The Moon, Europa

The Moon, Europa

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Yesterday, after reviewing 27 submissions, NASA chose to fund five projects for initial mission investigation. The five projects will receive 3 million dollars to conduct concept design and analysis studies. Sometime in September 2016 NASA will choose one or two of the projects for mission funding.

My personal favorite is the Psyche project.
     Psyche is an asteroid that appears to be solid metal, a property making it very different from the usual drifting space rock. In addition to possibly being a very large magnet, and depending on the level of magnetism could wreak havoc on a vehicle's equipment, Psyche may be a potentially useful resource both for knowledge of the way planetary cores cool and what asteroids could provide commercially. Here is the summary story on Gizmodo, or if you want to geek-out a little the summary from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pluto - Images from the New Horizons Spacecraft

Finally, some new images from New Horizons!

This shot of Pluto's atmosphere is stunning!
Pluto's mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes

The closeup of the mountains is amazing as well. However...
Pluto's mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes

The feature I found most remarkable is a potentially active nitrogen glacier! The ices may have evaporated from the surface and fallen into the mountains, re-compressed into solid ice again and flowed back onto the plain; a cycle nearly identical to water ice (snow) on Earth falling in the mountains, being compressed into ice and flowing downward in the form of a glacier.
Valley Glaciers on Pluto

Apologies for the first photos getting cut off on the top of the page but I wanted to post them as large as possible. The the full story and complete set of photos may be viewed the NASA link below:
Pluto - Backlit Panorama and Glacial Flows

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Future is Now: Indoor Lighting

     One of the downsides to living underground, or on the floor of a light-less alien ocean, is the lack of natural lighting. Most anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in a windowless office, worked in a basement - even a well lit one, or stayed in one of those new windowless bargain hotel rooms knows the close feeling of no windows and the fishbowl depression induced by faux lighting. Most of this effect can be alleviated by the addition of an artificial window. However, the major flaw in merely placing a television screen on a wall - even a high definition model - is that it is still lacking a significant element; sunlight.
     The clear solution to this problem would be an artificial window that could simulate natural light. Fortunately, a new company calling themselves CoeLux has developed an artificial skylight that can simulate natural sunlight. The innovation is quite a leap in technology and has dozens of applications. I, for one, want one in in my future home; assuming they can drop the price a bit below the current $68,000 in the next twenty years...

CoeLux Artificial Skylight Video

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ceres - The Dwarf Planet

As NASA's Dawn spacecraft approaches the dwarf planet Ceres - the largest body in the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter - it continues to send an impressive array of photos back to Earth. Dawn will pass nearest Ceres sometime in February (probably around the 25th) and we will finally get to see detailed photos of this fascinating dwarf planet. After Dawn passes Ceres, NASA will compile the data and map the planet.

Below is the latest composition of photographs:
Ceres spinning!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NASA's Europa Page

NASA is still trying to postpone a mission to Europa citing cost and current budget restrictions. However, a recent set of grants given to ten U.S. universities is an encouraging step in the direction of a fully realized mission to Europa (Cube Sats). The university's respective programs will develop small cube satellites, which are smaller and cheaper than traditional deep space probes, with the potential to enhance a future mission. The smaller satellites would increase the number of sensors placed in orbit resulting in more data. A mission conducted exclusively using cube satellites - especially if taken from an existing model, assuming the technology was available at the time, would very likely be cheaper than developing a single large mission dedicated spacecraft.

For more information on Europa, see NASA's Europa page.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Regenerative polymer self heals...

     A 2013 article in Chemistry World (Terminator Polymer) described a polymer that could heal a broken bond with itself after about a two hour recovery period. Not too bad but a little slow. More recently, a research team at the University of Illinois has designed an experimental polymer system that can heal itself much like human body uses blood to clog and fill a minor wound. Using two gel filled "capillaries" this polymer is able to fill a wound up to 9mm in circumference with a two stage gel, probably something like an epoxy mixture, and harden to about 62% strength retention. No mention about how long the process takes but this seems like a better method of repair since damage to soft substances often comes in the form of tears or punctures.
     The existence of regenerative polymer materials was posited in Europa, giving Jonas Black's submarine, Manta, the the ability to heal her hull when damaged. Seeing science fiction becoming science fact is always an exciting prospect...with the exception of Skynet becoming self aware, of course.

For the full article see link below:

Regenerative polymer self heals after injury

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mustache Discrimination Must End!

     Having been the victim of mustache discrimination, I understand the plight of my fellow persecuted mustachioed brethren. I once had a full length horseshoe mustache that had a lovely reddish hue when rays of sunlight filtered through the fall foliage. Alas, I was eventually told by my boss that I must shave most of it off because it "did not look professional". After briefly considering ending my career, I did as I was told. I have often missed my mustache and take advantage of any significant leave of absence to reacquaint myself with my long lost friend. Recently, I was glad to discover the American Mustache Institute; an organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of those downtrodden, mislabeled and just plain misunderstood mustachioed men who want nothing more than to live in peace with those who lack the courage or - sadly - sometimes the ability to grown their very own bristly lip sweater. So if you have dreamed about growing a mustache but never thought you could, or never wanted to admit it, visit the expert fellows at the AMI.

The American Mustache Institute

Friday, January 2, 2015

Machine Intelligence

     Step by step Artificial Intelligence continues to become closer to reality. One important step in the process is what is known as "machine intelligence". Machine intelligence refers to the use of computer programs and applications in processing information. While not true AI, machine intelligence is becoming the most prolific form of AI as open source programs take advantage of crowd sourcing and mobile computers (i.e. phones and tablets) to test and perfect their applications. Mega-data collectors such as Google are using their vast resources and near endless pools of online data to process information and use it to further their own research. Larger companies often struggle to innovate as smaller start up companies use platform programs to take greater risk and build new applications outside the realm of corporate safety.

     Several comments in a recent article from offer an encouraging perspective: "...neural networks, which have been in development since the 1940s, are only loosely related to the way the brain actually works." And, "Machine intelligence does not need to resemble the human brain at all," Said Jeremy Howard on Reddit. "The more interesting question is: what can machines do? Not ‘are they truly intelligent?’ Machine ‘intelligence’ is different enough from human intelligence that I don’t think it is a terribly useful analogy.” Understanding there is not a processor set currently in existence which possesses the capacity to perform on the level of the human brain means developers will not be chasing unattainable goals but will work within the confines of available technology to take full advantage of its potential. Such gains will lead to further understanding and ultimately lead to programs that more closely resemble true AI. Let us all hope they are designed to be Three Laws safe.
Deep Learning and Machine Intelligence - Full Article on Forbes