Space Fact Saturday

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 Out of this World

Facts about Space

William Shatner hit the nail on the head when he uttered the famous phrase, “Space, the final frontier.” Why? Well, contrary to what some scientists will have you believe, space remains mankind’s final and rather obscure frontier. After all there is so much we have yet to understand about space, and much that we thought we knew is starting to look ‘shaky’.

For example, if you were to approach a couple of astrophysicists and ask them about their views on ‘black holes’ you will, more often than not, open up a cosmic size Pandora’s box of never-ending debate. While it is feasible that many of you might enjoy such a conversation, it is equally likely that you will walk away from the whole episode with a tangible sense that as much as science likes to think it knows a lot about space… it really doesn’t.

However hope is not lost! For amongst all the dull theoretical extrapolations and mind numbing confusion, there remain a number of facts that will challenge some of the ‘cast iron’ perceptions you have about the universe. As a starting point read on and discover 10 of the most mind boggling facts about space!

10. Water Pools In Space

water-space

In 2011 astronomers discovered a gigantic vapour cloud caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole deep within the universe, making it the largest discovery of water anywhere. According toUniverse Today, the cloud, known as a ‘reservoir’ in astronomical circles, is believed to be capable of holding all of the Earth’s oceans 140 trillion times over!

While the discovery of water in space is not headline news, it is the sheer volume of water discovered and the fact that the reservoir seems to be slightly younger than the big bang itself that has caught the attention of scientists. Matt Bradford from NASA has stated that, “[The discovery] is another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

So if the Earth ever runs out of water, at least we know where we can find ourselves an intergalactic water pump. The only problem is how we would get there, as it currently resides 10 billion light years from Earth.

9. It Would Take 225 Million Years To Walk A Light Year

light year-space

It would take 225 million years to walk a light year. Don’t believe me? Well as all great mathematicians suggest, let us show our workings!

  1. One light year (the distance light travels in a year) is about 5.9 trillion miles.
  2. If you briskly walked 5.9 trillion miles at 20 minutes per mile constantly without any breaks, you would complete your light year stroll in 225 million years.

In other words if you started your walk just before the emergence of the dinosaurs you would be about to finish walking now!

On an interesting side note, according to Jessica Cheng in the September 2008 edition of ‘Popular Science’ magazine, the long trip would come with a unique set of problems. She estimates that in order to complete the journey you would need about 11.8 billion pairs of shoes! Not to mention the fact that you would be burning 80 calories per mile and would therefore need an average of 2 trillion power bars to fuel your body for the trip!

Cheng also goes on to suggest that after such a journey, you wouldn’t have got very far. In an astronomical sense 1 light year is the equivalent of you just about reaching the end of Earth’s garden path. The nearest star from Earth, Proxima Centauri, is a staggering 4.22 light years away.

8. Eros Asteroid Of Riches

eros-space

In 1998 the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft passed close to the asteroid Eros and relayed back to Earth its findings. It discovered that Eros was a floating treasure chest of unprecedented riches. Due to its size, NASA has suggested that if Eros consists of 3% metal, like so many meteorites that fall to Earth, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Eros might indeed contain 1.8 billion metric tons of gold and other precious metals such as platinum.

According to Dr. David Whitehouse, then Science Editor for the BBC, in an article entitled, ‘Gold rush in space’, Eros is indeed a large but by no means the largest of asteroids. That being said he believes that since Eros is speculated to contain a multitude of rare elements, the asteroid has a total monetary worth of close to $20,000 bn. Of course it goes without saying that if Eros ever impacted the Earth, its priceless metal content and indeed monetary value will be of little consolation (or, for that matter, use) for what would most certainly be an extinct mankind.

7. There Are 1,397 Known Asteroids That Could End Mankind

phas-space

In an attempt to prevent the dramatic scenes of movies such asArmageddon, NASA has its eyes fixed on the 1,397 asteroids in and around our solar system that could, upon impact with the Earth, bring about the end of the human race. You can rest assured that should anything larger than 350 feet in diameter come within 4.6 million miles of the Earth, NASA will be on critical alert.

