Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Space Marvels for 2017

Oh, let's (please) take a break from pondering our current crisis of civilization, and the now explicit war on science. Instead, this time, let us turn our heads to ponder the wonderful cosmos that our children will explore... if we manage to keep a great and brave and thoughtful civilization.

My own space news can be found at the bottom.  A dinner gathering with cool topics. But first... 

Fantastic! Cosmographists have plotted the velocities of hundreds of galaxies within 1.7 billion light years, including all of our galactic super-group.  They subtracted the universal expansion and traced lines of a velocity field.  We had already known that swarms of galaxies were converging on what’s called the “Shapley Attractor.”  But this paper unveils a spectacular discovery named the Dipole Repeller! The DR is a region on the opposite side of our super-group that appears to have a repulsive effect on the velocity field, making the whole thing resemble the pattern of… well… a dipole.  As illustrated in this remarkable video.

But… but gravity isn’t supposed to have a repulsive “pole”, right? Well, there is a void near the Dipole Repeller. So, could just an absence of matter explain… hey, I am digesting this even as you are. Whoa.

(Does anyone else see a resemblance to the human inner ear? Or a chambered nautilus?)

On a much smaller scale.... Here’s proof of an intermediate-mass black hole existing — weighing just 2,200 times the mass of the Sun. 

A decaying binary orbit will lead a close pair of stars to collide, and calculations pin it down (maybe) to the year 2022, when a “red nova” may even be visible to the naked eye. 

In  Welcome to the Universe, An Astrophysical Tour, the incomparable Neil deGrasse Tyson gives you a personal tour through the marvels of the cosmos, delving into big picture topics such as quasars, cosmic strings, supermassive black holes, wormholes, time travel... and the possibility of intelligent life out there. Are we part of an infinite multiverse? Tyson illuminates and entertains with glimpses of the latest research into the scale and mysteries of the universe. 

Download a free ebook: 101 Astronomical Events for 2017 -- from Universe Today. And from Space.com, see the Space Calendar for 2017: listing launches, sky events and more.

== Marvels of our solar system ==

A study published in Nature supports the growing consensus that Pluto may be one of a dozen “roofed worlds” in the Solar System, where liquid water churns beneath protective ice. (In the case of Titan, all of this lies below lakes of methane, lapping at waxy shorelines.) Unlike Europa, Enceledus and other, “inner” ocean moons, Pluto’s ocean is likely to be “rather noxious, very cold, salty and very ammonia-rich—almost a syrup," said William McKinnon, co-author of the study.  Any ‘life’ that developed there would be very different… though not quite as remarkable as any cryo-beings (or cells) that might arise in Titanian lakes.

Utterly cool image of the Earth – Moon system taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Amazing.  We are still a mighty and scientific people. Fight for that.

A beautiful movie made by NASA using 100 images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons craft.  And yes, at risk of (necessary) repetition: you are a member of a glorious, scientific civilization.

Cassini is going out gorgeously, providing closeups of Saturn’s hexagonal north-polar cyclone… and soon vivid ring shots.  

Oh, did I mention that you are a member of a civilization which does this: Saturn's rings warped gorgeously by tiny moon, Daphnis?

NASA's Juno probe has sent back gorgeous new images of Jupiter, after its fifth orbit of the gas giant -- such as this swirling "pearl" storm.

NASA Langley’s concept of an ice shelter on Mars would transport a light, inflatable, double-walled dome, then fill the walls with water melted from nearby buried ores, which we now believe to be plentiful there. The concept would create an ideal radiation protection barrier, when the water re-freezes, and has an added advantage in the fact that it can be transported and deployed easily, then filled with water before anyone arrives. It would also serve as a storage tank for water or maybe even used for rocket fuel. Ideally it would be erected and filled robotically, before a human crew even left Earth. 

Go Mark Watney! Footage from a cubesat experiment shows potato plants budding in weightlessness, in Mars-like soils, suggesting that a certain movie (and book) may have been on target in its optimism about growing food on the red planet. Providing you can wash out perchlorates and all that. We'll see. 

