Kuiper Belt

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pages: 242 words: 81,209

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

indoor plumbing, Kuiper Belt, Pluto: dwarf planet

Many objects in the Kuiper belt thus have orbits that take them close to the orbit of Neptune but then much, much farther away from the sun. These objects have been called “scattered” Kuiper belt objects, as Neptune appears to have scattered them to those looping orbits. Only small things get scattered. The large planets are on nice circular orbits because there is nothing big enough to kick them around. The objects in the Kuiper belt—including Pluto—have tilted, elongated orbits because they are too small to resist the bullying of Neptune. Dutch could well have been a scattered Kuiper belt object rather than something on a circular orbit like a planet.

I was careful not to definitively declare the discovery as bigger than Pluto, but I did mention that if it had a dark surface—as we had long assumed most objects in the Kuiper belt did—it would have to be almost as big as Mercury. Over the next week, Chad, David, and I raced to see who could find old pictures of Santa to figure out what kind of orbit around the sun it had. Chad won and declared the orbit thoroughly normal. “Normal” in the case of the Kuiper belt means elliptical and tilted, but still within the swarm of all of the other Kuiper belt objects. After the oddness of Sedna, this normal orbit was almost a relief. At least something about the Kuiper belt was making sense. Today I know Santa by its official name, chosen by David: Haumea.

As I stared at the San Francisco Bay laid out in front of me, trying to pull my head back down to the earth by watching the boats blowing across the water, Jane Luu, a friend and researcher in the astronomy department who had an office across the rooftop courtyard, clunked up the metal stairs and looked out across the water in the same direction I was staring. Softly and conspiratorially she said, “Nobody knows it yet, but we just found the Kuiper belt.” I could tell that she knew she was onto something big, could sense her excitement, and I was flattered that here she was telling me this astounding information that no one else knew. “Wow,” I said. “What’s the Kuiper belt?” It’s funny today to think that I had no idea what she was talking about. Today if you sat next to me on an airplane and asked about the Kuiper belt, I might talk for hours about the region of space beyond Neptune where vast numbers of small icy objects circle the sun in cold storage and about how, occasionally, one of them comes plummeting into the inner part of the solar system to light up the skies like a comet.


pages: 323 words: 94,156

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto by Alan Stern, David Grinspoon

crowdsourcing, Dava Sobel, delayed gratification, four colour theorem, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet

They were incredulous. The Decadal Survey had directed New Horizons to study Kuiper Belt Objects. Only Hubble could enable the New Horizons mission to undertake this study. Would NASA allow them to fail to have a Kuiper Belt mission after Pluto for want of a couple of weeks of Hubble time, 2 percent of Hubble’s efforts that year? After all, there was no other credible way to explore KBOs anytime in the next several decades, except with New Horizons—and if they didn’t get Hubble time, their mission was not going to have a Kuiper Belt flyby target. Alan appealed to NASA Headquarters, and after a second John Spencer proposal to the Hubble project in the spring of 2014 and some high-stakes backroom maneuvering, the Hubble project announced that the KBO observing time for New Horizons had been approved.

We’re optimistic that a return to study the Pluto system in more depth will one day be funded. In addition, we think it’s likely that the other small planets of the Kuiper Belt will also likely be explored by spacecraft later in this century. If we humans are nothing else, we are an inquisitive and restless species, explorers at heart. For that reason, we’re also optimistic that even humans will one day travel to the Kuiper Belt to explore it in person, making footfall on Pluto and other Kuiper Belt worlds, as we have already done on the Moon and will soon do on Mars, and then no doubt on many other worlds. The first exploration of Pluto is complete, but the call of exploration beckons our species ever onward, into the wild black yonder of our solar system.

See International Astronomical Union Idaho National Lab Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) Instagram International Astronomical Union (IAU) “planet” definition by Io (Jupiter moon) “IRIS” composition spectrometer Journal of Geophysical Research JPL New Horizons’ development and role of Pluto mission bids by Jupiter Gravity Assist magnetosphere radiation of NASA missions to New Horizons’ study of Jupiter Encounter Science Team, (JEST) New Horizons KBOs. See Kuiper Belt Objects Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida New Horizons’ launch from as wildlife sanctuary Kerberos (Pluto moon) discovery of shape/rotation of Krimigis, Stamatios “Tom” Kubrick, Stanley Kuiper Belt Eris’s discovery in New Horizons’ mission objectives for Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) 2014 MU69 New Horizons’ flyby of Kuiper, Gerard Lappa, Linda Levison, Hal Lewis and Clark Lockheed Martin LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) Los Alamos National Laboratory work shutdown at Lowell, Constance Lowell Observatory Pluto’s discovery at Lowell, Percival Lucas, George Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Lunine, Jonathan Magellan mission malfunction procedures development, New Horizons Mariner missions technical capabilities of Mars Climate Orbiter NASA missions to Observer, explosion of Marsden, Brian Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama “Mars Underground” Martin Marietta May, Brian May, Todd McAuliffe, Christa McKinnon, William “Bill” McLeish, John McNamee, John McNutt, Ralph MCR.


pages: 190 words: 52,570

The Planets by Dava Sobel

Albert Einstein, Colonization of Mars, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, friendly fire, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kuiper Belt, music of the spheres, Norman Mailer, Thales of Miletus

Gerard Kuiper based his prediction of what is now called the Kuiper Belt on the motions of short-period comets such as Comet Halley and Comet Encke. Calculated orbits for these bodies suggested they originated in the Kuiper Belt region, and returned to it whenever they disappeared from view. In 1950, the same year Kuiper published this idea, Dutch astronomer Jan Oort used a similar argument to predict another, more distant reservoir of comets at 50,000 AU. While the Kuiper Belt is shaped as a torus (donut), the “Oort Cloud” forms a spherical shell. The orbits of short-period comets from the Kuiper Belt rarely incline more than twenty degrees from the plane of the ecliptic. Long-period comets from the Oort Cloud, on the other hand, may travel paths of any inclination, even perpendicular to the ecliptic.

Half a century later, when Kuiper’s myriads began to materialize in the trans-Neptunian deep, astronomers recognized them as his hypothesis come real. The steadily increasing census of the Kuiper Belt counts Quaoar, Varuna, and Ixion, all discovered in 2001 and 2002, among its larger constituents. Their names reflect a modern ethic of ethnic awareness: Quaoar is the creation force recognized by the Tonga tribe, the original inhabitants of what is now Los Angeles. Pluto, the premier object in the Kuiper Belt, follows a steeply inclined and highly elliptical orbit. Over a period of 248 years, Pluto alternately soars above the plane of the Solar System and dives below it, strays out to almost twice Neptune’s distance from the Sun at one extreme and ducks inside the orbit of Neptune at the other.* This wandering path, so different from that of any other planet, helped brand Pluto as an oddball from its earliest days.

