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.
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.
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.
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:
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@DENAirport2 Retweets 1 favorite
From Open Minds TV:
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)
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?
From Intrepid Blog:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
~George Orwell, 1984
“And era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted.”
Our modern civilization seems to be perpetually plagued by the dangers provoked due to the scarcity of precious natural resources. Since the early 2000s articles in the media have been warning us about ‘Peak Oil’, ‘Peak Energy’ & ‘Peak Water’. Heck, there’s even fears about ‘Peak Helium’! which I’m sure keeps clowns & carnival managers awake at nights.
But the crisis that worries me the most is the shortage of an even more precious commodity: Trust.
That we live in the Age of Peak Trust has become patently clear by the events that have shocked the world this year. When I first came across the news about the giant fireball on Russia last February, I was amazed to read a significant percentage of their population did not believe the ‘official’ meteor explanation! the favored alternative explanations ranged from an Amerikinsky weapons test, a UFO or a even a message from the Big-G himself –’cause you know how Jehovah liked to go all Roland Emmerich in the Ancient Testament.
I don’t think it’s too preposterous to explain this current Russian distrust on official channels by looking into the past, understanding it as the logical outcome of the way the Kremlin manipulated the news with propaganda during the Soviet era. Let’s just keep in mind that George Orwell based his landmark novel 1984 in the Stalinist regime of 1948.
On the other side of the pond, things are no better by any stretch of the imagination. The continuous streaks of domestic violence plaguing the United States –Aurora, Connecticut, Newtown, Boston– have triggered a reflex reaction of distrust in mainstream media. In the case of the Boston bombings, more people were consulting the live Tweet feeds than paying attention to the sponsored talking heads on the 24/7 news channels.
‘Conspiracy theory’ has become both a slandering label in America, as well as a commercial brand selling all sorts of products customized to any kind of taste or sensibility. “Tell me your favorite conspiracy theory, and I’ll tell YOU your political affiliation” is one of my mottos –and just so you know, it’s copyrighted, k?
Again looking into the past to try to find a clue about the present, many people would agree that JFK’s assassination constituted a traumatic ‘loss of innocence’ for the American people, when the Baby Boomer generation realized it was no longer possible to trust implicitly in everything the government said, the way their parents used to do when America was fighting the evil powers of the Axis. And not longer after that came Vietnam & Watergate, and the toothpaste was squeezed out of the tube.
On my side of the border we also find quite a lot of mistrust in government institutions. One of the most prominent political figures in the Mexican landscape is a man named Andres Manuel López Obrador, who has carved his career out of denouncing endless conspiracies against him. Every time he loses an election the man cries foul & demands a recount!
But like Russia & the USA, Mexicans have also suffered our own growing pains. There was the Tlatelolco massacre of ’68, a wound that refuses to heal because those responsible were never tried & prosecuted. And if rumors of election fraud are so easy to believe, it’s because such practices were standard procedure for many decades.
Peak Trust is a global problem. Make no mistake about it.
So we’re leaving in an age where the public perception in government officials is at an ultimate low, where common citizens view financial institutions as white-collared thieves, and the hierarchy of churches as a band of hypocritical accomplices of pederasts.
Ah, but we still have Science, right? that immaculate ivory tower of uncompromising quest for the Truth! Unfortunately that tower is not without a few skeletons buried beneath its foundations. Case in point: The Cigarette Controversy
“The tobacco companies knew and for most part accepted the evidence that cigarette smoking was a cause of cancer by the late 1950s.
The documents also reveal that the tobacco companies helped manufacture the smoking controversy by funding scientific research that was intended to obfuscate and prolong the debate about smoking and health”
As noble as its goals may be, Science is conducted by scientists, who are not above corruptibility. Global warming & the Antivaxxing movement are excellent examples of just how rampant the distrust in Science is now ingrained in a substantial part of the population.
But Nature hates a vacuum, and that’s equally true for Human nature; and the vacuum of trust in official institutions is easily filled by hawkers & peddlers of fear-mongering –I need not name them, everybody knows who they are.
