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Category Archives: Mars Colonization
Elon Musk is still thinking big with SpaceX’s Starship Mars-colonizing rocket. Really big. – Space.com
Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:00 am
Surprise, surprise: Elon Musk is thinking big.
SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO outlined some ambitious goals for the company's Starship Mars-colonization system during a flurry of Twitter posts on Thursday (Jan. 16).
The Starship architecture consists of a big spaceship called Starship, which Musk has said will be capable of carrying up to 100 people, and a giant rocket named Super Heavy. Both of these vehicles will be reusable; indeed, rapid and frequent reuse is key to Musk's overall vision, which involves cutting the cost of spaceflight enough to make Mars colonization and other bold exploration feats economically feasible.
Related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Rocket in Pictures
And "frequent reuse" is a bit of an understatement, it would seem. In one of Thursday's tweets, for example, Musk wrote that the eventual goal is to launch each Starship vehicle three times per day on average. Each Starship will be able to carry about 100 tons of payload to orbit, so, at that flight rate, every vehicle would loft about 100,000 tons annually, he explained.
And there won't be just one Starship far from it, if everything goes according to Musk's plan.
"Building 100 Starships/year gets to 1000 in 10 years or 100 megatons/year or maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync," Musk wrote in another Thursday tweet.
"Orbital sync" refers to an alignment of the two planets that's favorable for interplanetary travel, which comes along just once every 26 months. So, Musk envisions huge fleets of Starships departing during these windows.
"Loading the Mars fleet into Earth orbit, then 1000 ships depart over ~30 days every 26 months. Battlestar Galactica " he wrote in another tweet. (And Musk wants each Starship to keep flying for a while. In yet another tweet, he said SpaceX is aiming for an operational life of 20 to 30 years for each vehicle.)
Musk wants all of this activity to lead to the establishment of a sustainable settlement on the Red Planet. This goal making humanity a multiplanet species is close to the entrepreneur's heart. He has repeatedly stressed that it's why he founded SpaceX back in 2002, and why he has been amassing wealth for the past few decades.
Back in mid-2017, Musk said that the Starship architecture (which was then called the Interplanetary Transport System) could potentially allow a million-person city to rise on Mars within 50 to 100 years. He's still working toward such an ambitious timeline an even more ambitious one, in fact. On Thursday, one of Musk's Twitter followersasked, "So a million people [on Mars] by 2050?" The billionaire responded simply: "Yes."
Super Heavy won't make the trip to Mars, by the way; the huge rocket is needed just to get the Starship vehicle off Earth. The passenger spacecraft will be able to launch itself off the moon and Mars, both of which are much smaller than our planet and are therefore much easier to escape.
SpaceX is currently building its first Starship orbital vehicle, called the SN1, at the company's South Texas facilities. Also on Thursday, Musk tweeted a photo of technicians working on the SN1's nose cone and liquid-oxygen header tank.
Starship could get up and running soon. SpaceX representatives have said the first operational missions of the vehicle, which will likely loft communications satellites, could come as early as 2021. And there's already one crewed mission on Starship's manifest a round-the-moon voyage booked by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, which is targeted for 2023.
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
Posted: at 10:00 am
MONUMENT, Colo. -- A local high school student has been selected as a semifinalist in NASA's "Name the Rover" competition, which aims to find an official name for the Mars 2020 rover.
Kaitlyn Ketchell, a 10th grader at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, is one of 155 students across the U.S. chosen as semifinalists in the essay contest.
Ketchell has proposed the name "Tenacity."
"Tenacity would be a fitting name for the rover, as Mars is a very barren planet, and yet we are determined to try and colonize it," Ketchell wrote in her essay submission. "Along with Curiosity, the two rovers could represent some of the best aspects of humanity, inspiring future generations to explore for explorations sake."
Her submission was selected as Colorado's winner in the high school category, according to a press release from Battelle, one of the organizations chosen to conduct the contest.
The currently unnamed rover will search for signs of past microbial life on Mars, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the planet, according to the release. The Mars 2020 rover is targeted for aJuly 2020launch and is expected to touch down on Mars inFebruary 2021.
Posted: at 10:00 am
Life in the 2020s might be new to you and me, but its far from fresh territory for movies and TV. Once cast as a far-off future (or, at least, moderately far future) setting for speculative sci-fi movies, real-world calendars have finally caught up.
What did screenwriters think the world would be facing in the year 2020? Whats the science to accompany the fiction? Lets take a look:
In the movie: Directed by Scarface director Brian DePalma, Mission to Mars depicts an ill-fated mission to Mars, set in the year 2020. Needless to say, it doesnt go according to plan. Not for the astronauts in the story or, probably, for DePalma. At least commercially, his movies have largely failed to launch since this abortive voyage.
In real life: NASA will indeed launch another mission to Mars in 2020, although it wont have any people on board. Instead, the mission will seek signs of habitable past conditions on Mars, including microbial life. As far as the possibility of a crewed mission to Mars is concerned, our faith rests with Elon Musk who has been talking about just such a mission for years.
In the movie: By 2020, human boxers have been replaced by robots. Washed-up former boxer Hugh Jackman has been replaced as part of this automation wave. He teams up with his estranged son to build and train a kickass new fighting robot that can finally be the champion he never was. Imagine Rocky if it was made by the team at Boston Dynamics.