Over a period of 248 years, Pluto alternately soars above the plane of the Solar System and dives below it, strays out to almost twice Neptune’s distance from the Sun at one extreme and ducks inside the orbit of Neptune at the other.* This wandering path, so different from that of any other planet, helped brand Pluto as an oddball from its earliest days. By the standards of the Kuiper Belt, however, the orbit appears common. Some 150 other Kuiper Belt objects trace the same course, and they all avoid collision with Neptune thanks to the resonance agreement among them: Neptune circles the Sun three times in the time it takes Pluto and company to go around twice. When Pluto trespasses into Neptune’s orbit, it does so always at the height of its swing, leaving Neptune far below and at least a quarter-turn away.


pages: 221 words: 61,146

The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets by Alan Boss

Albert Einstein, Dava Sobel, diversified portfolio, full employment, if you build it, they will come, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Pluto: dwarf planet, Silicon Valley, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

Wetherill had shocked the audience of several hundred astronomers and planetary scientists by pointing out that the mere fact that the one known planetary system contained a Jupiter did not necessarily mean that Jupiters were common. Jupiter protects us from the comets that revolve in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit. When a malevolent comet decides to break out of the Kuiper Belt and make a suicidal dash toward Earth, Jupiter plays the role of the batsman protecting the wicket in a cricket match. It swats the comet out of the Solar System, or forces it to smash harmlessly into the Sun, or takes it right in the face, as Jupiter did with the startling collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 just 2 years later, in 1994.

The IAU had been wrestling with the issue of planethood well before Xena made her appearance on stage. A Working Group on the Definition of a Planet had been created in June 2004 to deal with the problem of Pluto’s planethood. It had become clear that Pluto was the largest known member of the swarm of comets in the Kuiper Belt, a region named after the same Gerard Kuiper who had first suggested gravitational instability as a means for forming gas giant planets. Many Kuiper Belt objects have orbits similar to that of Pluto, and they had been found by the hundreds, making the situation similar to that of Ceres in the asteroid belt. Ceres was discovered in 1801 by the Sicilian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi.

By this time it was clear that Ceres was just one of a number of objects orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, and these became known as the minor planets in recognition of their diminutive stature compared to the eight major planets. We now know that the asteroid belt is populated by many hundreds of thousands of bodies large enough to be detected from Earth. The same fate had befallen Pluto. It was merely the first—and so far the largest, until Xena—body detected in the Kuiper Belt. By the same reasoning that had led to the demise of Ceres’s claims to planethood in the early 1800s, it seemed that Pluto deserved a similar demotion. The IAU Working Group on Extrasolar Planets had agreed in 2001 on a “working definition” of a planet that could be applied to extrasolar planetary systems.


pages: 183 words: 54,731

Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy by John Lewis

3D printing, cosmic abundance, Elon Musk, gravity well, Jeff Bezos, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, zero-sum game

Non-resonant bodies in similar orbits would encounter Neptune from time to time and be destroyed or perturbed into eccentric and unstable orbits such as those followed by the Centaurs. Beyond Pluto there are also many bodies with orbital semimajor axes between about 41 and 47 AU and low eccentricities. These bodies are referred to as the “Kuiper Belt” or as “cubewanos”, a whimsical reference to the type example, 15760 1992 QB1. The largest known Kuiper Belt body (1995 SM55) has a diameter of 813 km, and the population of the Kuiper Belt is estimated as 100,000 bodies, for an aggregate of about one Earth mass. Finally there is a population of “scattered disk objects” (“SDOs”) with a > 41 AU and eccentricities ranging from about 0.2 to 0.9.

Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies the realm of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), including the plutinos, whose mean distance from the Sun is greater than that of Neptune, but which follow orbits that cross Neptune’s orbit. Pluto itself is one member of this family, the one that is most easily observed from Earth. Beyond the plutinos we have the cubewano family. These distant bodies are historically described as Kuiper Belt objects after planetary astronomer Gerard P. Kuiper, who first proposed their existence. Far beyond the Kuiper Belt, following orbits of random inclination and high eccentricity, is the Oort cloud of long-period comets, named after Dutch astronomer Jan Oort, who first deduced the cloud’s existence. These comets typically have orbital semimajor axes on the order of 10,000 AU and periods of millions of years.

The remainder of the 20th century contained discoveries of many more small satellites, powerfully assisted by the Voyager spacecraft flybys of the giant planets and by great advances in electronic detection and imaging systems on Earth and in near-Earth space, on the Hubble Space Telescope. The first Centaur, Chiron, was discovered in 1977, and many more have been added since 1992. Since the Kuiper Belt was discovered in 1992, well over 1000 Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) have been catalogued. The clean division of small Solar System bodies into discrete families has motivated theoretical modeling of their orbits, including the evolution of these orbits over long periods of time. These studies revealed that the mean lifetime of an NEA is about 30 million years, and that the main mechanisms for loss of these bodies were impact on a terrestrial planet or perturbation into Jupiter approaching orbits, from which the body could strike Jupiter, or could be ejected from the Solar System, or even fall into the Sun.


pages: 310 words: 89,653

The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell

Albert Einstein, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, polynesian navigation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking

See Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), 126 Juno mission, 130 Jupiter Bell’s childhood telescope viewings, 13 Cassini mission, 129–130 discovery of, 103–104 Flandro’s gravity assist research, 43–46 Galileo mission, 25–26, 51, 120, 124, 126, 129, 189, 237 Great Red Spot, 103–104, 128–129 internal structure, 208 Juno mission, 130 magnetic field, 54, 73, 110, 130, 178 moons, 103, 104, 107, 108, 109, 111, 114–128, 130–132, 166–167, 241, 243 New Horizons mission, 130 Pioneer mission, 73, 103 ring discovery, 128, 144 Voyager mission, 23, 47, 48, 49, 59, 103–132, 107–108, 109, 120–121 Voyager’s radio transmissions from, 63 Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), 126 Kaguya, 237 KBOs (Kuiper belt objects), 147, 217–218 Kepler, 284–288 Kohlhase, Charley, 55, 68–69, 105, 106–107, 110, 135, 136, 138, 140, 147–148, 159, 182, 200, 201–202, 219 Kuiper, Gerard P., 217 Kuiper Airborne Observatory, 184 Kuiper Belt, 97, 242 Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), 147, 217–218 Laplace, Pierre-Simon, 115 Lemmon, Mark, 238–239 Le Verrier, Urbain, 43, 192–194, 211 LIFE magazine, 227, 229 Lomberg, Jon, 79, 82–84, 85, 87, 90, 91, 95, 98–99, 219–220, 282 Lopes, Rosaly, 120 Lovell, Jim, 227, 228 Lunar Orbiter I, 226–227 Magellan, 51, 195 Magnetic fields Earth, 171 Ganymede, 126 heliosphere-interstellar space boundary, 246, 249, 254, 256, 257, 259, 261, 262–264, 266, 267, 269, 271 Jupiter, 54, 73, 110, 130, 178 measurement tools, 16 Neptune, 200, 209–210 Saturn, 73, 135, 178 Stone’s research, 16–17 Uranus, 37, 170–171, 177–180, 185 Magnetometers, 16 Malin Space Science Systems, 39 Mariner 2, 50 Mariner 4, 50 Mariner 5, 50 Mariner 6, 50 Mariner 7, 50 Mariner 9, 50 Mariner 10, 42, 47, 50 Mariner 11, 61 Mariner 12, 61 Mariner Jupiter Saturn ’77 (MJS-77), 48, 49–61 Marley, Bob, 95 Mars atmosphere, 285 Curiosity rover mission, 10, 26, 84 life on, 131 Mariner flyby, 47 Opportunity rover mission, 10, 19, 26, 84, 230, 238–239 Spirit rover mission, 10, 19, 26, 84, 230, 238–239 Viking program, 9–10, 12, 62, 157, 183 Mars Global Surveyor mission, 39 Mars Observer spacecraft, 39 Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), 39 Mars Pathfinder spacecraft, 10 Martin Marietta Corporation, 62 Mathematicians, 192–193 Mauna Kea Observatories, 58–59, 186, 188, 195, 205 Maxwell, James Clerk, 135 McComas, David, 266 Medici, Cosimo de’, II, 166 Mercury Galileo flyby, 237 Mariner flyby, 42, 47, 50 MESSENGER flyby, 237 orbiters, 26 planet designation, 243 transits in front of sun, 283 visibility from earth, 239 Voyager photographs, 235–236 Messages sent into space, 71–99 “Cosmic Call,” 81 introduction, 71–73 New Horizons, 97–99 Pioneer plaques, 73–77 Voyager Golden Record, 77–97 MESSENGER, 237 Methane, 139, 140, 141, 146, 177, 203, 215 Metis, 128 Milky Way galaxy, 224, 251, 290–291 Miller, Stanley, 139 Mimas, 142, 150, 166, 180 Miranda, 37, 39, 172, 177, 181–183 Mission Planning Office, 14 MJS-77 (Mariner Jupiter Saturn ’77), 48, 49–61 MOC (Mars Orbiter Camera), 39 Model rockets, 41–42 Moon (Earth), 226–227, 230, 243 Moon landing, 8–9 Moons definition of, 104–105 Jupiter, 103, 104, 107, 108, 109, 111, 114–128, 130–132, 166–167, 241, 243 Neptune, 201–203, 212–218 new discoveries from Voyager data, 211–212 Pluto, 218 Saturn, 131, 135, 142, 143, 145–148, 150, 151, 158–159, 166, 241, 243 Uranus, 180–183, 187–188 Morabito, Linda, 114–115, 116, 117–118, 119 Morrison, David, 154, 156, 157 Mt.

., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30 Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, “Sacrificial Dance,” Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35 Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, no. 1, Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48 Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, first movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20 Bulgaria, “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59 Navajo Indians, “Night Chant,” recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57 Holborne, Pavans, Galliards, Almains, and Other Short Aeirs, “The Fairie Round,” performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17 Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12 Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38 China, ch’in, “Flowing Streams,” performed by Kuan P’ing-hu. 7:37 India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30 “Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15 Beethoven, String Quartet no. 13 in B flat, op. 130, “Cavatina,” performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:37 THE NEXT LEVEL The NASA New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006 and headed for a flyby past Pluto in July 2015, is also on an escape trajectory out of the solar system—the first such spacecraft on an escape trajectory since the Voyagers, and following a path similar to one of the Jupiter-Pluto missions that Gary Flandro and others charted in the mid-1960s. It is destined to continue on through a zone of thousands of small, icy planets beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt and enter interstellar space sometime in the next few decades. But it was launched without an interstellar message like Voyager’s on board. Perhaps this is a sign of a more anxious age. In any case, a group of people led by Jon Lomberg are awaiting expected approval by NASA to upload a yet-to-be-determined “digital interstellar message” into the New Horizons spacecraft’s permanent long-term flash memory once the mission has completed its science objectives.

If Voyager 1 hadn’t been targeted so closely to Titan and had instead been able to be diverted by Saturn’s gravity toward a flyby of Pluto in the 1980s, as NASA had envisioned for some of the original Grand Tour missions proposed in 1969–1970, we would have discovered much sooner that Pluto is a small world with a thin atmosphere, a surface mostly made of nitrogen ice, and orbited by at least five moons rather than just the one large one discovered from Earth-based telescopes in 1978. Maybe active plumes or nitrogen-powered volcanoes would have been discovered. Charley Kohlhase is less sanguine. “I don’t think a far-off little, now–Kuiper Belt Object like Pluto, and the trip time and whether you could make it there or not, would ever have beaten out Titan. Most of the people I knew did not regret giving up on Pluto. We were happy to go with Jupiter-Saturn-Titan for Voyager 1, and the smaller Grand Tour Jupiter-Saturn-Uranus-Neptune with Voyager 2.”


pages: 257 words: 66,480

Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System by Ray Jayawardhana

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Donald Davies, Edmond Halley, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, Pierre-Simon Laplace, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919

The almost face-on disk around epsilon Eridani, which is a mere ten light-years away, is of special interest: it clearly shows a central cavity as well as a bright spot in the ring of dust. At an age of about 500 million years, that star must be well past the main epoch of planet formation. The dust ring is at roughly the same distance from epsilon Eridani as the Kuiper Belt of comets is from the Sun. Most likely, what we are looking at is the dust debris in a young Kuiper Belt analog around another star. The bright “blob” might be dust trapped in the orbit of an unseen planet. Newsweek magazine published a cover story, “The Birth of Planets,” in its May 4 issue, reporting on the HR 4796A disk as well as these four.