And so it seems not a week goes by that a new scandal erupts, and this regularity causes a rather peculiar numbing effect in our minds. It’s like the abuse of profanity in someone’s vocabulary: repeating FUCK so many times deprives the word of its intended potency.
But here’s the thing: That numbness is a potential threat. Like the proverbial frog that instinctively jumps out of a boiling pot of water, but will stay in the pot if the temperature is slowly increased, I view our getting used to expect the worst out of those in power as a pathological behavior. How could a civilization be able to properly function & adapt to new threats without a modicum of confidence in the scaffolding of the social structure?
If you see politicians as nothing but crooks & liars, where’s the incentive to follow their orders? If you think of your physician as a pill-peddler at the service of Big Pharma, why would you trust his diagnosis & follow his recipe? So the distrust is translated into stagnation & the waste of precious time.
Either we snap out of it, or we’re destined to end up as frog soup.
Let’s illustrate this with a hypothetical scenario: Suppose next month president Obama called for a press conference, announcing the detection of a massive asteroid heading towards our planet. The impact, according to NASA scientists & confirmed by top astronomers around the world, was calculated for the year 2027. That would give us less than 14 years to coordinate an urgent international effort in order to launch an emergency program, so that we wouldn’t face the same fate of the dinosaurs.
I guarantee you that after 10 years of such an announcement, the emergency program would have made very little progress, because by then the public opinion would still be divided due to those denouncing the asteroid threat as a complete fabrication. And even the support of the United Nations would only help exacerbate the claims of those accusing the ‘defense asteroid program’ as a smokescreen campaign — I do believe the proper term is ‘false flag attack.’
Lying. A trait so common in men it’s even brought up in the Genesis tale, when Cain feigns not knowing where his brother is after he rearranged Abel’s skull with an ass jaw bone. But looking away of religious interpretation, believe it or not there are scientific theories suggesting it’s our bullshiting nature one of the crucial factors to our species’ vertiginous evolution. Studies with chimpanzees have proven our hairy cousins have a limited capacity to detect deception, because lying & cheating is an advantageous way to form coalitions, find food & mating. Other scientists suggest we’re constantly studying the facial features of those around us, trying to read their Po-po-poker face & call their bluff.
We pair sentience with deception. Don’t believe me? Think of the ultimate trial for Artificial Intelligence: the Turing test. The objective of the test is to see whether a computer program can successfully deceive you to believe you’re chatting with another person. Leave it to a scientist worried with masking his true sexual orientation to come up with such a trial…
Does that mean lying is common in ALL societies? Not necessarily. In hunter-gathering groups, lying carries a heavy penalty, since it may endanger the survival of the entire group. These groups tend to be more egalitarian than the hierarchical we live in, and perhaps this fosters an appreciation for Truth, and the avoidance of deception –at least among the members of the same clan/group.
But with increased numbers so to increase the chance to deceive your neighbor & getting away with it. I remember that scene in Spielberg’s film Amistad, when Baldwin (McCounaghey) is trying to explain to Cinque they need to retry the case again, even after they won. Cinque’s response is very telling:
Joseph Cinque: [in Mende] What kind of a place is this where you almost mean what you say? Where laws almost work? How can you live like that?
Indeed, how can we?
But the fact is that in our society we not only put up with deception, we recognize it as a tool to climb the social ladder –The better you are lying, the faster your career will advance. And it takes a very peculiar personality to make a successful liar: a natural charisma mixed with a high level of intelligence, coupled with a necessary lack of empathy for the person or persons you’re deceiving. People who show all these characteristics are easily recognizable by psychiatrists: they call them psychopaths.
The loonies are running the asylum, my friends. They always have been.
Because even though deception might have been an advantageous trait among our primate ancestors, like the rest of our violent proclivities so too we must find a way to rein to our lying impulses. We must realize that level of bullshit has raised so high we’re soon gonna drown on it, and that deception might pose a serious threat to our future.
