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Archive for the ‘space’ category: Page 345

May 14, 2012

Consideration for Sub-Millisecond Pulsars (or the Lack Thereof)

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics, physics, space

On a casual read of the appraised work of Duncan R. Lorimer on Binary and Millisecond Pulsars (2005) last week, I noted the reference to the lack of pulsars with P < 1.5 ms. It cites a mere suggestion that this is due to gravitational wave emission from R-mode instabilities, but one has not offered a solid reason for such absence from our Universe. As the surface magnetic field strength of such would be lower (B ∝ (P ˙P )^(1÷2)) than other pulsars, one could equally suggest that the lack of sub millisecond pulsars is due to their weaker magnetic fields allowing CR impacts resulting in stable MBH capture… Therefore if one could interpret that the 108 G field strength adopted by G&M is an approximate cut-off point where MBH are likely to be captured by neutron stars, then one would perhaps have some phenomenological evidence that MBH capture results in the destruction of neutron stars into black holes. One should note that more typical values of observed neutron stars calculate a 1012 G field, so that is a 104 difference from the borderline-existence cases used in the G&M analysis (and so much less likely to capture). That is not to say that MBH would equate to a certain danger for capture in a planet such as Earth where the density of matter is much lower — and accretion rates much more likely to be lower than radiation rates — an understanding that is backed up by the ‘safety assurance’ in observational evidence of white dwarf longevity. However, it does take us back to question — regardless of the frequently mentioned theorem here on Lifeboat that states Hawking Radiation should be impossible — Hawking Radiation as an unobserved theoretical phenomenon may not be anywhere near as effective as derived in theoretical analysis regardless of this. This oft mentioned concern of ‘what if Hawking is wrong’ of course is endorsed by a detailed G&M analysis which set about proving safety in the scenario that Hawking Radiation was ineffective at evaporating such phenomenon. Though doubts about the neutron star safety assurance immediately makes one question how reliable are the safety assurances of white dwarf longevity – and my belief has been that the white dwarf safety assurance seems highly rational (as derived in a few short pages in the G&M paper and not particularly challenged except for the hypothesis that they may have over-estimated TeV-scale MBH size which could reduce their likelihood of capture). It is quite difficult to imagine a body as dense as a white dwarf not capturing any such hypothetical stable MBH over their lifetime from CR exposure – which validates the G&M position that accretion rates therein must be vastly outweighed by radiation rates, so the even lower accretion rates on a planet such as Earth would be even less of a concern. However, given the gravity of the analysis, those various assumptions on which it is based perhaps deserves greater scrutiny, underscored by a concern made recently that 20% of the mass/energy in current LHC collisions are unaccounted for. Pulsars are often considered one of the most accurate references in the Universe due to their regularity and predictability. How ironic if those pulsars which are absent from the Universe also provided a significant measurement. Binary and Millisecond Pulsars, D.R. Lorimer: http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0511258v1.pdf

May 14, 2012

From Global Crisis — A Planetary Defense?

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, defense, economics, ethics, events, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, lifeboat, military, nuclear weapons, policy, rants, space, treaties

Russia’s hastily convened international conference in St. Petersburg next month is being billed as a last-ditch effort at superpower cooperation in defense of Earth against dangers from space.

But it cannot be overlooked that this conference comes in response to the highly controversial NATO anti-ballistic missile deployments in Eastern Europe. These seriously destabilizing, nuclear defenses are pretexted as a defense against a non-nuclear Iran. In reality, the western moves of anti-missile systems into Poland and Romania create a de facto nuclear first-strike capability for NATO, and they vacate a series of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties with the Russians that go back forty years.

Deeply distrustful of these new US and NATO nuclear first-strike capabilities, the Russians announced they will not attend NATO’s planned deterrence summit in Chicago this month. Instead, they are testing Western intentions with a proposal for cooperative project for near-space mapping, surveillance, and defense against Earth-crossing asteroids and other dangerous space objects.

The Russians have invited NATO members as well as forward-thinking space powers to a conference in June in Petrograd. The agenda: Planetary defense against incursions by objects from space. It would be a way of making cooperative plowshares from the space technologies of hair-trigger nuclear terror (2 minutes warning, or less, in the case of the Eastern European ABMs).

It’s an offer the US and other space powers should accept.

Apr 9, 2012

LHC-Critique Press Info: Instead of a neutral risk assessment of the LHC: New records and plans for costly upgrades at CERN

Posted by in categories: complex systems, cosmology, engineering, ethics, existential risks, futurism, media & arts, nuclear energy, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, scientific freedom, space, sustainability

High energy experiments like the LHC at the nuclear research centre CERN are extreme energy consumers (needing the power of a nuclear plant). Their construction is extremely costly (presently 7 Billion Euros) and practical benefits are not in sight. The experiments eventually pose existential risks and these risks have not been properly investigated.

