Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Space Marvels. Science is... alive!

My previous posting about the real reasons for the American Revolution, remains one of my most popular, ever, drawing lots of traffic.  But now it is time to shift over to... science!  Just a spacey set of cool miscellany items this time… about… space! 

Comet_close-up_node_full_image_2
The European Space Agency’s elderly comet-hunting Rosetta satellite woke up from hibernation and successfully rendezvoused with a comet! After a decade long journey, the spacecraft closed in on its target, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and has sent back the first high-resolution photos of the double-lobed comet. 

I agree with the folks at Planetary Resources that “It has been fascinating to see the increasingly more detailed images of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It is like nothing scientists have seen to date.” Truly a new era for comet studies.

Those pock marks aren’t impact craters, they are proof of my doctoral dissertation… blow-out cavities where sun-heated and sublimed volatiles punched out overlaying dust layers, creating the fountains that are now portrayed on most NOVA-style shows. You’ve seen those shows that depict these dirty-iceball messengers from 4.5 billion years ago. 

The dust fountains? Mine from 1981… and portrayed even better in Heart of the Comet. It’s almost like being there!

Here is a terrifically concise and persuasive animation about one of the bases for orbital mechanics — explaining why you must have several images of an asteroid, against the starry background, in order to determine its orbit.

Modeling the universe, starting with the Big Bang, only became possible with the advent of supercomputers, fantastic software and the realization of the existence of mysterious dark matter. Combining all of these resulted in what may be one of the great scientific achievements of our time -- a model that portrays the Bang, then natural evolution into the cosmos we see today, with the same array of numbers of sizes and types of galaxies. If verified, it is a stunning validation of our current models and our growing ability as simulators… then creators?… in our own right.

==Exoplanet Updates==
Space-News-3D 
NASA's Kepler mission has found a planet roughly the same size as Earth, orbiting the "Goldilocks" or potentially habitable zone near an M-class (small-red) sun, about 500 light years from our system.   I'll be very interested to see if calculations show it likely to be tidal-locked. In any event, we have a good target for the next generation of planet-studying telescopes.

Meanwhile, computer models indicate that having a companion planet may increase the chance of life on earth-sized planets.

See this chart of all confirmed exoplanets identified by the Kepler spacecraft.

==Interstellar Relations==

Anthropologist Cameron Smith suggests that any interstellar colony starship would have to carry a minimum of 10,000 people to secure success on a genetic basis… assuming no further replenishment of breeding stock from Earth. This conflicts with University of  Florida's John Moore who, in 2002, figured only 150 people might bring enough diversity for a viable gene pool. One wonders how much this is altered if you can bring frozen sperm, ova and even embryos.

Pope Francis would absolutely baptize an alien from Mars, if one showed up at the Vatican and asked for it. "If God prompts some Martians to come to Earth, find the Pope, and say "we want in on this Catholicism thing." The pope would probably say "OK. cool." But probably in Latin," says The Wire.

lewis-out-silent-planetIs this really true? “Creationist Ken Ham has said that the U.S. space program is a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.”  Ham writes, "any aliens would also be affected by Adam's sin, but because they are not Adam's descendants, they can't have salvation." So much for the thoughtful Christian theological musings about other life and possible other redemptions, by solid minds like C.S. Lewis.

Ah but then televangelist Pat Robertson shockingly has urged Young Earth Christians to can it. “We’ve got to be realistic that the dating of Bishop Ussher just doesn’t comport with anything that’s found in science,” Robertson continued, “and you can’t just totally deny the geological formations that are out there.” 
Dang. It’s enough to make one believe in miracles.

==Back to Earth...and Mars==

Zircons are our probes into the very earliest days of Planet Earth. Now - in Australia - one was found with an age of 4.4 billion years. It cooled just 100 million years after the planet formed! Amazing implications.

NASA-stereo A new analysis of data from NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) shows that a July 2012 solar storm of unprecedented size would have wiped out global electronic systems if it had occurred just nine days earlier. At long last, some of the powers in our protector caste are starting to take this kind of thing seriously. But in time?

Boil, burn or explode in space: NPR looks at what would happen to your body in space...without a spacesuit.

Photographer David A. Kodama took this composite image capturing the unmanned, next-generation Falcon 9 rocket launch trajectory as it blasted off from the SpaceX launch pad at Vandenberg, Sept 29.

