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Category Archives: Moon Colonization
Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:41 am
SpaceX’s highly anticipated foray into spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts en route to the International Space Station has finally arrived. Wochit
The first image of SpaceX’s new spacesuit, released by CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday, shows the company’s foray into the hardware, which will be worn by astronauts traveling to the International Space Station.(Photo: Elon Musk / SpaceX via Instagram)
SpaceX’s highly anticipated foray into spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts en route to the International Space Station and possibly beyond has finally arrived.
CEO Elon Musk took to Instagram early Wednesday morning to release the first teaser image of the company’s futuristicspacesuits, which appear tofeature a mostly white palette that sharply contrasts with gray segments and accents.
Musk said it was “incredibly hard”to balance function and aesthetics for the hardwarethat will fulfill one of SpaceX’s core obligations to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“Worth noting that this actually works (not a mockup),” Musk, also CEO of energy company Tesla, said.”Already tested to double vacuum pressure.”
[NOAA satellite launched from Space Coast captures incredible eclipse video]
[Reminder: NASA sonic boom testing begins near Kennedy Space Center]
More photos and detailsare expected over the next few days.
If timelines hold, SpaceX could launch astronauts on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral as soon as 2018, marking the first time humans have launched from U.S. soil since the final flight of space shuttle Atlantis in July 2011.
SpaceX could also use the spacesuits or at least portions of them for trips around the moon and, eventually, the company’s ultimate goal of Mars colonization.
SpaceX was selected by NASA as a commercial crew partner under a $2.6 billion contract and has successfully delivered supplies and science experiments to the station under the separate Commercial Resupply Services program 11 times.
Aerospace giant Boeing, also contracted for the Commercial Crew Program at $4.2 billion, announced its version of a spacesuit earlier this year. Named Starliner, the modern suits feature plenty of blue, sneaker-like boots and Velcro.
Boeing could also launch astronauts to the ISS on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral as soon as 2018.
Contact Emre Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook at @EmreKelly.
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Elon Musk shares first photo of SpaceX’s sleek new spacesuit – Florida Today
Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:33 pm
NIOTA – Talk of eclipse history and possibly living on the moon were highlights from a presentation in Niota Monday afternoon.
Michael Genest, a Niota resident who has worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, spoke to those gathered at the Niota Solar Eclipse Festival prior to the eclipse totality.
Genest opened his comments talking about references of solar eclipses in history, citing instances such as India in 1400 B.C. and China in 1302 B.C. He then moved into the science behind the eclipse, noting that there’s a “plane of the ecliptic” that is “defined by the Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
“The moon is not exactly in the ecliptic plane,” he said. “That’s why every time the moon rotates around the sun, we don’t get a total eclipse.”
He said on Monday there was a “seventy-mile wide swath of totality” in Monday’s eclipse.
Genest added that total eclipses are very rare, as the most recent time before Monday that you could see a total eclipse from Tennessee was 1869 and “that time it just clipped the northeastern part of the state.”
Seven years from now he said a total eclipse will be viewable from around Illinois and the next time one will be viewable from this area is 2153.
“It’s a cosmic coincidence or the fingerprint of God,” he said, noting that the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but is the exact right distance from the sun to make the total eclipse viewable from Earth.
“It’s exactly the right size and distance to blot out the sun,” he said. “It’s a pretty interesting thing.”
He noted that Monday’s eclipse “came ashore in a little beach town in Oregon” earlier in the day and then reached totality in Niota at 2:32:33 p.m., lasting for two minutes and 38 seconds.
Discussion of the eclipse led Genest to talk about possibly inhabiting the moon and he said that one day it may become the Earth’s eighth continent.
“We are right on the verge of returning to the moon,” he said. “We’re going to go there, stay there and begin using it for different things.”
He said right now, the belief exists that there are large amounts of water currently on the moon.
“There’s a lot of water ice in comets,” he said, noting that many of those comets have made contact with the moon. “That water hasn’t had the chance to evaporate and go away.”
He said a pair of satellites have confirmed the existence of this water ice on the moon.
Genest also noted that our progress of making it to the moon is being hastened by the entrance of private companies into the goal of reaching the stars.
“Someday, going to the moon will be no harder than going to Antarctica,” he noted, adding that it takes about three days to travel to the moon.
As for a timeline for that, he said there could be small habitations on the moon by 2030 and around 100 years from now there could be “full blown lunar colonies.”
Posted: at 11:33 pm
Credit: Flickr/Umbro Umbro. CC-BY-NC-2.0.
Todays economy has reduced life to a never-ending pitch. We parade before bosses and clients for work. We position ourselves on social media for friendship, love, sexor just attention. We work longer hours for less pay, and due to technology and globalization, fewer jobs mean workers can demand less and bosses more. As the hotelier Conrad Hilton says to Don Draper inthe TV series Mad Men, When I say I want the moon, I expect the moon.
