THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 226

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 226

…Sammy Mac, that pretentious Earthling, has mastered the art of changing the tone of a conversation with the Supreme Elder of Eridanus on a dime…

At times like this, Celeste will listen; merely listen for positive signs of sanity in her man.

Out of a combination of boredom and sarcasm, Sampson starts whistling the slow, soulful, deep-south 19th Century slavery tune, Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”.

Ekcello must have been snooping, whisking in behind Sampson’s rendition of yet another strange sound from a likely strange source.

#What is that curious music you produce Sampson McKinney? I did not know you could musically communicate#

“It’s called whistling Ekcello old man. If it tickles your ears, well if you have ears, then your senses, I have a million more like it…” He jumps into the,Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Sammy Mac, that pretentious Earthling, has mastered the art of changing the tone of a conversation with the Supreme Elder of Eridanus on a dime, before it has a chance to start. Whenever he did this, the Eridanian man of meditation’s expression takes on #Now where was I?# look, extremely unsettling for one of such intense concentration.

On track once again, Ekcello emotes in his lyrical style, #You have two male offspring#

“Yes, Deke & Gus,” Celeste steps in to address an issue never far from her heart; quickly and longingly in her audible voice.

#The High Council has begun to journey back to your Earth and its yielded disturbing revelations concerning their future#

Suddenly Sampson grasps Ekcello on Eridanian terms, “Are they in some sort of trouble?” he wonders aloud.

#Only in the sense that they are in the forefront of a flawed space vehicle propulsion project#

“They haven’t abandoned The SOL Project!” A proud papa speaks of children he never had a chance to see grow up. “I knew my boys would become astronauts!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 226


page 267

Contents TRT

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 225

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 225

…“If you tack another 5 years on for a return trip, we may just be aliens on our own world, an irrelevant leftovers from the past…

“Somewhere, deep in their youthful existentiality, they must have a basal need, an outlet for all their buried emotion.”

“You are really into their minds aren’t you?” Sampson is actually jealous, but doesn’t show it. Their relationship is still sound, for a human marriage, but there is always that nagging fear of her losing her humanity, in favor of these alien attitudes. “You’re not thinking about ditching me, are you Celeste?”

“Now that is a silly notion Sam,” she barely recognizes an insecure Sammy Mac. “Where did that come from?”

“Well you are so close to these people and I really think they have accepted you as one of their own… and then there is old Sampson McKinney, that Neanderthal caveman from Earth, a  pain-in-the-ass, word speaking fool.

“Sometimes I think that if weren’t for you, they would banish me to that prison tower they are hiding, or better yet, hand the keys of the NEWFOUNDLANDER over to me and give me a map back to Earth.”

“There you go, that’s what you really want isn’t it?” The question is rhetorical.

“For a long time that is all I could think about. What has it been, 9 years since we’ve seen Earth?” It has actually been 15 (2045), but the slowing of his body clock has made time passage moot. “If you tack another 5 years on for a return trip, we may just be aliens on our own world, an irrelevant leftovers from the past. Not to mention that we will have missed the prime years of Deke & Gus’ lives… and Braden, How old is he now?

“Not to mention being debriefed by Crippen until we turn green. I bet he is the president of some private space-travel agency by now: Roy’s Rockets.

At times like this, Celeste will listen; merely listen for positive signs of sanity in her man.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 225


page 266

Contents TRT

Down to Earth Facts – Planetary Platitudes

Leave a comment

Amazing Facts

About

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is an amazing place, to say the least. And even though we’ve been living on its surface our entire life, there are still a lot of things we don’t know about it. Many things that we do know are awe-inspiring. What’s even more interesting about some of these is the fact that they have wide-scale implications on everything around them. But why try to be so mysterious, if we can give you 10 such examples, right?

 10. Planet Earth and a Cue Ball

We all know the Earth is big, there’s no denying it. But when it really comes down to it, we have a hard time coming to grips with its actual dimensions. So, in order to make things more relatable, let’s take a look at mountains. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see or even climb Mount Everest can attest to the fact that it’s incredibly huge and incredibly humbling. But most people don’t even need to see any of the tallest mountains in the world to know that mountains are big. Now, let’s take our mental image of mountains as points of reference when we talk about the dimensions of the Earth. We know that the average diameter of the planet is of about 7,900 miles. It’s important to note here that Earth is not a perfect sphere, but rather  an oblate spheroid. This means that, because it’s spinning on its axis, the diameter at the equator is bigger than the distance between the poles by about 27 miles. And beside these differences, the planet also has some bumps and dents, but they’re much smaller than 27 miles.

With this information in mind, if we were to scale the planet down to the size of an average cue ball, we would come to an incredible realization. According to the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Tournament Table and Equipment Specifications, every new ball should measure 2.25 inches in diameter and only have imperfections that cannot exceed 0.005 inches. By making the proper calculations here, it turns out that the biggest “imperfection” on Earth can be 17 miles and fall within WPA standards. While Mount Everest is almost 5.5 miles tall, and the Mariana trench is 6.8 miles deep, if they were taken together, side by side, the sum is still below the 17 mile margin. The same thing applies to the difference in diameter between the poles and the equator. Each half of the planet is responsible for its 13.5 mile share out of the total 27, which again is below 17 miles. So, anyone who has ever held a brand new cue ball in their hand and is not amazed by the fact that the Earth is even smoother than that? Well, he or she seriously needs to revise their sense of wonder about the world.