In real life: A growing number of people are concerned about the impact automation is going to have on the job market. Thats particularly true of physical jobs. There have been some impressive advances in robots that can emulate the movements of their human controllers, too.Unfortunately, the most concerted attempt to make fighting robots a real thing the company MegaBots collapsed in 2019. Its prototype battling bot, which cost $2.5 million to build, was auctioned off on eBay. Theres no evidence to suggest that it was bought by Hugh Jackman.
In the movie: The majority of Europe has been overtaken by an alien invasion force. A global military alliance called the United Defense Force (UDF) is created to fight the alien threat. It uses newly developed mech suits to give soldiers augmented fighting capabilities.
In real life: No alien forces arriving by comet, although Brexit has proven a bit disruptive in Europe. The mech suits were a good shout, though.Sarcos Robotics is one of several companies working to make augmented exosuits a reality.In 2020, it will ship the first alpha units of its Guardian XO powered exosuit to initial customers, including the U.S. military. These suits will enable wearers to carry out impressive feats of strength, such as lifting and manipulating 200-pound objects without breaking a sweat.
In the show: The Matt Smith-era Doctor and companions Amy Pond and Rory Wiliams land in Wales. A drilling operation is taking place, which winds up disturbing a civilization of reptile creatures called Silurians who live under the surface. As the former rulers of Earth, they decide they want their planet back. Hijinks ensue.
In real life: Theres plenty of digging into the Earths surface for a variety of reasons. No lizard master race as of yet. Still, theyve got the best part of twelve months to decide to show themselves if they want to prove this storyline accurate.
In the movie: What is it with writers assuming that 2020 would be the year in which the U.K. suffers the wrath of dormant creatures awakened during mining expeditions? In Reign of Fire, Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, and Gerard Butler cash checks as survivors of a dragon-related apocalypse. (Confusingly, the movie previews give the date as 2084, but the movie itself describes it as being 2020.) Dragons, it turns out, helped kill the dinosaurs. This is told to us through newspaper clippings.
In real life: Dragons arent wreaking havoc on humanity. Newspapers arent doing too well, either. Seeing as Reign of Fire is set in a post-apocalyptic world, theres not much to extrapolate here in terms of accurately predicting the future. It did, admittedly, nail how crucial Bale, McConaughey, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Butler would be to humanity, though.
In the movie: In the 2020 imagined in this 1965 Roger Corman cheapie (freely adapted from the Soviet science fiction movie Planeta Bur), Earth has colonized the Moon. Astronauts travel to Venus, discovering a prehistoric world full of dinosaurs, monstrous plants, and assorted dodgy special effects.
In real life: Half a century after humans landed on the Moon, we have yet to colonize Earths lunar satellite. We do, however, have another mission (or several) planned to land on it. And plans to use the Moon as a possible DNA data bank to keep a record of all civilization.The last NASA mission dedicated to Venus was the Magellan probe, launched in 1990. Over four years, it mapped 98% of the planets surface. Alas, no dinosaurs!
In the movie: Okay, I admit it: Akira isnt actually set in 2020. Its set in 2019, but Im including it here because of the reference to the lead-up to the 2020 Olympics. Impressively, the movie accurately predicted that Tokyo would be the site of that years Olympic Games. The stadium constructed for the event figures into the plot as a key location for Akiras climax.
In real life: Well, it got the Olympics bit impressively right. Fortunately, World War III hasnt broken out although not always for lack of trying. The futuristic aesthetic of modern Tokyo with its cyberpunk trappings and disaffected teens is pretty much spot-on.Disappointing lack of oversized stuffed toys and marauding motorcycle gangs, though.
Posted: at 10:00 am
I want you to imagine your personal favorite TV character delivering the line I havent felt fear since I was 5 years old. Don Draper saying it, Logan Roy saying it, John Luther saying it, Jim Hopper saying it. (Were probably talking about a dude here, given the lines wanton dudeliness, but sure, imagine, like, Villanelle or even Fleabag saying it.)
So: I havent felt fear since I was 5 years old. Howd that go for you? Not well, yes? Did your personal favorite TV character perhaps sound a wee bit unconvincing? Brotastic? Ridiculous? Embarrassed? Embarrassing? Who among us, even in these glorious streaming-era boom times, can invest those words with the precise deadpan-badass tone that will hint at tragedy without lapsing into disastrous unintentional comedy?
One among us. This guy.
Amos Burton is a character on The Expanse. Wait. Get back here. Yes, those of you who do not watch The Expanse (yet) likely know it as that hardcore science-fiction show, often reductively described as Game of Thrones in space, that at least three of your friends are furious with you for not watching. Its great, and youre missing out, and youre sick of being told youre missing out, and thats understandable. Please do not hold this against Amos.
Industry-wise, The Expanse is also known as the ultra-rare canceled series that irritating diehard fans actually saved. It premiered in late 2015 on Syfy, got decent ratings and oft-rapturous reviews, but found itself unjustly scrapped in 2018 after three seasons for convoluted business reasons. (Syfy made money only if you watched the show live, basically.) Enter Jeff Bezos, savior of the 23rd-century working (space)man, who soon personally announced that Amazon Prime had swooped in to rescue the show. He has his reasons.
