A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘solar sails

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes that the galaxy’s stores of star-forming gas are running low, here.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the next generation of gravitational wave detectors could detect exoplanets, massive worlds orbiting binary white dwarfs.
  • The Crux reports on what is known about Homo naledi.
  • Karen Sternheimer at the Everyday Sociology Blog takes a look at the risks of social isolation.
  • Far Outliers reports on three enclaves of Arab culture encountered by early Western explorers in 19th century East Africa.
  • Gizmodo notes the steady progress made by LightSail 2 in its travel around the world.
  • The Island Review shares the Phillip Miller poem “Biennale”, inspired by Venice.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how the Norwegian Arctic island of Svalbard works without border controls.
  • The NYR Daily notes that while America is not Rome, it thinks it is.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains some oddities of Higgs bosons.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little looks at how the Kyshtym nuclear disaster occurred.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that 5% of Russian Orthodox parishes in Ukraine have defected so far to the Ukrainian church.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell applies information and management theory to Brexit.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait looks at Abell 30, a star that has been reborn in the long process of dying.
  • Centauri Dreams uses the impending launch of LightSail 2 to discuss solar sails in science fiction.
  • John Quiggin at Crooked Timber, as part of a series of the fragility of globalization, considers if migration flows can be reversed. (He concludes it unlikely.)
  • The Crux considers if the record rain in the Midwest (Ontario, too, I would add) is a consequence of climate change.
  • D-Brief notes that the failure of people around the world to eat enough fruits and vegetables may be responsible for millions of premature dead.
  • Dangerous Minds introduces readers to gender-bending Italian music superstar Renato Zero.
  • Dead Things notes how genetic examinations have revealed the antiquity of many grapevines still used for wine.
  • Gizmodo notes that the ocean beneath the icy crust of Europa may contain simple salt.
  • io9 tries to determine the nature of the many twisted timelines of the X-Men movie universe of Fox.
  • JSTOR Daily observes that the Stonewall Riots were hardly the beginning of the gay rights movement in the US.
  • Language Log looks at the mixed scripts on a bookstore sign in Beijing.
  • Dave Brockington at Lawyers, Guns, and Money argues that Jeremy Corbyn has a very strong hold on his loyal followers, perhaps even to the point of irrationality.
  • Marginal Revolution observes that people who create public genetic profiles for themselves also undo privacy for their entire biological family.
  • Sean Marshall at Marshall’s Musings shares a photo of a very high-numbered street address, 986039 Oxford-Perth Road in Punkeydoodle’s Corners.
  • The NYR Daily examines the origins of the wealth of Lehman Brothers in the exploitation of slavery.
  • The Planetary Society Blog shares a panorama-style photo of the Apollo 11 Little West Crater on the Moon.
  • Drew Rowsome notes that classic documentary Paris Is Burning has gotten a makeover and is now playing at TIFF.
  • Peter Rukavina, writing from a trip to Halifax, notes the convenience of the Eduroam procedures allowing users of one Maritime university computer network to log onto another member university’s network.
  • Dylan Reid at Spacing considers how municipal self-government might be best embedded in the constitution of Canada.
  • The Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle pays tribute to the wildflower Speedwell, a name he remembers from Watership Down.
  • Strange Maps shares a crowdsourced map depicting which areas of Europe are best (and worst) for hitchhikers.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the distribution of native speakers of Russian, with Israel emerging as more Russophone than some post-Soviet states.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Architectuul looks at some architecturally innovative pools.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait looks at Wolf 359, a star made famous in Star Trek for the Starfleet battle there against the Borg but also a noteworthy red dwarf star in its own right.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at how the NASA Deep Space Atomic Clock will play a vital role in interplanetary navigation.
  • The Crux considers the “drunken monkey” thesis, the idea that drinking alcohol might have been an evolutionary asset for early hominids.
  • D-Brief reports on what may be the next step for genetic engineering beyond CRISPR.
  • Bruce Dorminey looks at how artificial intelligence may play a key role in searching for threat asteroids.
  • The Island Review shares some poetry from Roseanne Watt, inspired by the Shetlands and using its dialect.
