Building the World

November 22, 2019
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ENERGY: Building with the Sun

“August 31, 2012 Solar Corona CME.” Image: NASA Goddard Flight Center, wikimedia.

Heliogen: using solar to build the future. Solar roofs are not new: houses and office buildings often top with photovoltaic panels. Paris has decreed that new construction must have either a solar or green roof. Solar panels also are common in space. But until recently, it has not been possible to use solar technology to generate the extreme heat needed to produce building materials – cement, steel, glass. Heliogen, founded by CEO Bill Gross, backed by Patrick Soon-Shiong (physician and owner of the Los Angeles Times) and Bill Gates (Microsoft), uses artificial intelligence and mirrors to capture sunlight in such concentrations that high heat needed for industrial processes can now be generated by the sun. It’s clean, and the sun’s energy is free: both factors far outshine using fossil fuels for industrial construction that requires extremely high heat. In fact, Heliogen’s technology will be equivalent o 25% of the heat found on the surface of the sun itself. Building houses, schools, hospitals, and offices generates 20% of global emissions. Heliogen may soon go public, and is now seeking customers like cement companies who want what the company calls “green heat.”

Egan, Matt. “Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough,” 19 November 2019. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/business/heliogen-solar-energy-bill-gates/index.html.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data.

Glaser, Peter E. “Solar Power from Space: US3781647A – Method and apparatus for converting solar radiation to electrical power.” https://patents.google.com/patent/US3781647/en.

Heliogen. “Replacing Fuel with Sunlight.” https://heliogen.com

Rodgers, Lucy. “Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about.” 17 December 2018, BBC.com https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

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November 17, 2019
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CITIES Underwater – Venice

St. Mark’s, Venice, underwater again. “Aqua Alta Venise,” Image: wikimedia

Venice, UNESCO World Heritage Site, has suffered the worst flood in 50 years, attributed in its severity to climate change. Inside the city’s venerable buildings are paintings by Francesco Guardi, J.M.W.Turner, and many other priceless treasures. St. Mark’s Basilica, flooded just six times in nine centuries, shows inundation-damaged marble floors; there is fear the iconic columns may also be weakened. Modern art is also affected: Banksy’s “Shipwrecked Girl” mural on the Rio di Ca’Foscari canal is now underwater.

What can be done to prevent the loss of life, property, and infrastructure that cities like Venice must anticipate in the future? Coastal cities may soon have more accurate information about sea-rise. As Venice flooded in November 2019, Sentinel-6a entered testing in the final stage before expected launch in November 2020. Sea-rise is accelerating: five-year span 2014 – 2019 revealed a 4.8mm/year increase.  Copernicus Sentinel’s Jason-2 Poseidon Altimeters will map ocean floor peaks and valleys, reading temperature, salinity, gravity, currents and speed.

Coperniicus Sentinel-2A Satellite, 8 August 2017. “Greenland, wildfire.” Image: wikimedia commons.

A global system like COMSAT, Sentinel coordinates orbiting devices. Sentinel-6 moves between 66 degrees North and South; Sentinel-3 goes to 82 degrees. Sentinel-6 repeats its cycle every 10 days, monitoring big areas like the Gulf Stream or the Kuroshio Current; Sentinel-3 repeats every 27 days, focusing on smaller ocean eddies that move more slowly. Earth Science Division of NASA may link Landsat to Sentinel-2, completing the circle.

Meanwhile, Venice’s regional council may be having second thoughts about their recent veto to fund a proposal to combat climate change. Just minutes later, their Ferro Fini Palace offices flooded, sending the fleeing officials into the flooded streets, with  70% of Venice engulfed. From St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s mayor Brugnaro expressed hopes that the Mose system, a series of barriers consisting of mobile gates located at inlets, will soon protect the city from inundations. Venice is not alone: Boston and other cities may build harbor barrier systems. Worldwide, hundreds of cities  face the same fate: what are some of the ways cities can respond, from Amsterdam to Jakarta to Yangon?

