Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giggling Excitedly: A Non-Programmer's Small Trip through Windows

The trip I've just described may not be an epic one. It pretty much lasted for only fifteen minutes. It might have lasted a lot longer had I not felt compelled to blog about it... right now. If you are a programmer, or in fact have any knowledge of how to navigate an operating system without making any unintended and/or irreversible changes, I don't know what sort of emotions there would be reading about my short experience. There may possibly be groaning, and maybe a few amused chuckles. There may also be other emotions and reactions that go beyond the two aforementioned, but I'd bet on them being the most common. If I did a lot of betting.

At first, I wanted to pick back up on trying to learn Python. I've mostly heard that it's an easy and remarkably versatile programming language, tuned well to the beginner. There was also one guy at camp who said it was awkward and strange, but he wasn't sure precisely how someone as inexperienced as I would start, seeking the most effective learning experience. He just said no python. Nonetheless, I had picked up my trusty Python for Dummies book, figuring that each time I gave it a shot, a little more of it stuck after I stopped. Anyway, at the very beginning, when it gives instructions for how to actually open python, the instruction for Windows is to open the Command Prompt and type "python". Originally, I didn't even read that part; I'd already installed python, and I had a nice little shortcut to the folder with the executable in it. This time, however, I decided I'd see what it said for other operating systems. For all of them, it suggested opening a coding equivalent as opposed to doing it the lay way and entering python. I decided that I'd try this method out, just to see if I'd learn something.

I opened Command prompt from Accessories, on the start menu. It started with the location of my user folder, and from there I didn't think I could reach python. Upon some other checking, I didn't actually know what I could access from there. After some digging, I found out exactly where the user folder went. I ended up successfully looking up a .DAT file, but it belonged to a (trusted) site, and I didn't actually know how to open it. Nonetheless, I was wondering how to get it to open from a different location; I didn't know how to change it inside the prompt (though, in retrospect, there's probably a help section for that), so I decided to find out exactly where the file was located. I found it in system32, and then opened it again. This time, it started from an extension there! Now, I had found the target from the properties window, and hadn't bothered to refresh my memory with regards to the weird and exciting things that lie in system32. I started with opening Windows Accessibility from the command line, just to test it out.

It worked, and all of a sudden I had Windows Accessibility open, in the regular window format as opposed to streaming down code I wouldn't have a chance at understanding. I decided to go along with the program to see what I could find, and it first asked me what font size I wanted (incidentally, it was all in small font up until that prompt). I told it to set everything to standard font, and then clicked Next. That's when it appeared to freeze. I waited a bit, but there was no sign of activity. The blue XP bar at the top looked a bit smaller than usual, with a shortened font, but I ignored this when clicking the now mini-x-button. It told me the program was unresponsive, and then I force quit. I went on again, and took a link to magnifying glass.

This is where the giggling began. It's really a funny little program; you get a zoomed window in a section of the screen designated by the user, and at first it was set to follow the mouse. I moused around and was moderately amused by the program. I then decided that the options looked fun, and put up the magnification. This made things very difficult to find in that screen until I made it larger, and then I moused around with that a little. When I looked at 'invert colors', I got really interested. I hit that, lowered the magnification, and then I could move around a negative image of a nuclear explosion seen from the sky (I believe a rendition), and it was negative and magnified to various degrees. This blew my easily amused mind (no pun intended). Some negative hilarity later, I checked and all of the info bars had all actually taken on the shortened qualities mentioned before.

Being in extreme violation of what I consider aesthetically pleasing on a modern computer (it was in between refined in a modern sense and raw-code no-extra-graphics-added style, that when put together just looked outdated to me), I went back to accessibility to change it, without using the command line (we're out of that section of the story). I set it to display in the larger font, and then it froze again. Cursing my learning flat line, I exited and found that not only were the bars the same size as before, but all other fonts associated with the system were now large. I almost tried to find the factory reset for the system, and then remembered my good, simple friend, the properties under right clicking. After setting the font size back to normal in Accessibility (it would merrily do what it was told, while freezing), I went there and checked the display properties. There were none listed that accounted for the short display; however, after reaffirming my preference for the XP style, it went back to that. Believing there would be a cautionary tale in there somewhere, I hurried over to Blogger to post about my exciting journey.

When I arrived here, I started typing and when referring to the Dummies book, I accidentally threw up the source code for the page, forgetting that Blogger has no such underline shortcut (being Ctrl-U, for people without PCs and who don't know). That... is the conclusion to today's dose of inane and minor technical mishaps. Though our family is leaving tomorrow for Ottawa, where presumably there won't likely be much Internet access (a tenet of our trips), I believe I've learned something important having to do with using more time. That would be to make my trips through my computer much more thorough and random next time I do it; That would leave me with more to write about. In separate posts, with their own parts... just like the good old days, when I didn't only have that material, I was compelled to seek it because not finding it meant losing marks. This time, I'll do it for a reason that I love but usually ignore. The reason being because I can.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Michael Nielsen Interview

Recently, I had to do an interview of someone who was on, or had been on, a similar career path to the one we want to pursue (being in grade 10, there's some growing up left to do, but it doesn't feel right to say 'when we grow up'). I've been thinking theoretical physicist as of late (have I mentioned that before?) and I was hoping to interview someone who's... in theoretical physics. At first, it seemed like a hopeless journey; how could I reach someone who's in physics and actually convince them to do an interview? I didn't even know where to start to find a physicist, unless one counts asking my dad. Of course, he said something along the lines of 'Michael Nielsen! He was a physicist and is now writing on the future of science as a whole. He's famous and his career path is extremely relevant.' My curiosity was piqued.


On Tue, 2 Dec 2008, Sam D wrote:

1. I hear various things from time to time about the demographics across scientific disciplines (while watching physics, mostly), and if one really wants to see them, statistics are readily available online. These statistics have a tendency to change though, and therein lies a lack of solid information (considering the future hasn't happened yet, and sociology is far from perfected), but enough speculation to go around. What are your thoughts about demographic change in the next ten or twenty years?

There are many demographic changes going on in physics. Some of the dimensions along which change are occurring includes gender, nationality, and age. (And, of course, there are many others). All of these are fascinating, and have potentially huge implications.

One that I find particularly interesting is the growing internationalization of physics and more generally science. It used to be that do cutting-edge work there was a huge advantage to being in one of the richest countries (e.g., Canada or the US), preferably at a major research University. Although there are still big advantages to that, it's becoming increasingly possible to get involved from anywhere in the world.

For example, projects like MIT's Open Courseware and Rice University's Connexions make high-quality University-level educational materials available for free to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Other initiatives are making it possible for people anywhere to keep up with (and, in some cases, become involved in) the latest research. I don't know what the long-term consequences of this shift will be, but it seems very important, and it seems like this will be a major change over the ten to twenty years that you talk about.

2. Science fiction, being imagination often having no association with actual science, is inherently based on the imaginations of people that, well, write imaginative pieces for money. Through my logic, this inherently leads to very interesting ideas, if still often not founded on reality. How many physicists, roughly, look into the ideas presented by authors? Among those physicists, (if there are any,) how often would they, on average look into these fancies?

I don't know. A lot of my physicist friends read science fiction, but I've never asked any if it's had a direct impact on their science, and so I don't know. I don't recall it ever having a direct impact on my science, but it's certainly had a major impact on what sorts of things I find interesting in science, and more generally. I believe the futurist Peter Schwartz once commented that science fiction writers can actually change the future, because they influence what the next generation of scientists will dream about. That seems about right to me.

