year, well, that's...

millionth of your current industrial power to bury that all again. So you just have to keep up with emissions and otherwise stabilize the atmosphere. You need CO2 in the atmosphere anyway. You just don't want like a 200 bar hot house, sulfuric acid clouds and stuff. I'd say like as a destination, some people are very team Venus. I'm a bit dubious about it because the gravity is so high. So to get from Venus back to Earth is almost as hard as it is to get from Earth to Venus and it's extremely hard to get off Earth. So give yourself a break.

and just go to a lower gravity world first.

Theo Jaffee (28:22)

first, so like we should eventually terraform Venus.

Casey Handmer (28:25)

If we find that we have a shortage of planetary surface area, then yes, but I just don't, I don't know if that's going to be a major concern for us.

Yeah, in some ways, like...

Yeah, it could be done. Maybe Venus is for building an orbital actually. Maybe you use Venus to build, basically take the whole planet apart and build giant space station instead. Because you've got rotating space stations about a thousand times more surface area per unit mass.

Theo Jaffee (28:51)

like an O 'Neill cylinder.

Casey Handmer (28:55)

Yeah, some kind of giant ring, I don't know. There's this concept from the Banks, in Banks' books called the orbital, which is a ring that is so large that it's a circular period that creates gravity is equal to 24 hours. And it turns out that it's probably impossible to build one of these out of materials that we know how to build.

because it would break apart from the force. So either you make it turn slower or you make it smaller, or a bit of both. But I would be very surprised if I lived long enough for this to be something that's really occupying a lot of brain sweat for me, worrying about. I think that solving the set of problems required to do something meaningful on Mars is a lifetime's worth of incredibly intensive effort.

Theo Jaffee (29:49)

But in like one human lifetime from now, assuming all goes well, we should have like a permanent human presence on Mars. Why would people actually want to live there? You know, it's cold, it's really far away, the wifi is bad, there's lots of latency between Earth and Mars. There's not much lighting, not much natural lighting at least. So what would make people want to go to Mars?

Casey Handmer (29:55)

Yep.

Yeah.

Yeah, my wife wanted to go work in Antarctica and she did. She spent most of 2016 overwintering at the South Pole where the Wi -Fi was worse than terrible and it was very cold. The air was breathable but very cold obviously. Food selection limited. Company limited. It turns out that most of us kind of prefer a comfortable life but some people are just kind of...

pioneers one way or another and so I don't think there'd be a shortage of people who want to do that and even if you look at the Venn diagram of people who want to do that and people who have the skills to make a meaningful contribution I think it would be no shortage of people.

Theo Jaffee (30:47)

So you did a lot of this Terraform investigation while you were working at NASA JPL, but you're also like a huge fan of SpaceX and Starship and Starlink and like not a huge fan of the space launch system. Although side note, I did actually watch the Artemis One launch live from Florida and it was really, really cool. Yeah.

Casey Handmer (30:59)

Hehe.

Yeah.

That's cool. Yeah, I mean, I'm Team Rocket when it comes to like lighting the candle. Don't get me wrong. I've never seen a rocket launcher. I was like, I feel worse as a person having seen that. But the thing is like, you know, as a way of getting dopamine, as a way of entertaining people, you know.

I think we need to be circumspect about the fact that SLS is, for a whole variety of reasons, that I've exploited in depth on my blog and other people have too. And it's fairly openly understood now. It's an extremely expensive, extremely wasteful, extremely dangerous way of going about solving these problems. And I actually think it...

It speaks poorly to US technical integrity to continue to maintain this polite fiction that it is a good idea. It's quite evidently a terrible idea and sooner or later it will kill someone and then it will be impossible to deny but someone will have died. So, yeah, I think that...

It's one of these things, it's a bit like Fusion actually, in the sense that maybe if it had done what it promised to do, which is reuse parts from the shuttle to reduce complexity and development time and actually got to the launch pad and launched and achieved a higher launch cadence within a few years, then maybe it would have had a window of 10 or 15 years where it could have made a meaningful contribution. But instead it's just been this giant vampire squid sucking the money out of NASA and producing almost nothing in return. And I think we need to be really pragmatic about that.