The once and future Venice: “Piazza San Marco with the Basilica,” 1720. Image: wikimedia.

Amos, Jonathan. “Sentinel for sea-level rise enters testing.” 15 November 2019. BBC Science & Environment.

Cerini, Marianna. “Venice is flooding — what lies ahead for its cultural and historical sites?” 16 November 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/venice-flooding-st-mark-damages/index.html.

Giuffrida, Angela. “Venice council flooded moments after rejecting climate crisis plan: proposals rejected as lagoon city faces worst flooding in 53 years.” 15 November 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/15/venice-council-flooded-moments-after-rejecting-climate-crisis-plan/.

Kirshen, Paul, et. al. “Feasibility of Harbor-wide Barrier Systems: Preliminary Analysis for Boston Harbor.”   2018. Sustainable Solutions Lab, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Lemperiere, Francois and Luc DeRoo. “Peut-on éviter les inondations a Paris?” Symposium du CFBR, 25 janvier 2018 a Chambery. Thanks to David Edwards-May.

Mazzel, Patricia. “82 Days Underwater: The Tide Is High, but They’re Holding On.” 24 November 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/24/us/florida-keys-flooding-king-tide.html?smid=nytcore.ios.share.

MOSE SYSTEM: The mobile barriers for the protection of Venice from high tides.” https://www.mosevenezia.eu/project/?lang-en

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October 19, 2019
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SPACE: Milestones of Inclusion

Koch and Meir made history, October 2019. Image:nasa.gov.

Working together outside the International Space Station, Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history on October 18, 2019 in the first all-female spacewalk. As they switched to extravehicular mobility units (spacesuits or EMUs),one noted the suit had a part with the exact same serial number as the gear famously worn 35 years ago by the first American woman, Kathryn Sullivan, on October 11, 1984. The very first woman to walk in space, on July 25, 1984, was Svetlana Savitskaya. Other women spacewalkers include: Kathryn Thornton, Linda Godwin, Tammy Jernigan, Susan Helms, Peggy Whitson, Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper, Sunita William, Nicole Stott, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Kate Rubins, and Ann McClain. (Pearlman 2019) The first American woman in space was Sally Ride: there is a spot on the moon named after this pioneer.

The year 2019 saw another space milestone, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first human step onto the moon as a pinnacle achievement of the NASA Apollo Program. According to present-day NASA, “We could very well see the first person on Mars be a woman. I think that could very well be a milestone,” commented NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. (Weitering 2019)

In 2016, NASA created the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Special Emphasis Program to foster an inclusive environment. Astronaut Sally Ride, and the first American woman to go into space in 1983, might be an inspiration. Sam Long, science teacher at Standley Lake High School, Westminster, Colorado, has entered the “Out Astronaut” campaign competition; the winner will receive training in the Advanced PoSSUM Academy at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (Goodland 2019) PoSSUM – Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere – is the only crewed suborbital research program; citizen scientists will study noctilucent (night-shining) clouds in space, especially observing ties to climate change.

Noctilucent (“night shining” clouds, Estonia. Image: wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Koch and Meir, upon the historic successful completion their spacewalk achievement will offer a news conference from orbit.  Tune in on Monday 21 October 2019 at noon EDT for their live news conference.

For more:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “Immersive science education for tomorrow’s astronautics professionals.” ADVANCED PoSSUM SPACE ACADEMY, held each spring and fall. Application: https:/form.jotform.us/50905749649166.

Goodland, Marianne. “Colorado man hopes to be first transgender astronaut in space.” 15 July 2019. Colorado Politics. https://www.coloradopolitics.com/news/colorado-man-hopes-to-be-first-transgender-astronaut-in-space/article_025a5a60-a729-11e9-b6c8-b3781502e5f4.

NASA.gov. “In-Space News Conference to Review First All-Woman Spacewalk.” Christina Koch and Jessica Meir,, news conference from obit, Noon, EDT, Monday, 21 October 2019. Tune in at: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

NASA. gov. “LGBTQ Special Emphasis. https://www.nasa.gov/offices/odeo/LGBTQ-special-emphasis.