3. Besides writing a book in its promotion, adopting it personally, and possibly talking about it to people in general, are there other ways that you plan on marketing, promoting, and otherwise helping along the adoption of Web 2.0? What would you suggest to others to help its proliferation?

On the first part of your question, I'm still trying to figure that out myself. I view the book as part of a much bigger project (not just my project, but one shared among many) of helping scientists really take full advantage of online tools. I have a lot of ideas about how to do that, but I'm still pretty preoccupied finishing off the writing of my book, and so I won't make a concrete decision about what's next until I'm near being done with the book.

Your second question really depends on who is involved: different people can do different things, and so I'd suggest different things to different people. One thing I think everyone interested in science online should be doing, though, is using at least some of the tools that are available (e.g., blogs, or wikis, or twitter, or whatever they like). I know of a few people who write papers about this stuff, but don't actually really use it themselves.

4. I've been told, through fiction and forums, that Occam's Razor weighs strongly when comparing theories that seem pretty much as strong as another, but roughly how seriously is it really used, in your experience?

I don't like the way Occam's Razor is often mentioned. It's very true that simplicity is a good _heuristic_ to use when trying to solve hard problems: if you have a very simple idea that seems to solve a lot of problems that previously puzzled you, it seems to be the case that it's usually (but not always) better than a more complex idea. But that's all it is: a good heuristic.

5. Among the questions generic to the extreme, I find this one still begs to be asked. What are your thoughts of job competition in ten or fifteen years for students wishing to enter theoretical physics?

It's very, very difficult to get a good job as a theoretical physicist, and I don't see that changing much. Many people start training to be theoretical physicsts, but very few end up with full-time work as theoretical physicists.

6. Ok, let's imagine that the open science approach has come around in about 15 or 20 years, if it takes that long (or is realized that quickly). Do you have any idea what the distant future will hold? What the step after the next might involve? Would you change your answer if this scenario were to take place in 50 years? If so, how might you change it?

Part of the beauty of open science is that it should accelerate the rate of discovery across all fields. This has an interesting consequence, though: it makes prediction harder. I do think that the possibility of developing a general-purpose artificial intelligence (which open science may help) is a pretty amazing one, albeit also somewhat scary.

Hope those answers are of help to you,


Michael Nielsen

Home: http://michaelnielsen.org/
Blog: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog
del.icio.us: http://del.icio.us/nielsen


On Tue, 2 Dec 2008, Sam D wrote:

Following q1: Does knowledge of various languages (for me, English, French and Spanish) affect entry into and the practice of physics? Also, considering the development of services that allow people to use the Internet to have meetings with people in other places, how often are scientists still travelling for them, and do you expect this to change?

At present, knowledge of English is very common among scientists the world over, and more or less seems to serve as a de facto language. It seems likely that in the future other languages will grow in importance - if India or China were to become the dominant scientific country, for example.

Following q5: Do you see any other shifts happening in employment for other physical fields, or do they all seem to be as the theoretical branch is: extremely competitive if one is pursuing exactly what they were taught?

I expect that most scientific fields will remain extremely competitive if you want to get a full-time job doing basic research, or as an academic in those areas.

Thanks again for answering these questions so quickly. Also, in forums I'd seen Occam's Razor used from time to time by people who considered it a very important scientific tool, and I wasn't sure how seriously they were to be taken, if at all. Once more, it's a huge help to me that I got these today, and I'm grateful.

On Occam's razor, please don't take my word for it. I'm just one person, and other people may have different ideas. The question you have to make up your own mind about is how sensible you think Occam's razor is, in each of its different forms - people tend to wield it in slightly different ways.

Let me give you an example, though, of why I don't personally think it's such a good idea to accept Occam's Razor in its strongest forms. In the 1940s Richard Feynman developed his own formulation of quantum mechanics, the so-called path integral formulation. It was in some sense "equivalent" to the standard formulation, but appears quite different. In many ways, it's actually much more complex than the standard formulation. Should we therefore reject it, on the basis of Occam's Razor? Well, several decades later, 't Hooft and Veltman proved a major result about certain quantum field theories using the path integral approach to quantum mechanics, a result that other people hadn't been able to obtain using the standard approach. They later won the Nobel Prize, in part for this work. Obviously, it's a good thing that 't Hooft and Veltman had this tool in their arsenal of ways to attack the problem, even if it's in many ways more complex than the standard tools.

Hope that's all of help.



Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today, I add some long-awaited images from even my remotest of fans. The old promise for the ecosystem project from grade 7 is finally being fulfilled... behold! The fruits of my labour!

For all those that don't remember, the project's intent was to have snails and a plant that sustained them. Things... did not go as planned. The algae was also once green, but when I moved it from beside the window to on an outside table, it went brown in a hurry. Right now, it's frozen solid. I'll be out soon for a picture to compare this to, and then I'll take it back inside and see if something's survived after the horrors the life in here' s gone through.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not much on my mind, and the LHC is still broken.

The title may very well say it all. My checks for how the LHC is doing right now have been cursory, but what seems to be very obvious is that there isn't much to say right now. The LHC is broken, and it will be fixed eventually. What exciting and detailed news. Basically, there won't be much to discuss and argue about for a little while, so I really have to come up with something new, if I want to keep my blogging hat on.

Two things I can think of, that are of note, right now: I've been following several nerd webcomics. I don't know if there's such thing as a non-nerd webcomic, or at least one that's successful. Second, CotFSM hate mail. I feel so bad drawing amusement from reading it, and yet... I can't say I don't want to go back and read just a bit more... For anyone who doesn't know what that is yet, check out http://www.venganza.org/ and have fun.

Ok... while writing that paragraph, I went back and read more hate mail. There is a decent amount of concerned criticism, depending on how you view it. In fact, if you're a huge fan of the word 'fuck' and think it can solve all of life's problems, then most of the section probably sounds perfectly valid. I doubt the immortal god-creator of xkcd would usually be right in this comic, because it probably needs the user to become enlightened pretty much as it's read. Or maybe having something read back to one does truly open their mind to what comes out of it and into the net. I love those 'what ifs' brought up in xkcd, because I'm interested in almost every single one. Anyway, here's the link to the one I'm talking about: http://xkcd.com/481/

That is all for now... or is it?

That's what She said!

Monday, October 13, 2008

LHC being broken, need new subject.

This blog has had very little to do with greater areas of physics and more... just the LHC. Now that it's down for a while, I've been forced to search for something else to write about, but I eventually came up with something. Not that it took me this long, that was just me being lazy. I've heard of alternate projects that take aim at more or less the same questions as the LHC, but they approach things differently and with a lot less money and resources. If any of them turn out more interesting results, well, I've already mentioned several times that the LHC has all kinds of dignity and respect to lose for CERN, but we're still trying to observe things very closely we only guess at in theory. Once more, even if we find the most mundane possible results (defined differently among different people anyway), it will still be at least minimally enlightening.

