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The public television NOVA is showing a series on the planets. It's a co-production with the BBC, so it may be using the same footage as the series L. Marcus told us about on the previous page, though it has narration by Zachary Quinto instead of presentation by a professor.

 

Last night I saw the eps on "The Inner Worlds" and "Mars." I learned stuff I hadn't known before, such as that the evidence (found by the Messenger space probe) that Mercury formed further out in the Solar System -- maybe around the orbit of Venus or Earth -- and got pushed into its present inmost slot. Another highlight was the spectacular CGI recreation of the biggest waterfall in the Solar System, 6 miles wide and 2 1/2 miles high... billions of years ago, on Mars.

 

As part of its "Summer of Space" programming, my PBS station is also showing a series called Ancient Skies on the history of astronomy. First program, on the transition from mythology to the earliest astronomy, was kind of meh. At least, I didn't learn anything new. Pretty CGI, but some sloppiness. Like, when talking about the battle between Marduk and Tiamat in Babylonian mythology, they showed a bas-relief of the battle between the god Ninurta and Anzu the Storm-bird. Completely different myth! I hooted. (A bit of CGI animation of the battle, though, had a quite satisfactory dragon for Tiamat.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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The August, 2019 Scientific American has an article about NIAC, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. This is NASA's "huge if true" search for new and improved propulsion methods. Most are just a little beyond the edge of current engineering, such as light sails powered by lasers. But NASA also funds a few inquiries into outright fringe science such as MEGA -- Mach Effect Gravity-Assist, which seeks a possible loophole in conservation of momentum. There's potential material here for Champions GMs as well as Star Hero.

 

Vaguely space-related: The same issue has an article on mathematical attempts to solve the Three-Body Problem. I understand the Three-Body Problem well enough, but I sure didn't understand much of what mathematicians are doing to try to solve it.

 

Dean Shomshak

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On 8/8/2019 at 11:34 AM, DShomshak said:

The August, 2019 Scientific American has an article about NIAC, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. This is NASA's "huge if true" search for new and improved propulsion methods. Most are just a little beyond the edge of current engineering, such as light sails powered by lasers. But NASA also funds a few inquiries into outright fringe science such as MEGA -- Mach Effect Gravity-Assist, which seeks a possible loophole in conservation of momentum. There's potential material here for Champions GMs as well as Star Hero.

 

Vaguely space-related: The same issue has an article on mathematical attempts to solve the Three-Body Problem. I understand the Three-Body Problem well enough, but I sure didn't understand much of what mathematicians are doing to try to solve it.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

For game purposes, the Mach effect is great.

 

For real-life purposes, the first time Woodward published that he successfully measured the Mach effect was in 1990. Since that time, there's been multiple other researchers try to measure it without 100% consistent results of "yes this exists,  we measured it, and we're absolutely sure that we were measuring the Mach effect rather than something else".

 

I mean, we're going into the 4th decade after the first supposed success at measuring whether it exists at all or not. If it exists at all (and that's a big "if"), the effect is so tiny that apparently we can't be certain whether it's there or not.

 

I don't mind NASA spending money looking into it. It's a long shot in my opinion but if it works at all, it might work as a small part of a propulsion system. But I'm of the opinion that the tests which have shown positive results were flawed and showing false positives since they can't be replicated with positive results 100% of the time.

 

On the other hand, I think light sails show good promise. We've got massive hurdles in manufacturing suitable materials and developing control systems. But the underlying science of whether a light sail would work if we built one is a definite "yes".

 

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The SA article on the Three-Body Problem noted in passing that a few stable solutions have been found for larger numbers of objecfs. There's an illo of some bizarre looping orbits for four identical masses. SF potential: Find a quadruple star system in one of these configurations. Cannot possibly be natural.

 

Dean Shomshak

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The SA article on the Three-Body Problem noted in passing that a few stable solutions have been found for larger numbers of objecfs. There's an illo of some bizarre looping orbits for four identical masses. SF potential: Find a quadruple star system in one of these configurations. Cannot possibly be natural.

 

Dean Shomshak

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The August 10, 2019 issue of The Economist has an article on  ways of reducing the danger from space junk falling from orbit. As the article notes, it's not an enormous threat at present. Still, nobody in the rocketry/satellite biz wants the bad press of having someone killed by their discarded equipment. Apparently there are whole engineering and analysis companies devoted to this.

 

Dean Shomshak

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