Yet the colonization of life by the pitch is a symptom: unionised jobs with social benefits have disappeared, and without the fixed ropes enjoyed by a previous generation the marketing of ourselves and our souls has become required rather than chosen. The painful truth is that, at work, were on trial all the time as Roger Mavity and Stephen Bayley write.
Now, pitching has expanded way beyond the world of work and into social media, dating apps, and reality television. Life is experienced through the prism, or prison, of pitching. How did this happen, and what can be done?
The wordpitchcommonly means to throw, as in pitching an idea or a product. Sales pitches are crafted to be persuasive and logically impenetrabledesigned to bring the customer to the point where they care enough to buy, or just want the stream-of-consciousness selling to end. InGlengarry Glen Ross, Blakethe character played by Alec Baldwinembodies mercenary salesmanship at its purest: only one thing counts in this life, he says, get them to sign on the line which is dotted…A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing. And always be pitching.
We have to be connected, to be visible, gramming or tindingtwo forms of contemporary pitch-work performed in the electronic sweatshop. Part of this pitch-work involves forming networks, because someone has to be there to catch your ideasto catchyou. Networks become our new safety netsthe stronger the network, the safer you are. Time is taken up making and cultivating links, turning weak links into strong links.
We pitch all the time, because when it’s increasingly less about a piece of paper from a university, the way YOU appeal to others becomes more important…even in private life, says Christoph Sollich, a Berlin-basedpitch doctor. The tool to stand out is how you pitch yourself, like on Tinder.
We even have pitch TV. Anna Richardson, the presenter of UKsNaked Attraction, calls the show Tinder television. Contestants choose a dating partner based on their naked bodies alone, standing inside semi-transparent Day-Glo boxes and slowly revealed from the bottom upfirst the legs and the groin, then the torso, and finally the head.
The showclaims to demystify the rules of sexual attraction for the Tinder generation by giving young people a true picture of each others bodiestruer than the photo-shopped versions available on social media. Yet this naked nightmare simply glorifies choice by body-partsYou’ve got six vaginas staring you in the face and you say you like feetensuring that the show explodes on social media and harvests even more advertising revenue.
An alien watching from another planet might think that this showand other naked reality televisions shows like Love Island and Strippedshow a people comfortable with their bodies and desires, and suggests a society at ease with itself, with few obstacles to freedom and self-expression; a heroic society in which the best can pitch their virtues to be admired and emulated.
But all this shows is the pornography of the pitchthe fact theres no longer any distance between our desires and those who might fulfill them. You can pitch your apartment on Airbnb or your body onNaked Attraction, and if Obamacare is scrapped you can join the other people wholl bepitchingto cover their healthcare costs.
This isnt a gig economy, its a pitch economy, and the pitch iswhere the rivers of neo-liberalism meet and the crocodiles feed. Everyone is free, yet onlyto submit to another round of degrading competition. Theres always a winneryet the prize is elusive. Pitch platforms are democratic but all they democratise is need. Pitching has become a secular prayer for meaning in a culture of generalized meaninglessness. Like a mycelium growing underfoot it destroys social belonging and drags us into a sinkhole of sameness and despair.
How does life as a never-ending pitch work?A system cannot operate without a culture to give it shape, and pitch culture invokescompulsory non-stop positivity, the blue-sky thinking of the Facebook Like button. Drawing on positive psychology and the cod-philosophy offast capitalistliterature found at airport bookshops, systemic inequality is propped up by a sea of untested beliefs and fortune-cookie sound-bites that distil the changing times into something we can understand, delivered in the deracinated vernacular of the pitch.
Researchers at StanfordUniversity analysedthis vernacular by looking at 26,000 Kickstarter pitches. The successful ones generated emotional responses; they were tentative and framed the pitch collectively by using we. The unsuccessful ones generated affective responses; they were more certain and were framed using I. Sadness and anger also indicated failed pitches. The research team found that successful ones were more emotive, thoughtful and colloquial, yet this is a particular kind of thoughtfulness devoid of negativity and empathy. For Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han, such a culture of non-stop positivity (and blocked negativity) turns us into exhausted slaves in a burnout society. Does this sound familiar?
Whats the answer to these problems? In a world dominated by the apostles of capitalisms Good Newsthe hierarchy-hopping, soy-latte-sipping, sexually-voracious-yet-emotionally-hollow millennials orMeh!-lennialsthe future is not just being cancelled but reduced to an elevator pitch.
Or is it? Perhaps millennials, living with colossal levels of debt and subject to the churn and burn workplaces of the gig economy, form part of the solution.
