Thursday, December 18, 2014

... and a time to make a stand

Newspapers, perhaps across the world, carried the news of the carnage carried out at a school in Peshawar. This was punctuated by photographs of grieving families of the deceased.

Nobody can imagine a school may be target to an armed assault. Yet, in hindsight, a school serves multiple purposes for that militant mind-set.
First - a school is, relatively, an unguarded installation.
Second - children are hardly prepared mentally to recognize the mortal danger.
Third - the large casualties/fatalities would & probably did result in copius attention from the Fourth Estate.
Fourth - most parents, after such an incident, would choose to keep their little ones home rather than risk their lives.
The parents who have lost their children have my sympathy. Yet my attention is more with the parents who would attempt to protect their children by keeping them from school.
A youngling, as most parents experience, instinctively reacts when his possession is taken away from him. A new-born baby may cry, a slightly older one may throw a tantrum, a school-going child may take a more violent stand - erupt into fisticuffs, throw stones/sticks ... or stronger
In the long run a school would teach young minds to stand firm against injustice. It would teach that the law of the land may act slowly but eventually prevails. It would teach impressionable minds that a wrong is righted not by striking back immediately, but by approaching higher authority. A school environment offers a youngling opportunities to develop healthy social interactions, skills (including conflict resolution) in a moderated environment. In the long run social skills developed at school would be more useful in helping end the cycle of violent behaviours. Withdrawing a child from school may make it more likely that child would sooner be on the side of those perpetrators of this incident - therefore more at risk of avoidable injury & life!

To all parents in/around Peshawar (and all such potentially dangerous locations in the world) Children are the future. Education, and knowledge of the world around them is the one thing that can improve their lot in the future. For the sake of your children, do not stop the education of your children because of incidents like this! Stand firm!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Wanderlust: Making the War-Lord see red!

One issue with habitation of Mars is that it has a thin atmosphere. To paraphrase what this article  states - the thin atmosphere causes problems. These problems vary from an inability to contain water, breathe, and so on. Ergo it is necessary for Mars to have an atmosphere before humans may attempt to habit there.

Earth retains it's atmosphere, in no small part, because of it's magnetic field. In turn the magnetic field is generated by the liquid core deep beneath this planet we call Earth. A magnetic field is necessary for Mars to maintain an atmosphere.

So we were having these thoughts on how to kick-start Mars' magnetic field.

It just struck me (pun intended!) that a rock may be the start of an answer. Our Earth collects anywhere from 5 to 300 tons of space-dust daily to 300 tons of space-dust daily. So why restrict ourselves to a big enough rock? Make it lots & lots of littler (pardon my English!) rocks. So many that the cumulative mass of the planet increases the pressure to the extent the core liquifies again.

Another alternative could be to have an external/artificial magnetic field. Earthlings have already proven themselves capable of sending craft as emissary to meet the War-Lord. Make it several craft instead! Each in an areostationary orbit (emulating the GPS satellites here on Earth), each transmitting over a broad-spectrum omnidirectionally. Voila!

Of course both solutions are easier said than done ... and mutually exclusive. The first, of course, is the issue of motive, and electro-motive power required. But they are available options that may be placed upon the table before they may be discarded (if so!).

Monday, June 09, 2014

Wanderlust: A bum rush!

Solid bodies in the Solar System are relatively few; IMO the inner planets, asteroids, comets, and a few satellites around the Gas Giants. To the best of my knowledge, asteroids & comets lack an atmosphere - and are pock-marked to the extreme.

Out of Mars, Earth, Venus & Mercury - Mercury's atmosphere is ... mercurial, the Venerean atmosphere is lush in the extreme. Mars has a thin atmosphere, whereas Earth's is (for us humans, and a few other species) just right.

Of these 4 terrestrial planets, Earth has the greatest escape velocity at 11.2 km/s followed closely by Venus 10.3km/s, Mars 5km/s, and finally Mercury 4.3km/s.

At it's closest, Venus is around 38 Million km from Earth. Mars is around 54.6 million kilometers in it's turn.

No body is immune to impact by other bodies. Earth too is no stranger to body-play; Micro-micro meteorites accumulate by the giga-ton annually in the form of dust. Larger impact bodies such as the Chicxulub capable of delivering several as much as 100 Teratons equivalent of TNT are also out there - but less frequent. As many as 132 meteorites found on Earth are identified as of Martian origin.

