Category Archives: Curiosity

Curiosity and Terraforming Mars

We are human and we have a tendency to anthropomorphize everything. So, that little robot-science lab on wheels that is wandering around Mars makes it almost seem as if we have a person on Mars. Curiosity is cute; it has one of the same eyes as Wall-E who had a delightful personality. By association we also suppose that Curiosity is equally delightful. Wall-E, of course, skewed male, while Curiosity has been presented, so far, as androgynous, making it difficult to choose an anthropomorphic pronoun. Whatever sex is assigned to Curiosity, I have decided to think of her as a “she” because I can. As I go through my day I sometimes remember that our little Curiosity is traveling ever so slowly over the landscape on MARS! She is constantly taking photos that she sends back to earth and she is sampling the materials on the surface of Mars to send us data about the chemistry of the Martian surface. And like Wall-E’s girlfriend Eva, she is looking for any signs that there ever was or that there is now life on Mars.

Curiosity’s newest photos show that water, good old H2O once ran over the Martian landscape although she has not found any actual water. Photos show configurations that we know from long observation represent streambeds or trails carved by running water. There are rocks in the photos that show that the sedimentary action of water has acted on the Martian landscape at some time. This is all very encouraging to scientist who have long been discussing terraforming Mars.

Scientists believe that we could turn the thin Martian atmosphere thicker by purposely doing things we have done by accident which have thickened our earth atmosphere, or in other words by emitting greenhouse gases into the Martian atmosphere. Once a thick atmosphere was created we would use mirrors in orbit around the planet to melt the poles so they could release their water to fill the depressions on the Mars surface. We would then find a water cycle of evaporation and precipitation developing, after which pioneering life forms like mosses could be introduced and encouraged to cover the surface of Mars. You can see a demo of terraforming in this youtube video.

The ideas for terraforming Mars have been around for several decades now. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a fictional Mars trilogy to help us picture the possibilities. Red Mars, Blue Mars and Green Mars, the three volumes in the trilogy create a set of Martian pioneer people who take us through the three stages of terraforming and the human drama that might accompany such an endeavor.

We may succeed in terraforming Mars or not but it always helps humans to strive for something beyond, something that stretches our minds and our talents and gives us a sense of some control over a massive and possibly indifferent universe.

Spacey Again

I don’t know why space fascinates me. It’s scary. It’s infinitely infinite. It makes me feel like an ant. It is also so beautiful it takes your breath away and it holds out possibilities that are equally breathtaking. It makes us think deep thoughts; how did we get here, are we alone. It makes us hope there is a God.

I don’t want to go there. I do not have that gene that makes me crave edgy adventure. But I watch avidly whenever we send something or, with even more excitement, whenever we send someone, into space.

Recently physicists announced that they had finally isolated the Higgs boson. It was produced in Switzerland by colliding two protons (in the Hadron Collider). The Higgs particle decays very quickly which is why it has been, and continues to be, so elusive. To most of us the significance of this scientific discovery sounds sort of like; something, something, dark matter; blah, blah, gives matter its mass; yada, yada, the God Particle, or, as someone said, “the Godless particle” because, apparently it offers an explanation that shows a scientific basis for how the Big Bang could work without God.
http://m.startribune/opinion/?id=161956395
Jeffrey Weiss, “The Godless Particle

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Scientists have long believed that there are multiple universes. Although my mind is totally boggled by the size of one universe; I am being asked to fit my brain around the knowledge that there is more than one universe. My mind is still digesting the existence of multiple galaxies. However, intellectually I comprehend what scientists are saying. Conceptually it makes my brain hurt to try to picture it. But anyway, here’s what they had to say:

In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at arXiv.org, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist.

The idea that there are many other universes out there is not new, as scientists have previously suggested that we live in a “multiverse” consisting of an infinite number of universes. The multiverse concept stems from the idea of eternal inflation, in which the inflationary period that our universe went through right after the Big Bang was just one of many inflationary periods that different parts of space were and are still undergoing. When one part of space undergoes one of these dramatic growth spurts, it balloons into its own universe with its own physical properties. As its name suggests, eternal inflation occurs an infinite number of times, creating an infinite number of universes, resulting in the multiverse.
These infinite universes are sometimes called bubble universes even though they are irregular-shaped, not round. The bubble universes can move around and occasionally collide with other bubble universes.

http://phys.org/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

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On August 5th a new Mars Rover called Curiosity will land on Mars, we hope. It will be observed by the Odyssey, an array in the sky over Mars. Odyssey was having some difficulties, but has apparently been repaired so we are still hopeful that we will be able to watch Curiosity land.

Curiosity will explore this unusual Mars mountain:
These photos are from the Christian Science Monitor
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We have to say good-bye to Sally Ride who left us this week. She was the first woman in space.

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I will leave you out in space with this very beautiful photo of two galaxies.