Millennials are numerically far bigger than our generation, the sons and daughters of baby boomersand theyre going to have a massive impact on politics, Dmytri Kleiner told me when I interviewed him in Berlin. Kleiner is the founder of theTelekommunisten Collective,a group that explores the political impact of communications technology. Actually theyre already having an impact, he continued, just look at Corbyn and Sanders. Politics is opening uptheres a Left and a Right again. Unfortunately the Right is Trump, and we cant stop talking about him.
Kleiner believesthat the Left has lost the skills of organizing. Our generation had no political representatives to vote for, we could only vote for Left or Right variants of neoliberalism, and so we invented a politics that reflected this: a politics of horizontalism. His idea ofVenture Communismmoves beyond horizontal politics by turning the weapons of capital back onto the capitalists while fighting to preserve workers historic gains.
First we need to find new ways of organising our economy, creating worker-controlled organisations and businesses that add value to the commons; and second, we need a vigorous counter-politics that holds the state to account in providing health, education and social services. Thats Venture Communism.
Kleiners work centres on the digital world like theTelekommunisten, who came out of Berlins hacker community to create hosting services and tools that give users more control over their data. But what about the physical world? What about organising real bodies in real places in real time?
In her bookTwitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest,Zeynep Tufekci emphasizes the crucial importance of capacity within social movements, and reminds us of the importance of place. Artists and free-thinkers fleeing the First World War had ZurichsCabaret Voltaire(perhaps including a young Lenin); the New Left in England had thePartisan Coffee House; the American Civil Rights Movement had a network of churches and homes for activists to stay in.
But where are the places of the precariat? Where can people go to share stories, empathise and organise? Outside of online there are few places to gather. Pitch culture drowns out solidarity; online organising builds more barriers than bridges; and by pitching our problems into corporate servers were merely providing the fuel for our own destruction. Our pitches lift capitalism higher and higher.
So heres my pitch. Todays workers need places to organise offline, so lets combine the ideas of the hacker community with the needs of the precariat to establish them. For want of a better word Ill call them Precr-Spaces: Prekris German for precarious,and Precris my English-German compromise. Lets put a Precr-Space in every town and city, spaces where precarious workers can gather together, share stories, build empathy and organise for better working conditions and better lives.
Pitch culture works on anonymity, while the platforms of the gig economy keep workers isolated and unaware of each others struggles. A Precr-Space would be a place, a project and a disruptive technologyto bring new collective ideas to light, and to help people break free of naked exploitation. In the words ofCabaret VoltairesHugo Ball, we demand a space not only for those who enjoy their independence, but for those who wish to proclaim it.
Read more here:
Life’s a pitch – Open Democracy
Posted: August 18, 2017 at 4:51 am
In BriefExperts predict that if we do not establish space coloniessoon, humanity could be wiped out by a single disaster perhaps inthe next 100 years. But will we board our rockets in time? Here’s atimeline for when you can expect to see the first space settlementestablished, and perhaps become a colonist yourself. The Final Frontier
Our days on Earth may be numbered. Great minds have postulated that humanity must spread itself across multiple planets in order to avoid being entirely wiped out by one natural disaster. Physicist Stephen Hawking has gone so far as to predict such a catastrophe will occur on Earth in the next 100 years, which doesnt give us much time to pack our rocket ships.
Will humanity be ready to colonize space before doomsday? We asked Futurism readers when they thought humans will colonize off-planet, and the results revealed quite a consensus.More than 70 percent of people who took the poll thought acolony will be established during the first half of the 21st century, and the decade with the most votes a whopping 36 percent of participants was the 2030s.
Satish Varma, a software engineer, explained why he voted for this decade.Varma wrote in his response that our technological advances in spacecraft design, artificial intelligence (AI), and bionics will be the driving forces that finally propel us into space long term. Currently there are some promising advances in space exploration and artificial intelligence by companies like SpaceX, Google, and Tesla in a short time frame, Varma wrote.
Varmas observations are right on both SpaceX and Blue Origin have recently reached significant milestones in developing reusable rockets, which will be key in making space travel economically viable. Google has recently developed an AI that can learn almost as fast as we can, making the technology much more promising for real-world applications, like flying spaceships.
The technologies have enticed governments and companies around the world to take the idea of space colonization seriously. The two most popular targets for human occupation are currently Mars and the Moon. The Moon gets a little less attention these days, but scientists have estimated that we could build a colony there over the pan of six years and for as little as $10 billion. The Chinese and European space agencies are carefully examining the possibility of a Moon base, as such a resource would greatly reduce the cost of traveling to other planets including Mars.
On the Mars front,the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced its intention to establish a settlement on the Red Planet by2117. Other nations are likely to beat the UAE in reaching this goal, however, as the U.S. government has tasked NASA with getting humans on Mars by 2033, and China has set aneven more ambitions goal: by the end of the decade. These government efforts align with readers predictions.