The extent to which NASA is aware of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) is both impressive and frightening. Rather ominously NASA has released an orbit plan for each of the 1,397 known PHAs. Aside from looking like somebody’s overzealous attempt at getting to grips with Spirograph, the image does not fail to impress the severity of PHAs and the real and continual threat that they pose to mankind. As Dan Nosowitz suggests in the August 5th 2013 edition of the ‘Popular Science’ magazine, it is hard to believe that we have yet to be impacted by one of these ‘destruction max’ asteroids.

6. The International Space Station Travels At Five Miles A Second

ISS-space

According to CoolCosmos, a NASA education and outreach website, the International Space Station orbits the Earth at a speed of (roughly) 17,150 miles per hour! This equates to the station travelling five miles every second with its crew witnessing a sunrise every 92 minutes. To see the International Space Station in action you can log onto the following website and watch its orbit of the Earth live and in real time here.

5. There Are More Stars Than Words Spoken

stars-space

According to Scientific American, there are more stars in the universe than words have been spoken by every human who has ever lived. As much as this sounds a gross exaggeration of fact, the true number of stars in the universe is probably a number so vast that it is beyond the comprehension of the human brain. For example, Nicola Willett of The Mars Society estimates that there are at least 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (70 sextillion x10 to the power of 22) stars in the universe. She goes on to suggest that the universe itself probably contains more than 100 billion galaxies, each likely to contain billions of stars. Don’t worry if this confuses you, as these are the sort of numbers that we will never truly begin to understand.

Our only certainty in the process of comprehending the total amount of stars in the universe is that we are likely to never know the true answer, as star counting is a process of hypothesising with a large, and a very large at that, margin of error. In other words, nobody has known, knows presently and will never likely know the true figure of the sum of all the stars in the universe.

4. The Moon Suffers From Moonquakes

moonquakes-space

When Clive. R. Neal, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, and a team of 15 planetary scientists re-examined Apollo data from the 1970s, he concluded that ‘The moon is seismically active.’

Seismometers placed at the landing sites of the Apollo missionsbetween 1969 and 1972 radioed data back to Earth until they were taken offline in 1977. The results were surprising, suggesting that there are at least four types of moonquakes:

  1. Deep moonquakes that occur on average around 700km below the moon’s surface and are probably triggered by the Earth’s tidal forces.
  1. Usual vibrations and minor moonquakes as a result of meteorite impact.
  1. Thermal moonquakes caused by the Sun when illuminating and expanding the frigid crust on the moon’s surface following a two week deep-freeze lunar night.
  1. Shallow moonquakes that occur frequently at a depth of 20-30km below the moon’s surface.

In truth nobody is really certain what exactly causes moonquakes.Speculation is rife among scientists. All that is known is that unlike earthquakes, moonquakes last longer. This is because, unlike the earth, the moon’s crust is hard and uncompressible. Therefore a moonquake tends to vibrate the moon like a tuning fork, whereas the Earth has elements of compression (like water and minerals) that act like a sponge during an earthquake and disperse the tremors within a matter of minutes. On the moon, a moonquake has been known to last 10 minutes!

3. Planet HD189733b

planet-space

The Hubble Telescope has identified a deep azure blue planet in distant space. The planet, called HD189733b, is a huge gas giant orbiting very close to its star. Its atmosphere is a hellish environment of 4,000mph (7,000kmph) winds and molten glass that rains sideways! The estimated temperature of this deep space ‘beast’ is a scorching 1,000 degrees Celsius!

The planet might outwardly look serene and earth-like, but its bluish hue is a result of silicate particles scattering blue light rather than any reflection of a serene tropical ocean. If mankind were to ever find itself in a situation similar to the movie Interstellar, this planet would be one of the most hostile environments in the known universe. Not that we would be able to reach it, as it currently resides 63 light years from Earth!