9. The Earth’s Crust

If you liked the previous example, you’ll like this one too. The planet’s crust is the only place in the whole seemingly infinite universe that we call home; at least for the time being. And it’s not even the whole crust, per se, just the surface. The deepest humans have ever managed to go was to a depth of 7.5 miles with the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia. Temperatures reached well above 356 °F, so it was only the drilling equipment and measuring apparatus that made it down there, while the scientists stayed safely on the surface. The actual thickness of the crust, like its temperature, varies from one place to the other. While the average thickness is of about 9.3 miles, it can reach a maximum of 55 miles under the Himalayas and just about 3.7 miles under the oceans.

Now, by knowing the planet’s diameter to be 7,900 miles, if we were to scale it down again, but this time to the size of a basketball, the Earth’s crust would be the thickness of a postage stamp; a postage stamp floating on a ball of molten rock and metal. Yes, this is true. So, the next time you hear someone comparing the planet’s crust to that of a chicken egg shell, know that information to be false. The planet’s crust is far thinner than that. If Earth was the size of an actual egg, the crust would probably be even thinner than the thickness of human skin that peels off after a sunburn. Yuck! And since the crust is also broken up into pieces that we call tectonic plates, it’s now easier to understand how and why continents move around so much. So, now that you know these two pieces of information about the crust and the actual size of the Earth, how do you think we fare in size here on Earth by comparison to bacteria on an actual billiard ball?

8. Earth’s “Heartbeat”

With the previous two entries on this list, would it really come as a surprise to anyone that Earth might just have an actual heartbeat? Well, yeah, it would, and this isn’t actually true, but the planet does have something closely resembling one. Every moment of every day, Earth is going through roughly 2,000 thunderstorms everywhere on its surface. And these thunderstorms produce roughly 50 lightning strikes every second. And in turn, each of these lightning strikes produces a series of electromagnetic waves that are captured and then bounce between the planet’s surface and the lower ionosphere, some 60 miles up. If the wavelength is just right, then some of these waves combine and increase in strength, creating a repeating atmospheric “heartbeat”, a phenomenon known in science as the Schumann resonance. This phenomenon has been known for a while now, but in 2011 researchers came to realize that this resonance isn’t just confined to the planet’s atmosphere, since some of the waves actually extend more than 500 miles into space.

On a somewhat similar note, a Dutch artist by the name of Lotte Geeven, in collaboration with geoscientists from the German Research Centre for Geosciences, have recorded the sounds made by the planet, deep inside its crust. The recording was done in Germany, in a hole similar to the one in Russia mentioned before. The German Continental Deep Drilling Program, or more commonly known as the KTB borehole, goes to a depth of six miles inside the Earth’s crust and here, scientists were able to capture the sounds made by the planet. Some have described these sounds as a “melancholic howl” or “a bell-like alarm denoting histories in the making.”

7. The Amazing Story about Oxygen

It’s no real mystery that Earth hasn’t always looked like it does today. In fact, our planet is in constant change even at the current moment, and for the better part of its existence, the conditions on the surface have almost always been different than they are now. So, with this in mind, let’s talk about oxygen and how it got here. Oxygen only became predominant in the atmosphere roughly 2.3 billion years ago, during an incident called the Great Oxygenation Event. Before this time, oxygen levels were marginal at best, making up just around 0.02% of all the gases in the air. But during the GOE, it reached levels of above 21%. This big rise is thanks to a tiny organism that is still alive today – Cyanobacteria, or more commonly known as the blue-green algae. These organisms are not algae, as their common name might suggest, but unicellular bacteria that can manufacture their own food. They live in water, form huge colonies, and use photosynthesis to turn the sun’s rays directly into energy. A byproduct of photosynthesis, as some of us know, is oxygen.

Over billions of years , these tiny creatures inhabited the world’s oceans, releasing more and more oxygen as they multiplied and spread. It’s safe to say that we owe thanks to these Cyanobacteria for our very existence and the world we live in today. It is, however, important to note that this new change in the planet’s chemistry did not go as smoothly as some might think. For starters, oxygen was toxic for all other living creatures on the planet at that time and nearly drove all previous anaerobic life into extinction. Secondly, the growing amount of oxygen in the air reacted with the already existing methane, which was in abundance at the time, creating CO2. And since methane is 25 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, Earth went through a severe cold spell that lasted for 300 million years and almost drove even the “mighty” Cyanobacteria into extinction.

Lastly, the higher levels of oxygen triggered an explosion, so to speak, in the number of minerals on the surface of the planet – minerals that otherwise would not have existed if it weren’t for the blue-green algae. More than 2,500 of the total 4,500 minerals now common on Earth appeared during the Great Oxygenation Event. So, the next time you think of humans as being the only species capable of changing the planet beyond recognition and having the capacity to drive life, including itself, into extinction… think again.

6. The Origins of Life

For all the credit we can give our men and women of science when it comes to all the discoveries they’ve made over the years, we still have to take into account the fact that we know surprisingly little when it comes to life and how it came into being

in the first place. Up until fairly recently, we believed we knew with a relatively high degree of certainty when life first appeared on Earth, and we had our presumptions on how it happened. But it seems that this theory has now changed. According to a recent study, we can now move the appearance of life back by another 300 million years, bringing it quite close to the moment when the planet actually formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

 If the research is confirmed, then it would seem that life formed 4.1 billion years ago, from a primordial disk of dust and gas surrounding the Sun just before the Earth started forming. The researchers came to this conclusion after observing tiny specks of graphite trapped inside zircon crystals. This graphite is usually associated with signs of life. Another theory that can account for its existence in the crystals is a massive meteor impact. But given the amount needed to explain these findings, it makes the meteor theory highly unlikely, though not entirely dismissible. If proven true, however, and life is as old as this new evidence suggests, then it would seem it’s even older than the Moon itself. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly,” said Mark Harrison, a professor of geochemistry at UCLA and member in this study.