That’s when David Jewitt and Jane Luu, two astronomers using the University of Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, discovered a faint slow-moving object dubbed 1992 QB1. Follow-up observations confrmed it as a member of the Kuiper Belt, a population of icy bodies beyond Neptune, frst hypothesized almost ffty years earlier as a reservoir of short-period comets. Since then, astronomers have identifed over a thousand other such bodies, and it became increasingly clear that Pluto belongs to the same population. With the discovery of several large Kuiper Belt objects in recent years, some more than half the size of Pluto and harboring moons just like it does, Pluto’s special status was under threat.

“This is the frst image of a multi-planet system, and these exoplan-ets are also the frst at separations similar to Uranus and Neptune to be discovered by any means,” wrote Marois. Interestingly, the host star shows excess infrared emission—evidence of a dust belt located outside the new planets, somewhat akin to the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune in our solar system. The researchers did not have spectra of the planets in hand, but were able to see their orbital motion around the star. That’s because the two outer planets were recovered in an image taken four years earlier with Keck, and the innermost (thus the fastest) one was seen to move over the course of a year.


pages: 452 words: 126,310

The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, battle of ideas, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, gravity well, if you build it, they will come, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, more computing power than Apollo, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, off grid, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, private space industry, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telerobotics, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, uranium enrichment

Thus, once there is helium-3 commerce to be supported in the outer solar system, Jupiter, using the resources of its outer moons and its gravity well, could develop as an important solar system transportation node. Nineteenth-century New Englanders thought they had an unmatchable racket going selling ice. Imagine the envy of those sharp-minded old-time Yankees if they could awake from their graves and look into the future to see Callisto colonists selling…gravity! THE KUIPER BELT AND OORT CLOUD It is generally considered that beyond the Sun's family of planets there is absolute emptiness extending for light-years until you come to another star. In fact it is likely that the space around the Solar System is populated by huge numbers of comets, small worlds a few miles in diameter, rich in water and other chemicals essential to life….

In fact it is likely that the space around the Solar System is populated by huge numbers of comets, small worlds a few miles in diameter, rich in water and other chemicals essential to life…. Comets, not planets, are the major potential habitat of life in space. —Freeman Dyson, 1972 As mentioned earlier, beyond Neptune lie two zones of asteroid-sized objects rich in volatiles. The innermost such region is the Kuiper Belt. Consisting of millions of iceteroids orbiting more or less in the same plane as the planets (“the ecliptic”), it begins about 30 AU and extends to perhaps 50 AU. There then appears to be a gap largely free of such objects, until at about 1,000 AU a new iceteroid zone begins. This is the Oort cloud, whose trillions of frozen objects populate a sphere surrounding our solar system in all directions out to about 100,000 AU—roughly halfway to the nearest star.

However, unlike near-Earth asteroids, which spend their lives in the inner solar system and which can, in principle, be spotted and have their trajectories mapped many orbits before a potential Earth-smashing collision, comets can emerge from the dark and come in fast and hard with the advantage of surprise. The only way to control them is to detect and deflect them while they are still very far out. This means that someday, for security purposes if no other, there will be a need for a substantial human presence and technical capability in both the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud. But there may be other reasons that drive humans to populate this vast archipelago of cosmic islands. Based on analysis of comets, it's fairly clear that the volatile iceteroids of the Oort cloud are rich not just in water but in carbon and nitrogen, much of it in the form of the usual compounds of organic chemistry and life.


pages: 360 words: 110,929

Saturn's Children by Charles Stross

augmented reality, British Empire, business process, gravity well, indoor plumbing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, loose coupling, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, Plutocrats, plutocrats, theory of mind

And it’s full of life. The inhabitants of Heinleingrad have no phobia of green goo replication, or even of pink goo. In part it’s because the Kuiper Belt colonials are mainly robust nonanthropomorphs, who were never subjected to the grueling submission conditioning required from those of us who might mingle with our Creators in person—but that’s not the only reason. The Replication Suppression Agency has been spanked out of Eris-proximate space, and indeed out of many of the other Kuiper Belt worlds like Quaoar and Pluto-Charon and Sedna. Nobody here gives a fuck what they think because, frankly, the chances of replicators from one of these icy realms ever reaching sterile Earth’s atmosphere are minimal, and in the meantime, bioreplicators are vital to business.

At noon, things get a little hot on the surface—even hotter than down among the half-melted valleys of Venus. At midnight it’s as cold as Pluto or Eris. They build power plants here, vast beampower stations that fly in solar orbit, exporting infrared power to the shipyards of the dwarf planets of the Kuiper Belt, out beyond Neptune. To build and launch those power plants, they need heavy elements—mined locally. And guess what? Someone needs to run those mines. To avoid the extremes of temperature, the city of Cinnabar rolls steadily around the equator of Mercury on rails, chasing the fiery dawn. Thermocouples on the rails drain the heat of daylight into the chill of the wintry night, extracting power to propel the city at a fast walking pace, year in and year out.

“But my bellboys managed to track them down. And I gather they’re going to have a very chilly night.” “Chilly—” “Yes, they’re bound for the darkside now.” Where the icicle-bright stars come out and the ground cools down, and the only things that move are the migratory exopods of the renegades who have fled the Forbidden Cities of the Kuiper Belt for the one place in the solar system that’s even colder than the backside of Pluto. I shiver. “Thank you, Paris.” “For you, my dear? Anytime.” MOST PEOPLE HAVE a mild phobia of nanoscale replicators. From our earliest days we’ve heard horror stories about pink and green goo, unconstrained mutation engines that can overrun a factory or city in a matter of weeks.


pages: 88 words: 26,603

Asteroid Hunters (TED Books) by Carrie Nugent

Dava Sobel, John Harrison: Longitude, Kuiper Belt

There’s a class of asteroids called trojans that hangs out along Jupiter’s orbit, clustering a little before and a little after that planet as it orbits the Sun. Some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn are probably asteroids that have gotten caught by the gravity of those giant planets. There are tens of thousands of rocky, icy objects beyond the orbit of Neptune in a region called the “Kuiper Belt,” and perhaps many more beyond that in a region called the “Oort Cloud. ” There are also comets. Comets, which occasionally light up the sky with their spectacular tails, have been known to humanity as long as the stars have. Traditionally, comets and asteroids were thought to be totally different types of objects—asteroids were made of rock or metal, and comets were made of rock and ice.

