Author Archive: dad2059

Centauri Dreams: Creative Constraints and Starflight

I discovered Karl Schroeder’s work when I was researching brown dwarfs some years ago. Who knew that somebody was writing novels about civilizations around these dim objects? Permanence (Tor, 2003) was a real eye-opener, as were the deep-space cultures it described. Schroeder hooked me again with his latest book — he’s dealing with a preoccupation of mine, a human presence in the deep space regions between ourselves and the nearest stars, where resources are abundant and dark worlds move far from any sun. How to maintain such a society and allow it to grow into something like an empire? Karl explains the mechanism below. Science fiction fans, of which there are many on Centauri Dreams, will know Karl as the author of many other novels, including Ventus (2000), Lady of Mazes (2005) and Sun of Suns (2006).

by Karl Schroeder

karl.schroeder_2

My newest science fiction novel, Lockstep, has just finished its serialization in Analogmagazine, and Tor Books will have it on the bookshelves March 24. Reactions have been pretty favourable—except that I’ve managed to offend a small but vocal group of my readers. It seems that some people are outraged that I’ve written an SF story in which faster than light travel is impossible.

I did write Lockstep because I understood that it’s not actual starflight that interests most people—it’s the romance of a Star Trek or Star Wars-type interstellar civilization they want. Not the reality, but the fantasy. Even so, I misjudged the, well, the fervor with which some people cling to the belief that the lightspeed limit will just somehow, magically and handwavingly, get engineered around.

This is ironic, because the whole point of Lockstep was to find a way to have that Star Wars-like interstellar civilization in reality and not just fantasy. As an artist, I’m familiar with the power of creative constraint to generate ideas, and for Lockstep I put two constraints on myself: 1) No FTL or unknown science would be allowed in the novel. 2) The novel would contain a full-blown interstellar civilization exactly like those you find in books with FTL.

Creativity under constraint is the best kind of creativity; it’s the kind that really may take us to the stars someday. In this case, by placing such mutually contradictory — even impossible — restrictions on myself, I was forced into a solution that, in hindsight, is obvious. It is simply this: everyone I know of who has thought about interstellar civilization has thought that the big problem to be solved is the problem of speed. The issue, though (as opposed to the problem), is how to travel to an interstellar destination, spend some time there, and return to the same home you left. Near-c travel solves this problem for you, but not for those you left at home. FTL solves the problem for both you and home, but with the caveat that it’s impossible. (Okay, okay, for the outraged among you: as far as we know. To put it more exactly, we can’t prove that FTL is impossible any more than we can prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I’ll concede that.)

 

Read the rest here…

History H2 Channel: ‘Hangar 1: The UFO Files’ inspires MUFON UFO report

History’s H2 channel release of “Hangar 1: The UFO Files” February 28, 2014, inspired at least one viewer to file a UFO report with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), according to testimony in Case 54384 from the MUFON witness reporting database.

The witness had a UFO encounter about 10 a.m. on July 10, 2012, but had kept details of the incident to himself until a few scenes in the “Hangar 1″ show depicted objects that resembled his original sighting. The “Hangar 1″ episodes are based on MUFON case files and the first episode was televised just last evening.

More here…

MUFON: National UFO Alert: Four states report 153 February cases

The National UFO ALERT Rating System has been updated for March 2014, with California, Florida, Texas, and New York moving to a UFO Alert 3 as the highest reporting states with 25 or more cases during the month of February 2014, filed with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

California was the leading high-reporting state in February with 59 cases, down from 102 January cases. Those states in a UFO Alert 4 category with 13 or more reports include: Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington, Georgia, and New Jersey.

More here…

Space.com: Moon Rovers Planned for Commercial Lunar Exploration Project

From the article:

The commercial spaceflight company Golden Spike – which aims fly private missions to the moon by 2020 – has teamed up with the New York-based firm Honeybee Robotics to design robotic rovers for the planned lunar expeditions.

“We’re very proud to be working with Honeybee, which has tremendous experience and a record of successful performance in the development of flight systems for NASA,” Golden Spike President and CEO Alan Stern said in a statement last month.