5. Two Planets Become One

Ever thought about how the Moon was formed? Probably because it’s visible up in the sky almost every other night, people have grown accustomed to seeing it and don’t give it a second thought. But the Moon’s history, and especially its birth, are amazing and terrifying, to say the least. Back in the early days of the solar system, and soon after our planet began to take shape, fate would place young Earth on a direct collision course with another planet we now call Theia. Now, even though it’s hard to know for certain if this actually happened, there are strong indications that it did. According to the calculations, this sister planet of ours was roughly the size of Mars (or slightly smaller), and because of the still unpredictable and chaotic nature of the solar system at the time, it was flung in the direction of Earth.

In the aftermath of the collision, two things happened. The two planets merged to form this one we are all standing on right now. And secondly, much of the debris that was flung into space came together and formed the Moon. Now, as we said before, this collision theory is not certain. But the relatively large size of the Moon as compared to the Earth points to this hypostasis. So do the rocks brought back during the Apollo missions, which are virtually indistinguishable from those here on Earth when it comes to their oxygen isotopes. This theory can also explain our planet’s unusually large core as compared to all the other rocky worlds in the solar system.

4. Shifting Poles

No, this has nothing to do with any voting or elections – it’s about the Earth’s magnetic field. Thanks in part to our planet’s larger-than-usual molten core and its relatively fast spin on its axis, both of which may be the result of the previously mentioned collision between Earth and Theia, our planet has a very strong magnetic field relative to its size. In fact, only Mercury, of all the other rocky planets, has a magnetic field, but it’s far weaker than our own. Venus doesn’t have one, even though we’re fairly certain it has a molten metal core. Scientists believe the reason behind this is because Venus has a slow rotation around its axis and the temperatures inside are more evenly distributed. Mars, on the other hand, did have a magnetic field once, but its metallic core has since cooled and solidified. In any case, our strong magnetic field protects us from the sun’s deadly solar radiation, it keeps our atmosphere from being blown away into space, and it gives us the beautiful aurora borealis around the poles.

But over the past century and a half, scientists have come to realize that this magnetic field is weakening. As it turns out, the magnetic poles of our planet are shifting. This means that someday in the future, north will be south and vice-versa, and the process has already begun. While in the early 20th century the poles were moving at a rate of about 10 miles per year, today that speed has increased to 40. There’s no real need to panic, though, since this phenomenon has happened hundreds of times before. In fact, over the past 20 million years, the poles have shifted every 200 to 300 thousand years or so. The last time it happened, however, was more than 780,000 years ago, so, we’re due for another one. And according to the fossil record from previous pole reversals, it seems that there were no major changes in plant or animal life.

What we would expect to see in this several-century-process would be an increased vulnerability to solar flares that could knock out entire power grids. Holes could be made in the ozone layer, exposing us and the environment to higher degrees of radiation. There would be more than two magnetic poles at a time, scattered all across the face of the planet, leading compasses to spin uncontrollably. Some animals could become disoriented, and we would see the northern lights in unusual places. The actual timeframe here is nowhere near to being exact. Scientists are still having a hard time understanding all the inner workings of our planet, but estimates say that this shouldn’t take more than 1,000 years or so. Probably even less. And before you say anything, it is important to note that from our planet’s perspective, a millennium is a literal geological instant.

3. Mother Nature is an Expert at Recycling

Over the many millions of years, Earth has become an expert at recycling. If given enough time, our planet has and will continue to reshape itself in a continuous cycle of renewal and rebirth. Every natural system on Earth is involved in this process in one degree or another, and the whole thing could take hours to explain properly. But because we know your time is valuable, we’ll keep it short. Let’s start with life. As time marches on, organisms grow, develop, and multiply, and then they eventually die. Their remains fall to the ground and become the very soil they once drew their nourishment from. Layer upon layer of this soil is produced, one on top of the other, slowly but surely turning into stone. This bottom layer of stone moves along with the tectonic plates they’re sitting on, eventually sliding underneath one another, or becoming a mountain if it ends up on top.

If this rock layer turns into a mountain, as two plate tectonics bump into each other, over time, rain, wind, the many rivers, as well as other natural phenomena, grind away at that rock, eroding it and washing it out to sea where it sinks at the bottom and turns into sedimentary rock on the ocean floor. Once here, it again transforms into metamorphic rock due to very high heat and pressure, and eventually ends up in the upper mantle of the Earth in a process known as subduction. Here, this rock is turned into magma which eventually finds its way back to the surface via an oceanic ridge system, or through the many volcanoes that dot the Earth – and the cycle repeats itself. Now, this whole process has been overly simplified here, but this cycle the crustal rock goes through, not only recycles carbon across the globe, but it also provides the nutrients necessary for life to thrive in abundance. If it weren’t for this process, life’s chances on the planet would be severely compromised.

2. The Earth is Growing

There is a theory circulating out there that states the planet has been in a continuous process of expansion and contraction throughout its entire lifetime. Known as theExpanding Earth theory, it says that at some point in the past, Earth was 80% smaller than it is today, at which point the continents formed its entire surface. Then it began expanding, forming the ocean floor. While the theory does seem to have some intriguing concepts, it does have a lot of scientific inconsistencies and is extremely unlikely. What we are really talking about here, when we say the Earth is growing, is the fact that our planet takes in roughly 60 to 100 tons of cosmic dust every single day. This can’t really come as a surprise to anyone since this is the exact same process through which all other heavenly bodies in the universe have been created since the dawn of time, including Earth itself. But we don’t really think about it still happening, right? Well, even though it has toned down a bit since the early days of the solar system, the process is still pretty much alive.