Here are a few project pages I've found so far:



And a gargantuan pdf that probably has a lot of useful information:


Admittedly, these are from Google. Still, for now that's the method I'm using to find these other experiments; I have to dig up the names of ones I heard about without searching, and I might have them next post. If I can find them.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Defrosting Pizza

This actually does have something to do with the LHC, as has everything I've posted in the last while. Check http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=how-long-would-it-take-the-lhc-to-d-2008-09-10 for more information on the approximate time the LHC could take to defrost a pizza. Of course, not only would the energy not spread across the pizza, but if it did it would happen so quickly that the pizza would form a superheated outer shell of something definitely not edible any more. The inside would still be frozen, and maybe there would be a microscopically thin layer that got just little enough heat to not be altered on a molecular level (at least), but enough not to be frozen any more. Any way one looks at it, it's pretty epic.

In more serious LHC news, part of the cooling system broke. According to another article in SA, it was probably due to some faulty wiring that overheated. I don't think any of the workers for the LHC are going to raise their hands when they ask who was working on that part.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I need to check the external links more.



I went further down in the LHC's defence, and found that Dr. Roessler hadn't only been addressed, but directly attacked. Several times. From what I can draw, he's using only a small part of general relativity that, though isn't disproven here, doesn't make sense or govern the universe on its own. Are people taking pot shots at CERN just because they feel like it?

On another note, I have a science project from grade 7 that has made an interesting development recently. It's an ecosystem in a jar, but the planned model (snails and a plant) failed immediately and was entirely destroyed a year and a half ago (it's about two and a half years old). Still, algae persisted where the plant had died, and a few months ago I saw a small swarm of very small, swimming... things. I haven't seen them since, but recently I left the jar in the full sun (it stays indoors, by a window, taking some light from the sun). It was a hot day, and it started to turn brownish. Has the surface life been killed? I don't want to closely examine (or even open) the environment, because it's had all that isolation from the world since it was made (it actually seems to have dropped a hundred millilitres or so over the years). I'll have a picture soon, maybe some different shots, angles and lighting for anyone who wants a look.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It goes on, and on, and on, and ooooon!

http://www.wissensnavigator.com/documents/spiritualottoeroessler.pdf vs. http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html

Currently, the former is more specific. Independent scientists deserve credit as well, and Roessler sounds more specific than CERN right now. I'm not entirely satisfied if CERN goes ahead and turns something on when a rebellious yet experienced scientist shows concern expressed not only without lavish use of capital letters, but eloquently. Of course, they've parried sane-sounding arguments before, but now they have more coming. I now implore CERN not to ignore arguments that are more advanced than its own; I await a counter as eagerly as an attack, and if you're really just wrong, well I advise-- er...

Well, that would take at least a big slice of the cake for most expensive mistakes of all time. CERN would pretty much be discredited, wrecked and dissolve with a lot of fuss.

I'm not known to be a smooth talker.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vacation ending, LHC being interesting

I got back from camp a few days ago. That meant many things, among them being able to edit the blog once more. Since the beginning of the summer I've been inordinately interested in the LHC, especially because the aim is to at very least make a groundbreaking discovery in physics. I don't know about the feelings of the scientists themselves and how much they want to know at a bare minimum for their investment, but pretty much any conceivable result would weigh heavily on or entirely change the way we forge into this unknown. The LHC is built, and is likely to go into operation this year.

Of course, I had to see what the opposition was saying. http://www.lhcdefense.org/lhc_risks.php is among the primary opponents to the LHC's operation due to theorized danger to our existence. I went back on, and found the arguments were very effective. A year ago. CERN's current position at http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html has rebukes that are all at least fairly effective against the criticisms, provided they aren't exaggerating or lying outright. I'll be checking other sites later, as there is bound to be someone on the internet who has more reasonable-sounding counters that are up to date. It is actually a matter of personal opinion to anyone without serious scientific knowledge, but it very strongly appears as if Wagner stopped paying attention to CERN's arguments a while ago, or is simply satisfied with what looks like an argument that has been stripped bare when going back to the opponent's words. I have yet to review more of what the experts he checked are saying, but in that part he takes CERN's 2003 position on safety. The one that was superceded by the LSAG report of this year.

Surely this just sounds like just another doomsday argument to people outside physics circles (and even inside a few), but considering this could change what's taught throughout high school science, I'm surprised pretty much no one knows about it at mine. I guess I don't know just how much nerdiness radiates from every orifice in my body.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Back, and then leaving.

I think I'll make another post. Me and my family are then leaving, going to a cottage in Quebec with no Internet access. I want to give everyone who may have read this blog at some point an apology for not continuing much, though I do have some thoughts for content. My previous post, having and essay I'd previously written about the similarities and differences in between the universe of Cat's Cradle and CERN with the LHC, drew comments. This is a rare and exciting event for me. I received fully two thirds of all comments that I have from that post. I now have... three comments. That aside, I've known what I would do next for a while, which is now to elaborate on the previous post.

Two main points were made clear in the last comments: one, I had no idea what I was talking about, and two, the LHC would doom us all. The former was, and still is, mostly correct, while the latter is still debated (as the commentators so thoughtfully did). I thought I would resume where I left off by checking the CERN site again, to refresh my memory. What I got was a revised defence. When I had last checked, around a month ago, the site had an incomplete defence to merely two of the warnings of critics. They now display a revised defence to all of the attacks I've seen from a cursory glance around the Internet. See http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html for the aforementioned revised defence. The main area that I like about this is the MBH counter, the most vocal attack (from what I can tell). Instead of relying entirely on Hawking radiation, as critics would expect, they called upon the enormous gravitational force of neutron stars and white dwarves as being strong enough to theoretically stop black holes of a dangerously charged nature from passing through them at relativistic speeds, and yet they still exist. Though I don't know if the calculations are actually sound (even if this sounds like crunching numbers in a realm we already understand), I like the elegance with which they countered the critics. When I return from our wonderful little rented place in idyllic rural Quebec, I'll get a post ready about the glaringly neglected offence that has almost certainly found its way around CERN's current rebuttals.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

General science for now (with an english twist!)

In this blog, for now, I think I'll just write about some things I find in the general scientific community (I'm not concerned right now; Phoenix is still fairly fresh and the LHC is around the corner). For now, I've got a presentation here that I wrote for my English class exam presentation. I never got around to editing it thoroughly, I did most of that on the stand. However, I was pleased with this speech not necessarily for its quality but for the topic. I had to relate a symbol from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle to something in the real world, and it took me a while to find something suitable and that I thought was original enough. It turned out that most people did dictators, land disputes, or feminism (I don't have anything against these topics and find them important to cover thoroughly, but in a class of around 25 people each of these got around 5-7 people). The moment it fully hit me that no one did something that was remotely related to science, I had to stifle a laugh (lest I lose gratuitous amounts of marks for interrupting and seemingly making fun of someone). The science in this only has a few sources behind it, and the science itself is deeply theoretical, but I'm silently begging my teacher to shower me with marks not for thinking outside the box, but stepping outside, getting miserably lost, and then running in random directions for a while before making camp somewhere no one's ever heard of a polygon with four equal sides and 90 degree angles.