It is not the first time that CERN announces record energies and news around April 1 – apparently hoping that some critique and concerns about the risks could be misinterpreted as an April joke. Additionally CERN regularly starts up the LHC at Easter celebrations and just before week ends, when news offices are empty and people prefer to have peaceful days with their friends and families.

CERN has just announced new records in collision energies at the LHC. And instead of conducting a neutral risk assessment, the nuclear research centre plans costly upgrades of its Big Bang machine. Facing an LHC upgrade in 2013 for up to CHF 1 Billion and the perspective of a Mega-LHC in 2022: How long will it take until risk researchers are finally integrated in a neutral safety assessment?

There are countless evidences for the necessity of an external and multidisciplinary safety assessment of the LHC. According to a pre-study in risk research, CERN fits less than a fifth of the criteria for a modern risk assessment (see the press release below). It is not acceptable that the clueless member states point at the operator CERN itself, while this regards its self-set security measures as sufficient, in spite of critique from risk researchers, continuous debates and the publication of further papers pointing at concrete dangers and even existential risks (black holes, strangelets) eventually arising from the experiments sooner or later. Presently science has to admit that the risk is disputed and basically unknown.

Continue reading “LHC-Critique Press Info: Instead of a neutral risk assessment of the LHC: New records and plans for costly upgrades at CERN” »

Mar 13, 2012

The Neutron Star Paradox: Immunity to Micro Black Hole Capture

Posted by in categories: existential risks, particle physics, space

I have on occasion used the term ‘the neutron star paradox’ amongst LHC safety critics to denote the existence of neutron stars, as micro black hole capture should invalidate their existence if micro black holes were stable, according to official safety reports. The oft used counter-argument being that of superfluidity, which I personally dismiss as bunkum (zero viscosity cannot slip and slide your way out from the dark side of an event horizon).

It would be more appropriate to consider the magnetic field of the neutron star such that cosmic rays are always deflected by the Lorentz force from such stars, or perhaps some solar wind type effect may do similar (though this has at least partly been argued against in safety assurance already). The alternative (and infinitely more plausible) explanation of course is that micro black holes (TeV scale, at least) do not exist, though dozens of papers on arXiv and other journals argue otherwise (and CERN scientists willfully anticipate the creation of approx. 10,000 of these over the course of LHC experiemnts). The slightly less plausible explanation is that Hawking Radiation Theory is actually effective, with the only other explanation being that MBH accretion models are flawed. Otherwise we would not have stable neutron stars in the Universe… they would all be black holes by now.

I thought I’d kick off a thread of discussion here — if anyone has the appetite to participate — on discussion of ‘The Neutron Star Paradox’, as you will see from my previous post on the flux of (hypothetical) stable micro black holes, this is quite central to LHC safety assurance.

Feb 13, 2012

LHC-Critique PRESS RELEASE (Feb 13 2012): CERN plans Mega-particle collider. COMMUNICATION to CERN: For a neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment before any LHC upgrade

Posted by in categories: cosmology, engineering, ethics, existential risks, futurism, nuclear energy, particle physics, philosophy, physics, scientific freedom, space, sustainability, transparency

- CERN’s annual meeting to fix LHC schedules in Chamonix: Increasing energies. No external and multi-disciplinary risk assessment so far. Future plans targeting at costly LHC upgrade in 2013 and Mega-LHC in 2022.

- COMMUNICATION to CERN – For a neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment before any LHC upgrade

According to CERN’s Chamonix workshop (Feb. 6–10 2012) and a press release from today: In 2012 the collision energies of the world’s biggest particle collider LHC should be increased from 3.5 to 4 TeV per beam and the luminosity is planned to be increased by a factor of 3. This means much more particle collisions at higher energies.

CERN plans to shut down the LHC in 2013 for about 20 months to do a very costly upgrade (for CHF 1 Billion?) to run the LHC at double the present energies (7 TeV per beam) afterwards.

Continue reading “LHC-Critique PRESS RELEASE (Feb 13 2012): CERN plans Mega-particle collider. COMMUNICATION to CERN: For a neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment before any LHC upgrade” »

Feb 6, 2012

The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus

Posted by in categories: chemistry, existential risks, futurism, habitats, space

As we all know, Venus’s atmosphere & temperature makes it too hostile for colonization: 450°C temperatures and an average surface pressure almost 100 times that of Earth. Both problems are due to the size of its atmosphere — massive — and 95% of which is CO2.

The general consensus is that Venus was more like that of the Earth several billion years ago, with liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect may have been caused by the evaporation of the surface water and subsequent rise of greenhouse gases.

It poses not just a harsh warning of the prospects of global warming on Earth, but also a case study for how to counter such effects — reversing the runaway greenhouse effect.

