July 2012

Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence

July 31, 2012

By Larry Klaes One result of the biennial Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) held the last week of April in 2010 was to gather SETI specialists from around the world to look at everything from search strategies and signal processing to the best ways of creating an interstellar message. Tau Zero’s Larry Klaes has been reading […]

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On Cosmic Isolation

July 30, 2012

Michael Chorost is a science writer whose research interests grow directly out of his personal experience. You may have already read about his struggle with hearing loss — a problem he has dealt with since childhood — in his book Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). It’s natural to […]

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Defending the Interstellar Vision

July 27, 2012

An interstellar movement has been brewing for the past sixty or so years among physicists and engineers who have taken a serious look at what it would take to get to the stars. Their work is not based on wishes but on physics, and while they are aware of the intractable distances to reach even […]

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Al Jackson: A Laser Ramjet Reminiscence

July 26, 2012

by A. A. Jackson It’s always good when you can go to the source, which I am delighted to do with this reminiscence by Al Jackson, whose laser-powered ramjet (and laser-powered interstellar rocket) ideas we’ve been looking at for the past few days. Al recalls discovering the work of Eugen Sänger back around 1960 and […]

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Rocketry on a Beam of Light

July 25, 2012

The year after Al Jackson, working with Daniel Whitmire, published his concept of a laser-powered interstellar ramjet, the duo returned in the pages of JBIS with a spinoff design. The issue was obvious: Central to Robert Bussard’s ramjet design was the idea that the spacecraft would carry no fuel, but collect reaction mass from the […]

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A Laser-Powered Interstellar Ramjet

July 24, 2012

Many of the interstellar concepts I write about in these pages take on a life of their own. After the initial brainstorming, the idea gets widely enough disseminated that other scientists take it on, looking to modify and improve on the original concept. That’s been true in the case of solar sails and the more […]

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A Closer Look at Medusa

July 23, 2012

I see that ‘Zarmina’ is back in the news. The informal designation refers to Gliese 581 g, an exoplanet candidate announced by the Lick-Carnegie team in an effort led by Steven Vogt (UC-Santa Cruz). First you see it, then you don’t — Gl 581 g has been controversial from the start, and is now the […]

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Medusa: Nuclear Pulse Propulsion and the Sail

July 20, 2012

Hybrid propulsion technologies have emerged naturally as we look at ways to reach the stars. They’re the result of trying to extract maximum performance from each option, and it sometimes turns out that putting two ideas together works better than either by itself. Next week we’ll be looking at one such concept, A. A. Jackson’s […]

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Proximity Hunt: Exoplanets Around Nearby Stars

July 19, 2012

Finding new worlds with Kepler is an absorbing occupation, but the one thing missing from most exoplanet news is proximity. While we continue to search for planets around the Alpha Centauri stars, the closest candidate I know about is the gas giant thought to orbit Epsilon Eridani, some 10.5 light years out. If you’re looking […]

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Resolving the Pioneer Anomaly

July 18, 2012

Anomalies are always fascinating because they cause us to re-examine our standard explanation for things. But in the case of the so-called ‘Pioneer anomaly,’ the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Slava Turyshev, working with a group of scientists led by JPL’s John Anderson, needed an explanation for practical reasons. The possibility that there was new physics to […]

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