On October 17, 2013, NASA reported, based on analysis of argon in the Martian atmosphere by the Mars Curiosity rover, that certain meteorites found on Earth thought to be from Mars were actually from Mars.

Back in the 1960s/70s, Project Orion was a theoretical study on a nuclear pulse propelled space-ship. Several devices being flung out opposite to the desired direction of thrust. Each device imparting an absurdly humongous specific impulse on detonation.

What I therefore find myself wondering

  1. How large would the impact have been on Mars to impart escape velocity to the rocks that eventually turned up on Earth?
  2. Even given the turbulent environment on Mars, is there a possibility one of the impact craters - the source of an eventual martian meteorite, may be discovered by one of the missions presently on/under-way to Mars?
  3. Is there a probability of discovering a Venerean meteorite here on Earth?
  4. Could Chicxulub, or a comparable impact may have dislodged a rock and sent it to Mars, or Venus?


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Wanderlust: Kayoed

The Solar System is comprised of the Sun, Jupiter, and other debris of creation. A portion of the debris are called planets; these are broadly classified as Gas Giants (Jupiter Saturn Uranus & Neptune ), and Terrestrials  (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars).

A planet usually has reasonably well-defined orbit. Smaller bodies have a well-defined orbit too, but are more liable to suffer perturbation from larger bodies. These smaller bodies are either comets, or asteroids.

Wikipedia has a great article on meteorites This article defines a meteorite as below

A meteorite is a solid piece of debris, from such sources as asteroids or comets, that originates in outer space and survives its impact with the Earth's surface.

But there are also the rare meteorites that may have originated on Mars. The wikipedia  article on Martian meteorite writes to say

On October 17, 2013, NASA reported, based on analysis of argon in the Martian atmosphere by the Mars Curiosity rover, that certain meteorites found on Earth thought to be from Mars were actually from Mars.

This raises a few questions in my mind

a. Do these martian meteorites contain significant quantities of extra-martian particles? (E.g. Those that belonged to the original asteroid/meteorite which impacted Mars, OR those that were collected during the course of it's journey through space)

b. How much velocity, and mass would the original meteorite have had to impart escape velocity to the rock? Is it possible to formulate these figures & say if a comet has mass X, and velocity Y it may impart escape velocity to Z mass of the impacted body?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Where could the Malaysian Airlines MH370 be?

So a great many people are wondering about the Malaysian Airlines MH370 which apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth a few days ago.

Guess I may as well as add my two-bits of randomness

Thinking aloud.
Either it pranged, or did not.

Assuming it did not prang near the specified location
  • from the absence of debris, and 
  • failure of the ELT
it went, or was taken, else-where
Reasons may be
  •  some passenger was of value to someone
  •  some cargo was of value to someone
  •  the assembly was of value to someone
  •  the response of the various nations was of value to someone
Examination of the passenger/cargo manifest would *hopefully* have revealed something along the first two possibilities. So I'll think about the last two in my list above.

If the assembly was/is of value - someone (or someones, pardon my grammar!) went to some effort to get hold of it. Either it is to be disassembled, or mothballed.

Disassembly in the ocean ... uh - the imagination boggles! So regardless of disassembly, or mothball - it is on/in Terra Firma until it ceases to be valuable. Perhaps debris may appear once it is no longer valuable.

If mothballed, at some point it may need fuel/consumables/parts - parts may be acquired/fabricated. Fuel, and consumables OTOH are perishable unless stored by trained hands in proper containers.
Ergo, it may be in a 'hangar' - near a rejuvenated (surely someone would have noticed new construction?) strip (perhaps fitted with arrestors) capable of tolerating the mass of such a large aircraft under heavy braking.

That leaves the last possibility - the response (or response pattern) of some nations to the incident may be of value. Errr ... Oops!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Extra-terrestrial dis-corporation

Last year the Mars One Foundation invited volunteers for a one-way trip to take up residence with the War-Lord. Over 200,000 humans volunteered; amongst them close to 20,000 Indians. A fraction of this number - 62 to be precise, have since made the cut for further participation as is evinced from this article. Space is known to be a hostile environment; the journey and destination environment even more so.

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code writes to say

309. Attempt to commit suicide
Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 151[or with fine, or with both].

The hazards involved may be considered a trade-off for a journey that attempts to take man to mars, and return safely. A one-way trip, on the other hand, may be construed suicidal - even if a technologically complex, and highly creative way to discorporate one-self.

Will any Indian in the final crew of the Mars One missions invite action under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code?