Astrophysicist Alan Boss believes Nasa's Kepler Mission will turn up "hundreds of Earth-like planets", many of which will probably be "inhabited with something."
Considered a leader in the search for planets outside our solar system, Alan Boss says we are at a turning point in our search for extraterrestrial life. He expects we are on the verge of finding many different Earth-like planets across the universe, and he expects it will be common to find life on those planets. He shares his ideas for how the United States can be on the forefront of the next great discovery: life on another planet.
Many people will say that pursuing aspace-based solar powerenergy campaign is too ambitious, that there are more immediate solutions to get us through our economic/energy crisis until a time when spaced-aged, science fiction-inspired future tech can be safely explored further. They might say that we already have a head start with nuclear, oil and coal, as well as other greener alternatives like wind, water and Earthbound solar. They would be dead wrong.The truth is...
I wrote about the unveiling of White Knight Two back in July, and no, it is not yet ferrying billionaires to sub-orbital six minute vacations. But it has just become useful (rather than enviable) to the rest of us.
On September 30th, The International Astronautical Congress announcedthat Virgin Galactic was partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to measure greenhouse gasses in the upper atmosphere using White Night Two and Space Ship Two. Both crafts will be fitted with atmospheric sensors and will begin gathering data in test flights.
The planes are uniquely suited to help the NOAA for two reasons. The most obvious is that they will go much higher than conventional aircraft. Thus, they can monitor the hard to reach mesosphere and thermosphere. Information about these layers of the atmosphere is vital for scientist to create accurate climate change models. Also, the planes were designed with tubes that channel outside air to internal speed sensors. This feature was added in the design phase in anticipation of scientific work.
Is the universe a giant computer rigged to generate life in multiple galaxies? Does it harness the power of both evolution and development for some specific purpose?
These are some of the questions that will be tackled next week at the world’s first ever Evo Devo Universe Conference held in Paris, France.
Organized by the Acceleration Studies Foundation, the conference will bring together some of the most progressive cosmologists, complexity theorists, systems thinkers, and philosophers currently “exploring and critiquing models, hypotheses, and questions relating to the extent and interaction of evolutionary (or quasi-evolutionary) and developmental (or quasi-developmental) processes in the universe and its subsystems.”
In other words, it’s a world-class pow-wow for the thinkers who are working to uncover the rule sets that govern information, physics, chemistry, and all universal processes. And it will probably catalyze the birth of some important new theories and research paths in the months to come. For example, it is possible that someone presenting at this conference will pave the way for a more comprehensive information theory that accounts technology and plays nicely with existing scientific laws.
Here’s what conference organizer John Smart, futurist and systems theorist (and good friend), had to say about the event as I caught him just before he left for San Jose airport yesterday:
Evo Devo Universe keynote speakers will include:
James N. Gardner, a complexity theorist and science essayist, with a background in philosophy and theoretical biology.
Francis Heylighen, a systems theorist and cyberneticist focusing on the evolution of complexity.
Laurent Nottale, a cosmologist and pioneering theorist in scale relativity and fractal space-time.
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Mars Inter-Dimensional Express. In a few moments, our spacecraft will transfer into a parallel dimension where we will achieve greater than light-speed travel. As we get underway, be sure to glance out your window and watch the solar system flash by at dizzying speeds, truly, the most breathtaking views you will ever observe. Our expected arrival at Branson Colony is noon Martian time.”
This scenario may sound like fantasy, but physicists, encouraged by recent interest in the work of German scientist Burkhard Heim, believe his hyperspace propulsion idea could become a proven concept over the next two decades. Heim’s theory adds two forces to Einstein’s four-dimensional space-time: one, a repulsive anti-gravity force similar to dark energy that appears to expand the universe; the other force would accelerate spacecraft without using any fuel.
If the Heim idea works, it will radically change space travel. Forget spending six months or more crammed in a rocket on the way to Mars, a round trip on the hyperdrive could take as little as five hours. Worries about astronauts’ muscles wasting away will disappear. What’s more, the device will put travel to the stars within reach for the first time.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics awards prizes for the best papers presented each year. Last year’s winner went to a paper authored by physicist Jochem Hauser, calling for experimental tests of Heim’s theory. “This hyperdrive motor,” Hauser said, “would propel a craft through another dimension at enormous speeds. It could reach a star eleven light years away in just eighty days.”
