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Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

A lot of people, including Elon Musk, believe that we could be living inside of a computer simulation.  While that does sound far-fetched, it is at least a possibility.  Especially when you consider that we may soon have the ability to create a Universe in a lab.  After all, if we can do that, couldn’t a more advanced civilization have created the universe as we know it inside one of their computers?

Before we go down that rabbit hole though let’s focus on the issue at hand: the idea that we could actually create a Universe in a lab.  It sounds cool but how would this even work?

As Futurism explains:

“The kind of cosmogenesis envisioned by [Andrei] Linde, in contrast, would require physicists to cook up their cosmos in a highly technical laboratory, using a far more powerful cousin of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. It would also require a seed particle called a ‘monopole’ (which is hypothesized to exist by some models of physics, but has yet to be found).

The idea goes that if we could impart enough energy to a monopole, it will start to inflate. Rather than growing in size within our Universe, the expanding monopole would bend space-time within the accelerator to create a tiny wormhole tunnel leading to a separate region of space. From within our lab we would see only the mouth of the wormhole; it would appear to us as a mini black hole, so small as to be utterly harmless. But if we could travel into that wormhole, we would pass through a gateway into a rapidly expanding baby universe that we had created.”

What would be the point of creating a Universe in a lab?  Well, for starters it may help us understand how our own Universe is expanding.  As time goes on we could study the inner workings of a cosmos that may be utterly different than our own or remarkably similar.  It could also help us ponder philosophical questions about creation, religion, and our place in the Universe.  And if nothing else, it’ll probably be fun to play God.  Just like the aliens who created the computer simulation that we’re living in.

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Is a Universe in a Lab the Greatest Idea Ever?

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You’ve got to love the United Arab Emirates when it comes to architecture, real estate, and outside the box thinking.  From man-made islands to towering skyscrapers to fully automated cities of the future, the opulent UAE has it all.  And now there’s one more toy we can add to their proverbial and literal sandbox: a Martian space colony.

According to Futurism: “The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is about to embark on a major undertaking, announcing today that they plan to build a simulated Mars colony in the Emirati desert. The $136 million (Dh500 million) facility will cover nearly 177,000 square meters (1.9 million square feet) of the desert.”

The article added that, “The goal of the project, dubbed Mars Science City, is to simulate conditions for human settlers on the Red Planet. According to the press release, ‘The project encompasses laboratories for food, energy, and water, as well as agricultural testing and studies about food security in the future.’  The campus will also contain a museum dedicated to humanity’s greatest achievements in space exploration. The hope is that the museum will inspire younger generations to pursue education in science and mathematics, ensuring continued innovation in the future.”

The big question with this project is just how likely it is to coming close to simulating life on Mars as there are an untold number of challenges that future settlers of the Red Planet would have to deal with.

As Science Alert puts it:

“There are a few limitations on what the city can do. Oxygen will not need to be generated, nor will the citizens be subjected to the radiation conditions of Mars, which does not have a magnetic field to shield the planet from harmful UV radioactivity.  Mars’s surface gravity is also only about 38 percent of the surface gravity on Earth, too, and on average its temperatures are much lower than those on Earth.”

Which means that if the UAE is going to be successful in this endeavor to create a realistic Martian environment, they are, in the words of Matt Damon, going to have to science the shit out of it.  As a big fan of space exploration and projects that inspire people to innovate I absolutely love this idea and hope that they are able to do just that.

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Is the UAE’s Mars Science Center the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Lately, it seems that there’s been an uptick in the number of bat shit crazy transportation ideas out there, from the Antipode and the Hyperloop to China’s Flying Train.  This shouldn’t really come as a surprise.  Mankind has always been driven to travel faster and faster.  It’s what drives innovation and enables us to go from riding horses to walking on the Moon in a relatively short period of time.

It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to high speed travel that Elon Musk would want to top all other prior efforts and achieve a feat that would have been previously unimaginable: traversing the entire planet in a manner of minutes.  Something that he may just do with his latest plan to use SpaceX’s rockets for commercial flight travel right here on Earth.