Out Astronaut: Empowering the LGBTQ Community in Science and Space. “Out Astronaut Contest.” https://outastronaut.org/contest/

Pearlman, Robert Z. “First All-Female Spacewalk Has Link to First US Woman to Walk in Space.” 18 October 2019. Space.com. http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-101819a-first-all-female-spacewalk.html.

Project PoSSUM. https://projectpossum.org/science-programs/possum-space-academy/

Weitering, Hanneke. “The 1st Human on Mars May Be a Woman, NASA Chief Says.” 19 October, 2019. Space.com. https://www.space.com/1st-human-on-mars-woman.html

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September 6, 2019
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SPACE: Chandra/Moon Mission

“Chandra, Moon God.” Folio from Book of Dreams. India, Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur: circa 1700. Image: wikimedia.

Chandra, Hindi and Sanskrit word for moon, gave name to Chandrayaan 2; on 6 September 2019, its lander Vikram will do the same thing Neil Armstrong did 50 years ago: decide where to land on the moon. Apollo 11‘s Neil Armstrong switched controls to manual at the last minute to avoid a programmed drop, turning history from disaster to success as NASA’s Eagle landed and humans stepped onto the moon in 1969. Vikram will have to think just as fast: when the lander reaches 100m (328 feet) above the surface, Vikram will select the exact site, landing 78 seconds later. The plan is to touch down between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, just north of the lunar south pole. A perfect lunar landing (only 37% of attempts in history have been successful) would make India the fourth nation to land on the moon, following achievements of the United States, Russia, and China. Witness history, here.

Bartels, Meghan. “Here’s where India’s Chandrayaan-2 will land near the Moon’s south pole (and why).” 5 September 2019. Space.com. https://www.space.com/india-chandrayaan-2-moon-south-pole-landing-site.html

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). https://www.isro.gov.in/chandrayaan2-home-0

Kumar, Chethan. “Chandrayaan 2: 100m above Moon, Vikram will pick final landing spot.” Times of India. 6 September 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/100m-above-moon-vikram-will-pick-final-landing-spot/articleshow/7100912.cms.

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July 19, 2019
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SPACE: Lunar Life in 2069

“Lunar image animation.” Author, Tom Ruen, 2007. Image: wikimedia.

Fifty years ago, humans set foot on the moon, reaching the lunar destination through NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong, first person to alight on the lunar surface, famously proclaimed: That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. As lunar explorations continue, what will life be like on the moon in 2069? Scientists from China, Europe, Russia, and the USA, among others, project several developments.

Lunar Life in 2069:

Chinese Academy of Sciences’ National Space Science Center: “Tourism for space holidays; hotel staff (some robotic) will live on the moon, perhaps in seasonal shifts.”

Earthrise Alliance: “The moon will be like Antarctica today – mainly science, some rarified tourism, limited habitation.”

European Space Agency: “Science, with an emphasis on shared projects among many nations.”

NASA: “Public/private cooperation with scientific partnerships. Tourism from private industry.”

Russian Academic of Sciences’ Space Research Institute: “The moon will look like a resort.”

Source: Boyle, 2019.

One thing is certain: innovation. Expected to arrive on the lunar surface soon: a nuclear power station, missions of exploration for water, minerals, and maybe even evidence of microbial life, fossilized now in rock. Among visions developed during the last fifty years, Frank P. Davidson suggested Lunar U, an educational program for universities offering the ultimate study abroad. Meanwhile, if you weren’t watching in July 1969, here’s a video.

Boyle, Alan. “The moon in 2069: Top space scientists share their vision for lunar lifestyles.” World Conference of Science Journalists, Lausanne, Switzerland. 2 July 2019. GeekWirehttps://www.geekwire.com/2019/moon-2069-space-officials-share-visions-future-lunar-lifestyles/

Griffin, Gerry “Moon Landing: Wow, it worked!” Witness History. BBC. 17 July 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-48955513/moon-landing-wow-it-worked

NASA, “Apollo 11 Moon Mission.” https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/hd/apollo11_hdpage.html

Wenz, John. “Life on the Moon? Maybe long ago.” 23 July 2018. Astronomy. http://www.astronomy.com/news/2018/07/life-on-the-moon/.

