New Direction for Society Needed–Guest Article

October 26, 2012
Leave a Comment

Still, I would, were I running for President, encourage the industry of a (deep) space economy. Heeding the warning of Eisenhower on the Military-Industrial  Complex, and wary of Newt Gingrich’s Sci-fi colonization schema, I would revise the 1989 Rockwell Integrated Space systems flow chart for manned space travel (see below), and pursue areas of manned and unmanned research. We are prime for it. Our technology needs a new direction and new context to grow or construct new meaning, our workforce needs a new “cathedral industry” to build. We need new and appropriate benchmarks and goals. Space should become our new development of math/science/cultural growth, our new pyramids to build, our new castles that require generations to finish, our new mystery to send explorers into, our new transcontinental railroad, our new interstate system, our new race to put a man into space. We have an unexplored Louisiana Purchase before us. We are Jefferson and we need to hire Lewis and have him hire Clark and commission research.

As we found in the 1960’s with racing to put a man in space and then on the moon, this would reframe our education priorities and our industrial priorities and initiate new culture and new heroes and help us manage the transition into the 21 century. We have been doing international research for more than a decade. In this realm, nations are partners, research is community.
Lately by reading, revisiting Marshall McLuhan I have come to realize that medium is the message. Media is the discovery and medium in the new environment. We need to develop new media to catapult us forward: new language, new metaphors, and yes new frontiers. So we need to embrace artists, innovators, visionaries, serious “poets” like Steve Jobs (NASA has revised STEM into STEAM–adding the arts into the formula)…this will wake us up and re-energize us, our lives, our economies, our existence. This will establish new areas of accomplishment. This will dwarf and embrace the auto industry, the aerospace industry, the telecommunications industry, the energy industry, the medical/healthcare industry, the education industry, the agriculture industry, the real estate industry, Wall Street, Main Street, Government, International cooperation, retail…it will stimulate all economies.
Think about this: it addresses poverty, it creates jobs, it gives us a common purpose, it embraces diversity, it grows technology, it provides a utilitarian argument for education and training, it supports progress, it transcends Biblical (think Noah, think Moses, think the Israelites) and sectarian myth (think Alexander, Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Roman Empire, British Empire, evolution, scientific development …Am I wrong here?
–from Dr. Joseph McBrayer, former educator and current visionary
See also (from a prattrich previous blog):
Select and magnify this integrated chart. We need to revise for what we now know and add unmanned space development.
Note: you will notice that we are about 20 years behind this projection.

Universe is Stranger Than We Can Imagine

October 24, 2012

We are part of a reality that is stranger than we can imagine.  In it are incredible extremes of heat, cold, velocity, gravitational attraction, mass, density, sound, size, and time, all measurable through the wonders of scientific research.

First, temperatures inside the Boomerang Nebula, a region of leftover star remnants, get down to -458 degrees F. just a shade above the coldest temperature possible or 459.67 degrees F. (otherwise known as absolute zero).  At the other extreme, temperatures in a supernova explosion can reach 9 billion degrees F., hot enough to fry eggs on a sidewalk–and also the sidewalk, and anything the sidewalk is attached to.

The earth revolves around the sun at a velocity of 66,000 mph.  Mercury, the fastest planet, travels through the solar system at 105,000 mph.  At that speed you could circle the earth more than 4 times in an hour.  The speed at which particles of light (photons) travel is 670,616,629.13 mph.  That speed would enable you to circle the earth over 7 times in ONE SECOND! But you’ll never go faster! You would probably be too dizzy.

Gravitational attraction determines weight and, as you probably know, weight varies with the mass of the object you are near. If you can high jump 3 feet on Earth, then on Mars you would be able to soar 9 feet into the air and on the moon, 18 feet, assuming you’re not wearing anything to weight you down–like a space suit, and if you’re not, you wouldn’t be jumping anywhere–you’d be flopping around like a fish.   But if you’re inside a dome with plenty of air…

On or near Earth, gravity will cause you to accelerate 22 mph for every second that you fall.  On the sun, you would accelerate 615 mph for every second you are falling.  Near the surface of a neutron star, your acceleration would become 3 TRILLION mph greater for every second that you fell (of course, you would run afoul of the cosmic speed limit here which says that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. Check the numbers above.).

