Tag Archives: space

On Godel and Game Theory (what I find interesting in math and sciences, May 2022)

Math education: here’s some good pieces on that topic. First up, Susan Fowler (now Rigetti) on how you can learn more math. One way to learn is to see how others do it. Here’s Fields medalist Tim Gowers working through math problems on YouTube. Also this is a good resource on YouTube: math channel.

Speaking of learning math, here’s a piece on how to fix math class.

Math theory: For fans of game theory: Game theory and Cuban Missile crisis. Here’s two more good theory pieces, one on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems and one on Fermat’s last theorem.

Philosophy: Here’s two good pieces on math and philosophy: How Julia Robinson helped define the limits of mathematical knowledge and another on how math and philosophy need each other.

Physics and space: this is cool, Visualizing Black Holes with General Relativistic Ray Tracing. So is this: SpaceX’s Starship and NASA’s SLS Could Supercharge Space Science. This is odd,  NASA Will Test Gigantic Centrifuge for Hurling Objects Into Space. This is fun, measuring the earth using the traceroute command! This is fascinating, what I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists.

Brain: here’s two good pieces on the brain. First, Your brain expands and shrinks over time. Second, Deep sleep drives brain fluid oscillations.

Great photos from NASA/ESA’s Hubble telescope and the ESA mission to the sun

While people are getting excited about the James Webb Space Telescope now it is in position to take photos, there is still some great work being done with other missions that NASA and ESA have on the go. Case in point, the Hubble telescope. If you click on that link, you can see photos that it recently took of the star Earendel. As they explain:

With this observation, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has established an extraordinary new benchmark: detecting the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the Universe’s birth in the Big Bang (at a redshift of 6.2) — the most distant individual star ever seen. This sets up a major target for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope in its first year.


Meanwhile, closer to home, we have the ESA mission zooming into the Sun with Solar Orbiter and sending back wonderful photos and data along the way. Click the link to get some amazing images of the sun.

It’s all thrilling!

The New Space Race!

I was a young boy for the first space race in the 1960s and 1970s. After that the pace of space exploration seem to decrease. Recently, though, that pace has picked up, as the Times shows, here: Big Rockets, Massive Asteroids and More Space Highlights for 2022 – The New York Times.

So much happened in 2021, and 2022 seems to be just as busy. We have the James Webb Space Telescope,  China building the Tiangong Space Station, NASA’s attempt to deflect an asteroid and much more. If you go to that article, you can subscribe to The Times Space and Astronomy Calendar and keep up to date of everything going on.

Sure billionaires jaunting into space grabs our attention, but there is so much more going on than that, and unlike much in the news, space exploration is fun and exciting to follow. Join the new Space Race!

On stopping the next Chelyabinsk Meteor

If you think of meteors hitting the Earth, you might be thinking of ones like the Chicxulub impactor that killed off the dinosaurs. Good news: scientists have been tracking meteors of that size and we are safe for at least the next few centuries.

But what about smaller ones, like the one that hit Chelyabinsk and caused significant damage? Those we may not be so safe from. Indeed, if they hit a major city, the destruction could be catastrophic.

That’s why NASA has launched the DART mission. It’s goal is to see if it could stop an asteroid and prevent an asteroid apocalypse. That piece in Scientific American on what is involved is fascinating. It’s not merely a matter of putting a major explosive on an asteroid and blowing it to bits. Go read the article and you’ll see what I mean.

For more on the. Chelyabinsk Meteor, click here.

On the flaws of SpaceX’s Starlink technology

I’m not a fan of SpaceX’s Starlink technology. It’s ruining space in a number of ways, like this. I thought its one saving grace would be that it at least provides great Internet service. Yet according to this review in The Verge, it doesn’t even do that! Sad. Garbage in the sky, garbage on the ground.

Here’s hoping it gets better. And that someone finds a way to collect all the garbage circling the earth and do something with it.

This is fascinating: maybe we can’t even land on Mars, never mind go there

It’s well known that Mars is going to be difficult for humans to get there. If you are like me, I figured once we got there, then we land just like we land on Earth or the moon. But what if we can’t? This article fom BBC Sky at Night Magazine raises a number of difficulties that arise from dropping things from space onto the Red Planet. Things that seem to be recently considered.

Going to Mars is not going to be a matter of jumping in a big rocket ship and blasting into space. It’s going to take a lot of time to figure everything out, including landing there. Read that piece and see why.

(Photo by Mike Kiev on Unsplash )

5 or 10 thoughts on the billionaire space race

Image of Jeff Bezos blasting into space

Jeff Bezos blasted into space today with three other people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about it. Even Variety magazine did. (That’s worth a read BTW).  So fwiw, here’s 1o things I thought about it:

  1. It’s good to see more interest in space in general. NASA and other space agencies do plenty in terms of space exploration, but often it is overlooked by people. Suddenly — for better or worse — people are talking about space again.
  2. It’s good to see money being spent on space travel. NASA has suffered for years with cutbacks. Decades. Here’s to more money being effectively used in space.
  3. These flights of Branson and Bezos are small steps in terms of space travel.  They are miles behind SpaceX even, never mind NASA or other space agencies. As we like to say in business: it’s a good start (implying there is a long way to go).
  4. Small steps can lead to big steps if they continue to pursue this and pour money into it. That’s a big if. Like any space exploration, it is hard to continue to make people interested in it after it starts to seem repetitive. They might find it much harder to get space tourists to pay a small fortune their 10th or 15th flight. Never mind after the first person dies (and someone will).
  5. Even if everything goes well, it could still fail  in the longer run. The Concorde failed and it was much simpler technology than this stuff. Not everything that is the best and fastest gets to succeed.
  6. I can’t see the ROI on space travel. Musk and SpaceX can get away with it because they have a client with the money to spend on it (i.e. NASA). Not sure if Bezos can wrestle some of that business away. Then again, perhaps there’s a global market for these services.
  7. I think there would have been a much more positive reaction if it wasn’t Bezos or Branson leading these endeavours. Give Musk credit: he lets the real astronauts do the work. Plus none of these men are inspiring to most people. They aren’t John Glenn or Neil Armstrong: they are billionaires. Bezos was at least smart enough to Wally Funk with him: that was a good distraction from the other members on his team.
  8. It will remain to be seen if they can catch up to Musk, or if they are even interested. Musk can act the fool, but he seems driven to push private space exploration to the limits. I can see Branson dropping out soon once some other thing comes along. Bezos is a bit of a mystery to me.
  9. People are criticizing them for spending money on space rather than here on earth, but Bill Gates spends his fortune on such things and he is criticized mightly for it. It’s a no win in terms of spending your money. They all should pay more taxes. (Although a lot of tax money in the US goes into the military budget. That’s a different but related issue.)
  10. Here’s to more inspiring people going to space soon, and to more inspiring space travel. Let’s hope this leads to that.

(Image: link from the Variety article)

Three great pieces on Venus, the Milky Way, and black hole visualization

This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.

The worst technology failures of 2020, including one not considered a failure but could be the worst of all

This piece (Worst technology failures of 2020) by MIT Technology Review has a list of the bigger technology failures of 2020. Some of them, like Quibi and facial recognition abuses, are well known.

One listed here may be the greatest technology failure of them all, though for many it is not considered a failure at all. That is the unregulated pollution of space with tiny satellites. As the article states:

Since prehistory, humankind has looked upwards for awe and inspiration, to imagine what forces created the world—and which might end it. But now, that cosmic view is being contaminated with the reflections of thousands of inexpensive commercial satellites put aloft by companies like Amazon, OneWeb, and SpaceX, who want to cover the Earth with internet connections. Sixty satellites can swarm out of a single rocket.

To see what I mean, check out this picture from the article:

Telescope views from earth are being marred with the light of all these satellites. This is today’s problem. Tomorrow’s problem is going to be all the other pollution, light or otherwise, which is going to result from the rush to put things in space. Science is getting wrecked by this.

Already astronomers are thinking of putting telescopes on the dark side of the moon to escape such problems. But without regulation, who knows if even this will be successful? To hear Elon Musk yammer on, he’s just going to be throwing who knows what into space. He’s already launched one of his stupid cars into the atmosphere. Hardly the guy you can trust to be responsible when it comes to deciding what should go into space.

Here’s hoping that in the rush to do more and more space development (a good thing)  there is also an effort to make sure it is well thought and regulated (also a good thing).

Kathy (Kathryn) Sullivan is an amazing woman and everyone should know about her

Do you know who Kathy Sullivan is? I didn’t. I know who Elon Musk is. I know James Cameron. Not to mention many other astronauts, athletes, etc. I’d argue she is as great as any one them. After all, she is the first woman to reach the deepest known spot in the ocean after being the first American woman to walk in space. That’s amazing.

If you’d like to know more about here, there’s this piece in the New York Times. And of course she has a Wikipedia page.

(Image attribution: NASA – Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6449687)


The race to Mars

In exciting news, the United States, China and the UAE are all sending missions to explore Mars. It’s not the same as the space race: there have been already a number of visits to Mars. But it’s great that the interest is continuing and we will learn more about the mission as a result.

For more on this, see:  ‘We are all Martians!’: space explorers seek to solve the riddle of life on Mars | Mars | The Guardian

Image via the article.


The problem with colonizing other worlds…

The problems with colonizing other worlds can be read here:  Humans Will Never Colonize Mars.

It’s a bucket of ice water to dump on the head of anyone who optimistically thinks it will happen. It may happen, centuries from now.  More likely places like Mars will be colonized by robots that will do a lot of the activities we once expected humans to do.


What goes into a spacesuit?

Quite a lot! And it took quite a lot to figure it out! Did you know part of the mission of the space suit is just to filter out body odor? Or that the spacesuit of one astronaut can be used to help another astronaut with a failing suit? There’s lots of interesting facts about spacesuits, here: Apollo’s PLSS And The Science Of Keeping Humans Alive In Space | Hackaday


The Apollo 11 mission as told through the astronauts’ heart rates

This is fascinating: The Apollo 11 mission as told through the astronauts’ heart rates | Popular Science

Here’s Armstrong:

A good reminder that even the best prepared and most cool can still have elevated heart levels under stress.


Where are all the aliens? A guide to thinking about this.

If you have ever wondered that, then read this: Where are all the aliens? — Quartz

It brings together all the ideas behind this and describes them simply and clearly.

SpaceX tries to disrupt and partner with NASA at the same time

It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.

If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.

It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.

You too can be like Elon Musk (@elonmusk) and fund a lunar mission

Really. There is a kickstarter going on right now you can contribute to: LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone. by Lunar Missions Ltd 

The team there says….

We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions.

We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.

I think this is the most fantastic Internet project I have seen yet. I highly recommend you check it out.

Thanks to Kottke for pointing it out.

Are you planning to move to a small space? You need this list

Over at A CUP OF JO is “15 Genius Tips for Living in Small Spaces” that really are worth a read if you live in or plan to move to a small apartment or condo or dorm. It’s advice taken from a couple that live in a 250 square foot place, and they practice what they advise. 250 square feet is very small, as you can see:

And yet it looks like a beautiful space. Take a look.