NASA’s New Squad: A New Era of Space Travel

Do_You_Have_the_Right-a3a3ce4221605f6d21b38a69df63d0e9

NASA recently announced the selection of a new squadron of space cadets. They’re expected to be the first “class” trained for missions to deeper space. Namely this batch is likely going to be responsible for  a new era in space travel.

The space cadet candidates were chosen from a starting pool of 6,372. Only about ten dozen applicants received the call backs of their lifetime. After extensive medical tests and interviews, the folks over at NASA selected their 8 diamonds in the rough. The members of this celestial octet will be members of a small (yet ever increasing) lineage of human beings who have seen the world from outside.

Related Post: NASA’s Planned Mission to an Asteroid

The 8 Balls

In accordance with NASA tradition, the last class of astronauts is responsible for the naming of the new class. So when NASA’s 20th group of celestial explorers (aka The Chumps) were given the opportunity they decided upon a much more meaningful name. The 8-balls, named for their importance in winning a game of pool, have a lot of hard work ahead of them.

Their two years of “basic training” consists of vigorous activities- which us groundlings can only begin to imagine. The details so far seem vague. Bob Behnken, chief of the Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center has some input on how the training will go:

The astronaut candidates, or “ascans,” will be instructed on the technical aspects of living and working aboard the space station. They’ll also tour NASA’s facilities across the country, “so that the class as a whole will have a good understanding of all the things that go into making NASA as successful as it is,” Behnken said.

First, though, they will be given flight training at the nearby Ellington Field in Houston and, for some, at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., as well.

“They will also have T-38 [supersonic jet] training, where those who already have an aviation background will hone their skills in the T-38 and those who do not will have the opportunity to get that aviation background under their belt before they start supporting crews who are on orbit,” Behnken said.

Related Post: Amateur Astronomer Films Jupiter Explosion

Whether or not you consider the gender polarization of this class, it is definitely clear that these new space cadets will be shuttling in the future of extra-worldly travel. Part of their basic training consists of living aboard the space station. That’s right. That’s just the training.

These Space Travelers are expected to travel further out than any other astronaut from the U.S. Eventually, they may even be among the first to travel to a near-earth asteroid and perhaps even Mars!

Related Post: Sign Me Up For Mars!

Only the future can be sure of what is in store for these folks. Their story is going to be that of awe and wonder.

 

 

Sources and Additional Reading

http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1308/20ascanintro/#.UhYkw3fgexM

http://collectspace.com/news/news-082013a.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Astronaut_Group_21

New Plausible Theory of Black Holes: Gateways to Other Universes

 

According to traditional physics, once you go far enough into a black hole, traditional physics simply ceases to be.  Any meaningful equation breaks down into nonsense. Insanity. Cosmic nincompoopery! Well, not anymore…

Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that if a person were to fall into a black hole they’d be shredded to the atomic level by a process called spaghettification, described as being stretched into an infinitely long strand of matter and energy by infinitely strong gravity.  This infinitely strong gravity is due to a singularity at the ‘end’ of the black hole, an infinitely dense area with zero volume.  A singularity is also used to describe the Big Bang.

There is a problem though; conventional physics cannot describe what occurs at a singularity point, so talking about the beginning of time or the core of a black hole has always been one-pointed, but pointless. Then quantum mechanics appeared.

Related Article: Life, It’s All Over the Place

By using the theory of loop quantum gravity, a merger of quantum mechanics and general relativity which describes space-time as a web of indivisible chunks about 10-35 meters in size, physicists have come up with a practical way to describe what occurs at the singularity point; the singularity isn’t there. 

There is no singularity. Gravity still increases as you get pulled into the black hole, but eventually it decreases, and you come out the other end. Although theories have postulated this idea before, the problem was that the singularity could never be bypassed. This is incredibly revolutionary because modern day physics has always taken the idea of a singularity for granted.  The universe had forever been filled with them; all of time and space began as a singularity.

Related Article: Ancient Galaxy That Shouldn’t Exist is Found Perfectly Formed

You are probably wondering what this means for you and me, what relevance this all has.  This opens the doors for even more science fiction to become science reality (consider: just about every piece of technology that exists today was written about as science fiction at one point).

According to the new theory, black holes are more likely doors to other universes, or incredibly distant areas of our own universe, or both.  Even more amazingly, using loop quantum gravity theory, if you were to rewind the big bang you wouldn’t be left with an infinitely dense point of mass and energy, you would cross a quantum bridge into another, older universe.

Related Article: Voyager 1: The Final Frontier?