Ice-Nine and the General Forge and Foundry Company
Related to Strange Matter and CERN

Samuel Dupuis

Hello, for all those here who don't know my name it's Samuel Dupuis, and I'll be exploring a spontaneous connection between the ice-nine of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and strange matter that could be produced at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). I'll also go into differences between the organization CERN and the fictional General Forge and Foundry from the novel. First, however, I'll give a brief overview of what I've found about CERN, the LHC and strange matter.
CERN is an international organization for the pure research of fundamental physics comprised mainly of European countries, with some other countries and organizations having privileges as observers of all activities. The aim of CERN is only that of plumbing the mysteries of fundamental physics. CERN was established in 1954 as a revival of European science post-WWII. Two Nobel prizes have been won by employees of CERN with inventions in observation at such small scales, and explaining the weak interaction, responsible for radioactive decay. Their current project, hoped to break such new ground in our understanding of the universe, is the LHC. Thousands of scientists representing numerous other nations, universities, and other organizations have worked on the various LHC detector components and the LHC itself.
Today, there are people who think that the experiments at the LHC are capable of destroying the Earth. There are two of these speculated kinds of disasters: micro black holes and strangelets, or strange matter. Micro black holes aren’t as relevant here, but have also been dismissed by CERN as not being a threat (the black hole would disintegrate). Strange matter, however, bears eerie resemblance in its potential to ice-nine. Strange matter, for this presentation, is another type of basic matter. It's thought that once it’s produced it will remain stable enough to interact with regular matter and introduce strange stability. Strangeness would propagate throughout all nearby regular matter, i.e. the Earth. This is somewhat less forgiving than the total water freeze of Vonnegut's imagination, because it would turn absolutely everything into strange matter without two notable elements: a storm, and survivors.
This ideology isn't home to many members, at least on the Internet. The scientist’s counter looks at a few other points. First, strange matter is still theoretical, and the circumstances could be missed anyway. Next, strange matter would be charged as regular matter: Positively, making them repel. Finally, strange matter would be very unstable in small amounts. While busy getting repelled by normal matter, it would just decay back into energy and regular matter. They're also fairly sure cosmic rays have satisfied these conditions countless times, and thus creating the matter if it does exist. Considering the universe is still here, they're sure strange matter won't be problematic.
Ice-nine was known to be dangerous by Felix Hoenikker, and no one ever denied its potential. Strange matter diverges here in that it's thought by most scientists that the situation is safe. Nobody ever asked for the creation of strangelets either; they may just show up in the pursuit of knowledge. If they wind up ending life on Earth and its previous state of existence, it would be the fault of the scientific masses and not of a few individuals. CERN as a whole is aware of the project, representing tons of awareness, whereas the General Forge and Foundry didn't really know about ice-nine, mostly because it was hidden from everyone.
CERN and General Forge and Foundry aren't very similar overall, but their goals are still the same: knowledge of the universe, and not with the coercion of business. They're both large groups of scientists racking their brains in the search for scientific truth. They also both seem to garner mixed reviews from the public. GFF’s scientific values are attacked by Vonnegut himself, but in that universe the people who work for the scientists seem to like them. CERN has drawn fire for the danger some people are convinced exists, but has been honored with prizes and widespread interest on an international level, as many non-member states may still take part. They diverge when CERN becomes larger, has many resources with it, and needs them to achieve results. GFF is based in a single country and is home to a scientist who could break new ground in physics with things you would find at a dollar store. Neither is very thoroughly understood by much of the public, and many people wouldn’t know of them at all, letting them usually carry on without strong media harassment.
It’s by chance that this connection, from fiction to fact, occurred, making it a greater observation and not something forged by either side. If Kurt Vonnegut had written this in the time they had some basic ideas for the LHC going around, he might have made some changes. The important difference here is that strange matter destruction may be continuing on unfounded fear, where as ice-nine didn't get the respect it deserved when it was proven to be dangerous. At the end of these experiments we may just look back upon ice-nine, laugh, and remember that history and the universe aren’t understood vaguely with slight analysis; without a good look, they just aren’t understood at all. This may mean that we shouldn’t get stuck old fears, and that science won’t bite for looking. It could also lead to the ‘weapon potential’ scenario from The Physicists itself, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt. It’s the word of most physicists versus a smaller group and some of the concerned public, and both have been right in history. I’ve still come to think that the LHC is still based on sounder science, and that maybe it’s time to let go of some of our older fear, and forge ahead with our mistakes always in mind.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Awaiting an idea...

So far, my mind hasn't given me any bright ideas about what to do next. I can't say I'm too surprised, since I wasn't originally looking beyond the old project and hadn't thought of anything recently. I'm still interested in space and physics, as well as biology, math, and various other nerdy topics. I could also start blogging obsessively about DotA and FMP experiences, but then I'd get mauled by my parents and there are much better blogs about those. By people who play professionally and I'm not even doing it for school anymore. I don't really know what to blog about that I don't feel has been done before, though when it had to do with school it wasn't really about that to me. Suggestions would be fun from people who come here every so often, and maybe I'll get around to it (if people are interested in my gaming, that's surprising, intriguing, and I'll look into it more). Maybe I'll come up with something in there, or just something totally nonrelated to science (I don't think it's likely, but it's certainly possible).

Keep those comments coming!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Very Foreseeable End: Now.

I don't have much time left in the project. About negative one day. Sorry about the lack of closer warning, but the project is over! My teacher could very well be marking my work now, and looking over everything I've done. The work I've done is, basically, this blog. I can't really think of much to say after a few months of writing here, mostly my musings and mental tangents infused with some serious information. This was usually a short online search, and sometimes info from literature. What I really love about this blog is that I can just lay down everything on my mind and at worst I'll be briefly considered, then ignored. I think I've been able to commit to this fairly well because of it.

Finally, I'd like to thank some people at the end of this project. I thank my family, for looking over my shoulder every so often at what I'm doing. I thank my friends for not laughing when I gave them the link (though I don't know how many of them actually visited...). I give my dad special thanks for actually giving me the idea, prodding me constantly until I posted, and referencing me in his blog to get me started with a few people checking and more priority in Google. Last, but not necessarily least, to all the visitors to this site. Even if it was just a short click and many never came back, thanks for at least checking out the link after a search.

The blog will likely continue, but I don't yet know how. I could go into talking about physics, medicine, a broader view of science, or even stay in space. Whatever the final result is, I'm hoping I'll stay interested. Maybe this blog, with age, will be better maintained... the possibilities are endless. Endless!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another virtually unforseeable question: The End?


The end of the universe is another one of those questions that's fairly fun and/or unnerving to contemplate, depending on how one looks at those things. I'm going with the latter camp, but it's still interesting for me (I had to put something beside unnerving just to make it sound less assertive; I'm not sure exactly who thinks this is the most hilariously funny subject imaginable). There are myriad things that could happen to humanity before the universe makes any serious progression in its lifetime, if said progression ends up noticeable at all. Orders of magnitude are thrown around like... well, I can't think of anything to match how much they're being thrown around. The total stabilization of one system is estimated to take 10^10^26 years. I didn't even want to type out 26 zeros because typing one more or less would add/subtract most of that order of magnitude of orders of magnitude. I don't know how the maker(s) of the theory(ies) would feel about getting it that wrong.

Any possible end of the universe would take orders of magnitude so great relative to studies now just because it would be the culmination of all the other numbers, in a sense. Considering what the Earth faces in the coming centuries, never mind when the sun will unload in the coming billions of years, Earth-born intelligence has some ridiculous obstacles to overcome to be around in 10^50 years (as a number I'm assuming here could only be survived by a sentience if it wouldn't destroy itself and had substantial portions of reality on a leash, at very least). If terrestrial sentience survives the wrath of the sun, I wouldn't actually be surprised if it were hanging on by more than just an outpost on some other planet in the solar system. It could also be completely impossible.

