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Old 04-24-2012, 12:30 PM
Gedanken Gedanken is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 176
Country: Germany
Default Soviets - The Advanced Cosmic Civilization

Out of boredom, I made this post a week or so ago:

Also some secondary comments at this link.

Some graphics (more at the link):

"Lunokhod" rover (launched at about the same time as Apollo - not as spectacular a feat of "systems engineering" (that was what Apollo was, BTW - not more advanced technology), but nevertheless they traveled the most distances on the Moon).

Venera (the most incredible feat of the space age, when Soviets were able to operate sensors and transmit signals from the surface of Venus - in which the temperature is hot enough to melt lead and all silicon-based solar cells - Soviets developed GaAs photovoltaics).


Some Americans who should know better (e.g. former William E. Odom) considered the USA to be "ahead" in "most fields" of the "technology base" but of course those "areas" so classified are all the direct consequence of just one narrow area that the USA was ahead in - i.e., mass produced microelectronics and so increased transistor density - this (and not the design of other aspects of machines, or materials fabricated) is exactly what directly leads to the higher clockspeed of computers, signal processing capabilities, avionics, and stuff like adaptive optics (microcomputers are also directly applied in NC machine tools in industry). Soviets made up for this one area by a much broader spectrum of high technology (what this means will be made apparent later).

The meaningful areas of "high technology" all reduce to:

* the design and assembly of a complicated system (like computer architectures, mechatronic systems, software, automatic control systems)

* the capacity of "precision" machining of high-end devices (e.g. ball bearings in inertial guidance systems, in both ICBMs and aircraft) which depends, in turn, on increased metrological measurement techniques (sometimes, the very large size of something requires new tooling techniques - e.g. the F-1 engine on the Saturn V rocket was scaled up, so they had to design this contraption to smooth out edges of the welding - these are relatively very simple however and so they fall under "systems engineering")

* the capacity to fabricate all kinds of very "high-tech" materials and components, which ultimate reduce to controlling or "stabilizing" some phenomena (like impurities in silicon), this also covers the surface engineering, tribological and materials science knowledge for producing titanium, composite materials, optical components and engineering of thin films ("surface engineering" is why mechanical components in, e.g., your car last longer - these improvements also used in robotic space probes)

Soviets were far, far (decades) ahead, in the sense of making more fundamental advances in much more high technology "areas" that have little mutual relation to a common device, and these capabilities alone utterly dwarf what American technology and industry is capable of even now (or will be in the far future). In terms of the design of complicated systems for which it is actually a "problem" to design (the first category above), they were actually infinitely ahead, e.g. Soviet mainframe and on-board computers for purposes of fire control and flight navigation (like the neural net computer on the spaceship "Buran") used so many fantastically ingenious algorithms to make up for the one lag in transistor density used, that it was incredible. Often systems were designed with the goal of maximizing reliability with unreliable components (this was a problem of inherent interest, studed by von Neumann in the USA). In aerodynamics and aerohydrodynamics, in supercomputer architectures and the design of automatic control systems... it would be futile to attempt to enumerate all of those areas.

And not only were they able to fabricate and produce prototypes in the scale of the laboratory or machine shop (with manual soldering, welding, tooling and special machining for "precision" components - btw this is how equipment in the space program is produced as well as other machines that have short production runs), but they could produce it via fully automated robotic production plants, that achieved fantastic results in the energy conservation. A small number of Soviet production plants produced much more main battle tanks, atomic and diesel submarines, aircraft, ICBMs, strategic reserves and components, etc. than the rest of the world combined.

BTW - even in microelectronics components, it was always acknowledged (e.g. by civilian analysts in RAND Corporation) that Soviets could always batch produce small quantities of the very best microelectronics, since their expertise (in physics, chemistry, materials science) was higher. It was just a question of perfecting the mass production of it (the particular kind of precision tooling, clean rooms, quality control practices) to such a degree of uniformity so as to mass produce it cheaply - that was something American industry perfected in the period from WWII to the Apollo program. Also, due to economic problems Soviets did not build enough production plants for microelectronics, so there was a production bottleneck on top of it. But the "technology" was in fact developed (just that actual components were in short supply).