But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes to prove just how much more efficient private companies are thangovernment bureaucracies. His plan, too, is to sendhumans to Mars by 2020, but that isnt his only goal. He wants to make travel to the Red Planet affordable, setting the price cap at $200,000 in his new plan that focuses on establishing a self-sustaining space civilization rather than a simple exploratory expedition. Such an establishment will be paramount to the future of the human species, Musk said.
History suggests there will be some doomsday event, and I would hope you would agree that becoming a multi-planetary species would be the right way to go, Musk said at a press conference last year. I want to make Mars seem possible like something that we can do in our lifetimes.
With all these efforts to get humans off world over the course of the next few decades, it seems like a good bet a Martian colony is not only something this generation could see, but something it will.
See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.
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When Will the First Human Space Colony Be Established? – Futurism
Posted: August 16, 2017 at 5:48 pm
The upcoming Aug. 21, total eclipse of the sun is on the move. Maps, provided by NASA and others, show a crisply defined, 70-mile-wide path of totality where the moon will block 100 percent of the sun, but they are not as precise as they appear, at least on their edges. “Yeah, all the maps are wrong,” said Mike Kentrianakis, who is the solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society. (Dreamstime/TNS)
The upcoming Aug. 21, total eclipse of the sun is on the move. Maps, provided by NASA and others, show a crisply defined, 70-mile-wide path of totality where the moon will block 100 percent of the sun, but they are not as precise as they appear, at least on their edges. “Yeah, all the maps are wrong,” said Mike Kentrianakis, who is the solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society. (Dreamstime/TNS)
By Samantha Keebler August 16, 2017 Filed under Campus, City, News
The highly-publicized and much-anticipated total solar eclipse has nearly arrived and all of southern Illinois is bracing itself for the flood of spectators sure to turn up by Aug. 21. Tens of thousands of people are expected to arrive in Carbondale and the surrounding towns, and the university has been preparing for eclipse weekend for years.
Though the eclipse has become a daily topic of conversation for many southern Illinoisans, here are five facts about it you might not know.
Effects in atmosphere
During an eclipse, Earths stratosphere closely resembles Mars thin, cool atmosphere. The similarity increases as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. The moon blocks much of the suns ultraviolet rays from reaching Earth, which decreases the stratospheres already low temperature and makes for a Mars-like environment.
Eclipse Ballooning Project
NASA has partnered with students across the nation to collect data and live-stream footage of the eclipse. Their initiative, called the Eclipse Ballooning Project, entails having students release balloons along the line of totality. The balloons will carry populations of bacteria to the stratosphere. This will allow researchers to learn more about Mars habitability and could possibly pave the way for human colonization of other planets. SIUs campus will host ballooning teams from Louisiana State University, according to Bob Baer, the co-chair of the universitys Solar Eclipse Steering Committee.
Inner solar corona
As an eclipse occurs, the overlapping of the moon and sun exposes the inner corona of the sun. This is the best way to study the inner corona, which contains a lot of space weather movement. Space weather includes changes in the radiation emitted by the sun, changes in magnetic fields surrounding Earth and solar wind. It is important for scientists to understand space weather because it is what enables (or disrupts) radio wave communication, power grid operation, GPS and satellite function and even affects Earths climate.
Solar eclipse myths
Cultures throughout history have thought of eclipses as harbingers of disruption in the natural order of their lives. In an attempt to understand their world, some groups personified the moon and the sun. One example of this is the Batammaliba people in Togo and Benin, Africa who, according to astronomer Jarita Holbrook, deduced the two celestial bodies were quarrelling and needed to be persuaded to stop and make amends. To the Batammaliba people, the dispute represented the need for reconciliation and healing.
How and why are eclipses possible?
The explanation for the reason an eclipse happens is simple. Earth orbits the sun in a specific path, tilting and spinning along the way. The moon, which orbits Earth, is tilted 5 degrees and is therefore not in Earths exact plane. In order for a solar eclipse to occur, the moon must be tilted in such a way that its plane crosses Earths. This is only possible during the New Moon phase, when the moon, the sun and our Earth share a plane. When this happens, the suns light hits the moon, which creates a shadow on the surface of Earth. An eclipse is awesome, rare and scientifically fascinating, but it is not inexplicable.
Staff writer Samantha Keebler can be reached at[emailprotected].
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Tags: africa, Astronomy, atmosphere, Batammaliba, benin, bob baer, daily egyptian, de, earth, eclipse, eclipse 2017, gps, Jarita Holbrook, louisiana state university, lsu, mars, moon, nasa, planets, samantha keebler, science, siu, siuc, Solar Eclipse Steering Committee, southern illinois university, stratosphere, sun, togo
Posted: August 15, 2017 at 11:48 am
Humans colonizing the moon has long been an ideaof science fiction, yet out of all space colonization dreams, it has been the one that has always seemed the most plausible. Perhaps it is due to the moon being the only natural spacelandmark humans have ever stepped foot on, or the fact that traveling back and forth wouldnt cost a lifetime, but until now that dream has gone unfulfilled.While a trip to the moon today wouldoffer an amazing view, there would be no way to check in on Facebook or Snap with a limited edition moon filter, but one German firm is about to change all of that when they take the first step towards connecting the moon with its very own cell network based on the same LTE technology our phones are used to communicating over today.
