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Oct 21, 2021

What If We Become a Type 1 Civilization?

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space

Scroll down to watch the video.

Imagine if we could control earthquakes and tsunamis to generate power. Or maybe even terraform every planet in the solar system. These are just a couple of the things that might happen if human civilization was to advance in the future.

Oct 20, 2021

Terraforming Mars in 3 Just Simple Steps!

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space

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In this not-quite-serious video I explain what it would take to terraform Mars and make it habitable for humans.

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Sep 23, 2021

How does terraforming work in the Alien universe?

Posted by in categories: alien life, engineering, environmental

Back to Aliens, we find “Building Better Worlds” as the main slogan of the nefarious Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Apparently, terraforming (and presumably mining) celestial bodies is a large part of their galactic business. When acid hits the fan and the xenomorphs take over Hadley’s Hope, their operations on LV-426 have been active for decades. But is that enough time for Acheron (formally labelled as LV-426) to develop a breathable atmosphere?

The film itself doesn’t have many answers when it comes to terraforming, but the procedure appears to revolve around reutilizing the existing atmosphere – breaking down pre-existing elements, transforming, and redistributing them – instead of starting from scratch, which would indeed take centuries. Basically, mankind can’t turn any planet or planetoid into an Earth-like environment in the Alien universe; most components need to be present already, same goes for the atmospheric conditions. This fixes the centuries-long problem that comes up in other works of fiction, or at least makes the storytelling more realistic.

Complementary material detailing the Alien universe’s history and technology claim the first “Automated Atmosphere Processor” became a reality in 2,029 with a first terraforming process happening on Gliese 667 Cc during the 2030s and ending around 2040. The Weyland Corp Terraforming Division was created in 2,072 effectively starting a new age of space exploration. As stated before, native atmospheres are transformed thanks to the company’s “Atmosphere Processing Plants” and other techniques, such as algae bloom tanks that consume excess carbon dioxide and generate oxygen. It all depends on the properties of planets which have been previously scouted, inspected, and approved for viable terraformation.

Sep 20, 2021

After Inspiration4 triumph, Elon Musk hints at his actual longterm goal

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, engineering, environmental, space travel

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reiterated his support for terraforming Mars, as part of his long-term goal to make humanity into a multi-planetary species.


On Sunday, the day after SpaceX’s all-civilian mission to orbit returned to Earth, the CEO took to Twitter to suggest that he’s still got his sights set on the long-term goal of making Mars a more Earth-like world. In response to a post about Mars temperatures, which claimed the average surface temperature is around minus 63 degrees Celsius (minus 82 degrees Fahrenheit), Musk responded: “Needs a little warming up.”

The comments hint at Musk’s goal, stated multiple times over the years, that he would like to transform the planet’s atmosphere to make it more hospitable to human life. It forms part of his overall goal with SpaceX: reduce spaceflight costs, use it to establish permanent human presences elsewhere in space, and transform humanity into a multi-planetary species.

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Aug 11, 2021

Scientist Says Astronauts Should Take Psychedelic Mushrooms in Space

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space

Do you agree?


In the future, when space agencies start to send human crews deep into space to explore or terraform distant worlds, we may need to send them off with extra goodies to keep morale high.

When astronauts are feeling lonely, depressed, traumatized, or just generally bad, a little pick-me-up in the form of psychedelic mushrooms could help, mycologist Paul Stamets suggested to Scientific American. It’s an odd idea, but as the body of evidence continues to grow that psilocybin — the active ingredient in shrooms — may have myriad mental health benefits, it may be an odd idea worth considering.

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Aug 11, 2021

Could We Explore the Entire Galaxy With Self-Replicating Robots?

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, environmental, nuclear energy, physics, robotics/AI, solar power, space, sustainability

Circa 2016


Scientists and engineers since the 1940s have been toying with the idea of building self-replicating machines, or von Neumann machines, named for John von Neumann. With recent advances in 3D printing (including in zero gravity) and machine learning AI, it seems like self-replicating machines are much more feasible today. In the 21st century, a tantalizing possibility for this technology has emerged: sending a space probe out to a different star system, having it mine resources to make a copy of itself, and then launching that one to yet another star system, and on and on and on.