According to the Verge:

“SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled revised plans to travel to the Moon and Mars at a space industry conference today, but he ended his talk with a pretty incredible promise: using that same interplanetary rocket system for long-distance travel on Earth. Musk showed a demonstration of the idea onstage, claiming that it will allow passengers to take ‘most long-distance trips’ in just 30 minutes, and go ‘anywhere on Earth in under an hour’ for around the same price as an economy airline ticket.”

The Big Fucking Rocket or BFR for short, would leave the Earth’s atmosphere and then settle back down on a floating landing pad near one of the major cities that you could travel to.  In theory, this would enable you to travel from New York to London in 29 minutes or from Singapore to Hong Kong in just 22 minutes.

Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to use this technology to travel everywhere.  There may only be a few major cities that would be connected.  But, even still, this new method of high speed travel could be a real game-changer, enabling us to stay connected with people and business opportunities on opposite ends of the planet.  For example, if it’s that quick and affordable to travel from New York to London perhaps it’s no longer a long-shot that a NFL team would re-locate across the pond.

With the BFR in our arsenal there’s really no telling that we could accomplish.  And when we’re talking about Elon Musk there’s really no telling what he might dream up next.  The BFR is just the start.

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Is the BFR the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The Big Four, as they are commonly referred to, have come to dominate modern life as we know it.  The phone in our pocket or tablet in our hand that we use to stay connected with friends on Facebook was made by Apple.  The online searches that we conduct are powered by Google.  The groceries and supplies that we have delivered are ordered through Amazon.  Other companies like Microsoft dabble in relevancy.  But for now, and the immediate future, it’s all about the Big Four.

To secure this narrative Apple is launching the iPhone X and taking the lead on integrating Augmented Reality into their devices.  Previously, Facebook bought Oculus to lead the charge into Virtual Reality.  Meanwhile, Amazon’s Echo gave them a head start on dominating the Internet of Things and connected home markets.  All the while Google presses ahead with their moonshots from driverless cars to curing age related diseases.  The Big Four isn’t going anywhere.  Far from it.  They’re core businesses are all doing well as they transition to mobile computing and their big bets are well diversified across a myriad of industries from AI and drones to telecommunications and content creation.

The question that I like to grabble with is what comes next?  How long can the Big Four stay on top?  Will a massive conglomerate supplant them all?  Will a fifth company ever join their ranks, and if so, who will it be?  No matter how you slice it, there’s only one possible answer.  What comes next is whatever Elon Musk has planned.

And according to Futurism, what’s next, is a global network of satellites capable of providing low cost Internet access.

“SpaceX seems to be taking a step forward in its plan to provide low-cost global internet access via a network of satellites. According to a report from GeekWire, SpaceX has filed to trademark the name ‘Starlink’ for the network. CEO Elon Musk first announced his intention to begin the project back in 2015. More detailed plans were laid out in May, including the intention to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit between 2019 and 2024.  Musk estimated that the network could cost upward of $10 billion to get started, but foresees it as a major source of revenue for the company once it is up and running.”

So let’s say that this initiative is vastly successful and does indeed become a major revenue stream for SpaceX.  Now, let’s say that their reusable rocket business continues to take off, pun intended, and they get into sub-orbital shipping and even space tourism as well and so at the end of the day you’re talking about this major company that’s just absolutely crushing it.  Now let’s say that Tesla with their driverless cars and trucks and their energy powerpacks and powerwalls is also absolutely crushing it.  Now, here’s where things get interesting.  What if Elon Musk combines those two companies with all of his other initiatives (Solar City, the Boring Company, the Hyperloop, Neuralink, plus whatever else he dreams up the next time he’s bored) and creates one major company.  What would that look like? Would this entity, with its focus on transportation/shipping/energy/access to the Internet, etc. be powerful enough to compete with the Big Four?!?! Could it supplant them all on its own?

Obviously, only time will tell, but it is worth speculating about now.  For when Elon Musk announces something new, in this case Starlink, it’s not necessarily just a stand-alone announcement.  For all we know it’s the latest step in his master plan to join the Big Four.  Which begs the question: what does he have planned next?!!?

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Is Starlink the Greatest Idea Ever?