The CIA (that could tap into undersea cables) and American reconaissance satellites (that can intercept telemetric data) knew this, since they picked up absolutely incredible capabilities e.g. American passive sonar picked up a Soviet combat submarine that could dive to 3000 feet (due to gigantic advances in high-strenth titanium hulls and other metallurgical technologies). This is due to engineered technology (some advances of which are important enough to be called new "technologies", even), and not "systems engineering" or whatever Americans mostly did in the 60s space program (see the book linked to above, "The Secret of Apollo"). Due to advances in a gigantic range of component technologies related to photonic systems and optoelectronics, Soviet ocean reconaissance, synthetic aperture radar and all kinds of weapons platforms have remote sensing and optical tracking capabilities that are completely beyond anything the USA has in development even now (some of these components, like spatial light modulators were examined in the research laboratories - IIRC, including Lawrence Livermore - after the Soviet collapse, and an attempt to "copy" them failed). A big chunk of the vast spectrum of "high technologies" could be directly inferred from relatively few data points like this - and not relatively opaque stuff like how the MiG-21 performed in dogfighting (the operational performance of a "weapons platform" in direct fighting and such is usually just based on design trade-offs in the later stages, like like the T-34 was "superior" in WW2 but actually low-tech, since the components were inferior).

Of course, military technology (land, air and ocean vehicles, large military installations like ground-based radar and sensors, and large computer mainframes running highly customized software) use the widest spectrum of high technologies, since here any kind of "high" technology (that systematically controls some phenomena) finds an application. That includes every kind of advance in materials science, computing or "remote sensing", etc. Every single major technological "breakthrough" was a result of all of these lines converging together (e.g. in WWII).

Similarly American high technology was mostly developed by Bell Labs (downsized in the 80s), that had to maintain something very large and complicated (the telecommunications system, that included satellites).

What now?

Of course, most of the manufacturing base (i.e. production plants filled with special-purpose machinery to do something specific - like producing a tank turret, or large optics - very sophisticated Beryllium coated lens (used in the Soviet SDI system) that Russia then sold off to the open market after 1991) has disappeared. Russia still has the technical schematics so in current projects (that use avionics and stuff manufactured abroad), they can still continue some previous projects in the military and space program, albeit at a slower pace. They lost the capacity to develop anything revolutionary, since they lost most of the best mathematicians and physicists. But since engineering "knowledge" is synonymous with knowledge of the past record of what was tried in your company (the particular schemes and materials used for whatever), they will keep on making incremental, evolutionary improvements on existing technology.

In contrast, the USA lost (for example) all of its schematics for the Saturn V heavy lift vehicle. This seems to be why the NASA engineers fail to learn from their previous experience in actually developing an improvement on the Saturn-V (rather than the wreck it is currently in), or else it's a problem with management (since the Saturn V was mostly a synthesis of existing technologies, not something new - the only problem is an interdisciplinary one of making the right design decisions, but the particular "solution" is always relatively simple).

The American manufacturing base is also gone. High technology advance has mostly halted. Americans are delusional and think that our era is one of "high technology" (I guess, because of iPods that are created by the glorious "high technology" of Chinese sweat shop labor) but in fact all advances are mostly a result of the progress in the same hardware components (while software is excretable), and this will of course reach a physical dead end soon (I might have more to say about this). NASA is utterly pathetic and refuses to develop any new technology - everything uses existing components, and then the other half of the budget goes into Shuttle operations. This utter, technologically backwards wreck is the legacy of Apollo.