This also helps explain what happens to information that approaches a black hole.  In a black hole with a singularity, the information would be lost forever as the black hole eventually evaporates after hundreds of trillions of years (give or take several hundred trillion years). As Jorge Pullin, lead researcher on the study at Louisiana State University, points out:

Information doesn’t disappear, it leaks out.

The infinite universe just became infinitely more infinite.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_relativity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghettification\

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_singularity

http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_quantum_gravity

http://mashable.com/2010/09/25/11-astounding-predictions/

http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v96/i14/e141301

http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i21/e211301

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23611-quantum-gravity-takes-singularity-out-of-black-holes.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

https://wondergressive.com/2012/08/17/life-its-all-over-the-place/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/09/21/ancient-galaxy-that-shouldnt-exist-is-perfectly-formed/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/01/12/galaxy-geysers/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/03/21/voyager-1-final-frontier/

Augmented Reality Blows My Mind—Twice

Numerous studies have shown that Wondergressive readers are funnier, more attractive, likeable and intelligent than the average human being (links pending, but the science looks solid to me). This being the case, I’m sure many of you were already aware of futuristic-sounding, mind-blowing technology known as augmented reality. It even sounds very sci-fi. I’ve chanced upon this amazing bit of science twice (that I’m aware of) so far, and both times I’ve been left with my mouth hanging open.

The first time I ran into it was at Printing Arts, a print shop in Broadview, IL. They were printing baseball cards (which are apparently “in” again) as well as some other sports-related collateral when one of the guys showed me a card that was about an eighth of an inch thick. It had a cutout on the front through which you could feel the fabric of some player’s jersey. I think it was some football player’s, but honestly, I’m not a sports girl so I don’t remember exactly what game it was. Anyway, he told me to take out my phone, pull up the camera and wait for it to focus on the card from directly above it. Not sure what to expect, I played along. Holy shit—a video started to play on my camera screen! I was floored. Still am, actually.

Basically, the camera picks up on some code which wasn’t visible on the face of the card, accesses the corresponding video from the interwebs and streams it right onto your phone. This all happens in the space of seconds, not minutes, and is virtually transparent to the user.

The second instance was very recent. A work acquaintance showed me an app he had on his iPhone called SkyView by Terminal Eleven. Being something of an astronomy nut and long-time stargazer, I was again amazed by how far technology had come while I wasn’t looking.

StarView is an augmented reality app that shows you a view of the sky right on your iPhone. As you move your mobile device through the air, it seamless reveals the heavens in your little window. Stars, constellations, planets and even satellites all show up. You can further see the trajectory of celestial objects for a 24-hour period and even change the date to see the results of the past or the future.

While both those examples are great and awe-inspiring for sure, there are actually many practical uses for augmented reality, especially in our increasingly mobile lives. Educational apps like Science AR and Anatomy 4D turn posters and other printed materials into interactive pieces. Virtual History ROMA boasts about its “full-immersion panoramic experience.”

WorkSnug allows you to see where free WiFi is located and even has a decibel meter to gauge noise level so that you can work comfortably wherever you’re at. Speaking of cities, Acrossair tells Londoners where their nearest tube station is via their iPhone’s video function.

User “Mos D.” says of Yelp’s Monocle app:

I love monocle (sic). Stand on the street, point it around you 360 degrees, and it shows you nearby places. Imagine you are the Terminator and that’s how it works.

Is that what all this is coming to? We’ll all have Terminators in our pockets and will navigate the world through miniature screens? If it means not having to ask questionable, seedy-looking strangers where the subway is, I’m on board.

References
Printing Arts
SkyView
Terminal Eleven Twitter
Science AR app
Anatomy 4D app
Virtual History ROMA app
WorkSnug
Acrossair
Mos D. Yelp Monocle comment

Rethinking Refrigeration

We’ve previously talked about food storage outside of refrigeration, but what about the idea of refrigeration itself? The technology itself has seen little advancement since the invention of Freon in 1928. For those not in the know:

Freon represents several different chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which are used in commerce and industry. The CFCs are a group of aliphatic organic compounds containing the elements carbon and fluorine, and, in many cases, other halogens (especially chlorine) and hydrogen. Freons are colorless, odorless, nonflammable, noncorrosive gases or liquids […] CFCs, or Freon, are now infamous for greatly adding to the depletion of the earth’s ozone shield.

A couple years ago, Electrolux Design Labs ran a contest for household appliance redesigns. Two of the finalists caught my eye and gave my inner hippie hope for the future, specifically, the Future Gel and Honeycomb models (not their official names, just how I will be referring to them in this article for the sake of being consistent and concise).

