Category: Answers With Joe

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy Is Ready To Launch (Ft. The Everyday Astronaut)

Elon Musk’s dream of landing on Mars is a little closer to reality as SpaceX prepares to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket this month, and it couldn’t be more exciting.

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TRANSCRIPT:

The Falcon Heavy was first announced in 2011 at a news conference in Washington DC, but the idea had been floating around since 2004. And the idea was pretty simple.

SpaceX had the Falcon 9 rocket, which at the time had done a couple of test runs into Low Earth Orbit so they were getting a feel for what it was capable of.

And what they saw was it was a great workhorse to take cargo to the ISS, and satellites to low Earth orbit and smaller payloads to geosynchronous orbit… but there were some payloads that needed more power.

So… Why not strap a few Falcon 9’s together? Boom. Done.

And that’s basically what the Falcon Heavy is, it’s three Falcon 9 cores connected together with a second stage and payload on the top of the middle core, giving it 27 engines total with 5 million pounds of thrust.

Falcon 9 rockets care called Falcon 9 because they have 9 Merlin engines on them.

Liftoff of this thing is going to be awesome. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a rocket this powerful take off but with SpaceX, the launch is just the precursor to watching them land.

So once it gets into space, the two side cores will disengage, turn around, and head back to the pad.

Then, we are going to watch two Falcon 9s land almost simultaneously. It’ll be like some kind of rocket version of synchronized diving.

The third, middle core will continue to push the dummy cargo into orbit before it disengages, turns and lands on a barge further out to sea.

So once all the first stage cores land, the fairing opens and reveals the dummy cargo, which in the case of this first test flight will be… you guessed it… Elon Musk’s personal original Tesla Roadster.

Never to be outdone in the PR department, Elon Musk announced in December that he was going to use this event to launch his personal Tesla Roadster into Mars orbit. Something he seemed to insinuate was just a joke, but… (show picture)

It’s not a joke. He’s actually launching a car into space.

Just to make it more fun, he says that the stereo on the car will be playing Space Oddity by David Bowie, though I don’t think you’d be able to hear it in the vacuum of space, but still.

And just to be clear, the car isn’t going to Mars, it’s going out to the distance of Mars, so it will circle the sun relatively along Mars’ orbit. For the next billion or so years, according to Elon.

Anyway, when the heavy goes into operation, it will be the most powerful rocket currently in use today, by a factor of 2.

And it will be 4th most powerful rocket of all time behind the Saturn V, the Space Shuttle, and the Soviet N-1, which had a tendency to explode. Every time. It never made it.

Because it had 30 engines. Mo engines mo problems.

This title will be taken back by NASA once the Space Launch System gets up and running, it’ll actually be more powerful than the Saturn V, but we’re still a year or so out on that.

The Heavy already has a couple of satellite launches scheduled, the Arabsat 6A communications satellite and Space Test Program 2 mission for the US Air Force…

There’s also a plan to carry a Dragon Crew spacecraft with two passengers on a circumlunar mission in late 2018. But that’s very speculative.

So they’re making a Big Falcon Rocket. The BFR.

The BFR combines all the power of the three Falcon cores in the Heavy with 31 next-generation Raptor engines, and a large second stage capable of hauling more cargo than the Saturn V and can land vertically, making it fully reusable.

The Raptor engines in the BFR use a liquid methane and liquid oxygen mix called Methalox as fuel because those are capable of being created on Mars, which is the ultimate destination of the BFR.

But the Raptors are also a huge step up from the Merlin engines because they work at extremely high pressure to burn more efficiently and provide more thrust.

The plan is to begin construction on the BFR sometime in 2018 and the first launch isn’t expected until 2022, but even Elon said that was optimistic.

So we may get a few good years out of the Falcon Heavy yet. But it all starts with the first test launch, which is what makes this so compelling.

Blockchain: Way More Than Just Cryptocurrency

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You’ve heard of Blockchain, mostly in reference to Cryptocurrencies. But the potential of blockchain goes way beyond that.

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Bitcoin: A World-Changer Or Just Another Bubble?

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Everywhere you look, Bitcoin is in the news.

But for a lot of people, it’s still a total mystery. Let’s take a look and talk about what it is and where it’s going.

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The Mystery Of The Oh My God Particle

From 1983 to 1991 on the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, an experiment had been under way by the University of Utah called the Fly’s Eye Cosmic Ray Detector.

And this is how they found the Oh My God particle, but before I explain it, let me back up and talk about cosmic rays so you can fully grasp the Oh My God reaction here.

Cosmic rays are mostly made up of the nuclei of atoms, 90% of them are single protons – the nuclei of hydrogen atoms. These are much higher energy than solar radiation because unlike photons they actually have mass.