Golden Spike first announced its goal of launching two-person commercial flights to the moon in December 2012. To boost the scientific output of the expeditions, the company plans to send unmanned rovers to the moon ahead of the crew to collect samples from a wider area than the crew will be able to travel from their landing pad. The rovers will then meet up with the crew’s spacecraft once it arrives, according to the mission plan.  [Golden Spike's Private Moon Mission Plan in Pictures]

“Honeybee brings a unique body of knowledge and skills to help us augment the capabilities of human exploration missions with advanced robotics,” Clive Neal, a researcher at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and chair of Golden Spike’s lunar science advisory board, said in a statement. “Their participation is a key step forward in helping Golden Spike change the paradigm of human space exploration, through the development of highly capable lunar exploration system architecture for customers around the world.”

Honeybee Robotics has been designing planetary sampling devices for clients including NASA and the US Department of Defense for more than 25 years, and has contributed to the last three of NASA’s Mars landers: The company designed the rock abrasion tool for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, as well as the icy soil acquisition device (or “Phoenix Scoop”) for the U.S. space agency’s Phoenix Mars lander, and the sample manipulation system and dust removal tool for the Curiosity rover.

Golden Spike officials initially priced the missions at $1.5 billion per person, but has since estimated that the cost could drop down to about $750 million with the help of media coverage and sales of merchandising rights of the missions, Stern told reporters last year at the 29th National Space Symposium in Colorado Spring, Colo. Potential moon flyers include leaders of nations, large corporations, and independently funded individuals.

The companies plan to complete preliminary tests of their rover design by mid-2014.

The cost of the landers and other equipment were the long poles in the tent of NASA’s old Constellation program.

It will be interesting to see if Golden Spike’s plan will work to bring these expenses down. I surely hope so.

Moon Rovers Planned for Commercial Lunar Exploration Project

Spacing Out

Here is a link to December 6, 2013s Youtube video of Jason McClellan’s Spacing Out space/UFO show. Interesting take on science and UFOs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh2Z-kG2YWw&feature=youtu.be

Scientist wants to teleport Martians to Earth

Craig Venter And Life At The Speed of Light

A U.S. scientist wants to detect Mars life and teleport it to Earth. And he already has the technology to do it.

Dr. J. Craig Venter. (Credit: J. Craig Venter Institute)

Dr. J. Craig Venter. (Credit: J. Craig Venter Institute)

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. is a leading scientist in the field of genomic research. He is also the founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately held company dedicated to “commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs such as new sources of energy, new food and nutritional products, and next generation vaccines.”

He and his research team have been field-testing technology that he believes will revolutionize the search for extraterrestrial life. According to the South China Morning Post, “Not only does Venter say his invention will detect and decode DNA hiding in otherworldly soil or water samples – proving once and for all that we are not alone in the universe – it will also beam the information back to Earth and allow scientists to reconstruct living copies in a biosafety facility.” He hopes to detect Martian life and bring it to Earth using a digital biological converter, or biological teleporter.

The India Times describes, “Dr. Venter’s machine would merely create a copy of an organism from a distant location — more like a biological fax machine.” Storing genetic code in a computer and transmitting it just like any other data is the basic idea.

Cover of J. Craig Venter's latest book. (Credit: Viking Adult)

Cover of J. Craig Venter’s latest book. (Credit: Viking Adult)

Dr. Venter’s team, and scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center, recently conducted field-testing of this technology in the Mojave Desert south of Baker, California–a dry environment similar to Mars. Researchers tested the unit that would, in theory, send data back from Mars. But according to Dr. Venter, a prototype of the unit that would receive the transmitted data here on Earth exists as well, and will be available for sale next year.

India Times explains that this machine will be able to “automate the synthesis of genes by stringing small pieces of DNA together to make larger ones.” With this technology, “A person with a bacterial infection might be sent the code to recreate a virus intended to kill that specific bacterium.” Venter optimistically surmises that this technology will enable doctors to “send an antibiotic as an email,” and allow diabetics to “download insulin from the Internet.”