Even if space seems to be empty, it’s really littered with fine particles of dust, and these particles get swept up by our planet and, in a sense, become part of Earth. Only a small fraction of this material actually leaves a visible trail in the sky, since most of it is too tiny for that to happen. Now, even though scientists have been aware of this phenomenon happening for a while, only with the advent of more sophisticated technology did they come to comprehend its actual scale. Researchers are now looking at what effects these particles have on our environment. For starters, it was observed that these particles are incremental in the formation of the highest clouds in our atmosphere. It also acts as fertilizer for phytoplankton, and can even affect the ozone layer’s chemistry. But these effects can be just the tip of the iceberg, and scientists are trying to figure out cosmic dust’s many other implications.

1. But it’s Actually Getting Lighter

How can this be? We’ve just concluded that Earth takes in around 30,000 tons of space dust every year, so… how is this possible? It’s not like we’re throwing stuff into outer space – not that much, at least – and it’s not like we’re using any of the weight to build stuff, since that mass still adds to the overall load of the planet. Well, as it turns out, Earth is losing mass via two major ways. One is through its core, as it consumes energy in the form of heat. But this loss accounts for just 16 tons a year. The real mass loss comes in the form of hydrogen and helium. These two gases are the lightest in the universe and oftentimes they just simply float away from Earth. They do so at a rate of 95,000 tons of hydrogen and 1,600 tons of helium each year. So, even though we get roughly 30,000 tons of dust, we lose almost 97,000 tons of gas.

Now, when it comes to hydrogen, there’s nothing to really be afraid of. Even at this current rate, it would take it trillions of years before all of it could be depleted from the atmosphere and by that time, the sun will have died out, and there will be no Earth to speak of. (Um, yay?) But helium is another matter. Even though it’s the second most abundant element in the universe, it’s disappearing here on Earth. We’re now using it for a great deal of things, on an unprecedented scale, and there’s only so much to go around.


Down to Earth Facts

– Planetary Platitudes

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 206

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 206

…Celeste listens more intently this time and she was able to reproduce the incoming communication to the note, using the NEWFOUNDLANDER digitized instrumentation…

Image result for digital music gif

“Yes and no… I mean recorder, a 12th Century version of the flute…a musical instrument.”

“Is this a coincidence or could it be that this music is an attempt to communicate with their spacecraft?” His theory is not revolutionary considering the time they spent on the subject of the overt melodious sounds of the NEWFOUNDLANDER leading up to this seminal moment.

“I knew their use of the diatonic scale was more than fanciful fluff and this confirms it!” She spirits to an apparatus on which she had been secretly experimenting during her private time, “This synthesizer is actually the communication console.”

“Have you been fiddling behind my back?” His attempt at humor masks his openly jealously over his wife making a breakthrough discovery.

“This is no different than you nosing around the propulsion and navigation stuff and besides, you have never shown the barest inclination towards music Sam. Don’t feel left out.

“And before you turn this around a make fun of me, consider this; before I met you, becoming an astronaut was my second choice.  I actually auditioned for 2nd violin at the New York Philharmonic. I could be safely back on Earth, playing Vivaldi at Avery Fisher Hall. But instead I am second fiddle on a spaceship without a rudder.”

Avery Fiisher Hall

(Take that!)

“There should be a musical response, if it is a form of communication. I’m going to defer to your expertise.” Sam knows better than to make-too-lightly when Celeste is passionate.

As he surmised, a very similar melodious passage is incoming. Celeste listens more Related imageintently this time and she was able to reproduce it to the note, using the Image result for 15 minutes gifNEWFOUNDLANDER digitized instrumentation.

“I made sure that there was enough difference in my melody. They will know this isn’t an echo.”

“Great observation! They will be expecting a reproduction not a response. Boy, are they going to be in for a shock when they find out who they’ve been “jamming” with, probably thinking that their crew had tinkered with the “out of office” message.”

About fifteen minutes passes without further tonal interaction.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 206


page 245

Contents TRT

 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 183

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 183

…If there is a dry eye in the house, good luck finding one…

If there is a dry eye in the house, good luck finding one. Even among NASA critics, closet detractors or flat-out opponents who are there only to be dutifully seen, the moment captures their humanity. What heart can be hardened against the thought of a husband and wife doomed to die a slow death on the expansive plain of a planet millions of miles away.

“I never had the chance to meet Celeste McKinney and I am not a mother, but I can tell you this much; the bravery required to sacrifice your life for the furthering of the greater good speaks volumes of her character.” Francine Bouchette-Crippen speaks  the female voice. “As a news anchor, I poured over hours of video regarding the McKinneys and what that video revealed to me was that two people shared the same dream; the dream of a planet that longs to experience what the Hubble Space Telescope brought to our device screens, from 3×5 to 80” diagonal.

“In her own words, I hear loud and clear, Celeste McKinney speaks to reaching out into the solar system, not just to secure the natural resources we so desperately need, but also strive to answer the irksome questions about whether we are alone as intelligent beings. She speaks to the dreams of her beloved Deke & Gus, to follow in the wake of their travels outside Earth’s atmosphere, past our Moon, and out to the Andromeda Galaxy.”

Francine begins to break down, a side of her few have seen in public. She uses the eerie silence to gather herself and pause for effect, “And tomorrow is Mother’s Day.”

She summons the strength to continue.

“I have been robbed of the opportunity to meet these two fine explorers, but with my time spent at around the people who love them and the precious moments I have shared with Deke & Gus, their fine character and lofty aspirations, I am so very proud to be part of their lives and legacy.”