I have wondered if anyone has given serious thought to chemical processes which could be set in motion on Venus to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common gas in the Universe is of course hydrogen, and if sufficient quantities could be introduced to the Venusian atmosphere, with the appropriate catalysts, could the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere be eventually reversed back into solid carbon compounds, water vapor and oxygen? The effect of this would of course not only bring down the temperature, but return the surface pressure, with 95% of its atmosphere removed, to one more similar to that of Earth. Perhaps in adding other aerosols the temperatures could be reduced further and avoid a re-runaway effect.

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Feb 3, 2012

My case for Mars

Posted by in categories: habitats, space

There has been a lot of discussion about a lunar colony or at least a base as a precursor to sending humans to Mars. The advantages cited are its proximity to Earth, the use of telerobotics for construction, and the fact that we’ve been there before. My position is that it would be far easier to establish a self sufficient colony on Mars with existing technology.

One thing everyone agrees on is that local resources will have to be used. We now know that There has been a lot of geological and hydrological activity on Mars that has segregated and concentrated useful ore bodies that can be exploited with current extractive technology. One type of mineral of interest is the occurrence of iron and magnesium carbonate formations on the surface. Magnesium carbonate is easily converted by heating to magnesium oxide, the primary component of a type of cement that I am researching as a construction material for Mars. The widespread occurrence of sulfate salts also gives reason to believe that metal sulfide ore bodies are also available there. This type of ore can easily be refined with simple electrolytic equipment. The same metal refining on the Moon would require grinding and processing basalt with a lot of heavy equipment.

I would argue that Mars also has a more friendly environment. First, it has higher gravity than the moon, at 38% of Earth’s gravity. This may prove to be significant in minimizing the health effects of reduced gravity. The higher gravity would also aid in many industrial processes such as ore separation and concrete consolidation. Mars also has an atmosphere, however thin. While 4 to 8 millibars may not sound like much, it is enough to burn up a lot of micrometeorites before they reach the surface, reducing the danger of micrometeorite damage. It may also help reduce the danger of galactic cosmic rays, but that will need to be tested. One thing that is certain from my own research is that the thin atmosphere is enough to allow magnesium oxychloride cement to cure before a significant amount of water has evaporated from it, and prevent boiling during the curing process. On the airless Moon, this type of cement would boil violently and the water would evaporate before it would cure. The total lack of atmosphere on the Moon would preclude the use of any cement that depends on water for curing.

Dust will be the biggest challenge to machinery in either place, and I argue that it is much less of a challenge on Mars. We have already studied lunar dust, and it is composed of fractured particles that retain sharp edges and points, with no mechanisms for smoothing the surfaces such as wind or water movement. This makes Moon dust very abrasive to machinery (and air seals) and very irritating to human tissues on contact. Mars has annual wind storms that blow dust around the planet, and has had flowing water recently in it’s history. This would serve to smooth out Martian dust particles to something more closely resembling the kind of material found on Earth, which we can more easily deal with. As further evidence, we have had rovers survive multiple dust storms and keep operating. I would say this is as much a testament to the Martian environment as it is to NASA engineers. Additionally, the dust has been found to be largely magnetic, meaning that magnetic filtration could be used to keep it out of habitable spaces.

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Jan 30, 2012

The Difference Between a Lunar Base and Colony

Posted by in categories: existential risks, habitats, lifeboat, space, sustainability

Recently, Newt Gingrich made a speech indicating that, if elected, he would want 10% of NASA’s budget ($1.7 billion per year) set aside to fund large prizes incentivizing private industry to develop a permanent lunar base, a new propulsion method, and eventually establishing a martian base.

THE FINANCIAL FEASIBILITY OF A LUNAR BASE
Commentators generally made fun of his speech with the most common phrase used being “grandiose”. Perhaps. But in 1996 the Human Lunar Return study estimated $2.5 billion from NASA to send and return a human crew to the Moon. That was before SpaceX was able to demonstrate significant reductions in launch costs. One government study indicated 1/3 of the cost compared to traditional acquisition methods. Two of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavies will be able to launch nearly as much payload as the Saturn V while doing so at 1/15th the cost of the same mass delivered by the Shuttle.

So, we may be at the place where a manned lunar base is within reach even if we were to direct only 10% of NASA’s budget to achieve it.

I’m not talking about going to Mars with the need for shielding but rather to make fast dashes to the Moon and have our astronauts live under Moon dirt (regolith) shielding while exploiting lunar ice for air, water, and hence food.

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Jan 17, 2012

Artifacts in the Solar System

Posted by in categories: philosophy, physics, space

One way that astronomers and astrobiologists search for life in the galaxy is observation of rocky planets orbiting other stars. Such planets may contain an atmosphere, liquid water, and other ingredients that are required for biological life on Earth. Once a number of these potentially inhabited planets have been identified, the next logical step in exploration is to send remote exploratory probes to make direct observations of these planets. Present-day study of other planetary systems is so far limited to remote observation with telescopes, but future plans for exploration include the design and deployment of small robotic exploratory spacecraft toward other star systems.