Theo Jaffee (32:26)

Yeah, so given that, why did you work in NASA instead of SpaceX?

Casey Handmer (32:31)

That's a good question. So when I worked at NASA, I worked at JPL, which is the Caltech operated deep space robotics center. And it's not related to the development of the SLS or the human space flight program. And I worked on GPS related technologies, which are critical to national security and scientific applications and also studying global warming. I'm quite proud of the work that we did there. For better or for worse, it had its challenges. And I also got to participate to a limited extent with the Mars Exploration Program, with the rovers and stuff there.

And you know, LA is where I happen to live. So that was a lot of fun. As far as SpaceX goes, well, I've written a blog post where I talk about my professional failures. And one of those I would say is that despite the fact that I've interviewed at SpaceX a number of times, I've not been invited to work there. And I think that reflects well on the recruitment process, frankly. And I think that maybe at some point in the future, I might re -examine that. But SpaceX is a place that requires a level of commitment that is hard to square with my current commitments to young children. And I have to keep that in mind.

And so in many ways, part of the reason I went and did Terraform is that I wanted to build a technology that had dual use applications, both here on Earth where it solves a major energy abundance challenge and a human welfare challenge, but it will also give me and the team here a major leg up when it comes to building critical infrastructure for the Mars base, which with any luck we would be able to respond meaningfully to challenges or requests by SpaceX or NASA to participate in that technology development program.

Theo Jaffee (33:59)

Yeah, so maybe once you solve the small task of global warming and abundant energy, then yeah, maybe you can do SpaceX.

Casey Handmer (34:06)

Yeah, well, they're not mutually exclusive. So.

So it actually turns out that like putting humanity on a much, much firmer financial, economic and energy, ecological footing drastically unlocks huge numbers of resources that can be used then to explore space. I think it's very hard to say that a future where in 2050, a large fraction of the world's population is starving to death or being boiled to death from heat waves is a world where it'd be easy to mobilize the sort of resources that you would need to do a public -private mass city.

Whereas one where actually unlocking cheap energy has put humanity back on the Henry Adams curve and we're doubling the size of the global economy every 15 years would be one where it would be pretty easy to liberate those kind of resources. So I think these are quite mutually compatible.

Theo Jaffee (34:57)

Yeah, I mean, this is like the ultimate Elon Musk master grand plan, no? Like he started SpaceX first before he did Tesla. It seems like he's always cared more about SpaceX than any of his other companies, including Tesla. It seems like, yeah, like if he could only save, if he could only do one company, he would, my bet would be on SpaceX.

Casey Handmer (35:20)

I think that's probably a fair assumption. Obviously, he has to be somewhat cryptic in his personal remarks, but I think that one of the things that's being lost in the current discussion of whether or not he deserves his $55 billion dollar pay package over the last six years of hard work he did to Tesla, despite the fact that it was approved by 80 % of the investors and the information relating to it was publicly available, was that...

was that for most CEOs, if they don't get the gig to work at Tesla, they have to work somewhere else. And for most billionaires, they can work on a beach. But really, there's a good argument to be made that what Elon set out to do at Tesla from 2018 was impossible. Everyone thought it was impossible. The idea of this pay package that he voted himself or that the board put together for him and that was approved by the shareholders was kind of a Hail Mary pass, right? But it was also something that preserves enough upside to make it worth Elon's work.

to go and like break his brain working, you know, 120, 140 hour weeks on that and also at SpaceX and a few other companies, but mostly on Tesla to take it to that next level. And if he hadn't done it, it wouldn't have been there. Tesla would be, you know, doing great business selling Yard Model 3 here and there, but they would not have stood up the factory in Texas, they would not have stood up the factory in Germany. And we'd be so much poorer as a civilization. And so, you know, one of the nice things is once you have a modicum of wealth, you can actually negotiate from a position of strength when it comes to what you're doing.

you want to spend your time doing. But yeah, I think that Elon understood a long time ago that he has goals that cannot be achieved cheaply and a necessary precondition for doing something interesting on Mars is having a rocket that is the complete opposite of the SLS, which is to say high flight rate, completely reusable, low cost, high reliability, and much, much simpler architecture, and then also having...

basically first dibs on the 100 ,000 smartest engineers on earth and across those ideas I think it's done extremely well.