Determining the fate of the universe probably requires a complete understanding of how it works. So far, we've received a lot of feedback that does and doesn't make sense with theories we have right now. Of course, things that don't make sense are just as much part of the universe as things that do, or at least that sounds like a good idea. If dark matter makes up most of the known universe, and if there might be a nonzero cos. constant (or something along those lines), then there is a lot of explaining to do before predictions about what happens next carry some serious weight, even in the theoretical realm. That's basically why I wrote hardly anything about actual end-theory of the page; we don't actually know what most of the universe we even know about is doing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pretending to understand theoretical physics

Space and physics at the fundamental level go hand in hand quite nicely when being studied, because what is seen is enormously complex and varied. Earth's conditions are kept in very tight ranges, and it is only because of that that there is so much life. These ranges are small compared to those of other planets, tiny against all of the objects in the solar system, minuscule alongside those of stars and a mere blink once galaxies start getting involved. Nonetheless, we can still observe these through the minute and safe emissions they give off (farther away these effects are incomprehensibly powerful, but Earth isn't threatened by many of these things). Objects, groups, and various other manifestations of the known universe merrily fire off all sorts of types of radiation, and some reach us. Stars and their cousins in various stages of death and birth give off the most informative photons, while other objects merely have some bounce off of them and a few reach us. These objects, like planets, are far dimmer and can't be seen from far away at all. Then we there are things that are very obvious in less of an understood way, mostly through gravitational effects that leave their marks on innocent photons that are never really allowed to behave in a perfectly Euclidean manner when traveling through spacetime. These are often black holes and dark matter. We're pretty sure black holes are there, there's a singularity in the center of the event horizon, they can spin and be magnetically charged, they have temperature, they give off small amounts of radiation, and they have incredible gravitational pulls. It may never be possible to know what's past the event horizon, and we don't have any reasonable explanation for why singularities are possible and what they are, if that's indeed it. Dark matter is even more mysterious because we don't even know if it exists, it's just the best explanation for massive amounts of unaccounted for gravitational influence. The input we get from these is so enigmatic that one would want to go forth and actually study it all up close, getting information only available close-up, instead of trying to figure out exactly what they are based on how they make other objects move.

Humanity is very closely examining protons that are millions and even billions of years old. If we think we're insignificant, well then let's think about how insignificant one photon is. Countless are examined by your eyes staring at the screen, so how many are given off when a star explodes and lights up more brightly than a galaxy? What exactly happens to photons that strike a surface and aren't reflected is still a mystery to me. They are massless particles, bosons, and are really inherent to there being energy in the electromagnetic form. A photon as a unit is created when the energy is released and destroyed when it's stopped, having no mass. They have properties of waves and particles, and if I were to guess at the order of magnitude of their abundance in the universe, my OoM could very well be off by its own OoM. For now I'll say it's in the order of 10^100 to 10^999. If I'm wrong here, that's worse than the cosmological constant error (I can't remember which one-- the one involving massive embarrassment across the scientific community), except that I'm not a physicist. If they're all destroyed as such, then there are a small fraction of the original number still existing. To go for a billionth of a second or ten billion years in some way or another is a very odd life expectancy, to say the least.

Using these ancient photons and the Earth as our labs, we continue to search for knowledge, even if the last few decades haven't yielded much, new methods of observation may eventually lead to something. Some other infinite-range force would be really useful right about now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Five meteorites? And one insurance company?


This is the page I found this story at, and let's ask about the probability of this event occurring in the form of a Fermi question. First... we hand the question over to someone with more of a grasp on astrophysics than me. The next step is getting them to actually start working on the question without just saying that it's zero. For now I'm going to have to say it's a non-zero probability, speaking if this event were to occur while the Earth is still in about the shape and size it is now, give or take a few percentage points. A meteor shower wouldn't surprise me terribly about this happening, but it would almost certainly take a large and rare one, speaking on the stellar scale here or maybe even in a very small portion of the galaxy. Now, to have five hits in six months occur in the same spot, earns some speculation. Apparently, University of Belgrade experts have confirmed the rocks to be, indeed, meteorites. I haven't found any scrutiny or research about these findings yet. This story hinges on the confirmation of these scientists, and according to Fox at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,349628,00.html , there hasn't been independent confirmation. In fact, the former site will say that the U of B confirmed it flat out, but the latter said that they were only told that by the man, and that no confirmation has come up.

Though I'm sure it's possible and done, I wonder how many people get their houses protected from meteorite strikes around the world. It happens, and the meteorites aren't very friendly with whatever they hit. The Earth is hit with plenty a day, but the vast majority aren't really noticed by us. Every so often a little, visible one might hit and maybe someone will notice. Then the ones that really are decently sized boulders smack the Earth and they don't even have to blow up something valuable, the noise and explosion is usually interesting enough. Meteorites big enough to cause serious damage come down every so often, but not exactly frequently. They don't usually score direct hits on densely populated areas either. It's kind of difficult to discuss meteorite safety in depth for me right now; "How to Avoid Being Stricken by a Meteorite" doesn't look plausible enough right now and if you aren't hit directly, my idea of safety is to move away from ground zero quickly. Now, if one were hit by a meteorite and wounded, that would be a much more complex situation. One probably involving some serious first aid and a speedy trip to the hospital, if that were to occur. The probability of these events is very small, and being subject to the wrath of space rock is about as random as it gets with natural disasters-- of the people who say most accidents aren't accidents, the unfortunate occurrences that aren't accidents will almost invariably involve something that wasn't originally on the planet. With this information, I support the study of potentially dangerous meteor showers approaching and the study of larger, lone meteors that could do much more on their own.

I also support staring out into space every so often, because maybe you'll see something and be very famous the next day. If you have to dive out of the way and your friend gets a video of it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Just sit back, and work like crazy.


I'm pretty sure I've made it clear we don't know much about what we're doing yet. The massive complexity of what we have now (the shuttle) isn't working too well right now. Should we just wait? That's a good question. The thing is, will we be able to advance space technology while not being in space? This is also a good question. One aspect against could be that some form of motivation would be lost by not being in space. People and robots wouldn't actually go into space except for things that we don't already understand in depth and we need at least somewhat (mostly satellite communications and observation). However, trying things out on Earth could very well be a lot cheaper. If we can figure out how to accurately test space apparatus on Earth would probably be far less expensive than sending it into space and then testing it, where we can hardly see a thing. If something went wrong, then we'd be hard-pressed to figure out what that even was. The sheer degree of complexity involved when it comes to working with things that are 10000+ kilometers away and in almost total vacuum is incredible, simply because robots are extremely difficult to observe and repair, while to get a human presence requires super-complex life support just for the people to go, never mind the constraints to maneuvering while in an area with virtually no matter and a highly variable hell storm of cosmic radiation. If experimenting in an Earthbound environment is tricky because we have to simulate extremely low gravity and near-complete vacuum with background radiation is expensive, in addition to the subject of experiment having to monitor itself where it cannot take intervention from us. Maybe backing out temporarily is something worth considering, but until we can make the Earth a viable area of experiment, space is the only available option. Now, if only we had a better idea of how gravity worked, and how to mess with it...

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Phoenix

Phoenix is well on its way to Mars. This site, http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/mission.php, talks about the mission itself, mostly being a lineup of credits from some of the most important (or at least highly ranking) people. The site also details organizations and other contributors to the project, and this time there's actually a serious Canadian contribution. Information on landing site and broad objectives are detailed. So what exactly is there to find on Mars? Hopefully we'll figure that out.