Consider the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Most people think of that film as a Sci-Fi story in which a computer goes crazy, but almost everyone overlooks the reason why HAL goes bonkers: it’s heuristic programming couldn’t cope with its orders to withhold the information about the monolith discovered on the Moon from its human colleagues, which provokes a sort of cybernetic paranoia. When David Bowman & Frank Poole find out HAL lied about the antenna’s malfunction, how did they choose to respond? By LYING to Hal & go hiding on one of the pods with the sound off so they can scheme its disconnection! Lies upon lies upon lies.
I agree with Christopher Knowles: Dr. Heywood Floyd is the real villain of that flick.
Or if you find 2001 to dry & intellectual for you, what about one of the greatest Sci-Fi spoofs of all times: Galaxy Quest!
So how do we go about getting rid of the bullshit? Do we attempt the ‘evangelization’ approach favored by the so-called ‘Skeptic’ groups? IMO that has the exact opposite result, because the more you ridicule & mock a certain viewpoint, the more resistance you will engender among the same people you’re trying to convince –what we might call the ‘LA LA LA I can’t hear you!’ effect.
So ironically, all those pundits & pop scientists denouncing the insanity of the Mayan doomsday last year, probably helped promote it even more!
Speaking about 2012, I must confess that one of my favorite ‘doomsday scenarios’ –mind you, NOT because I was expecting it to happen, but because it was a fun idea to consider– was that on that fateful day of Dec. 21st we would all wake up, get out of bed, have breakfast & go to our works, and suddenly we’d realize that everybody became telepathic! A major solar flare would have excited the human pineal gland & activate a dormant capacity in our brains or whatever.
Think of it: if everybody could read each other’s minds, it would truly be the end of the world as we know it! Spouses would know their other half was cheating on them, employers would learn what their employees REALLY thought about them… Politicians would run to a cliff like a band of neurotic lemmings, closely followed by the Wall Street stock brokers.
Pure, absolute chaos. See why it’s such a fun scenario?
Alas, Dec 21st came & went, and our little peccadilloes remain secure in the safebox of our minds. Is telepathy even possible, one could ask? In his first book Jadoo, John Keel narrates his encounter with at least 2 ascetic masters–one in India, the other in Nepal– who seemed to have the capacity to read his thoughts. An accomplishment reached after a lifetime of mental training & spiritual discipline, they explained to the young adventurer.
Could we find a way to ‘mimic’ telepathy, using our modern technology? I believe we’re halfway there, whether we want it or not, thanks to the disruptive power of the Internet & social networks –which is perhaps the veiled drive behind our governments’ obsession with the regulation of online communications.
There’s also a great deal of research funded by Darpa, that mad-scientist wing of the US Defense Department, seeking to be able to scan & interpret the electrochemical activity in the human brain, and to wirelessly send direct command to the minds of soldiers.
With all this in the works, perhaps it’s not unlikely to predict that Deception has its days numbered. But a new question arises: are we ready to live in a world without lies, no matter how brutal it could be to be deprived of comfy delusions & false assumptions?
Would the eradication of Deception be what frightens us the most about the so-called Singularity? With the veil of lies, might we be also casting away that which we identify as the Human condition?
Are we sure we can handle the Truth?
Fuck if I know, y’all! All I know is… I’m tired of the taste of bullshit.
Red Pill Junkie is one of my favorite bloggers and he appears on many blogs.
He tells heap big truth to power and as his moniker implies, partakes of the red pill.
And like him, I’m pretty sick of the taste of bullshit in my mouth.
From Dr. Beachcoming:
‘Magonia’ is a word that sends thrills down many spines. It is, of course, the name of a magical medieval land hidden from mortal man. It has been jumped on by modern UFO researchers as an example of early contact: skyboats were said to fly out of Magonia. Jacques Vallée wrote Passport to Magonia (1969 – it was first published in English), perhaps the single most influential work on UFO lore ever composed: certainly one of dazzling originality. Magonia is also the name of a (brilliant) online forum for collectors of Forteana, particularly Forteana seen in the skies or dropping from the same. But what actually is all the fuss about? Well, Beach thought that he would write a series of posts on Magonia over the next weeks – as he did recently with the Amazons – because this extraordinary place has not really received the attention it deserves and because there is something to be said for looking at the question in a larger framework. The matter is – apologies – just too big for one post.