Theo Jaffee (37:18)

So why is Elon like the only person essentially to have like multiple extremely successful companies? Like you could think of some exceptions to this, maybe like George Hots who has Comma, which is like open source self -driving and then Tiny Grad, which is like neural networks. But like there's nobody who actively runs like more than one multi -billion dollar company. You think that.

Casey Handmer (37:32)

Yep.

Mm -hmm.

It's extremely rare. It's extremely unusual. And it's even more unusual given the ambition and the scale and the technical difficulty of what those companies is doing. This is not like someone like doing serial entrepreneurship of three SaaS companies and having good exits three times, which is good for them. This is someone who set out to do in parallel the two hardest things that were so hard that the smart money in the field maintained that it was impossible for more than a decade.

Despite their various successes and advances along the way. And I think that, you know, I have a blog post that's saying Elon Musk is not understood, and I don't understand it. I have very limited insight. But like, I think that more of us should ask the question, how is this possible? Because it's like, it's obviously possible. It's permitted by the laws of physics. But how is it that Elon was able to do this thing that plenty of other people have set out to try and do and have not succeeded or would not even bother to try it because they convinced it's impossible? And...

Theo Jaffee (38:22)

Yeah, I love that one.

Casey Handmer (38:41)

Yeah, blows my mind. And it's also, I should state for the benefit of listeners, I met Elon in I think 2011 and I was suitably impressed as many are and I decided to put some of my limited, very limited savings at the time into Tesla stock. This was before the launch of the Model S and that stock today forms the basis of my personal wealth. I had to sell some of it to pay for a green card to get anything out and stay in the United States, which was painful, extremely. I kind of lost well over $100 ,000 in terms of

today's stock price. But that essentially gave me the freedom over the last decade to break out and start my own company. And if I didn't have that and with young children and a mortgage, I don't think I would be able to take this risk. So I'm incredibly grateful. And what did I do for that? Nothing. The value of stock in Tesla was built by the tens of thousands of engineers and technicians and so on who sweated blood for decades to make that happen. And all I did was got lucky. So I never take that for granted.

Theo Jaffee (39:42)

So speaking of Elon, Elon famously back in like 2000 something, 2006, 2008, wrote his plans for the Hyperloop and then you worked on a Hyperloop company. And then...

Casey Handmer (39:54)

Yeah, 2015 I think that was released. Yeah.

Theo Jaffee (39:58)

yeah. So given that there is no hyperloop between San Francisco and LA, like, why not? And what would it take to work now? Could it work now?

Casey Handmer (40:05)

Hmm.

The short answer is no. The company that I worked for was finally defunct earlier this year. I'm generally cautious about speaking about what happened there and I kind of have a probably perpetually unpublished blog post about it because really the team that was assembled there was exceptional and they did really exceptional things. And they basically solved hundreds and hundreds of next to impossible engineering challenges as you would expect them to. But it turns out that hyperlapse is a concept.

really struggle for all the same kinds of reasons that high -speed rail does. In some ways it's worse. Because it turns out that the expensive part of high -speed rail is not really like rail wear or, you know...

right away or something like that. But the expensive part is that almost all the world's cities that could be connected by high speed rail or high glue have sufficient terrain difficulties between 80 and 95 % of the CAP extra -criticality systems is just spent moving rocks, like digging holes, digging tunnels. And that's one of the reasons I think that Elon went off and founded Boring Company, was because just the price of tunneling seemed so absurdly high. And so Boring Company's made some advances, but they certainly haven't like,

been on the Moore's law of tunneling cost, right? They haven't been able to consistently halve cost every 18 months or something like that. So when it comes down to it, and especially if you go like a first principles analysis, like, okay, so what's the energy required to smash up a four meter diameter tunnel between, I would say 20 or 30 % of the land between here and San Francisco, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, in terms of the sheer energy required to break those rocks up and move them out of the way? And how does that compare to the energy required to push the air molecules in the stratosphere out of the way as a

plane flies through and it's like 10 ,000 times more energy easily. So for the energy required to build one tunnel that shows one pair of cities, you could fly 10 ,000 flights. And also the machine that you built to fly those flights can fly to any of 20 ,000 runways worldwide, point to point. So yeah, it just turns out that like.

