The Future of Space Exploration (Part 2 of 2)

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Summary of part 1:

  • The majority of space exploration in the future will be done by unmanned probes as they are far more efficient and effective than manned alternatives.
  • Millions of probes will be sent out in all directions. They will land on far away planets and use nanobots to build communication structures, map the surface etc.
  • A high bandwidth connection to Earth will be established and people on Earth will be able to explore and experience the alien planets via local virtual reality simulations of lifelike realism.

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What if a probe finds life?

The probes will be programmed to start looking for signs of life long before they land on their target planet. If it is determined during approach that the planet has a high probability of life, the probe will change course and touch down on a nearby natural satellite (moon). [We will want to avoid disturbing a life-bearing planet before we are sure of what lives there.]

After the probe lands on a satellite it will go through the same procedure as if it had landed on the planet. It will release the nanobots, they will replicate, build greater communication equipment, and map the surface of the satellite. The next priority will be to look for radio signals, infrared patterns, chemical composition and so on coming from the planet below. This data will be used to establish what kind of life is on the surface.

In order to talk about how we would approach alien life, let’s assign some labels to order complexity/intelligence:

Type 0– No brain or capacity for thought, and extremely limited or zero mobility. [Ex. bacteria, fungi, plants etc.]
Type 1– Basic brain/central nervous system allowing for survival behavior only (avoid danger, find food, reproduce). Virtually zero intelligence. [Ex. insects, arachnids, jelly fish, crustaceans etc.]
Type 2– Capacity for social behavior  problem solving, basic counting. Very limited or no concept of abstract notions, the self etc. [Ex. dogs, cats, reptiles, monkeys, birds etc.]
Type 3– Tool use, complex social behavior  culture, understanding of self, all the way to nuclear power, artificial intelligence, and modest space travel. [Ex. Homo Sapiens from our earliest civilizations to modernity.]
Type 4-. Beyond Human. [See the Kardashev scale for more detail.]

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The Future of Space Exploration (Part 1 of 2)

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It is often said that we are destined for the stars. We have explored the Earth and walked on the Moon, it seems that the next step is to colonize new planets and explore distant solar systems. We imagine great ships carrying hundreds of pioneering humans who will settle new worlds like the explorers of the past. I have a different vision of exploration 50-100 years in the future that I think is much more likely.

Rather than sending enormous spaceships full of people to explore space, we will send small but very sophisticated probes. These probes will be sent at the greatest fraction of c (the speed of light) that we can manage and they will be sent out by the thousands, even millions, in every conceivable direction. Some probes will be put into orbit around stars, but most will land on alien planets. Upon reaching the surface the probes will release their cargo of nanobots [microscopic self replicating robots that manipulate matter on the molecular level] which will use the matter on the planet’s surface to replicate themselves, build communication structures, and so on.

Due to energy limitations the probes will send only vital information back to Earth upon landing. However the nanobots will quickly get to work disassembling their mother probe, stripping its existing solar material and converting it, along with the no longer needed extra material, into a large solar array. With energy in constant supply the nanobots will take a few minutes to self-replicate into the trillions, and then start construction of a high powered communication antenna.

As soon as our new pioneer outpost is up and running, with solid energy supply, powerful communication system, and a multitude of sensors, a high bandwidth connection will be established with Earth. We will suddenly be able to see everything with lifelike clarity — as if we were standing right there.

Continue reading “The Future of Space Exploration (Part 1 of 2)”

Top 25 Movies (1-5)

1. A Clockwork Orange

‘It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now, to give it the perfect ending, was a little of the Ludwig Van…’

[While listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony…] ‘Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures!’

‘Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven,’ as the tagline puts it. Our antihero Alex is a charismatic sociopath and remorseless sadist, who also happens to be rather intelligent and a great lover of classical music (Beethoven especially). Despite the film’s violent content, Kubrick’s goal was not to glorify this behavior but rather to explore the savage and wicked nature of man…

In Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ Pvt. Joker is questioned about the peace sign on his body armor and the conflicting ‘BORN TO KiLL’ written on his helmet. He explains, ‘I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir!’

‘Man isn’t a noble savage, he’s an ignoble savage. He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved—that about sums it up. I’m interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it’s a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure.’  -Stanley Kubrick.

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Top 25 Movies (6-10)

6. There Will Be Blood

Named by some critics as the film of the decade, ‘There Will Be Blood’ is Paul Thomas Anderson’s fourth major film and arguably his best work yet.

I remember the first time I saw ‘There Will Be Blood’, I went into the film with high expectations but also trepidation that it might not live up to Anderson’s previous work. It became immediately clear however, that this film was made with just as much vision, attention to detail, and passion as his previous work (if not more). The whole film is a spectacle of great writing, incredible acting, and masterful film making. While watching the film it was obvious that it was a great piece of work, but I wasn’t quite sure why Anderson chose this story to tell. There seemed to be something missing…

And then the final sequence; Like a long symphony, or opera, or Shakespearean play, the film has built up gradually with little crescendos and peaks here and there, rising slowly toward the explosive finale. Up to this point the work is beautiful but unsatisfying. But when we reach the finale, and all the instruments boom and chime together, and the players act out their final movements, the whole piece of work snaps together and becomes a magnificent object of transcendence. True art.

