Well-known Sci-Fi author, David Brin, has written an essay for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) that is thought provoking and brings out some very interesting ideas on what Science Fiction means to society. I encourage you to read it.
Plainly stated: science fiction retains the bold, reality-breaking element of ancient myth-telling, far better than any other genre. But it also rebels against venerable tradition, by portraying change as a protean fluid, sometimes malleable or even good! Violating a core tenet of Aristotle’s Poetics, sci fi contemplates the possibility of successfully defying Fate.
I wholeheartedly agree.
Burkhard Heim was a German physicist that attempted to take on the biggest challenge in physics, the Theory of Everything, or the Grand Unified Theory (GUT), to try and reconcile quantum and relativity. To try and tackle it, he came up with a 6 dimensional model that was later extended to 8 and 12.
Now, the US military is trying to use Heim’s theory to develop a “hyperdrive” for space travel and even take off. The idea is that if a massive ring is set rotating over a superconducting coil and a large current is applied through the coil, the resulting magnetic field would lessen “the gravitational pull on the ring to the point where it floats free”. This is based of Heim’s notion that electromagnetism and gravitational effects are interchangeable with enough effort.
If Heim’s theories are correct, this would let a heavy spacecraft reduce it’s relative weight to allow easy lift offs from the Earth’s surface, revolutionizing payload deliveries to deep space.
Unfortunately, in order to test the design, they require a magnetic coil several meters in diameter capable of sustaining an enormous current density — something which the majority of engineers say is “not feasible with existing materials and technology”. The scientists also suggest that the effect of the superconducting coil and ring would propel the spacecraft into a sort of “multidimensional hyperspace” where the universal constants would be different allowing faster than light travel. At the moment, details are a little unclear and vague.
It’s also unclear what the effect of hyperspace would have on human physiology or electronics.
Physicists are pretty divided over Heim’s theory in general, so it looks like before anything can be demonstrated, the errors in his equations need to be sorted out before experiments can be fully realized.
Scientific papers that deal with Heim’s theories when applied to space propulsion.
Open letter from the group of scientists working on refining and testing Heim’s theories. (Research Group Heim Theory)
Hey Webster’s, get ready to induct the word multicopter into the dictionary. What’s a multicopter, you may ask? It’s only the coolest damn thing to fly over our heads in decades.
It’s a flying one person (for now) 16 engined transportation vehicle that has a person sitting precipitously on what appears to be an exercise ball (they call it a soft-landing device) surrounded by 16 chopper blades. Blades are configured on 4 arms that extend from the central base and arranged on the ends of each arm are 4 electric motors powering an upward facing propeller.
Thomas Senkel of e-volo piloted the maiden manned flight of the multicopter as they call it. He flew it for one and a half minutes and said the flight characteristics were good and it hovered when no input was received.
Could this be the flying Segway? Easy enough to operate, even for a mall cop? Check out the video and judge for yourself.
More information can be found at e-volo.
I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: I am a big fan of the Riddick series. Loved Pitch Black and I loved The Chronicles of Riddick. I’m particularly impressed with the art direction in the last film, from the ship designs to the interiors of the ships, the costumes and armor, and the general ambiance. So it should come as no surprise that i have been patiently following the rumors surrounding the third installment of the series, a sequel to Chronicles. It’s been whispered around the internet for years, only lately solidifying into an actual work in progress.
Of course, Vin Diesel will reprise his role as Riddick. Karl urban will also come back as Lord Vaako. Now it’s reported that Bokeem Woodbine, Katee Sackhoff, Andreas Apergis, and Dave Bautista have been offered roles in the film.
Here is a synopsis of the film:
Betrayed by his own kind and left for dead on a desolate planet, Riddick (Diesel) fights for survival against alien predators and becomes more powerful and dangerous than ever before. Soon bounty hunters from throughout the galaxy descend on Riddick only to find themselves pawns in his greater scheme for revenge. With his enemies right where he wants them, Riddick unleashes a vicious attack of vengeance before returning to his home planet of Furya to save it from destruction.