I think aviation as a technology is underappreciated for just how revolutionary and incredible it is. It blows my mind when I jump on the Southway 737 to go off to a business meeting or something that most people have their shades down and just kind of blissed out, you know, staring straight ahead, getting drunk, whatever. I always get a window seat. I get a window seat out the back.

Theo Jaffee (42:22)

Yeah, I tweeted about exactly this.

Casey Handmer (42:26)

You know, usually on the on the shady side of the plane. So like the north facing side of the plane So the sun's not in my eyes and I just stare out the window like a like a grinning idiot at the Landscape as it goes by and of course flying out of LA What I'm looking at is terraforms future hunting grounds state after state after state of like mostly empty You know economically unproductive parched land that is just getting hot in the sun that I want to put solar rays on and and turn them into you know, just a river of wealth for for the people who live there and

It's beautiful, it's incredible. And I think this is, the thing that blows my mind is that aviation has been an extremely compelling technology since the 1930s. We're almost going up for 100 years of aviation being quite clearly the obvious way to do things. And yet, for some reason, people somehow think that the solution is to go really close to the surface of the earth so that you have to drill lots of holes in the ground. Planes are amazing. We should just figure out how to make planes cheaper and faster and better.

Theo Jaffee (43:25)

Yeah, honestly, I just flew from Phoenix to San Francisco, like a couple of weeks ago. I had a window seat and I was thinking like the exact same things. I was flying over the Mojave Desert and then the California Central Valley and then over the mountains on the coast. And I was, especially with the desert, I was also thinking solar panels.

Casey Handmer (43:25)

Thank you.

Yeah, and I don't want to give the impression that like, I'm just going to like take over Nevada and pay for the solar. The actual amount of solar that you need to make a shitload of money doing synthetic fuels is relatively small, because the economic productivity of solar per unit area is about 10 ,000 times higher than agriculture.

Sorry, that's not entirely true. The energy productivity is about 10 ,000 times higher. The economic productivity is between 100 and 1 ,000 times higher. And so for, yeah, it's pretty good. So like in the United States, we have like 50 million acres of corn production is devoted to bioethanol. And that bioethanol is mixed with gasoline in some places and used for a handful of processes. But like it's like single digit percents at most of the US's fuel consumption mix. If instead you took those 50 million acres of like prime,

Theo Jaffee (44:12)

pretty good.

Casey Handmer (44:35)

agricultural fertile land and you reforested them and turned them back into prairies and put the bison back on there and the deer and the mountain lions and cougars and whatever and rewilded that land right like that would be an obvious ecological win and then take 50 million acres of parched

desert fried land out in the American West. It doesn't even have to be like virgin desert land. You have easily 50 million acres of like basically brownfields where it's already been disturbed. And you throw solar arrays on that. The fuel productivity is like between 20 and 50 times higher than the best corn land in the United States. And you end up producing like more than 50 % of US's oil and gas consumption just from those 50 million acres. Isn't that amazing?

Right, so like it's a win -win -win. And then you say, okay, what's the impact in the place where you're putting the solar array down in the desert? Well, depending on how you do it, shading the ground actually improves moisture retention, reduces soil temperatures, and actually allows things to grow. So like there's these absurd photos you can find of solar arrays that were developed maybe a decade ago in Nevada or Southern California or Arizona, where like in the solar array, they now have a problem with it, they have to like run around with the mower because trees keep growing. Like trees haven't grown in this landscape for 10 ,000 years. And obviously 10 ,000 years ago in the Pleistocene.

and it was much, much wetter and there were trees and forests and mammoths and things, but more recently it's completely desertified. It turns out as soon as you shade the land, that trees start growing and you're like, hmm, how curious. We are terraforming the desert with solar rays.