The first thing to say about Magonia is that it exists in one measly medieval if fascinating source and that the word only appears once there: a texual emendation could get rid of Magonia for ever. Our author is Agobard of Lyons (obit c. 840), Archbishop and Carolingian intellectual. We’ll come back to Agobard and his agenda in later posts, but for now here is an extract from his Against the absurd opinions of the people concerning hail and thunder (Contra insulsam uulgi opinionem de grandine et tonitruis). Please don’t feel short-changed the subject of ‘so much foolishness’ and ‘so much stupidity’ will covered in the near future.
But we saw and heard many overwhelmed with so much foolishness and demented with so much stupidity that they believe there is a region which is called Magonia. From this region ships come in the clouds. The crops that were ruined because of hail and lost in storms are carried back into that region [i.e. Magonia]. These sky sailors, clearly, make a payment to the tempestarii [storm-makers (European witch doctors?, another post another day)], taking wheat and other crops.
Plerosque autem uidimus et audiuimus tanta dementia obrutos, tanta stultitia alienatos, ut credant et dicant, quandam esse regionem quae dicatur Magonia, ex qua naues ueniant in nubibus, in quibus fruges quae grandinibus decidunt et tempestatibus pereunt, uehantur in eandem regionem, ipsis uidelicet nautis aereis dantibus pretia tempestarii, et accipientibus frumenta uel ceteras fruges.
We have clearly run here into a bit of European folklore. Most of early medieval sources for folklore come to us in precisely this way. An ecclesiastical writer – and there were not many other types at this date – is complaining about what the plebs out in the field actually believe, as opposed to his precious Christian credo. (In passing, Beach also wants to note, against many other writers on this topic, that Magonia is NOT said to be in the heavens, we learn only that sky ships sail out of it, not quite the same thing). However, what has really caught UFO-ers and, indeed, scholars attention is the next passage, which is bloody weird. It is worth underlining that Agobard was a presiding eye-witness here: this is not hearsay.
Hmm..UFOers you say Doc?
Read on at Beacoming’s Bizarre History!
An anonymous reader writes “With updated lyrics, Commander of Expedition 35 on the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, sings Space Oddity on board the International Space Station. He’s not Bowie, but he’s pretty good.”
An anonymous reader writes “A change from ‘need’ based financial aid to a ‘merit’ based system coupled with a ‘high tuition, high aid,’ model is making it harder for poor students to afford college. According to The Atlantic: ‘Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. “After all,” Burd writes, “it’s more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student.” The study notes that, according to the Department of Education’s most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad’s bank account.'”
Hat tip to the Daily Grail
No more poor smart kids to sing ‘Space Oddity.’
On the serious side, this is the effects of thirty years of St. Ronnie of Reagan’s economic policies and social Darwinism.
The Mars One organization released this announcement on Tuesday:78,000 sign up for one-way mission to MarsAmersfoort, 7th May 2013 – Just two weeks into the nineteen week application period, more than seventy-eight thousand people have applied to the Mars One astronaut selection program in the hope of becoming a Mars settler in 2023.
Mars One has received applications from over 120 countries. Most applications come from USA (17324), followed by China (10241), United Kingdom (3581), Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina and India.
Bas Lansdorp, Mars One Co-Founder and CEO said: “With seventy-eight thousand applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history. These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants.”
“Mars One is a mission representing all humanity and its true spirit will be justified only if people from the entire world are represented. I’m proud that this is exactly what we see happening,” he said.
As part of the application every applicant is required to explain his/her motivation behind their decision go to Mars in an one minute video. Many applicants are choosing to publish this video on the Mars One website. These are openly accessible on applicants.mars-one.com.
