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37th Carnival of Space

The 37th Carnival of Space is up at Darnell Clayton’s Colony Worlds site. This week I would recommend planetary probe enthusiasts have a look at Music of the Spheres, where the talk is not just about the MESSENGER probe’s visit to Mercury, but about software you can run to simulate various situations in orbital mechanics. Also check Pamela Gay’s look at the Galaxy Zoo project, in which she not only offers tips for using Sloan Digital Sky Survey data but also links to an audio interview with Galaxy Zookeepers Jordan Raddick and Chris Lintott. At advanced nanotechnology, Brian Wang examines Boeing’s ideas for a space gas station, but I also want to turn your attention to his interesting post on the activation of a prototype extending Robert Bussard’s fusion ideas to version WB-7.

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  • ljk January 18, 2008, 14:20

    A story on the only Mariner 10 team member working with
    the MESSENGER team in exploring Mercury.

    To quote:

    Bob Strom had begun to lose hope.

    A veteran of NASA’s Mariner 10 mission to Mercury in the 1970s, he was bursting with questions that the Mariner flybys had raised about the little planet but couldn’t answer.

    “I’ve been hoping for another Mercury mission for 30 years, practically,” said Strom, an expert on impact craters. But for decades, NASA seemed unable to make it happen.

    “I really thought … I’d never live to see Mercury again,” he said.

    But he did.

    The rest of the story here:


  • Brian Wang January 18, 2008, 19:33


    Thanks for the links. My advancednano blog has been retitled nextbigfuture. I have a new domain which is forwarded to by the old advancednano blog. So the old links work and point to the pages with the new domain.

    I think the WB7 and WB8 work could be the biggest development in a year of big technological developments. If IEC fusion pans out it would be on a very short list of the most important technologies that civilization has ever produced (steam and combustion engine level). I would argue that it would be more important than the chemical rocket because it would truly open up space. I expect it would be on a short list for biggest technologies of the 21st century. My expectations being DNA nanotechnology, diamondoid molecular nanotechnology, mega- tera qubit quantum computers, radical life extension, and others.

    If the IEC fusion plays out close to the timeline that they are projecting then it would signal the start of new technological age.
    stone age
    bronze age
    iron age
    Industrial Age
    the Steam Age
    the age of the combustion engine
    A combination age – transistor computer/ primarily orbital space age, early nuclear, plastic, carbon fiber, internet

    fusion age, solar system space age, quantum computer, genetic control, molecularly precise materials

  • James M. Essig January 19, 2008, 1:10

    Hi ljk and Brian Wang;


    I also offer you thanks for providing the above two links.

    Brian Wang;

    I like your breakdown of the ages of history and the near future. I feel honored to live at a time where humanity is first breaking the bonds to Earth and venturing out into space, via the moon and solar system at first. I think the we as space travel enthusiasts, an indeed anybody with any form of zeal for the new and novel are in for a good ride during the next 2 to 3 decades which should prove very interesting.

    I am really encouaged by the work on Robert Bussard’s fusion ideas to version WB-7. This could really prove Big. The ability to do practical fusion reactors that can be scalled up to very high power levels is intriguing. If a fusion powered electric rocket propulsion system could be developed that would be 75 to 90 percent efficient utilizing the most exothermic fusion reactions, I could well imagine that a fusion powered rocket system containing 100 to 1,000 times the dry vehicle wieght in rocket fuel could reach moderately relativistic velocities thus enabling manned mssions to any of the stars within a 40 lightyear radius of Earth during one familial generation of human lifetime with respect to the ships reference frame. Target star system slow down could be accomplished largely without fuel via electrodynamic breaking means such as deployment of a large superconducting electrical coil, magnetic bottle sail breaking and the like. If some residual reaction mass where stored on board the craft, perhaps electron, or ion rocket reverse thrust systems could be provided that would accellerate the reverse thrust particles to ultrarelativistic energies and thus increase the apparent rest mass specific impulse of the ejected reaction mass to Isp values as high as perhaps 10 EXP 12 seconds.

    Any advances in the improvement of fusion powered reactionary propulsion systems can only help in the development of improved integrated interstellar ramjet systems. As we know, the practicality of interstellar ramjets has been recently downplayed by some researchers as being too ineffiecient and drag prone to be practical. Improved ISR reaction chambers, fusion energy extraction mechanisms and systems such as numerous nanolaser arrays that would ionize the interstellar medium in front of the craft along with new and useful concepts for electrodynamic widefield interstellar plasma capture just might allow the time averaged 1 G constant accelleration ISR mentioned in Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” to oneday become a reality. Such a system would permit circumnavigation of the observable universe of about 76 billion lightyears in just 56 years ship’s reference frame. Higher levels of accelleration such as 2 Gs, or even 10 Gs sharply increase the gamma factors per unit of Earth time passage thus allowing much much greater distances to be covered in theory during 56 years ship time.

    Even if faster than light travel turns out to be impossible, increadably high gamma factors might enable mankind to reach out over cosmic distances of space and time during two typical human generations ship time leading to cosmic colonization if only for spiritual and religious faith based purposes. Obviously, in the relativistic limit that C would be approached, an infinite amount of time would pass by on Earth while a human generation passed by ship time allowing the ship to travel an infinite number of lightyears in one generation ship time after C is reached. WOW! How profound!

    Now, the problem of how to marshall enough energy to convert to ship based kinetic energy to actually reach C presents itself: how to pump infinite kinetic energy into the ship. An insight into this problem might come from an analogy of the mathematical construct of the infinite self energy possessed by an electron as a mathematical construct involved in the mathematical renormalization process in computing finite energies and mass of the electron and other fundamental charged particles. In quantum electrodynamics, infinities pop up when attempting to predict the energy of say an electron that obviously do not make to much sense in the real physical world. Renormalization techniques where developed by the mid 20th century to cancell out such infinities. The self energy of the electron is a construct involving the infinite energy that would be required to collect the electrical charge of the electron and compress or bind it to the point like particle of the electron in quantum electrodynamic field theory. String theory largely does away with some of these infinities by proposing that the size of the electron is not infinitesimal, i.e., the electron is not actually pointlike, but rather exists as a vibrational mode of a 1 dimensional loop of string of the size on the order of the Planck Length of 10 EXP – 35 meters. As I am sure that much of the readership is already aware, such strings supposedly subsist in 10 or 11 dimensional space for the newer versions of string theory and 26 dimensional space for the older versions or socalled bosonic string theories.

    How to deal with such infinities has been a long standing problem in theoretical particle physics and in some forms still remains a problem in some aspects of some versions of even the latest highly speculative theories. But are such infinities necessarilly a problem? What if some how the kinetic energy of a space craft could reach infinite values for a space craft of modest restmass but wherein the infinite energy would somehow be cloaked or be made to remain hidden by an analoguous but real infinities cancellation mechanism wherein the ship would inertially travel at C and have infinite kinetic energy but which would not destructively interact with the cosmos, thus perhaps avoiding destruction of our universe as well as the space craft yet allow for infinite time dilation while traveling inertially through space, or atleast traveling inertially through space to the extent that such time dialation would have meaning. There is always the possibility that travel at C by massive kenetic energy cloaked ships might simply cause the ship to leave the observable univerese’s space time continuum by becomming casually decoupled from the continuum. This in itself might result in bazaar transport effects such as entering other universe, realms, or God knows what.

    I like the idea of the Boeing fill up station. Anything that faciliates tried and true chemical rocket propulsion throughout the solar system is valuable. If we are going to place permenant manned outposts on the moon as planned by the Bush administration by 2024, anything that faciliates manned lunar travel is valuable. This plan would make space fuel a commodity, and the label of it as such, would no doubt bring to mind its importance as an aspect of industrial infrastructure for humanity.


    Your Friend Jim

  • Adam January 19, 2008, 5:56

    Hi Brian

    Perhaps “Atomic Age” in all the meanings of the word.

  • Administrator January 19, 2008, 8:55

    Good choice on the name change, by the way, Brian. Your site has become so expansive in its outlook that the focus on nanotech was only part of the picture. Whatever the name, it’s a regular stop for me and will continue to be.

  • Edg Duveyoung January 19, 2008, 9:39

    This may be off topic — I don’t know physics enough to know. Does Bussard’s fusion device theoretically have the “mojo” to approach/interact with dark matter or “beyond” to dark energy? Scientists are speculating now about what kind of particle dark matter could be, and so I’ve begun to wonder what it would take to make a sail that caught the dark matter “wind,” or if Bussard’s fusion could somehow create such intensities that the machine starts getting it’s processes peppered by dark matter particles. Or, gads, that one could even capture dark matter for fuel.

    Considering that neutrinos can zip through a light year of lead without hardly ever hitting something, I cannot hope that today’s thinking can conceptually imagine what it would take to HAVE TO consider dark matter like we presently are forced to consider the rare ordinary matter particles ahead of a ship trying to get near to light speed — they become bullets to avoid. Just so, at what level of operational power would dark matter’s presence have to be anticipated?

    BTW, Brian, thanks for that chart — opened my eyes to the phase transition you note — a new flower in my conceptual garden.


  • Administrator January 19, 2008, 10:24

    Edg, dark matter is still such a mystery that figuring out how to use it is way ahead of where we are. It’s certainly true that the idea of a reaction mass of some kind out there in the cosmos is interesting from a propulsion point of view, but exactly what this stuff is is a question that will occupy us for some time to come, so that actually harnessing it to do work is a long term project indeed!

  • Administrator January 19, 2008, 15:10

    Larry, fascinating to learn that a Mariner team member is working on MESSENGER. I should also note that a major player in the MESSENGER project is Ralph McNutt, who is better known in these pages for his active role in Innovative Interstellar Explorer.

  • forrest noble January 20, 2008, 19:56

    Hey Jim, I wonder what they propose to use as fuel in the depot.

    I was hoping they might see some Insurance buildings on the Messenger flyby of Mercury, maybe at the poles we haven’t been able to see much of them as yet. I’m sure that’s where all the action is. Maybe their resolution wasn’t good enough?

    A nuclear power pack, replaceable fuel tank so to speak, would be cool someday.

    Also think that zoo of galaxies would be cool to look at. Lots of good ideas for the future of space technology it seems– wish it could happen sooner though.

    your friend forrest

  • ljk January 30, 2008, 13:50

    Proton-proton fusion in pionless effective theory

    Authors: S. Ando (1 and 2), J.W. Shin (1), C.H. Hyun (3), S.W. Hong (1), K. Kubodera (4) ((1) Sungkyunkwan U., (2) U. of Manchester, (3) Daegu U., (4) U. of South Carolina)

    (Submitted on 28 Jan 2008)

    Abstract: The proton-proton fusion reaction, $pp\to de^+\nu$, is studied in pionless effective field theory (EFT) with di-baryon fields up to next-to leading order. With the aid of the di-baryon fields, the effective range corrections are naturally resummed up to the infinite order and thus the calculation is greatly simplified. Furthermore, the low-energy constant which appears in the axial-current-di-baryon-di-baryon contact vertex is fixed through the ratio of two- and one-body matrix elements which reproduces the tritium lifetime very precisely. As a result we can perform a parameter free calculation for the process. We compare our numerical result with those from the accurate potential model and previous pionless EFT calculations, and find a good agreement within the accuracy better than 1%.

    Comments: 14 pages, 5 eps figures

    Subjects: Nuclear Theory (nucl-th); Astrophysics (astro-ph); High Energy Physics – Phenomenology (hep-ph)

    Cite as: arXiv:0801.4330v1 [nucl-th]

    Submission history

    From: Shung-ichi Ando [view email]

    [v1] Mon, 28 Jan 2008 16:44:00 GMT (17kb)


  • ljk December 17, 2008, 10:15

    Fusion we can believe in?

    Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 6:30 PM

    by Alan Boyle

    Working on a shoestring budget, researchers have found no reason why a low-cost approach to nuclear fusion won’t work.

    President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for energy secretary has said he’s aware of the approach, known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion or Polywell fusion – and although it’s probably not on his radar screen right now, it just might show up in the future.

    For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out how to harness the power of the nuclear reaction that sets the sun ablaze. Fusion involves smashing the nuclei of lighter elements together to produce heavier elements, plus an excess burst of energy. The sun turns hydrogen into helium. Thermonuclear bombs do something similar with different isotopes of hydrogen.

    The mainstream approaches to commercial fusion would involve heating up plasma inside a doughnut-shaped magnetic bottle known as a tokamak, or using lasers to blast tiny bits of deuterium and tritium. The former approach is being followed for the $13 billion international ITER project, and the latter would be used by multibillion-dollar experiments such as the National Ignition Facility in the U.S. or HiPER in Britain.

    Full article here: