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Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

We all learned in school that there are three phase of water: solid, liquid, and gas.  However, that may not be entirely true.  As it turns out there be another, more exotic, phase of water and it may be extremely abundant throughout the Universe.

As Wired reports, “The findings, published this week in Nature, confirm the existence of “superionic ice,” a new phase of water with bizarre properties. Unlike the familiar ice found in your freezer or at the north pole, superionic ice is black and hot. A cube of it would weigh four times as much as a normal one. It was first theoretically predicted more than 30 years ago, and although it has never been seen until now, scientists think it might be among the most abundant forms of water in the universe.”

But what if there’s more to it than that? What if superionic ice isn’t a new phase of water at all?

“Depending on whom you ask, superionic ice is either another addition to water’s already cluttered array of avatars or something even stranger. Because its water molecules break apart, said the physicist Livia Bove of France’s National Center for Scientific Research and Pierre and Marie Curie University, it’s not quite a new phase of water. ‘It’s really a new state of matter,’ she said, ‘which is rather spectacular.’”

A new phase of matter? As astonishing as that would be, it’s not the first time that a new state of matter has been discovered.  About a month ago National Geographic reported on another new type of matter.

“Now, a team has used a type of artificial intelligence to confirm the existence of a bizarre new state of matter, one in which potassium atoms exhibit properties of both a solid and a liquid at the same time. If you were somehow able to pull out a chunk of such material, it would probably look like a solid block leaking molten potassium that eventually all dissolved away.”

And these discoveries are likely just the tip of the iceberg.  As our instruments and the tools at our disposal continue to improve we may discover even more exotic forms of matter.  Meaning it won’t be long before we have to rewrite the textbooks once again.

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Is Superionic Ice the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Back on July 15, 2017 Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, was in Cape Canerval, Florida at the Kennedy Space Center to receive the first ever Buzz Aldrin Space Innovation Award.  Afterwards he made several attention grabbing remarks about his future plans.

According to Futurism:

“Amongst his statements was an assertion that humans should terraform the Moon. According to Tech Radar, Bezos claimed, “It’s time for America to go back to the Moon, this time to stay.” He then added, “We should build a permanent settlement on one of the poles of the Moon.” He ended on a positive note: “If we have reusable rockets, we can do it so much more affordably than we have ever done it before. We have the tools. We have the young people with a passion to do it. We can get that done today.’”

Well maybe not today but soon enough and now less than two years later Bezos has finally unveiled those specific plans which involve sending a moon lander known as Blue Moon to our satellite’s south pole, bringing his bold proclamation one step closer to fruition.

As Wired puts it:

“When Robert Heinlein wrote his masterpiece of space age realism, The Man Who Sold the Moon, he had no way of knowing how prescient it would be. Published in 1950, it tells the tale of Delos D. Harriman, the ‘last of the robber barons’, who is hellbent on being the first man on the moon. Harriman drives himself to the brink of bankruptcy and madness chasing his lunar ambitions, which he feels can’t be left to the bumbling government bureaucracy to handle. At the dawn of the new space race, it feels more relevant than ever.

These days, billionaires with their own space program are in abundant supply—Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Robert Bigelow. But towering above them all is Jeff Bezos. Once the richest man in the world, Bezos is Harriman become flesh. For the last 19 years he has bankrolled his space company, Blue Origin, almost entirely out of pocket and has made his goal of colonizing the moon known. He is also, incidentally, a big fan of Heinlein.

Today Bezos unveiled a mock-up of Blue Origin’s lunar lander at a small invite-only event in Washington, DC. As detailed by Bezos, the plan is to send the lunar lander, called Blue Moon, to Shackleton Crater at the moon’s south pole. Last month, the company hinted at its plans with an enigmatic tweet depicting Endurance, the ship that carried British explorer Ernest Shackleton on a disastrous mission to Antarctica in the early twentieth century.”

The idea here is that Blue Moon will drop off important supplies at Shackleton Crater, paving the way for future manned missions by 2024 that will lay the groundwork towards establishing a permanent human colony on the moon.  A colony that could then pave the way for future space exploration missions including the eventual terraforming and colonization of Mars.

Bezos has taken a lot of flack lately for his sexual transgressions which have lead to him getting divorced and losing half of his wealth and rightfully so.  But maybe Bezos’ self-inflicted walk of shame should have been met with more sympathy.  Considering that Bezos was funding Blue Origin himself, that loss of wealth also means that there’s now less money pouring into Blue Origin.  For now, it doesn’t seem to be affecting his plans but perhaps it one day will.  Turning Bezos into a real-life version of Harriman, going bankrupt to fulfill his dreams.  For our sake and the sake of humanity’s space-faring future, let’s hope that’s not the case. Especially when you consider that Bezos has far-ranging ambitions when it comes to space, aside from just wanting to colonize the Moon.

