Daily Archives: July 1st, 2008

Unsolved mystery, cosmic fireworks and sailing the light fantastic

After 100 years, the mystery of the Tunguska explosion that wiped out 80 million trees within a 770 square mile area is still with us. Theories range from meteors and comets to micro-blackholes and UFOs. But this morning at physorg.com I spotted one theory that was unique and unusual:

This year, the “alternativists” organised a separate conference held in a museum on Moscow’s picturesque Old Arbat street at which they sketched out outlandish theories for an event they say ordinary physics cannot explain.

Rodionov said the explosion was most likely caused by US physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) detonating an underground volcano in Siberia by harnessing electric charges in the air from his laboratory tower outside New York.

I have to say the hypothetical involvement of Tesla was a surprise and that finding this in an otherwise ‘hard science’ Internet site was even more of one.

Tesla was certainly one of the great geniuses of the 20th Century and a lot of inventions that could’ve prevented the many deaths by wars were suppressed, even today are attributed to him. But to lay blame at his door of a mysterious explosion in Russia is wilder than even I or my ilk ever thought!

But hey, it ain’t any worse than blaming UFOs falling out of the sky!

Maverick scientists probe Siberian forest mystery


My friend James Essig over at Jamesessig’s Weblog explains that highly evolved ETIs or our own descendents would still use ‘fireworks’, only on a cosmic scale:

…imagine that huge collections of hydrogen, deuterium, tritium, and other nuclear fuels or matter/antimatter composite materials, or antimatter itself, could be assembled to produce thermonuclear devices or matter/antimatter explosive devices that not only extend in the three ordinary spatial dimensions with the mass and/or volume a white dwarf, neutron star, or quark star or quark nugget, but which also extent into the fourth dimension in an extended interval equal to the diameter of a white dwarf, neutron star, quark star, or quark nugget.

Assuming that hyperspace or higher dimensional space has no discreetization or ultimate finite size quantization, then such a device would include an infinite mass of fusion fuel or matter antimatter fuel and have an infinite yield and be capable of effecting objects, bodies, or whatever that would exist in the fourth dimension.

I have to admit that James is a little difficult to read and comprehend at times, but I love the guy because he thinks outside of the box and big!

Artificial Cosmic Fireworks, How Large Can They Be?


Finally, an old idea that might come to fruition, solar light sail propulsion. According to Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams, this will finally be reality:

A realistic technology for future missions? Believe it. Although the push from the Sun is tiny, the effects are cumulative and quickly begin to mount. Says Montgomery:

“It’s not so much about how far a sail will go compared to a rocket; the key is how fast. The Voyagers have escaped the solar system, and they were sent by rockets, but it’s taken more than three decades to do it. A sail launched today would probably catch up with them in a single decade. Sails are slower to get started though. So, for example, between the Earth and the moon, rockets might be preferred for missions with a short timeline. It’s a trip of days for rockets, but months for a solar sail. The rule of thumb, therefore, would be to use rockets for short hops and solar sails for the long hauls.”

Think, too, about how the idea of solar sails is changing. The vast sails described by Cordwainer Smith (”The Lady Who Sailed the Soul”) or Arthur C. Clarke (”The Wind from the Sun”) were envisioned without a functioning nanotechnology to support them. Montgomery notes that today’s microelectronics make it possible to shrink the size of the sail and still perform serious missions. In a few decades, nanotech may have reached the point where smaller sails are sufficient to get assembler-laden research stations to their destinations. As we deploy NanoSail-D, let’s keep an eye on developing sail technologies, including beamed microwave propulsion, as we look to future prospects for even longer missions via laser or particle beam methods.

The launch from a SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket leaves me with an uneasy feeling though, the success rate of their rockets haven’t exactly been sterling, in spite of the great static firings of the Merlin engines.

I do hope for a successful test though, the sheer simplicity and efficiency of this concept is way too good to give up on!

NanoSail-D: Solar Sail Deployment Planned