2. The Earth Has More Than One Moon

minimoon-space

If you thought the Earth has only one moon, it might surprise you to discover that this is actually false. While the moon is indeed the only celestial body to observe a strict orbit of the Earth, there are in fact a number of other ‘near-Earth’ asteroids which follow the Earth as it orbits the Sun. These are called ‘co-orbitals’ and there are at least 6 known ‘co-orbitals’ caught in the Earth’s gravitational pull. However don’t think you can gaze into the night sky to find them, as most can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Of course you might agree with many astronomers and suggest that these co-orbitals are not technically moons. However, what is clear is that while they might not be moons in the traditional sense, they are far from your average asteroid.  Like the Earth they orbit the Sun in roughly a year and occasionally pass close enough to the Earth to exert a slight gravitational influence. In astronomical terms this means that the suggestion that they are in facts moons is all the more realistic.

Robert Jedicke, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, has suggested that, “At any one time there are one or two 1 meter diameter asteroids in orbit around the Earth.” Perhaps when we think of the moon we should consider the possibility that rather than the Earth having one solitary moon in Luna, the Earth has in fact a number of fluctuating moons that come and go throughout the year!

1. There Are Less Than Nine Planets In Our Solar System

planets-space

Despite what you were taught in your science lessons, our solar system has less than 9 planets. Don’t be fooled, you would be right in thinking that there were 9 planets 10 years ago but in recent years the International Astronomical Union has decided it would be a good idea to apply its own criteria of what constitutes a planet to our solar system.

The criteria stipulate that in order for something to be defined as a planet it must:

  1. Orbit the Sun
  2. Have enough mass to be round in shape (but doesn’t have to be perfectly spherical)
  3. Have cleared ‘their neighbourhood’ or immediate orbit.

The first planet to fail the criteria was Pluto in 2006 when it was demoted from a planet to a ‘dwarf planet.’ This is perhaps not surprising as there has been much debate since Pluto’s discovery about whether it is actually a planet. For years it was seen as an icy rock not too dissimilar to an oversized asteroid confined to the region of space at the very edge of the solar system. That makes 8 planets.

Space Fact Saturday

And Pluto

“Live Long and Prosper” – A Trekkie’s Wish

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“Live Long and Prosper” – A Trekkie’s Wish

 

Star Trek

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Star Trek
Star Trek movie logo 2009.jpg

The Star Trek logo as it appears in J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek
Creator Gene Roddenberry
Original work Star Trek: The Original Series
Print publications
Novels List of novels
Comics List of comics
Films and television
Films

Main article

Television series
Games
Video games List of games

Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry and currently under the ownership of CBS and Paramount.[Note 1] Star Trek: The Original Series and its live action TV spin-off shows, Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise as well as the Star Trek film series make up the main canon, while Star Trek: The Animated Series as well as the expansive library of Star Trek novels andcomics are part of the franchise, but are generally considered non-canon.[Note 2]

The first series, now referred to as “The Original Series”, debuted in 1966 and ran for three seasons on NBC. It followed the interstellar adventures of James T. Kirkand the crew of the starship Enterprise, an exploration vessel of a 23rd-century interstellar “United Federation of Planets“. In creating the first “Star Trek”, Roddenberry was inspired by Westerns such as Wagon Train, along with theHoratio Hornblower novels and Gulliver’s Travels. These adventures continued in the short-lived Star Trek: The Animated Series and six feature films. Four spin-off television series were eventually produced: Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed the crew of a new starship Enterprise set a century after the original series;Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, set contemporaneously withThe Next Generation; and Star Trek: Enterprise, set before the original series, in the early days of human interstellar travel. Four additional The Next Generationfeature films were produced. In 2009, the film franchise underwent a relaunch with aprequel to the original series set in an alternate timeline titled simply Star Trek. This film featured a new cast portraying younger versions of the crew from the originalEnterprise.[Note 3] A sequel to this film, Star Trek Into Darkness, premiered on May 16, 2013.

Star Trek has been a cult phenomenon for decades.[1] Fans of the franchise are called Trekkies or Trekkers. The franchise spans a wide range of spin-offs includinggames, figurines, novels, toys, and comics. Star Trek had a themed attraction inLas Vegas which opened in 1998 and closed in September 2008. At least two museum exhibits of props travel the world. The series has its own full-fledgedconstructed languageKlingon. Several parodies have been made of Star Trek. Its fans, despite the end of Star Trek episodes on TV, have produced several fan productions to fill that void.