Season 4 premiered, in full, on Amazon in mid-December. It rules. Youre still missing out. Partly this is due to its staggering scope, its rad space-torpedo special effects, its rich-text sociopolitical intrigue. But more importantly, its down to the very human (usually) and very relatable frailty (occasionally) of its characters. As with, sure, Game of Thrones, a fantastical extended universe is only as fantastic as the expertly drawn people (or whatever) moving through it. Heres a Season 2 scene when Amos basically punches a guy from Syfy straight to Amazon Prime.
Based on a nine-book series (described as a really kickass space opera by George R. R. Martin himself) by two writers working under the pen name James S.A. Corey, The Expanse is a dense, sprawling, wildly ambitious feat of galaxy-building so sprawling I am loathe to explain it in much detail, because Ill probably just fuck it up. So: In the 23rd century, conflict is inevitable between Earth (ravaged by climate change but still dominant), Mars (colonized by humans and increasingly militaristic), and Belters, those working-class and oft-downtrodden denizens of the asteroid belt connecting Mars and Earth to the outer planets. Also, a mysterious alien entity known as the protomolecule is a constant threat to either wipe out humanity or open an extra-mysterious Ring Door to new galaxies full of uninhabited worlds, or both.
So: A ragtag crew of charismatic do-gooders spanning Earth, Mars, and the Belt flies around on a spaceship called the Rocinante, getting into rad-space-torpedo-type adventures. Season 4 mostly involves one of those new galaxies, and an Earth vs. Belters proxy war with heavy settler-refugee overtones. The plot is fine; the plot is impressively complex. But at this point the whole point is to hang around with your old friends, be they Rocinante captain and reluctant-hero type Jim Holden (Steven Strait), or Belter ex-freedom-fighter Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), or hotshot Martian pilot and quasi Texan Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), or ferocious Earth politician Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), or idealistic Martian ex-soldier Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams, and no, her character is not a Mad Men crossover attempt).
The Expanse, in short, has no shortage of Favorite Character materialsee also Cara Gee and David Strathairn (!!) as Belter leaders with splendidly intense accentsthough this season, while excellent overall, is tough on many longtime favorites, whether its Holden (too mopey) or Avasarala (forced to swear constantly to amuse the internet) or Draper (isolated in a subplot that is literally Mars kinda sucks now). Amos, by contrast, gets a way better deal this season, and makes the most of it. I love him very much, especially when hes scaring the bejesus out of everyone.
As played by Wes Chatham, an affable Georgia native and Hunger Games veteran whose young sons have amazing hair, Amos is an expert spaceship mechanic and laconic tough guy whose biceps are larger than many other characters heads. He is from Earth. Specifically, Baltimore. (There is something so exotic and soothing about the way anyone on this interstellar-warfare show says Baltimore.) He has, due to a mercifully vaguely described traumatic childhood, an inflexible moral code combined with a near-complete lack of empathy. (Hence the not feeling fear since he was 5 years old.) Hes working on it, and softening somewhat; he represents The Expanses most troubling and engrossing multiseason character arc, a hard-punching murder robot slowly learning to feel. He is ferociously loyal but hilariously awkward, homicidal but terrifyingly pragmatic about it.
Thats where the deadpan part of the badassness comes in. His love interest in Season 4, a fellow Earth-born soldier type named Chandra Wei (Jess Salgueiro), is technically on the opposing side of this seasons specific conflict, and threatens to shoot Amos if it ever comes to it, a threat he takes, as he takes most things, in disturbing stride.
That is the face everyone makes when talking to Amos. From the start he has capably filled both the Tough Guy role and, somehow, the Comic Relief role, his constant threats of violence so dispassionate they dont quite register as threats. Im not gonna lie to you: Either way this plays out, youre dead. In case I have to kill you, I just wanted to say thanks. That sort of thing. Youre not that guy, he counsels a mild-mannered botanist he befriends in Season 2, convincing him not to shoot the extremely evil guy hes about to shoot. The botanist shakily lowers his gun and walks off, his innocence intact. The extremely evil guy is relieved. And then, from Amos, the sorta-punch-line: I am that guy.
Which is hilarious, in a sci-fi-badass sort of way. Another great thing about The Expanse is that something legitimately exciting is always happening. Rather than your typical takes-six-episodes-to-get-going enterprise, the show leaps from tense standoff to tense standoff, and theres Amos always in the thick of it, gun trained on somebody and somebody elses gun trained on him, delivering the ridiculously hard-boiled dialogue such a situation demands. You got a clean shot, back of the headtake it if you need it. Imagine your personal favorite TV character saying that, even. Its not that Chatham ever winks, or quips, or mugs for the camera to rebuke you for taking this at all seriously. What makes him comic is that theres no real relief.
As myriad YouTube tributes have proved, you can frame Amos as an exclusively ultra-dark character, with grim hints of a child-sex-trafficking past neither the show nor the books have delved into long enough or deep enough to feel exploitative. (If Season 5 follows the books, well follow him back to Baltimore, where he will grapple with what Chatham has described as his characters mother-figure-plus-lover situation that he had. It can get a little weird.) There is something entirely inappropriate about Amos, as both a living human and a narrative device. One of his funniest early moments, in which he describes Naomi to Holden (who is Naomis boyfriend) as like a sister to me, concludes as follows:
Theres that look again. As The Expanse has deepened and widened, Amos has gotten his philosophical moments, his little speeches, from Everyone leaves unfinished businessthats what dying is to The way I see it, theres only three kinds of people in this world: bad ones, ones you follow, and ones you need to protect. That Chatham can dole out these nuggets of wisdom while holding a machine gun is extra impressive. But he was born to Kick Ass and Be Problematic. If this were the sort of show that inspired lots of hand-wringing think pieces, the dramatic conclusion of the Amos-Wei romance would inspire a whole bunch of them: Its ugly and squirmy and also, as always, furiously logical and moral, according to his uncomfortably vivid and distinct brand of morality. Here is our last look at Amos in Season 4.