The Viking missions have already been there, though they didn't find much. There are some interesting finds (such as methane, deposits, soil systems, and frozen water) that can suggest the presence of liquid water or life, but it isn't as if they couldn't have been caused by other things, as critics to these theories have noted. With a very low atmospheric pressure relative to Earth's, combined with very low temperatures and the fact that we're having one hell of a time finding visible, liquid water that didn't just fizzle into gas or freeze, life won't be straightforward to find, if it's there. What happens if this mission fails to find life, anyway? That's a question just like if it does pretty much assert that there is, in fact, some form of life, ending that debate. If there's more inconclusive evidence, then will there be another Phoenix mission? Meta-Phoenix? Imagine what would happen if we were to establish permanent residence on Mars and find, after many expensive failures, that there was no life on Mars. Alternatively, it would give us some faith in pursuing such goals if life was found that wouldn't be passive to our serious invasion. If we do find something like life on Mars, will it have all the traditional characteristics of life on Earth, or at least all of the fundamental ones? Might this theoretical life prove to behave as life, but have no genetic code as we know it, or no cellular structure?

In the end, I don't think that, relative to our capabilities, finding life on Mars would have been such an epic and consuming search compared to where we could have had to go, in this scenario. Other solar planets, masses, and beyond are massively more difficult to reach than Mars, even with just robots, as I've repeated incessantly. May the next question be: is there life outside of our solar system? Outside groupings of stars we're in, our area of the galaxy, the galaxy itself, our group, etc? I don't know what would lead the universe to create life restricted in some odd way to a star cluster, but we really don't know yet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Beyond Extremely Dangerous...

Going into the atmosphere at this point carries risks, but people shouldn't die too often. Going further out gets progressively more dangerous, as the distance to bailing out gets longer and some systems more systems would have to work, for longer, to get a vessel in trouble back to Earth and then land safely. The Moon hasn't happened in a while, but I'm not assured that another mission would meet safety and reliability standards for most people today. We haven't sent people further than that. Mars has weather that might not have been currently insurmountable, if not for the fact that we sometimes don't get satellites that far simply in the void, and then the aforementioned weather is made much more problematic by extreme lack of hospitality (food, unfrozen water, heat). Getting further out in the solar system is even more annoying and then I have to mention going beyond it. That would be interstellar space; with extremely little matter in it and light years to cross in order to find another star, leaving looks a lot like space launch did before aviation.

When we get into the issues of even more dangerous things, like intergalactic voids and black holes, it doesn't seem too fearful to say that maybe those things will sit merrily in theory while humanity concerns itself with the possible. That doesn't get us anywhere. We don't claim to know much about the universe. It may very well be that we'll find something(s) that would allow such travel that we've imagined, and been stumped by. Stations and self-sustaining colonies are interesting theories, but they still have to assume we have technologies we don't have now. I have a saying for this I made up just now: browsing for a future. Humanity is looking around at some things it might be able to pull off, then works on a few of them. In history, things we find weren't in the booklet. They don't ever seem to be in the damn booklet that is our imagination. That isn't entirely true, there are discoveries that have to do with where we want to go. Accidents and wonderfully epic failures usually aren't in the booklet. Thanks, Mr. Observation. Messing up our perfectly conceived universe. At least you make it a bit easier to find Ms. Reality. From step by step to a fell swoop/a few fell swoops, we may yet figure out the hazards of space, and travelling safely.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adapted Technology


When I searched 'space inventions' on the Internet, I got a section of the kids zone of the NASA site. Initially I was wondering if I would find anything useful, but there is in fact interesting info over there on what has been adapted from space. Things on Earth based on space research is broad, as I have been led to believe, but what I find really odd is why so many technologies here are based on innovations made for space travel. These are quite obviously based on problems that would usually be mission and life threatening in space. For example, let's take satellite dishes. These, as seen in the site, were used for correctly interpreting noise when data was transmitted. Here, this would be needed for making some forms of wireless communication clearer, like on a TV when images are being sent at a constant rate. Noisy pictures and transmissions could make an incredibly expensive mission fail on account of the information being imprecise or just useless. We also use systematic redundancy in emergency equipment. As here, when emergencies rely on equipment that won't malfunction easily, space exploration requires systems that will not only stay intact in the event of a beating, but another equally tough backup has to be somewhere else and kick in if primary systems fail. A final example, plastics used as cheap, solid, and versatile materials were developed in space for dependable structures that weren't expensive and yet still reliable. Such plastics are now used often for containers of many sorts. In space, circuits were printed onto these plastics, provided with an effective base. Still, why weren't some of these things thought of on Earth, where the uses for all of these are invaluable?

Taking the expression that necessity is the mother of invention, it makes sense here. Though some of these inventions here are even saving lives, they aren't an absolute necessity to existing on this planet. They are all requisite, like others such as advanced imaging, wireless equipment and aerodynamic design on a smaller level for a successful and productive mission. Even if they aren't all completely necessary, it's reasonable to say some other things rode on the wave of discovery of space technology. This is possibly the greatest immediate benefit of space; we come up with technology that's excellent here, but would take a long time to come up with without pushing ourselves and finding it through a direct problem in space. If we were to find all those things easily just by thinking of them without space it would be great, but it doesn't look like such numerous, similar realizations come up without some sort of other problem we try to solve.

In other news, for all those getting time off due to spring break, it's over now. Depressing as it may be, another day or two off is coming up due to Easter. Thank you March! I hope everyone had a nice break (or just a nice week like any other), I'll be waiting through April and May for the part of summer with a lot of time off in it. Thanks for reading (as I always wish, if I don't ever actually write it...)!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bio Energy? (In Space!)


I thought this looked very intriguing. Not only here did they have ideas for using very self-sustaining biological ideas here, there were a good number. Let's see... using microorganisms that generate current with sugar, doing the same with waste and pollution products (biological and industrial, take your pick!), protein surfaces that could produce some combination of power from radiation and kinetic sources, and more bacteria that could take the waste of other energy producing bacteria in a cascading effect. Power aside, some algae in the process could take waste CO2 and give oxygen! These sources alone would run out at a point, and the effectiveness awaits testing. However, even if it isn't massively efficient, we can modify the bacteria or even chose other candidates as we please to see if anything better is available. Even using these on a short trip would conserve a decent amount of resources for life support when in spacecraft. Innovative ideas like this work sometimes, check it out!

Also, happy spring break! In addition, I forgot a few months ago... happy winter holidays. There, I finally said it. To all the people who come here, have a nice break, I'm going to assume that if you come here you deserve it :).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Privitization and More Ownership

"...departments and agencies shall: ...

-Continue to include and increase U.S. private sector participation in the design and development of United States Government space systems and infrastructures;

-Refrain from conducting activities that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety;

-Ensure that United States Government space activities, technology, and infrastructure are made available for private use on a reimbursable, non-interference basis to the maximum practical extent, consistent with national security..."