Star Trek is noted for its influence on the world outside of science fiction. It has been cited as an inspiration for several technological inventions such as the cell phone. Moreover, the show is noted for its progressive civil rights stances. The original series included one of television’s first multiracial casts. Star Trekreferences can be found throughout popular culture from movies such as the submarine thriller Crimson Tide to the cartoon

“Live Long and Prosper” – A Trekkie’s Wish

WIF Sci Fi Chops – STAR TREK and Beyond

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The Star Trek Universe Was The First Matrix

In the Matrix Trilogy, both The Architect and Agent Smith detail the problems with the First Matrix. The First Matrix was an attempt to create a mental paradise by machines. They both acknowledged that the First Matrix was a failure. What would such a world look like? Is it possible that we already have an idea of what the First Matrix was? More to the point, the perfect world of the First Matrix may have looked a lot like the universe we already know as Star Trek. Here are a few possible reasons why that theory might be plausible.


10. The Architect’s Speech

matrix-architect

In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo meets The Architect, the program who designed the Matrix. The Architect tells Neo that there have been several Matrices before the current ones. In that speech, the Architect touches upon a concept which is never mentioned again in the trilogy: the “First Matrix.”

So says the Architect:  “The first Matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental failure. The inevitability of its doom is apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being. Thus, I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer eluded me because it required a lesser mind, or perhaps a mind less bound by the parameters of perfection.”

The Architect alludes to a perfect world in which everyone’s needs were met all the time. This is a world so perfect that you would immediately try to wake up from it. This sounds an awful lot like the Star Trek utopia.

9. Gene Roddenberry’s Vision of the Future

gene-roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry had a vision for the future with the original Star Trek series. Star Trek gave us a world in which prejudice and money were things of the past. There was no more war on Earth. Man was free to explore his or her place in the universe. In Roddenberry’s vision, all human races could work with alien races towards a higher goal.

Beautiful, right? Well, Agent Smith mentions the terrible effects of the First Matrix in the first movie. “The first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world where none suffered, where everyone would be happy.” he said. “It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through misery and suffering. So the perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this.”

Star Trek showed a vision of mankind which was almost too perfect. If you suddenly woke up in the world of Star Trek, you might well think that you were in a dream world. This is exactly the type of scenario described by Agent Smith and The Architect in the Matrix Trilogy.

8. The Time Frame Set By Morpheus

the-world-you-know

Morpheus explains to Neo that the Matrix is a world set in virtual reality. He then states that he does not know exactly what year they are in. It might be 2199, it might be later. Nobody knows for sure.

The year 2199 would put the world of the Matrix on the precipice of the 23rd century. This is coincidentally the same century in which the Star Trek universe takes place. This would make some sense. The machines were trying to create a Utopia in which the humans won the war. Naturally, the humans knew they had fought the machine war. The machines could not erase that from their collective conscious. They used their own supposed defeat to show the humans a perfect world after the humans had won. This world of the first Matrix would have been set in the 23rd century.

7. “The Menagerie”

talosians

“The Menagerie” was a two-part episode of the original Star Trek series. Its plot centers around Captain Christopher Pike, captured by a race called the Talosians. The Talosians used the power of illusion on Captain Pike in order to make him stay on their planet, Talos IV. The Talosians concluded that the  human mind would resist a perceivedprison environment, no matter how pleasant it may seem.

If the Star Trek universe was an early attempt at a Matrix, the Talosians would represent a program who purpose it was to fine tune the program. The Talosian Program’s goal would be to make the human mind accepting of its own captivity through illusion.

6. The First “One”

spock-mccoy

Spock represents the anomaly of “The One.” Spock was born to a human mother and Vulcan father. This means Spock is a being of cold logic, but also has a human side. This makes Spock capable of emotions.

The Architect admits that The One has a code inside of him which must be returned to “The Source.”  When Spock sacrificed himself to stop Khan, he passed on his Katra, which represented his brain patterns, to Leonard McCoy. Katra could be an easy analogy to the Code that the Architect was referring to.