Yikes. Perfect. What a monster. What a gent. Then he punches a guy (presumably, but come on) to death. It makes sense if you watch the show. Its the perfect Amos moment, really, if you watch the show. Hes going to keep on supplying those moments, in his inimitable awe-inspiring and mortifying way, until you finally agree to watch the show.
Follow this link:
Amos Is Enough Reason to Finally Watch The Expanse - The Ringer
Posted: at 10:00 am
With a presidential election, the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo and yes, Ludwig van Beethovens 250th birthday celebration, 2020 promises to be a humdinger of a year.
But also happening in 2020if all systems are gowill be the beginning of regular U.S. space tourism flights, either by Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic (ticker: SPCE) or Jeff Bezos Blue Origin or both. Also possibly coming this year are tourist trips to the International Space Station (ISS) on a craft built by Elon Musks SpaceX. (Boeing has a spaceship too, but that company might be otherwise occupied.)
So apologies to Donald, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Ludwig van, but commercial space travel could end up being the biggest damn thing to happen this year. In fact, I think its the beginning of a real game-changer for humanity.
If youve been following the space biz, you know that the go year has been pushed back a number of times, but Ann Kim, aerospace banker and managing director of Silicon Valley Bank, is feeling it. These companies are close. They wanted to get humans into space in 2019, but were not as successful in delivering promises as originally thought. 2020 is a good year to see that inflection point.
It has been a long time coming. In fact these three companies are more or less of the same vintage. Bezos founded Blue Origin (named after Earth, the blue planet, as the place of origin), in 2000. SpaceX, which has colonizing Mars as its ultimate mission, was founded in 2002. And Branson started Virgin Galactic two years after that.
While you may snort at all this silly space stuff, its worth noting that three of the most successful entrepreneurs of our lifetimes have been working on space travel for a collective 54 years now. Remember, once upon a time folks laughed at online bookstores, electric cars and branded air travel too.
Yes, there is a bit of a space race going on, although this time its not Russia v. the U.S., its Branson v. Bezos, who are battlingin the suborbital space (pun intended), with Musk as a competitor longer term on more ambitious projects.
Some play down the competitive aspects of the business though. Its not a race at all, future Virgin Galactic passenger Namira Salim told Yahoo Finances The Final Round, we all say that in the industry. I think its safe to say there is room for all three. (Space is a big place, right?)
Its important to remember that intermittent space tourism has been around for a while. Between 2001 and 2009, seven space tourists traveled to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Dennis Tito was the first, remember him? Also top Microsoft exec Charles Simonyi made the trip. And British singer Sarah Brightman signed up but later canceled. The trips were arranged by a U.S. company, Space Adventures, and cost, gulp, $20 million a pop. But the Russians terminated the program and despite talk of restarting it, havent. In any event the Soyuz trips were always one-offs, where Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin aim to be scheduled operations and the first steps to more extensive programs.
American multimillionaire Dennis Tito, 60, gestures shortly after his landing on the steppes, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Arkalyk, Kazakstan, Sunday, May 6, 2001. Others are unidentified. The Russian Soyuz capsule carrying the world's first paying space tourist landed successfully on Sunday, ending Tito's multimillion dollar cosmos adventure. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
Virgin Galactic has been a moonshot of a stock over the past month, up over 60%. Some of that might have to do with CEO George Whitesides telling CNBC recently that demand for tickets keeps ticking up by a good chunk every month.The company says it has sold tickets to more than 600 customers at around $250,000 per person. It froze ticket sales after a crash in 2014 killed one of its pilots. Virgin Galactic now says it may reopen sales later this yearand raise prices.
Yes, there is risk. This is not as safe as airline travel, says Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and rocket expert at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysic. Suborbital flight, [what Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are doing now] can be made very safe. It will just take a lot more flights and experience to make it so. Whether orbital flight will ever be that safe is more of an open question. Sir Richard says not to worry. Hell be going up as Virgin Galactics first test-space-tourist astronaut.
Branson took his company public by merging with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), or blank-check company, founded by Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive (who has since somewhat famously soured on his former employer.) Palihapitiya still owns 49% of Virgin Galactic.
Blue Originits motto is, Gradatim Ferociter, Latin for "Step by Step, Ferociously.hasnt pre-sold any tickets, but it too has indicated that the time is near to send passengers into space. The company just moved into a swank new 232,000-square-foot headquarters in Kent, Washingtonnear the Sea-Tac Airportto house many of its 2,500 employees. Geek Wire reports, Hundreds more are based elsewhere in the Kent area, south of Seattle, as well as at Blue Origins suborbital launch site in West Texas, the Florida rocket factory where Blue Origins New Glenn orbital-class rocket will be assembled, and at the site of its future BE-4 rocket engine factory in Alabama.
Bezos, who loved space as a child, is incredibly passionate about space and Blue Origin, so much so that I pulled these two quotes from this 2018 interview to give you an idea. (The whole piece makes for good reading, btw.)
I get increasing conviction with every passing year, that Blue Origin, the space company, is the most important work that Im doing. And so there is a whole plan for Blue Origin.
