Archive for the ‘Carl Sagan’ tag

May 9, 2018

Where are the aliens? Solutions to Fermi Paradox

Posted by in categories: astronomy, cosmology, existential risks, first contact, lifeboat

The Fermi Paradox poses an age-old question: With light and radio waves skipping across the galaxy, why has there never been any convincing evidence of other life in the universe—or at least another sufficiently advanced civilization that uses radio? After all, evidence of intelligent life requires only that some species modulates a beacon (intentionally or unintentionally) in a fashion that is unlikely to be caused by natural phenomena.

The Fermi Paradox has always fascinated me, perhaps because SETI spokesperson, Carl Sagan was my astronomy professor at Cornell and—coincidentally—Sagan and Stephen Spielberg dedicated a SETI radio telescope at Oak Ridge Observatory around the time that I moved from Ithaca to New England. It’s a 5 minute drive from my new home. In effect, two public personalities followed me to Massachusetts.

What is SETI?

In November of 1984, SETI was chartered as a non-profit corporation with a single goal. In seeking to answer to the question “Are we alone?” it fuels the Drake equation by persuading radio telescopes to devote time to the search for extraterrestrial life and establishing an organized and systematic approach to partitioning, prioritizing, gathering and mining signal data.

Continue reading “Where are the aliens? Solutions to Fermi Paradox” »

Jun 6, 2017

Solar System Map: Surprisingly deceptive

Posted by in categories: astronomy, cosmology, gravity, lifeboat, mapping, physics, space, space travel

What’s wrong with this illustration of the planets in our solar system? »

For one thing, it suggests that the planets line up for photos on the same solar ray, just like baby ducks in a row. That’s a pretty rare occurrence—perhaps once in several billion years. In fact, Pluto doesn’t even orbit on the same plane as the planets. Its orbit is tilted 17 degrees. So, forget it lining up with anything, except on rare occasions, when it crosses the equatorial plane. On that day, you might get it to line up with one or two planets.

But what about scale? Space is so vast. Perhaps our solar system looks like this ↓

No such luck! Stars and planets do not fill a significant volume of the void. They are lonely specs in the great enveloping cosmic dark.* Space is mostly filled with—well—space! Lots and lots of it. In fact, if Pluto and our own moon were represented by just a single pixel on your computer screen, you wouldn’t see anything around it. Even if you daisy chain a few hundred computer screens, you will not discern the outer planets. They are just too far away.

Continue reading “Solar System Map: Surprisingly deceptive” »

Feb 24, 2016

What has changed since “Pale Blue Dot”?

Posted by in categories: astronomy, cosmology, environmental, ethics, habitats, lifeboat, science, space, space travel, sustainability

I am not an astronomer or astrophysicist. I have never worked for NASA or JPL. But, during my graduate year at Cornell University, I was short on cross-discipline credits, and so I signed up for Carl Sagan’s popular introductory course, Astronomy 101. I was also an amateur photographer, occasionally freelancing for local media—and so the photos shown here, are my own.


Carl Sagan is aware of my camera as he talks to a student in the front row of Uris Hall

By the end of the 70’s, Sagan’s star was high and continuing to rise. He was a staple on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, producer and host of the PBS TV series, Cosmos, and he had just written Dragons of Eden, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote Contact, which became a blockbuster movie, starring Jodie Foster.

Sagan died in 1996, after three bone marrow transplants to compensate for an inability to produce blood cells. Two years earlier, Sagan wrote a book and narrated a film based on a photo taken from space.PaleBlueDot-1

Continue reading “What has changed since ‘Pale Blue Dot’?” »

Nov 20, 2012

Google’s 100,000 Stars & the Paradigmatic Disruption of Large-Scale Innovation Revisited

Posted by in categories: cosmology, general relativity, human trajectories, information science, physics, scientific freedom, space

The 100,000 Stars Google Chrome Galactic Visualization Experiment Thingy

So, Google has these things called Chrome Experiments, and they like, you know, do that. 100,000 Stars, their latest, simulates our immediate galactic zip code and provides detailed information on many of the massive nuclear fireballs nearby.

Zoom in & out of interactive galaxy, state, city, neighborhood, so to speak.

It’s humbling, beautiful, and awesome. Now, is 100, 000 Stars perfectly accurate and practical for anything other than having something pretty to look at and explore and educate and remind us of the enormity of our quaint little galaxy among the likely 170 billion others? Well, no — not really. But if you really feel the need to evaluate it that way, you are a unimaginative jerk and your life is without joy and awe and hope and wonder and you probably have irritable bowel syndrome. Deservedly.

The New Innovation Paradigm Kinda Revisited
Just about exactly one year ago technosnark cudgel was rapping about the changing innovation paradigm in large-scale technological development. There’s chastisement for Neil deGrasse Tyson and others who, paraphrasically (totally a word), have declared that private companies won’t take big risks, won’t do bold stuff, won’t push the boundaries of scientific exploration because of bottom lines and restrictive boards and such. But new business entities like Google, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, & Planetary Resources are kind of steadily proving this wrong.

