Tachyons are hypothetical  particles that, through complicated mathematics, are proven to exist. Yet, there is no record of ever finding one. Nor may their ever be in our lifetimes. To understand why, let us cover some characteristics of the Tachyon:

  • Tachyons slowest speed EVER is the speed of light!
  • Tachyons do not interact with ordinary matter (you and me)
  • Tachyons travel backwards in time

These three traits of tachyons makes it near impossible for them to be detected. But let’s think about some of this for a second. The slowest speed of a tachyon is the speed of light?! Wow! It is say, that as it LOSES energy it actually speeds up! Something totally no seen in our universe. And because it travels faster than the speed of light, it travels backwards in time. So does this mean that there are tachyons that began at the end of time? Could we use them somehow to travel backwards in time? Tachyons reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: TNG where Q has intervened on Picard’s life and somehow causes him to perpetuate through three different time periods: past, present, and future. In the future, Picard notices an astronomical event that shines brightly but is relatively small. In the past, this event, still shining brightly, is much larger than in the future and in the present. It literally grows backwards in time. 

John D. Norton, from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh, purposed an thought experiment where two shuttles, A and B, are set to take off. At some point, Shuttle A is to send a tachyonic signal to Shuttle B to activate it. Shuttle B is set to send a tachyonic signal in the past to Shuttle A and detonate it, thus causing a paradox.

While, I believe what observers would see during the inception of this endeavor Shuttle A explode and Shuttle B take off. You may ask, “How in the world does that happen, when clearly, Shuttle B would never get off the ground if Shuttle A is destroyed.”

To that I say, if it happens then it already happened. Shuttle A did in fact leave and successfully sent that signal, in which Shuttle B does in fact send its, thus causing the timely demise of Shuttle A. The observers witness Shuttle B taking off to send that final destructive signal to Shuttle A.

Feel free to check out the article or comment on this one.

 

 

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Astrowright

A little less than a year ago, the  National Geographic Channel (NatGeo) executed a truly novel crowdsourcing initiative that I feel is deserving of greater critical attention.

Hailed by some as innovative public engagement, derided by cynics as mere marketing spectacle, and condemned by others as a threat to our very way of life, hindsight suggests that this bold and yet somewhat understated event may have been the most significant contribution of the entire (and much maligned)television project.

The Wow! Reply

Specifically, the initiative’s concept was to solicit tweets from the public, collect and compress them into a digital package, and then “beam” the collective message into space as a potential reply to the famed, so-called “Wow! Signal.”

[The Wow! Signal refers to a 72-second-long radio signal picked up momentarily by SETI’s Big Ear radio telescope in Ohio on August 15, 1977.  As an enigmatic…

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I have come across those that are not interested in science or are interested, but would like not to stray too far into the depth of it due to the implications of some theories, such as multiworld (or multiverse) theory or the theories of how the universe will end. With those people in mind I have three very cool theories that are truly awesome, aren’t depressing,  and doesn’t require a PhD.

Dyson Sphere

Image of Dyson Spere

You know how there are people concerned over using fossil fuels and advocate using clean, free, renewable energy? Well, the buck stops here. The Sun is all the clean, free, renewable energy everybody can ask for, literally! Let us consider this for a moment. Our Sun is a ba-jillion ba-jillion times bigger than our planet (really, its diameter is just 109 times larger than the Earth’s, read more). But what is it exact? A ball of raging fire? Yes. Something that we can see, but can’t really look at? Yes. The big yellow thing in the sky? Yes.

In addition to all those things, the Sun is the result of a constant battle between two things that are cancelling each other out. And believe me it is one heck of a fight! Could you guess what the two contenders are? If you said gravity and explosions then you’re right! Inside the Sun, a few things are happening, but the thing happening most is nuclear fission.

Nuclear fission is the splitting of atoms into their constituent parts. This splitting causes an explosion that releases huge amounts of energy. Well, what started the nuclear fission in the first place? I’m glad you asked. The answer is gravity.

Picture, for a moment, empty space with stars littering the background. Now, imagine a cloud of dust floating about. Lets make this cloud really gigantic. Over time the tiny particles of dust will be moving,  rub up against each other, slow down, and start to congregate. The more stuff there is the more attraction there is. So as more and more dust pile up the higher pressure builds in the center of the dust cloud until things start getting really hot. The heat and pressure is what causes atoms to split and release that huge, gigantic amount of energy. Since the Sun is made up of so much stuff it has gravity that tries to pull everything it’s made of towards the center. This constant outward pushing of the explosions and pulling of gravity is cancelling each other out. This is what goes on every second of every day. The state our Sun is in is called equilibrium. Neither gravity, nor fission are winning. The explosion is pushing out and then being held in place by the immense gravity of itself. It’s like capturing an explosion in glass.

Image of the interior of a Dyson SphereI can go on and on about our star forever…I digress. So, a Dyson Sphere is a sphere built around a star for the purpose of collecting all of its energy output, a total of 384.6 yottawatts (3.846 × 1026 watts). If you think about it that’s a lot of energy! Another great thing about the Sun is it’s always on. If there was a way to collect all of the energy that, right now, is being wasted away there would be no telling of the things humanity could do. There would be no shortage of energy, no more fossil fuel, or primitive things like that. A civilization would thrive for millennia with the only thing to worry about is the self destruction that plagues all intelligent life.

Dyson spheres have several different deviations: Dyson shell ( which I refer to here), Dyson bubble, Dyson swam, and a Dyson ring.