Spock’s body was put into a tube, which was then shot to the planet Genesis. Spock’s body later regenerated in much the same way Neo woke up from his death. This waking-up would seem to be an essential part of becoming the “One.”

5. The Nexus

Nexus

In the Star Trek / Matrix universe, the Nexus, a ribbon in space in which anything that you imagine suddenly becomes reality, would be classically referred to as a “glitch.” WhoppiGoldberg’s character, Guinan, says that it is “pure joy” to be inside the Nexus. In short, the Nexus is a glitch in the Matrix’s programming code that allows you to completely control your surroundings.

The Nexus allowed its inhabitants complete control of the Matrix. In future versions of the Matrix, the Nexus would only be accessible through a series of keys, locks, and back doors. It is also probably not a coincidence that the physical representation of the Nexus looks like a “scorched sky.”

The truly interesting part is that Guinan always seems to be inside the Nexus. Guinan is also a woman who always seems to provide wise counsel, as well as delicious refreshment. It would be easy to refer to Guinan as something of an “Oracle.”

4. The Holodeck

guinan-picard-holodeck

The Holodeck was first introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In it, your entire surroundings, as well as the people you encounter, are all constructs of a computer program.  If you were to design a Matrix, then the inclusion of a holodeck would be absolute genius. Why would you think you were in a virtual reality simulation if you could create one? It would be hard for the brain to fathom that it was permanently trapped in an artificial simulation.

This line of  thinking has led some to believe that Zion in The Matrix was an artificial construct as well. This theory is known as “The Matrix In A Matrix Theory.” The Holodeck is a perfect example of a “Matrix Within A Matrix.”

3. Artificial Lifeforms

Elementary-Dear-Data

Have you ever noticed how artificial intelligence is really helpful in the Star Trek universe? Data is a noble wonder of technology who genuinely wants to be more human. Data resists being given human skin by the Borg Queen, and even gives his life for his human captain.

Meanwhile, the Doctor aboard the Voyager is a hologram dedicated to helping humans. It even once created a hologram family for itself. The point is that artificial intelligence is almost always seen as non-threatening in Star Trek. There are exceptions though, like the evil emotional android Lore, who seems to prove that evil artificial intelligence is an aberration.

There is even some evidence that a holodeck program can become sentient. The program of the fictional Dr. Moriarty successfully lobbies to be allowed to live in the Next Generationepisode Elementary, Dear Data. Through Moriarty, the machines that control the Matrix seem to be arguing eloquently that they have sentience, as well as a right to exist.

2. The Borg Virus

borg

Agent Smith spells out his problems with humans to Morpheus in the “virus speech.” The ironic part is that Smith himself would self-replicate throughout the Matrix, and then remake it in his own image.

The Matrix is not above viruses, and Agent Smith was supposed to protect against them before actually becoming one himself. The first Matrix would have virus problems as well, and in fact would have even bigger virus problems than its seventh variation.

The first virus in the first Matrix may well have been “The Borg.” The Borg’s mantra seems to be the words of a virus come to life: “We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Everything the Borg assimilated was outside the Federation’s control, and everything that Smith assimilated was outside of the Matrix’s control. That is how Smith became a threat to the Machine City. The assimilated in both cases could be brought back at a great price.

1. The Second Matrix

spock-meets-spock

Agent Smith once said that “entire crops” of people were lost during the disaster that was the First Matrix. The Architect later stated that The One would be allowed to choose people to help reform the human world.

Meanwhile, the 2009 Star Trek reboot sees the planet Vulcan destroyed, along with an elder Spock being sent back in time to help his younger self choose a crew for his new Enterprise. The destruction of Vulcan would seem to be consistent with “crops” of people being lost. The fact that the people lost were largely of Spock’s race would also seem to expose the problems in the first Matrix.

Star Trek: Into Darkness also seems to bring the conflict to Earth much faster than the earlier story line. The program “Khan” seems specifically designed to satisfy the human need for superiority as well as conflict. You can actually see the attempt by programmers to correct past perceived “mistakes,” otherwise known as the birth of the Second Matrix.

 

WIF Sci Fi Chops

– STAR TREK and Beyond