The Mars One Project

The Mars One Project

Humanity finally flying the nest?

Ever since I was very young, I had a fascination with Mars. The red planet, a world of such curiosity, such wonder. A planet that in cosmic terms is a mere stone’s throw away. I had always dreamt about what it would be like to be the first human to step foot on that dusty cold world. To go down in history, up there with Neil Armstrong, in the highly elitist group of people to step foot on another world. Science fiction you say? The ramblings of an over ambitious geek? Well, perhaps not for long.

I came across the “Mars One Project” from a post on my Twitter feed. Somehow I had managed to make it this far, without having heard a peep about them, but now I am careful to keep a close eye on they’re progress.

The Mars One Project is a non-profit organisation, their mission, to place human kind on the surface of Mars, by 2023. The team is headed by a diverse group ranging from space engineers to marketing experts. There seems to be a great pool of intellect and resource at hand.

The question on everyone’s lips – “Can they actually do it?”

Well, I think the only answer to the question, is that time will tell. The process of astronaut application has already begun. The project has encouraged people to submit video applications, and that there are no real entry requirements as such. What they do suggest is that the ideal candidates will have the ability for calm, lateral thinking, to be able to be extremely resourceful…….oh and to accept that this is a one way trip.

Now at first glance, this last point may seem rather startling. Being stranded on an alien world, for ever. What if I don’t like the neighbours?   Well I’m not sure that you would really have time to worry too many things, but as there are only 4 proposed candidates going on this trip, then perhaps your neighbours might be one to consider. It was stated by the press team that this was indeed a one way trip, because at this point in time the technology isn’t sufficient for a viable return voyage (but you never know, the sky crane tech of last year’s successful MSL Curiosity landing might prove to be of use) It’s again a case of watch this space. It might not be as “one way” as it seems.

Another question on the lips of critics is “should private companies be attempting this sort of stunt?” and again, my answer to this is a resounding YES.

SpaceX and the Google Prize are both excellent examples of how private industry is pushing forwards the space race, and forcing the superpower governments to relinquish the monopoly over the space industry. SpaceX is now providing a large percentage of resupply missions to the ISS. Something that would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Private industry is now in the position to make the space race competitive once again. Exactly what is needed if we wish to see projects like the Mars Project, moving forwards, and even venturing further. Governments are all too cautious to spend money on space, seeing it only as financial loss, but private industry sees the value. Not only the most obvious value, but also the value of all the technology and advancement that comes merely from the trying! Without the space race in the 50’s there would be a lot of technology and medical advances that we would not have the benefit from today.

So I say, Mars One may not succeed by the 2023 target. The fact that they are trying however, that they aspire to greatness. This is exactly what humanity needs.

In the words of President Kennedy;

“We choose to go to the Moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard”

Wise words.

http://mars-one.com/en/about-mars-one/team

Does Antimatter Fall Up or Down?

The atoms that make up ordinary matter fall down, so do antimatter atoms fall up? Do they experience gravity the same way as ordinary atoms, or is there such a thing as antigravity?

These questions have long intrigued physicists, says Joel Fajans of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), because “in the unlikely event that antimatter falls upwards, we’d have to fundamentally revise our view of physics and rethink how the universe works.”

So far, all the evidence that gravity is the same for matter and antimatter is indirect, so Fajans and his colleague Jonathan Wurtele, both staff scientists with Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division and professors of physics at the University of California at Berkeley – as well as leading members of CERN’s international ALPHA experiment – decided to use their ongoing antihydrogen research to tackle the question directly. If gravity’s interaction with anti-atoms is unexpectedly strong, they realized, the anomaly would be noticeable in ALPHA’s existing data on 434 anti-atoms.

The first results, which measured the ratio of antihydrogen’s unknown gravitational mass to its known inertial mass, did not settle the matter. Far from it. If an antihydrogen atom falls downward, its gravitational mass is no more than 110 times greater than its inertial mass. If it falls upward, its gravitational mass is at most 65 times greater.