Theo Jaffee (46:02)

So what's the geopolitical impact of that? Like does it turn out that, actually it doesn't matter if all the Middle Eastern Gulf states run out of oil because they can just build solar on the desert?

Casey Handmer (46:13)

Yeah, so there's actually a bit of a question mark there, which is, you know, obviously the significant solar resources.

in the Gulf states and also significant oil export capacity. And so it kind of, you may pose the question, does it make more sense for, say, Saudi Arabia to build a lot of solar panels and make synthetic oil and then export that to Europe like they currently do? Or would it be cheaper for Europe to build solar arrays locally and cut out the shipping cost? And it turns out that, particularly for natural gas, the shipping cost of a long distance pipeline, so ships is quite high. So that places, increases the incentive to do gas production locally.

And if it is the case that long -term solar synthetic fuel production can match current importation prices for oil and gas in Europe, then that's actually not a huge forcing function to change the current importation modality. So for example, you might continue to import oil products from the Middle East, but they'd be synthetic, but you'd import them. But that actually, in some ways, like...

I mean, it's actually a lot cheaper to produce oil in parts of the Middle East than it is at the marginal fracking producer in the United States, for example. So it's not entirely certain that that would displace oil production in the Middle East unless that oil actually ran out.

But if you're able to develop technologies and you develop the terraform technology to the point where you're able to reduce the price of oil and gas by maybe a factor of three, which I think is, it's definitely physically possible. How long it takes us to get there is somewhat up in the air, but there's an extremely strong forcing function for it. So we should expect, you know, enormous investments in the factories and so on that are building these components that allow that to take place. Then that actually places a significant forcing function for more local production, which I think is super interesting from a geopolitical point of view as well, because basically since the end of the second world war, we've had this,

kind of global economic system that is underwritten by the United States Navy and freedom of navigation and globalization, which now enables most of the world's countries to import oil that they need from foreign countries that happen to have it. But everywhere has roughly the same amount of solar power. So it may be the case that in the future, food production, so oil and gas production like food production is much more localized. And I think that will be mostly a good thing.

Theo Jaffee (48:30)

So the way I found you in the first place on Twitter was because Ashley Vance, who is the author of the first Elon Musk biography, tweeted something like, the two most productive people I know are both massive Twitter addicts, and the two most productive people that he knows are Elon Musk and you, which is like, wow, what a distinction. So like, do you, do you agree with that? Like, how do you manage to like,

Casey Handmer (48:52)

Distant second. Yeah.

Theo Jaffee (48:58)

do so much, how do you like manage your time, what does a typical day look like?

Casey Handmer (49:02)

Well, I would have to say, I wish I had time to take better care of myself, but I probably don't sleep enough. But I think the key is to work on a bunch of different things at once and just make sure you have a bunch of irons in the fire and then just keep pushing those projects forward over time. And so...

Basically, I'm well set up at home that if I have a, most evenings I'm kind of free after nine or 10 p And then if I'm in the mood to write a blog, I can sit down and smash out a blog up pretty quickly or I can do some coding. Last night I was doing some work related coding for about two hours, which was actually fun. Because as a founder, I'm doing something I haven't done before and I would say that my skills as a founder are...

Not infinite. Certainly I'm pretty inexperienced. But when it comes to solving a nice well -defined coding problem with some data analysis or something, that is my superpower. So I was like, I feel competent for once. This is nice. Yeah, and then the scrolls thing. I think Ashley came and talked to me about scrolls originally. And that's just because one of our investors, Nat Friedman, started the scroll price thing. And it was kind of...

interest and productivity was waxing and waning and I thought, look, I should probably spend a week on this just to at least tell Nat that I had a good crack at it. And actually I found I was able to make pretty rapid progress, again, by kind of changing the rules of the game. But I don't know if I have any special insights other than just make sure you're making good use of the time you have available. And I have almost no time. It's actually kind of crazy. But I feel like I'm significantly more productive since I had children than I was before. I think like before I had kids, I wasted a lot of my time.