The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it. Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune. I am liquidating about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin. And I plan to continue to do that for a long time.
Imagine if Blue Origin ends up being a bigger deal than Amazon? Could be.
Jeff Bezos speaks in front of a model of Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
SpaceX is a different beast, not surprisingly playing at an Elon Musk, super-ambitious, Tesla-like level. With its Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, SpaceX was the first private company to go into orbit. Dragon has gone to the ISS 18 times. A Falcon has orbited around the sun. And working with NASA, SpaceX is reportedly set to launch its first crewed Crew Dragon next month. Tourism to the ISS is on the agenda.
Who will launch the first U.S. space flight for tourists?
I think that Virgin Galactic is the closest, says Kim. A lot of people are putting in their deposits. It seems to be the leader of the pack. Blue Origin is close behind. SpaceX has more longer term potential. I think all three can be very successful.
Where is this all going? Space tourism needs to be more than billionaires taking selfies in space, says Tess Hatch, who once worked at SpaceX and is now a vice president at Bessemer Venture Partners, which has invested in the space business. There needs to be business reasons to be in space. Hatch says space tourism and the space economy need to catalyze business models, and cites business opportunities such as zero gravity research and pharmaceutical testing.
As for Bezos, Branson and Musk, Hatch says, ...these people made their billions in totally different industries and are now turning to space. They will make billions if not trillions in space.
I must admit, I have mixed feelings about space being dominated by the likes of Bezos, Branson and Musk. On the one hand I cant help but admire what theyve done as entrepreneurs. I dont think theyre evil. And they are filling a breach voided by governments abdication of having a consistent, strategic space program. So sure, go for it guys!
On the other hand, I worry about the inevitable lack of consensus that accompanies each of these three efforts. How much thinking about pure science, medicine or even art will be brought to bear in space endeavors controlled by billionaires. I guess I dont blame them or fault them, none of that thinking is necessarily their purview or responsibility.
In a way its just another example of our economy and society being co-opted by the technocrat class. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Teslathose companies are all name-checked in this article. Fifty years ago, yes there were private defense contractors involved in the process, but NASA and DOD were the drivers. The amount of technological innovation and products that came from NASA is stunning and too long to list here. Now the script has been flipped. Will these tech moguls be so free with their IP? Who knows. Maybe they will be even more collaborative about fostering and sharing research and scientific breakthroughs.
One things for sure, it looks like we are going to find out. Maybe starting this year. (Roll over Beethoven.)
This article was featured in a Saturday edition of the Morning Brief on December 14, 2019. Get the Morning Brief sent directly to your inbox every Monday to Friday by 6:30 a.m. ET.Subscribe
Commentary by Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter:@serwer.
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Posted: at 10:00 am
Chimpanzees, human beings closest animal relatives, share up to 98% of our genes. Their human-like hands and facial expressions can send uncanny shivers of self-recognition down the backs of zoo patrons.
Yet people and chimpanzees lead very different lives. Fewer than 300,000 wild chimpanzees live in a few forested corners of Africa today, while humans have colonized every corner of the globe, from the Arctic tundra to the Kalahari Desert. At more than 7 billion, humans population dwarfs that of nearly all other mammals despite our physical weaknesses.
What could account for our species incredible evolutionary successes?
One obvious answer is our big brains. It could be that our raw intelligence gave us an unprecedented ability to think outside the box, innovating solutions to gnarly problems as people migrated across the globe. Think of The Martian, where Matt Damon, trapped alone in a research station on Mars, heroically sciences his way out of certain death.
But a growing number of cognitive scientists and anthropologists are rejecting that explanation. These researchers think that, rather than making our living as innovators, human beings survive and thrive precisely because we dont think for ourselves. Instead, people cope with challenging climates and ecological contexts by carefully copying others especially those we respect. Instead of Homo sapiens, or man the knower, were really Homo imitans: man the imitator.
In a famous study, psychologists Victoria Horner and Andrew Whiten showed two groups of test subjects children and chimpanzees a mechanical box with a treat inside. In one condition, the box was opaque, while in the other it was transparent. The experimenters demonstrated how to open the box to retrieve a treat, but they also included the irrelevant step of tapping on the box with a stick.
Oddly, human children carefully copied all the steps to open the box, even when they could see that the stick had no practical effect. That is, they copied irrationally: Instead of doing only what was necessary to get their reward, children slavishly imitated every action theyd witnessed.
Of course, that study only included three- and four-year-olds. But additional research has showed that older children and adults are even more likely to mindlessly copy others actions, and young infants are less likely to over-imitate that is, to precisely copy even impractical actions.
By contrast, chimpanzees in Horner and Whitens study only over-imitated in the opaque condition. In the transparent condition where they saw that the stick was mechanically useless they ignored that step entirely, merely opening the box with their hands. Other research has since supported these findings.
When it comes to copying, chimpanzees are more rational than human children or adults.
Where does the seemingly irrational human preference for over-imitation come from? In his book The Secret of Our Success, anthropologist Joseph Henrich points out that people around the world rely on technologies that are often so complex that no one can learn them rationally. Instead, people must learn them step by step, trusting in the wisdom of more experienced elders and peers.
For example, the best way to master making a bow is by observing successful hunters doing it, with the assumption that everything they do is important. As an inexperienced learner, you cant yet judge which steps are actually relevant. So when your bands best hunter waxes his bowstring with two fingers or touches his ear before drawing the string, you copy him.