According to Fast Company:

“Bezos announced a massive vision for the future in which “Earth is zoned residential and light industry,” with heavy industry and mining moving to space.

But even a gentrified Earth won’t be enough to support the ballooning human population. So Bezos is also proposing a constellation of space stations modeled after ideas from his former Princeton professor, Gerard O’Neill. The physicist’s namesake O’Neill cylinders would be miles-long, mile’s wide structures that rotate–using centrifugal force to produce artificial gravity–and harvest sunlight to grow crops.”

The cylinder space station idea is one that is firmly rooted in science fiction so to me the idea that is the most revolutionary here is the idea that Earth would be “zoned residential” with all industry moving to space.  Considering how expensive it is to get things into orbit relocating all industry into space would seem to be a daunting task.  But it makes sense.  Earth is the only place in the known Universe that can support life.  Shouldn’t it therefore be 100% committed to that one and only task?  Everything else that can take place somewhere else should do just that!

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Is Blue Moon the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,495 – Archs

Just when you thought that Elon Musk couldn’t get any cooler this news comes courtesy of Science Alert:

“Last year, Elon Musk’s personal Tesla might have gotten all the headlines during SpaceX’s historic rocket launch back in February, but the Falcon Heavy also carried a second, secret payload almost nobody knew about.

Stashed inside the midnight-cherry Roadster was a mysterious, small object designed to last for millions (perhaps billions) of years – even in extreme environments like space, or on the distant surfaces of far-flung planetary bodies.

Called an Arch (pronounced ‘Ark’), this tiny storage device is built for long-term data archiving, holding libraries of information encoded on a small disc of quartz crystal, not much larger than a coin…

The technology, developed by physicist Peter Kazansky from the University of Southampton in the UK, can theoretically hold up to 360 terabytes of data, about the same amount as 7,000 Blu-Ray discs.

But even more impressive than the data capacity is the physical longevity of the medium – the first two discs, called Arch 1.1 and Arch 1.2, are said to be two of the longest-lasting storage objects ever created by humans, theoretically stable for up to 14 billion years, thanks to ‘5D data storage’ inscribed by laser nanostructuring in quartz silica glass.”

Similar to the Lunar Library project that I wrote about the other day these Archs could help humanity preserve their knowledge should anything happen to us here on Earth. A fate that is becoming increasingly likely thanks to the perils of Climate Change.

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Are Archs the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,492 – Dark Fluid

When you think of physics or cosmology you’re likely to think about intellectual heavyweights like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking.  And rightfully so.  But future generations may be paying homage to someone else.  The previously unheralded James Farnes, an astrophysicist from the University of Oxford, who was the one to ultimately figure out how everything in the Universe really works.

Farnes’ theory is a wild one on the surface but it also makes a lot of sense when you drill down into it, with lots of empirical evidence to support his assertions.  The basic gist of the theory is that while Dark Matter and Dark Energy get all our attention they really pale in comparison to a Dark Fluid that its ultimately responsible for holding galaxies together and explaining how quickly the Universe is expanding.

As he writes on The Conversation, “Dark matter may be an invisible material, but it exerts a gravitational force on surrounding matter that we can measure. Dark energy is a repulsive force that makes the universe expand at an accelerating rate. The two have always been treated as separate phenomena. But my new study, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, suggests they may both be part of the same strange concept – a single, unified ‘dark fluid’ of negative masses.”

In fact, it’s negative mass that’s the key to everything.

“Whether physically real or not, negative masses already have a theoretical role in a vast number of areas. Air bubbles in water can be modelled as having a negative mass. Recent laboratory research has also generated particles that behave exactly as they would if they had negative mass.

And physicists are already comfortable with the concept of negative energy density. According to quantum mechanics, empty space is made up of a field of fluctuating background energy that can be negative in places – giving rise to waves and virtual particles that pop into and out of existence. This can even create a tiny force that can be measured in the lab.

The new study could help solve many problems in modern physics. String theory, which is our best hope for unifying the physics of the quantum world with Einstein’s theory of the cosmos, is currently seen as being incompatible with observational evidence. However, string theory does suggest that the energy in empty space must be negative, which corroborates the theoretical expectations for a negative mass dark fluid.

Moreover, the team behind the groundbreaking discovery of an accelerating universe surprisingly detected evidence for a negative mass cosmology, but took the reasonable precaution of interpreting these controversial findings as ‘unphysical’.

The theory could also solve the problem of measuring the universe’s expansion. This is explained by the Hubble-Lemaître Law, the observation that more distant galaxies are moving away at a faster rate. The relationship between the speed and the distance of a galaxy is set by the ‘Hubble constant’, but measurements of it have continued to vary. This has led to a crisis in cosmology. Fortunately, a negative mass cosmology mathematically predicts that the Hubble ‘constant’ should vary over time. Clearly, there is evidence that this weird and unconventional new theory deserves our scientific attention.”

Not only deserves it but demands it. To the point where Farnes may one day join Einstein and Hawking on a Mount Rushmore of physicists.

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Is Dark Fluid the Greatest Idea Ever?

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You can’t spend a whole week talking about space and not mention Sci-fi.  The two go hand in hand as generations of NASA scientists grow up watching Star Wars, Star Trek and a host of other fare that gets them excited about going where no man has gone before and exploring galaxies that are far, far away.  Discovering non-mainstream Sci-Fi that appeals to you, that appeals to a particular niche interest that you may have, isn’t always easy though.  Thankfully, there’s a new book recommendation engine that can help with that: the Science Fiction Concept Corpus.

As Wired explains, “AI Researcher Bethanie Maples has been reading science fiction since she was given a copy of Dune at 10 years old. Still, two decades and nearly 1,000 books later, the self-described sci-fi fanatic struggles to find books that delve into her most niche interests, like the link between AI and transhumanism. So last year, while working at Stanford’s Human Computer Interaction lab, she teamed up with data scientists Eric Berlow and Srini Kadamati to create a book recommendation tool based on more than 100 salient sci-fi themes, from hyperspace to magical feminism.”

Compiled from plot descriptions, book reviews, and user generated meta data tags the Corpus is capable of scanning a collection of over 2,600 hundred books written since 1900 to make relevant recommendations. But I can do you one better with a recommendation of my own: check out James Corey’s Hugo award winning Expanse series of novels and then check out the show, one of the greatest of all-time, on Amazon Prime!

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Is the Science Fiction Concept Corpus the Greatest Idea Ever?

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In Avengers: Infinity War Dr. Strange claims to have seen 14,000,605 possible futures with their only being one future in which our heroes prevail.  It’s this information that Strange presumably uses to his advantage to set events in motion that will result in the Avengers emerging victorious in End Game. But what if instead of only seeing 14,000,605 possible futures he could have seen millions more?  What if he could have literally seen every possible future? Would that extra information give him even more of an advantage against Thanos?

This isn’t merely an interesting thought experiment.  It’s now reality thanks to the creation of a new quantum device allegedly capable of seeing every possible future.  Well, that’s the hope at least.

According to Futurism, “For now, [with] the quantum computer built by Griffith University and Nanyang Technological University scientists can hold two superpositions of 16 different possibilities, according to the research. It also uses less memory than a classical computer would, suggesting it could outperform classical systems at certain tasks.”

Since quantum computing is such a nascent technology it’s really difficult to imagine exactly how things will play out.  Especially since we don’t have a time stone at our disposal.  But if the early indications and researcher’s enthusiasm are to be believed then we could be on the verge of something very special happening.

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Is seeing every possible future the Greatest Idea Ever?

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I just put the finishing touches on a book about the history of innovation that clocks in at a whopping 432 pages!  That’s a lot but it pales in comparison to the 30 million page book that an Israeli startup is sending to the moon!  Known as the Lunar Library the book will serve as humanity’s knowledge backup just in case anything happens to the inhabitants of Earth.

As Futurism puts it, “Right now, a backup copy of humanity’s collective knowledge is on its way to the surface of the Moon.

The lander was built by the Israeli startup SpaceIL. It’s carrying a high-tech disc containing 25,000 books, a full copy of Wikipedia, and information on understanding Earthly languages — the equivalent, all told, of a 30 million-page tome.”

Amazingly, this isn’t the only such archive in the works.

According to CNET, “The AMF [Arch Mission Foundation] also placed a small test archive on Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster that was launched in the direction of Mars aboard the first Falcon Heavy demonstration mission last year. That archive consisted of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy encoded in a disc made of quartz silica glass made to last millions of years as the Roadster orbits the sun. The AMF has also placed a solid-state copy of Wikipedia on board a cube sat from SpaceChain in low-Earth orbit.”

Eventually, the goal is to spread out this information in even more places throughout the solar system and across the cosmos ensuring that humanity will always be covered no matter where we go or what winds up happening to us.

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Is a Lunar Library the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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