Tag Archives: Science/Technology

More than a giant leap for mankind

Mars OneWant to make Columbus, Magellan and Marco Polo seem like they were playing in a kiddie pool? Apply and be one of the first people to set foot on the planet Mars. Monday, an organization called Mars One announced they are taking applications to send people to Mars… permanently.

Mars One is a Dutch company whose sole purpose is to establish the first human colony on Mars in 10 years. The expensive six billion dollar price tag is actually lessened because it’s a one-way trip. Of course we’ve heard of potential space explorations to Mars, culminating in a colonization of the red planet. The idea doesn’t exclusive rest in the fictional realm. Technology remains a big deterrence from Mars exploration to Mars colonization, as the big question of “how are we going to get back?” has yet to be tangibly answered. So in comes Mars One.

Mars One, is essentially a process that starts with selecting astronauts, to communication satellite and supply launches, to the first group of four settlers in 2023, a second group in 2025 and as many as 20 in 2033. To compare, the Curiosity rover in 2011 cost NASA $2.5 billion. That was just a car-sized robot. How Mars One plans to spend their $6 billion budget plan rest in big donor sponsors, a great media push and our culture’s thirst for reality TV.

It won’t be like Survivor, Big Brother or any of the Got Talent programs. Think Olympics, but not just for a few weeks, but more like a few years. We’d be able to follow along with the selection of astronauts, training, lift-off and landing. Of course all of this would come complete with the publicity and advertising bids that you’d expect to help sell and fund this undertaking.

Colonization of MarsSo how do you choose the first person on the face of the Earth to become the first person on the face of Mars? Within the past year over 10,000 people have inquired about becoming transplant Martians. But as of Monday, anyone in the world can throw their name in with an online application and a small fee.

At the end of August of this year the Mars One group will select their applicants in this first round of the selection process. After three more rounds of training an intense seven-year training period will be required for the select few. And just like any good reality show, when they get to about two or three dozen the final four will be decided by audience participation. As long as you are ready for a lifetime of challenges, are in good physical and mental health and have a few key character traits you could be the first person on Mars.

Not for nothin, but you have to first agree to be evicted from Earth. Some people are already there, like those who have completely lost their mind. Others who are considering this are trying to lose their minds, or their lives. It’s a risky proposition and Mars One is preying on people’s fascination to pay for their venture and to be their human guinea pigs. To add, much of the criticism of the project comes not with the technology of making this all possible, but with the funding it’ll take. The $6 billion is just for the first flight.

Not saying its a bad idea. If this comes to fruition anyone who becomes part of the first human colony on another planet would go down in history as among the greatest human beings of all time, likely to jump right to the top of the list. So once you endure a seven month flight in space just to get there and prepare yourself for a lifetime of isolation with very little human contact in a dangerous and daring environment that no other human has ever faced, how would you bask in your glow of greatness? Easy answer is you wouldn’t have to worry about that.

The Feat of a Fall

Felix Baumgartner jumps from space
Felix Baumgartner jumps from space

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner defied natural human ability and experience Sunday afternoon by jumping from space above Earth to free fall all the way back to ground. The incredible stunt to attempt to break a skydiving record took place early Sunday afternoon. Baumgartner took off in a helium balloon and flew close to 25 miles above Earth into the Stratosphere then jumped out. During the fall, he reached speeds of over 800 miles per hour breaking the sound barrier before deploying his parachute and falling back down to Earth. Baumgartner actually broke several records in the process and would go on to catch the attention of the world as thousands of people were able to watch it unfold on live TV.  The extreme nature of the act which now has the world buzzing is being heralded as one of the most dangerous exploits ever attempted and an experience that now only one person can say they have had. In which case now he is the only one who can answer the question. Was it worth it?

