Step By Step-Some Humble Space Links

Frank Drake brings some realism to the S.E.T.I. debate.  The space-time distances are a huge hurdle, and the challenges of becoming a spacefaring civilization make the journey to nearby star systems fairly impractical at the moment.

The less evidence and fewer data points there are, the more rampant the speculation, inventive the Sci-Fi imaginings, and important the foundation to create such new fields of knowledge.

There’s been an explosion of private entrepreneurship and NASA partnership lately (loosened regulations and better incentives) to help get cargo (things and people) into space much more cheaply than before.

What’s it like to be on a spacewalk?  In some ways, pretty normal and pretty not normal, apparently: Just pace yourself, focus, and get the job done in an unwieldy suit while you hover between everything you’ve ever known and an incomprensible abyss.

In addition to recent rapid advances in ‘seeing’ with radio waves, gravity waves and light, and we’ve got better tools to get a little further out into our own neighborhood.

This means we could find out if we can find some life on Mars (methane spikes), Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus:

and:

and:

Well, Maybe Attempt Some Kind Of Landing There-Some Europa Links

If you’d like a breakdown of the relative sizes of our planet, our moon and all these other moons, click through for a helpful visual.

Also, there’s a lot of space out there:

You’ll likely need an energy source (not necessarily our star, the warping effects of other massive bodies will do) and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years to sustain an environment conducive to life.  You’ll likely need lots of protection from cosmic rays and short-wave radiation as some kind of shield.  If your planet, moon and/or body doesn’t possess an atmosphere, and is too small to maintain an electro-magnetic dynamo like Earth, then sub-surface water under a protective shell might be enough.

On the recent findings of at least 1/17 observational days of water plumes near the surface of the Jovian moon, Europa:

More here:

They used a spectrograph at the Keck Observatory that measures the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres through the infrared light they emit or absorb. Molecules such as water emit specific frequencies of infrared light as they interact with solar radiation.’

and:

‘Paganini and his team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on November 18 that they detected enough water releasing from Europa (5,202 pounds, or 2,360 kilograms, per second) to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes. Yet, the scientists also found that the water appears infrequently, at least in amounts large enough to detect from Earth, said Paganini: “For me, the interesting thing about this work is not only the first direct detection of water above Europa, but also the lack thereof within the limits of our detection method.’

This is potentially good news for the upcoming Europa clipper mission.  Otherwise, how are you going to get at all that water beneath an icy shell at least 10-15 miles thick?

‘From its orbit of Jupiter, Europa Clipper will sail close by the moon in rapid, low-altitude flybys. If plumes are indeed spewing vapor from Europa’s ocean or subsurface lakes, Europa Clipper could sample the frozen liquid and dust particles. The mission team is gearing up now to look at potential orbital paths, and the new research will play into those discussions.

“If plumes exist, and we can directly sample what’s coming from the interior of Europa, then we can more easily get at whether Europa has the ingredients for life,” Pappalardo said. “That’s what the mission is after. That’s the big picture.”

Aren’t you getting a little excited at the prospect?:

For Today, I Suppose This Will Do-Two Quotes From Roger Scruton

‘The same idea occurs in Schopenhauer, for whom the truth of the world is Will, which cannot be represented in concepts.  Schopenhauer devoted roughly 500,000 words to this thing that no words can capture…’

‘…I too am tempted to eff the ineffable.  like my philosophical predecessors, I want to describe that world beyond the window, even though I know that it cannot be described but only revealed.  I am not alone in thinking that world to be real and important.  But there are many who dismiss it as unscientific cast of mind are disagreeable to me.  Their nerdish conviction that facts alone can signify, and that the ‘transcendental’ and the eternal are nothing but words, mark them out as incomplete. There is an aspect of the human condition that is denied to them. ‘

Scruton, Roger. Effing The IneffableConfessions Of A Heretic. Notting Hill Editions Ltd, 2016. Print. (Pgs 87 & 88).

