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Amazing Video: Felix Baumgartner’s Free Fall from Space

Via GoPro (this is the sort of thing GoPro was made for!). “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

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Jupiter layer cake via Cory at boing boing: http://boingboing.net/2013/07/29/jupiter-layer-cake.html#more-246280. More cake at http://cakecrumbs.me/2013/07/24/jupiter-structural-layer-cake/

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“We’re headed for a disaster of biblical proportions!”

Jeremy Grantham has been doing the math, and is convinced that world resources are way insufficient to support the current population.

Grantham believes that the planet can only sustainably support about 1.5 billion humans, versus the 7 billion on Earth right now (heading to 10-12 billion). For all of history except the last 200 years, the human population has been controlled via the limits of the food supply. Grantham thinks that, eventually, the same force will come into play again.

This is where we should be innovating – how do we match the level of resources to the (growing) need? Space travel is the old school sci-fi remedy: let’s go to Mars!

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The little engine that could, space age version

This is cool – a little engine with attitude has a near-space experience. Watch the facial expressions (I hear they were added after the fact, but you gotta wonder…)

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Mars is boring

Martian panorama, shot by Curiosity rover

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally jazzed about interplanetary exploration, have been for decades. But could we have picked a less boring planet than Mars? Would you visit a resort on Tatooine? (Mars makes Tatooine seem lush.) Maybe Curiosity will find the secret cave that leads to the underground complex of Martian cities, but ’til it does, I’m holding out for the Venus rovers.

Link: Curiosity rover on Wikipedia. Actually a very cool contraption:

The rover is a nuclear-powered, mobile scientific laboratory and part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission by the United States. The MSL mission has four main scientific goals: investigation of the Martian climate, geology, and whether Mars could have ever supported life, including investigation of the role of water and its planetary habitability. Curiosity carries the most advanced payload of scientific equipment ever used on the surface of Mars. It is the fourth NASA unmanned surface rover sent to Mars since 1996, and at 900 kg is slightly heavier than the 840 kg Lunokhod 2 robotic lunar rover from 1973.

I still prefer the Bradbury version…

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Martians flee after seven minutes of terror!

Your humble blogger burned the literal midnight oil to watch Curiosity’s landing on the surface of Mars, which actually meant watching the NASA team as the landing progressed, via NASA TV. No real evidence of the “terror” on their faces, they actually seemed confident and professional.

http://storify.com/jonl/martians-flee-after-seven-minutes-of-terror

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Spectacular time lapse from the International Space Station

View from the ISS (image)

Knate Myers has created a time-lapse from cleaned-up video shot from the International Space Station. I’d love to see the IMAX version! Via The Verge.

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SpaceX: a new era, a few years late?

SpaceX Dragon Launch

The launch of the SpaceX Dragon is a major step toward the privatization of space travel, which according to Messrs. Clarke and Kubrick should’ve been handled by 2001:

Too bad PanAm isn’t around for this. I wonder if this is really the beginning of a new era? Can we afford space travel in the 21st century? I’m part of the science-fiction generation, raised on an assumption that interplanetary travel would be a fact of everyday life by now. Turns out it’s been slow going for puny humans.

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Earthrise

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Multiverses, dark matter, infinity: Occupy Reality

The idea that there’s a set of consistent first principles behind the existence and operations of the universe is undermined by evidence of a multiverse – many universes with potentially different properties – and the existence of “dark matter.” In this universe and on this planet, we’ve had just the right conditions for life – is this an accident? What other conditions may exist, what other forms of life? Question’s raised by Alan Lightman in his Harper’s piece, “The Accidental Universe: Science’s Crisis of Faith.” Thinking about the expansion and dissolution of the universe is a great way to feel smaller, less like a dominant life form and more like a gnat buzzing in the dark. Smaller still when thinking how all must be infinite, yet infinity seems impossible to grasp. Our place in all this is uncertain. Do we have within us manifestations of the universal, are we all pieces of some expansive and infinite intelligent hologram? Or are we bits of dust in an infinite chaotic meaningless haboob?

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Voyager changed our understanding of the solar system

The Voyager program’s data transmissions, including images of the most distant planets in the solar system and data about galaxies beyond, offer “an unprecedented view of our own galaxy.” [Link]

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Detail Moon

NASA’s created a topographic view of the moon. Sez Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) from Arizona State University in Tempe. “We can now determine slopes of all major geologic terrains on the moon at 100 meter scale. Determine how the crust has deformed, better understand impact crater mechanics, investigate the nature of volcanic features, and better plan future robotic and human missions to the moon.”

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Tracks on the Moon

Nasa’s lunar reconnaissance orbiter caught a nice shot of the Apollo landing site, including tracks left by astronauts in 1969-72. The moon’s such a bleak landscape, odd that it so captured our imagination back then. Article in the GuardianUK.

Then again, there’s Gurdjieff’s view: “Everything living on the Earth, people, animals, plants, is food for the moon…. All movements, actions, and manifestations of people, animals, and plants depend upon the moon and are controlled by the moon…. The mechanical part of our life depends upon the moon, is subject to the moon. If we develop in ourselves consciousness and will, and subject our mechanical life and all our mechanical manifestations to them, we shall escape from the power of the moon.”

More from Richard Myers:

Within the polytheistic world there is a partial correlation with The Fourth Way’s teaching regarding man as a food for the moon. In the mythology and the teachings of several of these polytheistic religions is found the belief in the moon as the repository of the finer bodies of man. In Etruscan mythology, the moon or “Luna” is the underworld, where souls go to rest and the production of new souls begins. In Greek mythology, upon death the soul and psyche first go to the moon and then go to the underworld where there is a second death and a separation. The soul then goes to the moon and the psyche to the sun. The Bhagavad-Gita describes two paths souls travel after physical death; one is the path of the sun, also known as the bright path, and the other is the path of the moon, known as the dark path. Gurdjieff states that man is a food for the moon and these myths and beliefs to a degree correlate with his statement. Gurdjieff also states that, “We are like the moon’s sheep, which it cleans, feeds and sheers, and keeps for its own purposes.” Though pantheistic religions and mythology put man under the sway of the gods they do not equate man to the status of domesticated sheep. This degree of mechanical control by the moon over organic life on Earth and man in particular is probably unique to Fourth Way teaching. Gurdjieff’s statement also implies that the moon is somehow feeding man. There is indeed some basis in Hindu beliefs that man does, at least indirectly, receive something from the moon in the form of soma. Soma in Hindu mythology is an elixir of immortality that only the gods can drink; the moon is said to be the storehouse or cup of soma. Though soma is believed by some to be a plant-derived intoxicant or hallucinogen, this may be a distraction from its real meaning. A verse from the Bhagavad-Gita speaks to this: “Permeating throughout the planetary system I maintain all moving and stationary beings by my potency and having become the essence of the moon, I nourish all plant life.”

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Supermoon

Tonight we’ll have a super perigee moon, “a full moon of rare size and beauty.”

“The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. On March 19th, why not let the ‘Moon illusion’ amplify a full Moon that’s extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it.”

[Link]