What the results do show is that measuring antimatter gravity is possible, using an experimental method that points toward much greater precision in future. They describe their technique in the April 30, 2013 edition of Nature Communications.

How to measure a falling anti-atom

ALPHA creates antihydrogen atoms by uniting single antiprotons with single positrons (antielectrons), holding them in a strong magnetic trap. When the magnets are turned off, the anti-atoms soon touch the ordinary matter of the trap’s walls and annihilate in flashes of energy, pinpointing when and where they hit. In principle, if the experimenters knew an anti-atom’s precise location and velocity when the trap is turned off, all they’d have to do is measure how long it takes to fall to the wall.

ALPHA’s magnetic fields don’t turn off instantly, however; almost 30-thousandths of a second pass before the fields decay to near zero. Meanwhile flashes occur all over the trap walls at times and places that depend on the anti-atoms’ detailed but unknown initial locations, velocities, and energies.

Wurtele says, “Late-escaping particles have very low energy, so gravity’s influence is more apparent on them. But there were very few late escaping anti-atoms; only 23 of the 434 escaped after the field had been turned off for 20-thousandths of a second.”

Fajans and Wurtele worked with their ALPHA colleagues and with Berkeley Lab associates, UC Berkeley lecturer Andrew Charman and postdoc Andre Zhmoginov, to compare simulations with their data and separate gravity’s effects from those of magnetic field strength and particle energy. Much statistical uncertainty remained.

“Is there such a thing as antigravity? Based on free-fall tests so far, we can’t say yes or no, ” says Fajans. “This is the first word, however, not the last.”

ALPHA is being upgraded to ALPHA-2, and precision tests may be possible in one to five years. The anti-atoms will be laser-cooled to reduce their energy while still in the trap, and the magnetic fields will decay more slowly when the trap is turned off, increasing the number of low-energy events. Questions physicists and nonphysicists have been wondering about for more than 50 years will be subject to tests that are not only direct but could be definitive.

via Does Antimatter Fall Up or Down? « Berkeley Lab News Center.

Another Find Thanks To Facebook

Here is another great find thanks to Facebook.
The image below is the first picture of the great hexagonal hurricane of Saturn, that is taken in optical wavelengths. It’s truly remarkable. The eye of this storm is over 1000miles in diameter, and with wind speeds reaching up to and greater than 300 mpg it’s truly a monster.
Dorothy would be hard pressed to make it safely to the land of Oz in this super storm!

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“BX442” –The First Spiral Galaxy in the Universe?

It seems that, so far, it is: In July of 2012, astronomers observed a spiral galaxy in the early universe, billions of years before many other spiral galaxies formed while using the Hubble Space Telescope. They were taking pictures of about 300 very distant galaxies in the early universe to study their properties. This distant spiral galaxy they discovered  existed roughly three billion years after the Big Bang, and light from this part of the universe has been traveling to Earth for about 10.7 billion years.

“As you go back in time to the early universe, galaxies look really strange, clumpy and irregular, not symmetric,” said Alice Shapley, a UCLA associate professor of physics and astronomy, and co-author of the study. “The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks. Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?”

“BX442 looks like a nearby galaxy, but in the early universe, galaxies were colliding together much more frequently,” she said. “Gas was raining in from the intergalactic medium and feeding stars that were being formed at a much more rapid rate than they are today; black holes grew at a much more rapid rate as well. The universe today is boring compared to this early time.”

Galaxies in today’s universe divide into various types, including spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way, which are rotating disks of stars and gas in which new stars form, and elliptical galaxies, which include older, redder stars moving in random directions. The mix of galaxy structures in the early universe is quite different, with a much greater diversity and larger fraction of irregular galaxies, Shapley said.