  • Livia Gershon writes at JSTOR Daily about how YouTube, by promising to make work fun, actually also makes fun work in psychologically problematic ways.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how the relatively small Taiwan has become a financial superpower.
  • Janine di Giovanni at the NYR Daily looks back at the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone. Why did it work?
  • Jamais Cascio at Open the Future looks back at a 2004 futurological exercise, the rather accurate Participatory Panopticon. What did he anticipate correctly? How? What does it suggest for us now to our world?
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that LightSail 2 will launch before the end of June.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at how the discovery of gas between galaxies helps solve a dark matter question.
  • Strange Company shares a broad collection of links.
  • Window on Eurasia makes the obvious observation that the West prefers a North Caucasus controlled by Russia to one controlled by Islamists.
  • Arnold Zwicky takes a look at American diner culture, including American Chinese food.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait takes a look at the German city of Nordlingen, formed in a crater created by the impact of a binary asteroid with Earth.
  • Centauri Dreams reports on the possibility that the farside of the Moon might bear the imprint of an ancient collision with a dwarf planet the size of Ceres.
  • D-Brief notes that dredging for the expansion of the port of Miami has caused terrible damage to corals there.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at the last appearances of David Bowie and Iggy Pop together on stage.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that China is on track to launch an ambitious robotic mission to Mars in 2020.
  • Karen Sternheimer at the Everyday Sociology Blog talks about what sociological research actually is.
  • Gizmodo reports on the discovery of a torus of cool gas circling Sagittarius A* at a distance of a hundredth of a light-year.
  • io9 reports about Angola Janga, an independent graphic novel by Marcelo D’Salete showing how slaves from Africa in Brazil fought for their freedom and independence.
  • The Island Review shares some poems of Matthew Landrum, inspired by the Faroe Islands.
  • Joe. My. God. looks at how creationists are mocking flat-earthers for their lack of scientific knowledge.
  • Language Hat looks at the observations of Mary Beard that full fluency in ancient Latin is rare even for experts, for reasons I think understandable.
  • Melissa Byrnes wrote at Lawyers, Guns and Money about the meaning of 4 June 1989 in the political transitions of China and Poland.
  • Marginal Revolution notes how the New York Times has become much more aware of cutting-edge social justice in recent years.
  • The NYR Daily looks at how the memories and relics of the Sugar Land prison complex outside of Houston, Texas, are being preserved.
  • Jason C Davis at the Planetary Society Blog looks at the differences between LightSail 1 and the soon-to-be-launched LightSail 2.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks in detail at the high electricity prices in Argentina.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the problems with electric vehicle promotion on PEI.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel looks at when the universe will have its first black dwarf. (Not in a while.)
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Belarusians are not as interested in becoming citizens of Russia as an Internet poll suggests.
  • Arnold Zwicky highlights a Pride Month cartoon set in Antarctica featuring the same-sex marriage of two penguins.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Bad Astronomy Phil Plait notes that the location of the Apollo 12 Ascent Module on the Moon may have been found.
  • Kieran Healy writes about how he uses scripts to produce animated graphics illustrating charging patterns of baby names over the 20th century in the United States.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how Japan has been cleaning up Tohoku after the Fukushima disaster.
  • Language Hat looks at an upcoming book project taking a look at how different languages written in the Arabic script interact with each other.
  • Abigail Nussbaum at Lawyers, Guns and Money, looking at “The Bells”, makes the case that this episode’s solution to the issues of Daenerys was probably the best one that could be devised within Game of Thrones’ self-imposed limitations.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the trial in Israeli military courts of Palestinian activist Issa Amro.
  • Jason C. Davis notes at the Planetary Society Blog that the Lightsail 2 spacecraft is scheduled for a June launch.
  • Peter Rukavina reacts, with eventual cool printings, to the Fluxus movement in mid-20th century art.
  • Strange Company shares the story of pioneering Edwardian parachustist Dolly Shepherd.
  • Daniel Little at Understanding Society shares his 1970s proposal for a Marxist philosophy of the social sciences.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that the GULAG system was a net loss for the Soviet economy, costly and employing workers at low productivity levels. (Bringing it back would be a mistake, then.)
  • Arnold Zwicky shares some wonderful photos of some remarkable lilies.