She weeps as she backs away from the podium, the sad pedestal overlooking two huge portraits, the empty flag-draped caskets – topped with a sign made by Gus.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 183


page 219

Contents TRT

Man On Mars – Press to Start

Leave a comment

10 Reasons We

Will Colonize Mars

We’ve got some awesome news for you. Right now, you are standing on the edge of history. Yeah, you. Sometime soon, something’s gonna happen that will send you tumbling over into a whole new era of human evolution. We’re gonna colonize Mars.

 You read that right. That big, cold, lonely lump of rock spinning through the endless void 54.6 million kilometers away? We’re gonna land there. And we’re gonna build. Small bases. Biodomes. Research labs. Houses. And, eventually, even cities.
We can guess what you’re thinking: Yeah, right. Sure, Mars seems a long way away right now. Colonizing it sounds like the stuff of a science-fiction film, one that probably stars Matt Damon freaking out about a bunch of space potatoes. But it’s much, much closer than you think. At some point, in your lifetime, there’s gonna be a functioning civilization on the red planet. How can we be so sure? We’re glad you asked.

10. Risk Insurance

 Imagine you’re out and about, strolling along the beach or whatnot, when you stumble across a nest of dinosaur eggs. Like, real-life dino eggs, the kind that haven’t been seen for millions of years. As far as you know, they’re the only ones in existence.

They seem to be doing OK, but you can’t help but wonder whether they’re as safe as they seem. What if some predator comes along and eats them? What if some kid stomps on them? Isn’t it kinda your responsibility to move a few of those eggs, to make sure they survive?

In a nutshell, that’s the problem facing humanity today. Like the eggs, we’re doing fine right now, safe and sound on planet Earth. But, like with the eggs, our safety could be an illusion. There’s a chance that a meteor could come along at any moment and wipe us out. It’s slim, sure, but not impossible. And here the worry starts to creep in. As far as we know, we humans are the only intelligent life in the universe. Like the dino eggs, we could be invaluable. Isn’t it our responsibility to spread out, in case some meteor metaphorically stomps on us?

That’s the argument guys like Elon Musk are putting forward for why we need to colonize Mars: as a form of interplanetary risk insurance. And it’s proving pretty powerful. Already SpaceX are gearing up to send a manned craft to Mars by 2022, for this very reason.

9. It’s a Challenge

Make no mistake, getting to Mars is probably the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Most of us probably can’t even grasp the technical leaps required to colonize a whole other celestial body. But you know what else once seemed an impossible challenge? Establishing a permanent base on Antarctica. Heck, even getting to Antarctica in the first place. Or climbing Everest. Or navigating the Northwest passage. Or colonizing the New World. Or…

Well, you get the idea. If humans were a sensible species that erred on the side of caution, we’d probably still be living in caves, congratulating ourselves on not being dumb enough to venture out into the sabretooth tiger-infested woods around us. But sensible is exactly what humans aren’t. We do dumb things, like climbing a mountain we know could easily kill us, just to say we reached the top. We even build civilizations in horrifically hostile places like Greenland and the Sahara, for Pete’s sakes.

What we’re trying to say is that humans rise to challenges, especially crazy ones like setting up a base on Mars. And especially when there’s the added incentive of competition…

8. Competition Between Nations (and companies)

Landing on the Moon was, arguably, one of the biggest wastes of money in US history. The entire Apollo program cost the equivalent of $110 billion in today’s dollars, a sum that doesn’t include the earlier Mercury and Gemini programs necessary to prepare NASA for Apollo. And what did America get out of it?

Well, there are two answers to that question. The utilitarian one would go something like “a dude, standing on a lump of rock.” But the other one would ring much truer. The US got something intangible from Neil Armstrong stepping on the lunar surface: a sense of prestige, of national pride.

The last part is the key here. The only reason man ever set foot on the Moon was because the Americans were terrified Russia would get there first. During

the Space Race, it was calculated that spending insane amounts of money was preferable to losing the propaganda war. Fast forward to 2017, and we may be witnessing the dawn of Space Race II.

Like all sequels, SRII is gonna be bigger, crazier, and chock full of extra characters. China has already declared it wants to get to Mars in the next decade. NASA wants a man on Mars by 2030. India is sending satellites and probes. Then there are the private actors. SpaceX is already facing competition from Blue Origin and, to a lesser extent, Mars One. With everyone fighting for that sweet Martian prestige, expect SRII to start hotting-up like crazy.

7. We Already Have the Technology to Get There Safely

One of the big stumbling blocks for a Mars mission – let alone a colony – has long been getting there. Mars is 182 times the distance from Earth as the Moon. Getting there will require flying for over six months. There are cosmic rays to deal with. The problem of landing on a planet with gravity and atmosphere conditions very different to Earth’s. Many have called the idea “impossible” (at least, without killing all the astronauts).

Yet all this overlooks one key fact. We already have the technology to get there.

For years now, SpaceX have been flying payloads for NASA to the ISS. As part of each mission, they’ve casually tested some of their Mars-landing tech on the side. Importantly, they’ve been doing it at a distance of 40 kilometers to 70 kilometers above Earth’s surface, where our atmosphere perfectly mimics conditions on Mars. And they’ve succeeded. Repeatedly. The ingredients for a successful Mars landing are essentially already there.

What about those pesky cosmic rays? NASA already has the tech to eliminate around 33% of the risk they pose, and engineers are confident that number is only gonna increase.

6. We Already Have the Technology to Make Mars Habitable

Here’s a quote to blow your mind. It comes from aerospace experts Chistopher McKay and Robert Zubrin, and we’re gonna reproduce it exactly as they said it, just to let the full weight of its craziness sink in. In a paper, the two wrote: “a drastic modification of Martian conditions can be achieved using 21st century technology.”