The exploration and colonization of space have long been crucial and exciting aspects of how people envision future civilization. But how will our place in space take shape over the next few decades? Some clear patterns have emerged in near-term space predictions including rapidly expanding space tourism in the next two years, asteroid mining by 2020 and multiple nations with settlements on the moon by 2025. Take a look for yourself:
To view the multiple events in one year, click on the little plus icons at the bottom of the timeline. Many of the events include cool videos. Enjoy!
I just came across and wanted to share this fascinating video montage of our planet as seen from space that features footage from the BBC’s hugely popular television series Planet Earth.
Generated by Burrell Durrant Hifle (BDH), a multi-disciplinary design company, these scenes stitch together many high-resolution photographs from NASA. It took BDH and the production team over four years to piece everything together – talk about patience.
While this isn’t anything particularly advanced, watching it I’m reminded of just how crazy limited (one little sphere in the universe), but also how crazy dynamic our earth is. In the future I expect that we’ll continue to get better and finer images of the planet, but this six-minute video is well worth the watch and opens the mind to the more radical perspectives that we’ll be generating in the coming years.
On July 28th the ever-expanding, ever-hip, almost ubiquitous
Virgin revealed the WhiteKnightTwo—a carrier ship that will ferry
the still veiled SpaceShipTwo on its sub-orbital, space tourism
flights. SpaceShipTwo will be the first ship of the new
Virgin Galactic—Virgins’ latest step on it’s quest for universal
Ferried by WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo will be the first ever
space tourism craft. It will be capable of carrying six
passengers and two pilots into a sub-orbit around the earth to see
space, the Earth, and experience weightlessness.
WhiteKnightTwo Will be able to support up to four daily space
flights and operate during both day and night.
The fist flight of WhiteKnightTwo with SpaceShipTwo and
passengers is expected to take place in Early 2010 and the BBC
reports there are already 250 people have paid $200,000 to be
on the first flights. Before you grab your wallet, remember
that each flight will remain at it’s top altitude of about 60 miles
above the Earth’s surface for only about 6
The immense popularity of Star Trek suggests that “to boldly go
where no man has gone before” could become humanity’s mandate for
Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello sees
the space industry as the jewel of our economy. It drives
innovation, creates jobs, and positions us to begin mankind’s
greatest dream – to explore other worlds.
But many believe our progress is too slow. Past explorations
produced huge benefits much faster. 25 years after the Lewis &
Clark exploration, wagons rolled west to Oregon and clipper ships
landed pioneers in California. 25 years after the Wright Brothers,
citizens could fly around the country. By contrast, landing on the
moon – our “giant step for mankind” – has only produced 40 to 50+
years of earth orbits and a few unmanned flights.
Space enthusiasts say this slow progress shows we are
misdirected. They would like to see faster development of moon and
Mars settlements and strong incentives created for private
businesses to design and build space colonies and other facilities
Space flights are expensive today, but once travel to and from
orbit become cheap; profit-driven entrepreneurs will head for the
high frontier to build hotels, permanent housing, and entertainment
and sports facilities.
Exploring space will also push genetic research. Better Humans
author Simon Smith claims environments such as Mars extreme cold
temperatures and toxic atmosphere will require biological changes.
Sending humans into space without genetic modification would be
Ah, space tourism. You ditched
Paris or Tokyo to the dismay of your spouse and now sit some 600
miles above Earth with an ice-cold Mojito in hand. “See, honey?
This isn’t so bad.” As you take a sip the pilot speaks over the
intercom about some turbulence. That’s fine you think, it can’t be
bad as the bumpy airplane trips to Los Angeles back when you were a
Just then, you see gold specks scream pass the window at 17,500
miles an hour, followed by the loud thud of a space helmet that
leaves a considerable dent in your window outside. The entire
space-plane trembles violently as red lights flood on. The pilot
reassures that it was just space turbulence and to strap on seat
belts. “This wasn’t mentioned in the catalogue” you thought, your
spouse giving you a look that you know all too well.