Appreciation to George H. Litwin for this topic, and Frank P. Davidson for lunar future visions.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

 

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June 15, 2019
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SPACE: Airbnb $35,000 per night

Astronaut Dale A. Gardner holds “For Sale” sign. Image: nasa.gov

Space is growing increasingly private and commercial. NASA announced the availability of the International Space Station for private rental. Chief Financial Office Jeff DeWit stated that while NASA will continue research for lunar and other explorations, the agency will also work with the private sector, in a vision that sees low-Earth orbit as a public/private economy. It’s not new: more than 50 businesses are already conducting commercial R&D aboard the International Space Station; another set of companies have installed commercial facilities on the ISS National Lab. Bookings are open to those meeting 3 criteria:

Project requirements for Booking a Space on ISS:

Project must require microgravity environment to enable development of a commercial application;

Project  must have a connection to NASA’s mission;

Project must “support development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy.

Privately-sponsored astronauts may stay aboard iSS for up to 30 days, with 5% of crew spots open for booking. Interested in knowing more? There is a Request for Information (RFI) from NASA for enabling commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in its “Plan for Commercial Lower Earth Orbit Development” – deadline July 3.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson aboard ISS in 2011. Image: wikimedia

International Space Station booking gives new meaning to “AirBnB” with the per night price of $35,000. Boeing and SpaceX will handle transit and related services. Space, once the realm of government engineering and science, is changing rapidly; how should the Outer Space Treaty, still restricted to nations, be updated to recognize and manage private enterprise?

NASA. “NASA Opens International Space Station to New Commercial Opportunities, Private Astronauts.”

NASA. “Plan for Commercial Lower Earth Orbit Development.” https://www.fbogov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=0f19423342d628199e2b03c7bf79d11e.

Nasdaq video conference link: “Space station will open to tourists, NASA says,” by Michael Sheetz.  7 June 2019. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/07/nasa-opening-iss-to-business-including-private-astronauts-by-202.html.

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April 11, 2019
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SPACE: Photo of Infinity?

Enter here: matter, time, and space. Black hole Messier 87,  galaxy located in Virgo cluster 53 million light years away. “Black Hole” photograph by Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, 10 April 2019. Image: wikimedia commons.

April 2019. A photo of a black hole just gave the world first view of what was thought unseeable. Black holes are so termed because matter, time, space, even light, are pulled into the vortex and never come back, or perhaps become suspended in the energy field around the black hole called the Event Horizon, identified by Stephen Hawking and suggested by Einstein. Messier 87, a very large black hole photographed today, is termed “a supermassive spacetime deforming structure.” (Heater, 2019).

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team. Image: wikimedia.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration worked as a team of eight telescopes around the world, including coordination by NASA. One of the project heroes: Katie Bouman, postdoc fellow from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Bouman will teach at Caltech in the fall of 2019), who worked on the CHIRP (Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors) algorithm that combined the eight data flows into one image. Also on the CHIRP team: MIT’s Haystack Observatory and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Event Horizon’s photo may place Bouman in the tradition of Photo 51. It’s worth noting that Event Horizon’s historic photo is evidence of the essential importance of global collaboration in space; is this hope for a path to peace?

Bever, Lindsey. “Katie Bouman helped the world see a black hole. Fans want ‘a rightful seat in history’ for her.” 11 April 2019. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/04/11/katie-bouman-helped-world-see-black-hole-fans-want-rightful-seat-history-her/.

Bouman, Katie. “How to take a picture of a black hole.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/katie_bouman_what_does_a_black_hole_look_like?language=en.

Event Horizon Telescope. https://eventhorizontelescope.org

Ghosh, Pallab. “First ever black hole image released.” 10 April 2019. BBC Science and Environment.