“The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding,” said David Law, lead author of the study and Dunlap Institute postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. “Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design’ spiral galaxies simply didn’t exist at such an early time in the history of the universe.” A ‘grand design’ galaxy has prominent, well-formed spiral arms.

The galaxy, which goes by the not very glamorous name of BX442, is quite large compared with other galaxies from this early time in the universe; only about 30 of the galaxies that Law and Shapley analyzed are as massive as this galaxy.

To gain deeper insight into their unique image of BX442, Law and Shapley went to the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano and used a unique state-of-the-science instrument called the OSIRIS spectrograph, which was built by James Larkin, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. They studied spectra from some 3,600 locations in and around BX442, which provided valuable information that enabled them to determine that it actually is a rotating spiral galaxy — and not, for example, two galaxies that happened to line up in the image.

“We first thought this could just be an illusion, and that perhaps we were being led astray by the picture,” Shapley said. “What we found when we took the spectral image of this galaxy is that the spiral arms do belong to this galaxy. It wasn’t an illusion. We were blown away.” Law and Shapley also see some evidence of an enormous black hole at the center of the galaxy, which may play a role in the evolution of BX442.

Why does BX442 look like galaxies that are so common today but were so rare back then?

Law and Shapley say the answer may have to do with a companion dwarf galaxy, which the OSIRIS spectrograph reveals as a blob in the upper left portion of the image, and the gravitational interaction between them. Support for this idea is provided by a numerical simulation conducted by Charlotte Christensen, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the research in Nature. Eventually the small galaxy is likely to merge into BX442, Shapley said.

Law, a former Hubble postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, and Shapley will continue to study BX442.

“We want to take pictures of this galaxy at other wavelengths,” Shapley said. “That will tell us what type of stars are in every location in the galaxy. We want to map the mixture of stars and gas in BX442.”

Shapley said that BX442 represents a link between early galaxies that are much more turbulent and the rotating spiral galaxies that we see around us. “Indeed, this galaxy may highlight the importance of merger interactions at any cosmic epoch in creating grand design spiral structure,” she said.

Studying BX442 is likely to help astronomers understand how spiral galaxies like the Milky Way form, Shapley concluded.

The image at the top of the page ian an artist’s conception of the farthest spiral galaxy ever seen; in a Hubble/Keck image (inset), the blob at upper left is a companion galaxy whose gravity may have sparked the spiral structure. Credit: (left) David Law; (right) Joe Bergeron, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

The Daily Galaxy via UCLA News and Nature.com

via “BX442” –The First Spiral Galaxy in the Universe?.

So long Herschel, but thanks for all the fish.

ESA’s Herschel space observatory has exhausted its supply of liquid helium coolant, ending more than three years of pioneering observations of the cool Universe.

The event was not unexpected: the mission began with over 2300 litres of liquid helium, which has been slowly evaporating since the final top-up the day before Herschel’s launch on 14 May 2009.

The liquid helium was essential to cool the observatory’s instruments to close to absolute zero, allowing Herschel to make highly sensitive observations of the cold Universe until today.

via Herschel closes its eyes on the Universe.

How Fat is Schrödinger’s Cat?

In recent years physicists have been placing ever-larger objects into states of quantum superposition – the curious state that Schrödinger’s cat finds itself in. Now, researchers in Germany have devised a way of quantifying just how macroscopic those objects are and how much ground still needs to be made up before cats and other familiar items can be held in two or more quantum states at the same time.

Check it out here on the IOP Physics News site

Something I caught on Facebook

This is an image that I came across in my news feed on Facebook. An amazing capture thanks to our good friend the Hubble Space telescope.
What we see here, are two galaxies in the process of dancing around each other in a merger. Eventually this dance of destruction will result in the formation of a new elliptical galaxy. What a wonderful and exquisite ballet of change.

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Kickstarter Highlight: Glowing Plants

Interesting stuff!