Felix Baumgartner teamed up with Red Bull to put together the project. The mission had Baumgartner in a small capsule attached to the balloon which left an airport in Roswell, New Mexico at approximately 9:30 a.m. It would take over two hours to arrive at the final destination of 24 miles up and after a few last-minute checks, he was ready to go. Baumgartner stood at the edge of the capsule looking down at the Earth and said, “I know the whole world is watching now. I wish you could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to be up really high to understand how small you are. I’m coming home now.” He saluted and jumped. After 42 seconds of falling he reached his max speed of 834 mph, or Mach 1, easily going faster than the speed of sound. Close to another three and a half minutes later the opened his parachute and after another five minutes he finally made it back to Earth. Baumgartner fell short of his effort  to become the longest free faller, but he was able to break records for highest manned balloon flight (at 24.261 miles), highest skydive (119,846 ft), and he became the first human to break the sound barrier without vehicular assistance (834.4 mph/Mach 1.24).

Felix Baumgartner
Felix Baumgartner

We’ve seen so-called “adrenaline junkies” do some amazing things. They climb the highest of mountains, jump from perfectly good airplanes and fall from heights with just a cord attached to them. All of which provides some level of extraordinary danger so that a person could get a “rush”. Rush, being what you get from the chemical produced by the human body commonly known as adrenaline. Because of the danger, fear, or anxiety produced by the act, practitioners present themselves with the fight or flight option that could rival some narcotics. Felix Baumgartner has been doing this essentially his whole adult life. Skydiving and BASE jumping at various places around the world. But this last escapade was his most thrilling of all of his thrill seeking adventures. Anyone would have to admit, traveling faster than the speed of sound is pretty cool.

Not for nothin’ but I’m sure it was very worth. Well at least it had to been for him. It was worth it for scientist who were gathering data for a new generation of pressurized suits. It was worth it for Red Bull for the exposure to the company. Everyone watching had to be glued to watch Baumgartner fall for over 20 miles. But many of us are left scratching our heads, mainly asking the question, would you do it? Part of the whole thrill-seeking culture I have yet to understand. People climb a mountain because it’s there, you can’t move it so go around it. Sometimes planes go down and you’d have to jump from them before they crash. But Felix Baumgartner dedicated years and considerable resources for literally 15 minutes of fame? Don’t know how profitable it was for him, but perhaps the sole purpose was to benefit from the high.

God’s Particle

Higgs boson, also known as the God Particle

Perhaps one of man’s greatest discoveries was announced just two weeks ago when physicist publicized the potential discovery of the Higgs boson, also known as The God Particle. This particle, the God Particle, is probably one of the more talked about subjects in recent news reports. When you fuse two words that almost contradict each other on this scale, it creates an intriguing oxy-moron, inquiring minds would want to know more. Well is the public’s thirst for knowledge on the God Particle being quenched? If you ask any two or three people about the God Particle (which I have done a few times) you may find yourself coming to the same puzzled conclusion as the answers they have given you.

As much information that has been put out about the God Particle since its July 4 discovery most people you ask couldn’t explain the theories behind it, much less tell you what it is. Now excuse me for the spoiler alert, but I’m not a physicist and I am not going to explain to you the history behind the discovery of the God Particle. But what I will like to bring to you is my best explanation, once proven, on the impact of this discovery and how the God Particle will affect our lives. And this is when I present to you our second spoiler alert…it likely will not affect our immediate lives in the least bit.

So at this point if you’re still asking what on Earth is the God Particle, I can attempt at helping you the best I can. The God Particle, or what most scientist refer to ask the Higgs boson, to put is simple, is the particle that gives other particles mass, giving us matter and possibly explaining how or why anything and everything exist. Now for those who wish to revisit high school chemistry, or take it a step further to collegiate physics, you can go all day in describing how in 1964 physicist Peter Higgs only suggested that the particle existed. The particle itself, at the time, almost impossible to prove would go decades before anyone could try at such an attempt. Two years ago, work on the Large Hadron Collider was complete in Switzerland, and scientists were able to began experiments to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, or the God Particle. Scientists, however did not prove the existence of God, as the particle’s nickname may suggest. In the previously mentioned brief explanation on the God Particle, not once did I mention that God had anything to do with it (I’m not say he/she didn’t either). The nickname of the Higgs boson came from a 1993 published book about the particle, where author, Leon Lederman, gave it that nickname because he either A, wanted to properly illustrate how critical of a scientific discovery this particle would be, or B, really did initially want to call it the Goddamn particle.