Personally, I’m not sure that all naturalists and people in the sciences I’ve known wish to reduce the world to strictly mathematical laws, nor consign all domains of human endeavor to ‘non-science.’

Some people, I suspect, have the onboard wiring and have pursued learning which make them profoundly interested in order, patterns, and logic. Some people are just really smart and dedicate themselves to a particular problem or two, maybe possessing the genius and courage, even, to define a new problem after years of hard work of mastering a field, leading to genuine new knowledge.

I am grateful for the Mars Curiosity Rover, and the hundreds of engineers that worked for much of their professional lives to land this thing on Mars.  It’s still yielding valuable data.

Now, there’s arrogance, hubris and false pride to be in all of us, to be sure, and many sharp thinkers are no exception (in some cases the bigger the brain (or ego), the bigger the fool).  I don’t find foolish and/or earnest conviction in any short supply on this Earth.

To be fair, I don’t think this proves, nor does Scruton even attempt to prove, that the ineffable, therefore, exists (or if the ineffable does exist, as it reveals itself to us, that it requires saying or expression through us, nor through Handel or Bach or post-Kantian German thinking).

Such expression surely offers me consolation, though, for I take refuge in works of art.  I am profoundly grateful to walk at evening and listen to a few minutes of music:

I am profoundly grateful that I may share in someone else’s pain, suffering and disconsolation, across centuries, transmuted into an act of beauty and wonder, through a centuries-developed form and method (an orchestra is rather a thing of technical achievement, too, just as is a store-bought guitar or a Korg).

Sure, there’s much epistemological ignorance amongst some in the sciences and, frankly, within all of us.

Come to think of it, I think most of us manage one or a few things well, and mess up at least a few areas of our lives without even trying.  It’s also very, very tempting to talk about that which we know very little (this blog, for instance), as though something is known.

This may make me no more than a 2nd or 3rd rate idea man, taking, essentially, more than has been given.

For today, I suppose this will do.

Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Also On This Site:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentFrom YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

From The Times Higher Education: Simon Blackburn On The The Atheist/Believer DebateFrom Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky

 

Trying To Club Your Club To Death, Fictional British Towns & Mars-Some Links

Imagine trying to ban all the Moose Lodges, Elks’ Clubs, Little Leagues, and Girl Scout Troops across the nation in the name of fairness (if these clubs and civil associations can’t be ‘equal’ according to the loudest voices demanding ‘equality’, then nobody’s going to have any clubs).

Of course, many of the same individuals and orgs seeking to influence everyone’s behavior at Harvard are also seeking to do so through the Federal Government.

Some people seem locked in [a] kind of slavish ideological dependency on the institutions they seek to either control or destroy.

From FIRE.org: ‘Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation

‘Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students.’


Via kottke.org: ‘Fictional Names For British Towns Generated By A Neural Net

Two miles from Brumlington, as the crow flies, deep in the moor past Firley Binch, lieth Fuckley….

I recommend Simon’s blog for photos and text of the English Countryside.

Mick Hartley’s blog is pretty good, too.


Five years on Mars can be boiled down to 1 1/2 hours of discussion.  The data is telling a story, so how is that story being told?:

Did Mars harbor life?

Could it have harbored life?

What does this new data mean for Earth and our story?

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Via Youtube: ‘Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

Via Another Reader Via Youtube-BBC Interview With Various Cassini Mission Scientists

~25 minutes.  Well-edited.  Informative.

Both moons Enceladus (Saturn) and Europa (Jupiter) demonstrate evidence of huge oceans of liquid water protected by thick, icy crusts.  The Cassini probe passed through water plumes emanating high above Enceladus’ icy crust.  This water has been forced out of four long, deep cracks in the surface.

After analysis, the folks in the video above have discovered many chemicals within these Enceladus geysers (ammonia, carbon dioxide) but most importantly:  Possibly hydrogen they think might be coming from hydro-thermal vents on the rocky, ocean floor of Enceladus.