We’ve highlighted that last bit, because it’s the important one. What McKay and Zubrin are saying is that it’s totally possible for humanity to start terraforming Mars, using technology we have at our disposal right now. That’s right, 2017 man is so advanced he can literally change the surface of an entire alien world (though for some reason he still chooses to wear sweatpants in public. Weird, huh?).

If you don’t read Sci-Fi, terraforming means changing a planet so it becomes more Earth-like, and thus more-livable for humans. On Mars, that means we could trigger a deliberate greenhouse gas effect that would melt the ice at the poles, release a load of CO2, make the atmosphere denser, and trap more heat and energy from the sun. Then we’d have liquid water and could start planting; little mosses at first, but then plants, flowers, and even trees.

The end result would be a planet that looked like Earth, was warm enough to not kill us and with a bearable pressure. The air wouldn’t be breathable, but even that could change. A few centuries after terraforming, Mars could have an atmosphere as breathable as that on Earth.

5. We Already Know There’s Water There

Water is the main ingredient we humans need to live. No water, and the deal is off. Luckily, Mars has something that very, very few other places in our solar system do: ice. Lots and lots of ice. Frozen H20, just waiting to be thawed, filtered and used to keep a human colony alive.

We’re not exaggerating. Beneath just one stretch of the Martian plains, NASA have discovered a single ice deposit containing as much water as the whole of Lake Superior. It exists in an area known as Utopia, because it would be easy to land a craft there and then drill down to and extract the water. And that’s just on the plains. Go to the poles, and you’ll be sitting on enough water to keep a civilization running more or less eternally. If you melted all the ice on Mars, you’d wind up with enough liquid to drown the entire planet beneath an ocean some 30 feet deep.

This means you wouldn’t need to transport your own water from Earth, something so hideously impractical as to make it effectively impossible. It also means you could sustain not just an expedition, but an entire colony. Even if we reach the point where there are a million or so people living on Mars, we could rest safe in the knowledge that the water supply was unlikely to ever run out.

4. Mars Probably Has the Minerals We Need, Too

Of course, building a habitable city on another planet takes a lot more than water. It requires an insane amount of construction materials, which would cost eye-watering sums of money to send from Earth. At least, it would if we had no alternative. But we probably do. There’s a relatively good chance that Mars has the minerals we need to start building our space utopia.

We should stress the ‘relatively’ part of that sentence. We don’t have a huge amount of geological data on Mars, and NASA have been unable to identify any large ore deposits. However, they have identified areas where the probability of mineral deposits is quite high. Nickle, copper, platinum, titanium, iron and silicone dioxide are all likely to exist on Mars, along with clay for making porcelain and pottery. Put it all together, and you have the fundamentals for building some pretty complex stuff.

As for the technology to extract it… well, the basics are already there. We could use bacteria to mine from ore, or we could just develop robots to do some old-fashioned digging.

3. The Idea Has Big Backing

Every grand scheme needs its visionary backers. Without Columbus, you don’t have the new world. Without Genghis Khan, you don’t have the Mongol Empire. Without JFK, you don’t have Neil Armstrong standing on the Moon. Lucky for humanity’s interplanetary prospects, we already have our Mars visionary. In fact, we’ve got more than one.

The most-famous is a guy we’ve already namechecked a few times in this article. Eccentric billionaire/possible supervillain Elon Musk has been key to pushing private space exploration from a dystopian dream to a benign reality. Through his company SpaceX, he’s made huge technological leaps toward making Mars colonization a Thing We Could Actually Do. But he’s not the only one. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos isalso determined to get millions of humans into space and living on other planets. Like Musk, he has the money and the technology – via his private space company Blue Origin – to potentially make it happen.

Then there’s the signals coming from the current administration. In March 2017, President Trump signed a bill adding manned exploration of Mars to NASA’s official mission statement. The last time humanity looked this serious about space exploration, it resulted in Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon.

2. It Will Drive Technological Change on Earth

One objection that often gets raised when talking about Mars is that we should focus on solving problems here on Earth first. Well, what if we told you that the two aren’t mutually exclusive? That by going to Mars, we will improve life for billions of people on Earth?

Intrigued? You should be. Technological advances in one area often bleed through into others, in hugely unpredictable ways. When Hubble was first launched, it had a fault in its lens that meant images came back all blurry. For 3 years, NASA scientists were stuck trying to decipher space photos that looked like a dog’s regurgitated dinner. So they developed an algorithm to detect images in the mess. A really good algorithm. So good, in fact, that it turned out to be excellent at detecting early-stage breast cancer from X-ray images. There are thousands of people alive today because NASA messed up Hubble.

Need some more examples? OK. NASA tech has given us everything from portable vacuum cleaners, to freeze-drying, to modern firefighting gear, to grooved tires and roads that lower the number of car crashes. Artificial limbs have improved drastically due to Nasa tech, as have insulin pumps. That’s just from trundling around in our planet’s orbit. Imagine what totally unexpected stuff could result from the process of landing on and terraforming Mars?

1. Destiny

Stop and think about the future for a minute. No, we don’t mean five years from now. We don’t even mean fifty years from now. We mean hundreds, if not thousands, of years from now. We mean a span of time as great as that separating you from Jesus or Julius Caesar. What do you see happening to our species when all that time has passed? Where are we?

One cynical answer might be: “dead. Wiped out by war or disease or a marauding AI.” But move away from the worst case scenario, and a clearer picture likely emerges. Of humanity, spread out among the stars. Of colonies on Titan and Ganymede. Of cities in space. Of exploration beyond the edges of the Oort Cloud, out into the depths of our galaxy. Imagine: a future where we have the space and minerals for everyone. You could even call it our destiny.

