Building the World

May 20, 2020
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SPACE: Spring Cleaning

Satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Image: wikimedia

When COMSAT began a new era in communications, emphasis was on getting satellites into orbit, not how to get them down. One option: a “graveyard” orbit where old tech circles endlessly in a geriatric retirement lap; another solution, crash and burn; a third, shoot them, causing space junk to become space debris, now tallied at 50,000 pieces hurtling at 17,500 miles per hour and causing hazards to active spacecraft. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects established some guidelines, but so far humans are better at launching satellites than retrieving or fixing them, and many satellites are getting old. But there has been a breakthrough.

Intelsat. Image: wikimedia.

In April 2020, Intelsat 901, beaming Internet to airplanes and ships, was running out of steering power but still functioning. Northrop Grumman built a spacecraft called the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV) to fly to Intelsat 901, latch on and supply propulsion and steering. This is the first time in history that two commercial spacecraft have docked together in space, proving that in-orbit service is possible. Existing satellites are getting on in years, and may need servicing. Space will see more communication satellites, along with observation technology monitoring Earth’s climate. Northrup Grumman and Intelsat plan to continue in-orbit service, a new industry.

Davenport, Christian. “In historic first, an aging satellite is resurrected by another in a technology that could reduce junk in space: A Northrup Grumman spacecraft latched on to a communications satellite, extending its life.” 20 April 2020. The Washington Post. Includes video. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/20/new-technology-creates-fountain-youth-aging-satellites-potentially-reducing-space-junk/.

European Space Agency. 6th European Conference on Space Debris, 2013. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Debris/

Henry, Caleb. “Intel-901 satellite, with MEV-1 servicer attached, resumes service.” 17 April 2020. Space News. https://spacenews.com/intelsat-901-satellite-with-mev-1-servicer-attached-resumes-service/

Intelsat. https://intelsat.com. Ticker symbol: I

Northrop Grumman. https://www.northropgrumman.com. NYSE: NOC.

United Nations. Office for Outer Space Affairs. “Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.” September 1972. http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/spacelaw/treaties/introliability-convention.html/

Thanks to David H. Marks for sharing research and suggesting this post.

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

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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

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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October 29, 2019
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Happy Birthday, Internet

Internet’s 50th birthday. Image: wikimedia

October 29, 1969. Neil Armstrong had recently stepped onto another world: the moon. That same year, another new world was born. UCLA, Stanford, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah were working on ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). Graduate student Charley Kline sent a computer message from UCLA to Bill Duvall at Stanford, typing the word “Login.” The system crashed; but the letters ‘L’ and ‘O’ transmitted. Leonard Kleinrock, professor of computer science at UCLA, helped to complete the message about an hour later

Now, we’re moving into 5G. 1G was analog cellular; 2G was CDMA and GSM digital. 3G technologies like EVDO were faster; 4G LTE was even faster. 5G will deliver three changes: faster speed (moving more data); lower latency (optimizing response); ability to connect multiple devices. 5G might help autonomous vehicles become more accurate; smart roads will become more responsive, too. 5G will enable Virtual Reality (VR) and instant transmission.

The internet was born fifty years ago today.  Since then, complex transmissions have spread science around the world, and a few chats, too. But some might opine that the first two letters ever sent best expressed the wonder: “‘Lo,’ and Behold.”

Novak, Matt. “Here’s the Internet’s ‘Birth Certificate’ From 50 Years Ago Today.” 29 October 2019. https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/heres-the-internets-birth-certificate-from-50-years-ago-1839436583.

Segan, Sascha. “What is 5G?” 28 August 2019. PC Magazine. https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g.

Appreciation to Dr. George H. Litwin for suggesting this post topic.

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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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 12, 2019
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Happy Birthday, WWW

“30” by photographer Claude Covo-Farchi, Paris, France. Image: wikimedia

It’s been thirty years since the World Wide Web was invented. Like many innovations, it was the solution to a problem: a young computer scientist found it inconvenient to switch computers when the data needed was not on the machine at hand. What if a shared database of hypertext links could be sent across a network? The scientist was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and the network was the three www sequence we now see in http://www. Empowered by COMSAT, an array of communication satellites, the internet and the world wide web have changed the transport of ideas and exchange of cultures. But there are problems: Berners-Lee issued an assessment:

Problems of World Wide Web (and possible paths to their solutions)

Deliberate, malicious intent resulting in hacking, crime, harassment – (laws and codes of conduct);

System Design that creates perverse incentives – (redesign for incentives);

Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design – (research and new models).

Summing up the import of the web’s 30th birthday milestone, Berners-Lee stated: If we give up on building a better web now, the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.

What actions can we take in the next thirty years to build a better web?