Via A Reader: Ocean Worlds-Cassini Mission Findings Video

Here’s my brief layperson’s summary after watching: 

Both moons Enceladus (Saturn) and Europa (Jupiter) demonstrate evidence of huge oceans of liquid water protected by thick, icy crusts.  The Cassini probe passed through water plumes emanating high above Enceladus’ icy crust.  This water has been forced out of four long, deep cracks in the surface.

After analysis, the folks in the video above have discovered many chemicals within these Enceladus geysers (ammonia, carbon dioxide) but most importantly:  Hydrogen they think might be coming from hydro-thermal vents on the rocky, ocean floor of Enceladus.

Or at least, with the current evidence and knowledge, this is a very plausible scenario.

So, there’s life on Earth without sunlight, deep on the ocean floors, near hydro-thermal vents where this process produces energy enough to sustain weird life forms we didn’t know existed before very recently.

There’s water geysering out of Europa’s icy crust from its ocean floor below.

There’s potentially time + interesting life-sustaining geochemistry + energy + a protected environment on both of these ocean worlds…so…hey….

There may be something really worth finding down there.

Next up:  Sending better instruments to cruise through Europa’s geysers:

From IBTimes Via Youtube: ‘NASA Mars Rover Finds Evidence Of Lake’

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It looks like Gale Crater has its advantages.

Research papers here. A summary of some of what’s been found so far:

‘Research suggests habitable conditions in the Yellowknife Bay area may have persisted for millions to tens of millions of years. During that time rivers and lakes probably appeared and disappeared. Even when the surface was dry, the subsurface likely was wet, as indicated by mineral veins deposited by underground water into fractures in the rock. The thickness of observed and inferred tiers of rock layers provides the basis for estimating long duration, and the discovery of a mineral energy source for underground microbes favors habitability throughout.’

You can also watch a 12/05/13 press briefing from JPL discussing those papers above.  These rocks are much newer than the older wet period theorized.

They’re more focused on the search for organic carbon, now, within the environments they’ve discovered.

Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

From The Guardian: ‘NASA Marks 50 Years Of Space Photography – In Pictures’

Photos here.

Just a Sunday link.

Related On This SiteVia The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

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Just some links:

From a December 18th, 2012 mission status report:

‘NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity during a two-year prime mission to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.’

-Unlike Earth with its dynamic interior and tectonic plates, relatively strong magnetic field, thick and dynamic atmosphere etc., Mars is a bit like a time capsule.   With just over 50% the diameter of Earth, about 38% the gravity, and  less than 1% the atmosphere we’ll be able to get a much better picture of what happened during the formation of our solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago as it’s much less disturbed.  The trip up the rock face in Gale Crater over the next few years is like a trip back through time.  What happened to Mars?  Did the Earth and Mars have common experiences?

Some more Mars facts.

A December 4th, 2012 livestream overview of the mission.  Ashwin Vasavada’s talk starts about min 15:25, and is pretty easy to follow for non-scientists and lay people like myself:

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Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

Via Youtube: November 15th, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

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They’ve made a wind map of Gale Crater based on the data received, and there are possibly dustless dust-devils, or convective vortices that occur around noon of a Mars day passing over the Rover.  The Rover has stopped at a place called Rocknest, and from this article:

‘Scientists theorize that in Mars’ distant past its environment may have been quite different, with persistent water and a thicker atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission will investigate possible losses from the upper atmosphere when it arrives at Mars in 2014.

With these initial sniffs of Martian atmosphere, SAM also made the most sensitive measurements ever to search for methane gas on Mars. Preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life. On Earth, it can be produced by either biological or non-biological processes.

Methane has been difficult to detect from Earth or the current generation of Mars orbiters because the gas exists on Mars only in traces, if at all.’

Still driving towards Mt. Sharp.  Some cool pics in slideshow format.  Link to NASA videos.

Addition:  Have they already found some data suggesting proof of sub-surface microbial life at Rocknest?  Stay tuned.

Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

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