The human propensity for over-imitation thus makes possible what anthropologists call cumulative culture: the long-term development of skills and technologies over generations. No single person might understand all the practical reasons behind each step to making a bow or carving a canoe, much less transforming rare earth minerals into iPhones. But as long as people copy with high fidelity, the technology gets transmitted.
Ritual and religion are also domains in which people carry out actions that arent connected in a tangible way with practical outcomes. For example, a Catholic priest blesses wafers and wine for Communion by uttering a series of repetitive words and doing odd motions with his hands. One could be forgiven for wondering what on Earth these ritualistic acts have to do with eating bread, just as a chimpanzee cant see any connection between tapping a stick and opening a box.
But rituals have a hidden effect: They bond people to one another and demonstrate cultural affiliation. For an enlightening negative example, consider a student who refuses to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Her action clearly telegraphs her rejection of authorities right to tell her how to behave. And as anthropologist Roy Rappaport pointed out, ritual participation is binary: Either you say the pledge or you dont. This clarity makes it easily apparent who is or isnt committed to the group.
In a broader sense, then, over-imitation helps enable much of what comprises distinctively human culture, which turns out to be much more complicated than mechanical cause and effect.
At heart, human beings are not brave, self-reliant innovators, but careful if savvy conformists. We perform and imitate apparently impractical actions because doing so is the key to learning complex cultural skills, and because rituals create and sustain the cultural identities and solidarity we depend on for survival. Indeed, copying others is a powerful way to establish social rapport. For example, mimicking anothers body language can induce them to like and trust you more.
So the next time you hear someone arguing passionately that everyone should embrace nonconformity and avoid imitating others, you might chuckle a bit. Were not chimpanzees, after all.
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Being copycats might be key to being human - The Conversation US
Posted: at 10:00 am
Fantasy and science fiction will be a big part of Amazons plans for the coming year and beyond, with the streaming giant's studio heads serving up fresh news on brand-new projects, as well as updates to ones we already know about.
With SYFY WIRE in attendance, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke revealed at todays Television Critics Association press tour that a dark new science fiction series is in the works as part of an overall creative deal with Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen.
Titled Last Days, the series is described by Amazon's official releaseas a gripping sci-fi thriller set in a future in which Earth is dying, AI is on the rise, and the worlds governments have secretly created a controversial plan to selectively colonize Mars. The show will follow one womans journey to explore the truth about where she came from, at the risk of losing everything she knows.
Via therelease, Amazon said Last Days is already in development from Lammas Park and See-Saw Films, with McQueen adding that hes thrilled about this new venture and partnership with Amazon. The idea of having a partner that will support and facilitate risk and change is more than exciting.
Turning its eyes toward the Shire, Amazon also offered a handful of updates on its hugely-anticipated, mega-budget series adaptation of Lord of The Rings, with Salke sharing onstage that development is moving along with table reads happening in New Zealand ahead of a production start slated to begin next month.
Amazon co-head of TV Vernon Sanders also shared a bevy of fresh new names wholl be rounding out the LOTR cast, including some you may not have heard of before: Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark,and Australian actor Tom Budge. The new additions joined previously-reported cast members Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, and Robert Aramayo as Beldor, one of the series still-mysterious lead characters.
Sanders also sharedthe studios enthusiasm with development progress on The Wheel of Time, the series adaptation of author Robert Jordans iconic fantasy series. We are well underway in production. We love what weve seen, he said at the press tour, teasing that more information is on the way for when the show will arrive. Big, world-building shows take time to craft. I have a quarter [of the year] Im thinking [of the series] dropping, but will have news later in the year.
Amazon also served upnews of an intriguing new project that sounds like it may share at least a little creative inspiration with a certain special agent who likes his martinis shaken; not stirred: Citadel, a truly global action-packed spy series, according toSalke's press tour remarks, from the Russo brothers AGBO Films and starring Quanticos Priyanka Chopra and Game of Thrones' Richard Madden.
Joe and Anthony Russo will serve as executive producers on Citadel, with Josh Appelbaum, Andr Nemec, Jeff Pinkner, and Scott Rosenbergof production company Midnight Radio serving as writers and executive producers. The multi-faceted event series will be headlined, according to Amazon's press release, with the mothership United States edition starring Chopra and Madden, and will also feature a constellation of additional, local-language editions originating in Mexico, as well as previously-announced versions in Italy and India.
Finally, it sounds as though Amazon is delighted in its new role as the home of The Expanse, with Sanders telling TCA membersthe studio is thrilled with the fourth season and quality of the work, and that its been especially cool to snag new viewers as the show has made the transition from its original network spot at SYFY. The thing that has thrilled us is how many new fans who have come in, said Sanders, adding, were just seeing episodes for Season 5.
