Very fitting in light of the meteor strike in Russia this morning:
Poster by Do Gooder Press
Take a look at this image. (Click for the high-resolution version.) Any two stars, or indeed any two pixels, are further apart than mankind has ever travelled.
The distance the Voyager spacecraft have travelled could not be made out on this image. Yet, we see only a part of our own galaxy, and there are more than 170,000,000,000 in the universe.
The universe is vast and awesome, and we are very small. To explore it, we must become much wiser, and much more courageous.
NASA/JSC is implementing an advanced propulsion physics laboratory, informally known as “Eagleworks”, to pursue propulsion technologies necessary to enable human exploration of the solar system over the next 50 years, and enabling interstellar spaceflight by the end of the century. This work directly supports the “Breakthrough Propulsion” objectives detailed in the NASA OCT TA02 In-space Propulsion Roadmap, and aligns with the #10 Top Technical Challenge identified in the report. Since the work being pursued by this laboratory is applied scientific research in the areas of the quantum vacuum, gravitation, nature of space-time, and other fundamental physical phenomenon, high fidelity testing facilities are needed. The lab will first implement a low-thrust torsion pendulum (<1 uN), and commission the facility with an existing Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thruster. To date, the QVPT line of research has produced data suggesting very high specific impulse coupled with high specific force. If the physics and engineering models can be explored and understood in the lab to allow scaling to power levels pertinent for human spaceflight, 400kW SEP human missions to Mars may become a possibility, and at power levels of 2MW, 1-year transit to Neptune may also be possible. Additionally, the lab is implementing a warp field interferometer that will be able to measure spacetime disturbances down to 150nm. Recent work published by White suggests that it may be possible to engineer spacetime creating conditions similar to what drives the expansion of the cosmos. Although the expected magnitude of the effect would be tiny, it may be a “Chicago pile” moment for this area of physics.
Low-thrust torsion pendulums and quantum vacuum plasma thrusters with warp field interferometers. Hot—physically and metaphorically!
If you love the stars, and you’re using Google Chrome, do yourself a favor and check out 100,000 Stars, one of the latest Google Chrome WebGL experiments. It’s an interactive view of our local group, including the Sun, solar system, Kuiper comet belt, Oort cloud, and much more. It’s absolutely stunning.
A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments. Custom-built, open-source relativistic graphics code allows the speed of light in the game to approach the player’s own maximum walking speed. Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay. These effects, rendered in realtime to vertex accuracy, include the Doppler effect (red- and blue-shifting of visible light, and the shifting of infrared and ultraviolet light into the visible spectrum); the searchlight effect (increased brightness in the direction of travel); time dilation (differences in the perceived passage of time from the player and the outside world); Lorentz transformation (warping of space at near-light speeds); and the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light). Players can choose to share their mastery and experience of the game through Twitter. A Slower Speed of Light combines accessible gameplay and a fantasy setting with theoretical and computational physics research to deliver an engaging and pedagogically rich experience.
It’s the game version of: