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The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe => Podcast Episodes => Topic started by: Steven Novella on August 22, 2015, 11:28:25 AM

Title: Episode #528
Post by: Steven Novella on August 22, 2015, 11:28:25 AM
Forgotten Superheroes of Science: Frances Kelsey; News Items: Mars Simulation, Robot Evolution, Naming Exoplanets, Fusion Reactors, Building the Death Star, Does Science Prove God, Sunspots; Science or Fiction
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: UnicornPoop on August 22, 2015, 05:58:16 PM
Damn I loved everyone of these topics! As for the Mars simulation, 18 years ago NASA had a three story test chamber where ran a 30 day and 90 day test, isolating 4 people inside, recycling as much as possible. Prior to that, they started with a 1 person test for 7 (or maybe it was 14 - I forget) days. There was a separate chamber for growing wheat, with the oxygen output being piped into the test facility. It was maybe 20x10x7 in feet dimensions. The benefit of wheat is that it has an "awake" time of 80% so you could illuminate for most of a 24 hour cycle. That space was enough to produce 1 person's worth of oxygen each day.

Using a biotic filtration scheme, they were able to recycle almost 90% of the water (it might have been even more-it's just been so long ago).

The only thing sent in was food and the only thing sent out was trash.

The project was called the Lunar-Mars Life Support Test Project and all the people involved with it wore Mars Or Bust buttons. I volunteered for the 180 day test but, it was in a time of budget cutbacks and so that project was cancelled. In fact, we were all prohibited to stop wearing those buttons and stop thinking about manned missions to Mars. I'm glad to see the pendulum is starting to swing the other way finally.

There were no psychological issues. No fights or arguments. A lot of work went into choosing compatible test subjects, unlike BioSphere (or is it BioDome?) where there was a lot of infighting near the end.

LMLSTP Phase III even went so far as to test recycling of human body solid waste, using an incinerator to release the water and O2. Not much came of that (other than some good stories) and it was too energy intensive.

Having spent 90 days or more on a sub, I can say it's not the isolation that gets you. It's the boredom. And so on subs you're always occupied from the day you leave port until the day you get back. It wasn't like that with LMLSTP. Excitement only came when a piece of internal equipment broke down and the subjects had to find ways to fix or jury rig it.

Overall there were a lot of great lessons learned there as well as lessons being learned on ISS even now. I think we really have a broad base of knowledge of what it will take to survive on Mars for an extended time. Probably the biggest sticking points are the economic feasibility of it all (lots of resources will have to be sent) and solving the radiation problem.

I don't know if NASA will do it or Elon Musk. But I believe it will happen.

Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Pedarski on August 22, 2015, 08:32:09 PM
During the exoplanet naming segment I couldn't help but think of some underrepresented myth-based cultures. I think great joy could be spread if we could name some far-flung plants in the tradition of Abrahamic mythology. In my opinion, the best would be a trinary planetary system of "Jesus Christ!", "Allah!" and "HaShem!" (Exclamation marks included)
This grouping would symbolically recognize the joint origin of the mythologies. The instability of a trinary planetary group could speak to the instability of such groups witnessed here on Earth.

Alternately, a "Jumping' Jehosaphat!" and "Holy Mary Mother of God!" located anywhere in the vastness of space would be a step in the right direction.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Harry Black on August 24, 2015, 11:10:31 AM
Something that keeps occuring to me about the ads-
Have you considered having each rogue record their own individual ad for each individual sponsor instead of the current round robin method?
I feel like it would keep them a bit more fresh and with each product it would be 5 weeks until you hear the same ad again.
Personally,Im happy to have the podcast sponsored so the intrusion doesnt really bother me that much either way.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: werecow on August 25, 2015, 04:40:29 PM
2 light years, or the distance to the Oort cloud, would be approximately 125k AU, so considerably more than the 2k listed for GU Piscium b.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: ramdrool on August 25, 2015, 07:41:01 PM
Seems to me that life is going to evolve in directions of primary energy consumers and secondary energy consumers. Let's assume the medium is water because of its being common and unique in chemistry for life for reasons many people seem to understand. Cognitive intelligence seemed to be linked to emotional evolution, driven by competition over primary energy consumers. No reason to think that simpler lines of early secondary consumers wouldn't evolve typically faster. It is reasonable to me that cephalopods or protosome with an similar ability to manipulate environment would be the most common to evolve what we would recognize and intelligent like us.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Baffled Scientist on August 27, 2015, 05:51:01 PM
To clarify on the IAU exoplanet naming vote - they give a list of 20 systems containing exoplanets and for each of these you can vote for one set of names out of a number that have been shortlisted by the IAU. Most of the systems contain one known exoplanet but a few have more, with one system containing 5 identified exoplanets, each of which will get a name.