“Applicants we have received come from a very wide range of personalities, professions and ages. This is significant because what we are looking for is not restricted to a particular background. From Round 1 we will take forward the most committed, creative, resilient and motivated applicants,” said Dr. Norbert Kraft, Mars One Chief Medical Officer.
Mars One will continue to receive online applications until August 31st 2013. From all the applicants in Round 1, regional reviewers will select around 50-100 candidates for Round 2 in each of the 300 geographic regions in the world that Mars One has identified.
Four rounds make the selection process, which will come to an end in 2015; Mars One will then employ 28-40 candidates, who will train for around 7 years. Finally an audience vote will elect one of groups in training to be the envoys of humanity to Mars.
I’m not surprised most of the applicants are from the U.S., but the number of applicants from China does a little bit.
Maybe it shouldn’t though, the Chinese maybe looking for lebensraum ( elbow room ), what with over a billion people and all.
Mars might be an appealing bit of real estate to them.
From Centauri Dreams:
Astronautics pioneer Robert H. Goddard is usually thought of in connection with liquid fuel rockets. It was his test flight of such a rocket in March of 1926 that demonstrated a principle he had been working on since patenting two concepts for future engines, one a liquid fuel design, the other a staged rocket using solid fuels. “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes,” published in 1920, was a treatise published by the Smithsonian that developed the mathematics behind rocket flight, a report that discussed the possibility of a rocket reaching the Moon.
While Goddard’s work could be said to have anticipated many technologies subsequently developed by later engineers, the man was not without a visionary streak that went well beyond the near-term, expressing itself on at least one occasion on the subject of interstellar flight. Written in January of 1918, “The Ultimate Migration” was not a scientific paper but merely a set of notes, one that Goddard carefully tucked away from view, as seen in this excerpt from his later document “Material for an Autobiography” (1927):
“A manuscript I wrote on January 14, 1918 … and deposited in a friend’s safe … speculated as to the last migration of the human race, as consisting of a number of expeditions sent out into the regions of thickly distributed stars, taking in a condensed form all the knowledge of the race, using either atomic energy or hydrogen, oxygen and solar energy… [It] was contained in an inner envelope which suggested that the writing inside should be read only by an optimist.”
Optimism is, of course, standard currency in these pages, so it seems natural to reconsider Goddard’s ideas here. As to his caution, we might remember that the idea of a lunar mission discussed in “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” not long after would bring him ridicule from some elements in the press, who lectured him on the infeasibility of a rocket engine functioning in space without air to push against. It was Goddard, of course, who was right, but he was ever a cautious man, and his dislike of the press was, I suspect, not so much born out of this incident but simply confirmed by it.
In the event, Goddard’s manuscript remained sealed and was not published until 1972. What I hadn’t realized was that Goddard, on the same day he wrote the original manuscript, also wrote a condensed version that David Baker recently published for the British Interplanetary Society. It’s an interesting distillation of the rocket scientist’s thoughts that speculates on how we might use an asteroid or a small moon as the vehicle for a journey to another star. The ideal propulsion method would, in Goddard’s view, be through the control of what he called ‘intra-atomic energy.’
Image: Rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard, whose notes on an interstellar future discuss human migration to the stars.
Atomic propulsion would allow journeys to the stars lasting thousands of years with the passengers living inside a generation ship, one in which, he noted, “the characteristics and natures of the passengers might change, with the succeeding generations.” We’ve made the same speculation here, wondering whether a crew living and dying inside an artificial world wouldn’t so adapt to the environment that it would eventually choose not to live on a planetary surface, no matter what it found in the destination solar system.
And if atomic energy could not be harnessed? In that case, Goddard speculated that humans could be placed in what we today would think of as suspended animation, the crew awakened at intervals of 10,000 years for a passage to the nearest stars, and intervals of a million years for greater distances. Goddard speculates on how an accurate clock could be built to ensure awakening, which he thought would be necessary for human intervention to steer the spacecraft if it came to be off its course. Suspended animation would involve huge changes to the body:
…will it be possible to reduce the protoplasm in the human body to the granular state, so that it can withstand the intense cold of interstellar space? It would probably be necessary to dessicate the body, more or less, before this state could be produced. Awakening may have to be done very slowly. It might be necessary to have people evolve, through a number of generations, for this purpose.
