11.30.2012

November 30, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


This week’s space and alien news is actually completely chock full of both space and aliens – and a little bit of North Korea, but if it isn’t China it has to be someone.  We have space tourism, Mars colonies, nuclear-powered space travel, and a widened definition of areas that might contain life. There’s also a rather mad cap way to track advanced alien civilizations, but that just contributes to the overall tone of awesome science has this week.

Using Nuclear Energy in Space – Who’d’ve Thought?: Having some sort of nuclear energy in a space ship to power intergalactic, or, at least, inter-solar system flight isn’t a new concept. In fact, Dr. Robert Bussard – the genius who thought up many of the once-fictional advanced technology in the original Star Trek series got pretty far into developing it before he died. Now that dream is beginning to be successfully resurrected. The DUFF – Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions – generated 24 watts of electricity in a nuclear reactor, and that’s a good first try for our upcoming Mars colonies.

Because Mars Colonies Are Still on the Agenda: Remember that Mars One colony idea that came out of the blue over the summer? SpaceX decided to get fully on the bandwagon. The company’s CEO Elon Musk is starting to plan out all the components for a Mars colony that would start at fewer than ten people but eventually grow to 80,000 people. It might be a bit before all of this is possible, but that just gives each of us time to get together the $500,000 to buy our tickets.

Space Tourism Is, Too: Space tourism has simultaneously been the most awesome and the most horrifying idea to hit science fiction since extraterrestrial life. Yes, it would be incredible to see sunlight creep around the edge of the earth, but the moon wouldn’t be improved by a glowing McDonald’s ‘M.’ Regardless of which side of that particular debate you might lean toward, space tourism is quickly approaching, and it’s in the form of a massive balloon. By 2014, Spain’s Zero 2 Infinity company will be lifting people 36 kilometers into space, high enough to see the curve of the Earth and the blackness of space. The price tag? $143,000, and the mountain of resultant debt is actually almost worth it.

Tracking Aliens by Their Terraforming: This is such an interesting idea that I’m barely going to give it any flack about people modeling alien behavior on human behavior that hasn’t even manifested yet, when there is only an infinitesimal chance of aliens being anything like us (on top of the resounding lack of evidence of there being aliens anywhere thus far). The idea is that humans will one day terraform planets, like Mars, that have next to no atmosphere and we’ll probably use artificial greenhouse gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). So, they say, the chance might be good that other advanced civilizations that were forced to populate on other planets would do the same, and that we could sweep the universe for CFCs to look for these aliens. While kind of a reach, especially when we have all of these cool and legitimate things to work on like space colonies and research into rogue planets, it’s an entertaining thought.

Aliens That Are a Bit More Likely: In our little section of space, the aliens we’re more likely to find are the ones that can survive in really, really cold temperatures under the planets surface, and for the longest time scientists weren’t too sure that life could do that. However, we’ve found a hub of thriving microbial life deep in the unlikely location of Antarctic ice – and by unlikely, I mean it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is full of salt and iron, and the area hasn’t seen the surface of the Earth for over 2,500 years. This means that virtually any planet, despite its potential ice-covered nature or distance from the sun, can house life as long as it has water. 

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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.17.2012

Space and Eternity


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

November 17, 2012: Space and Alien News


Amino Acids in Space Rocks?: The hunt for extraterrestrial life doesn't just mean checking out Mars for water samples. NASA is also getting ready to test out rocks from outer planets’ moons, and Kuiper Belt Objects. Rocks from places this far off would hopefully have significantly less or, better yet, no contamination. Using a liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer to observe the chirality of amino acids, or if they have superimposed mirror images, NASA’s Stephanie Getty might just answer the question about extraterrestrial life before Curiosity does.

Water Wars in Space: Water is phenomenally useful in pretty much all circumstances imaginable. Out in space, though, it might be even more useful, as water can be used for fuel, air, and drinking water, and it’s an easy thing to get and carry if there’s not a whole lot of gravity surrounding it – like on the moon. As long-term space travel is lowly becoming a more and more viable idea, there’s going to be an increasingly large amount of money for people who can provide much-needed resources. So Astrobiotic and others are creating a bit of a ‘water rush’ to see who can (1) get to the moon, (2) find the frozen water, and (3) claim it before anything else. We can probably expect this to result in all sorts of legal problems in the future, so it will be interesting

Mars May Have Life… Again: I know I wasn’t going to comment about the possibility of life on Mars until something approaching certainty came about but this is a new avenue, at least in the past few months, that’s a bit interesting. Mars’s impact craters have hydrothermal fractures around them, implying that Mars once had water warm enough to support microbial life kind of like that at Yellowstone Park. Also, through studying Martian meteorites that came to Earth, scientists can analyze parts of the history of Mars’s eventual cool down over time