PTScientistsis gearing up to put a series of rovers, developed with the help of Audi, onto the surface of the moonfor a scientific data collection mission.These rovers will come packed with some impressive new technologies, and while driving power from the free energy resource known as the sun, there isnt quite enough of it to power both the machine and the data streams, including HD video, back to earth. The current radio transmission technology commonly used in space is too power hungry, so PTScientists looked to our eartlyresources for inspiration and found that setting up a traditional LTE network is not only technologically possible, but it also comes with the advantage of paving the way for true colonization.
We are trying to show that you can use the most widespread means of communication on the surface of the Moon, to execute missions there, PTScientistselectrical engineer, Karsten Becker, said in an interview with Space.com. We are aiming to provide cost-effective solutions to problems that are arising in terms of building the lunar village.
When PTScientists will actually start connecting the moon is currently up in the air after the team pulled out of Googles Lunar X Prize competition when they realized that meeting the December 2017 launch goal wouldnt happen, but the team is still moving ahead with the project with a new 2018 launch goal in mind. And colonization? Well that would still be years away if the technology proves successful and other tools of livingfind themselves on their way to the rocky and barren moonscape.
Posted: at 11:48 am
From solar and nuclear, to wind and hydropower, Titan, Saturns largest moon, has enough energy options to support a future human colonization effort.
Between overpopulation and the increasingly scarce resources, mother Earth just cant sustain human life forever, and the question of space colonization is more where and how rather than why.
While Mars gets most of the spotlightand the Moon has also been tipped as a viable option, a new study suggests Saturns moon, Titan, as the best shot to setting an off-Earth colony.
For a human space settlement to thrive, there must be in-situ power resources. It turns out that Titan has energy aplentyenough even to sustain a large colony.
We gleaned this from research conducted by scientists from the Planetary Science Institute (Arizona) and Caltech (California).
Amanda Hendrix (PSI) and Yuk Yung (Caletch) assessed Titans ISRS potential, or In-Situ Resource Utilization, and concluded that Saturns moon has sufficient energy resources to enable the establishment of a self-sufficient colony the size of the U.S.
In the past, duringmissions to the moon, astronauts had to carry with them fuel, water, food, and everything they need for the entire trip.
For future space missions to places like Titan, instead of bringing with them all the supplies, space explorers will have to rely on the natural resources available at their destination.
Titan is the largest of the 57 moons orbiting Saturn.
Over 800 million miles away from Earth, Titan is the most Earth-like object in the solar system. It is also the only moon with its own atmosphere.
According to researchers, who co-wrote a paper (available on arXiv), other than a thick atmosphere that protects against radiation, the habitability prospect of Titan is consolidated by the abundance of its in-situ natural resources.
Nuclear:Titans first settlers, most-likely robot explorers, would use Titans radioactive decay to generate nuclear power.
Solar: Titan is very distant from the sun has an absorbing atmosphere, yet solar power is still a viable option. Hendrix and Yung estimated that to sustain 300 million people, theres a need for a solar farm covering nearly 10% of the moons surface.
Chemical: There are literal lakes of hydrocarbons and seas of methane on Titan. But if the combustion of methane is difficult because of a lack of oxygen, settlers could hydrogenate acetylene to generate power.
Hydropower: Kraken and Ligeia are large seas on Titans surface that represent significant sources of hydropower. However, engineering groundwork would be needed to carve out rivers that flow out of the sea and create the potential for hydropower.
Wind: Atmospheric winds on Titan are expected to be a viable source of power, but floating wind turbines will need to reach high altitudes (~40 km), to be effective.
Researchers pointed out that whichever the colonization option we go with, the underlying technologies will first have to be mastered here on Earth first. Only then can we take these technologies to Titan and any other potential space destination.
Posted: August 14, 2017 at 11:49 am
Aug. 21s total solar eclipse will be the first of its kind for American smartphone-toting citizen scientists. But people around the world have been studying eclipses for millennia. Its sometimes difficult to draw the line between legends and science, but here are some interesting examples of scientists contributions to that long eclipse tradition.
Chinas records of eclipses go way back to Oct. 22, 2137 BC, when, the official records report, the Sun and Moon could not live peacefully together in the sky. And that was just the first total solar eclipse that made it into the history books in fact, one scholar tracked down records of 916 solar eclipses between 2137 BC and 1785 AD in Chinese bureaucracy and literature.