Hawking. “Black holes store information.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkRDmJpthXg. KTCH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, 2015.

Heater, Brian. Here’s the first image of a black hole.” 04/10/2019. TechCrunch.

MIT CSAIL. @MIT_CSAIL.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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March 31, 2019
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First Poem written from SPACE

“Good Morning from the International Space Station.” Image: nasa.gov

31 March 2009. Astronaut Wakata Koichi wrote what may be the first poem ever written by a human being in space. Wakata Koichi floated into view on the computer monitor at JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, (counterpart to NASA) at the Tsukuba Space Center. From the International Space Station, called Kibo or Hope in the Japanese language, the scientist/poet held a sheet of paper and wrote something; upon completion, Wakata-san turned the paper to the camera and spoke these words:

Afloat in the darkness before my eyes,

the watery planet bluely glows

How strong is my affection for that ancient home of ours,

how deep my gratitude for the gift of life.

Tomorrow, I will dare the blue sky

and open up worlds unknown

For there we have our dreams.

Wakata Koichi, astronaut, 2009

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Space Poem Chain. http://issjaxa.jp/utiliz/renshi/index_e.html

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February 9, 2019
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SPACE: Naming the Future (and searching for Photo 52)

Rosalind Elise Franklin, once and future DNA pioneer. Image: wikimedia.

Space: will we find life? If we do, Rosalind Franklin will be part of history – again. It was Franklin who helped to discover the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images led to the detection of the double helix. Under Franklin’s direction, a photo, famously called Photo 51, revealed the structure of life itself.

Life takes a Selfie. Photo 51, most important photo ever taken – yet. Image: wikimedia.

Many scientists believe that Franklin would, and should, have been awarded the Nobel Prize, along with Crick, Watson, and Wilkins in 1962; her untimely passing may have eclipsed her significant contribution.

When the European Space Agency (ESA) sends its Mars Rover in search of life, the explorer will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin. NASA is already on Mars, and SpaceX is planning for habitation. As the human race proceeds into space, there will be discoveries that may reframe what we know as civilization, and life.

Franklin, Rosalind E. “Influence of the Bonding Electrons on the Scattering of X-Rays by Carbon. Nature 165, pp. 71-72. (1950).https://www.nature.com/articles/165071a0

NOVA, “The Secret of Photo 51,” Public Broadcasting Service, PBS. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/photo51/

Space.com. “European Mars Rover Named for Crystal Scientist Rosalind Franklin,” by Meghan Bartels. 7 February 2019. https://www.space.com/43259-exomars-rover-named-for-rosalind-franklin.html

“All the countries (and companies) trying to get to Mars.” Mary Beth Griggs, 20 September 2017. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/who-wants-to-go-to-mars?” 60mGfwRBa7H1hCz4.03.

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January 3, 2019
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New Year, New Place, New Space

January 1, 2019, Nasa reached Ultima Thule. Image: wikimedia.

January 1, 2019. New Horizons, Nasa‘s spacecraft, made history, achieving a successful flyby of the most distant space object ever reached, 6.5 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away. Likely coalesced more than 4.5 billion years ago, iced together in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, also termed Trans-Neptunian Region of our solar system, two round balls (some liken the formation to a space snowman) are officially designated as 2014 MU69, but more lyrically named “Ultima Thule.” Scientifically, this new place in space may yield valuable data about how planets were formed, including Earth. While many know the meaning of Ultima (name of the larger part),  Thule merits further comment: the name is a Latin phrase meaning a place beyond the known world.

Amos, Jonathan. “Nasa’s New Horizons: ‘Snowman’ shape of distant Ultima Thule revealed.” 2 January 2019, BBC.

Chang, Kenneth. “Snowman-like Photo of Ultima Thule Sent Home by NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft.” 2 January 2019. The New York Times.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute. “Ultima Thule in 3D.” 1 January 2019 historical date; published 3 January 2019. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/2237/ultima-thule-in-3d/

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