If intelligent, technological extraterrestrial life exists in the galaxy, then it is conceivable that such a civilization might embark on a similar exploration strategy. Extraterrestrial intelligent (ETI) civilizations may choose to pursue astronomy and search for planets orbiting other star systems and may also choose to follow-up on some of these targets by deploying their own remote exploratory spacecraft. If nearby ETI have observed the Solar System and decided to pursue further exploration, then evidence of ETI technology may be present in the form of such exploratory probes. We refer to this ETI technology as “non-terrestrial artifacts”, in part to distinguish these plausible exploratory spacecraft from the flying saucers of science fiction.

In a recent paper titled “On the likelihood of non-terrestrial artifacts in the Solar System”, published in the journal Acta Astronautica (and available on arXiv.org as a preprint), Jacob Haqq-Misra and Ravi Kopparapu discuss the likelihood that human exploration of the Solar System would have uncovered any non-terrestrial artifacts. Exploratory probes destined for another star system are likely to be relatively small (less than ten meters in diameter), so any non-terrestrial artifacts present in the Solar System have probably remained undetected. The surface and atmosphere of Earth are probably the most comprehensively searched volumes in the Solar System and can probably be considered absent of non-terrestrial artifacts. Likewise, the surface of the moon and portions of Mars have been searched at a sufficient resolution to have uncovered any non-terrestrial artifacts that could have been present. However, the deep oceans of Earth and the subsurface of the Moon are largely unexplored territory, while regions such as the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, and stable orbits around other Solar System planets could also contain non-terrestrial artifacts that have so far escaped human observation. Because of this plenitude of nearby unexplored territory, it would be premature to conclude that the Solar System is absent of non-terrestrial artifacts.

Although the chances of finding non-terrestrial artifacts might be low, the discovery of ETI technology, even if broken and non-functioning, would provide evidence that ETI exist elsewhere in the galaxy and have a profound impact on humankind. This is not to suggest that the search for non-terrestrial technology should be given priority over other astronomical missions; however, as human exploration into the Solar System continues, we may as well keep our eyes open for ETI technology, just in case.

Jan 15, 2012

Access to Space: It’s as Cheap and Easy as it will get for a Long Time

Posted by in categories: habitats, space

Throughout most of our lifetimes, there has been a lot of talk and speculation about Human colonies beyond Earth. I personally grew up reading about how we would send people back to the Moon, then to Mars and beyond. We would establish settlements and on other planets and build spacious habitats out of metals mined in the asteroid belt. We would send our grandchildren to the outer planets on nuclear powered rockets and reap the bounty of the Solar System!

All we need is cheap and reliable access to space. The Space Shuttle was going to launch every week and only cost $20 million per launch. It would ride atop a carrier craft above the atmosphere where it would blast into orbit, deliver it’s payload and any passengers, and glide back to earth, to be refit, refueled and mated to it’s carrier plane for it’s next trip a few weeks later. It just had to be approved by Congress, which they did: after making it one of the biggest jobs programs since the New Deal. The Space Shuttle had been repurposed from a space transport system to a massively expensive vote buying scheme. The extreme decentralization and patronage, to the point of leaving a Krushchev era Soviet planner in shocked amazement, drove the per launch cost close to a billion dollars by the time the program was finally shut down.

At least we have cheap and reliable Russian Protons now that the Soviet Union has fallen and the Russians are desperate for hard currency, except that they aren’t really that cheap or reliable. Well, we have some startup companies who are going to get us into space on the cheap using old NASA surplus hardware (Huh?). Only in the past decade are we seeing any real practical alternatives, in the form of Dot Com billionaires putting their own money into spacecraft development. The most promising is SpaceX founded by Elon Musk. He has had his eye on Mars for a long time and finally developed a cheap rocket that will soon carry humans into space. He did so by using the same technology that has been available for the past three decades, only without the political interference, and shown how cheap space travel can be. The base price: $53 million for a cargo capacity comparable to the Space Shuttle. Interestingly, this amounts to around $20 million in 1980 dollars. We are finally at the point we were supposed to be 30 years ago!

Unfortunately, it looks like this is about as good as it will get any time soon. The Space Elevator is going nowhere, with the laws of physics getting in the way and all, not to mention the problems posed by micrometeorites, space junk, and monatomic oxygen if it does get built with some as yet undiscovered wonder material. Theoretically, carbon nanotubes have the strength needed. Maybe. With no significant safety margin. Other alternatives such as space guns and space piers have the same problems of prohibitively massive initial costs, fragility, and they are still useless for carrying people into space due to either long travel times (= high radiation exposure) or high acceleration.

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