Original

The Ultraterrestrials

The Ultraterrestrials

Our perception of subspace beings does not begin and end on our planet or in our plane of existance. It can include those unknown entities, either non-corporeal or of solid matter, that we describe and refer to as alien beings.

On October 30, 1938 the global uneasiness with alien beings began. That was the day Orson Welles narrated his adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel ‘War of the Worlds’ over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. The ‘news bulletin’ style simulation created a panic so widespread that nearly 2 million listeners believed it to be factual. Later in 1947 there would be a reported, later denied, crash of an unknown craft in the New Mexico desert. Then the USAF started ‘Project Blue Book’, a bit of ‘window dressing’ that would possibly ease the public uncertainty as well as coax the Soviets into thinking that U.S. spy planes were actually UFOs. Thousands of sighting reports and science fiction films later, the public fascination with alien beings had been heightened to the point where people are demanding that governments disclose all information in reference to UFOs and the non-human entities that fly these craft.

I may have asked this question more than I would admit but “why do people think that these unidentified flying objects are of such concern?” Theanswers I generally receive are that these may be precursors to an invasion or that the aliens are arriving in small groups in order to gather information before they take over the planet. Most times, I just nod in agreement and change the subject…not that I total disagree with their assessments but more concerned that they aren’t seeing the big picture.

Over the years I have been fortunate to have investigated individuals’ claims of alien entity abduction and infestation. Some of those cases have been documented on my ‘Phantoms & Monsters’ blog, especially when evidence suggested some validity to the claims. In almost all cases the witnesses want to remain anonymous, at least at the initiation of the inquiry. Despite what most people think, I have not met one witness who wanted to cash in on their experience. There may have been some consideration later but that is usually because producers of paranormal television programming hound witnesses until they relent…then the final product is rarely factual. But that’s another story.

The word ‘extraterrestrial’ simply means ‘not of or belonging to Earth.’ In that context, it can be defined as any life form or inanimate object that is not from our planet. In the modern vernacular it is simply understood to represent life forms that do not originate from Earth. So I guess the next question is “have the extraterrestrials ever come to Earth?” I think it’s safe to assume that alien life forms have found their way to Earth but I truly doubt they arrived by space craft. For the most part I agree with much of the ancient astronaut theories until the argument centers around mode of transportation.

Of Orphan Worlds and Interstellar Island Hopping

From Centauri Dreams:

Because of my fascination with exotic venues for astrobiology, I’ve always enjoyed Karl Schroeder’s novels. The Canadian writer explored brown dwarf planets as future venues for human settlement in Permanence (2002), and in his new book Lockstep (soon to be published by Tor, currently being serialized in Analog), Schroeder looks at ‘rogue’ planets, worlds that move through the galaxy without a central star. Imagine crimson worlds baked by cosmic radiation, their surfaces building up, over the aeons, the rust red complex organic molecules called tholins. Or consider gas giants long ago ejected from the system that gave them birth by close encounters with other worlds.

Objects like these and more are surely out there given what we know about gravitational interactions within planetary systems, and they’re probably out there in huge numbers. I’m not going to review how Lockstep uses them just yet — in any case, I haven’t finished the book — but we’ll return to its ingenious solution to time and distance problems in a future post. Right now I just want to mention that one of Schroeder’s characters muses upon ‘a hundred thousand nomad planets for every star in the galaxy.’ Now that’s some serious real estate.

If the number sounds like a novelistic exaggeration, it’s nonetheless drawn from recent work. Schroeder is invoking the work of Louis Strigari (Stanford University), who has studied the possibilities not only of planets ejected from their own systems but those that may form directly from a molecular cloud. The figure of 105 free-floating planetary objects for every main sequence star is from a 2012 paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (you can read more about Strigari’s ideas in ‘Island-Hopping’ to the Stars).

Rogue planets would be tricky to find but gravitational microlensing should help us set constraints on their actual numbers, and as we’ll see below, direct imaging has its uses. If rogue worlds are available in such quantities, we can imagine a starfaring culture capable of exploiting their resources. We can even speculate that a thick atmosphere that can trap infrared heat coupled with tectonic or radioactive heat sources from within could sustain elemental forms of life even in the absence of a star. Tens of thousands of objects in nearby interstellar space would obviously be a spur for exploration.