The latest wonderful discoveries of our loyal robot on Mars – Curiosity. NASA’s next Martian lander -- Mars 2020 -- will be wowzer! Seeking signs of life....

This innovation may enable a rover on Venus! NASA Glenn Research Center built a computer chip that survived Venus-like conditions for an impressive 521 hours, almost 22 days. Conditions that will incinerate electronics with its 872ยบ F temperatures and seize mechanical components with its immense atmospheric pressures. At 90 times the surface pressure of Earth. In 1982, the USSR’s Venera 13 lasted 127 minutes on the Venus surface. Silicon Carbide transistors make the difference.

See the concept for a Venus sailing rover. We have even more baroque and weird projects, at NIAC! 

Now... China is forging ahead as a major force in space, with plans for upcoming manned and robotic missions to the moon and Mars. Partnering with the government, startups such as ExPace and OneSpace aim to be the Chinese version of SpaceX -- with a rocket launch scheduled for 2018. 

== My dinner with Elon ==

Photo by Amber Heard

Last time, I invited Astrid & Greg Bear and Vernor Vinge. This time, my sci fi colleagues Gregory & Elizabeth Benford and Steve Barnes, plus JPL senior planetary scientists Dave and Joy Crisp. The topic? Mars mostly (of course), plus artificial intelligence (AI) plus much else beyond the immediate horizon. 

Elon served a great dinner and his five boys were terrific, well-mannered fellows. And the rest isn't 'news' so that's it.

== Coda ==

Did I remember to remind you to murmur, now and then "IAAMOAC"?

"I am a member of a civilization."

By most standards of wealth and thoughtfulness and accomplishment and gradually rising ethics and everything else, perhaps the first human civilization. Perhaps the first in the Galaxy to escape traps like feudalism. 

If you have any notions of progress, of wanting your descendants to bestride the stars, then reject the blithering-dopey "cycles of history and "The Fourth Turning" and "we're all doomed" rants of those who would turn away from science and wonder.

IAAMOAC.  Fight for it.


Alfred Differ said...

It IS possible to craft a gravitation theory with a repulsive force. Doing so also tends to create a ‘magnetic’ element as well. I learned one as a grad student and it has some neat features. Start by recognizing that mass (the charge of the theory) could be misunderstood. What if instead of the mass, we should be using an object’s 4-momentum. At low speeds, the time-like vector component with any significant value is the temporal component which is essentially interchangeable with mass. The temporal part is an energy term if you look at the units. There is a famous equation for this. 8)

IF the correct way to represent gravitational ‘charge’ is with the 4-momentum of the object, one gets an attractive, Newtonian theory very easily for all particles with 4-momenta roughly aligned in the forward time direction. If something is going backward, though, it should be repelled by all the stuff going forward.

What was neatest about the theory I learned (theories are a dime a dozen and fun to bake) is that one gets the perihelion shift for Mercury correct via a magnetic term instead of needing to introduce curvature into the theory. One can still have curvature, of course, but the bending of the path for light and perihelion shifts fall out of a theory that looks much like electromagnetism before we even consider curvature.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

IF the correct way to represent gravitational ‘charge’ is with the 4-momentum of the object, one gets an attractive, Newtonian theory very easily for all particles with 4-momenta roughly aligned in the forward time direction. If something is going backward, though, it should be repelled by all the stuff going forward.

If something is going backwards in time, then would it be repelled in its own point of view, therefore being attracted in ours? Or are you saying it would be repelled in our point of view because it's actually being attracted in its own?

What was neatest about the theory I learned (theories are a dime a dozen and fun to bake) is that one gets the perihelion shift for Mercury correct via a magnetic term instead of needing to introduce curvature into the theory

Ok, now you just made me flash on the scene from Star Trek:TNG in which Data is in the holodeck playing poker with Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking (played by his real life self), and the scene opens with us hearing Hawking telling the punchline to a joke that we haven't heard: "But in that frame of reference, the perihelion of Mercury would be precessing in the opposite direction!"