Mars May Have Life… Again, 2.0: Geologically speaking, Mars has had a lot of recent water activity. A series of thawings and freezings has drastically affected Mars’s surface, and these cycles, like pretty much everything that we learn about Mars, could point to the potential for life having been sustained on Mars. But, like usual, there’s nothing definite either way. There are, however, distinct similarities between bits of Mars and an archipelago in the Arctic called Svalbard, so at least something definite was found.
Found: One Rogue Planet: There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the idea of rogue planets, as we had never found one for certain—at least one that could be positively identified as a planet instead of a brown dwarf. But our new planetary discovery, CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9, is free-floating, about 100 light-years away, and slightly glows. Now that rogue planets are known to exist, science can get down to answering the interesting questions about them: if they’re planets that have just been thrown from the star they used to orbit or are just lone objects, if there are lots of ‘orphaned worlds,’ and a bit more of the physics in the universe.


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.16.2012

TED John Hodgman: Where are They?


Here's a hilarious video from TED of John Hodgman, famous for his role as the PC in Apple's "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" advertisements and well known as a true geek. He's also known as one of the "experts" on The Daily Show with John Stewart and routinely appears to offer his hilarious insights.

It's not often that you see a really funny video on aliens and John Hodgman delivers. In this video, Hodgman humorously dissects Fermi's Paradox and gives tells several humorous tales of his own “close encounters.” Overall a fantastic video and definitely worth a watch.

Also, if for some reason you can't get the video to work, you can always click here to go to TED and download the audio completely free. While you're there, go ahead and checkout some other great TED videos or click here for to see a TED video we've talked about already.

Additionally, you can click here to purchase John Hodgman's humorous book, The Areas of My Expertise, or click here to get the book in audio version.

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

11.12.2012

November 12, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


This week’s space and alien news is a pretty optimistic collection of pieces. While there are no aliens yet, there are more Earth-like planets that might host life (whether it be humans or extraterrestrials). There is also all sorts of space, like the implementation of ideas that make future long-term space travel possible, the reminder that there’s been a human in space for the past twelve years, and hope that we might actually go back to the moon relatively soon.
 
Studying Space Neutrons: Space has radiation, which, at this point in time, is hardly new knowledge. But scientists don’t really know that much about space radiation specifically, let alone how to block it for future long-term space missions. In order to better study the effects of space radiation, NASA is refocusing on neutrons through the ANS, or Advanced Neutron Spectrometer. Neutrons are usually hard to study, being as how they’re electrically neutral and don’t set off the majority of devices used to study other phenomena, but hopefully NASA will make progress with this specially designed isotopic lithium sensor.
 
WWW, Meet DTN: While the above radiation issue certainly puts a damper on space travel, another problem is the lack of Internet and communication ability in space. But NASA and the ESA have been looking for an answer to this, and NASA’s Disruption Tolerant Networking has been successfully used to connect the International Space Station to Germany. There’s still a lot more testing to go, seeing as how this won’t exactly be an Internet that can drop without potentially killing people or wrecking missions worth millions of dollars, but so far, so good.
 
A More Earth-Like Alien Earth: New planets are being found all over the place. And, as our telescopes and planet-sensing formulae improve, a growing number of those have been specified as in the habitable zone. This means that they have the potential for Earth-like climates and Earth-like living conditions, and also might have alien life. None of that has really been pinned down for sure yet, but there are two planets that are both in the habitable zone and far enough away from their sun to have days and nights. The particular planet in the article is just 42 light-years away – not exactly a distance we’re capable of doing anything with right now, but certainly closer Kepler 22d at 600 light years away, which is the only other planet we know of with the same conditions.
 
We Might Actually Make It Back to the Moon: I’m skeptical. NASA’s funding for Mars has been increasingly shaky in the last couple of years, and we’ve all heard promises about going back to the moon first. But maybe, just maybe, NASA will have a manned outpost just beyond the moon. Not only would this establish a permanent human presence further out in space, it keeps the momentum going for our potential manned exploration of an asteroid in 13 years. But I’ll believe it when I see it (or if SpaceX says they’ll do it).
 
Best Space App Ever: It’s increasingly wonderful when space and science become increasingly popular through regular media and news. And while this by no means tops live YouTube coverage of high school science experiments in outer space, having an app that’ll text you when the International Space Station is right over you is definitely up there. 90% of the population on Earth can see the ISS pretty frequently; we just never notice it since it looks kind of like a star. And creating convenient and direct reminders that there are people out in space – and one person or another has been out in space for the last 12 years – is pretty useful. To sign up for the automatic texts through “Spot the Station,” just click here.

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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.04.2012

November 5, 2012: This Week's Alien and Space News


November kicked off with a lot of space action. SpaceX, NASA, and ESA are all
planning or doing some pretty spectacular things in space, from captaining the first stages of commercial space flight, studying the sun’s nanoflares, and looking for some more planets. Of course, space itself is pretty busy, too, what with asteroid belts having to be sized just right to allow for life and Titan deciding to glow in the dark.