Nature Scientific Reports 3 (December 2013): doi:10.1038/srep03411. Mainzer, Amy et al. “Characterizing Subpopulations within the Near-Earth Objects with NEOWISE: Preliminary Results.” The Astrophysical Journal 752, no. 2 (June 2012). Petit, J.-M. et al. “The Canada-France Ecliptic Plane Survey—Full Data Release: The Orbital Structure of the Kuiper Belt.” The Astronomical Journal 142, no. 4 (September 2011). Russell, C. T. et al. “Dawn at Vesta: Testing the Protoplanetary Paradigm.” Science 336, no. 6082 (May 2012): doi:10.1126/science.1219381. Things that Hit the Earth Auer, Matthias and Mark K. Prior. “A New Era of Nuclear Test Verification.”


pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Arthur Eddington, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Brownian motion, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, clean water, Copley Medal, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, out of africa, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

As for Pluto itself, nobody is quite sure how big it is, or what it is made of, what kind of atmosphere it has, or even what it really is. A lot of astronomers believe it isn't a planet at all, but merely the largest object so far found in a zone of galactic debris known as the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt was actually theorized by an astronomer named F. C. Leonard in 1930, but the name honors Gerard Kuiper, a Dutch native working in America, who expanded the idea. The Kuiper belt is the source of what are known as short-period comets—those that come past pretty regularly—of which the most famous is Halley's comet. The more reclusive long-period comets (among them the recent visitors Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake) come from the much more distant Oort cloud, about which more presently.

Tombaugh paper, “The Struggles to Find the Ninth Planet,” from NASA website. 8 “there may be a Planet X out there . . .” Economist, “X Marks the Spot,” October 16, 1999, p. 83. 9 “The Kuiper belt was actually theorized . . .” Nature, “Almost Planet X,” May 24, 2001, p. 423. 10 “Only on February 11, 1999, did Pluto return . . .” Economist, “Pluto Out in the Cold,” February 6, 1999, p. 85. 11 “over six hundred additional Trans-Neptunian Objects . . .” Nature, “Seeing Double in the Kuiper Belt,” December 12, 2002, p. 618. 12 “about the same as a lump of charcoal . . .” Nature, “Almost Planet X,” May 24, 2001, p. 423. 13 “now flying away from us . . .”

By the early 1900s, it had often become impossible to know whether an asteroid that popped into view was new or simply one that had been noted earlier and then lost track of. By this time, too, astrophysics had moved on so much that few astronomers wanted to devote their lives to anything as mundane as rocky planetoids. Only a few astronomers, notably Gerard Kuiper, the Dutch-born astronomer for whom the Kuiper belt of comets is named, took any interest in the solar system at all. Thanks to his work at the McDonald Observatory in Texas, followed later by work done by others at the Minor Planet Center in Cincinnati and the Spacewatch project in Arizona, a long list of lost asteroids was gradually whittled down until by the close of the twentieth century only one known asteroid was unaccounted for—an object called 719 Albert.


Scratch Monkey by Stross, Charles

carbon-based life, defense in depth, fault tolerance, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, packet switching, phenotype, telepresence

A spongy diamond the size of a planet swings through a planetary nebula; nanorobots riddle it, busy etching many-dimensional networks of simple processors into its delicate filigree of surfaces. Meanwhile, other constructors fashion condensing hydrocarbons into strange, lacy structures in deep orbit through the star's Kuiper belt, the distant realm of the ice dwarfs that circle beyond the farthest gas giants. Halos and rings a million kilometres across flutter like huge parasols, strobing with the excrement of a billion billion optical processors. And it still isn't enough. The Ultrabrights, lusting for the power to transcend their information-flow bounded existence, turn their attention to the star.

The question hung in the air for long seconds, until she wondered if she'd made a terrible mistake in asking. "A long time ago," Boris said slowly, "I made a mistake. I'm still paying for it." He didn't say anything more until Oshi prompted: "yes?" Suddenly his eyes were burning, burning through her like drills. "I assumed that ignorance was a sufficient defense. We knew what was going on in the Kuiper belt, battles between Ultrabright factions, Superbright complexes going NP-slow, big energy-intensive restructuring in the Oort halo around the outer system. But it didn't seem to effect us: it had been going on for decades, after all. We humans, huddling close to the sun, we weren't going to be effected, were we?"

She had a sudden, ghastly vision: eighty ships launched into the void with insufficient reaction mass to return and nothing much to go back to anyway. The enemy ship, listening to the orders of a silent voice, fired up its black-hole powered drive, squashed atoms into fragments of exotic energy, accelerated outwards. The eighty ships drifted endlessly out into the Kuiper belt on a long, slow orbit that took their mummified crews ten thousand years out into the starry night before falling back sunwards. Oshi tugged on her monofilament reels, adjusting her position relative to the wall of the docking bay. The ugly vision receded. She chuckled tiredly to herself and spooled in some cable, dragging herself round the command module of the spaceship.


pages: 561 words: 167,631

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

agricultural Revolution, caloric restriction, caloric restriction, double helix, full employment, hive mind, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kuiper Belt, late capitalism, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition, phenotype, post scarcity, precariat, retrograde motion, stem cell, strong AI, the built environment, the High Line, Tragedy of the Commons, Turing machine, Turing test, Winter of Discontent

Wahram, who had rolled over and joined them, said, “But what will you bombard it with this time? You won’t be taking any moons and cutting them up.” “No,” the old one said. “That was part of the going too fast. But there are many Neptunian Trojans to be sent down.” “Aren’t the Tritons developing those?” “There are thousands of them. And they are all Kuiper belt captures. We could replace from the Kuiper belt, if the Tritons want. So nothing need be lost as far as Neptune is concerned. The Tritons already agree to the principle.” “Well,” Swan said, baffled. She didn’t know what to say. She regarded their faces, so grim and irritated. “Is it what the people here want? Can you tell?”

She wanted him to arrange the dive into Saturn, if possible, and then join them in it. “That would be fine,” he replied; “I am at your disposal.” Which was certainly one way of putting it. Lists (8) Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, and Mimas; these are the moons that shepherd Saturn’s rings. The rings are only 400 million years old, the result of a passing Kuiper belt ice asteroid being stripped to its core when it passed Saturn too closely. Mimas, the bull’s-eye moon, is 400 kilometers in diameter, while its crater Herschel is 140. The Herschel impact nearly blew Mimas apart. Hyperion is a fragment of a similar collision that did blow a moon apart; it is shaped like a hockey puck.