Video: Should The Government Spend Money On Colonizing Mars? Hear From Everyday People And Visitors In USA | Hollywood Insiders Messages From America …
Posted: January 17, 2020 at 3:43 am
Photo/Video:Colonization of Mars/D Mitriy[CC BY-SA]/Hollywood Insider YouTube Channel
Should we focus on saving our home Earth first or should we spend billions on colozing Mars? All of us have heard the loud American politicians, their tweets and their slurs but how many of us have heard what the people/civilians in America think? What do people in America think? What are messages from civilians in USA to refugees? Most of the people in America are nothing like the politicians in America so it is important to make sure that world sees more of America and its people than just the loud politicians, regardless of them being republican/democract or any other political iteration.Hollywood Insiders Messages From America asked American and visitors their response to the question Should The Government Spend Money On Colonizing Mars? The current state of politics in America with the 2020 elections shows to us that Hollywood Insiders Messages From America series is more relevant and needed now than ever before. The 2nd season of Messages From America aims to continue to show the views, perspectives and messages from the everyday people/civilians in America. Most of the people around the world usually form an impression of America and its people based on a sitting President whether it be Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or currently Donald Trump. That is over 7 billion people around the world that think the President of America represents the 325 million plus people in America. What is worse that they believe that Americans might be very much like their President? Which is far from the truth. Most civilians and everyday people in America are far from politics and are nothing like the loud politicians that represent them.
Click here for episode 1 of season 2:Do You Choose Human Rights Or Religion?
Click here for episode 2 of season 2: Who Is President For 2020? Pete Buttigieg? Joe Biden? Kamala Harris? Donald Trump? Bernie Sanders?
Click here for episode 3 of season 2: WATCH: Would A Presidents Sexuality Matter To You? A Lesbian, Gay, LGBTQ President? Pete Buttigieg?
Click here for episode 4 of season 2: WATCH: Do You Support Universal Healthcare?
Click here for episode 5 of season 2: WATCH: Do People In Usa Support Gun Control?
Click here for episode 6 of season 2: If Your Child Told You They Were Gay/Lesbian, What Would You Do? Prince William Confirms He Would Completely Accept His Gay Children
Click here for episode 7 of season 2: Is Climate Change An Urgent Issue Or Not A Worry For 100 Years?
Click here for episode 8 of season 2: What Do You Want To Say To Refugees?
President Donald Trump and his team do not reflect the American people in their entirety. By that same account, neither can any President in the future or has any President in the past ever reflected the American people in their entirety. Messages From America series hopes to show to the world what the American people that are civilians (not politicians) have to say on important issues. Usually, the world only knows the words and actions of US POLITICIANS, but seldom see what the people in America truly think about important issues. Other countries see only one side, without knowing that not all Americans agree with their politicians. This series aims to show what the rest of America, the people in America truly feel.
We at Hollywood Insider utilize our mission statement as our compass, which you can read more of by clicking here.
Here is a snippet: Hollywood Insider focuses on substance and meaningful entertainment, so as to utilize media as a tool to unite and better our world, by combining entertainment, education and philanthropy, while being against gossip and scandal.
To view the previous season please choose from the videos below:
Season 1 | 7 Episodes
Episode 1: What Is Your Message To Refugees?
Episode 2: Should Religion Be Utilized To Govern America?
Episode 3: Human Rights Or Religion?
Episode 4: If You Are President For One Day, What Would You Change?
Episode 5: Should USA Invest In Space Force or Education/Healthcare For All?
Episode 6: Do you support Trumps Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy?
Episode 7: Universal Healthcare In USA?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this video are of the individuals themselves and do not reflect those of Hollywood Insider or interviewer/crew.
By Hollywood Insider Team
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Posted: at 3:43 am
As space travel becomes more and more refined over the years and with commercial space travel flights seemingly around the corner, more and more people are asking where in outer space is it suitable for life to exist.The most popular locations are usually planets close to a sun, possessing water and some semblance of an atmosphere. Mars, the fourth planet in the Solar System, has traditionally been the most popular location for either alien life or the possibility of human colonization in the future.However, while Mars expedition plans have been in the works for years, NASA announced plans to build a space probe to send to another location in the 2030s, according to a news.co.au report.The target for this probe, however, is one that is possibly more suitable for life than the Red Planet: Europa.Rather than a planet, Europa is one of Jupiter's moons; and despite being smaller than Earth's moon, it possesses surprising qualities that may make it one of the most suitable locations for life in outer space. The moon has a thin atmosphere; a hypothesized molten core similar to Earth's for heating; and an ice crust, giving the possibility that there are oceans underneath the ice.The idea of Europa being home to life is nothing particularly new, and has been a staple of science-fiction for many years most notably in the book and film adaptation of 2010: Space Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clark. However, a discovery by NASA in 2018 of water plumes supported earlier evidence of the hypothesized oceans of water beneath the ice. The announcement of the probe called the Europa Clipper was followed later by the European Space Agency's announcement of the development of their Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), slated to be sent by 2029, according to the report.These probes to Europa are a gamble, but according to some scientists, successfully finding life seems highly likely.Discovery now seems inevitable and possibly imminent, said University of Melbourne researcher Cathal OConnell, according to news.co.au.It seems inevitable other life is out there, especially considering that life appeared on Earth so soon after the planet was formed, OConnell continued. And the definition of habitable has proven to be a rather flexible concept too.A discovery, if it came, could turn the world of biology upside down.But not aside from biology, a discovery of extraterrestrial life even only microscopic bacteria would have profound religious ramifications, as the discovery of life in space could represent a "second genesis," according to O'Connell.But as difficult as getting probes to Europa and having them successfully land there, the biggest challenge is actually getting below the ice crust, which is likely as hard as granite.Drills wouldn't be enough for the job, and scientists are currently experimenting with a slew of possible methods including lasers and even a nuclear reactor to melt through.After that, the challenge would be going into the ocean.Europa isn't the only moon that scientists had considered a possible home to alien life, with some of Saturn's moons, specifically Titan and Enceladus, to be possible homes, due to possessing a thick atmosphere with visible large bodies of liquid and plumes of salt-water, respectively. However, Titan seems less likely, after a probe sent in 2004 determined the bodies of liquid were composed of methane, rather than water.Of course, life does exist in outer space, after Israel's Beresheet moon lander dumped thousands of microscopic tardigrades, also known as "water bears," onto the Moon.