SpaceX Passes Third Milestone: I’m not quite sure what all space-readiness entails, but it’s bound to be fairly rigorous. Throw in NASA (hopefully) trying to stretch its money for maximum output, and SpaceX better be able to prove itself. Luckily, it has. With its run of recent successes, SpaceX is now leading NASA’s Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. Someday soon, especially since SpaceX is moving faster than NASA has since the ’60s, there will be spaceflight for both governments and paying customers.
 
Where the Tiny Things Are: NASA’s FOXSI mission will launch soon in order to give the sun a good look-over. The mission, Focusing Optics X-Ray Solar Imager, is going to get a more complete picture of solar flares. Not sunspots or massive flares – they’re cool, but we understand them to some small extent and people are already studying them – but nanoflares, which occur much more frequently and which we can barely see. Nobody knows if these nanoflares cause the bigger flares or if they’re part of the reason why the sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface, but we might after FOXSI does its thing.

You Can’t Get Panspermia Without the Right Kind of Apocalypse?: Asteroids are usually fairly nasty things. We live in perpetual fear of extinction, and dinosaurs did go extinct. But they have they’re good points, too, such as bringing about life. An increasing number of scientists think that asteroids crash-landing on Earth might have brought the organic material that eventually evolved into life as we know it. So while asteroid and asteroid belts could destroy us at virtually any moment, it’s potentially thanks to a couple of their fellows that we’re here to get smashed. And a couple of NASA scientists have applied this idea to the search for extraterrestrial life: not only do planets have to be at the right temperature with the right water levels and atmosphere to house life we might recognize, but they have to be surrounded by just the right kind of asteroid belt, not too big and not too small. I guess Goldilocks really does apply.

Titan Glows and It’s Not Because of the Sun: Scientists expected Titan to potentially glow in the dark: ultraviolet light can excite particles enough to do that. Magnetic fields can also add a bit of a shine, like in our own aurora borealis. And Titan does glow a little bit because of this. But there is a deeper glow in Titan’s atmosphere, too far down to be caused by the sun or magnetic field alone, and scientists think there’re some interesting organic chemistry reactions going on that makes this light happen. Titan has long since a spot on the list of places that could house life due to a thick atmosphere and already present organic materials, and this just makes the moon that much more interesting.

Europe Goes Planet Hunting: It’s not just NASA and SpaceX up in space. The European Space Agency plans on launching a satellite in 2017 that can better find planets in other solar systems. Cheops, or CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite, will be searching for exoplanets around stars already known to have planets, since it’s likely that there will be more than just one per star. Cheops will also be searching for exoplanets with strong atmospheres, seeing as how all the life we know of tends to rely on them.
 
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

Self-Sufficiency in Space


It's pretty much Space Travel 101: getting anything into space is incredibly expensive. With it costing more than $4,000 to get each pound of equipment just into orbit – and even more to get that same weight out of orbit – it makes sense to look for any possible way of decreasing weight. Unfortunately, any long-term space flights – think longer than 2 years – are going to require a huge amount of supplies, and while it might not be too difficult to resupply something like a space-station, resupplying a crew zipping to Europa or even just staying on Mars is going to require some serious planning.

But what if they don't need additional resources? What if they're fully self-sufficient?

This is by no means an original idea. Scientists have been throwing around the idea since we've been in space and sci-fi writers have been playing with it even longer. Stephen Baxter, H. G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke are just a few of the dozens of writers that have toyed with the idea. Even the children television series Power Rangers has displayed self-sufficient spaceships.

And the idea doesn't really seem all that complicated. Basically, the goal would be to recreate some sort of Earth-style biome, preferably a comfortable one, complete with every important organism necessary for the continued existence of every other important organism, as well as having any and all necessary chemicals somehow available in the environment.

Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done. The sheer number of organisms it takes and mechanisms required for long term human survival is staggering. Add in to that the often difficult-to-predict effects of various human built objects and the problem becomes even more complex.

This hasn't stopped scientists from attempting it, though. Biosphere 2, the largest closed system ever built, was used in a set of experiments to determine if it was possible to replicate an environment conducive to life while maintaining self-sufficiency. 

The following video is a wonderful TED Talk about the difficulties faced by the participants in the Biosphere 2 experiments and the overall outcome. Definitely worth a quick watch.




If you can't watch the video, one of the participants who spent two years in Biosphere 2 basically explains that even though they had attempted to cover absolutely any problem without having to pump in additional chemicals, oxygen within the structure continued to decrease, leading to several health problems.

But what do you think? Is self sufficiency in space really so important? Is Biosphere 2 the best way to attempt to recreate a biome? Tell us in the comments!

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

11.03.2012

Alien Contact



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 Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would be probably considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

11.02.2012

The Creative Conquest of Space


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.

Space is Vast, Huge, and Mind-Boggling


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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.