In ancient China, people tied eclipses to politics. One astronomers failure to anticipate a solar eclipse that was dated to either 2137 BC or 2110 BC, reportedly resulted in his downfall. (The astronomer also happened to be a powerful tribe leader, so the eclipse may have just been a convenient cover story to kill him off.)
Observers interpreted different physical characteristics of a solar eclipse, like how visible the corona (the suns outermost layer, only visible during a solar eclipse) was, to draw different conclusions about the fate of political leaders. And tradition pressured leaders to acknowledge the celestial omen. According to one pair of scholars, On the occasion of an eclipse, an emperor was supposed to think what wrong or evil he had done to the people and then correct it in an appropriate way. Of course this was no more than a gesture.
By the 200s AD, some scholars argue Chinese astronomers could predict some solar eclipses, although it wasnt until around the 1100s that their predictions were accurate to within about 30 minutes.
Whether you realize it or not, youre already familiar with the Babylonians celestial interests: Youre following in their footsteps every time you count seconds and minutes by 60s. They were observing eclipses by the seventh century BC and predicting them by the third century BC.
Those predictions relied on identifying what were later called Saros cycles in which approximately every 18 years, the sun, moon and Earth line up in similar ways and create an eclipse over a new swath of Earth.
That meant the Babylonians could even predict eclipses they would never see over other parts of the planet. And Late Babylonians could predict the time of a solar eclipse within two hours.
Some scholars argue that thousands of years ago, Aboriginal Australians were also studying eclipses and other relationships between the sun, moon, and Earth. But because of colonization and the cultural damage it brought, its difficult to piece together when that might have begun, what precisely Aboriginal Australians were watching and how they explained it.
Some evidence comes from traditional stories passed down over the generations knowledge that scholars say could stretch back as far as 50,000 years and rock carvings, which means its all essentially impossible to date. Originally, the carvings were interpreted as figures reaching up toward a boomerang, but some indigenous studies scholars argue the carvings are the wrong shape for a boomerang and the perfect shape for the crescent sun visible during a partial solar eclipse.
The same scholars also argue that the detailed stories some Aboriginal cultures tell about the sun and moon and their interactions indicate they were tracking the movements of both bodies and understood the mechanics behind phenomena like eclipses.
The cultures around the ancient Mediterranean, including the Greeks and Romans, turned their eyes to the eclipse too, including during one sixth century BC battle that an eclipse allegedly put an end to. The famous Antikythera Mechanism, a mechanical computing device built in the second century BC, included a gear for counting 223-month Saros cycles picked up from the Babylonians.
The Antikythera Mechanism on display in Athens.
Greek literary sources confirm they were intrigued by eclipses. Plutarch reported what could be one of the first western descriptions of the suns corona, as seen during an eclipse, perhaps in 71 AD, reporting that an observer said a kind of light is visible around the rim which keeps the shadow from being profound and absolute. But for the most part, their work was observational.
The key exception was a prominent mathematician and geographer named Claudius Ptolemy. Writing around 150 AD and based on Babylonian predecessors and a Greek named Hipparchus, he discussed a range of astronomical phenomena, including both solar and lunar eclipses, and explained how to calculate the time of an eclipse within an hour.
Eclipse observations continued throughout the Arab and European worlds during the medieval period and into the Renaissance, but without much real advancement in technique or science to accompany them.
That began to change in the very late 1600s and into the 1700s, particularly thanks to Edmond Halley, the astronomer who also studied the comet that now shares his name. Hes responsible for naming Saros cycles, the 18-year realignments the Babylonians had noticed when studying eclipses more than 2000 years prior.
In 1715, he predicted a total solar eclipses path the first person to do so across the whole totality belt and drew a map to share that information with the public. The map was so popular he was sent a collection of observations from the ground, which he used to update and republish the map, writing whereby it will appear that tho[ugh] our Numbers pretend not to be altogether perfect, yet the correction they need is very small. This map also shows the path he predicted for an eclipse due May 11, 1724.
Halleys map of 1715 eclipse observations (lower left to upper right) and his prediction of the 1724 eclipses path (upper left to lower right).
But despite this long history, modern eclipse science only really emerged in the 1860s, facilitated by the rise of new technologies like spectroscopy and photography, which meant that scientists could gather more than just observational data. (The first known photograph of the suns corona was snapped during the eclipse of July 28, 1851 in what is now Kaliningrad, Russia.) And the new field of astrophysics meant it was popular to study the sun as the best star to observe from Earth.
The first known photograph, a daguerrotype, of the suns corona.
Astronomer P.J.C. Janssen traveled to India to watch an eclipse in 1868, and he brought his spectography equipment as well. That let him break the coronas light into individual wavelengths. The pattern of wavelengths that are present or absent is shaped by the chemical composition of the fuel source being burned in the star.