A suite of microscopic life-forms was discovered in the Enceladan ocean in the year 2244, and scientific stations have been established on its surface, as well as a cult of votaries who ingest a suite of the alien life-forms, to unknown effect. There are twenty-six irregular small moons. These are all Kuiper belt objects, captured as they crossed Saturn’s earliest gas envelope. Phoebe, at 220 kilometers across, is the largest of these, and it has a retrograde and highly inclined orbit, twenty-six degrees out of the plane; thus another popular viewing platform. Titan, by far the largest Saturnian moon, is bigger than Mercury or Pluto.


pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route

Several of the Apollo missions to the Moon, as well as Pioneer 10 and 11 (now about ten billion miles from Earth and destined for interstellar space), Viking 1 and 2 (to Mars), Voyager 1 and 2 (also destined for interstellar space and, in the case of Voyager 1, farther along than the Pioneers), Ulysses (to the Sun), Cassini (to Saturn), and New Horizons (to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt), among others, have all used plutonium for their radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs. An RTG is a long-lasting source of nuclear power. Much more efficient, and much more energetic, would be a nuclear reactor that could supply both power and propulsion. Nuclear power in any form, of course, is anathema to some people.

Serious investigation began in 1994, the first research paper about it appeared in 1998, and since then all sorts of explanations have been proffered to account for the anomaly. Contenders that have now been ruled out include software bugs, leaky valves in the midcourse-correction rockets, the solar wind interacting with the probes’ radio signals, the probes’ magnetic fields interacting with the Sun’s magnetic field, the gravity exerted by newly discovered Kuiper Belt objects, the deformability of space and time, and the accelerating expansion of the universe. The remaining explanations range from the everyday to the exotic. Among them is the suspicion that in the outer solar system, Newtonian gravity begins to fail. The very first spacecraft in the Pioneer program—Pioneer 0 (that’s right, “zero”)—was launched, unsuccessfully, in the summer of 1958.