Those Norwegian skydivers who "caught” a "meteorite" falling past them? All of my instincts told me… no way, man. And now it seems more likely I was right. Some possibilities often seem too cool to be plausible. Stay skeptical, my friends.
mars-up-close
The Curiosity Rover has completed two years roving over the surface of Mars. For a collection of stunning images, take a look at Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission, by Mark Kaufman. Meanwhile, NASA is planning for its next rover -- the Mars2020 mission.

Meanwhile, listen to Neil de Grasse Tyson's video tribute to Curiosity ....and the spirit of exploration.

Here's a Kickstarter project worth checking out. "Shrox" wants to fund production of a calendar of art depicting the settlement of Mars.


23 comments:

A.F. Rey said...

“Creationist Ken Ham has said that the U.S. space program is a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.”

Ken Ham is actually quite upset about that characterization. See http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2014/08/04/masters-of-implying-untruths/

Earlier in my post, and to put my quote in context, I wrote, “And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel.” If you read my original post, you will see I clearly state that I don’t believe in aliens and was using a theological reason to justify that belief.

IOW, he was answering the Fermi Paradox: we haven't met any aliens (and never will) because God didn't do it. :)

ardoughter said...

On Ken Ham's comments, I would only say I wish these guys would stop telling god what to do or in this case what He cannot or can do.

Unknown said...

It horrifies me how often people declare what God can or can't do.
Personally, I think we'll find that life is pretty common in the universe. On the other hand, the circumstances that give rise to human level intelligence may be a lot rarer than we think. What if some of the global catastrophes in Earth's hadn't happened? Earth's pinnacle life forms might be dinosaurs, or 10 foot millipedes, or brain coral.

David Brin said...

The spectacular "waste of space" reply to fools like Ham was mentioned in CONTACT.

You'd rather believe God would waste ALL of that out there, than consider the possibility that the Bible stories were orally transmitted and then much later written down by human beings who (even if inspired from above) were limited in their scope of comprehension.

Tony Fisk said...

"Hey, Moses."
"What?"
"I may have found a mistake."
"Now? But the papyrus went to the scribes last week. *sigh* OK, what is it?"
"The bit where you say 'and God created Man in his own image.'. Is that right?"
"Blast! It should be the other way round. Oh well. Let's hope no-one else notices... even if they do, should be obvious what I meant"

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- the numbers required for interstellar travel

We have an "example" here on earth,

New Zealand was colonized by a small number of Polynesians - about 70 or so in about 1200AD,

There was no back - forwards between the main Polynesian population and New Zealand

This can be seen because the Polynesians have a "toolkit" of animals and plants,
A lot of that "toolkit" was missing in NZ (including pigs)
If there had been communication the toolkit would have been completed

By the 1600's there were about 250,000 Maoris in New Zealand,
A very successful and fit colonization from very low initial numbers

Alfred Differ said...

No trade?

Part of the toolkit is the skill sets of specialists. Colonization groups with small numbers should be at risk of losing skills as each member is required to be more of a generalist than they would be in a larger society. Did the Maoris lose skills their ancestors had upon arrival?

What I worry about with interstellar colonization is skill loss due to small market sizes. Even most interplanetary colonization schemes I've seen underestimate the need for trade to purchase access to skills the colonists cannot reasonably afford to maintain while they focus on growing their numbers.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

The reason I say "No Trade" is that the the Maori toolkit was missing several plants and animals that (once they were delivered by European ships) thrived in New Zealand
The big one was the pig

If the early settlers had been able to go back - they would have been able to fill these holes,

If you look at the globe you will also see that the early settlers were basically swept there

I suspect that they did lose some skills - such a small number of people would almost inevitably lose skills
But the loss of the "tool kit" is more concrete
As far as interstellar colonization is concerned I was pointing out that much smaller numbers appear to have been enough to avoid some genetic disaster,
The larger the numbers the better - for all sorts of reasons but the minimum number may be as low as 70

Randy Winn said...

Perhaps loss of skills can be minimized by recording knowledge. Experts could be educated as needed, in the memetic equivalent of the sperm bank that would eliminate the need for a minimum number of adult humans to maintain genetic viability.

Alex Tolley said...