The Future Gel (or Bio Robot Refrigerator) prototype, designed by the Russian Yuriy Dmitriev, purportedly:

Utilizes a special gel-like substance that suspends and cools food once inserted.

The Bio Robot Refrigerator mounts on a wall—Dmitriev points out it can be mounted horizontally, vertically or even on the ceiling. The fridge does not have a motor or other traditional technology like most refrigerators—the gel does all the work—so, 90% of the appliance is actual usable space. To use the fridge you basically shove food into it’s biopolymer gel—which has no odor and is not sticky—and it is suspended and cooled until you need it again.

I’m not quite sure how far we are from biopolymer gel, but the idea is fascinating nonetheless.

The other design that intrigued me was Ben de la Roche’s. De la Roche was, at the time of this contest at least, an industrial design student at New Zealand’s Massey University. His design uses the honeycomb pattern found in nature to make a modularized, door-less, open-front refrigeration system which saves energy by only cooling the food that’s put in it. This is accomplished through the modular interface. A traditional fridge is essentially a box that gets really cold, so if you want things (food, flowers, a human head if you’re BBC’s Sherlock, etc) to be cold, you stick it in the box. De la Roche’s design allows the cooling mechanism to be much more targeted so that the entire infrastructure isn’t being cooled unnecessarily when all that’s in it is a case of beer and collegiate hunger. This design implements thermoacoustic refrigeration using nitrogen instead of CFCs.

Prototypes or not, I’m excited about what this kind of thinking can mean for the future. Functional, aesthetically pleasing designs that make our world cleaner and safer is what I’m all about. That and food—daylight savings time coupled with all this fridge talk has thrown me for a loop. I’m hungry.

Sources:
Fridge Free Food: Kick Your Obsessive Storage Habit & Keep Food Fresher Too
Freon
Zero-Energy Bio Refrigerator Cools Your Food With Future Gel
Student Invents Doorless Refrigerator That Saves Energy and Reduces Food Spoilage

3D Printing: The Next Revolution in Creativity

People sometimes mistakenly think that I’m an abject pessimist or even someone who actively finds joy in our oft-decrepit society. This could not be further from the truth. Despite America’s imperial overreach, a stagnant global economy and the encroaching police state (among other things that I indeed detest and fear), there are still myriad wonders all around us that point towards a future society that is more remarkable and liberating than anything the world has ever seen. The latest new technology that has got me all in a tizzy is one with near-boundless potential: 3D printing.

This fantastic development is a relatively new technological process that allows users to design objects that can then be “printed” into tangible, three-dimensional objects. Existing entities can also be scanned into a computer and replicated at will. These printers can make solid objects out of either composite plastic or metal (other mediums are also being explored), but the complexity of the fabrications are limited only by the imagination of the designer. (Size is also obviously a factor but that’s merely a problem of not having a big enough printer, rather than a limitation in the technology itself.)

Here is one of these amazing machines in action. I chose this vid because it’s short and very easy to see the process in action. As much as I love Yoda, this bust doesn’t begin to demonstrate the true potential of this technology.

yoda

Fascinating tech, this is.
Image Credit: http://www.webpronews.com

The complexity of some of the objects people have created is astonishing, as is the originality in their design. One of the more exciting things about these creations is how functional they can be. They can contain multiple moving parts that are printed in a fully completed state, with no assembly required. They can also be made strong enough to function as tools. In this NatGeo clip, a crescent wrench is scanned and recreated in a matter of hours. The pony-tailed host then uses it to tighten a bolt just as you would with a ‘standard’ wrench.

 

 

These creations can be as precisely intricate or as simple as the creator desires. This astonishing machine harnesses the wind and can walk along like some futuristic, 12-legged space spider.

 

sand beast

This thing will blow your mind.
Image Credit: http://www.thisnext.com

 

The designs can also be exceptionally subdued, such as Cobb’s totem from Inception. As happens naturally when the creative potential of humans is allowed to flourish, experimentation abounds and there truly is something for everyone in this frontier market.

 

Personally, I am quite drawn to this Möbius strip of the first level of Mario Bros., despite my being raised exclusively on Sega Genesis.

mobius mario

twistedsifter.com

The creative process on display is a perfect example of how individualization and customization enhance our lives. Everywhere around us, our lives are constantly improving due to innovation and free markets. Amazon and Netflix have revolutionized how we consume media. Stem cells and other medical research are prolonging our lives. Smartphones, the ultimate all-in-one device, are constantly becoming cheaper, faster and more intelligent. There is plenty to be optimistic about when looking at these fantastic developments and the future fruits they will yield.

