You have to read this.
Taylor Wilson built his first bomb at age 10 and was the youngest person, at age 14, to successfully produce a nuclear fusion reaction. His life’s passion? Nuclear propulsion. Incredible read.
“He told me he wanted to build the reactor in his garage, and I thought, ‘Oh my lord, we can’t let him do that.’”
Westinghouse has gotten government approval for a nuclear reactor design, the first since 1978. The Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are going to be built in Georgia, hopefully ushering in a new era of nuclear energy production that will curb or almost entirely eliminate our dependency on foreign oil.
Instead of the giant reactors of the past few decades, small modular reactors, SRMs for short, have the advantage of being safer, transportable, and cheaper.
Check out gizmag’s feature article that covers the history of large reactors, their problems, and how SRMs hope to solve those issues.
Head on over to Space.com to check out this gallery of futuristic airplanes. I love the look of those flying wings from Northrop Grumman and that double-wide D8.
“Northrop Grumman’s concept is based on the extremely aerodynamic “flying wing” design. The four Rolls Royce engines are embedded in the upper surface of the wing to achieve maximum noise shielding.”
Scientists have announced the most promising life harboring exo-planet so far: a planet of at least 4.5 Earth masses, orbiting its red dwarf star in the habitable zone. The habitable zone is generally considered an orbital zone around a star in which a planet can retain water in liquid form. The planet, called GJ 667Cc, orbits a star that’s part of a trinary start system.
“It’s definitely the best candidate,” says astronomer Abel Méndez of the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo. “If it’s rocky, then it will be more compelling evidence that this is a true habitable planet.”
The planet, the second planet from the star, has an orbital period of about 28 days making it likely that it is tidally locked, i.e. it has no rotation, therefore the same side always faces the sun. The star is a red dwarf, dimmer and cooler than the sun, and with a habitable zone that’s much closer than the one around our own Sun.
Last week Kepler made news over announcing 26 new confirmed planets part of multi-planet systems. Of particular interest is Kepler-33, a system demonstrated to have five planets. Most of these planets range in size between Earth and Neptune.
We live in interesting times. I predict that this year we will discover a planet, maybe more, that not only is in the habitable zone for life in general, but one that would make for a very compelling destination for further scientific study. Specifically, a planet that orbits a G-class star, is snug in the habitable zone, and is roughly the same mass and density as Earth, with gravity between .8 and 1.2 G. Oh, and a moon would be nice.
Here’s a recap of some of the coolest things I’ve seen so far this week.
Wired has another glorious gallery on space stations with a few I have yet to see. See if you can find the image that looks like Earth listening to its iPod.
Reason has a great article by Gregory Benford about a post-NASA space industry. Here he is on part of what went wrong with NASA:
Congress came to see NASA primarily as a jobs program, not an exploratory agency. Slowly, NASA complied with the post-Apollo vision—safety-obsessed, with few big goals for manned flight beyond low Earth orbit. Very little useful science got done in the space station. NASA never did the experiments needed to develop the technologies required for a genuine interplanetary expedition: centrifugal gravity to avoid bodily harm and a truly closed biosphere. The station was about camping in space, not living in space.
There is still hope for the future, and recent science fiction has been exploring that hope. By sure to read the entire article. It had me adjust my perspective on the future of humanity in space.
Io9 has a look at the new Blu-Ray remaster on Star Trek: TNG and I can’t tell you how excited I am over it. I may have to go out and get a Blu-Ray player, just for this set. Be sure to check out these comparative animated GIFs too.
Finally, Boing Boing has an interview with astronaut Rex Walheim titled
“Space is awesome”. Indeed. He’s gracious enough to answer reader’s questions.
Check out this short film produced by Aaron Sims, who’s worked on the aliens in Green Lantern, and apes in Rise of The Planet of The Apes. It was produced on a shoe-string budget but looks amazingly well done.
Synopsis: RL7 is an eight-foot tall combat robot that goes on the run after malfunctioning with vivid memories of once being human. As its creators and the military close in, RL7 battles its way to uncovering the shocking truth behind its mysterious visions and past.
According to Film Sketchr, a feature length film is being planned. Where do I pay my $9 and change?
Space.com has posted a gallery of some awesome interstellar space craft visions by Adrian Mann, an English space illustrator and artist currently living in Hungary. He’s also a graphical engineer for Project Icarus, a foundation dedicated to achieving interstellar flight by 2100.
These images are simply inspiring in their simplicity and utility. Below are a few of my favorites.
Check out more of his illustrations at Adrain’s site, bisbos.com.
Ryan Mcnaught, LEGO Certified Professional (you learn something new every day) just built a replica Saturn V rocket that towers to 19 feet tall. It’s made from 120,000 LEGO bricks and includes liquid fuel tanks, mini-fig engineers and an NASA Astrovan.
To give you an idea of how monumental this is:
Kepler discoveries. On Jan. 11, 2012, astronomers announced the discovery of a miniature solar system made up of three tiny planets – all of them smaller than Earth but larger than Mars – in orbit around the red dwarf star KOI-961 about 130 light-years from Earth. The planets are the smallest exoplanets yet discovered and were found using NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The star itself is said to be only about one-sixth the size of our own star and all the planets orbit very close to it’s host with orbital times less than 2 days.
Ring-like system orbiting a Sun-like star. A team of astrophysicists from the University of Rochester and Europe has discovered a ring system in the constellation Centaurus that invites comparisons to Saturn. The Rochester team discovered a long, deep, and complex eclipse event with significant on-and-off dimming. At the deepest parts of the eclipse, at least 95% of the light from the star was being blocked by dust. The dust is believed to be in the form of a ring similar to what Saturn has in our solar system, but much bigger. The orbital radius of the outermost ring is tens of millions of kilometers, so the mass and size of the ring systems is substantially heftier than Saturn’s ring system. Space.com
Billions of habitable planets in the Milky Way? So far with the help of telescopes like Kepler we have found about 1,000 planets orbiting other solar systems. Since we’ve only been examining a tiny portion of the galaxy, scientists have estimated that there are over 100 billion total planets in star systems just in the Milky Way. They use a method called microlensing to examine systems of interest further.
“Our microlensing data complements the other two methods by identifying small and large planets in the area midway between the transit and radial velocity measurements. Together, the three methods are, for the first time, able to say something about how common our own solar system is, as well as how many stars appear to have Earth-size planets in the orbital area where liquid what could, in principle, exist as lakes, rivers and oceans — that is to say, where life as we know it from Earth could exist in principle,” says Uffe Gråe Jørgensen. He explains that a statistical analysis of all three methods combined shows that out of the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars, there are about 10 billion stars with planets in the habitable zone. This means that there may be billions of habitable planets in the Milky Way. Space Daily
Once again, here’s a list of space conferences going on this month to be on the watch for in the news. You may even want to attend one (or a few, if you’re lucky). Below is a list that I find most interesting, but the full list can be found on Space Conference News.
NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG), will be meeting in Austin, TX from January 7th – 8th.
The Zero Gravity Corporation, will be holding its next ‘Zero-G Flight Experience,’ a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience weightlessness on-board a specially modified Boeing 727, in Miami, FL on January 14th.
The 2nd Commercial Human Spaceflight Technical Forum, will be held in Boulder, CO from January 18th – 22nd.
A conference focused on a discussion of Planets around Stellar Remnants, will be held in Arecibo, Puerto Rico from from January 23rd – 27th.
The Applied Technology Institute (ATI) course on Space Environment – Implications for Spacecraft Design, will be held in Columbia, MD from January 31st – February 1st.
Skip to the video below if you want to see an iPad being dropped from the edge of space and surviving. With a little help from a G-Form Extreme Sleeve iPad case, of course.
They lifted the iPad to its drop height of 100,000 feet using a weather balloon then let it free fall. It survives after landing in a rocky Nevada cliffside. Pretty damn cool.
Press release after the break.
Over at Centauri Dreams, an article by Marc Millis was posted that goes through decade by decade of an optimistic, albeit fictional, account of events and discoveries to come.
This decade basically covers humans getting over the stigma of space travel and nuclear propulsion, something I also hope comes to pass. Like they say, time heals all wounds.
In the 20s and 30s Marc leads us through exo-planet discoveries that show evidence of life and how Universities and other institutions get in on space discovery through the use of ever advancing robotic probes, all the while trying to improve Earth’s own environment and sociology. Artificial Intelligence is being used and humankind extends it’s reach as far as the Moon. All the while we are applying what we learn in space to improving life on Earth and the Earth itself.
The 40s sees the rise of the Moon and Mars colonies. AIs become self aware, but have no interest in being the instrument of mankind’s annihilation. Instead they speed themselves out through out the solar system’s planets, some even stay on Earth to assist humanity in their own self evolution. By the end of the decade humans finally crack the propellantless space drive problem as well as make physics discoveries that enable the engineering of artificial gravity fields that don’t rely on centripetal effects. This effectively opens up the solar system to us; interstellar travel is just a little behind.
By the 50s, humankind is constructing colony ships to take them beyond the constrains of our local system. One is being sent to Destiny, the planet discovered in the 20s that harbors life and can sustain humans. We also begin the transformation to non-biological entities known as transhumance that don’t have the basic human body frailties but still have the drive, inquisitiveness and basic instinct of the human mind.
This is an optimistic future for our species and we are seen thriving, venturing out into the Universe, exploring and growing. I’ve always taken an optimistic view of what we will become, something very different than what we are now. I hope you find the time to read this piece.