One thing that wasn't mentioned on the podcast -  the host stars of 5 of the 20 systems already have common names but for the other 15 systems you're also choosing a common name for the stars themselves, which is another first.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: UnicornPoop on August 27, 2015, 06:47:02 PM
I believe there are about 70 exoplanets discovered by citizen scientists. I think their choice for names of planets they've discovered should be given some weight...even better, I think the IAU should name either the planets or the host star after them.

Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Skeptical EM Doc on August 29, 2015, 01:17:43 PM
Really enjoyed the forgotten super hero of science this week. Frances Kelsey was amazing. I wish they had mentioned she was Canadian:) Here is the local newspaper story of her life.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Norbury on August 30, 2015, 05:09:09 PM
What the hell was Steve on about when he seemed adamant that the Death Star wouldn't be built from steel? As a metallurgist that just seemed weird to me. Steve would do well to remember his own advice that he's a layman when it comes to engineering, even fictional engineering!
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: UnicornPoop on August 30, 2015, 05:42:50 PM
Wasn't it all about the cost and availability of steel? Besides, you'd expect they would have smart material technology available to them.

When put in terms of number of aircraft carrier equivalents...that's a LOT of steel.

Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Norbury on August 30, 2015, 05:50:05 PM
Steel is one of the most advanced materials we have, but semi-familiarity breeds contempt I guess.
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Kwisatz Haderach on August 31, 2015, 02:35:35 AM
Steel is one of the most advanced materials we have, but semi-familiarity breeds contempt I guess.

If you have knowledge about how steel might be used in the fictional situation under discussion, please share it!
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Norbury on August 31, 2015, 06:12:31 AM
Steel is used in practically every building construction these days, it's a great structural component due to its mechanical properties. Now Steve may have been thinking of the Death Star as a vehicle rather than a building, and  space vehicles do tend to be made of aluminium and titanium rather than steel, so fair enough, but I think of the Death Star as more building like and the volume of material surely means cost comes into it, steel is more cost effective.
Even in vehicles it's not obvious that steel loses out. In the 80's Audi started making aluminium cars, the steel industry responded by making a proof of concept car body using more advanced steel alloys rather than just cheap old mild steel. The more advanced types of steel (high strength low alloy or HSLA) enabled a lighter and stronger car body than was possible with aluminium, and even though the HSLA steel is more expensive per tonne the per car cost is lower. Guess what we use these days?
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: gehnofdni on September 03, 2015, 02:05:04 PM
If you wanted to build a small moon-sized space station, why wouldn't you assemble it from existing space stations, asteroids?  Pull together some iron asteroids for the core.  Pull together some rocky asteroids for the mantle.  Mutual gravity.  Build your habitat, power plant, weapon system, propulsions systems, etc, out of whatever, then cover it with small captured asteroids for protection.

Better yet, why wouldn't you just capture a big asteroid? Capture Ceres. Dig underneath the surface to construct your station. Mount some big ass ion drives powered by fusion reactors on the surface. Build your giant planet-killing weapon for...whatever. Death Star, done.

Death star aside, it would be the best way to build a long-term habitat in open space.  You need protection from radiation and small asteroid impacts.  Why not start with a massive asteroid, and build your structures underground?
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: Norbury on September 06, 2015, 01:57:34 PM
Reminds me of more than one sci-fi book!
Title: Re: Episode #528
Post by: gmalivuk on September 13, 2015, 01:47:07 PM
I think of the Death Star as more building like and the volume of material surely means cost comes into it, steel is more cost effective.
Steel is more cost effective for the teensy little building projects we use it for currently, but aluminum is a larger portion of Earth's crust than iron is, so in truly massive quantities might it be easier to get at?

(That still assumes, for no particular reason, that we'd be mining it from Earth instead of from asteroids, of course.)