As alluded to above, virtually all of the areas that Soviets "lagged behind" in reduce to just the direct consequences of relatively few area (virtually just one "area") - they don't prevent the Soviets from developing any technologies, they just hinder the final performance of the system designed (the revolutionary advances in logic design for Soviet missile defense computers like "Elbrus" are fully retained regardless of the components used). I.e., the technology is fundamentally better even if their final performance is hindered by a lag in one kind of universal component.

Another point is that (with the exception of microelectornics) the only areas that the USA "led" in are just incremental developments of WWII-era technologies, like inertial guidance - these are areas that have already been perfected and just depend on trial-and-error, not making any fundamental new constructions. For example, in atomic submarines Soviets led in reactor design, in metallurgical technologies, in armament and survivability, they developed effects like hydrodynamic control around a submarine (that involve solving enormous scientific problems, and opening up entirely new fields of engineering) and hyperreactive torpedoes. They lagged only in how "quiet" the total system was, and noise prevention is completely a matter of tiny, incremental improvements in the design of conventional parts of the system, and the slow refinement of certain kinds of general purpose machine tools (that the USA got from Japan - this is why American subs in the 1970s were quieter). Soviet space vehicles were capable of automated launch and landing (!) due to a variety of reasons - for one, thrust-vectoring technology - that also allowed supermaneuverability of combat jets. Soviets opened up an entirely new area of aerohydrodynamics with the Ekranoplan ground effect vehicles (GEVs) that also involved a gigantic spectrum of component technologies, as well as solving gigantic problems of complexity and scale (similar to the American development of radar in WWII). Carbon composite materials on Soviet main battle tanks could withstand a nearby nuclear explosion, and all kinds of plating was used on the SS-18 to make any "SDI" system futile. (Of course, Soviets were decades ahead in all of the component technologies for any possible SDI or laser-based space system.) And so on...
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Old 07-28-2012, 02:55 AM
Gedanken Gedanken is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 176
Country: Germany

I intend to confine my activities here to this thread, for the most part (what follows is just a re-packaging of what I have said elsewhere/knew for a very long time anyway):

A plug for Galushkin's new book on neural nets:

Alexander I. Galushkin, "Neural Networks Theory"
Springer | 2007-09-14 | ISBN: 3540481249 | 420 pages | PDF | 16,2 MB

This book, written by a leader in neural network theory in Russia, uses mathematical methods in combination with complexity theory, nonlinear dynamics and optimization. It details more than 40 years of Soviet and Russian neural network research and presents a systematized methodology of neural networks synthesis. The theory is expansive: covering not just traditional topics such as network architecture but also neural continua in function spaces as well.
"Neural Networks Theory is a major contribution to the neural networks literature. It is a treasure trove that should be mined by the thousands of researchers and practitioners worldwide who have not previously had access to the fruits of Soviet and Russian neural network research. Dr. Galushkin is to be congratulated and thanked for his completion of this monumental work; a book that only he could write. It is a major gift to the world."
Robert Hecht Nielsen, Computational Neurobiology, University of California, San Diego

"Professor Galushkin's monograph has many unique features that in totality make his work an important contribution to the literature of neural networks theory. He and his publisher deserve profuse thanks and congratulations from all who are seriously interested in the foundations of neural networks theory, its evolution and current status."
Lotfi Zadeh, Berkeley, Founder of Fuzziness

"Professor Galushkin, a leader in neural networks theory in Russia, uses mathematical methods in combination with complexity theory, nonlinear dynamics and optimization, concepts that are solidly grounded in Russian tradition. His theory is expansive: covering not just the traditional topics such as network architecture, it also addresses neural continua in function spaces. I am pleased to see his theory presented in its entirety here, for the first time for many, so that the both theory he developed and the approach he took to understand such complex phenomena can be fully appreciated."
Sun-Ichi Amari, Director of RIKEN Brain Science Institute RIKEN

The initiated can find the book free online, although I shouldn't post any link for various reasons.

(Some additional material on the history of technology - and the significance of Russian neural networks - here.)