Now, terms like “manifest destiny” come with a lot of historical baggage. It was ‘destiny’ that led European settlers to kill a whole lotta Native Americans. But Mars doesn’t have any native population at all (unless they’re really, really good at hiding). Nor does the rest of our solar system. Humanity can expand without prejudice or violence, or anything but a Star Trek-style desire to learn and explore. And when you put it like that, we come to maybe the simplest, best reason we have for colonizing Mars: why on Earth would we choose not to?


Man On Mars

– Press to Start

Theories About the Universe – WIF Space

Leave a comment

Mind-Blowing Theories

About the Universe

Image result for the universe

As we mentioned in our first list about mind bending theories about the universe, the universe is a vast and mysterious place. For centuries, people have looked out into space and tried to explain why we’re here and where we came from. While it may take even more centuries before any of those questions are answered, it doesn’t mean scientists don’t have any theories.

We should also point out that these are just theories, so at times, some theories may not align with each other, or even contradict each other.

10. Why is Dark Matter so Hard to Detect?

10

Throughout this list, we will talk about something called dark matter. Dark matter makes up about 27 percent of the universe and about 83 percent of all matter. It is invisible because light doesn’t bounce off of it and it has a gravitational pull on regular matter, meaning it affects the movements of galaxies and galactic clusters. While it does have a gravitational effect, dark matter can pass through regular matter almost undetected. For all of these reasons, dark matter hasn’t been detected yet, but physicists are sure it exists.

One question is: why is it so hard to detect dark matter in Earth-based experiments? One possible answer comes from a group of particle physicists called Lattice Strong Dynamics Collaboration. In their simulation, they found that dark matter might have noticeable interactions with ordinary matter if they are both in conditions that are similar to the start of the universe, which is extremely high-temperature plasma. If their simulation is true, that means in the early days of the universe, dark matter might have been observable.

The good news is that these types of conditions can now be recreated in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Researchers are awaiting a chance to test the theory and for the first time, dark matter could be detected. If their theory is correct, it would suggest that before the universe cooled, there was a type of balancing act between matter and dark matter before they spread across the universe.

9. Dark Matter Killed the Dinosaurs

An asteroid is the most likely culprit for what killed the dinosaurs. However, what really kicked off the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction 66 million years ago is still debated. A very far out and cosmic theory comes from physicist Lisa Randall is that it was an impact event that was caused by dark matter.

The basis of the theory goes back to the 1980s, when paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski found evidence that every 26 million years since the Great Dying of the Permian-Triassic, (which happened about 252 million years ago and 96 percent of life was wiped out), there has been a great mass extinction. Upon further research, going back a half a billion years ago, it appears that Earth suffered some type of cataclysmic event approximately every 30 million years, give or take a few million years.

However, scientists have never really sure why cataclysmic events would happen on a timetable like that. Randall’s theory is that dark matter is involved. Dark matter is believed to be scattered throughout the universe and it is used as scaffolding on which galaxies, including our home the Milky Way, are built. As our solar system rotates around the Milky Way, it “floats” and at times, it bobs like a cork in the water. And this bob happens about every 30 million years.

When we bob, our solar system may encounter a disk of dark matter. The disk would need to be one-tenth the thickness of the Milky Way’s visible disk of stars, and have a density of at least one solar mass per square light-year.

Matter and dark matter can pass through each other, but dark matter can affect regular matter through gravity. The result is that when some matter floating in space comes into contact with dark matter, it could send things flying throughout the universe, which ultimately hit Earth.

If Randall’s theory is true, dark matter could be responsible for major parts of the formation of the universe.

8. Life Spread Across the Universe Like an Epidemic

8

When talking about the universe, there’s one question that always pops up: is there intelligent life other than our own? Or are we just alone here? Well, scientists wonder about this too, and currently they are looking at how life, including our own, came into existence.

According to a research paper from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the most logical answer is that life spread from star to star, like an epidemic. The concept that life spread from planet to planet and star to star is called panspermia, and of course, if you’ve seen Prometheus, that concept is a major plot point.

If life passed from star to star, that means that the Milky Way could be full of pockets of life. If the theory is correct, then it is possible that other planets in the Milky Way may host life as well.

Another interesting thing they found in their calculations is that life could be spread by microscopic organisms that hitched a ride on an asteroid, or it even could have been spread by an intelligent being or beings.

7. Why is the Universe Made of Matter?

Matter is everything that takes up space and has weight, and the opposite of matter is called anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter touch, they annihilate each other, which is exactly what happened at the start of the universe and helped drive its expansion. At the beginning of the universe, there should have been an equal amount of matter and anti-matter. However, if there was an equal amount of both matter and anti-matter, they would have canceled each other and the universe would have ceased to exist. This has led physicists to believe that there was slightly more matter than anti-matter. An amount as small as an extra particle of matter for every 10 billion antimatter particles would have been enough for matter to spread out across the universe.

The problem was that while physicists knew that there was more matter, they didn’t know why. That was until 2008, when researchers at the University of Chicago were observing subatomic particles that lived very short lives called B mesons. The researchers, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery, found that that B mesons and anti-B mesons decay differently from one another. This means that it is possible that after the annihilations in the start of the universe, the B mesons and anti-B mesons decayed differently, leaving enough matter behind to create all the stars, planets, and even you and everything you touch, including the air you breathe.

6. Disorder Made Life Possible

Entropy essentially measures the amount of disorder in a system. If something is high in entropy that means there is more disorder, and low entropy means there is more organization. An example to visualize this is with Legos. A Lego house would have low entropy and a box of random, disconnected pieces would have high entropy.