This comet rendezvous should finally put a nail in the coffin of standard artist's drawings of cometary surfaces. The surface is dusty and neither smooth nor jagged. If the "duck shape" is due to erosion by outgassing, it may be a more advanced state than the peanut shape we've seen in the past, e.g. Comet 103P/Hartley.

Any chance of worms under that dust? :)

Paul Shen-Brown said...

There might not be a single minimum number of individuals for a viable gene pool. Different mutation rates in different environments would alter any theoretical numbers we come up with. Places that have higher UV exposure, for instance, would create more genetic diversity and thus not need as large a gene pool to draw from. So minimum population for something like a generation ship would depend on the effectiveness of its shielding. This does not mean that burning off the ozone layer would be a good idea, though, except maybe for the distant descendants of the octopi. Water is an excellent shield against UV, so ozone depletion might kill off life on the surface but leave most sea life intact. Sadly marine mammals would probably not survive because they would expose themselves to the radiation when they surface to breath, so my money's on the cephalopods.

Alex Tolley said...

It is my understanding that the problem of small population sizes enhance the likelihood of deleterious double recessives. Unlike populations in human history, we will be able to ensure deleterious genes are not present in the colony ship. Similarly, artificial selection may be used to reduce "undesirable" genetic drift in the population. Technology should help in minimizing risks of extinction of the colony, something that our prehistoric and historic populations could not hope to achieve at our high tech level.

Robert said...

Here, Dr. Brin: an article on Leftists that seems quite in step with your frequent comments about them (ie, about their being defeatists and how nothing is good enough for them). Actually when you boil down their arguments, aren't these negative leftists in essence saying the same exact thing as the negative right? It's like they're two halves of the same face of the same coin - not even two sides to the coin. They're the same face.

I'll comment on science stuff later. Just thought you'd enjoy the link.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Maoris were already probably somewhat inbred. We Californians are the real mongrels. As if humanity were setting up an attractor site for maximum diversity, in prep either for starships or for alien abductions!


onward to something funky.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Meanwhile, computer models indicate that having a companion planet may increase the chance of life on earth-sized planets."

I can imagine how rare a true duo-planet like Earth-Luna must be. Maybe the Rare Earth hypothesis is correct and intelligent life is incredibly rare throughout the galaxy.

Maybe we are alone.

A.F. Rey said...

We Californians are the real mongrels. As if humanity were setting up an attractor site for maximum diversity, in prep either for starships or for alien abductions!

As a fellow Californian and fellow San Diegan, please don't say that!

Isn't having to worry about water enough? :)

Paul451 said...

In this paragraph:
"Meanwhile, computer models indicate that having a companion planet may increase the chance of life on earth-sized planets."

The link is given as:

"https://www.blogger.com/Zircons%20are%20our%20probes%20into%20the%20very%20earliest%20days%20of%20Planet%20Earth.%20Now%20-%20in%20Australia%20-%20one%20was%20found%20with%20an%20age%20of%204.4%20billion%20years.%20It%20cooled%20just%20100%20million%20years%20after%20the%20planet%20formed!%20Amazing%20implications.%20%20%C2%A0%20%20A%20new%20analysis%20of%20data%20from%20NASA%27s%20Solar%20TErrestrial%20RElations%20Observatory%20(STEREO)%20shows%20that%20a%20July%202012%20solar%20storm%20of%20unprecedented%20size%20would%20have%20wiped%20out%20global%20electronic%20systems%20if%20it%20had%20occurred%20just%20nine%20days%20earlier.%20At%20long%20last,%20some%20of%20the%20powers%20in%20our%20protector%20caste%20are%20starting%20to%20take%20this%20kind%20of%20thing%20seriously.%20But%20in%20time?"

Which seems a wee bit wrong.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Is this really true? “Creationist Ken Ham has said that the U.S. space program is a waste of money because any alien life that scientists found would be damned to hell.” Ham writes, "any aliens would also be affected by Adam's sin, but because they are not Adam's descendants, they can't have salvation."

I haven't read the full article, but isn't this exactly backwards?

If aliens don't have benefit of Adam's lineage, how to they take the blame for his sin? How exactly are they "affected by" Adam's sin?

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dear Larry Hart,

You said: If aliens don't have benefit of Adam's lineage, how to they take the blame for his sin? How exactly are they "affected by" Adam's sin?