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A quick look at everything that caught my eye this past week:

Personalized Exo-Skeletons: In the future we may all have robotic exo-skeletons that help us out, making it easier for us to get around and haul heavy loads of equipment along the way.  Perfect for hikers, campers, little old ladies, or anyone who wants to go grocery shopping.  And now those exo-skeletons will be matched to our specific gaits.

According to Science Alert, “Scientists have developed special algorithms that enable body scaffolds called exoskeletons to adjust to the walk of the person wearing them, making these robotic aids more efficient and personalized.  The enhanced mechanics are able to tweak their behavior based on feedback from the wearer’s metabolism and other measurements, and the team behind the system is calling it human-in-the-loop optimization.”

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The Frame: Don’t like the fact that your television set is a giant eye sore in your living room?  Samsung has got you covered.

As Wired puts it, “The Frame, a clever mashup of a television and digital art display. One click on the remote toggles between the TV and “art mode,” a high-res display for digital paintings, drawings, and photographs. You can import your own images, order them from Samsung at $20 a pop, or subscribe to unlimited art for $4.99 a month.  The Frame mounts flush against the wall, like a painting in a gallery. That clever design trick, coupled with the wood or metal bezel and translucent cable linking it to the Samsung One Connect, disguise the fact the Frame also streams all your favorite shows.”

Personally, I’m a big fan of this concept.  It’s great for hosting company as you not only get to hide your TV, you also get to add in a conversation piece as you either discuss the art itself or the fact that your TV is hidden.  As a fan of great design it’s also worth appreciating for its great utilization of otherwise dead space.  And, who knows, if you like you might even find yourself spending more time staring at your TV than actually watching it.  If know I would if I could get to display my epic Instagram pictures.

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Concrete breakthrough: Scientists have finally figured out the key to why Roman concrete has survived for thousands of years while more modern day advanced concrete crumbles much more quickly than that.

As Pionic puts it, “Around A.D. 79, Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote in his Naturalis Historia that concrete structures in harbors, exposed to the constant assault of the saltwater waves, become ‘a single stone mass, impregnable to the waves and every day stronger.’

He wasn’t exaggerating. While modern marine concrete structures crumble within decades, 2,000-year-old Roman piers and breakwaters endure to this day, and are stronger now than when they were first constructed. University of Utah geologist Marie Jackson studies the minerals and microscale structures of Roman concrete as she would a volcanic rock. She and her colleagues have found that seawater filtering through the concrete leads to the growth of interlocking minerals that lend the concrete added cohesion.”

Further understanding of how the sea affects concrete could lead to improving the performance of modern day concrete.  Something that will definitely come in handy as the polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise around the world.

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Sprites successfully launched: Breakthrough Starshot, a joint effort by some of the world’s leading minds to launch tiny gram sized spacecraft capable of making their way to our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, has successfully completed its first launch of tiny craft called “sprites”.

As The Guardian puts it:

“The smallest spacecraft ever launched are successfully travelling in low Earth orbit and communicating with systems on Earth, scientists have announced.  Known as ‘Sprites’, the miniature satellites are just 3.5cm x 3.5cm and carry radios, sensors and computers, with each device powered by sunlight and weighing just four grams…Scientists say the latest development is an important precursor to an ambitious attempt to send space probes to planets beyond our solar system…”

Hopefully the sprites will continue to be operational and the next phase of the plan can begin in earnest.

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Are any of these the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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I’ve always wanted to get a telescope.  Always wanted to take a step back from the minutia of my everyday life to marvel at the wonders of the Universe; to fully appreciate the scale and scope of the cosmos instead of taking my life for granted.  But I never took the plunge.  Never even knew where to begin.  What kind of telescope should I get?  How would I even know what I was looking at?  Would I ever use it enough to justify the cost?

Well, those concerns have all been alleviated thanks to an incredible new invention: a commercial telescope for the masses that is posed to revolutionize amateur astronomy.  Not since Galileo first gazed upon the stars has there been this much excitement surrounding a telescope.  And it’s all thanks to a partnership between French startup Unistellar and our alien signal hunting friends, the SETI Institute.