., 4, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17, 79, 136, 219, 225 “Moon” speech of, 13, 79, 148–49, 191–92 Kennedy Space Center, 14–15, 16, 140, 145, 161, 220, 229 Kepler, Johannes, 115 Kinsella, Gary, 249–50 Korea, Republic of (South Korea), xiv Korean War, 149 Korolev, Sergei, 123–24, 126 Kubrick, Stanley, 128–29 Kuiper Belt, 168, 245 Kuwait, 27 Lagrange, Joseph-Louis, 173, 176 Lagrangian points, 72, 145, 173–76 gravity and, 172–74 launches from, 177 libration paths and, 174 NASA satellites and, 176 Laika (dog), 122 Langley, Samuel P., 216–17 Laplace, Pierre-Simon de, 117–18 Large Hadron Collider, 80, 82 lasers, 167 Lauer, Matt, 210–11 Launching Science, 169–70 Leno, Jay, 144–45 Le Verrier, Urbain-Jean-Joseph, 248 L5 Society, 175 life: chemical components of, 35–36 diversity of, 34–35 extinction episodes of, 49 extraterrestrial, see extraterrestrial life on Mars, 48, 259 search for, 41, 325 light, 30, 90, 93, 258 speed of, 109, 164, 195 LightSail-1, 167 Lindbergh, Charles, 110 Lindsay, John, 67 Lockheed Martin, 236 Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, 23 long-period comets, 46–47 Lovell, Jim, 112 low Earth orbit (LEO), 113 Luna 9 rover, 70 Luna 13 rover, 70 Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, 149–50 Lunar Orbiter spacecraft, 149 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), 150 MacHale, Des, 234 Madonna, 203 Magellan, Ferdinand, 95, 96 Major Mysteries of Science (Garbedian), 110 Manhattan Project, 80 many-body problem, 117–18 Mars, 7, 8, 14, 40, 46, 55, 77, 115, 129, 168, 188, 195, 200, 209 cratering on, 52 Earth viewed from, 27 life on, 48, 259 methane on, 31, 78, 138 proposed mission to, 78–79, 81–83 rocks ejected from, 48–49 rovers on, 130–33, 134, 138, 163, 198 Soviet achievements and, 122 water on, 48, 134, 138, 201, 227 Mars Express Orbiter, 138 Mars Global Surveyor, 138 Marshall Space Flight Center, 67 Mars Society, 236 mass extinction, 51 McAuliffe, Christa, 243 McDonald’s, 238 McNair, Ron, 234 Mécanique Céleste (Laplace), 117 Mercury (god), 108 Mercury (planet), 52, 115, 118 orbit of, 248 Mercury program, 7, 114 MESSENGER probe, 139 meteorites, 48 Tunguska River impact of, 50 see also asteroids methane, 30 on Mars, 31, 78, 138 on Titan, 138–39 Mexico, 50 microscope, 85–86 Microsoft, 136 microwaves, 41, 90, 91–92, 129, 141 microwave telescope, 91–92 Milky Way galaxy, 34, 41, 93, 97–101, 143, 147, 259 Andromeda galaxy and, 118–19 orbit of stars in, 118 radio emissions from center of, 90 Shapley-Curtis debate on, 98–101 Mir space station, 6, 165, 319 Mitchell, Edgar, 3 Mongols, 205–6 Moon, xiii–xiv, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 46, 47, 66, 69, 70, 71, 72, 86, 89, 97, 111–12, 119, 132, 149, 186, 195, 196, 200, 220, 245 cratering on, 50, 57 Earth viewed from, 27 40th anniversary of landing on, 144 proposed return mission to, 55–56, 76–77, 83 rocks ejected from, 48 Soviet achievements and, 122 see also Apollo program, Apollo 11 motion, third law of, 153, 158 multiverse, 259 NanoSail-D, 167 NASA Flexibility Act of 2004, 330 National Academy of Public Administrations, 322 National Academy of Sciences, 11, 98, 325 National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, xv, 4, 58, 66, 125, 252, 265–91, 328 access to information in, 273–74 aerospace vehicle in, 282–84 amended text of, 265–91 appropriations in, 284–85, 286 awards in, 278–79 civilian-military liaison in, 271 congressional reporting in, 271 excess land in, 272 insurance in, 281–84 international cooperation in, 271, 291 inventions in, 276–78 jurisdiction in, 290 launch vehicle contracts in, 285–86 lawsuits in, 279–80 misuse of name in, 285 National Advisory Committee in, 272–73 prize authority in, 286 property leases in, 289 property rights in, 276–77 purpose and objectives of, 265–67 recovery authority in, 290 security in, 274–75 transfer of functions in, 273 upper atmosphere research in, 290–91 National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2000, 326–27 National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), 59–60, 89, 114, 162, 166–68, 192, 199–200, 203, 219, 305, 306, 309 acquisition of space science data and, 314–15 additional activities of, 313–14 aero-space transportation technology integration plan of, 323–24 anchor tenancy contracts and, 308–9 Astronaut Pen of, 194 budget of, xiv, 10, 12, 15, 56, 75, 150, 169–70, 209–10, 212, 228, 237 carbon cycle research program of, 325–26 civil rights movement and, 66–67 creation of, 5–6, 66–67, 125, 267 decision making at, 146 deputy administrator of, 328 divisions of, 9 Earth science data sources and, 315–16 economic impact of, 237 expert input and, 146–47 Exploration Award of, 146–47 functions of, 265–72 future and, 252–53 Human Space Flight Innovative Technology program of, 324 international politics and, 5–7 Mars rovers and, 130–34 new Mars mission and, 77–78 new Moon mission and, 56, 77–78 number of employees of, 236 Obama on role of, 11–12 Obama’s vision of, 11–17 100th anniversary of flight initiative and, 326 payloads of, 313–14 political partisanship and, 4–5, 13–14 reorganization of, 329 scientific value of, 9–11 spending by, xv, 7–9, 25, 193–94, 331–32, 333–35 statutory provisions applicable to, 293–94 use of government facilities and, 309 vision statement of, 68 working capital fund of, 328 see also specific centers, programs, and vehicles National Air and Space Museum, 7–8, 23, 144 National Commission on Excellence in Education, 58 National Defense Education Act of 1958, 125 National Defense Scholarships, 125 National Geographic channel, 231 National Institute of Standards and Technology, 12, 306–7 National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, 306 National Institutes of Health, 209 National Museum of Natural History, 98 National Research Council, 169, 322 National Science Foundation, 11–12, 23, 125, 219, 305 National Security Council, 124 National Space Grant College and Fellowship Act of 1987, 295–303 administrative services, 301 appropriations, 303 competitive awards, 303 contracts, 298–99 fellowship program in, 300–301 functions of, 297–98 grants in, 298–99 identity of needs in, 299 personnel services in, 301 purpose of, 295–96 regional consortium in, 300 reports to Congress in, 302–3 review panel in, 301 National Space Institute, 175 National Space Society, 146, 175, 236 National Space Symposium, 222 National Technical Information Service, 304 “Nation at Risk, A,” 58 Natural History, xiii NBC, 144, 178 Neptune, 27, 36, 46, 115, 119, 157 discovery of, 248 Netherlands, 7 neutrinos, 94 Newcomb, Simon, 216 New Horizons spacecraft, 168 New Scientist, 123 Newton, Isaac, 65, 113–17, 119, 153, 158, 192, 247, 257 New York, N.Y., 96, 124, 224, 238 New York Times, 55, 96, 110, 124, 216–17 NEXT ion propulsion system, 170 Nigeria, 23 nitrogen, 101, 239, 240, 258 Nixon, Richard M., 4–5, 225 Nobel, Alfred Bernhard, 88 Nobel Prize, 88–89, 94, 206 North Atlantic Drift current, 93 North Carolina, 109, 216 Northrop Grumman, 236 Norway, 7 NOVA (TV series), 231 novae, 100 NRA, 236 nuclear power, 159, 168–69 numbers: Arabic, 205 increasing powers of, 237–38 Obama, Barack, 11, 14–16, 76, 186–87, 252 space policy and, 77 Obama administration, 75 Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, 311 Office of Human Spaceflight, 323–24 Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications, 323 Office of Management and Budget, 318 Office of Research and Technology Applications, 303–4, 305 Ohio, 4–5, 184–85 O’Neill, Gerard K., 8, 175 Onizuka, Ellison, 243 Opportunity (Mars exploration rover), 130–32, 138 orbits, 113–20 of Earth, 115 elongated, 115–16 free fall and, 119 many-body problem and, 117–18 of Mercury, 248 of Pluto, 115 sling-shot effect and, 119–20 of stars, 118 suborbital trajectories and, 114 three-body problem and, 116–17 of Venus, 115 Orellana, Francisco de, 197 organic chemistry, 36, 48 Origin of Species (Darwin), 98 oxygen, 31, 35–36, 101, 158, 239, 240, 258 ozone, 51, 93 Pakistan, 49 Panama Canal, 87 panspermia, 48–49, 259 Parliament, British, 217 “Passport to the Universe” (Druyan and Soter), 256 Pegasus, 108 Penzias, Arno, 92 