May 2012

Is Our Civilization Detectable?

May 31, 2012

I haven’t even finished the first line of this post and I’m already in a digressive mood. The mental sidetrack comes from yesterday’s talk about the Square Kilometer Array, whose primary installations are now to be built in both South Africa and Australia. By observing an object through many instruments simultaneously, astronomers can use the […]

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Thoughts on the Square Kilometer Array

May 30, 2012

We now know that the vast collection of radio dishes and antennae that will become the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be built on two sites, with the majority of dishes in Phase 1 (beginning in 2016) being constructed in South Africa, and further dishes added in Australia as the project develops. The SKA is […]

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A Longer, Heavier Bombardment

May 29, 2012

We know that the early Earth was a violent place, but just how violent? The so-called Late Heavy Bombardment is thought to have occurred from 4.1 billion to 3.8 billion years ago, likely the result of asteroids being destabilized in their orbits by shifts in the orbits of the outer planets. That model is self-limiting, […]

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Impacts Spreading Life through the Cosmos?

May 25, 2012

Still catching up after the recent series on antimatter propulsion, I want to move into some intriguing work on panspermia, the idea that life may spread throughout a Solar System, and perhaps from star to star, because of massive impacts on a planetary surface. Catching up with older stories means leaving some things unsaid about […]

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Disruptive Planets and their Consequences

May 24, 2012

One of the joys of writing a site like Centauri Dreams is that I can choose my own topics and devote as much or as little time as I want to each. The downside is that when I’m covering something in greater depth, as with the four articles on antimatter that ran in the last […]

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Losing Our Cosmology

May 23, 2012

Long-time Centauri Dreams readers know I love the idea of ‘deep time,’ an interest that cosmology provokes on a regular basis these days. Avi Loeb’s new work at Harvard tweaks these chords nicely as the theorist examines what we know and when we won’t be able to study it any longer. For an accelerating universe […]

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Toward a Beamed Core Drive

May 22, 2012

If you didn’t see this morning’s spectacular launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9, be sure to check out the video (and it would be a good day to follow @elonmusk on Twitter, too). As we open the era of private launches to resupply the International Space Station, it’s humbling to contrast how exhilarating this morning […]

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Antimatter: The Production Problem

May 21, 2012

Antimatter is so tantalizing a prospect for propulsion that every time a new slant on using it appears, I try to figure out its implications for long-haul missions. But the news, however interesting, is inevitably balanced by the reality of production problems. There’s no question that antimatter is potent stuff, with the potential for dealing […]

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100 Year Starship Organization Launches

May 18, 2012

Today was to have been devoted to antimatter, continuing the discussion not only of how to produce the stuff on Earth or harvest it in nearby space, but how to create the kind of propulsion system that could tap its enormous energies. But the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence released its first public announcement about […]

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Antimatter: Finding the Fuel

May 17, 2012

In Stephen Baxter’s wonderful novel Ark (Roc, 2010), a team of scientists works desperately to come up with an interstellar spacecraft while epic floods threaten the Earth. The backdrop gives Baxter the chance to work through many of our current ideas about propulsion, from starships riding a wave of nuclear explosions (Orion) to antimatter possibilities […]

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