A Newly Found Orphan World

Eighty light years from Earth floats a solitary planet that has been discovered through its heat signature in data collected by the Pan-STARRS 1 wide-field survey telescope on Maui. In mass, color, and energy output, the world is similar to directly imaged planets. As you might expect, PSO J318.5-22, a gas giant about six times the mass of Jupiter, turned up during a search for brown dwarfs, delving into the datasets of a survey that has already produced about 4000 terabytes of information. The discovery was then followed up through multiple observations by equipment on nearby Mauna Kea, with spectra from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility and the Gemini North Telescope indicating the young, low-mass object was not a brown dwarf.

ps1_lonely_planet-450

Image: Multicolor image from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope of the free-floating planet PSO J318.5-22, in the constellation of Capricornus. The planet is extremely cold and faint, about 100 billion times fainter in optical light than the planet Venus. Most of its energy is emitted at infrared wavelengths. The image is 125 arcseconds on a side. Credit: N. Metcalfe & Pan-STARRS 1 Science Consortium.

“We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone,” explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”

The find is interesting on a number of levels, not least of which is that observations of gas giant planets around young stars have shown that their spectra differ from those of L- and T-class brown dwarfs. Young planets like these, according to the paper on this work, show redder colors in the near-infrared, fainter absolute magnitudes at the same wavelength and other spectral peculiarities that suggest the line of development between brown dwarfs and gas giant planets may not be as clear cut as once assumed. The paper makes clear how complex the issue is:

PSO J318.5−22 shares a strong physical similarity to the young dusty planets HR 8799bcd and 2MASS J1207−39b, as seen in its colors, absolute magnitudes, spectrum, luminosity, and mass. Most notably, it is the first field L dwarf with near-IR absolute magnitudes as faint as the HR 8799 and 2MASS J1207−39 planets, demonstrating that the very red, faint region of the near-IR color-magnitude diagram is not exclusive to young exoplanets. Its probable membership in the β Pic moving group makes it a new substellar benchmark at young ages and planetary masses.

A landmark indeed, and here the Beta Pictoris moving group, a collection of young stars formed about twelve million years ago, is worth noting. Beta Pictoris itself is known to have a young gas giant planet in orbit around it. The newly detected PSO J318.5−22 is lower still in mass than the Beta Pictoris planet and it is thought to have formed in a different way. The paper goes on:

We find very red, low-gravity L dwarfs have ≈400 K cooler temperatures relative to field objects of comparable spectral type, yet have similar luminosities. Comparing very red L dwarf spectra to each other and to directly imaged planets highlights the challenges of diagnosing physical properties from near-IR spectra.

The beauty of objects like these from an astronomical point of view is that we don’t have to worry about filtering out the overwhelming light of a parent star as we study them. Co-author Niall Deacon (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) thinks PSO J318.5−22 will “provide a wonderful view into the inner workings of gas-giant planets like Jupiter shortly after their birth.” The discovery also gives us much to think about in terms of future explorations as we contemplate a cosmos in which perhaps vast numbers of planets move in solitary trajectories through the galaxy.

I like the idea of targeting “rogue” planets as potential interstellar missions within the next 100 years. The probes can be smaller and the fuel problem won’t be as bad.

Karl Schroeder isn’t the only author who has used rogue planets as interstellar destinations. The old Space: 1999 television series addressed it as well as Peter Watts Blindsight. Good stuff.

Interstellar Wanderers

Open Minds TV: Alien conspiracy theories help promote new Denver International Airport build-out

From the article:

Denver International Airport (DIA) is the focus of a myriad of conspiracy theories, a fact that they took advantage of this week to promote a commemoration event for reaching the midway point of a large build-out that includes a new public plaza and commuter trains from downtown Denver.

DIA has been plagued with conspiracy theories beginning with trouble during its construction that set it back months. Some said this trouble was actually a ruse to build underground tunnels and rail stations to be used by the elite and possibly even extraterrestrials. Then upon its opening came the discovery of morbid murals depicting scenes of oppression, further evidence for conspiracy theorist that malicious intent was at play. The final draw was the capstone on a time capsule sponsored by a couple of the local Freemason lodges that uses the term “New World Airport Commission.”

All of this was compelling enough evidence for Jesse Ventura to investigate on his television show Conspiracy Theory. More prosaic and well researched answers, if you need them, are presented in this article by the local Denver newspaper Westword.

DIA’s twitter feed hinted at their intent to use these conspiracy theories to promote the event with a tweet Tuesday morning which said they would be having some fun with the event, and that they would be “divulging some strange activity.” One tweeter speculated, “THEY’RE UNLEASHING THE DEMONS FROM THE MURALS.”

The alien conspiracy marketing of the event began with a tweet by DIA regarding “a strange find” that was discovery during construction. Attached was a picture of what appears to be a partially recovered alien skull, huge eye socket and all.

They continued with some witty tweets addressing all of the conspiracies associated with the airport. Here are some examples:

They even engaged some of the conspiracy theorists, tell one that they could not tell him they the Freemason time capsule referenced a “New World Airport Commission,” because, “We’d tell you but then…” When his questions persisted, they simply told him he knew too much. Later in the evening, a time capsule commemorating the construction midway point was buried, and sure enough an alien was involved as could be seen in this picture they tweeted.

Time Capsule Alien

Alien seen under time capsule buried to commemorate the midway point in DIA’s new construction project. (Credit: Denver International Airport)

Another couple of tweets showed what appeared to be former Denver mayors in a video discussing and having some fun with the conspiracy theories. They tweeted, “Four Denver mayors come together to talk about DIA conspiracy theories.” They also tweeted this picture:

Denver Mayor and Alien

Apparent phone call with an alien at the DIA event commemorating the midway in DIA’s new construction project. (Credit: Denver International Airport)

Their efforts seemed to pay off as they garnered a lot of local news attention. I must say I found their tweets were very amusing. They ended the night with this final tweet:

Denver Int’l Airport@DENAirport

Thanks twitterers for having some fun with us today. Long live the theories!

2 Retweets  1 favorite

Original story.

Ring-Worlds are now Mainstream Astroarcheology

From Open Minds TV:

Hunting aliens by searching for megastructures

In the search for intelligent extraterrestrials, scientists listen for incoming radio signals and they hunt for Earth-like planets.  Some scientists are also looking for megastructures constructed by aliens.

NASA’s Kepler space telescope searches for planets using the transit method–Kepler’s sensors detect dips in brightness caused when an alien planet passes in front of its star from Kepler’s perspective.  And this same method is used by scientists searching the universe for alien megastructures.

Simple illustration of a Dyson Sphere. (Credit:  Vedexent/Wikimedia Commons)

Simple illustration of a Dyson Sphere. (Credit:  Vedexent/Wikimedia Commons)

According to Universe Today, astronomer Geoff Marcy, who was recently appointed to the new Watson and Marilyn Alberts Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) at the University of California at Berkeley, was awarded a grant to hunt for evidence of Dyson spheres using Kepler data.  A Dyson sphere is a theoretical megastructure envisioned by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson consisting of a giant array of solar panels that would surround a star to harvest its energy.

Scientists hunting alien megastructures are also looking for theoretical structures known as ringworlds. Universe Today explains that ringworlds “would consist of a giant ring in orbit around a star, constructed comfortably inside the star’s habitable zone.”

Whether alien megastructures actually exist is unknown.  But as Universe Today points out, “The possibility alone is exciting enough to make it worth continuing to look.”

Actually looking for Ring Worlds and Dyson Spheres would be relatively easy using Kepler data since the Kepler probe uses occluded starlight to detect transitioning alien planets.

The theory is that advanced alien tech would be larger constructions than normal planets and thus, the starlight would be blocked longer. That suggests super-alien cultures.

Sigh. What ever happened to old fashioned UFOs, lol?

Hunting aliens by searching for megastructures

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