I've often wondered if there's an actual joke that goes with that punchline, or if it was just a "No soap, radio!" sort of thing.

Now, I'm remembering the rest of the scene, with Einstein messing up on how much he has to throw into the pot after being raised, and Newton berating him, "Can't you do simple arithmetic?" Priceless.

Tim H. said...

something interesting:

Blue Origin is said to be close to testing their large methalox engine. Nice when life is interesting in a good way.

Darrell E said...

Paul SB & donzelion,

Regarding my posts near the end of the previous comment thread, apologies for misattributing quotes from your comments. I wrote the posts a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there over a couple of hours or more while working and didn't proof read when I was done. Sorry!

Darrell E said...

Tim H,

Yes, it is officially exciting times for rocketry. Space X is scheduled to launch their first "flight proven" F9 booster tomorrow. And later this year they are scheduled to launch a Falcon Heavy.

Jumper said...

The heat-resistant electronics for Venus reminded me of conditions in deep petroleum wells. Many don't realize the temperature at 30,000 feet is pretty hot, maybe 500 degrees F. And mechanical stuff has to happen. A lot of work was done on acoustic data transmission for while-drilling realtime data acquisition simply because electronic stuff failed too often. But the big data companies such as Schlumberger and others developed much of the tech for in-and-out data collection. Even H2S gas in deep holes is encountered, as H2SO4 is seen on Venus.

Paul SB said...

Darrell E.,

Relax, it's No Big Deal (NBD) - just a minor memory glitch. Being the king of the Dory Brains, I could hardly criticize, and we're both big boys now.

I'm going to be going off-line for awhile. This community is too much of a distraction from things I need to get done, so I'm taking a hiatus. Can't say how long - that depends on how long it takes for me to get through the backlog.

But before I go, I just wanted to relate one thought about the Dipole Repeller. I'm no physicist, so I' sure the professionals have probably thought of this already. When I watched the video, the first thing that got my attention was not how the gravity field lines resemble magnetic field lines, but the location of the Repeller itself. It overlaps with a Void. They didn't mention the fact that Cosmic Voids are full of dark matter and dark energy, so they may have discovered an important property of DM/DE - that they create negative gravity, which no doubt has something to do with the structure of the Universe. It might also lead to an old science fiction dream technology - anti-gravity.

Just a thought. I love chatting with you folks.


David Brin said...

Good luck Paul SB we're all rooting for you.

Zepp Jamieson said...

So gravitational waves can be bent?

Zepp Jamieson said...

To Paul SB: We'll look forward to your return.

occam's comic said...

What makes our civilization so different is that we figured out how to use the vast but limited supply of fossil fuels. It is this unearned bounty form nature that has enabled our civilization to be so wealthy and experience such "progress". It literally powers our civilization and is the source most of our environmental problems and will likely be one of the main reasons future historians will site for decline and fall of our civilization.

If you look at the literature on why societies collapse; environmental problems caused by that society's actions combined with powerful elites who are insulated from the negative consequences of their actions is a deadly combination. Unfortunately, that sounds just like a description of us.

Now we may be able to increase our use of solar, wind and nuclear power, but we have already caused huge environmental problems that will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future. And our powerful and insulated elites will not willingly give up that power and insulation. So, if I was a betting man I would bet that this century we see a ragged stair step downward trajectory in term of wealth, health and justice/fairness.

sociotard said...

You want reciprocal transparency? I got your reciprocal accountability right here.


Thanks to the Senate for passing S.J.Res 34, now your Internet history can be bought.

I plan on purchasing the Internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and make them easily searchable at searchinternethistory.com.

Everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity.

Anything they have looked at, searched for, or visited on the Internet will now be available for everyone to comb through.

I suppose normal reciprocal transparency would be requiring notification when your data has been bought and by whom. But this is a step.

David Brin said...

Alas, Sociotard, the first thing oligarchs will do is pass rules that "what applies to peasants shall not shine on me."

Occam's Comic: There is a difference between useful criticism, shouting at errors so's we can act on them... and stylish, lip-curled cynicism as an excuse for smug laziness. I'll listen to your dour gloomcasting when I see that you are also busting ass to help make it not come true.