However it got its name, the only thing that we can take away from this discovery, once proven, is its nickname, which to scientists is not a proper nickname for the particle. But for the religious population, the God Particle, is just like any other particle, God’s particle. So this discovery of the Higgs boson, does not prove much to those who “believe”. In fact, some of those great minds believe science only proves the existence of God. But will it come down to a final decision on what created life, Earth or the universe? Is the God Particle responsible? Or are God’s particles responsible?

Not for nothin’, but this could possibly go down as the greatest discovery in recent history. Definitely the greatest discovery of our infant millennium, but exactly how great is it? There are some great discoveries out there. Fire, the universe, the atom, penicillin, America…all can make an argument for the greatest discovery. But if the Higgs boson adds itself to that list of the greatest discovery of all time, what will it do for us and our understanding of our universe and how we were created? As in, are we going to now start using it to start artificially creating matter? Probably not, that’s still a long way away. It took scientist 50 years to make this discovery, any practical use of it is not in the foreseeable future. It would be my guess that what this leads to could be one of our greatest discoveries, but just not now. But since people of faith have been brought in to this discussion of the God Particle by an unfounded nickname, perhaps their (the) greatest discovery of all time has already been uncovered through their faith.

The Greatest Threat To Mankind As We Know It?

CERNs Large Hadron Collider
CERN's Large Hadron Collider

An European experiment in physics to explore the mysteries of the beginning of the universe creates as much excitement as it does a sense of fear for others.  The world’s largest particle accelerator, similar to what many know as an “atom smasher”, is set to explore science theories the world has never seen before.

Created by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the Large Hadron Collider, intended to collide opposing beams of protons in a 17-mile tunnel for new information on how our universe works and was created.  But concerns have been raised by the courts and media about the safety of the experiments.  Some say that the experiments of high-energy particle collisions may cause disastrous events, including the production of black holes.  

On September 10th, the first test of the beam in the tunnel buried beneath Switzerland and France will take place.  October 21 will be the first launching of the particles into each other.  It will eventually intensify over the next few months.  Scientist look to explore and confirm a number of theories from the existence of other dimensions, why matter has mass, and the Big Bang theory.  They are expecting to have enough data to make a discovery by 2009.  They have to make it to 2009 first. 

Fears that the collider could produce black holes that could suck up anything around the, including the Earth, while not totally falling on deaf ears, but do not seem to be credible.  Physicists close to the Large Hadron Collider admit that they could actually create small black holes, but believe they do not pose any risk.  Scientist say that any black hole created would be tiny, and would not have enough energy to stay around before dissolving in what is dubbed Hawking Radiation.  Courts and research from other organizations agree with them. 

Think about what this would mean to science, as well as science fiction.  On one hand we could be months away from total world destruction, but on the other hand we could be months away from some amazing discoveries.  Discoveries that could include black hole mysteries, other dimensions, wormholes, and time travel?  Those theories are fodder for many science fiction material, but are we close to seeing the events of Event Horizon, Sliders, Quantum Leap, and Contact come true?

Not for nothin’, but the proverbial saying of “if this technology falls in the wrong hands,” that we’ve heard from a countless number of fiction (and non-fiction) rhetoric, can comes true.  Maybe it’s already in the wrong hands.  Not to say that the Europeans have bad intentions with their new invention, but if what the critics say is true, maybe the right hands are no hands at all.   

Click here for the story.