Tags: tech

SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station

I love Space X. I got on the computer and this morning to see this wonderful article about the Falcon 5 rocket and Dragon capsule. The rocket's second stage is carrying ashes from 308 people, including James Doohan, "Scotty," and Gordon Cooper, the Mercury program astronaut. Wow! Go Team Space Flight!

When I see progress like this being made I get all tearie-eyed. Partly, I think, because Fire in the Sky by Kristoph Klover is so ingrained in my heart - I get chills every time I hear it and I remember all that has gone before, including the dreamers. None of this could have happened without someone dreaming about it first.

Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me

What a great morning!

Cyborgs Needed For Escape From Earth

Cyborgs Needed For Escape From Earth

The image shows an artist's rendition of a future base on Mars. A manned-Mars mission would take require astronauts being in space for more than a year. Currently, there isn't enough research to know what long-term deep space travel would do to astronaut health. Credit: John J. Olson
by Anuradha K. Herath
for Astrobiology Magazine
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Sep 17, 2010
Scientists have warned for decades that humans are straining the Earth. The global population is increasing, economies are expanding and consumption doesn't appear to be slowing.

While save-the-planet campaigns are asking people to save energy, conserve water, recycle and even go vegetarian, some scientists are thinking literally out of this world by suggesting that humans may eventually have to consider leaving Earth if they are to survive as a species.

In the September issue of Endeavour, senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Roger Launius takes a look at the historical debate surrounding human colonization of the solar system and how human biology will have to adapt to such extreme space environments.

Colonizing the Solar System
Experiments have shown that certain life forms can survive in space. Recently, British scientists found that bacteria living on rocks taken from Britain's Beer village were able to survive 553 days in space, on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS). The microbes returned to Earth alive, proving they could withstand the harsh environment.

Humans, on the other hand, are unable to survive beyond about a minute and a half in space without significant technological assistance. Other than some quick trips to the moon and the ISS, astronauts haven't spent too much time too far away from Earth. Scientists don't know enough yet about the dangers of long-distance space travel on human biological systems.

A one-way trip to Mars, for example, would take approximately six months. That means astronauts will be in deep space for more than a year with potentially life-threatening consequences.

"If it's about exploration, we're doing that very effectively with robots," Launius said. "If it's about humans going somewhere, then I think the only purpose for it is to get off this planet and become a multi-planetary species."

Launius isn't the only person who envisions humans leaving Earth. Acclaimed British physicist Stephen Hawking recently discussed his own thoughts on how the human race would survive.

"I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," Hawking told the Big Think website in August. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet."

If humans are to colonize other planets, Launius said it could well require the "next state of human evolution" to create a separate human presence where families will live and die on that planet. In other words, it wouldn't really be Homo sapien sapiens that would be living in the colonies, it could be cyborgs-a living organism with a mixture of organic and electromechanical parts-or in simpler terms, part human, part machine.

To Be a Cyborg
By definition, cyborgs are not a thing of the future, but very much a thing of the present. Launius classifies himself as a cyborg because he relies on medical technology to sustain and enhance his life.

"There are cyborgs walking about us," Launius said. "There are individuals who have been technologically enhanced with things such as pacemakers and cochlea ear implants that allow those people to have fuller lives. I would not be alive without technological advances."

The possibility of using cyborgs for space travel has been the subject of research for at least half a century. An influential article published in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline titled "Cyborgs and Space" changed the debate.

According to them, there was a better alternative to recreating the Earth's environment in space, the predominant thinking during that time. The two scientists compared that approach to "a fish taking a small quantity of water along with him to live on land." They felt that humans should be willing to partially adapt to the environment to which they would be traveling.

"Altering man's bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space," Clynes and Kline wrote.

Even though it may be both logically and technologically possible, the ethical question is whether it should be done.

"It does raise profound ethical, moral and perhaps even religious questions that haven't been seriously addressed," Launius said. "We have a ways to go before that happens."

Grant Gillett, a professor of medical ethics at the Otago Bioethics Center of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand said addressing the ethical issue is really about justifying the need for such an approach, the need for altering humans so significantly that they end up not entirely human in the end.

"(Whether we) should do it largely depends on if it's important enough for humanity in general," Gillett said. "To some extent, that's the justification."