As to destinations, Goddard saw the ideal as a star like the Sun or, interestingly, a binary system with two suns like ours — perhaps he was thinking of the Alpha Centauri stars here. But that was only the beginning, for Goddard thought in terms of migration, not just exploration. His notes tell us that expeditions should be sent to all parts of the Milky Way, wherever new stars are thickly clustered. Each expedition should include “…all the knowledge, literature, art (in a condensed form), and description of tools, appliances, and processes, in as condensed, light, and indestructible a form as possible, so that a new civilisation could begin where the old ended.”
The notes end with the thought that if neither of these scenarios develops, it might still be possible to spread our species to the stars by sending human protoplasm, “…this protoplasm being of such a nature as to produce human beings eventually, by evolution.” Given that Goddard locked his manuscript away, it could have had no influence on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s essay “The Future of Earth and Mankind,” which in 1928 speculated that humans might travel on millennial voyages to the stars aboard the future equivalent of a Noah’s Ark.
Interstellar voyages lasting thousands of years would become a familiar trope of science fiction in the ensuing decades, but it is interesting to see how, at the dawn of liquid fuel rocketry, rocket pioneers were already thinking ahead to far-future implications of the technology. Goddard was writing at a time when estimates of the Sun’s lifetime gave our species just millions of years before its demise — a cooling Sun was a reason for future migration. We would later learn the Sun’s lifetime was much longer, but the migration of humans to the stars would retain its fascination for those who contemplate not only worldships but much faster journeys.
Goddard was obviously influenced by his contemporary J.D. Bernal with his The World, the Flesh and the Devil which predicted Man’s spread out into the Solar System and interstellar space with artificial worlds and hollowed out asteroids.
These worlds are needed because such journeys will take hundreds or perhaps thousands of years.
Of course that brings in natural evolution and what these people inside these places will become when they eventually reach their destinations and if they’ll actually have need of them.
This is an interview with the true inventor of the InnerTubes.
Not Al Gore.
When some future Mars colonist is able to open his browser and watch a cat in a shark suit chasing a duck while riding a roomba, they will have Vint Cerf to thank.
In his role as Google’s chief internet evangelist, Cerf has spent much of his time thinking about the future of the computer networks that connect us all. And he should know. Along with Bob Kahn, he was responsible for developing the internet protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, that underlies the workings of the net. Not content with just being a founding father of the internet on this planet, Cerf has spent years taking the world wide web out of this world.
Working with NASA and JPL, Cerf has helped develop a new set of protocols that can stand up to the unique environment of space, where orbital mechanics and the speed of light make traditional networking extremely difficult. Though this space-based network is still in its early stages and has few nodes, he said that we are now at “the front end of what could be an evolving and expanding interplanetary backbone.”Father of the Internet Vint Cerf is responsible for helping develop the TCP/IP protocols that underly the web. In his role as Google’s chief internet evangelist, Cerf is dedicated to thinking about the future of the net, including its use in space. Image: Google/Weinberg-Clark
Wired talked to Cerf about the interplanetary internet’s role in space exploration, the frustrations of network management on the final frontier, and the future headline he never wants to see.
Wired: Though it’s been around a while, the concept of an interplanetary internet is probably new to a lot of people. How exactly do you build a space network?
Vint Cerf: Right, it’s actually not new at all – this project started in 1998. And it got started because 1997 was very nearly the 25th anniversary of the design of the internet. Bob Kahn and I did that work in 1973. So back in 1997, I asked myself what should I be doing that will be needed 25 years from then. And, after consultation with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we concluded that we needed much richer networking than was then available to NASA and other space faring agencies.
Up until that time and generally speaking, up until now, the entire communications capabilities for space exploration had been point-to-point radio links. So we began looking at the possibilities of TCIP/IP as a protocol for interplanetary communication. We figure it worked on Earth and it ought to work on Mars. The real question was, “Would it work between the planets?” And the answer turned out to be, “No.”