The Chronicles of Riddick came out in 2004. If the sequel does in fact come in 2012, that would make it an 8 year gap, plenty of time for a decent plot to be written. Crossing my fingers.
Scientific American has got a collection of old space ship drawings for us to peruse in celebration of the ISS 12th year of continuous habitation. Huzzah!
This cutaway space station image appeared in NASA’s 1959 Space The New Frontier brochure. The station, which could handle a crew of 50, was designed as a laboratory to study the effects of prolonged spaceflight on astronauts.
NOVA has a fascinating program airing this Wednesday at 9:00 PM that attempts to tackle the mind blowing theories and experiments that aim to unravel the nature of the cosmos and even time itself. This will be a four part series starting with “What is Space?”, followed by “The Illusion of Time”, “Quantum Leap”, and finishing the series with “Universe or Multiverse”.
Set your DVRs so you don’t miss any of it.
“The Fabric of the Cosmos,” a four-hour series based on the book by renowned physicist and author Brian Greene, takes us to the frontiers of physics to see how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time, and the universe. With each step, audiences will discover that just beneath the surface of our everyday experience lies a world we’d hardly recognize—a startling world far stranger and more wondrous than anyone expected.
Brian Greene is going to let you in on a secret: We’ve all been deceived. Our perceptions of time and space have led us astray. Much of what we thought we knew about our universe—that the past has already happened and the future is yet to be, that space is just an empty void, that our universe is the only universe that exists—just might be wrong.
Interweaving provocative theories, experiments, and stories with crystal-clear explanations and imaginative metaphors like those that defined the groundbreaking and highly acclaimed series “The Elegant Universe,” “The Fabric of the Cosmos” aims to be the most compelling, visual, and comprehensive picture of modern physics ever seen on television.
Airing November 2nd, 9th, 16th and the 23rd, at 9:00 PM on PBS.
Tony’s note: Just got around to watching this last night on my DVR. Very well done and no expenses spared with visual effects. Probably one of the best visual explanations of what space is and how it behaves when it interacts with matter. For the uninitiated, they get a good idea why gravity behaves the way it does. Also, they delved into topics like the Casimir effect and Higgs’ idea about matter interaction and the search for the Higgs’ boson. Can’t wait for next week’s topic on time.
There are plenty of space conferences going on this month of November all over the world. There is a comprehensive list that can be found on Space Conference News. Here are a few highlights from that list.
November 2 – 6 • The American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB) conference on Biology Bridging Earth and Space, held in conjunction with the 32nd Annual International Gravitational Physiology Meeting, sponsored by the International Society for Gravitational Physiology will be held in San Jose, CA.
November 9 & 10 • The Women and Mars Conference, focusing on the contributions made by women to space activities, will be held in Washington DC.
November 23 – 26 • The 2011 8th International Conference on Ubiquitous Robots and Ambient Intelligence (URAI), focused on state-of-the-art robotic technologies, will be held in Incheon, South Korea.
November 28 – 30 • The International Conference on Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (ICMAE 2011), organized by the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology will be held in conjunction with the International Conference on Aerospace, Propulsion and Energy Sciences in Venice, Italy.
Will Baird let us know about the Team Phoenicia/Techshop Centennial Challenge Seminar, details below:
November 12 • Team Phoenicia/Techshop Centennial Challenge (aka Parallel) Seminar. Location: Techshop – Menlo Park, 120 Independence Dr, Menlo Park, CA. Purpose is to increase the awareness of the current NASA Centennial Challenges for the Silicon Valley Area and allow potential entrants to be briefed on the rules and network to form potential teams.
Some pretty sharp ideas. Some of the stuff in the video, we can already do somewhat (with the touch screen actions) albeit with less pervasive technology. The video has great production values; I hope some of it gets applied to real world technology.
