M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

How do we find ET? Look for pollution…

February 24, 2022
MThomas

CFCs in the atmosphere above the North Pole.

“We give off waste heat (from industry and homes and so on) and artificial light at night, but perhaps most significantly, we produce chemicals that fill our atmosphere with compounds that wouldn’t otherwise be present. These artificial atmospheric constituents just might be the thing that gives us away to a distant alien species scanning the galaxy with their own powerful telescope.”

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-webb-telescope-civilizations-air-pollution.html

Or, as Futurism puts it: “SCIENTISTS ALREADY PLOTTING HOW James Webb COULD DETECT ALIEN CIVILIZATIONS WHOA.”

Just. Settle down, wouldja. Sheesh.

Scientists have proposed aiming the James Webb space telescope the Trappist system, specifically Trappist-1e.

Really hope this isn’t what they find…

Ready to ride the laser to Mars?

February 11, 2022
MThomas

“The laser, a 10-meter wide array on Earth, would heat hydrogen plasma in a chamber behind the spacecraft, producing thrust from hydrogen gas and sending it to Mars in only 45 days. There, it would aerobrake in Mars’ atmosphere, shuttling supplies to human colonists or, someday perhaps, even humans themselves.”

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-laser-mars.html

The only problem is that there’s no way to slow the thing down right now…”aerobraking” using current technology would cause gees of 8 or above for several minutes and temperatures hot enough to cook whatever’s in the ship to a nice toasty crisp.

Not even the G-Force would survive! Well, OK, maybe. (But only if they reverted to their original Japanese name – “Gatchman.”)

But what if robots could design a receiving station with lasers to “catch” the ship and slow it down…?

Hmmm. Sounds like a science fiction work in progress…

Purple rocks on Mars

February 5, 2022
MThomas

SuperCam showed that the coatings are enriched in hydrogen and sometimes magnesium. In addition, images from Mastcam-Z suggest that they also contain iron oxides. Both the hydrogen and iron oxides point to past water being involved in the formation of the coatings. That shouldn’t be too surprising, perhaps, since this area in Jezero Crater used to be a lake a few billion years ago.

https://earthsky.org/space/purple-rocks-mars-perseverance-rover-desert-varnish/

The rocks resemble so-called desert varnish, which protect microbes from the sun’s radiation. It’d be interesting to find out whether cyanobacteria that once existed on Mars did this…but the four billion year old question is, how did those bacteria get there in the first place?

Robot performs surgery — on pig intestines

January 27, 2022
MThomas

They slice. They dice. They perform complicated microsurgery without the aid of doctors…

US researchers say a robot has successfully performed keyhole surgery on pigs all on its own – without the guiding hand of a human. Furthermore, they add, the robot surgeon produced “significantly better” results than humans.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jan/26/robot-successfully-performs-keyhole-surgery-on-pigs-without-human-help

OK, that’s neat. But.

Hands up, who wants to have their intestines spliced together by the Terminator v. 1.0?

China investigating how to build a mega spaceship

January 9, 2022
MThomas

China is investigating how to build ultra-large spacecraft that are up to 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) long. But how feasible is the idea, and what would be the use of such a massive spacecraft?

https://www.livescience.com/mega-spaceship-china-proposal.html

The original title of the Live Science post linked above is “China wants to build…” but this is incorrect. The National Natural Science Foundation of China is proposing a feasibility study. This is not the same thing as “China wants to build a kilometer-long ship.”

Likely the study will find out that it’s just too expensive and not worth it in terms of effort, resources, and maintenance costs. But it may show the benefits of setting up a base on the Moon and then sending materials there to be 3D-printed for future exploration or human colonies elsewhere.

Sending up a ginormous ship from Earth is foolhardy. Figuring out how to build stuff in space is much smarter.

Trace Gas Orbiter finds traces of hydrogen underground in the Valles Marineris

December 16, 2021
MThomas

A.k.a., the “Great Canyon of Mars”

The original article title?

“Astronomers Detect Secret Water Reserves in The Largest Canyon in The Solar System”

Science isn’t quite as catchy. The hydrogen may indicate water in the form of permafrost 3 feet and more under the surface.

The high-hydrogen region is about the size of the Netherlands, and overlaps with Candor Chasma, one of the largest canyons in the Valles Marineris system.

Looks like there may be some competition for who gets to land near here first…

https://www.sciencealert.com/hidden-water-has-been-found-in-the-soil-of-mars-grand-canyon

Water Bears in Space! Uh. Again.

November 12, 2021
MThomas

Hang on, I think I’ve seen this before…

Oh.

Not such a great idea, then, to send them on an interstellar cruise

AstroCrete…a “blood-curdling” building technique for Mars

September 18, 2021
MThomas

The blood, sweat, and tears of pioneering astronauts could literally turn Mars regolith into building materials.

First, however, they’d need to get the 3D printers there…

https://www.republicworld.com/technology-news/science/astronaut-biocomposite-materials-could-grow-successful-settlements-on-mars-study.html

Somebody’s planning to build an “impulse engine”

August 23, 2021
MThomas

In a video on the YouTube channel Bloomberg Quicktakes, Fearn and Woodward propose using the “Mach Effect Gravity Assist” drive to cut interstellar travel time down to within a human lifetime. 

https://nerdist.com/article/star-trek-impulse-engines-mega-drive/

OK, so it’s “proposing” to build, not planning.

One website screams “they’re building it!”

https://www.tweaktown.com/news/81252/star-trek-impulse-engine-is-being-built-for-interstellar-travel/index.html?fbclid=IwAR3kiK79Adb8c0fTEm-PfPyDZqjw1dLbW3aokqNYublkcph5fD3zxSNL00c

SDMN (settle down mah nerds)

It’ll happen. Some day. Maybe.

Light from behind a black hole

July 31, 2021
MThomas

…while light cannot escape a black hole, its extreme gravity warps space around it, which allows light to “echo,” bending around the back of the object. Thanks to this strange phenomenon, astronomers have, for the first time, observed the light from behind a black hole.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/einstein-right-researchers-see-light-echo-black-hole-rcna1553

Einstein has been proven right. Again.

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