Of course, why would a country like the United States seriously restrict space commercialization? This ties deeply into the previous idea of who owns space anyway, but this starts to go into companies, their ties to countries, and how those relations work. Sovereignty over space can be hotly disputed, but large economic powers like the U.S. can unleash the might of capitalism all over space and claim it has basically nothing to do with them! Through a subtle system of regular taxation and piggybacking, the benefits would have enormous potential, keeping loose laws would draw the business to the States, and the economy would have a new source! Brilliant! Still, other countries could do the same. The next major space breakthrough could happen anywhere, seeing as the EU, Japan, China, India, and friends are all working towards space observation and advancement too. This is still a major unresolved factor (or unresolved factors) of who gains power in space first, if it even happens. It could happen that a country or a private entity would gain new access, and this would seriously influence how the whole story would play out. The U.S. is saying that they will make working in space fairly straightforward, in essence, don't threaten the people and the people won't threaten you. The exploiting of space can happen fairly easily here in the United States.

This is probably the conclusion of my analysis of the U.S.' space policy, but I've given it already three installments. This fairly substantial attention, I believe, is well justified, because of their current status as an economic superpower. As I have said before, their influence, if different in decades to come, will likely still be felt. Policy will almost certainly morph dramatically when capabilities improve as such (policy, after all, is supposed to be based on reality, which is usually different than expectations), meaning that the current ideas will be very different at the time and possibly entirely different concepts will emerge, smaller areas could be magnified intensely with what comes next. My opinion is that for the initial stages of space commercialization, a watchful eye should be kept on activities, especially where people are directly involved with getting farther from earth. However, for the industries to bloom, some liberties will likely be needed. I eagerly anticipate the budding ideas that look into the short term, for the future gets exponentially fuzzier the farther out we go. Sticking closer to the present can see more planned discoveries, the little steps that are more likely to occur as planned.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Ownership of Space

The title is somewhat misleading, in that it stands for what is more or less not to the document:

"The United States rejects any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space or celestial bodies, or any portion thereof, and rejects any limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in an acquire data from space."

-Fas.org, U.S. National Space Policy

There doesn't appear to be any section in the policy to suggest that the U.S. would disallow themselves from taking control of aspects of space, as the assumption would be that the U.S. wouldn't and thus shouldn't mention it, or they would deem themselves empowered to seize aspects of space to fight... whichever war that may be plaguing the world at any time. Of course... how will space (likely the celestial bodies) be shared among humanity in research? With spatial commercialization, as well as war, establishing how research entities far beyond Earth's atmosphere function and who would be in charge of it. I theorize the UN or a similar power with the idea of representing Earth as a whole would be in charge of it, but a solution that simple would be miraculous in the event it held out in the long run. If we figure out how to efficiently colonize, or simply establish a colony, regardless of the initial cost, that has the capability of eventually producing its worth, then there's doubtless going to be debate about the power structure out there. It might not be a bad idea for such establishments to become self-governing, if not self-sufficient for awhile, in the event of a permanent presence.

In the end, I believe that there will be ownership issues to sort out that will likely come to be in the long-term, if it comes to be at all. Establishment of elsewhere in space will have politics tied in, but in what way may or may not be a total mystery from the thoughts at the present. One of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, had very interesting scenarios in his trilogy of Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, and especially the more politically focussed and final The Last Colony. In these books, humanity and its numerous colonies are all tightly governed by a greater power, the Colonial Union. The CU is technically all-powerful within humanity, as it is truly the power controlling the links to all colonies. They control communications, as well as having the definitive Department of Colonization (DoC) and the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF). Alltogether, the CU has total control of humanity in space matters (which is most of what concerns humanity, what with there being hundreds of other major sentient, space-faring races, many of which are actively at war with humanity). The CU, being all-controlling, has very important ups and downs. Some of the negatives include vice-like grip on information flow and massive secrecy, extremely aggressive space diplomacy, constant lying about greater intentions in space, non-democratic system, etc. Positives, however, include greater coordination of humanity's power as a result of being the sole power (no internal wars occur on an interplanetary scale, technology is for the most part freely circulating, etc). These books include massively advanced technology, including the ability to use multiple universes to instantaneously travel from one place to another, actually transferring conciousness from one body to another, nanotechnology that can assemble into incredible constructs extemely quickly, and the like. So given advances humanity may never have, how would we manage the power?

Monday, February 18, 2008

United States 2006 Policy: Scope


Space policy of various powers could easily be critical building blocks of any sort of unified space program in the future. In my search for such policies, I first found what the U.S. had to say in 2006. Considering my deep-space outlook (think edge of the known universe; kiloparsecs), I was mildly annoyed yet not really surprised to read this in the "Goals" section:

"Implement and sustain an innovative human and robotic exploration program with the objective of extending human presence across the solar system."

-Fas.org, U.S. National Space Policy

Solar system? That's only one star! One star with only a handful of objects we give the 'dignity' of being called planets! Of course, we hardly know how blow a craft out to Pluto and get mere information back, never mind pushing the stakes up a few orders of magnitude and going off to the nearest star. This doesn't sound promising. With policy for recent times, the whole idea of going into space that we understand mostly in theory make it's way mostly into fantastical musings, like my own. Is that where they'll stay? I believe that step by step, we may yet reach beyond the boundaries of this star system, and to use something I've practically singlehandedly clichéd, to test the boundaries of beyond with matter we send to gather, and maybe even retrieve...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Space Policy in the Twenty First Century: War

War affects a lot of things, including... space. However, space is one of the things that affects war back. In the days of the Cold War, the war was primarily affecting space, and the race for the moon in turn affected how people looked at the war and the powers fighting it. This went back and made its mark on the war. The Cold War was greatly a war of internal stability too. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had to deal with raging problems of one kind or another at home, and it was ultimately the latter that couldn't deal with the problems it was coughing up and dissolved. Though the mission to the Moon, the previous, and the later missions didn't culminate in weapons and combat, they had the potential for incredible power. Though not used to nearly the fullest extent, these technologies have come to fruition. That being, there isn't much justification for using such power today. The consequences for launching an ICBM these days would be fierce, to put it very lightly. Still, defences against space-based offenses are researched and used (orbital defence systems). Back in the Cold War, there was still more direction. The book discussed the drive of Apollo, and how such motivation and money could possibly never be found again in space. That was the time when the war against communism drove America to those kinds of expenditures, but that's been over for awhile. I don't see the faintest sign or omen of a space race against Al-Qaeda.

I don't doubt that going much farther in space will require virtual world peace. Every power that has even a shred of usable resources and/or can cause chaos would need to be in on the program, or just not interrupt. A program could be anything previously mentioned, such as a mission to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto... and simply further...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Space Policy in the 21st Century (Lambright): Part 1

I was very fortunate when my dad handed me this book. Admittedly, he's found most of the material, and I've really been writing about what I read. I barely know where to look, be he's fixing that. Recently he gave me this book and told me that I really shouldn't lose this book. I've only read a small part of it, but I too now see it has much to tell me and anyone who would read it about how people think about space.

There are three underlying (and often overlying) goals in space that remain fairly constant that the book brought up: commercialization, science, and human exploration. The first is fairly well established in the form of satellite communication. Though that's the only major component that has any legs yet, it's still massive and has revolutionized how we send information across the planet. However, there isn't much else in the way of humanity's personal presence (the I.S.S. is first of all property of governments, and it's hardly a solid, permanent, bustling place). This goes into people actually being in space. Though there are plans for space tourism, a crewed mission to Mars doesn't have the technological strength to get there, have someone take a step, and fly back off. The shuttle is aging, and what can we do to replace it? Though an enduring design, we need something more efficiant. Maybe a new design for a ship, or maybe a new method of safely moving an object from the Earth would solve questions of efficiancy and safety, or just improve our current situation. One of the goals of the project is to find what we're working on right now for human spaceflight, but all I've seen so far is satellites and trips into low-G.