Are you at minimum doing the stuff described here?:

occam's comic said...

I have done all that and more my entire adult life.

But even if I didn't it would not change the fact the we are a fossil fuel powered civilization with powerful and well insulated elites. If you want to help our civilization move off the pathway of decline and fall you might want to read up on the literature of why civilizations decline and fall.

David Brin said...

occam... I have read far more of that literature than you, my friend, and explored it in great detail and argued with Jared Diamond, whose COLLAPSE you'd doubtless like.

Sure, fossil fuels gave us a rapid leg up. That a good thing can become toxic is a hard lesson for humans. Libertarians cannot grok that profit-incentives and personal wealth are great... up to a point where they poison the system.

But you, OTOH, are just as myopic and tunnel visioned. The ozone layer and whales and sea otters still exist because humans peered ahead, shouted warnings... and other humans grudgingly listened. Kids breathe in LA and eat fish from the river in Pittsburgh. Our ability to actually get things done is prodigious.

LarryHart said...


You want reciprocal transparency? I got your reciprocal accountability right here.


Tangential, but I wonder if ISPs are allowed to sell your passwords, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers. I mean, you'd hope not, but what's to stop them?

TheMadLibrarian said...

We just put VPN on the whole home network as a result of the legislation that just passed today. Being stared at may be unavoidable, but there's no reason to make it easy for them!

Zepp Jamieson said...

Opera has VPN built-in, and Firefox has a variety of VPN plug-ins available. I cannot, for obvious reason, recommend Chrome.

David Brin said...

Hey Tony Fisk, you still around buddy? I got a message from PBworks saying there hadn't been any activity on the website dealing with "Brin Predictions" and demanding some activity. I took care of it.

But hey guys, whenever you see a big hit -or fail - in prediction by me, do feel free to drop by and rank me!


Laurence said...

"But you, OTOH, are just as myopic and tunnel visioned. The ozone layer and whales and sea otters still exist because humans peered ahead, shouted warnings... and other humans grudgingly listened. Kids breathe in LA and eat fish from the river in Pittsburgh. Our ability to actually get things done is prodigious."

These are minor exceptions. Our civilisation is responsible for between 50 and 100 exctinctions per day, a rate higher than is estimated for any of the 5 great mass extinctions of the past. Total numbers of animals (not species, numbers of creatures) have more than halved since 1970. The fact that we are able to save a handfull of charismatic species that hold a great deal of sentimental value and are of declining economic value is small comfort.

David Brin said...

Bah. What is your aim with such dyspeptics moanings, Laurence? To undermine our belief in our ability to do better? Because that is what your kind accomplish. I point to great achievements that were wrought by vigorous effort by tens of millions of sincere and dedicated people, as evidence that an order of magnitude MORE effort, by many more millions might do some more.

You are the one - even if you are right - who is an enemy of action and of our world.

Twominds said...

@ Dr. Brin:

I think Laurence´s remark about dozens of species a day belongs in the ´shouting warnings´ category. Like your convictions about our civilisation, they need to be repeated over and over again, so other humans will grudgingly or willingly listen and take action. Not all shouters have useful ideas for change in the right direction, or the means to do them. Save for proxy activism. But still, they need to be heard.

When they heap scorn on any possible solution proposed, then they belong to the defaitist faction, otherwise I´m willing to listen to their shouts that we need to do more.

Both their warnings and your pointing to successes are needed.

raito said...

'Forseeable future' is always an amusing subject, because some see further than others.

As for S.J.Res 34, it's one of the reasons I'm fighting my city council's attempt to sell off the municipal fiber network.

And as for space, that really does tie into the last article's posts on whether regular people actually comprehend science. I don't think some do, at all. I'm starting to hear more of the 'spend that money here where we have problems' stuff again. Many don't seem to comprehend that there's little way to know which research will pay off, and how. Nor do they seem to comprehend how all that 'useless' space research has changed things for the better. If nothing else, weather satellites and communications improvements have saved enough lives to justify the costs, I think.

Jumper said...

The species loss is significant. Much of the problem is the huge number of humans crowding out the environment. The fix is making birth control and education available now. Yes, there is rejection of that idea. Keep on persuading.
The bit about running out of power is farfetched. As soon as petroleum and coal get priced out, solar takes over. Solar provides more power per person than current sources. With more energy comes more wealth. To summarize, I speak for birth control and solar power.

Speaking of solar, imagine a world where there is enough energy to make you rich as Croesus and able to use the surplus power to actually clean up some of the mess we've made.

A.F. Rey said...

Lamar Smith stated during a house hearing yesterday that Science is known as not being objective (at least in regards to climate change).


DR. MANN: [Smith] indicated at this conference that he, according to Science, and I am quoting from them, he sees his role in this committee as a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the US research community, as a scientists I find this deeply disturbing.

CHAIRMAN SMITH: Who said that?

DR. MANN: This is according to Science Magazine, one of the most respected outlets when it comes to science …

CHAIRMAN SMITH: Who are they quoting?

DR. MANN: This is the author, Jeffrey Mervis.

CHAIRMAN SMITH: That is not known as an objective writer or magazine.

Tim H. said...

Decarbonizing energy is a national security matter.

occam's comic said...

Maybe Laurence wanted to point out that it is myopic to narrowly focus on a few species that have not yet gone extinct, when a broader perspective shows we are in the middle of a mass extinction. And the fundamentals driving the mass extinction are stronger than they have ever been and getting stronger. ( the fundamentals are human population growth and the increase in through put of matter and energy and expansion of space used in human activities on the earth.)

I wonder if elites in past civilizations wanted to be insulated from similar dyspeptic moaning. And if they used confirmation bias to find some cherry picked bits of information to provide them with comforting illusions that prevented them doing the really hard work and sacrifice that might have prevented the decline and fall of their civilization.

occam's comic said...

Please don't take the last comment as a personal slam.

To summarize my position on the future of our civilization :
Things are on a bad trajectory and we are not even doing 10% of what we would need to do in order to avoid the decline and fall.

TheMadLibrarian said...

In about 4 1/2 hours from this writing, SpaceX is planning to launch the first of its rockets to use a recycled booster. Godspeed, little rocket!


Darrell E said...

I think the emphasis on elites is inaccurate and perhaps a bit of a cop out, especially in the context of modern times. It is not just elites who are addicted to the unearned bounty realized from the use of fossil fuels or who do all they can to insulate themselves from the negative consequences of their actions. The majority of people of every economic demographic are just as guilty of those things as the elites. I think we should give all the non-elites, including most of us here I'm sure, due respect and consider them responsible agents.

The only relevant differences are that elites can have a bigger impact on a per person basis, both negatively and positively, and elites run things. But though elites run things, in many countries the general population has a significant input into determining which elites run things. For example in the US, one of the largest users of energy in the world. How do you get the tens of millions of poor and middle class people, who are just as jealous of their modern luxuries as any elite, perhaps more so on average, to stop voting for people like the Reagans, Bushes and Donald Trumps of the world who always reduce and remove any regulatory obstacles that might inhibit whichever big corporate interests have lobbied (bribed) most successfully from making as much money as possible right now and who cares what happens tomorrow?

It's like the opposite of biting the hand that feeds. The hand that is supposed to feed them keeps biting them, or rather smacking the shit of them, but they still keep going back to the same hand expecting some food. It all comes back to many of the kinds of intricately interconnected issues David has been writing about here since at least Bush Jr's tenure in the White House. Somehow we need to bring about a more educated, more engaged, wider viewing general public.

David Brin said...

Darrell sorry but you are wrong. From the French Revolution to Reagonomics and Supply Side, it has always been the middle class that's willing to sacrifice for the long term good, when it comes to taxes or environmentalism and so on. While SOME aristos join in this, they always prove, overall, to be the most grabby and short sighted.

On ward


Rinda Septiani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rinda Septiani said...

Is the planet really is nothing like it? Very impressive!!