Applied Press

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Have you ever wanted glowing plants to illuminate your life? Well now you can have some if you support today’s featured Kickstarter campaign! Anthony Evans and his Kickstarter team have created some glowing plants through the use of synthetic biology and Genome Compiling Software. Evans and his team’s long term goal seems to be to create natural lighting that does not use electricity. This can become a very cheap and effective way of bringing lighting sources into many places in the world that do not have the necessary resources to have electricity everywhere. It’s also friendly towards the environment since it’s natural lighting which doesn’t requiring external power resources save for the sunlight to grow the plants perhaps which is available abundantly everywhere.

According to the Kickstarter page all backers from the U.S. that pledge $40 will get 50-100 seeds to grow their own glowing plants at home. The seeds…

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The Importance of Science Fiction for Science Fact

WARNING: THIS REPORT CONTAINS “SPECULATION” & “UNPROVEN THEORY”

Over the last few years, it has become overwhelmingly obvious to me, that the majority of the Scientific community, has become somewhat “jaded” towards any suggestion that is not 100% scientifically provable TODAY. By no means does this cover all science folk, but It worries me that a number of ‘eminently public’ scientists shun and mock any speculative suggestion made as rubbish.

Now, before we continue, let me just assert. As a budding member of the scientific world, I am fully aware of the need for any scientific theory to have results to back it up. BUT, lets just be a little realistic here. Without “speculation” there would be very few of the scientific discoveries that we have today.

As I stated before, we cannot tar the entire community with the same brush. For instance, the greatly eminent physicists Michio Kaku (one of the great heavy weights in physics today) along with Stephen Hawking (possibly THE heavy weight) are both prolific dreamers. Michio has written a whole library of books, where the “Physics of Tomorrow” are considered. From tri-corders to time travel. Without this sci-fi, head in the clouds approach to physics, the field would be a deadly boring world of mundane calculations and repetitive observation.

Stephen Hawking recorded a whole series based on physics principals that he dreams about, to the extent where he supposedly set up a dinner party for time travellers. Sending out invitations so that they might, in distant time be found by time travellers. Who would appear, at that the set time and date for this temporal gathering with canapés.

One of my most loved topics of thought, dream and conversation is time travel. Something that is greatly studied at this point in time. There are a great number of theories, papers and books all on this fascinating topic. The possibilities are endless. From time dilation at the event horizon of a black hole, to the microscopic wormholes of the quantum foam at Plank scales.1 Conversation of paradox and loopholes (the most famous of the time travel paradox is the grandfather paradox which postulates that, you travel back in time to kill your own grandfather, so that you were never born. However, that very action means that you do not exist too travel back to make the kill…..and therefore time is stuck in what becomes known as a causal loop) I have spent hours of my life, trying to unpick causal loops and paradox to see what effect specific actions would have on the overall temporal outcome. Needless to say, its normally the same outcome.

That was somewhat of a wormhole digression, so back to the original geodesic.

From the very earliest days of the science fiction genre, those of Jules Verne and his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon humanity has dreamt of things that were (at that point) technologically impossible. THIS WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THE CASE, as Joules proved (well, you know what I mean). He was a man far before his time. Yet, over a century on, people HAVE walked on the moon, and we are well on the way to walking on Mars. The Star Trek franchise is yet another science fiction series, from which we are now taking inspiration. Walk into the medical bay on the Enterprise and you would be sure to spot a tri-corder. Well, now there is such a device, being trialed in the US. Warp Drive is yet another of the Trek Tech which is taking on a physical presence in today’s physics research. (For more on this see the Wiki for Alcubierre Drive )

Scientists in the public eye, especially, need to actually get the younger generations to dream, to speculate. For only then, will the scientific field progress and grow.

  1. I note here that the use of wormholes doesn’t technically relate to “time travel” in the same sense of the time dilation of black hole theory. However, the use of the highly speculative wormhole would effectively cut journey times from one side of the universe to the other. So it’s more of a time saving, than a time travel.