M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

We could live together / crystals on the Moon…

September 18, 2022
MThomas

Half of a dilithium crystal? (It’s a new type of crystal called “Chang’esite” (after the ancient Chinese moon goddess).

I should be posting another chapter from Bringer of Light, but I don’t feel like writing that right now, what with a humongoid typhoon slowing churning its way here.

So here’s an article about what Chinese scientists found in Moon dirt.

Also H3. Yay. Let’s make fusion reactors and walk on the Moon together…

Spectacular image of Jupiter’s auroras and moons

August 23, 2022
MThomas

Courtesy NASA. Note that the blue, white, green, yellow, and orange colors are artificial, only added to make features revealed by infrared stand out for human eyes. You can see the planet’s rings, aurora, and two “tiny” moons (at left; they’re not really that tiny!).

“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all quite incredible,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who helped lead the observations.

“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” she added in a statement.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/james-webb-space-telescope-shows-jupiters-auroras-tiny-moons

The above is supposed to be in “quote” format, but WP really messed up this feature when they switched to so-called “block” mode (which I can’t stand).

Anyway, the image is fairly spectacular, from the new James Webb Space Telescope which is positioned 1 million miles away from Earth (i.e., in the second LaGrange point, or L2).

Will NASA call it all off? PSYCHE!

August 18, 2022
MThomas

First of all, stop calling it “the golden asteroid.” That’s confusing people (the headline of the article linked below even uses the phrase “gold mine.” Come on, lazy journalists.)

If 16 Psyche is worth mining, when could such operations proceed? Citigroup thinks that space mining, including from the moon and asteroids, will be a $100 billion-per-year business by 2040. Launch costs will continue to decrease and experience in operating in space will continue to expand until such a business makes economic sense.

https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/3597381-nasa-might-cancel-mission-to-massive-gold-mine-asteroid-heres-why-it-shouldnt/

So is asteroid worth it?

Sure.

Is it horribly expensive right now?

Sure.

So why do it?

Well, how heavy do you think the materials to make buildings and ships in outer space are?

If we’re serious about putting people on the Moon and Mars, then it makes much more sense to set up robotic mining factories and assemble everything in space.

All this needs is a little incentive…like a new space race…

Looking for aliens in all the wrong places?

August 12, 2022
MThomas

Our search for alien life is getting serious. With better telescopes and a growing scientific consensus that we’re probably not alone in the universe, we’re beginning to look farther and wider across the vastness of space for evidence of extraterrestrials.

But it’s possible we’re looking for too few signs in too few places. Having evolved on Earth, surrounded by Earth life, we assume alien life would look and behave like terrestrial life.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/alien-hunters-need-to-start-rethinking-the-definition-of-life?

I agree that we are biased, simply based on the basics of what we understand as (carbon-based) life (i.e., ourselves).

And I agree — in principle — that scientists need to keep an open mind when looking for other life forms on exoplanets.

However, they also need to retain a sense of skepticism.

Continue Reading

International asteroid day!

June 30, 2022
MThomas

Today is “International Asteroid Day”!

Who knew?

Asteroids hold large amounts of valuable minerals and metals. That is what International Asteroid Day is raising awareness about on 30 June.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-61985813

Plants can grow in lunar soil (barely)

May 16, 2022
MThomas

Doesn’t look too terribly attractive…

The samples were extremely hydrophobic, and repelled water as if it were the most disgusting thing ever invented. Researchers labored to get the lunar soil to gradually soak up water. They also added a nutrient solution.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/05/12/plants-grow-in-lunar-soil/

Turns out that it is possible to grow plants on the Moon…

…although you might want to wear gloves while farming, since the “soil” contains tiny pieces of glass from constant bombardment.

Continue Reading

“Make Uranus mission your priority” –uh, for what practical reason?

April 30, 2022
MThomas

Researchers think an in-depth study of Uranus can help them better understand the many similarly sized objects now being discovered around other stars.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61155725
Uranus’s strange tilt is probably due to getting smacked by a very large body a long time ago…

Uranus is weird. It has rings. It has 13 moons, some of which may harbor life beneath their icy surfaces.

It has a funny name.

I get it. But learning more about how its formation affects planet formation is just not that important.

“Pure” researchers probably are interested, but frankly, if NASA wastes its time doing this, they will miss the opportunity to settle the Moon and Mars, mine asteroids for valuable resources, and explore other moons like Titan and Europa.

China will get there first.

Pure research is all fine and dandy, but it’s also incredibly expensive — taxpayer dollars should be spent on projects with more tangible benefits.

Largest comet ever seen barreling through the solar system

April 18, 2022
MThomas

C/2014 UN271 on the far right has a nucleus 50 larger than the average comet.

“Its size, which NASA noted is larger than the state of Rhode Island, is an estimation because the comet is still too far away for Hubble to tell for certain.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/largest-comet-ever-seen-barreling-toward-inner-solar-system-nasa-2022-4

Note that the original title was “…toward the Inner Solar System”…and yet the article goes on to explain that it won’t come any closer than a billion miles from the Sun, “‘slightly farther than the distance of the planet Saturn,’ NASA said in a statement.

Uh. The inner solar system is *no where near* Saturn. Try again, fear-mongers.

Sigh.

Anyway, it really is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” since this was seen with Hubble, and we have yet to see just what the new James Webb telescope can do. The Oort Cloud is a big place. There must be millions upon millions comets just waiting to be discovered.

Let’s make rocket fuel with E. Coli!

April 12, 2022
MThomas

In short, the algae will use sunlight to transform CO2 into sugars that are then enhanced by bio-engineered E.coli into 2,3-butanediol. Interestingly, 2,3-BDO is not entirely conceptual as it currently exists and is mainly used to produce rubber components. It has just never been thought of as fuel before.

https://www.universal-sci.com/article/producing-rocket-fuel-on-mars-using-microbes?utm_campaign=Universal-Sci%20Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

Neat. So all the astronauts have to do is bring, uh, how much algae we talking here?

The article doesn’t say, but it does mention a by-product of the process: Oxygen!

That would seem rather helpful. Mars or bust?

How do you do it without gravity?

March 18, 2022
MThomas

Or, as I’m sure was unintentionally titled, ”Nasa probing people having sex in space.” 🤦

Ya know, I’m pretty sure we need to figure out “this whole food-air deal” first (to quote comedian Bill Hicks).

“The US space agency confirmed that there were currently no plans for a field or project office to explore the topic in any detail but that could change as we get closer to putting humans on Mars.“

Uh-huh.

Priorities…

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