The spoilsport in me focuses on the most illiberal facets of society. The innovation and incredible experimentation in a field like 3D printing helps to illustrate how the worst aspects of our lives are things and institutions devoid of customization and individual control. Public education, health care systems, political and police corruption, military overreach, etc., are all failing institutions that are heavily centralized and largely outside public purview.

These institutions fail precisely because they are antiquated, top-down systems. They simply cannot compete in our largely liberal and diffuse world of information and talent. They only way they can compete with the spontaneous order of markets and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia is through brute force.

This technological movement is expanding into fields the government is fearful of. A chemist named Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow has been able to print ibuprofen and wants to replicate other drugs. A group from Texas called Defense Distributed is attempting to design a printable firearm and has succeeded in producing gun components, most notably high-capacity magazines.

Predictably, the government is wary of such developments that would fundamentally undermine its presumed authority in controlling firearms and illicit substances. Congressman Steve Israel (NY-D) wants to include 3D-printed gun components in the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is up for reauthorization in December 2013. And although it’s fun to imagine the collective brains of Washington imploding from the shock, it’s difficult to fathom how severely the hammer of government retribution would strike if people could get around onerous drug laws with a simple ctrl+p command.

It's pretty much the exact same thing.

It’s pretty much the exact same thing.
Image Credit: http://www.tumblr.com

It is almost impossible to see how 3D printing won’t completely transform human society. Among its other sci-fi credentials, it has legitimate potential to fundamentally change the concept of scarcity, and in the future might eliminate the term entirely. It’s also eminently foreseeable that the government will attempt to control and curtail this technology, which politicians fear will make obsolete the type of authority they’ve grown accustomed to wielding.

The world is better off with individuals free to utilize technology to their benefit. Let’s just hope Washington realizes the detriments and futility of attempting to neuter such an impressive revolution in the way we live our lives. However, if history is any guide, I certainly wouldn’t bet on their quietly acquiescing to such dynamic transformational change.

 

 

Sources and Additional Resources:

Youtube: 3D Printing Time Lapse Photography – Yoda

Youtube: National Geographic Known Universe S03E06 Print Tools

Youtube: Super Mario Mobius Strip

CBS: Stanford Researchers Create HIV-Resistant Cells, May Lead To Gene Therapy

BBC: 3D printing: The desktop drugstore

Nature: Integrated 3D-printed reactionware for chemical synthesis and analysis

TED Talk- A 3D printer for molecules: Lee Cronin 

TED Talk- Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney

Econolyst

Fab@Home

Trimensional

MakerBot

Textually

No Breathing Required

 

Tired of having to go through the labor of breathing to meet your body’s gluttonous need for oxygen?

Then you sir, or madam, are irreparably lazy!

On the other hand, scientists have invented particles that will allow you to live without breathing.  Oxygenating the blood through a direct injection “will allow medical teams to keep patients alive and well for 15 to 30 minutes despite major respiratory failure. This is enough time for doctors and emergency personnel to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain injuries in the patient.”

The article also states that “the solution has already been successfully tested on animals under critical lung failure. When the doctors injected this liquid into the patient’s veins, it restored oxygen in their blood to near-normal levels, granting them those precious additional minutes of life.”

This is not a theory or alpha stage experimentation, this is the real deal!

After reading this article my mind can’t help heading into the world of sci fi and using this breakthrough for recreational or exploratory purposes. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, where former citizens of Earth are trained on Mars to practice oxygenating their body through the use of a time released oxygen pill.  The trick is remembering to not breathe!

No Breathing Required: Live Without Breathing

no breathing

minusthebars.blogspot.com

Tired of having to go through the labor of breathing to meet your body’s gluttonous need for oxygen?

Then you sir, or madam, are irreparably lazy!

On the other hand, scientists have invented particles that will allow you to live without breathing.  Oxygenating the blood through a direct injection

will allow medical teams to keep patients alive and well for 15 to 30 minutes despite major respiratory failure. This is enough time for doctors and emergency personnel to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain injuries in the patient.”

The article also states that

the solution has already been successfully tested on animals under critical lung failure. When the doctors injected this liquid into the patient’s veins, it restored oxygen in their blood to near-normal levels, granting them those precious additional minutes of life.”

This is not a theory or alpha stage experimentation, this is the real deal!

After reading this article my mind can’t help heading into the world of sci fi and using this breakthrough for recreational or exploratory purposes. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, where former citizens of Earth are trained on Mars to practice oxygenating their body through the use of a time released oxygen pill.  The trick is remembering to not breathe!

 

Sources:

Science Daily: Injecting Life-Saving Oxygen Into a Vein