The reason for this is two-fold: First of all, the speed of light is slow relative to distances in the solar system. A one-way radio signal from Earth to Mars takes between three and half and 20 minutes. So round trip time is of course double that. And then there’s the other problem: planetary rotation. If you’re communicating with something on the surface of the planet, it goes out of communication as the planet rotates. It breaks the available communications and you have to wait until the planet rotates back around again. So what we have is variable delay and disruption, and TCP does not do terribly well in those kinds of situations.
One of the things that the TCP/IP protocols assume is that there isn’t enough memory in each of the routers to hold anything. So if a packet shows up and it’s destined for a place for which you have an available path, but there isn’t enough room, then typically the packet is discarded.
We developed a new suite of protocols that we called the Bundle protocols, which are kind of like internet packets in the sense that they’re chunks of information. They can be quite big and they basically get sent like bundles of information. We do what’s called storing forward, which is the way all packet switching works. It’s just in this case the interplanetary protocol has the capacity to store quite a bit, and usually for quite a long time before we can get rid of it based on connectivity to the next hop.
Wired: What are the challenges with working and making a communications network in space as opposed to a ground-based internet?
Cerf: Among the hard things, first of all, is that we couldn’t use the domain name system in its current form. I can give you a quick illustration why that’s the case: Imagine for a moment you’re on Mars, and somebody is trying to open up an HTTP web connection to Earth. They’ve given you a URL that contains a domain name in it, but before you can open up a TCP connection you need to have an IP address.
So you will have to do a domain name lookup, which can translate the domain name you’re trying to lookup into an IP address. Now remember you’re on Mars and the domain name you’re trying to look up is on Earth. So you send out a DNS lookup. But it may take anywhere from 40 minutes to an unknown amount of time — depending on what kind of packet loss you have, whether there’s a period of disruption based on planetary rotation, all that kind of stuff — before you get an answer back. And then it may be the wrong answer, because by the time it gets back maybe the node has moved and now it has a different IP address. And from there it just gets worse and worse. If you’re sitting around Jupiter, and trying to do a lookup, many hours go by and then it’s just impossible.
So we had to break it into a two-phase lookup and use what’s called delayed binding. First you figure out which planet you’re going to, then you route the traffic to that planet, and only then you do a local lookup, possibly using the domain name.
The other thing is when you are trying to manage a network with this physical scope and all the uncertainty delays, the things we typically do for network management don’t work very well. There’s a protocol called SNMP, the simple network management protocol, and it is based on the idea that you can send a packet out and get an answer back in a few milliseconds, or a few hundreds of milliseconds. If you’re familiar with the word ping, you’ll know what I mean, because you ping something and expect to get an answer back fairly quickly. If you don’t get it back in a minute or two, you begin to conclude that there is something wrong and the thing isn’t available. But in space, it takes a long time for the signal to even get to the destination let alone get an answer back. So network management turns out to be a lot harder in this environment.
Then the other thing we had to worry about was security. The reason for that should be obvious — one of the things we wanted to avoid was the possibility of a headline that says: “15-Year-Old Takes Over Mars Net.” Against that possibility we put quite a bit of security into the system, including strong authentication, three way handshakes, cryptographic keys, and things of that sort in order to reduce the likelihood that someone would abuse access to the space network.
Wired: Because it has to communicate across such vast distances, it seems like the interplanetary internet must be huge.
Cerf: Well, in purely physical terms — that is, in terms of distance — it’s a pretty large network. But the number of nodes is pretty modest. At the moment, the elements participating in it are devices in planet Earth, including the Deep Space Network, which is operated at JPL. That consists of three 70-meter dishes plus a smattering of 35-meter dishes that can reach out into the solar system with point-to-point radio links. Those are part of the TDRSS [tee-driss] system, which is used for a lot of near-Earth communications by NASA. The ISS also has several nodes on board capable of using this particular set of protocols.