Theo Jaffee (50:43)

That's actually very interesting for two reasons. Like first of all, a lot of people say that like having kids makes them less productive because you have to like spend time with the kids and then you have less time for work. And then the second thing is what you said is kind of the opposite of Steve Jobs' productivity advice of like relentlessly focus on one thing. Yeah.

Casey Handmer (50:52)

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, well, I mean...

I would say for your listeners, feel no obligation to validate my mistakes by repeating them. It's what works for me. You need to find out what works for you. And if you have a single minded maniacal focus on one thing, then you can probably make a lot of progress in a year or 10 years or a lifetime. That's just not how I work. I tend to get bored pretty easily. So I try a lot of different things. One of the advantages of that actually is you find that often the things you're working on cross -planet. So for example, I'll spend a week bashing my head against the wall trying to debug a numerical convergence issue with a Mars hydrologist.

simulation for a terraforming Mars simulation that I'm running and I'll get almost nowhere and then I'll take a look at the scroll prize and realize that because I've been thinking about vectorization of data sets for a while I can apply that to the Mars thing and it allows me to do something that would have otherwise taken 10 hours in about 15 minutes which then means that I can actually make progress on it because I don't have whole days that I can work on things anymore.

But yeah, it's a lot of fun. And then with kids, it reminds you that if you're not with your kid, why are you giving off? Every now and then you just get tired and you want to sit in the small room with your phone out and tweet about stuff. But actually Twitter is fabulous to me because it has put me in contact with a community of people who also value finding ways to achieve really productive things. One of the other things I'd say is that the long -term returns of things that you spend your time on are very parallel distributed. So it turns out that I...

I show up for work in person here in the office for probably 40 hours a week and easily 20 hours of that time is spent on shit that does not matter. I don't know exactly what that stuff is, just long term I know that half of this stuff does not matter at all. Or it's very low leverage, like paying bills and stuff. It's necessary work but it doesn't really leverage my capability, it doesn't make a huge impact on the future. But then every now and then you find a rich vein of ore and you can exploit that and you make a really big

impact really quickly. I've written hundreds and hundreds of blogs and only really a handful of them have ended the zeitgeist but the ones that have have made my life, have changed my life really in many positive ways. Everyone should write a blog. You have to write lots and lots of blog posts until you get good at it.

Theo Jaffee (53:13)

Yeah, I think I need to write more blog posts. I have a blog that I write like a post every like two months and it ends up being this like 30 ,000 word monster, not like literally that long. So there's, there's a lot of parallels between you and Elon. And one of them is that you both have like a very like fundamental like first principles, like engineering based mindset, like with the famous story about how when Elon was starting SpaceX, he noticed that like,

Casey Handmer (53:25)

Yeah.

Theo Jaffee (53:41)

It costs like a hundred times the cost of materials to launch a rocket. And he was like, yeah, you should reduce this. So like, how do people develop this? Is it an inborn trait?

Casey Handmer (53:51)

Well, depending on where you are in your career, I think there's always an advantage to studying physics.

But you know, I think it's also, if you're Elon, there's an advantage if you're like just a psychotically motivated South African immigrant with a chip on your shoulder. Like, I think people don't understand that. And you know, I've talked about this with Ashley and I've read the other biography as well. And I think that, you know, I think Ashley tried his best, but he didn't, and Isaacson didn't also kind of manage to get at the core of who Elon is as a person and why he does what he does. And I think actually it's not super accessible.

So yeah, but just do the best you can, I guess. If...

I think a lot of people see the outward signs of Elon's success, his wealth, his power, his positive achievements for humanity, and they envy that, and they wish they could be that, and they wish they could be in their shoes. But I don't even know Elon personally, and I would not swap with him for all his wealth, not for a second. Obviously, and I think he would agree with this, in some ways, kind of enduring a curse. And...

Theo Jaffee (54:53)

Yeah.