This was the first ultra-high energy cosmic ray discovered, which was shocking not just because of it had a lot of energy, but because it kind-of shouldn’t have been possible thanks to something called the GZK cutoff.

GZK stands for the scientists Kenneth Greisen, Georgie Zatsepin and Vadim Kuzmin, who set a speed limit for cosmic rays at 5 x 10 to the 19th electron volts, or 8 joules of energy. It was believed that particles couldn’t exceed this limit due to interactions with photons in the microwave background radiation.

This new class of cosmic rays became known as trans-GZK cosmic rays. They are super rare and believed to be from fairly close by in order to have that kind of speed – the less they’ve travelled, the less they would be slowed down by the CMB.

Since discovering the OMG particle, there have been a slew of new cosmic ray observatories like the Pierre Auger observatory and the Telescope Array Project, which is the successor to the fly’s eye.

There have also been efforts to focus on high-energy neutrinos with the belief that they may be created in a similar process to the high-energy cosmic rays. There’s an observatory underneath the south pole that specializes in that.

The Venus Project And The Resource-Based Economy

Jacque Fresco was born in 1916 and spent his young adult life struggling through the Depression, which informed his ideas about the economy and society as he grew older. He was a self-taught designer and architect who championed pre-fabricated homes in the 50s and 60s but his real passion was the future.

In 1969, he published a book called Looking Forward, which imagined a future society where technology has made it possible for everyone to have their needs met.

He continued on this line of thinking for the rest of his life, eventually forming The Venus Project with Roxanne Meadows, advocating for a resource-based economy. They built a research center near Venus, Florida based on his design principles and used that as a home base to give presentations, tours, and make videos promoting their new social model.

And that social model is an entirely new economy that is not based on money, where automation and technology provides all our basic needs, nobody has to work, there’s no crime, no poverty, no waste, and it’s totally sustainable.

The Venus Project’s plan for smart cities is to incorporate a circular design, with the central hub housing the core of the cybernated system that controls resource management, educational and healthcare facilities, and communications networks.

Radiating out from there in all directions are concentric rings of buildings housing office space, institutions, and research laboratories.

Surrounding that is a green belt providing recreation and parks, then a residential belt with pre-fabricated homes.

From there, we find a band of apartment buildings and high-rises, again made from preformulated, modular pieces that also contain entertainment venues, theaters, and restaurants. Then an agricultural belt that grows all the food for the city along with hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic facilities.

A circular waterway surrounds the agricultural belt for irrigation, and last but not least, a second recreation belt with paths for walking and biking, golf courses, and outdoor activities.

Anybody who’s been to Disney World in Florida or just watched the Disney Channel when they were kids knows about Epcot Center, but what you may not know was that the original plan for Epcot was something much, much more ambitious.

Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. According to Disney’s vision, it would be an ever-evolving city designed to test the newest and greatest ideas in housing and urban planning. It would be connected by monorail to the theme park and would house the employees of the park.

But Epcot is not alone. From Octagon City in 1850’s Kansas to England’s Ebenezer Howard and his radial Garden City at the turn of the century to Broadacre City, planned by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, the circular, modular city of the future is something that always seems to be planned… but never executed.

Earlier this year a company called Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of the Alphabet umbrella that includes Google, purchased 12 acres of waterfront property in Toronto, with the goal of testing out smart city designs and technology.

Just last week, Bill Gates purchased land outside of Phoenix Arizona with the purpose of creating a smart city, though we don’t have any idea on designs for that yet.

And in South Korea, a major smart city project called Songdo has been under construction for the last few years, but it seems to be short of reaching its goals and over budget. It’s supposed to be finished in 2020.

5 Reasons Going To Mars is a TERRIBLE Idea

With both SpaceX and NASA ramping up plans to go to Mars, maybe it’s time to consider the other side of the discussion – that traveling to Mars might be a terrible idea.

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Issue number one: Radiation.

Outside our protective magnetic sphere, space is a shooting gallery of solar radiation and cosmic rays that would wreak havoc on our bodies to a level that right now we can only speculate.

And then there are the 18 months you would spend on Mars, which doesn’t have a magnetosphere and a very thin atmosphere.

Humans have never been exposed to this type of radiation for this long. It’s a problem we’ve never dealt with before, and it’s going to be a huge challenge to overcome.

Number two: Extremely low air pressure.

The Martian atmosphere has only 1% of the air pressure of Earth.

Walking outside on Mars is not that much different from walking on the moon, from a life support systems perspective.

The thin atmosphere is also a nightmare for landing on Mars.