This may not be the common vision of space tourism but the
reality is that since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik back in
1958 there is an estimated one million pieces of junk floating in
orbit. Of those, 9,000 objects are bigger than a tennis ball, large
enough to cause catastrophic damage to moving space shuttles,
satellites, and space stations. Most are pieces from old satellites
and garbage left behind by previous missions. Adding to this mess
are nuts, bolts, and screwdrivers that have errantly drifted into
space from missions, and an expensive Hasselblad camera with exposed
pictures still inside.
According to the European
Space Agency, of the 5,500 tons of material in orbit, 93% is
junk that includes parts of old spacecraft, depleted rocket
boosters, garbage bags ,and even nuclear coolant. Each piece can
and are dividing into more pieces. Only 7% of the material in orbit
is operational spacecraft in use.
Besides posing an ethical problem of using our orbit as a
landfill, the junk pose a big problem to current and future
missions because of their ultra-high velocities in orbit. At 17,500
miles per hour, a millimeter speck of paint has the same amount of
energy as a .22 caliber long rifle bullet, a pea sized piece has
the lethal potential of a 400-lb safe traveling at 60 mph, and a
tennis ball sized piece of metal is essentially 25 sticks of
So what can we do about this junk? Is there a way to get it out
of orbit? Perhaps zap it? Or give it a nudge? (cont.)
Space tourism has come a long way in a short time. The idea was
just a dream in the 1990s, but recently, tourists have shelled out
mega-bucks for a glimpse of the wild blue yonder.
Though only the rich can afford space travel today, experts
predict prices will drop with new systems under development. Later
this year, Virgin Galactic’s returnable Space-Ship-Two hopes to
provide orbital round-trips for $200,000, and one-day, take
vacationers to the moon.
By 2030, the Space Elevator, a revolutionary system under
development now would climb up a nanotech-ribbon extending 62,000
miles from Earth to space and could transport passengers into the
wild blue yonder for as low as $20,000 initially, then prices could
drop to the $2,000-per-person range when multiple elevators become
As more people become space travelers, they will need a place to
stay. Budget Suites of America owner Robert Bigelow has launched
the first phase of a human-rated habitat module dubbed Sundancer,
to an altitude of 250 nautical miles at an orbital inclination of
40 degrees. Once Sundancer is in position and verified safe,
Bigelow will add more sections creating a full-scale
lodging/industrial complex as early as the middle of next
Satellite Industry Association President Richard Dalbello says,
“Once hotel companies start to build and operate orbital
accommodations, they will be endlessly improving them and competing
to build more exotic facilities”. We will see hotels that provide
normal gravity for rooms, bars, and restaurants; and gravity-free
areas for recreation and sports activities. (cont.)
What will life be like in 2200? Of course, nobody can predict
the future with absolute certainty that far ahead; however, by
multi-tracking technology advances and mixing reality with a dash
of imagination, we can create a plausible scenario of what life
might be like 192 years from now.
2200 citizens enjoy intelligence-multiplied a trillion-fold over
2008 biological brains. During the last 150 years, no one has
experienced aging, unwanted death, or poverty; and in 2200, more
people make their homes in space than on Earth.
The world was astounded in 2050 when NASA/EU probes discovered life on a planet five light
years away. Inhabitants of this faraway world were sending similar
probes to Earth during this same time period; each planet detected
the other’s signal and both civilizations experienced their first
contact with intelligent alien life.
By 2075, utilizing newly-developed wormhole messaging systems,
we had exchanged numerous communications with our new friends from
planet “Darth”. We discovered many common interests as both worlds
had recently experienced huge intelligence growth, which resulted
in the transformation of their species into non-biological beings.
It became obvious that cooperation would yield benefits to both
worlds; thus Earth and Darth were first to join what would one day
be known as “The Federation”.
As early as 2050, most humans sported non-biological bodies with
powerful minds. Those who remained “biological” often found
themselves struggling to find happiness and success; so by 2075,
nearly everyone had switched to the stronger, but still considered
to be human, non-biological body. The few conservatives who still
resisted this technology eventually died out. (cont.)