The earth masses (weighs) 6.6 billion trillion tons.  The sun weighs 2200 trillion trillion tons.  The entire observable universe weighs in at about 400 billion trillion times the mass of our 2200 trillion trillion ton sun.  These numbers are, of course, impossible for our tiny little minds to comprehend.  But it is a tribute to these same minds that we can figure out these statistics at all.

Iron has a density of 0.28 ounces per cubic centimeter.  The earth’s core has a density of about a half ounce per cublic centimeter.  The sun’s core weighs in at a full 5 ounces per c.c.  A neutron star masses about 375 million TONS per cubic centimeter.  How can this be, you say?  Well, it seems that individual atoms are mostly empty space and when gravity compresses the atoms in a neutron star so severely that all of the space is gone and electrons and protons have squished themselves together to form nothing but neutrons and even the neutrons are flattened into elongated shapes so close together they can’t even breathe, you get a lot of mass, and the name–neutron star.

So what about size?  Well, out there, we have asteroids as small as two or three feet in diameter, the sun which is 865,000 miles in diameter, and the giant red star Betelgeuse up at the tip of Orion’s sword in the night sky.  It balloons out to about a billion miles in diameter.  And finally a gigantic collection of galaxies called the Sloan Great Wall, which measures 1.4 billion light years in length.

When it comes to time, radiometric dating has proven that the earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, while the universe erupted from its Big Bang beginnings approximately 13.7 billion years in the past. On the other hand, I was born 70 years ago.  Seems like only yesterday.

Oh, and the galaxy cluster Abell 426 makes a sound in F sharp, 35 octaves below middle C at 170 decibels in case you needed to know.

Kind of makes your head swim, doesn’t it?

–Much of this information was taken from the book  Extreme Cosmos by Bryan Gaensler, an internationally recognized astronomer, NASA Hubble fellow, and Harvard Professor.  Much more is available in this book.  Statistics regarding my age come courtesy of my birth certificate.


Nearest Star System has Planet

October 20, 2012
Leave a Comment

Astronomers have discovered a planet circling one of the stars in the triple star Alpha Centauri  system, a group that is practically right in our back yard.  Not only that, but the planet seems to be roughly earth-sized.  Unfortunately, it orbits much closer than the earth to its star making a year on the surface equal to only 3.2 days.  Scientists estimate the surface temperature might be as high as 2200 degrees Fahrenheit on this planet where the sun would fill about three-quarters of the sky.   Not a good place to sun bathe and any pools would have to be made out of molten lava.

The discovery of this one planet makes it likely that other planets, perhaps small ones like Earth, also inhabit the Centauri system, which is made up of Alpha Centauri A. Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri.  While the general distance to this star system is considered to be about 4.3 light years, making it the closest star system to Earth, Proxima Centauri is slightly closer to us than its two companions.  Still, it would take over 40,000 years to get there using current rocket technology.

.It took astronomers 450 days of observation to pin down the location and existence of the new planet.  Alpha Centauri A and B are sunlike stars.  A is slightly larger and brighter than our sun, and B is just a little smaller and about half as bright.  The planet circles B. Alpha Centauri C is a red dwarf star.

The Alpha Centauri system is the home world for the blue-skinned Na’vi in the science fiction movie Avatar. Inhbitants of a planet in this system would see two suns in their skies, at least part of the time, just as Luke Skywalker did on Tatouine.

For many years astronomers thought that double or triple star systems couldn’t have planets because the gravitational perturbations wouldn’t allow it. They were wrong.  This new discovery should fire up people’s imaginations, and perhaps, their desire for interstellar travel.