Continue reading “Google's 100,000 Stars & the Paradigmatic Disruption of Large-Scale Innovation Revisited” »

Oct 21, 2012

The Kline Directive: Theoretical-Empirical Relationship (Part 4)

Posted by in categories: business, cosmology, defense, economics, education, engineering, nuclear weapons, particle physics, philosophy, physics, policy, scientific freedom, space

To achieve interstellar travel, the Kline Directive instructs us to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, to change what others dare not. To extend the boundaries of our knowledge, to advocate new methods, techniques and research, to sponsor change not status quo, on 5 fronts, Legal Standing, Safety Awareness, Economic Viability, Theoretical-Empirical Relationship, & Technological Feasibility.

In this post I have updated the Interstellar Challenge Matrix (ICM) to guide us through the issues so that we can arrive at interstellar travel sooner, rather than later:

Interstellar Challenge Matrix (Partial Matrix)

Propulsion Mechanism Relatively Safe? Theoretical-Empirical Relationship?
Conventional Fuel Rockets: Yes, but susceptible to human error. Known. Theoretical foundations are based on Engineering Feasible Theories, and have been evolving since Robert Goddard invented the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926.
Antimatter Propulsion: No. Extensive gamma ray production (Carl Sagan). Issue is how does one protect the Earth? Capable of an End of Humanity (EOH) event. Dependent on Millennium Theories. John Eades states in no uncertain terms that antimatter is impossible to handle and create.
Atomic Bomb Pulse Detonation: No, because (Project Orion) one needs to be able to manage between 300,000 and 30,000,000 atomic bombs per trip. Known and based on Engineering Feasible Theories.
Time Travel: Do Not Know. Depends on how safely exotic matter can be contained. Dependent on a Millennium Theory. Exotic matter hypotheses are untested. No experimental evidence to show that Nature allows for a breakdown in causality.
String / Quantum Foam Based Propulsion: Do Not Know. Depends on how safely exotic matter can be contained. Dependent on a Millennium Theory. String theories have not been experimentally verified. Exotic matter hypotheses are untested. Existence of Quantum Foam now suspect (Robert Nemiroff).
Small Black Hole Propulsion: No. Capable of an End Of Humanity (EOH) event Don’t know if small black holes really do exist in Nature. Their theoretical basis should be considered a Millennium Theory.

It is quite obvious that the major impediments to interstellar travel are the Millennium Theories. Let us review. Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize 1965) & Sheldon Lee Glashow (Nobel Prize 1979) have criticized string theory for not providing novel experimental predictions at accessible energy scales, but other theoretical physicists (Stephen Hawking, Edward Witten, Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind) believe that string theory is a step towards the correct fundamental description of nature. The Wikipedia article String Theory gives a good overview, and notes other critics and criticisms of string theories. In What is String Theory? Alberto Güijosa explains why string theories have come to dominate theoretical physics. It is about forces, and especially about unifying gravity with the other three forces.

Continue reading “The Kline Directive: Theoretical-Empirical Relationship (Part 4)” »

Oct 12, 2012

The Kline Directive: Safety Awareness

Posted by in categories: cosmology, defense, engineering, life extension, military, particle physics, physics, space, sustainability

To achieve interstellar travel, the Kline Directive instructs us to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, to change what others dare not. To extend the boundaries of our knowledge, to advocate new methods, techniques and research, to sponsor change not status quo, on 5 fronts:

1. Legal Standing. 2. Safety Awareness. 3. Economic Viability. 4. Theoretical-Empirical Relationship. 5. Technological Feasibility.

In this post I will explore Safety Awareness.

In the heady rush to propose academically acceptable ideas about new propulsions systems or star drives it is very easy to overlook safety considerations. The eminent cosmologist Carl Sagan said it best “So the problem is not to shield the payload, the problem is to shield the earth” (Planet. Space Sci., pp. 485 – 498, 1963)

Continue reading “The Kline Directive: Safety Awareness” »

Oct 1, 2012

Debunking Antimatter Rockets for Interstellar Travel

Posted by in categories: education, engineering, physics, policy, space

Previous Post in this Debunking Series.

Why is it necessary to debunk bad or unrealistic technologies? If don’t we live in a dream world idealized by theoretical engineering that has no hope of ever becoming financially feasible. What a waste of money, human resources and talent. I’d rather we know now upfront and channel our energies to finding feasible engineering and financial solutions. Wouldn’t you?

We did the math required to figure out the cost of antimatter fuel one would require just to reach 0.1c and then cost at that velocity, never mind about reaching Alpha Centauri.

Table 2: Antimatter Rocket Fuel Costs to Alpha Centuariat 0.1c (in metric tons)
Source of Estimates Amount of Antimatter Required Maximum Velocity

Spacecraft Mass

Continue reading “Debunking Antimatter Rockets for Interstellar Travel” »