Janssen spotted a strange, bright yellow band, which had never been seen before. He named it helium, after the Greek sun god Helios and identified an element that wasnt identified here on Earth until 1895.
This same eclipse was the first time scientists named solar prominences, giant protrusions of gas rising off the sun. (Ancient Chinese writers may be referring to these features in some of their poetic descriptions of eclipses.)
Perhaps the eclipse with the most famous scientific results came on May 29, 1919, when British astronomer Arthur Eddington observed light bent by the suns gravity in a way that supported Einsteins theory of general relativity and the spacetime-warping effects of gravity. The New York Times headline later that year read Lights All Askew in the Heavens: Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations.
Scientists have gone on to use eclipses to study the ionosphere, a level of Earths atmosphere bombarded by the suns radiation. Another popular quest has been to measure qualities of the light coming from the corona, like its polarization and intensity.
Modern scientific advances have also brought incredible new ways to study eclipses. During a three-day period in 1970, NASA launched 32 rockets armed with an array of scientific instruments, all to study a total solar eclipse along the East Coast.
In 1973, although commercial flights on the supersonic Concorde jet were still three years in the future, a special trip stretched totality into an incredible 74 minutes. In order to actually watch the eclipse, the plane had to be modified with windows on its roof, earning it an early retirement.
Preparing for the Concorde.s eclipse-chasing flight in 1973.
Aug. 21 will update this science, complete with high-altitude balloon cameras livestreaming an incredible view of totality and a host of science projects. But it wont be the end of this story, either: Its been calculated that there will be 68 total solar eclipses over the course of the 21st century. So stay tuned for what comes next.
US joint chiefs chairman stresses North Korea diplomacy, but notes ‘full range’ of military options – Chicago Tribune
Posted: at 11:49 am
The United States is ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities to deal with North Korea, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff told his South Korean counterparts Monday, amid widening pressures on the regime of Kim Jong Un.
But Gen. Joseph Dunford, speaking in Seoul, just 30 miles south of the border with North Korea, stressed that diplomacy and sanctions were the first plan.
“The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort,” Dunford told reporters after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul.
“It would be a horrible thing were a war to be conducted here on the peninsula, and that’s why we’re so focused on coming up with a peaceful way ahead,” he said, according to Stars and Stripes. The Washington Post was not permitted to attend the “invited press event” that Dunford held after the meeting and no transcript was provided.
“Nobody’s looking for war,” the Marine general said, according to the military newspaper. But he added that the military’s job was to provide “viable military options in the event that deterrence fails.”
Dunford was on the first stop of a trip that will also take him to Beijing Tuesday and then on to Tokyo, three capitals that do not want war to break out on their doorsteps.
China, meanwhile, signaled a potentially important break with North Korea as part of international sanctions. Beijing announced Monday that it would ban imports of iron ore, iron, lead and coal from North Korea, cutting an important economic lifeline for Pyongyang. The ban will take effect from Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced.
In the meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and other top officials Monday, Dunford appeared to offer a modified version of the threats that President Donald Trump has issued over the past week.
Trump last week warned North Korea that it would face “fire and fury” if it tried to attack the United States or its allies. Then on Friday, after North Korea threatened to launch missiles toward Guam, Trump warned the regime that the American military was “locked and loaded.”
But top administration officials appear focused on trying to play down the prospect of nuclear war. Appearing on the Sunday shows, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that “an attack from North Korea is not something that is imminent.” National security adviser H.R. McMaster said “we’re not closer to war than a week ago.”
This echoed the tempered statements Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made earlier in the week, even as the president was warning of military action.
Jonathan Lemire and Josh Boak
Officials in the South Korean government have voiced surprise and confusion at Trump’s tough talk of the past week.
Moon, elected as South Korea’s president in May on a pledge to adopt a more conciliatory approach to North Korea, urged Monday that the United States to give diplomacy a chance.
“Peace will not come to the Korean Peninsula by force. Although peace and negotiation are painful and slow, we must pursue this path,” Moon told his advisers ahead of his meeting with Dunford.
Calling the U.S.-South Korea military alliance “an alliance for peace,” Moon said that he was “confident that the U.S. will respond calmly and responsibly to the current situation.” He even suggested that the gap between the allies was not large as both were focused on peace.
Seoul, a vibrant metropolitan area of some 25 million people, lies within range of North Korea’s conventional artillery stationed just 30 miles to the North. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including more than 28,000 U.S. troops, also live in South Korea.
Moon’s spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, “The president noted the current security conditions on the Korean Peninsula constituted a more serious, real and urgent threat than ever created by the advancement in North Korea’s nuclear and missile technologies.”
The meeting came the day before the anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, a day known as “Liberation Day” in both North and South Korea because it brought about the end of Japanese colonization.