Casey Handmer (55:02)

And I think we should just be grateful for the fact that we live at the same time as someone who is quite clearly so capable, despite the fact that it obviously aspects of their personality and their work ethic and so on obviously have caused them enormous personal sacrifices and pain. Yeah.

Theo Jaffee (55:22)

Recently somebody asked Elon like what should I do to become the next Elon Musk and he said like are you sure you want to?

Casey Handmer (55:29)

Yeah, exactly. I don't think he's a person who has made happiness a major priority or has achieved it either. I think he has moments of joy, obviously, but some people are just like they're set, just who they are as a person is not really set up for contentment. And for some of those people, it creates life -ruining mental illness, and some of them it creates this deep -rooted fire and passion to right a wrong or see their enemies suffer or something like that. And again...

Theo Jaffee (55:31)

So.

hedonic treadmill.

Casey Handmer (55:59)

Yeah, we're just extremely lucky that we live in an era when Elon is able to channel that energy into making cool technology that moves our entire species forward, as opposed to becoming some despotic warlord somewhere. If you've heard about like, Cesare Borgia or something like that, similar kind of instincts, but in 1500s Florence, there was no way to go and do massive reindustrialization of space. So instead, these people just kind of got trapped in cycles of violence. Anyway.

Theo Jaffee (56:28)

So last question, what's your favorite place that you've traveled and why?

Casey Handmer (56:34)

I'm probably here, California. Yeah, that's why I live here. No, I mean, I came out here for grad school in 2010. And after year or two, I realized I would be staying. I kind of, I agree to appreciate what California had to offer, both in terms of landscape and human factors and so on.

Theo Jaffee (56:36)

Really.

Casey Handmer (56:52)

But that said, I've traveled to a whole variety of interesting places and I think actually in many ways it was more about the age I was at the time than the places that I went to. Because I have in some cases gone back to places that I visited as a 19 year old or whatever and found extremely transformative at the time and more recently I went back and it was just like, this is just yet another shitty concrete city. And...

Yeah, and the thing that's missing is some combination of chemicals in my brain that just happens to exist when you're 19 years old and fades shortly thereafter. So I'd say if you do have the opportunity, if you're a younger listener in particular and you're thinking, wouldn't it be cool to go and travel to some crazy place, you should absolutely do it. Because in some cases, those places won't exist when you're older, but your ability to enjoy them in that way certainly won't exist when you're older.

It's a good thing. So yeah, I mean, I spent a lot of time kicking around in the Russian Far East when I was in my late teens and early twenties, just as a kind of a playground in a way, a place that had the right kinds of challenges for my personality and the things that I was interested in.

Theo Jaffee (57:42)

interesting.

Casey Handmer (57:56)

You know, I didn't really don't speak Russian at all and and there wasn't and and still isn't any kind of tourism industry in these places And it's really sparsely populated and it's it's quite dangerous in some ways I wrote the Wiki travel article for this area and as far as I know no one has revised it since so that was 14 years ago so that means that either either the subsequent English -speaking travelers who went there found that my article was accurate enough or No one has been I'm not quite sure I think I know of like I know of maybe half a dozen people who who have read my blog source in

videos and who've subsequently gone there and told me about it but yeah it's it's kind of it's an out -of -the -way place I'll put it that way.

Theo Jaffee (58:36)

Good practice for Mars.

Casey Handmer (58:38)

I don't think that's why I went there at the time. But yeah, in some ways, yeah, I mean, the history of human, at least like technological human habitation in these areas is extremely recent. Like we're talking like 1930s, 1940s, 1950s. Obviously, there are indigenous populations who live there, but they're mostly nomadic and extremely sparsely populous. It's an extremely tough climate. Yeah.

Yeah, just to put it mildly, you know, United States once again wins the lottery with climate and geography. I actually have to jump to a call, so we should probably wrap up.

Theo Jaffee (59:11)

Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Casey, for coming on the show.

Casey Handmer (59:15)

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's been fun and interesting questions as always.

Theo Jaffee (59:18)

Yeah. Thank you.

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