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Top 25 Movies (11-15)

11. Reservoir Dogs

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‘Reservoir Dogs’ was the world’s introduction to the strange and incredible mind of Quentin Tarantino. It would be an understatement to call him a genius; there is no one out there who makes such fascinating, bizarre, and compelling pictures. A gifted writer/director might manage a handful of really special moments in a film; ‘Reservoir Dogs’ has too many to count. A few examples:

  • The whole conversation in the diner; the Madonna ‘Like a Virgin’ theory, the address book bit, and the no-tipping rant.
  • The title scene of the whole gang walking down the street in slow motion with ‘Little Green Bag’ by The George Baker Selection playing.
  • While Mr. White and Mr. Pink are at each other’s throats trying to figure out what to do, Mr. Blonde, who just shot a whole bunch of people, casually shows up sipping on a drink (he stopped for lunch).
  • Blonde, White, and Pink go out to Blonde’s car and open the trunk to the kidnapped cop, they all laugh and smile (pictured above).
  • Mr. Blonde is left alone with the cop. He tells the cop he doesn’t care what he knows or doesn’t know, he’s going to torture him anyway. He turns on the radio and ‘Stuck in the middle with you’ happens to be playing. Blonde gets his knife out and starts dancing… [This entire sequence is amazing]
  • Steve Buscemi’s character gets assigned the name ‘Mr. Pink’ and asks why he got Pink and not a different color. ‘Because you’re a faggot,’ replies Joe. Tarantino (who is acting in this scene) can be heard giggling off camera. [He can be seen cracking up during the diner scene at the start of the film as well.]

There’s not many people out there who love movies as much as Quentin and it shows in every film he makes. As brilliant as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ was, his next film would arguably be his best…

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Top 25 Movies (16-20)

Art has the power to offer us truth beyond words. What makes a work of art truly great though is when it can deliver this truth in such a beautiful, powerful, and sincere way that it overwhelms our mental defenses. By ‘singing its message’ rather than telling it, great art can wash over the prefrontal cortex, passed our logical defenses, passed ego; cynicism and indifference, it can melt into our hearts and souls in a way that plain words cannot.

16. Pink Floyd — The Wall

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Based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album of the same name, ‘The Wall’ follows ‘Pink’ through his formative childhood years and into adult life. As a young boy he struggles with the loss of his father, ridicule and discouragement from his teachers and sheltering from his overprotective mother. As an adult Pink’s marriage collapses and he sinks into depression. The film deals with themes of isolation and fear, but also of hope. The final scene in ‘The Wall’ is a wonderful example of the kind of transcendence in art that I mention above.

[In the previous scene a brick wall explodes and crumbles to the ground.] It is the morning after some riots have taken place in the streets.  A truck is turned on its side and burned, broken glass and bits of bricks and rubble cover the street and some little kids are quietly cleaning up. Some of the kids are using their toy trucks to help move the debris. One of the little boys picks up an unlit Molotov cocktail and examines it. He makes a face at the unpleasant smell of the gasoline and pours it out. [The picture freezes on the child, credits start to roll, and ‘Outside the Wall’ plays with choir and brass.]

This scene is a hopeful conclusion to the long and tortuous journey that we have witnessed as Pink’s life. After so much struggle, after building ‘the wall’ that isolated him from the world and caused him such pain, he finally tears it down. Though Pink and so many others have gone through this difficult experience, there is still hope. After all the pain and suffering it is still worth it to move forward. Even for those who don’t make it, the children will pick up where we left of. The adults die and the children do a little better. Each generation cleans up after the last.

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Top 25 Movies (21-25)

What I love about film is that it can be such a beautiful, powerful, and entertaining art form. Some movies do a great job as pure, simple entertainment, others achieve the status of high art. Such great films have the ability to communicate in ways that plain words cannot.

If we have learned some great truth about the world, it does little good to simply tell another person about it. We tend to be very skeptical of free advice unless we can see for ourselves how it was reached, or we experience the lesson first hand. Art has the unique ability of allowing us to experience (through the artwork) something we might otherwise miss. The artist can lead us gently down the path that they followed to their conclusion and then we can really know the thing that they teach us. Art is the great communicator of wisdom.

I have put together a list of my 25 favorite movies, along with a short explanation of what makes each of them truly special to me. I will post these 25 films in 5 parts starting with 21-25, as listed below.

21. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Miyizaki’s beautiful 1984 fantasy has one of the best opening sequences of any film, regardless of genre, that I have seen. A beautiful and strange landscape with just a few words of dialogue and a completely enchanting score create an immersive atmosphere for the viewer within the first few minutes. ‘Nausicaä’ definitely falls under the category of ‘art’.

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