Nikola Tesla, the man who invented the future.
In January of 2008, Studio 360 put together a remarkable show about Tesla. Everything from his scientific method, his long friendship with Mark Twain, his fight with Edison to his eerie relationship with a white dove at the New York Hotel where he died (and was possibly assassinated - Chris would not let this go unmentioned.)
But one of my favorite moments of the show is when playwright Mike Daisey performs part of his one man show about Tesla, where Tesla discusses his Death Ray. Tesla believed that the Death Ray would bring world piece, because if every country had one, mutually assured destruction would keep everyone friendly.
And for another take on Tesla, read "Home Again, Home Again," by Cory Doctorow, where a boy meets an immortal Tesla in a future Toronto.
And run an aget Matt Fraction's Five Fists of Science.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Here we go:
1. The newest way to get out of a damaged shuttle looks like a lot of fun and it could work.
2. How green was your Precambian? Pretty green.
3. Old Woman River - the Amazon is 11 million years old.
4. Monkeys can recognize bad grammar, but will they correct each other?
5. Urine as a clean power source.
6. Sperm travels faster when chicks are hot - especially when you're a red jungle fowl.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, is incredibly humble and was potentially the best pilot that has ever lived. You'll hear a lot about Neil this month, but this little info-bite from the BBC is possibly the most wonderful:
And then there is Armstrong's apparent eccentricity.
"The music he took on the mission to the Moon was deeply eccentric," says Andrew Smith. "Most astronauts took one classical piece, and one country and western.
"Armstrong took Dvorak's New World Symphony. But the other was theremin music - that eerie, wavy sound associated with sci-fi movies that goes 'woo woo'. On one hand it was the most perfect thing he could take, on the other it is massively eccentric - and that's kind of him."
So, when we do finally go Mars, I think we have the new rover.
Project Nomad by Canadian designer Jason Battersby, is the dream of every 80's kid who wanted a Battlecat.
Picture this mechanized cat jumping, stalking and running down Martian antelope game. Just give me another two ft in height, green skin, a couple tusks and another set of arms and call me Tars Tarkas.
The concept is that the vehicle would eat grass/algae/dung/road kill to power itself. I love it, but to make it through the first few decades of terraforming on Mars, it will probably need to a fuel source, probably bio-waste/algae growth from the founding colonies.
With a partial atmosphere already, maybe the exhaust could be used as part of a terraforming project, like the giant nuclear steam trains of Ian McDonald's 'Desolation Road."
When the first rains fall along the northern Martian plains, and altered gorse and sage grass takes hold, this cyber predator will be carrying the first nomads across a marvelous desolation.
And then they'll go feral.
Found via coroflot
Monday, July 6, 2009
We're just two weeks away from the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and tv, magazines, radio and newspapers are starting to capitalize on it.
Don't get me wrong, July 20 1969 is one of the most profound moments in human history. Not only did we send two men to lunar the lunar surface for the first time, but we did it live on tv with over 600 million people watching.
The promise of the Apollo program inspired a generation of engineers, scientists and explorers to push beyond, to push further. Millions of people looked at the moon and KNEW that the space age was coming.
But after Apollo 11, people got bored, started changing the channel and didn't care anymore because the Russians couldn't match the US trick. And after Apollo 17, with it's moon buggy and three days of scientific discovery on the Moon, the whole program was shut down.
Instead of pushing out for the territories, like uber-engineers Von Braun and Korolev craved, the manned missions stayed in the suburbs of low earth orbit. The Eastern and Western space consortium's abandoned any plans of humans getting back to the moon or going out to Mars.
We now send robots out to the frontier.
Is this wrong? I don't know. Sure, it's astounding that people were on the moon. I get emotional when I watch all of the moon landings, and whenever I tune in to the launch of a Soyuz capsule or a shuttle, I go a little numb. I still have one of the many maps of the moon I drew when I was thirteen, and to this day I recite the lunar oceans to myself when I catch a glimpse of Luna in the early evening skies.
And my only true piece of lunar memorabilia is an autographed picture of Astronaut Jim Irwin, lunar module pilot for Apollo 15. Yes, Jim came back to Earth and became a raving evangelical who tried to find Noah's Ark, but if he hadn't, my preacher grandfather would have never gotten me this picture.
But, manned missions are expensive, and with the last thirty years being dominated by that flying brick of a compromise, the space shuttle, it's easy to see why manned space went away. The best science has been gathered by the science robots - Viking, Voyager, Hubble, Cassini and the hero rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to name a few. And with every robotic mission, we learn how to build better automated explorers. The future of space is robotic.
Even with the new space ports being developed, Virgin Galactic getting ready to take off, and India, China and Japan stepping up their programs, it will be a long time until people are in space in a big way. NASA is scaling back even further, with Obama looking at a restructuring of the organization. And although Russia is now the premier launcher of people and product into space, Baikonur Cosmodrome is still a rough Cold War settlement in Kazakhstan.
Still, I hope every day that eventually we'll go to space for more than a few days on the lunar surface of a half-year lock-up on the space station. To homestead on a foreign surface or settle down in hard vacuum is still a dream. It could still happen.
Until then I'll hold on to my moon maps and astronaut signatures, and look up at the oceans of the moon.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Check, check. Is this blog still on?
Here's the Six for Science Countdown:
6. Early steps on the road to bringing back the extinct Moa.
5. "Diamond Dust" snow falls nightly on Mars - more new from the Phoenix.
4. Shrinking sheep in Scotland blamed on evolution and climate change.
3. Super-predator salamander hybrids are getting ready to take over California.
2. New pictures from the Moon thanks to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
And number one on the Six for Science Countdown is ROBOTIC HUMMINGBIRDS!