[LINK] “Bill Nye’s Lightsail solar sailing spacecraft wins on Kickstarter”

The Kickstarter campaign described by the Planetary Society’s Richard Chute for a solar sail craft was a huge success. CBC reports.

A campaign to launch a small spacecraft propelled through space by ultra-thin solar sails has crowdfunded enough in just one day to build the spacecraft.

The private, non-profit Planetary Society and its CEO Bill Nye had raised $200,000 on Kickstarter by Wednesday afternoon, just a day after they launched their campaign to help fund their LightSail spacecraft.

The bread loaf-sized spacecraft is powered by solar sails, designed to capture the momentum from solar energy photons using large, mirrored surfaces. The small, continuous acceleration allows a spacecraft propelled by solar sails to reach high speeds over time without carrying or burning any fuel.

The money raised on Kickstarter will cover construction of the spacecraft used in the primary mission, which will launch in 2016. A low-altitude test flight is scheduled to launch May 20.

Altogether, the project is expected to cost $5.46 million. The Planetary Society says it has $1.2 million left to raise.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 15, 2015 at 11:31 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links (1)

I’ve accumulated more than a few links in the past couple of weeks. I wanted to share them, in two posts, before I left Toronto on a week-long vacation in Prince Edward Island.

  • Acts of Minor Treason’s Andrew Barton shares a vintage photo of Toronto’s Union Station from 2010, before the massive construction on Front Street that transformed the scene.
  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that the very large majority of stars in the night sky are quite likely to still be alive, not having died in the mere tens of thousands of years (at most) it has taken for their light to reach us.
  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell notes that German attitudes which force women to choose between motherhood and employment aren’t going to work in the long run.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that landing sites on icy Europa’s chaos regions are likely to give probes access to its biologically interesting water oceans, and notes the serious problems associated with focusing lasers for interstellar solar sails across light years of space.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram notes the hardening of British attitudes towards migrants, while John Quiggin notes the role of nepotism in the centres of globalization.
  • The Dragon’s Tales has plenty of interesting links: one suggesting that known exoplanet systems seem to follow Kepler’s law, another suggesting that habitable exomoons are likely to orbit at least part of the time outside of the local stellar habitable zone if they’re to avoid overheating, and a third one mapping the genetic legacies of different ancient migrations to the Western Hemisphere.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the new cosmopolitanism and experimenting of Polish cuisine and chronicles the destructiveness of the continued alienation and even oppression of the Roma of Hungary.
  • Far Outlier’s Joel notes the growing popularity of baseball in the late 19th century Kingdom of Hawai’i and chronicles the origins of smallpox inoculation among the beauty practices of Circassian female slaves.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell makes an argument that independent satellite surveillance played a role in the decisions of France and Germany not to involve themselves in Iraq. Commenters dissent, suggesting that an Italy equally plugged into Franco-German networks didn’t care about the intelligence.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that a bare majority of Taiwanese now support same-sex marriage, and comments approvingly about American gay conservative Jamie Kirchick’s calling out of Russian homophobia on Russia Today at the expense of his career with that station.

[LINK] “Voyage of the Sunjammer: Sailing on Solar Winds”

I picked up Discovery’s article on the latest solar sail news from Supernova Condensate‘s associated Tumblr.

The sun, like all other stars, emits an immense amount of photons, as well as a steady stream of charged particles. This “solar wind” actually exerts a not insignificant amount of pressure on everything which orbits the sun. It’s enough to blow out the glorious tails of comets, like the ones that should be visible in the skies later this year, and to be gradually eroding Venus’ atmosphere. Also, just like the wind here on Earth, space weather can be used to power sails.

Despite being a mainstay in some science fiction works, solar sails are a very real and attainable technology. The latest development being the Sunjammer, a joint project between NASA and California-based aerospace company L’Garde.

At over 1,200 square meters (13,000 sq. ft.) in area, Sunjammer will be the largest solar sail ever constructed. It’s currently scheduled for launch in 2014, and will travel approximately 3 million kilometers (1.9 million miles).

[. . .]

The sail, with an area just under a third of an acre, will be deployed after the craft is launched into space — unfurling from a vehicle the size of a dishwasher, weighing just over 30 kilograms in total. This is probably one of the most ambitious spacecraft propulsion concepts ever tested. However, at the same time, the deployment mechanisms for solar sails have been well tested previously.

The sail itself will be made from a high tech material called Kapton — also used in space suits, where it serves the threefold purpose of thermal insulation, shielding from solar radiation, and protection from micrometeoroids. Made from this surprisingly tough material, the sail will be buffeted by photons from the sun, together with the charged particles which make up the solar wind; solar charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, also get caught up in the Earth’s magnetic field and cause the stunning displays of aurorae in polar regions.

The effective thrust which a solar sail can achieve is roughly 0.1 Newton — around the same force exerted by Earth’s gravity on a packet of sugar which you might stir into your morning coffee. This may seem tiny to us here on the surface of our planet, but it’s comparable with certain existing space propulsion technologies. For example, that’s actually more power than the ion thrusters that are currently propelling NASA’s Dawn spacecraft from Vesta to Ceres in the asteroid belt.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm