THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

…The mourners want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars…

Presidential candidate Crippen wraps up the grim occasion.

“But because we don’t know what exactly happened to them, is of little matter now. Today we are here to honor them and to make a promise, the promise of continuing dream of the McKinneys …and all of us at NASA…SOL-logo the dream of colonization, not just of Mars, but the stars beyond it! But we are going to go there, AT THE SPEED-OF-LIGHT!!!.”

The reference to the SOL Project is intentional.

Roy does not miss the opportunity to draw Charlotte Walker onto the funeral altar, a move that does not go unnoticed by the attending press.Image result for red white and blue wreath

“All of us, in our own way, knew Sampson and Celeste McKinney. Do not fail them or their memory.”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, Deke McKinney and Gus lay a giant RW&B wreath on the flag-draped caskets. The clergy representatives, each of their faith, give their blessing. The honor guards carry the sarcophagi to the waiting horse drawn cortege.

The crowd disperses slowly, bound together by a trance of unbelief. They want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars. They do not want to have to memorialize speculative assumptions, but just when is the right time to say when?

Apart from a mourning nation and most of the “civilized” world, two significant figures remain stoic. Whether or not they are expected to be resigned and vulnerable, the McKinney boys, with eyes to the heavens and beyond, hold firm. They are sending a message for the world to heed: ‘We remaining McKinneys dedicate the rest of our lives to the memory of our parents and the future of America’s space program.’


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 185


page 175

Fallacies, Falsehoods, Facts and Furthermore – WIF Science

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Widely Misunderstood

Scientific Theories

People often misunderstand scientific theories — partly because science can be complicated, but also because many people are confused about what a scientific theory actually is. A theory, in science terms, is not just an extremely good educated guess, nor is it expected to ever reach a higher burden of proof. It is, in fact, a common misconception that a scientific theory can ever become a scientific law. This is because they aren’t really part of a hierarchy of evidence, but separate aspects of understanding and classifying the world around us. A scientific law is something we know, and a theory is a model to explain it that has stood up to repeated testing and research. Now, since people often misunderstand what a theory is, they also often sometimes get the science confused as well. In today’s article, we will go over 10 examples of just that.

10. “If We Evolved From Monkeys, Why Are There Still Monkeys?”

Something you will often hear from people who deny the theory of evolution is that it is silly to say we evolved from monkeys, because there are still monkeys around today. To begin with, we didn’t evolve from monkeys (at least not the ones you are thinking of and see today) — we may have evolved from a common ancestor to monkeys, many, many ages ago.

The idea that one species would disappear just because another evolved from it is simply confusing. A new species evolving from an old one doesn’t necessarily mean the old species is obsolete, nor that it will suddenly vanish from the face of the earth. There is also the matter of how more genetic diversity is created. When a group from a species ends up isolated from other members of its species, different forms tend to emerge due to the different environments or habits of the group. There are many, many different forms of monkeys today, which makes perfect sense with the theory of evolution — we are just the smartest kind. And yes, we are still basically monkeys, as far as the term can be loosely used with regard to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution… maybe.

However, God had a better idea; Creation.

9. Time Is One Of The Most Misunderstood Ideas In All Of Science

Time is something we take for granted, but in the physics community, its nature and existence is a source of constant research and debate. Some people aren’t even sure it is even really a thing… at least not the way we tend to think of it. Experiments with a unit of a measure even smaller than an atom, on something called the Planck Scale — which is a scale for incredibly small measurements — have found that time seems to cease when you get down to a small enough level. Some physicists think that this could indicate that at the very basic level of the universe, time doesn’t exist, which would mean what we think we are seeing is just a macroscopic effect of something else.

This can be quite confusing even to a trained physicist, and there really is no one truly defined explanation accepted by the majority of the community. Some are trying all sorts of equations and ideas in attempts to come up with some kind of overall rational, but have thus far not quite succeeded. The problem is that time has already recently thrown physicists for a loop, when Einstein proved that it was at least relative. Now, we have to figure out if it exists at the most base level of the universe, and if it does, in what form, and what it actually is. For now though, just accept the illusion, as your job will still expect you to show up on time.

8. The “Law Of Averages” Doesn’t Really Even Exist — It’s A Fallacy

Some people will talk about something called the “law of averages,” whereby they claim that over a given amount of time, things will basically even out in terms of odds. Usually, this is applied to some sort of competition, or even gambling. The thing is, though, there really is no such thing as the law of averages — it’s just a fallacy. The law of averages generally assumes that because something is statistically likely, that it’s going to happen soon. This fallacy can be part of the gambler’s fallacy, where people lose a lot of money, continuing to bet because the “law of averages” says it should happen “imminently.”

The problem is that these people have a poor understanding of probability. If we are talking about truly random chance, just because something is likely to happen doesn’t mean it will — there’s just a level of probability that it will happen. Calculating probability can be quite complicated, and the number usually ends up lower than you would expect. There is a real concept that people might be getting things confused with called the Law of Large Numbers. This simply posits that if you do something an incredible amount of times, the average should be close to the expected value. For example, if you roll a six-sided die hundreds of thousands of times, the average should be about 3.5, as that is the average value of the die. Some people get confused thinking that in a specific gambling run, or perhaps a game of Risk, that luck will even out. This is unlikely — the sample size is too small and you are falling prey to the gambler’s fallacy.

7. Gender And Sex Are Constantly Confused, But They Are Not The Same Thing

Today, there’s a lot of talk about various different genders, such as pansexual, demisexual, and so on. On top of that, there’s increased awareness and tolerance for those who are transgender; however, just because people are talking about these things more doesn’t mean that everyone necessarily understands the concepts. Some people get very confused about the difference between gender and sex, and the difference is important.

We aren’t here to weigh in on how many genders there should be, or how you should feel about people who feel they were born a different sex. We just want to get the science accurate. When it comes to sex, there really can only be two. You simply cannot make up any more than that, because sex consists of the physiological characteristics such as the actual differences in organs and the different hormones that naturally affect you. However, gender has always been an entirely sociological construct to begin with, and is perfectly open to create as many as you want, as it has nothing to do with physical characteristics. Gender is really about how you feel, what attracts you, and other nebulous factors that can’t be properly physiologically measured.

6. The Artificial Intelligence Scientists Are Creating Is Not What You Think

Artificial intelligence is probably one of the most misunderstood basic theories in science, but we don’t suggest that most people misunderstand this because they aren’t intelligent. Rather, movies have done an incredibly good job of twisting people’s understanding of this one, and unless you’ve studied computer science you may not realize how silly and wrong most movies have this.

In movies artificial intelligence reaches some level of consciousness, and people are quite used to this image of AI. To make matters worse, the news will get quick clicks with headlines about famous scientists being worried about the rise of AI, and then people start worrying about Terminators. Now, there is some reason to be worried about AI, but no researcher expects it to reach actual consciousness, because that’s just not how it works. Rather, the goal of AI research is to make it better at doing tasks and organizing the flow of various goings-on without much human intervention. The fear of experts is AI making bad decisions after being given control of important infrastructure, not because they have transcended to the level of conscious beings and are being malicious, but because they could make stupid mistakes due to lacking context, and not seeing the entire picture that a human would — or just thinking in an unpredictable way.

5. Survival Of The Fittest Isn’t About Strength Or Immunity, But Characteristics

A lot of people are taught about the theory of natural selection, but many of them come away with little memory of it except “survival of the fittest,” which many take to mean that if you are the strongest and toughest, you are more likely to survive. However, this is really only true if the environment you live in requires physical strength and toughness as the best way to not only live, but pass on your genes to a new generation.

This is because the whole point of natural selection is that those with the best characteristics for the environment they live in will be more likely to pass on viable offspring, not that strength and machismo will always rule the day. Species not only tend to naturally select over time for the better traits, but also will drop things over time that they don’t need anymore. A good example of this is wisdom teeth, which some humans are already being born without.

4. Everything You Know About Pavlov’s Experiments And Theories Is Probably Wrong

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiments with dogs, where he taught them to salivate at the sound of a buzzer by making them associate it with food. Most people think that Pavlov’s whole deal from the get-go was studying psychology by using dogs, and that no dogs were harmed in his experiments.

However, the truth is that the real story behind Pavlov is kind of horrifying if you like dogs. So, if you really, really love dogs and hearing about awful things done to them makes you upset, you might want to skip to the next entry. You’ve been warned.

Pavlov was not really interested early on in his career in psychology — that came much later after he had already won a Nobel Prize and reached his peak. Rather, Pavlov was interested in physiology, especially when it comes to the digestive system. He would do something called “sham feeding” where he would make a hole in the dog’s throat called a fistula, so that the food would drop out and never reach the dog’s stomach. By continuing to make lower holes on various dogs, he was able to measure excretions at various levels and his comprehensive picture of the digestive system won him a Nobel Prize in 1904 in Physiology or Medicine. While in his later years he did do a little bit of psychological research with dogs, a bell was almost never one of the sounds he used to trigger dogs’ association.

3. Freud’s Most Disturbing Theories About Sexuality Were Never Taken That Seriously

Many people today think of most of Freud’s absurd theories about young children or infants having unconscious sexual thoughts and not only scoff, but wonder what the medical community was thinking, taking such nonsense so seriously. However, the truth was that Freud had one of the most complex careers, and also has one of the most complex legacies, when it comes to his work. While people were interested in his ideas on psychoanalysis, the importance of dreams, and his general belief in a subconscious, it is important to understand that even during his time, his more radical ideas about unconscious sexual thoughts in children was not really accepted by most in the medical or burgeoning psychological community.

Also, it is important to understand that today, the psychological community thinks of most of Freud’s theories as a joke, and they don’t really teach him seriously in classes. But that doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater, either. Freud may not be a huge influence today, but psychologists believe it is important to study him from a historical perspective because of the huge influence he had on early psychology, and also to understand which of his ideas did turn out to be correct. Now, while psychology doesn’t exactly believe in the breakdown of the subconscious quite the way Freud described it, a subsconscious is a widely accepted idea and we have Freud to thank for that one. And while his practice of psychoanalysis, which is the talk therapy where you try to understand the unconscious thoughts, is not that popular among psychologists anymore, there are those who practice it and some who incorporate elements into their therapy repertoire.

2. Black Holes Are Accepted By Most, But Their Nature And Existence Is Controversial

Black holes are something most of us understand very well. You can’t see them, but you know they are there because they are dragging light and matter into them like… well, like a black hole. However, back in the 1980s Stephen Hawking shocked the scientific community when he used the quantum laws of physics to prove that black holes were actually emitting particles — something now known as Hawking radiation. Now, this is where things get really tricky, because we still don’t fully understand black holes.

Hawking’s research contends that since the black hole is losing heat and matter, it will eventually dissolve like an aspirin in a glass of water, instead of continuing to just suck up light and matter without pause. However, this leads to the question of where the information that was sucked up goes to when the black hole dissolves. Some physicists contend that according to our knowledge of the laws of the universe, no information can be lost forever, but Hawking disagreed, wagering that the information would be lost. At this point, physicists can only scratch their heads, as we really have absolutely no way of knowing — we have never been able to yet witness a black hole dissolving to find out.

1. You May Have Seen Some Confusing Claims That Electrons Can Go Faster Than Light

This has been passed around the internet and even confused some kids in science classes when well meaning teachers didn’t explain it properly. People heard claims that electrons can go faster than light, and everyone got all excited about how we had allegedly cracked the speed of light barrier. However, the unfortunate truth was that no such thing has occurred. Electrons can move faster than light when they are sped up enough, but only in a medium that already slows down the speed of light moving through it.

This is a known phenomenon seen at nuclear reactors, that creates a really cool looking blue glow effect, and is known as Cherenkov Radiation. While in this context it’s easy for a flashy news media headline to confuse people into thinking scientists somehow found some amazing breakthrough and managed to exceed the speed of light, there has not yet been any situation where this has actually occurred. It is important to read the fine print, as in this case, going faster than light makes you think something special has happened, but faster than light and faster than the speed of light are not the same thing at all.


Fallacies, Falsehoods, Facts and Furthermore

WIF Science

Leaving Earth – WIF Space Science

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Explore with me

Explore with me

We Shouldn’t Leave

… Quite yet

Humanity has flown people into outer space and landed them on the moon. We live in an age where we could go out and find other places to expand. But there are a few reasons we should continue to stay put, at least for a little while longer.

10. The Financial Cost

Many bundle of US 100 dollars bank notes

While it’s true that we currently have the capability to try to colonize distant worlds, the sheer amount of money that would go into such a venture could be just as astronomical. Some initial estimates point to around $150 billion to colonize Mars, and that’s the optimistic low end of the scale.

It doesn’t seem like that much considering the potential benefits to humanity in the long run, but with just a $120 billion investment we could halve the number of starving people worldwide. Money alone shouldn’t be the primary concern in any matter, but it’s a good representation of where we should invest our time and resources. We’re not  saying we should never colonize the universe, but we should prioritize our needs before we start a new chapter in human evolution.

9. We Still Don’t Know Earth

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The Earth’s surface is over 70% water. The oceans, which were once seen as impossible to traverse as deep space is today, still remain mostly unexplored. Over 95% of the depths have never been seen by human eyes, and with each passing day we discovernew species of marine life which look as alien as aliens can get. Exploring the depths of the ocean could have some great and unexpected scientific benefits.

The ocean is very similar to the emptiness of space. Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh can both attest to the solitude and extreme pressures of the Mariana Trench when they descended into it in 1960. In fact, most space missions require initial water training. Sailing the bottom of the oceans could be a good exercise in learning how to better equip ourselves and survive the emptiness of space, all while discovering the remaining mysteries of our own planet.

8. Unforeseen Risks and Developments

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Nothing comes without risk, but this is especially true when it comes to leaving Earth. Even the smallest overlooked detail can turn into a tragedy, like in the case of theChallenger disaster. If we don’t take risks we’ll never get anything done, but we should take into account the developments made in rocket science on a daily basis. In 2014, a NASA research team confirmed a discovery made in 2006 by a British scientist, Roger Shawyer, where he achieved lift with the use of microwaves instead of rocket propellant. This groundbreaking discovery has turned the scientific community on its head, since it appears to goes against Newton’s third law of thermodynamics.

This new technology is still being tested and was only capable of producing minute amounts of lift, but if feasible it could revolutionize space travel. By not needing fuel, a disaster like Challenger could be avoided, not to mention that spacecraft could be much lighter and therefore carry more materials that would allow them to operate at a greater distance.

7. Measuring Distance With Time

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Almost all scientists will agree  that distance is actually measured with time. Space and time are not two different things, but one and the same. When we want to meet with someone, we always specify both a time and place since mentioning only one will get us nowhere. But humans operate with infinitesimally small numbers compared to what the Universe is used to.

An object moving at the speed of light, like a photon, will experience no time passingwhen traveling millions of light-years. The speed of light is the maximum allowed in the universe, and that photon travels that distance in an instant. What does this have to do with us staying put here on Earth, you ask? We need to consider the huge distances and times the Universe works with.

Let’s take Voyager 1, which is currently traveling at around 60,000 km/hour, and reached deep space after over 35 years of traveling through our Solar System. If it was headed towards the closest star, Proxima Centauri, some 4.3 light-years away, it would take it over 76,000 years to reach it. For perspective, human civilization began only 12,000 years ago. If we would stick around Earth until the highly theoretical Nuclear Pulse Propulsion becomes a reality, we would achieve that distance in just 85 years!

6. Gravity

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You’re currently exerting a gravitational pull on the Andromeda Galaxy some 2.5 million light years away. Gravity is why we’re stuck to the ground, why the moon spins around the Earth and why our Sun and galaxy were created. It also attracts energy in the form of light. This can also be seen when a photon passes near a star, as its trajectory is slightly bent, or when it gets trapped in a black hole and never resurfaces.

Because all living things on Earth have evolved surrounded by our planet’s gravity, our bodies are designed to only work at maximum efficiency if experiencing a standard pull. Astronauts can feel the effects after a period in space. Since our bodies don’t have to do any work while in zero G, muscle mass can diminish at a rate of 5% per week, bone atrophies at 1% per month and the amount of blood in a body drops by 22%. Astronauts have to go through a rigorous physical training program prior to their departure, as well as when they’re up there and during the months they come back to Earth. In some cases, bones will never fully recover.

Colonists going to Mars will face challenges since after a seven month journey in zero G they’ll arrive on a planet with just a third of the Earth’s gravity and will have to build a colony in extremely unforgiving conditions. Keeping in mind that some astronauts are carried away on stretchers after just a couple of months in space, these colonists will be like a bunch of 80 year olds. That’s why NASA is conducting tests on human volunteers who lay in bed at a six degree inverted angle for 70 days to mimic the effect of zero gravity.

5. A.I.

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Seeing what adverse effects the lack of gravity has on the human body, waiting for artificial intelligence doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Robots can aid future colonists by doing the heavy lifting and providing them with vital information. Scientists are developing robots that can fight fires autonomously, robots that can carry heavy loadson even the most treacherous of terrain, and cars that can drive themselves. Then there’s Watson, which is basically an accumulation of all human medical knowledge. All of these inventions could come in handy when colonizing other planets, but it may take some time before they’re totally reliable.

4. Cultural Melting Pot

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Living in a globalized society has caused nationalities and races to blend together and form a unity of both culture and traditions. Take Britain, where 6% of children under the age of five have a mixed ethnic background, compared to only 3% for those between the ages of 20 and 24. Current day traditions and religions exist because of this mixing between different people throughout the ages.

One threat when talking about globalization is genetics. As Europeans first arrived in the Americas and over 90% of the indigenous population died because of disease, so too can a new plague wreak havoc among people who are genetically related. A modern, diverse society will also continue to show us its dark side with cases of discrimination, racism and intolerance, thus bringing us to our next point.

3. The Prime Directive

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Popularized by Star Trek, the Prime Directive dictates that humanity, capable of interstellar travel, will not come in contact, disturb or influence the natural evolution of underdeveloped civilizations found on distant planets. What history and even thepresent day can attest to is that humanity will most certainly not follow the Prime Directive if faced with a technological inferior alien species. What we’re most afraid of in the event of a distant civilization visiting us will most likely be the same thing we would do to others if we were the visitors.

Moreover, if we were to find a planet capable of sustaining lifeforms like us, mere contact with that world would change it beyond recognition. If we were to leave just a single bacterium behind, that organism could multiply and mutate according to its new surroundings, altering that planet’s destiny forever and possibly even killing off already existing life. Finding such a world in the near future is next to impossible given our current level of technological advancement, but the simple idea of what we’re capable of doing to others less developed than ourselves could be enough to make us stick around Earth until we’re mature enough to deal with it.

2. Breaking the Status Quo

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Humanity, despite the many conflicts happening around the globe, is experiencing its most peaceful era in history. Nevertheless, a new colony on a distant planet could bring the current status quo to an end. This future crisis could take decades if not entire generations to develop, but the question of how humanity will react to such a radical change to the modern status quo will always be looming in the background.

1. Taking Responsibility

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History has shown us that many people only begin to change when they absolutely have to, and not a second sooner. It’s also a fact that the climate change Earth is experiencing is man-made, and thus people are turning their attention towards space travel and colonization for a solution. Starting anew is often the easy way out, but by not facing our problems head-on we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes wherever we go.

War, famine, discrimination, pollution and wastefulness are traits humanity should leave behind before starting to think about copying itself on distant worlds. We should make human life on Earth a functioning system that works in equilibrium with its surrounding environment before we decide to colonize other planets.



 

Leaving Earth

WIF Space2-001

– WIF Space Science

The Speed of Light – Facts & Figures

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The Speed of Light – Facts & Figures

 

SOL-logo

 

Speed of light
The distance from the Sun to the Earth is shown as 150 million kilometers, an approximate average. Sizes to scale.

Sunlight takes about 8 minutes 17 seconds to travel the average distance from the surface of the Sun to theEarth.
Exact values
metres per second 299792458
Planck length per Planck time
(i.e., Planck units)
1
Approximate values
kilometres per second 300,000
kilometres per hour 1,080 million
miles per second 186,000
miles per hour 671 million
astronomical units per day 173
Approximate light signal travel times
Distance Time
one foot 1.0 ns
one metre 3.3 ns
from geostationary orbit to Earth 119 ms
the length of Earth’s equator 134 ms
from Moon to Earth 1.3 s
from Sun to Earth (1 AU) 8.3 min
from nearest star to Sun (1.3 pc) 4.2 years
from the nearest galaxy (the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy) to Earth 25,000 years
across the Milky Way 100,000 years
from the Andromeda Galaxy (the nearest spiral galaxy) to Earth 2.5 million years

 

The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c

, is a universalphysical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is exactly299,792,458 metres per second because the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time.[1] This is, to three significant figures, 186,000 miles per second, or about 671 millionmiles per hour. According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed at which all matter and information in the universe can travel. It is the speed at which all massless particles and changes of the associated fields (includingelectromagnetic radiation such as light and gravitational waves) travel in vacuum. Such particles and waves travel at c regardless of the motion of the source or the inertial frame of reference of the observer. In the theory of relativity, c interrelates space and time, and also appears in the famous equation of mass–energy equivalence E = mc2.[2]

 

The Speed of Light – Facts & Figures