Isn't ken Ham's logic clearly a throwback to feudalism? Logic is not an issue for religious extremists. Why should anyone's lineage be an issue if God is supposed to be good and judge people on fair and consistent criteria? The insistence on pedigree just demonstrates the political nature of religion. All of the 5 major world religions were essentially created or co-opted for political purposes by nations. But they act like viral memes, perpetuating themselves generations after the system that created them has disappeared, and like viruses generally, they aren't exactly good for their hosts. Constantine the Great vanished from this Earth 1700 years ago, and his empire collapsed a measly 150 years later, but something like a billion people today still think the document crafted for his use at Nikea is literal truth. But if the day ever comes that we do meet alien sapience, you can be sure these people will find a place for them in obscure references buried in their holy books.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dear Dr. Brin,

Your blog post mentioned Pat Robertson saying something reasonable, which is quite remarkable news. In your book "Existence" you talk about 'indignation junkies' (I love that term!), which Robertson would certainly fit. For those of you who haven't read "Existence" an indignation junkie is like an adrenaline junkie, but they get a dopamine rush from ranting and raving, being morally outraged, instead of roller coasters or extreme sports. The fact that he has made a reasonable statement brought something to mind. Anyone who understands the neurology of addiction knows that the brain builds tolerance to any drug that gets overused, exogenous or endogenous. Obviously exogenous drugs like cocaine or heroine burn out the system much faster because they cause unnaturally large dopamine releases. This is why people who get high from one small dose of a drug find themselves overdosing a few years later. With both indignation junkies and adrenaline junkies, presumably they have to get more and more extreme as their synapses start to pull back dopamine receptors. Eventually the whole system crashes and they stop getting their buzz no matter how much they rave, I would assume. Presumably this means that some of these TV evangelist and talk radio retards will chill out and start making sense in their senior years. Maybe we will see this coming from the older right-wing extremists (and maybe some lefties, too), though I am sure there will always be a steady stream of young loonies to take their place. For a moment I thought I was onto something...

LarryHart said...

Paul Shen-Brown:

You said: If aliens don't have benefit of Adam's lineage, how to they take the blame for his sin? How exactly are they "affected by" Adam's sin?

Isn't ken Ham's logic clearly a throwback to feudalism? Logic is not an issue for religious extremists. Why should anyone's lineage be an issue if God is supposed to be good and judge people on fair and consistent criteria? The insistence on pedigree just demonstrates the political nature of religion...


But my point was that his assertion (if it really was his) was not even internally consistent. Why would anyone even think that aliens would inherit Adam's sin but not his redemption, let alone that such is self-evidently the case, as the author seems to think?

If anything, I could make a case for the other way around (though I don't personally believe it). The sin is inherited through bloodlines, but redemption only requires believing in Jesus and accepting Him as your Savior. So anyone can play.

Isn't that kinda/sorta how Christianity was opened up to non-Jews in the first place?

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dear Larry,

you said: Isn't that kinda/sorta how Christianity was opened up to non-Jews in the first place?

Exactly! Logic, as I said, is not an issue for religious extremists. Neither is history. Both are manipulated for their political purposes (shutting down NASA funding), as are the millions of fools who think that if someone mentions God every couple minutes they must be right about everything (just look at the popularity of that "Duck Dynasty" show - even in supposedly liberal California you see their ugly maws for sale all over). In Constantine's day, Christianity had become fashionable and all the wealthy patricians were converting, yet I have never seen a Sunday school that did not curse the Romans as Satanic and use them as the ultimate example of how all government is evil. Of course, those were faltering years for Rome, and dumping the old Imperial cult for a newer, monotheistic one was Constantine's gamble to save the empire. No one could really believe the emperors were gods anymore after the Barracks Emperors, but governments always relied on religion to motivate cooperation among its citizens - a situation that seems ironic after a couple centuries of the separation of church and state here. Constantine needed a new state religion, and a monotheistic one served his purposes best, as he could claim to represent the one and only God (the reason our god doesn't seem to have a name anymore). There was an Egyptian Pharaoh named Ahknaten who tried the same trick more than 1000 years earlier, though he seemed to be trying to take away the power of the many temples, and his religious reform didn't last - the viral meme went extinct.

Jumper said...

I think Hawaii has a head start on California on the emergence of what James Michener called "golden men."