(also see Space Gun, Space Fountain, Space Shaft)

Up Next Part II Misner Space

Image via Nasa.gov

SpaceX’s little-rocket-that-could did on May 31 docking with the InternationalSpace Station bring food and supplies to the astronauts there. The South African born Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, PayPay, and
Telsa Motors, mentioned that a trip to Mars using reusable fuel, and housing a complete life support system, may be impossible. But is it really that arduous to send human beings to the Red Planet? I mean just put some people in a box, throw it on a rocket, aim, and fire, right? Wrong. Let us consider why that would be.

Houston We Have A Problem

Image by biomatter

Getting humans, or anything else for that matter, to Mars is a tricky matter. The culprit is gravity. What is gravity, you ask? Well, that is a bit tricky to explain, but here goes…

Gravity is the deformation of spacetime. Spacetime is space and time combined (duh, right?). All forms of matter warp time and space, from the Earth to the mosquito. Matter, you, me, your computer, we all shape space somehow. We all have an attractive force associated with us. So why aren’t you attracting anything when you reach out your hand? Well, that is because your attraction is so small that it is neglectable. Grow a billion times bigger then it will be a different story!

So the Earth keeps us from leaving it completely unless we get to moving really fast. Only then are we capable of breaking her grasp . Sounds easy, right? Well, try moving at 7 kilometers a second! Just to put things into perspective, a speeding bullet moves at 320 meters a second. Yup, that’s right. And from this you can surmise that rockets outrun bullets (really? Yes, really).

To obtain that speed we need a rocket. And rockets need fuel. A lot of fuel. And a lot of fuel gets heavy. And heaviness slows down our rocket. So we need more fuel to push our heavier rocket. This makes it more heavier. So we need more fuel. You get the idea.

The best way to avoid this endless cycle is to dramatically reduce the weight. This happens in two ways. First, the fuel pushing the rocket is being consumed, and thus, magically disappears. Secondly, the fuel container that is carrying the fuel, usually referred to as a stage, is detached from the rocket once the fuel is depleted (if applicable).

Now, equate the amount of fuel needed to transverse the hundreds of thousands of miles one would need to travel from Earth to Mars. How far is Mars from Earth, you ask? Good question.  The distance between Mars and Earth range from 401 million miles at its furthers to 56 million miles at its closest, with the average distance being 225 million miles. We need a really big fuel container for this trip! Or we could visit fuel stations along the way.

The question is…”What fuel stations?” There are none. Options are to build some or to use the stuff that’s already out there. Hmmm…let us consider this for a moment. Fuel stations can be considered as  International Space Stations that deliver a bunch of fuel. The ISS, alone,  cost over a billion dollars to construct and maintain. Could a government afford to build and maintain multiple ISSs? Could nations agree on the stipulations a project of that magnitude would require? …yeah…right. I wouldn’t hold my breathe. Not to mention where they would get the fuel from to refuel those stations AND  how to deal with the cost of  delivery.

How about using what is already out there, sounds good? No, not really. What is out there besides…space?

Paradoxically, empty space is everything, but empty. There are atoms and other particles floating around out there. Photons traveling the speed of light on there way somewhere. There are even virtual particles that pop in and out of  existence, all the time. So in effect, the emptiness of space is buzzing with activity. Maybe we could use some of these?

Getting To Mars

Light Sail

Remember those photons that are out there traveling at the speed of light? Come to find out, they could be used to push a ship, space vehicle, or any other device we attach a photoreactive sail to, almost the speed of light, albeit, at a very slow rate. Fuel would be provide by a laser or photon beam. Fuel problem: solved. 

Ion Drive Engine

Ion drives are extremely effective in space. They work by accelerating ions and pushing them away from the engine, which pushes back creating propulsion. Ion drives are capable of reaching high velocities. This would make a really good choice for interstellar travel.

Actually, both are really good choices for interstellar travel, but Mars is far from interstellar. So, would we really use the above methods to cruise to the Red Planet? Not exactly. The speed to which the light sail and ion thrust obtain initially is rather slow. In fact, too slow to be a feasible method to send astronauts anywhere, locally.

Okay, So We’ll Use Conventional Rocket

Back to the drawing board. Using conventional rockets to get to Mars. Whipdee Doo (not really exciting). We still have the problem of fuel, storage, and all that jazz. But let’s assume we have an answer to that problem. The next thing to consider is how are human beings expected to live in a box in the middle of nowhere? How are they to eat, breathe, cohabitate?  How do they deal with emotional relationships that may form? What happens when one gets pregnant on the way to Mars? We’ll leave that to the policy makers and focus a bit on the life support systems.

Life support systems are needed to sustain life. There would have to be systems in place to create breathable air. You may know already that this is done by sending electricity through water separating the hydrogen molecules from the oxygen ones (if you didn’t, now you do. New noodle!). Monsi Roman,  chief microbiologist for the ECLSS project at MSFC, states:

“Eventually, it would be great if we could use plants to (produce oxygen) for us. The byproduct of plants doing this for us is food.”

Well, it can be argued they have a working system and they could adopt the methods employed in the ISS and incorporate them into the space vehicle. Easier said then done, really. Don’t forget the added weight of the system, the redundant system supports, and the energy source to power everything.

Putting it altogether, and slingshoting  it out towards Mars, is the challenge Elon Musk, SpaceX, and everyone else, face.

Can it be done? I believe so.

In our lifetime? I believe so.

Will I go to Mars on vacations? I believe so.

Will it be like the movie Total Recall? I hope so.

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