Posted: at 3:43 am
Today Vice President Mike Pence formally swore in General John Jay Raymond as the new Chief of Space Operations at the White House. Raymond, who was named commander of the United States Space Command last August, assumed his duties on December 20, 2019, after the White House signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act that officially launched the new branch of the military.
The Space Force was created to organize, train and equip military personnel with a primary focus on space operations. In June 2018, the White House directed the Pentagon to begin planning for the Space Force as a sixth independent military service branch, making it the first new military service in more than 70 years. The last new branch of the military was the United States Air Force, which was created in 1947.
President Trump has touted the Space Force as the largest ever investment in the United States military.
Details of the Space Force were released by the Department of Defense in August 2018, and a proposal to Congress was sent in March 2019, calling for a service that would fall under the Air Force in much the same way that the United States Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. The proposal also included the designation for a new position, the undersecretary for the Air Force for space, which is a civilian position that would answer to the secretary of the Air Force.
The creation of this new service will cost a reported $2 billion over five years, and require upwards of 15,000 personal.
In August of last year the Pentagon activated a new U.S. Space Command, led by General Raymond, but this was not reactivation of the former Space Command, which existed from 1985 to 2002.
The U.S. Air Force has historically had the Space Command under its operational control, said Arun Kumar Sampathkumar, industry manager for aerospace & defense at Frost & Sullivan.
With the new announcement for a potential space force, the DoD now requires to plan and form a dedicated service out of the Space Command, Sampathkumar told ClearanceJobs.
While critics of the Space Force have warned that this could militarize space, the fact is that the U.S. military and other nations have long been involved in some way or another in the region that lies above the heavens. Much of this goes back to the original space race with the Soviet Union that followed the Second World War.
In the 1950s President Eisenhower approved the launching of satellites with both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy competing, said John M. Logsdon, professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.
Project Vanguard, the program managed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), was among those that led the early efforts. It also highlighted how the military played a crucial role in the early exploration of space.
The military does a variety of military things, Logsdon told ClearanceJobs. In the 1950s there was a decision to create a civilian agency to hand the science and exploration, which are not military things.
As a result there have been two parallel programs for more than 60 years with only some cooperation, added Logsdon. The military is involved with the early warning systems, communication and notably space satellites.
They are not doing the exploration and the military is not involved in human space flights, explained Logsdon. The military has been doing those military things, and Space Force is just a way to do it better. It is an organization change, not a change in what the military does or will do. The image of Storm Troopers in space, or leading the colonization of Mars is pure fantasy.
If it isnt leading the colonization to Mars or patrolling Earths orbit, the question becomes what the role of Space Force will be? The answer will fall back to those military things that the military already does.
The rising demand for forward looking missile launch detection capability can be delivered by space assets, said Frost & Sullivans Sampathkumar. The missile defense domain is gaining prominence, and military stakeholders across the globe are working towards improvised missile defense mechanisms. The U.S. DoD is also working towards such an enhanced missile defense capability.
Moreover, while the civilian side of space remains concerned about sustainable space operations, the military domain is more concerned that covert space activities aiming at deactivating or destroying in-orbit military space assets might become possible, and remain undetectable, owing to the rising space traffic, especially in the low Earth orbit (LEO) space.
There is also the issue of budgets, and the fact that there remains only so much money to go around.
The formation of a separate service requires significant investment which will cut into the defense budgets should a dedicated allocation get delayed, Sampathkumar told ClearanceJobs. The administrative overhead of transferring Space Commands activities to Space Force will also impact the military operations in terms of resources and operational readiness until the Space Force is built and deployed.
It is also important to note that the United States is not alone in having military involvement in space. The Russian Space Forces existed as an independent organization within the Russian Military of Defense from 1992 to 1997, and again from 2001 to 2011. In 2015, it was then reestablished as a branch of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
There is also the French Commandement de lEspace, CdE (Joint Space Command), which is a joint formation of the French Armed Forces. And Japans Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced last year that it would assign 100 military personnel to its Space Domain Mission Unit.
The militarization of space is not the same as the weaponization of space, but there remains a danger of a new space arms race.
Entities such as Space Force will remain a deterrent as military presence from one force will drive the other forces to follow suit and this cascading effect might open the doors for the next arms race, globally, said Sampathkumar.
Military objectives will largely remain protecting assets in space closer to Earth, and making sure necessary deterrents are in place, he added. Militarization will not directly impact it as space exploration is more towards deep space missions targeting mining of surface and sub-surface materials from distant planets/asteroids. The presence of a space based surveillance capabilities can help detect any hostile activity conducted by space exploration players within the systems coverage area but beyond that the impact of military space assets will remain insignificant on deep space missions.
This type of activity likely wont occur in 2020. This year, at least, will likely consist of finding out how Space Force will work with the Air Force, NASA and the rest of the government.
Working with others is the challenge that General Raymond will have, said Logsdon. To work with the different government agencies and NASA, and how it will affect those organizations is the first task at hand.