NASA is gearing up to spend millions on your idea to take probes, and even people, into deep space. So it better be one hell of an idea. They want to tap into the brains of universities, government agencies, commercial entities, entrepreneurs, student, anyone that has a well thought out idea backed by solid theories and science.
“We have a space technology program, and there’s some money behind it,” Marshall Chief Technologist Andrew Keys said on Monday in Huntsville, AL.How much budget money are we talking about? Somewhere between $375 million and $560 million. Not a terribly big budget, but enough, hopefully, to spur interest with scientists and engineers who couldn’t otherwise develop their ideas.
The idea is to let commercial space companies deal with the LEO missions while NASA focuses on deep-space missions. A thoughtful approach; let’s see how it pans out.
Tony’s note: I’d like to see some proposals that involve manned and robotic missions using some sort of nuclear propulsion, either assisted or indirect. Also of interests is artificial gravity in the context of an orbiting rotating ring structure, and eventually, space craft. Some other items off the top of my head, gravitomagnetic propulsion, higher thrust ion engines, refined VASIMR, beamed energy systems, and ways of protecting electronics and flesh from cosmic rays. Hope that helps.
In the future, robots will not only take over domestic, industrial, and office work, they will perform all our leisure activities as well. Remember the people in Surrogates? Yeah.
It’s no secret I am a big Apple fan, and any big Apple fan has done business with a company called Other World Computing, an Apple focused accessory maker and reseller, at some point or another. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear two bits of good, green news from both of those companies.
The Charlotte Observer is running a story about a 171 acre solar farm installation Apple is trying to get approved to power their new billion dollar data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Which is a good thing since they will be sucking up the power at a huge rate and Duke energy, the local power company, is mainly powered by coal.
It’s said that Apple is clearing 100 acres of wooded area to make room for the farm. It’s still unclear if the clearing of trees and installing a solar farm in it’s place is better for the environment in the long run, however. The data center is where Apple houses most of it’s servers that contain the iCloud service that was recently announced.
Other World Computing, or OWC as it’s well known by, in Woodstock, Illinois is actually making one of the best corporate efforts at being green that I have every witnessed. Consider what their business is based on: getting the most out of your current computer before dumping it in the trash in the form of upgrades and self-repair kits.
ArsTechnica has an article showing OWC’s commitment to environmentally friendly building and products.
“Conservation is really at the core of our business,” O’Connor told Ars. “The average Mac is used maybe three years, and the average PC even less, about a year. But with a little help and the right upgrades and tools, those machines could be put to good use for much longer. Recycling is great—we do a lot of that here in our facility. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times we’ve had our regular ‘trash’ picked up since our new facility opened three years ago. But what’s even better than recycling is not throwing things away in the first place.”
OWC built their 10,000 ft2 facility in 2006, and right from the start, they integrated ideas that would be environmentally sound and cost effective. They use geothermal energy to heat and cool their building which saves energy and eliminates emissions. A wind turbine out front is able to power their whole facility, with the excess being sold back to the local power company. There is fiber-optic solar lighting through out the building and sensors that turn off the supplementary florescent lights when the outside light is adequate indoors. And there are plenty of skylights installed to allow that light to come in.
Other ideas in place are less whizz-bang, but just as effective. For example, they recycle everything they possibly can. Refuse and recyclables are accumulated in the warehouse until there is a full load that can be carted away in order to save on fuel costs. Old computers are still used for suitable tasks like tracking inventory. They even have waterless urinals installed.
Radical eco-friendly thinking isn’t the norm in the tech industry, but with some companies leading by example, I hope this is a lasting trend that others pick up on.
Project Icarus is making news all over the place, thanks in part by their strong presence at the 100 Year Starship Symposium in early October.
Check out these articles:Project Icarus is an ambitious five-year study into launching an unmanned spacecraft to an interstellar destination. Initiated by the Tau Zero Foundation and British Interplanetary Society, and managed by Icarus Interstellar Inc., a non-profit group of scientists dedicated to interstellar spaceflight, Icarus is working to develop a spacecraft that can travel to a nearby star.