Other key sources: [I think the "leading US laboratory" they are speaking of is probably Lawrence Livermore - there were exchange programs between the latter [to say nothing of Sun Microsystems etc.] and Russian institutes like the Sarov nuclear weapons research facility - after 1991 of course] (and other NIE studies in general - go here) (some information on the amazing "Igla" system) (Sobol's contributions are wide ranging - see e.g. Multi-objective Programming in the USSR)

Even now, by far the best comparison of US vs. Russian "science" is the following (the key points are: the lack of instrumentation - not even due to the lack of "technology" as later found out (see e.g. Soviet and Post-Soviet Telecommunications) but the concentration of it in the hands of the military and KGB; but on the other hand, how the lag in raw computing power was made up for by a broad range of areas - e.g. nonlinear phase conjugation instead of computer-controlled adaptive optics for "SDI" type systems):

Of course, the gap between what was "known" by the technical collection part of the CIA (with its huge network of surveillance satellites, sonar, wire tapping etc.) and what was known via "estimates" and so on from fuzzy photographs of military parades (the other kind of "intelligence" data - then disseminating through sources like Janes Information Group, Brassey's, etc.) is obvious, and although the disconnect was only fully made clear later. From Gunston's [a civilian analyst] massive Encyclopedia (publication date: 2000):

Mentioning the MiG-29 reminds me how impressed I was when, before the 88 Farnsborough airshow, I was the first Westerner to be given a briefing on its navigation and weapon-aiming systems. Throughout my lifetime we had cosily 'known' that, while the Russians might have quantity, we in the West made up for it by having quality. Thinking the MiG-29 might have an acceptable radar Washington said it had been produced only because spies stole the secrets of the Hughes APG-65 [my comment - lol] as fitted to the F/A-18. Suddenly I was confronted by a fighter with an all-can-do radar designed by Fazotron specifically to beat Western equivalents, but which it usually didn't even have to switch to 'transmit' because the pilot could use his infra-red system. Then he could use his helmet-mounted sight and hit with the first round from his gun using the laser ranger. (Western fighter pilots don't have such things, and when the Luftwaffe conducted an in-depth evaluation of their inherited MiG-29s the official view included 'it is outstanding compared to its Western counterparts, and the way the weapons can be used at large off-boresight angles was a surprise').

This table is humorous for various reasons:

(Source - from Norman Polmar)
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Gedanken
In contrast, the USA lost (for example) all of its schematics for the Saturn V heavy lift vehicle.

Pretty astounding...more on this



The Saturn V fell out of favour with NASA in the mid-1970s; Apollo was no longer a viable program and NASA had begun to favour the reusable low Earth orbital space shuttle. There were no immediate plans to return to the Moon or any foreseeable need for such a powerful launch vehicle. In the intervening nearly 40 years, the technology behind the Saturn V has been all but lost. (Right, the launch of Apollo 8. 1968.)

The division of labour on the Saturn V’s construction proved, in retrospect, to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allowed the rocket to be completed at an incredible rate, certainly responsible for the success of the Apollo program.

But on the other hand, building the rocket at such a rate and with so many subcontractors means the people who oversaw and understood the actual assembly and overall working of the Saturn V were few. Each contractor recorded the workings of their stage and records survive about the engines used, but only a handful of engineers from the MSC knew how Saturn V puzzle fit together.

It is possible to work backwards to recreate individual aspects of the technology, but the men who knew how the whole vehicle worked are gone. No one alive today is able to recreate the Saturn V as it was.

Worse is the lack of records. Without a planned used for the Saturn V after Apollo, most of the comprehensive records of the rockets inner workings stayed with the engineers. Any plans or documents explaining the inner workings of the completed rocket that remain are possibly living in someone’s basement, unknown and lost in a pile of a relative’s old work papers.

Two Saturn Vs remain today as museum pieces, but it is likely that the rocket will never see a rebirth and reuse in manned spaceflight.

