I won't mock them, or get involved in their reciprocal tiffs, because for all their faults, they are at least doing what Republicans promised (lying) that all of the rich would do with massive tax cuts. That is, investing in new capabilities. (Maybe Supply Side woulda worked... if the other 99.99% of rich folks did that, as promised.)
Well. While Branson and Bezos do their suborbital jaunts, SpaceX plans to send half a dozen civilians – with no professional astronauts aboard – into orbit possibly as early as mid September. 2021. This is making my novel Existence darned prophetic about zillionaires in space. (Watch the video trailer!) Apparently, this crew Dragon capsule will have a cupola window and toilet combo (!!) where the docking hatch would usually go. Yipe. A loo with a view.
A MAGA Congressman, Louie Gohmert, recently suggested that the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attempt to solve global warming by altering the Earth’s orbit. While Gohmert’s sarcastic dig was just another salvo in the mad-right’s all-out war on science, it did get some folks re-evaluating ways to supplement carbon-emission-reduction, e.g. with sunshades or geoengineering. Or else… sure, why not talk about what it would take to alter Earth’s orbital radius outward by about 3 million kilometers, enough to reduce ambient temperatures by about 3 degrees? (Across the next billion years 'we’ will have to do it several times, as the sun grows hotter. And by 'we' I mean our vastly-better heirs who are reading this 'now,' in the year 35640c.e.. and not you, my fellow ancestor sims.)
Could we move the Earth? In a Scientific American essay, Maddie Bender started by offering a cogent appraisal of the energy transfers needed – only about a billion billion times the annual energy use of today’s human civilization. Which makes the whole thing seem… not-so-ridiculous! Given that we need to use other, much quicker methods (like carbon-pollution reduction) in the short term, it is suddenly actually conceivable that advanced descendants might deal with the long term warming by gradual orbit-altering over tens of millions of years.
Alas, the author then goes on to describe methods for doing this orbital velocity augmentation, by listing nothing but absurd non-starters, like the jibbering-loony notion of flying massive objects past the Earth-Moon system over and over, millions of times, without ever suffering an ‘oopsie” accident.'
As some of you know, I have offered a much better way for a future advanced civilization to do this with utter safety – if patiently – across the requisite time scales. See my video: Let's Lift the Earth! Spaceflight-explanation-maven Scott Manley even referred to the method, recently. (Perhaps someone will tell Scientific American or @MaddieOBender.)
== News from Beyond ==
A large asteroid… or up-size comet… that’s almost big enough to call a minor planet is about to make its closest pass to the Sun on its 600,000-year highly-eccentric orbit, whose perihelion will come (apparently) within 11 au in 2031. If it is cometary in makeup (ref. my doctoral thesis) then it may put on quite a show and it’s certainly a good candidate for a flyby mission.
Alas, its passage through the ecliptic, a bit later, will apparently be in August 2033. And that’s NOT good news… not for real world reasons but because we can expect a maelstrom of insanity that year, around the time of the 2000th Easter, as I describe here.
Mark Buchanan has an article in WaPo offering an argument I've also made about the foolishness and utter irresponsibility of those attempting METI "Messaging to Aliens." My own missive about this, refuting every METI argument in much more detail, including the "I Love Lucy" falsehood, is “Shouting At the Cosmos” – about METI “messaging” to aliens - and can be found on my website.
== And more fun sci-stuff! ==
In detections that came back to back, just 10 days apart, in January 2020, gravity wave detectors revealed events happening a billion years in the past, when black holes ate neutron stars. One had a mass nine times bigger than our sun and gulped a neutron star with about two times our sun's mass. The other black hole had about six times the mass of the sun and ate up a neutron star with 1.5 times the sun's mass. One member of the LIGO team calculates that a black hole eats a neutron star roughly every 30 seconds somewhere in the whole observable universe, though scientists would have to be looking in the right place with the right kind of equipment to detect it. Within 1 billion light-years of Earth, it happens roughly once per month.
A few weeks ago I linked to the new, better images of the M87 black hole showing powerful polarization effects. Now rapid simulation work suggests that the MAD theory of tightly rotating magnetic fields may explain the super-tight jets that spew north and south from many black holes. Wow, what an age we live in.
And further proof of amazing times. From lab experiments, measuring momentum effects in tritium beta decay we have an upper bound on the mass of the electron neutrino at about 1.1ev and from "astronomical oscillation data" a lower bound of 0.5ev... a narrow and narrowing gap. The presenter of a talk I saw yesterday suggests - and she was persuasive - that the number density across the universe is about 330 neutrinos per cubic centimeter.
AND I just read that they are studying the microbiome of Southwest Pueblo Native Americans from 1000 years ago to recover lost symbionts. (Might one turn into Larry Niven's "booster spice"?) Again amazing times.
== You want more science. Here's more! ==
A newfound tiny white dwarf, named ZTF J1901+1458, just 130 light years away, is immensely massive, just shy of Chandrasekhar’s Limit where the mass triggers a type 1a supernova, probably having formed when a binary pair of stars – each having become a white dwarf separately, whirled, emitted gravity waves, and slowed into a merger that created incredible angular momentum (rotation) and magnetic fields. (How’s that for a sentence?) Now this. It would take very little added mass to tip this thing into a too-close-for-comfort 'pop'. And did I mention it's just 130 l.y. away? Sci fi folks take note.
Through a long standing partnership with World Book, Inc., NIAC is proud to announce the second eight books in the Out of This World 2 series! This award winning STEM book series is geared towards kids with a 4th – 8th grade reading level so they can explore the next frontiers of space through the lives and work of researchers 3ho competed for seed grants from NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC) (I am on the Advisory Council.) The 2021 NIAC Symposium will be held Sept 20-24 via Livestream here: https://livestream.com/viewnow/niac2021
Discover second skin space suits, leaping bots, expandable space habitats, solar surfing probes, clockwork rovers, and more in this easy-to-read series about complex space science topics. Stunning imagery and interactive activities will entice and challenge readers of all ages. The Out of This World 2 series features early stage NASA projects that hope to develop bold new advances in space technology. Contact World Book directly, or your local library/bookstore to find out more.