What’s interesting is that entropy may be the reason that life exists in the first place, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you take a look at the complexity of something like the human brain, which is the pinnacle of order.

 Nevertheless, according to a theory by assistant MIT professor Jeremy England, higher entropy may be responsible for life in the universe. England says that, under ideal conditions, a random group of molecules can self-organize themselves to efficiently use more energy in their environment. How entropy plays into this is when energy is added to a system. The molecules jump and bounce off each other. If a few were to clump together, and energy was used more efficiently, it would continue to hold together, collecting more molecules, until eventually enough molecules clump together to become a life form. However, if there wasn’t a high entropy state, the molecules would have never been bouncing off each other. Therefore they would have never clumped together and brought about life.

This theory still has a lot of testing to go through. However, if England is correct, then an expert suggested that his name would be remembered the same way we remember Charles Darwin.

5. The Universe Has No Beginning

5

The prevailing theory of the start of our universe is that over 13.8 billion years ago, from a point of singularity, the Big Bang gave birth to the universe and it has been expanding ever since.

The Big Bang was first theorized in 1927 and the model is based on Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The problem is that there are some holes in Einstein’s theory; mainly that the laws of physics break before reaching singularity. Another big problem is that the other dominant theory in physics, quantum mechanics, doesn’t reconcile with general relativity. Also, neither relativity nor quantum mechanics explain or account for dark matter. This means that although the Big Bang is one of the best theories about how the universe started, it may not be correct.

An alternative theory is that the universe was never at the point of singularity and there was no Big Bang. Instead, the universe is infinite and doesn’t have a beginning or an end. The researchers arrived at this theory by applying quantum correction terms to Einstein’s theory of general relativity using an older model of interpreting quantum mechanics called Bohmian Mechanics. And no, we’re not exactly sure what that means, but good for them.

Their method of testing the theory will also help account for dark matter. If their theory is correct that the universe is infinite, it would mean that the universe has pockets of a superfluid filled with theoretical particles, like gravitons and axioms. If the superfluid matches the distribution of dark matter, then it’s possible that the universe is infinite.

4. The Universe Should Have Never Existed

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury once wrote, “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” And according to a model based on the Higgs boson particle from King’s College London suggests he couldn’t have been more right, because the universe shouldn’t exist.

The problem is that 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds, the universe underwent something called cosmic inflation, which was a rapid expansion of the universe. If that is true, the inflation would have caused quantum fluctuations, or jolts, in the energy field. These jolts would have been so strong that they would have pushed the universe out of the Higgs field, which is responsible for giving particles its mass, and the universe would cease to exist. Of course, since you’re reading this, you know that this model isn’t correct. So why does the universe exist when it shouldn’t?

One possibility is that the findings are wrong. Another is that there may be some new physics or particles that have yet to be discovered. However, until we figure it out, we should just feel lucky to be here when we theoretically shouldn’t.

3. The Universe Started Off One Dimensional

3

A commonly held belief about the universe is that the Big Bang was an exploding sphere, but another theory posits that for the first thousand-trillionth of a second of the Big Bang, it was actually a one dimensional line. Energy would race back and forth before creating a fabric, which is the second dimension. Then it morphed into three dimensions, which is the world we see.

If the model is correct, it would help address a few problems with the standard model of particle physics, such as the incompatibility between quantum mechanics and general relativity, and cosmic inflation. However, if this theory is true, it would only lead to more mysteries, like what mechanisms were used to make the universe morph into the different dimensions?

2. How Many Dimensions Are There?

In the last entry, we talked about how the universe may have evolved into three-dimensions; however there are many more dimensions than that. According to Superstring Theory, there are at least 10.

Here is how it works: the first dimension is just a single line, the second dimension is height, the third is depth, and fourth is duration. Where it starts to get a little bit weird is dimension five. That is where the multiverse theory comes into play. In the fifth dimension there is a universe that is very much like our own and we would be able to measure similarities and differences. The sixth dimension is a plane where there are parallel universes with all the same starting conditions, so if our universe started with the Big Bang, so did theirs. The seventh dimension is a plane full of worlds with different starting conditions.

Now, if all that wasn’t confusing enough, the eighth dimension is where things start to get really complicated and humans have problems understanding it. Basically, the eighth dimension is all possible worlds, all with different starting conditions, and they branch out infinitely. Of course, things only get more brain melting from there. In the ninth dimension, there are all possible universes that start with different initial conditions and the laws of physics of these universes can be completely different. In the 10th and final dimension anything is possible, and that is just something humans cannot even fathom.

1. We’re Living in the Distant Past of a Parallel Universe

1

The term “time’s arrow” was first introduced in 1927 and it aptly describes the flow of time. Humans perceive it as always going forward and it also obeys the second law of thermodynamics so entropy always increases; eggs are cracked and scrambled and they never unscramble and reform inside the shell.

The problem is that if time only goes forward, many of the best equations about how the universe works, like James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electrodynamics, Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation, Einstein’s special and general relativity or quantum mechanics, would be incorrect. However, if time ran forwards and backwards, then they would all work perfectly. One way that this is possible is that at the Big Bang, two parallel universes were started. One where time moves forward, and a parallel one where time flows backwards.

The reasoning is that, if entropy increases in our universe, then when the universe started, it would have begun in a low-entropy and highly ordered state. That could be the end of another universe. That universe would start at the end and time would flow backwards, while ours flows forward.

If we could see the other universe, we would see time going backwards and we would probably see into the future of our universe (presuming that we’re not past the middle age of the universe) and we’d be living in the parallel universe’s distant past. That is, of course, if we’re not the reality that is living in reverse and don’t realize it.


Theories About the Universe

WIF Space-001

– WIF Space