Yes, NASA put men on the moon with 1960s technology, but that technology doesn’t exist anymore. By default, neither does the possibility of a manned lunar or Martian mission for that matter without a new launch vehicle. A new heavy lifting vehicle will eventually come about – it will have to for NASA to pursue its longer-term goals. Until then, NASA is bound to low Earth orbit and minimal interplanetary unmanned spacecraft
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Old 07-28-2012, 03:59 AM
Qwerty Qwerty is offline
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Posts: 428

yeah, this illusion that the US is some sort of unbeatable super power is really cuckoo, like some drunk bum, stumbling out of a bar, that thinks he can take sober guys, twice his size. the US has never fought a real war. They lost 250,000 soldiers, in World War II, they were only involved in 1/10 of the war.

And that was when America was in it's prime, today America could very well get trounced, big time, in a major war, be completely devastated.

Obama, Hillary don't know what a super-EMP weapon is, but they are over there, negotiating with Putin over gay rights and such non-sense.
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Old 08-11-2012, 12:08 AM
Gedanken Gedanken is offline
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Posts: 176
Country: Germany
Default Technology in general

Some additional comments of clarification in this post.

Now for some machines of the past:

The Saturn V (text is typically retarded, "the most powerful machine" wut?): 

The even more incredible "Energia" booster: 

Ekranoplan GEVs: 

Soviet lasers - very good footage - see esp. 8:37, 20:06 and 16:56: 

Russian aero engines: 

Mitsubishi robotics: 

A tribute to Bell Labs - an example of American socialism, and far more "centralized" than anything the Soviets had by a huge margin (I think the secret to success was the interdisciplinary nature of it ("breadth"), and the connection with military applications in WWII): 

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Old 08-13-2012, 03:16 AM
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Wild North Wild North is offline
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Did they the Soviets have any plans to colonize space? My guess is that they did probably have som secret plans to that, explore and colonize.

They weren´t first on the Moon, but they had they got the first man in space.
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:31 AM
Gedanken Gedanken is offline
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All of the Soviet equipment (e.g, the Energia booster) was part of a planned manned mission to Mars that was supposed to occur by year 2000. See the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency):

The most ambitious space goal the Soviets have set is a cosmonaut mission to Mars. To undertake such a mission, the Soviets would need to lift very heavy components into low Earth orbit and to assemble them there. The SL-W [this is the Energia booster] will give them that capability. They would have to sustain cosmonauts in orbit for at least a year. A manned mission to Mars is a major reason for the long stays Soviet cosmonauts have undertaken on SALYUT stations. The cost of such a mission would be tremendous, but the Soviets would most likely expend the funds. Although very challenging, the Soviets could launch a manned mission to Mars in the first decade of the 21st century and probably could conduct a non-stop fly-by mission to Mars before the end of this century.

As far as "colonization" is concerned, the most important step (more important than "the first human in space" [i.e., a relatively simple rocket in Earth orbit], or "the first human on the Moon" [the Apollo three-stage rocket + LM scheme obviously couldn't stay on the Moon remotely as long as rovers like Lunokhod, even (Lunohkod captured all of the long-endurance records on the Moon) - and permanent settlement requires a completely different scheme] is establishing a permanent human presence in space - this is what "Mir" space station achieved (or even Salyut 7, the first "true" space station with internal engines to adjust its orbit). You can only establish large bases etc. on other planets after assembling very large structures in space, for missions of possibly a year or more.

Also see the links that I already posted in the SI thread, e.g.:


The Soviet Union had conceptual plans in the 1980s to send manned spacecraft to Mars in the 1990s, even though its program to land cosmonauts on the moon failed. The mission would have required launching the spacecraft's components into Earth orbit for assembly. The roundtrip journey to Mars would have taken at least a year. Post-Soviet Russia cancelled the program due to its expense and questions regarding its feasability.

For how important the Salyut series was, see:
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