It also came just a week before the U.S. and South Korean militaries are due to start their annual fall exercises, where they practice responding to an invasion by or the collapse of North Korea. The regime in Pyongyang always strongly objects to the drills, viewing them as a pretext for war.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said the exercises would go ahead as planned. “The exercises remain important to us and we’ll continue to move forward,” Brooks said, according to Stars and Stripes.
This year both dates are especially significant as North Korea’s military leaders have said they will complete their preparations in “the middle of the month” to launch ballistic missiles toward the Pacific island of Guam, an American territory and home to huge Air Force and Navy bases. North Korea’s military chiefs would then await leader Kim’s instructions, state media have said.
The Korean Central News Agency kept up its tough talk Monday.
“If the U.S. goes reckless by wielding a nuclear stick before its rival armed with nukes despite the repeated warnings of the DPRK, it would precipitate its self-destruction,” the agency said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name. “We are watching every move of the U.S.”
The Washington Post’s Simon Denyer in Beijing contributed to this report.
Posted: August 11, 2017 at 5:49 pm
Last week it was reported that on August 14 NASA will begin accepting applications to become its new Planetary Protection Officer.
The job post, which notes a cushy six-figure salary, immediately kicked off a spate of sensational headlines, though the positions actual responsibilities mostly consist of preventing the transfer of microorganisms from Earth to other planets and vice versa to prevent biological contamination during space missions.
For some, the discovery that, rather than activating cosmic shields to defend against alien invasions, the Planetary Protection Officer will more likely be focusing on keeping spacecrafts spotlessly clean, might seem disappointing. Its actually refreshing.
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In an article in New York magazine, The Uninhabitable Earth, journalist David Wallace-Wells prophesizes a litany of potential global warming disasters, including lethal heat waves, global drought, and perpetual war.
Other oft-predicted doomsday scenarios have involved nuclear holocausts, genetically-engineered diseases and, in a particularly sci-fi-oriented example, machine uprisings.
What all of the above scenarios have in common is their roots in human innovation and adventurism.
American astronaut Joseph Tanner during a space walk as part of the STS-115 mission to the International Space Station, September 2006. NASA
Indeed, while our species may not actually bring about the Apocalypse, its hard to claim humanitys ambition has ever been tempered by an abundance of caution.
From land explorations to military conflicts to science and technology, our history has generally been long on hubris and short on humility. In some cases, the dangers were not even foreseeable.
Could the pioneering inventors and engineers of the Industrial Revolution, for instance, ever have imagined the potentially catastrophic effects that oil, coal and gasoline would have on the environment?
Today, as we continue to make ever greater strides in technological innovation, even some prominent tech leaders have expressed reservations. Teslas Elon Musk, for example, has repeatedly warned of the existential threat posed by artificial intelligence, likening A.I. to a demon being summoned by a guy with a pentagram who inevitably wont be able to control it.
In Silicon Valley, his concerns have mostly fallen on deaf ears, though the notion that our technology is outpacing our abilities to contend with it is hardly new. Biologist E.O. Wilson perhaps put it best when he described the essential human problem as follows: W e have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.
Meanwhile, Musks anxieties have fueled his mission to colonize Mars via his aerospace corporation, SpaceX, in the hopes that humanity may eventually become, in his words, a multi-planetary species.
Stephen Hawking, fearful Earth is on its way to becoming uninhabitable, also urges space colonization as a means for long-term survival. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, on the other hand, is confident this planet will always remain our home, but is convinced that colonizing space (including the moon) will enable our continued existence here. He aims for his own spaceflight company, Blue Origin, to be part of that process.
If a new Space Age is indeed upon us, it is essential that this new frontier be one area in which human beings know our proverbial place.
In this context, NASAs Planetary Protection Officer emerges as an unlikely hero and an important example for private spaceflight companies like Musks and Bezoss to follow.
In contrast to the fifteenth century European colonialists who visited disease and destruction upon the Americas, NASAs Planetary Protection Officer represents a careful and considerate explorer, intrepid in all the right ways, for all the right reasons.
Of course it can be argued that protecting planets from microscopic organisms is trivial stuff in comparison to close encounters with intelligent extraterrestrial beings. That is correct, and precisely what makes the task so important. It is undoubtedly in the care and concern over the minutia of interplanetary exploration that we set the tone for the entire enterprise.
Our relationship to space is unpredictable and still in its infancy, and an emphasis on responsibility, especially at this stage, is paramount. In that light, the Planetary Protection Officer is no less important than the title implies.
This summer saw the fourth hottest June in record-keeping history. In mid-July, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from Antarctica.
If, as many people fear, weve already damaged this world irrecoverably, its not too late to be more responsible with others.
Joseph Helmreich is the author of The Return (St. Martins Press, 2017), a science fiction novel about interplanetary conflict.
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It’s No Joke. NASA Needs Someone to Stop Us Polluting Outer Space – Newsweek