That’s why smaller rovers like Spirit and Opportunity used bizarre airbag systems to land and Curiosity, which was much heavier, had to use a combination of parachutes, thrusters, and a cable system to get there safely.

So SpaceX’s vertical propulsive landing option is probably best for Mars, but this is something that’s never been done up to this point, so it’s hard to know what challenges there are in attempting this with the thinner atmosphere and lower gravity.

Number 3: Perchlorates in the soil.

In the Biosphere 2 project, they grew their own food and struggled to have enough for everyone to eat. When they emerged at the end, many were malnourished and emaciated.

In 2008, the Mars Phoenix lander found significant quantities of perchlorate in the Martian soil.

Perchlorates are salt compounds that are often used in rocket propellants and they’re extremely harmful to humans.

They interrupt the thyroid gland and prevent the body from absorbing iodine, which leads to aplastic anemia.

That’s when your bone marrow can’t make new red blood cells. Red blood cells are what carry oxygen through the body. Minor problem.

Or, if aplastic anemia isn’t your thing, you might get agranulocytosis, which prevents your body from making white blood cells.

Chris McKay at the Ames Research Center said that if your backyard had this much perchlorate in the soil, it would be considered a Superfund site.

Basically, Mars is a giant toxic waste dump.

Number 4: The gravity problem.

Mars is smaller than Earth, with gravity only 38% of what you’re used to here. An average 150-pound person on Earth would weigh only 57 pounds on Mars.

We do have some idea of what to expect from long-term zero gravity thanks to astronauts like Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, who just this year completed a year-long space mission.

Although the record was set in 1995 by Valery Polyakov, who flew on the Mir space station for 437 days.

And last but not least, number 5: The Contamination Problem.

We’ve talked in videos about the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation in the search for intelligent life in the universe.

Because if life could form twice in one solar system, the potential for life in other solar systems, and intelligent life, becomes very significant.

So one of the biggest problems when it comes to traveling to Mars is that we’re not just bringing ourselves… We’re bringing our microbes.

The second we land on Mars, we have contaminated it.

Vacuum Decay: The Quantum Glitch That Could Destroy The Universe

It’s the ultimate nightmare scenario: A bubble in spacetime that grows at the speed of light and eventually destroys the universe. That’s vacuum decay.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Try to imagine somewhere in the universe, a tiny subatomic bubble formed. A bubble inside which all physics as we know it ceases to exist. Particles don’t form into atoms, atoms can’t turn into molecules, all the fundamental forces cease to have any meaning.

And then that bubble expands outward at the speed of light, obliterating everything it touches. Asteroids, comets, planets, stars, whole galaxies just dissipate immediately, their constituent particles flung apart like ashes in the wind. Until eventually the entire universe ceases to exist.

This is a real thing that could happen, spontaneously at any time and at any point in the universe. In fact, it could have already happened, and we’d have no way of knowing it. Because it travels at the speed of light, the first sign we’d get that it happened would be us and everything we know blinking out of existence in a fraction of a second.

This is vacuum decay. And to understand how this could happen, there are three concepts we need to understand.

The first is the standard model of particle physics.

I did a whole video on the standard model that I’ll share right here, so I won’t go too in the weeds about this but a quick overview is that all atoms are made up of fundamental particles that fall into 3 categories, leptons, quarks, and bosons.

Leptons are our electrons and neutrinos in their various flavors, quarks make up protons and neutrons, and bosons are force carrier particles, they make the four fundamental forces possible.

But the final piece of the standard model that we know of so far anyway was the famed Higgs boson.

But the Higgs boson is actually just a tiny chunk of the Higgs Field. Which brings us to the second concept we need to understand… Quantum field theory.

So I’ve never really done a video on Quantum field theory, so that’s long overdue, but the basic gist of it is that all of the particles I just mentioned are actually just excitations in a corresponding field.

In other words, reality as we know it is made up of layers of fields of different energy levels. You’ve got quark fields, electron fields, neutrino fields, boson fields, and most important for this discussion, the Higgs field.

When the Higgs field was predicted, by the illustrious Peter Higgs, it was calculated at a very specific energy level. Any higher or lower and physics as we know it ceases to exist.

126 GeV is a tiny amount of energy to us, but as particles and fields go, it’s pretty high. Scientists began to wonder if this was really as low as it could go.

And with a little fancy math, scientists at CERN in 2013 were able to prove that there is, theoretically, a lower energy level that the Higgs field could exist in. An ultra-dense Higgs field.

This means that the Higgs field that keeps the entire universe together is not a stable true vacuum, it’s a metastable false vacuum.

Which means that if at any place in the universe a tiny part of the Higgs field slipped down into this energy level, entropy would take over and the entire Higgs field would collapse into the ultra-dense state.