Two orbiters around Mars are running the prototype versions of this software, and virtually all the information that’s coming back from Mars is coming back via these store-forward relays. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers on the planet and the Curiosity rover are using these protocols. And then there’s the Phoenix lander, which descended to the north pole of Mars in 2008. It also was using these protocols until the Martian winter shut it down.
And finally, there’s a spacecraft in orbit around the sun, which is actually quite far away, called EPOXI [the spacecraft was 32 million kilometers from Earth when it tested the interplanetary protocols]. It has been used to rendezvous with two comets in the last decade to determine their mineral makeup.
But what we hope will happen over time — assuming these protocols are adopted by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems, which standardizes space communication protocols — then every spacefaring nation launching either robotic or manned missions has the option of using these protocols. And that means that all the spacecraft that have been outfitted with those protocols could be used during the primary mission, and could then be repurposed to become relays in a stored forward network. I fully expect to see these protocols used for both manned and robotic exploration in the future.
Wired: What are the next steps to expand this?
Cerf: We want to complete the standardization with the rest of the spacefaring community. Also, not all pieces are fully validated yet, including our strong authentication system. Then second, we need to know how well we can do flow control in this very, very peculiar and potentially disrupted environment.
Third, we need to verify that we can do serious real-time things including chat, video and voice. We will need to learn how to go from what appears to be an interactive real-time chat, like one over the phone, to probably an email-like exchange, where you might have voice and video attached but it’s not immediately interactive.
Delivering the bundle is very much like delivering a piece of email. If there’s a problem with email it usually gets retransmitted, and after a while you time out. The bundle protocol has similar characteristics, so you anticipate that you have variable delay that could be very long. Sometimes if you’ve tried many times and don’t get a response, you have to assume the destination is not available.
Wired: We often talk about how the things we invent for space are being used here on Earth. Are there things about the interplanetary internet that could potentially be used on the ground?
Cerf: Absolutely. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded tests with the U.S. Marine Corps on tactical military communication using these highly resilient and disruption-tolerant protocols. We had successful tests that showed in a typical hostile communication environment that we were able to put three to five times more data through this disrupted system than we could with traditional TCP/IP.
Part of the reason is that we assume we can store traffic in the network. When there’s high activity, we don’t have to retransmit from end to end, we can just retransmit from one of the intermediate points in the system. This use of memory in the network turns out to be quite effective. And of course we can afford to do that because memory has gotten so inexpensive.
The European Commission has also sponsored a really interesting project using the DTM protocols in northern Sweden. In an area called Lapland, there’s a group called the Saami reindeer herders. They’ve been herding reindeer for 8,000 years up there. And the European Commission sponsored a research project managed by the Lulea University of Technology in northern Sweden to put these protocols on board all-terrain vehicles in laptops. This way, you could run a Wi-Fi service in villages in Northern Sweden and drop messages off and pick them up according to the protocols. As you move around, you were basically a data mule carrying information from one village to another.
Wired: There was also an experiment called Mocup that involved remote controlling a robot on Earth from the space station. These protocols were used, right?
Cerf: Yes, we used the DTN protocols for that. We were all really excited for that because, although the protocols were originally designed to deal with very long and uncertain delay, when there is high quality connectivity, we can use it for real-time communication. And that’s exactly what they did with the little German rover.
I think in general communication will benefit from this. Putting these protocols in mobile phones, for instance, would create a more powerful and resilient communications platform than what we typically have today
Wired: So if I have poor reception on my cell phone at my house, I could still call my parents?
Cerf: Well, actually what might happen is that you could store what you said and they would eventually get it. But it wouldn’t be real time. If the disruption lasts for an appreciable length of time, it would arrive later. But at least the information would eventually get there.
What about quantum entanglement?
There’s an experiment to be done in 2016 which an entangled signal is to be sent to a satellite launched by the Chinese, ( The Race to Bring Quantum Teleportation to Your World ).
Will that make the Interplanetary Internet obsolete before it literally gets off the ground?
Or will quantum entanglement enhance it?