As a wild new episode of PBS’s YouTube series Space Time suggests, if we could send a von Neumann probe to another star system—likely Alpha Centauri, the closest to us at about 4.4 light years away—then that autonomous spaceship could land on a rocky planet, asteroid, or moon and start building a factory. (Of course, it’d probably need a nuclear fusion drive, something we still need to develop.)

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Nov 9, 2020

The future of space colonization – terraforming or space habitats?

Posted by in categories: biological, Elon Musk, engineering, environmental, habitats, space travel

The idea of terraforming Mars is a fascinating idea. … But just how long would such an endeavor take, what would it cost us, and is it really an effective use of our time and energy?


Ultimately, Yakovlev thinks that space biospheres could also be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe – i.e. between 2030 and 2050 – which is simply not possible with terraforming. Citing the growing presence and power of the commercial space sector, Yakovlev also believed a lot of the infrastructure that is necessary is already in place (or under development).

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Oct 25, 2020

Microbes of the Universe — Could our Solar System be rife with Pathogens?

Posted by in categories: alien life, biological, environmental, ethics, existential risks, habitats, health, space travel

In a recent study of the upper atmosphere of Venus, finding the chemical fingerprint of phosphine has led to speculation that it may be tied to airborne life high in the clouds of our sister planet [1]. We harbour similar suspicion of microbial life on Mars [2], Saturn’s moon Enceledus [3], and Europa, the icy Galilean of the Jovian system [4]. The dwarf planet Ceres of the asteroid belt could be added to that list also, with recent evidence of oceanic water [5], while more exotic variations of life may exist on Titan, which is known to be teeming with organic materials [6]. Should we be more wary of our Solar System as an environment to explore, and the potential of pathogens we may encounter?

If one rewinds 500 years, to when exploration of new worlds involved sailing the oceans, the discovery of the Americas introduced viruses which decimated the native population at that time [7]. That in itself was far from a unique event in history, of course. There have been many occurrences throughout history where travel between distant lands has resulted in the introduction of devastating plagues to one population or the other — not least the Black Death, which arrived in Europe from commercial travel with Asia in the 1300s [8]. Meanwhile, 2020 has reminded us how a novel virus can prove virtually unstoppable from spreading worldwide in a matter of months and reaching pandemic level, once introduced to our now interconnected world [9].

Indeed when the first astronauts returned from the Moon in the 60s, they had to undergo weeks of quarantine as a precaution against introducing a lunar pathogen to Earth [10]. We now know the Moon to be a sterile world, but this should not give us a false sense of security when visiting and returning from other worlds, which are far more likely to harbour microbial life. It is quite plausible to consider that any microbes which have evolved to survive in the harsh environments on other worlds could multiply out of control if introduced to a more fertile environment on Earth. The likelihood of any such foreign microbes being capable of becoming infectious pathogens to our species is difficult to measure, but one could still cause problems regardless, by undermining Earth’s ecosystem in competing with native microbial life as a runaway invasive species.

Fortunately, due to the vast distances involved in inter-planetary travel, returning astronauts would likely show symptoms of infection from any dangerous pathogen long before reaching home, as such a journey would be expected to take many months, even with more advanced propulsion technology than we use in space travel today. That is not to say they could not inadvertently return with microbial life on board — or even on the exterior of craft: Earth’s tardigrades, for example, have proven quite durable in journeys into outer space [11].

Continue reading “Microbes of the Universe — Could our Solar System be rife with Pathogens?” »

Aug 30, 2020

Venus map with water: stunning terraforming image shows alternative to Mars

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space travel

A new image shows what Venus would look like if it had water on its surface, similar to the Earth.

Aug 11, 2020

Musk Reads: SpaceX Starship has taken flight

Posted by in categories: engineering, environmental, space travel

Starship lifts off and a terraformed Mars map is published. How will Mars astronauts reach the surface? It’s Musk Reads: SpaceX Edition #193.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

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