The greater concern, according to Gillett, is that the cyborgs will likely only have a simulation of human behavior. What is important, he said, is not what the cyborgs are made up of but what types of moral sensibilities and intuitions are built in. And there is really no way of knowing for sure or even of making reasonable guesses without doing a lot more work on the moral nature of humans.

"I think the danger is that we might end up producing a psychopath because we don't quite understand the nature of cyborgs," Gillett said.

The Future of Cyborgs
At first, as Launius points out in his article, NASA did support this field of research, but that interest lasted for less than a decade. By the late 1960s, the agency had distanced itself from the topic. For one, the technology was not available at that time. However, some scientists think the problem was more about public image.

Would the American public of that decade-one that was arguably obsessed with the space program and idolized astronauts-have accepted the "cyborgization of (the) astronaut corps"?

NASA still isn't focusing much research on how to improve human biological systems for space exploration. Instead, its Human Research Program is focused on risk reduction: risks of fatigue, inadequate nutrition, health problems and radiation.

While financial and ethical concerns may have held back cyborg research, Launius believes that society may have to engage in the cyborg debate again when space programs get closer to launching long-term deep space exploration missions.

"If our objective is to become space-faring people, it's probably going to force you to reconsider how to reengineer humans,' Launius said.


I <3 Dropbox!

I have a New Best Thing.  It's dropbox! 

Dropbox is online storage for files, photos, music, and video.  I've been toting around a flash drive containing all my novel files and information because I work off of too many different computers.  I am constantly worried about it breaking or accidentally deleting something (like I did with a chapter in March *grrrr*) or loosing it or forgetting it at work or . . .

Dropbox takes care of all of that.  You can work directly off of their servers (once you put your files there) or install dropbox on all of the computers you work on.  Your files are automatically updated.  A 30 day record is kept of all your changes and deletions in case you need to go back or you screwed up something.  Like say, you accidentally deleted a chapter because the touch pad on your netbook is too sensitive *grrr*.

There is also a sharing feature, both public and private.  Folks invited to private sharing can work on the shared files.  Everyone with rights to that shared folder are able to see what changes have been made.  This is great for group projects or criticing.

I've already loaded up my current data that I'm scared of loosing.  I've been able to work off of the internet and not use my flash drive.  You get 2g of free space and an extra 250mg for everyone you get to sign up.

Here is the link.  Go check it out for yourself.


Storybook Update

I have mixed feelings about storybook so far.

On the ADD front, it is a tremendous help with organization and putting thoughts together.  I've always had trouble outlining stories before and this does make it easier by breaking things down into chunks.  It helps you track characters, locations, and dates.  It's pretty cool.

And this is a big one for me, it isn't transportable.  I can't work on one computer, save my work, then go to another computer.  I need to be transportable.  Right now, I have everything on a flash drive that I am working on.  I have gone to the place where the files are saved, copied them to my flash, then put the files where they need to be on the new computer, but the new computer won't read the data.  It will see that the file "Splintered Kingdoms" is there, but won't show any of the outlining.  Supposedly, there is a way to back up the files and import and export, and possibly that is the way I should go, but I haven't explored that yet.  To me, directly moving the data files should work, but no.

Also, the tutorial could be better.  It is not a hard program to use and pretty straight forward, but I'm still unsure what different things are supposed to be for like "Part."  "Chapter" and "Scene," I got.  Not sure what to do with "Part."  Is it part of a chapter or a scene or both?

All in all, I like it so far.  The non transportability will be inconvenient and I'm sure I'll eventually figure out "part" or just do without it.

I give it 1 Thumbs Up.

Do Computers Dream of Electric Sheep?

This is an awesome website  called Electric Sheep 

I'm thinking about down loading the program.  When the screen saver comes on, computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as "sheep". The result is a collective "android dream", an homage to Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Anyone watching one of these computers may vote for their favorite animations using the keyboard. The more popular sheep live longer and reproduce according to a genetic algorithm with mutation and cross-over. Hence the flock evolves to please its global audience. You can also design your own sheep and submit them to the gene pool. 

My current screen saver is a slide show of nebulas (is that nebuli?) and space dust.  It's totally awesome.  It's like looking at god (in technicolor).  

Here's one of space dust