Berners-Lee, Tim (Sir). World Wide Web #30. https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/

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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July 27, 2018
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Red Sky At Night

“Lunar Eclipse 2018 07 27” Image: nasa.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” goes the saying. This weekend’s red sky is also a watcher’s delight. Mars, the red planet, will be at its closest to Earth (a cosy proximity not achieved since 2003). Also visible in this weekend’s night sky, moving from strawberry moon to blood moon, the lunar body glows rosy during a rather prolonged eclipse.

Both celestials have reason to blush, with pride:

Mars: is the subject of scientific discovery rapidly unfolding. SpaceX is planning a landing and habitation. Transport innovations like reusable rockets make a station possible. Recent discovery of a lake on Mars may hold more than promise.

Moon: July 1969, NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing and Return, witnessed by practically everyone on earth with a new device called a television (just invented a few years before), saw the first human step on a surface that was not Earth. Humanity collectively held its breath. Since then, the sky has been busy. New industries have been born, with many new technologies from rockets to satellites. COMSAT put the world in the sky, with satnav, gps, cellphones, internet. Currently, lunar explorations include NASA’s Lunar Quest Program: the multi-element array includes flight missions, instruments for lunar missions of opportunity, research

Seeing Red This Weekend: From July 27-31, Mars will be particularly visible to the naked eye: here’s the red moon recap of July 27. Mars and Moon glowing red – at the same time? Perhaps Mars and Chang’e are blushing.

Halton, Mary. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars.” 25 July 2018. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44952710/

NASA, “Watch: Total Lunar Eclipse (JULY 2018) NASA TV #Longest eclipse of this century.” https://youtu.be/uqBStEIVF80.

Space.com “Chang’e 4.” https://www.space.com/40715-change-4-mission.html

Yann Charront, Robert Moss, Stephen Edwards, and Dimitri N. Mavris. “Utilization of System Dynamics to Model a Self-Sustained Mars Surface Colony.” August 31-September 2, 2015. Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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

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June 15, 2018
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Voice of the Future 2018: Stephen Hawking

15 June 2018, Westminster Abbey, message sent: 15 June 5518, 1A 0620-00, message received. As Stephen Hawking’s mortal remains were interred between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, the visionary physicist’s words were sent, with music composed Vangelis for the occasion, to the black hole closest to earth, 3500 light years away.

Stephen Hawking, Voice of the Future. Image: European Space Agency.

Hawking’s Voice of the Future is “a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet,” stated Lucy Hawking, the physicist’s daughter.

Black Hole 1A 0620-00 calls home a binary system with an orange dwarf star. According to Günther Hasinger, European Space Agency’s Director of Space, “when Stephen Hawking’s message reaches 1A 0620-00, it will be frozen in the event horizon.”

Ave atque vale is a phrase credited to the Roman poet Catullus, who wrote in elegy numbered 101: Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale, meaning “And for eternity, brother, hail and farewell.” In 2018, the poet’s words rang along with the chimes of Westminster.

Stephen Hawking, who wrote A Brief History of Time, may have changed the definition of the temporal dimension.  For Hawking’s TED Talk, “Questioning the Universe,” click here.

More:

Hawking, Stephen W. A Brief History of Time. 1988. ISBN: 9780553380163.

Stephen William Hawking, 1942-2018. http://www.hawking.org.uk.

Vangelis, Chariots of Fire. The Hawking CD, beamed into space 15 June 2018, was given to those attending services at Westminster Abbey. The public will soon find the album beaming worldwide.

Westminster Abbey. “Ashes of Stephen Hawking buried in the Abbey.” 15 June 2018. https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-news/ashes-of-stephen-hawking-buried-in-the-abbey/

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March 29, 2018
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The Lab that Fell to Earth

“Hypervelocity Impact Demonstration” image: Nasa

It’s the size of a bus and it’s coming towards you, from space. European Space Agency (ESA) predicts China’s Tiangong-1 space station will return to earth in the next few days, as confirmed by China’s Manned Space Engineering Office. Tiangong-1, weighing 8.5 tons, is not expected to cause significant danger upon landing, but there is concern. Uncontrolled re-entry of space debris has seen increasingly large objects since COMSAT began to fill the sky: examples include STS-107 (106 tons) in 2010; Skylab (75 tons) in 1979. The most crowded area of space is between 700km and 1,000 km (435 miles to 621 miles), low enough feel gravity’s drag. The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects has seen little compliance with the rule that non-functioning space objects must be removed in 25 years. Problems: attempts at removal create more debris, and few launches have a de-orbit plan. A 2009 collision of Motorola’s Iridium 33 and Russia’s Cosmos 2251 destroyed both: resultant debris wiped out decades of effort to clean up space junk. How much is “up there?” Over 20,000 objects are in orbit, and an estimated 500,000 pieces of space debris. To witness Tiangong-1’s return to earth, click here.

Amos, Jonathan. “Space debris collisions expected to rise.” BBC News, 22 April 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22253966.

Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/Conv_International_Liab_Damage.pdf

Hunt, Katie with contributions by Serenitie Wang.”Chinese space lab Tiangong-1 to fall to Earth within days.” CNNhttps://www.cnn.com/2018/03/26/asia/china-tiangong-1-intl/index.html

Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee. “IADC Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines.” Report 22.4, 2007. http://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/spacelaw/sd/IADC-2002-01-IADC-Space_Debris-Guidelines-Revision1.pdf

Moskowitz, Clara. “How much junk is in space?” 3 May 2010. Space.com. https://www.space.com/8334-junk-space.html

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

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February 25, 2018
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Olympics: Speed and Innovation

Speed Skating Pictogram: wikimedia.

PyeongChang’s Olympics saw gold, silver, bronze, and a glimpse into the future. Some parts of the Olympic and Paralympic Games received 5G coverage. KT and Intel were among the providers; after the Olympics, AT&T will debut 5G in Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco.

Every era of civilization might be characterized by its predominant mode of transport; perhaps the Internet is the road of our time, it’s new fast lane: 5G. Three decades after COMSAT launched satellites, AT&T began developing an industry standard for interoperability of wireless communication with partner Nortell. As a result, GSM became the standard. Today’s interoperability certification is TETRA. The result? Driverless cars, smarter cities. Should the United States Interstate System open a tetra lane for autonomous vehicles? The Critical Communications Association (TCCA), coordinating public safety and disaster response, might suggest, next to the tetra lane, a sportsway with charging stations, segway and bike lanes, and walking routes. Boston might consider building the first link, in cooperation with the Central Artery, part of the Interstate: nickname, 5Greenway.

Instant takes time. The first idea for 5G dates to April 2008 when NASA and Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (m2mi) partnered, termed by some as the “commercialization of space.” The Memorandum of Understanding was only the third in NASA’s history. Stated goals included: “Under the agreement, NASA and m2mi will cooperate to develop a fifth generation telecommunications and networking system for internet protocol-based and related services. The cooperative effort will combine NASA’s expertise in nano sensors, wireless networks, and nano satellite technologies with m2mi’s unique capabilities in software technology, sensors, global system awareness, adaptive control and commercialization capabilities. Fifth Generation, of 5G, incorporates Voice Over Internet Protocol, video, data, wireless, and an integrated machine-to-machine intelligence layer, or m2mi, for seamless information exchange and use.” In December 2017, 5G was approved by the 3GPP international wireless consortium. The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union will consider the system in 2019.

Next Olympics: 2020 Tokyo. Japan launched high speed train system Shinkansen for the opening of the 1964 Olympics. Speed has always been a winning characteristic of Olympic gold. What kinds of speed, including 5G, will we see in 2020?

3gpp. “First 5G NR Specs Approved.” 22 December 2017. http://www.3gpp.org/news-events/3gpp-news/1929-nsa_nr_5g.

3gpp. “Drafting and publication of GSM Specs…in the pre-3GPP era.” 3gpp: The Mobile Broadband Standard. http://www.3gpp.org/specifications/gsm-history/.

Goldman, David and Betsy Klein. “What is 5 G?” CNN.com. 29 January 2018. http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/29/technology/what-is-5g/index.html

m2mi. Machine to Machine Intelligence Corporation, “Safe, more livable, and efficient Smart Cities: The Internet of Things.” http://www.m2mi.com/

NASA. “NASA Ames Partners with M2Mi For Small Satellite Development.” 24 April 2008. https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/apr/HQ_08107_Ames_nanosat.html.

“Olympic Visions: PyeongChang 2018.” 10 February 2018. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2018/02/10/olympic-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 License

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November 17, 2017
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Bonn Voyage

Sunrise in Bonn, Germany. Image wikimedia.

The Conference of the Parties (COP23) met in Bonn, Germany to put the walk in the talk. COP23’s purpose? Make actionable those agreements, formed in Paris at COP21, addressing climate change. Among developments in Bonn, the Ocean Pathway will include waters not contained within specific countries. Other notable achievements: Powering Past Coal Alliance. World agreements, such as that achieved in Paris and followed up in Bonn, are relatively rare in history. Global time zones were agreed at the International Prime Meridian Conference of 1884, as a result of the work of Sandford Fleming, surveyor on the Canadian Pacific Railway. COMSAT invited companies around the world to join governments to build a new “railway” in the sky: communications satellite systems later resulted in the Internet. Bonn’s achievements at COP23 will determine the future, as participating nations (with a notable exception) work together to rebuild a sustainable world. Even where a country might not participate, states and cities continue the effort: We Are Still In.

Ellis, Jonathan. “The Bonn Climate Conference: All Our Coverage in One Place.” 13 November 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/climate/bonn-climate-change-conference.html

Powering Past Coal Alliance. http://www.ym.fi/download/noname/%7B2ECC2AA5-F5D9-4551-BEC1-63C29DDB57A4%7D/132328

United Nations. COP23. https://cop23.unfccc.int

We Are Still In. https://www.wearestillin.com/cop23-press-release

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