The last thought here is science. This looks like a completely different story. Thought it obviously hasn't gone far in getting people out into the void and has had some serious success in satellites and even materials develloped in space that we use on earth, the science behind it all is going mad with findings. We cannot go out and even examine a black hole with a robotic scout, nor can we send one to draw information from other stars, or floating space objects that could be rocks, gaseous masses, forms of dead star, or the great undefined forces that continue to puzzle us. However, we know they're there. We have seen these things, and we know what some of them are made of (namely stars, the ones that are on fire) by breaking down the spectrum of colours emitted. We 'see' black holes by the lack of any light escaping, and the trajectories of surrounding objects. We see galaxies as massive areas of illumination, we see supernovas when they occur, as the usual occurance (as far as we know) is violent enough to give off the light of a galaxy. We can observe other forms of radiation given off by such violent events, forming models of what we think happened. On the very deeply theoretical level, there are forces we don't understand at work, which is collectively referred to as 'dark matter'. Dark matter accounts for much more than normal matter, from what we can draw, and we only know it functions in ways that require us to rethink physics. Though much of this science doesn't do much for us down here, it's so fascinating many people can't take their eyes off of it. There's also speculation that some day we'll be hit by a meteor. Through several false alerts from objects that look threatening, it's still nice to know we'll see it coming. Through observing other celestial bodies we even know fairly well what the earth is doing around the Sun and where all the other planets are, their trajectories, etc. Withough actively doing much staring into the universe remains my funnest roller-coster ride of space talk.

Going into the book, I know that we the humans of Earth have our hands full trying not to annihilate ourselves. How many people care right now? Can we still afford to pursue these studies right now or ever?
What are we going to do anyway?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weightless tourism!


We push for space tourism... will we make it? For the millions that some people have payed to get into orbit and float a while, this isn't much. The "Mothership" of the travel looks more like a plane than a command ship, and it basically is. However, it can go fairly close to areas of very low G, and then a rocket can be launched from its centre safely, where it will fly farther out and then dip back to the earth. The plane could also, possibly, provide cheap transport and launching for satellites. So this is a craft that can obviously stand conditions further away from Earth than the average plane and have things launched from it. Will this mean a baby step taken so long ago become not only visited territory, but truly an outer domain of humanity?

The project is scheduled to be ready in two years, and industry almost certainly pounce at such an opportunity. However, will this be done on time? In addition, well... will it work? The plan is only to take a short 'dip' into low-G for a couple hundred thousand dollars, hang on nothing for a few minutes, and then drift back down here. The height is around 15.5k metres from sea level, so we're talking not even twice the height of Everest here. We are talking people who are paying and expecting not to die. Space is notorious for making a mockery of models, but we've improved. This is also a lot closer than the greater virtual void to which we dare not send extensively trained astronauts yet. Mars, technically our neighbor, has an order of magnitude of hundreds of millions of kilometres when measured from us. That's close compared to all the other planets, objects, and major groups of objects around the solar system. All that aside, can we pull 15.5 thousand kilometres as a lucrative tourism business?

My opinion is that there will be setbacks. All it takes is lemon juice. But I think it will at very least get some decent swing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Other people musing... about colonies.


Here, volume, mass, gravity, area, etc. calculations were made in planning a colony ship, using sophisticated math (or, if not as sophisticated as it appears, then a lot of arithmetic. Compared to other models it may or may not be considered big, but the estimate for materials is 1.6 million metres cubed of materials, enclosing 46 million cubic meters of volume. Now, of course, the environment for structures is very different in space than on earth. First, collapse works very differently; it could usually only be crushed by its own mass, which would require some serious size and/or rotation. It could also risk obliteration or massive loss of course if another body's gravitational pull was great enough to affect our structure. Satellites can ignore many of the things mentioned here, because they're small, orbiting slowly and relatively safely around the earth, and they don't usually have to survive impact with a planet (however gentle). A colonial ship would not only have to brave all the bits of debris that floated around space at very high speeds, it would have to get its human cargo off onto another planet safely. If we can't just teleport or shoot people off the craft, then the craft likely has to go down too. First, if it can survive its incredible bulk being launched off of the earth (if possible, an assembly station off of Earth), then it has to survive entry into another planet too. If each cubic meter of material weighs an average of 15kg (likely more), and then the craft loses, say, 1million tons of material (propellant and small amounts of unreusable waste?), then that's 15million tons of stuff that has to survive planetfall. Now, even if said planet has very low G, we're trying to get 15 million tons in a 46 million cubic metre thing to unload cargo into another major gravity well. Good luck working those physics (not too much sarcasm).

The technology for a self-sustaining environment of such, to me, doesn't seem incredibly far off, if we can't do it already. Small systems of plants and animals, in a jar, with sunlight and usually in water, have worked. Making it spin around in space and resist the forces it will create (rotating decks big enough to produce around a G) is a challenge. Part of the challenge here is getting incredibly strong materials with various properties to suit the needs of craft and passengers. Another dead end question that only continued research can come up with a real answer to.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Closer to Home

Most of the things we've done in space have actually been right here at Earth, relative to what we've seen (most of which has spent billions of years in an unknown to us). Orbiting around the Earth, satellites represent most of what we've actually sent into space. When talking about space, we have great ambitions for launching things ('things' because we don't know now what these 'things' will actually be) much further than our significant gravitational pull and even our solar system. Great projects like finding a new place for humanity, life outside of our solar system, and unlocking the mysteries of the enigmatic, from supermassive objects to mathematical manifestations, have so far not even had a decent planning stage initiated. What we've done with satellites, in communications between distant places, observing geographic phenomena, and studying the composition of our atmosphere and space, in both physical and energetic ways, have been massively rewarding for us. Warning systems for natural disasters are now realistic and in motion, and we can send signals around the globe like never before. Eventually there is the slightest chance we may extend into the stars, but for now we should think both on that level on down where we are still advancing life at home.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Robots in Space!

Space exploration, to date, has a number of steps its fundamental planning. The first is observation from Earth (or, even from a while ago, from Earth's orbit). All the sensors for information that we can receive are assembled, checked, run, checked again, and then we ponder the results. The second part is the vaguest, yet among the most immediate concerns to physical exploration: theorising with regards to what's there, the obstacles that need facing and/or piles of cosmic trivia that ends up useful immediately or later on, all based on part one. Part three is building the craft. All it takes is lemon juice to mess this part up, but it can be used more creatively in other parts to similar effect. Once the explorer is constructed, it's time to fire it off wherever it's going; part four. With the potential to yield the massive fruit of all the other parts, there are various ways this could be designed to end (either it makes it back to earth ok, it crashes on earth, or it's just annihilated by the environment it's observing*).

Though the article wasn't solely related to this point, "Interplanetary Pioneers" from Space: 50 Years and Counting, it goes over the basics of what spacecraft were capable of and what we want them to do now. Among the things I read here that I found interesting was that the Moon is theorized to have once been part of the Earth, but some event split us apart "in the early days of the solar system". Probe launches in the future and more or less recent past include:

-Clementine (1994)
-Lunar Prospector (1998)
-Messenger (2004)

-Chandrayaan 1 (2008)

E.U. with Japan:
-BepiColombo (2013)

*"Some simply fell silent, their fates shrouded in mystery."
Space: 50 Years and Counting, 2007)