According to Phys.Org:

“Unistellar’s new eVscope leverages ‘Enhanced Vision’ imaging technology and now provides three unique features never before offered in a compact mass-market instrument thanks to this partnership:

  • Enhanced Vision produces extremely sharp, detailed images of even faint astronomical objects by accumulating their light and projecting it into the telescope’s eyepiece. Enhanced Vision technology mimics the light gathering capability of significantly larger reflector telescopes, thus delivering unprecedented views of night-sky objects previously inaccessible to amateur astronomers.

 

  • Autonomous Field Detection (AFD) powered by GPS, enables the eVscope to pinpoint celestial objects of interest without complicated alignment procedures or expensive equatorial mounts. Thanks to AFD intelligent pointing and tracking, astronomers from novice to expert, can spend more time observing and always know precisely what they are looking at. This system is also able to name any object the user is observing, thanks to a coordinates database of tens of millions of celestial objects.

 

  • Campaign Mode, a revolutionary and exciting feature developed at the SETI Institute, takes advantage of the telescope’s advanced imaging technology and allows users around the world to participate in observing campaigns to image and collect data on objects of special interest to researchers. In Campaign Mode, image data is automatically sent to a data repository at the SETI Institute’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. The international scientific community can then access unprecedented volumes of image data for specific objects, from thousands of telescopes around the world, at different dates and times. This in turn, can enable new discoveries and enhance our understanding of the universe around us.”

This telescope is a real game-changer on so many levels, as detailed above.  So much so, that the innovations bear repeating for we’re talking about a commercial telescope that works nearly as well as significantly larger telescopes, enables you to quickly and easily get your bearings, identify the objects that you’re looking at, and directly contribute to on-going research projects in real-time.  For a citizen scientist, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Except when it does.  Because, believe it or not, this incredible telescope is set to be relatively affordable.  The exact price isn’t known yet but it’s expected to cost less than $1,000 when a crowdfunding campaign launches this fall.  And personally, I can’t wait!  This game-changing, do-it-all telescope is a definite must-have whether you’re an amateur astronomer or just hoping to become one.  And after spending the weekend camping out under the stars, surrounded by constellations in all directions, I can tell you that I definitely want to become one.  Now more than ever.

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Is the eVscope telescope the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Consciousness is one of the biggest mysteries remaining in science, right up there with trying to figure out what Dark Matter is.  And despite all of our recent technological progress we’re still no closer to figuring out what it is.

There is, however, an interesting theory making the rounds as some people are of the belief that consciousness is a result of quantum physics.  Something that always happens, no matter what, if certain conditions are met on a quantum level.  An inevitable outcome just like how the third law of thermodynamics and a system’s natural inclination to lose energy is an inevitability.  One that explains why the cells in our body die, why stars turn into black holes, and why sub-atomic particles pop out of existence.  Could it be possible then that there’s another Universal rule out there?  One that would explain consciousness?  And if consciousness is the result of quantum effects what impact does that have on our understanding of the Universe?

As Futurism puts it, “In 2006, German physicist Bernard Haisch, known both for his studies of active stars and his openness to unorthodox science, took Penrose’s idea a big step further. Haisch proposed that the quantum fields that permeate all of empty space (the so-called ‘quantum vacuum’) produce and transmit consciousness, which then emerges in any sufficiently complex system with energy flowing through it. And not just a brain, but potentially any physical structure.”

Any physical structure?! Like what?

“Stars may be thinking entities that deliberately control their paths. Put more bluntly, the entire cosmos may be self-aware.”

We can’t really fathom that the Universe may be conscious anymore than a plant can fathom the existence of people.  It’s just so far beyond our understanding and occurring on such a wide scale that even if we did have the capacity to fathom it we’d lack the perspective required to test it and prove it.  But at the same time it does make sense.  Star formation and planet formation happen so often that surely it can’t just be occurring randomly.  Perhaps there’s a larger rhyme and reason to it.  Something governing what happens, when it happens, and how it happens.

Is the Universe conscious?  Probably not.  Are some of its larger systems exhibiting conscious like behavior because of quantum effects?  Possibly.  Will we ever know for sure?  Definitely not.

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Is the Universe conscious?

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