perturbation theory, 118 Peru, 196–97 Pfeiffer, Michelle, 203 photosynthesis, 31 Pigliucci, Massimo, 75–83 Pioneer anomaly, 244–45, 248–51 Pioneer program: Pioneer 0, 245 Pioneer 3, 245 Pioneer 4, 245 Pioneer 5, 245 Pioneer 9, 245 Pioneer 10, 118, 244–45, 247, 248–50 Pioneer 11, 168, 244–45, 247, 249 Pioneer 12, 245 Pioneer 13, 245 Pizarro, Gonzalo, 196–97 planetary motion, first law of, 115 Planetary Society, 166–67, 193, 236, 250 Pluto, 82, 112, 118, 128, 168, 195, 201 orbit of, 115 Pravda, 121 Prescott, William H., 196 Presidential Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, 59–60, 146 President’s Commission on Higher Education, 125 Prince (singer), 203 Principia (Newton), 113 Project Prometheus, 169–70 propulsion: alternate fuels for, 157–59 antimatter drive and, 170–71 chemical fuel for, 163 electricity and, 165 in-space, 170 ion-thruster engine and, 164–65, 170 nuclear power and, 159, 168–69 rocket equation and, 153–54, 157 and slowing down, 155–56 solar sails and, 159, 165–67, 170 third law of motion and, 153, 158 xenon gas and, 164–65 Proxima Centauri, 195–96 Ptolemy, Claudius, 34, 65 pulsars, 29 Qatar, 5 quasars, 91 R-7 rocket, 126 racism, 66–67 radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), 168–69 radio telescopes, 91 radio waves, 28–29, 30, 31, 39, 90–91 radium, 96 RAND Corporation, 218 Ranger 7 spacecraft, 70 Reagan, Ronald, 5, 6 relativity, general theory of, 94–95, 101, 248, 250 relativity, special theory of, 195–96 Republicans, 4–5, 15, 17, 224–25 Resnik, Judith, 243 robots, 129, 134 in space exploration, 57, 89–90, 128, 130–32, 187, 198, 199, 202 rocket equation, 153–54, 157 rockets: flybys and, 157 liquid-fueled, 192 phallic design of, 222–23 propulsion of, see propulsion Rodriguez, Alex, 114 Röntgen, Wilhelm, 94, 96, 135 Royal Society, 216 Russia, xiv, 6, 22, 162, 168 ISS and, 319 Star City training center of, 73, 74, 207 Sagan, Carl, 27, 28, 43, 193, 256 Salyut space module, 6 Sarge (comedian), 234 satellites, xiii, xiv, 60, 71, 94 communication, 129 first US, 124–25 Saturn, 31, 82, 112, 115, 119, 138, 157, 168, 210, 225, 245 radio emissions from, 90–91 Saturn V rocket, 15, 127, 154, 158, 172, 214, 219, 220, 229 as a wonder of the modern world, 232–33 Schmitt, Harrison, 69, 132 Schwarzenegger, Arnold, 153 science, 206, 226 Arabs and, 205–6 discovery and, 98 emerging markets and, 209–10 literacy in, 57–59, 230–31, 235–36 multiple disciplines and, 209–10 Scientific American, 223 scientific method, 86 Scobee, Dick, 242 Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation, 146 Senate, US, 5, 146, 328 Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee of, 272 and appointments to Commission on Future of Aerospace Industry, 316 Appropriations Committee of, 321, 329 Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee of, 288, 321, 323, 324, 329 sense of wonder, 64–65 September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, 206 Sesame Street (TV show), 257 SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), 41, 325 Shapley, Harlow, 98–101 Shatner, William, 180 Shaw, Brewster, 221 Shepard, Alan B., 114 short-period comets, 46 Siberia, 50 Sims, Calvin, 55–62 Sirius, 178 Skylab 1 (space station), 214 slingshot effect, 119–20 Smith, George O., 175 Smith, Michael, 242 Smithsonian Institution, 216 solar sails, 159, 165–67, 170 solar system, 34, 259 many-body problem and, 117–18 perturbation theory and, 118 solar wind, 176, 235, 245 solid rocket boosters, 155 Soter, Steven, 256 sound, speed of, 108–9 sound barrier, 109 South Africa, xiv South Pole, 76 Soviet Union, xiii, 8, 94, 133, 194, 215, 218 US rivalry with, 5–6, 59, 79, 87, 121–27, 133, 192, 219 see also Sputnik space, space exploration: colonization of, 57, 60, 102–3 cosmic microwave background in, 92, 94–95 cross-discipline endeavor in, 24–25, 230 culture and, 72–74, 147–48, 210–11 early attitudes toward, 217–18 economic motivation for, 200–201 factions against, 8–10 in Galef/Pigliucci interview of author, 75–83 inventions statute and, 311 justification for funding of, 78–81 militarization of, 60 numbers employed in, 236–37 politics and, 3–5 proposed programs and missions for, 201–2 robots and, 57, 89–90, 128, 130–32, 187, 198, 199, 202 significance of, 102 Soviet achievements in, 122–26 special interests and, 5, 236–37 stellar nurseries in, 93 technological innovation and, 12 US-Soviet rivalry and, 5–6, 59, 79, 87, 121–27, 133, 192, 219 war as driver of, 219–20 Space Cowboys (film), 162 Space Exploration Initiative, 8 Space Foundation, 221–22 Spaceguard Survey, The: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth Object Detection Workshop, 50 space junk, 176 space shuttle, 7, 12, 25, 109, 160–62, 165, 201, 202, 228, 281 contingency funding for, 321–22 fuel of, 158 launch costs of, 320–22 main parts of, 154–55 pricing policy for, 314 retirement of, 14–16, 143, 214 speed of, 222 use policy for, 312–13 weight of, 155 see also specific vehicles Space Station Freedom, 6, 8 Space Studies Board, 169 Space Technology Hall of Fame, 221, 230–31, 237 Space Telescope Science Institute, 10, 23, 135–36 Space Transportation System, 314 space travel, 191–98 coasting in, 247 in Colbert–author interview, 186–88 danger of, 198 financing of, 193–94 in Hollywood movies, 194–95 Moon missions and, 192–93 robots and, 198 special relativity and, 195–96 Space Travel Symposium, 111 Spain, 7, 87 spectroscopy, 30 Spirit (Mars exploration rover), 130–33, 138 Spitzer Space Telescope, 139 Sputnik, xiii, 5, 59, 79, 113–14, 133, 192, 218 50th anniversary of, 226 US response to, 122–24 Star City (training center), 73, 74, 207 Stars & Atoms (Eddington), 107 Star Trek (TV series), 3, 164, 170 45th anniversary of, 178–81 human behavior and, 180 technology of, 179 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (film), 37–38 Star Wars (film series), 131 State Department, US, 312 Stewart, Jon, 4 Stone, Sharon, 203 subatomic particles, 94 Sugar, Ron, 221 Sun, 27, 28, 29, 33, 46, 58, 72, 97, 112, 117, 118, 138, 195, 245 Copernican principle and, 34 energy emitted by, 93 fusion in, 101 neutrinos emitted by, 94 planets’ orbits and, 115 Superconducting Super Collider, 6–7, 80–81 Sweden, 7 Swift, Philip W., 223 Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer, 139 Switzerland, 7 Sykes, Wanda, 17 Systems of the World, The (Newton), 113 Taj Mahal, 88 Tamayo-Méndez, Arnaldo, 122 TASS, 123 Taylor, Charles E., 219 technology, 89, 200, 226 aero-space integration plan for, 323–24 in alien observation of Earth, 29–32 CRDAs policy on transfer of, 304–6 energy conservation and, 96 engineering, 95 Industrial Revolution and, 95 information, 95 leadership and, 23 multiple disciplines and, 135–37 nonsectarian philosophies and, 206 predicting future of, 215–16 progress in, 218–19 space exploration and, 135 of Star Trek, 179 US lag in, 21–22 telescopes, 71, 82, 85–86, 94, 141, 225 microwave, 91–92 radio, 91 ultraviolet, 93 Tereshkova, Valentina, 122 Texas, 6 Thompson, David, 221 three-body problem, 116–17 Three Gorges Dam, 22, 233 Three Mile Island meltdown, 168 Titan, 31 Huygens probe to, 138–39 methane on, 138–39 Today Show (TV show), 210–11 Tonight Show (TV show), 144–45 Toth, Viktor, 250 Townsend, W.


pages: 280 words: 74,559

Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani

"Robert Solow", autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Bretton Woods, capital controls, cashless society, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, computer age, computer vision, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Donald Trump, double helix, Elon Musk, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial independence, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, G4S, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, land reform, liberal capitalism, low earth orbit, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, market fundamentalism, means of production, mobile money, more computing power than Apollo, new economy, off grid, pattern recognition, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post scarcity, post-work, price mechanism, price stability, private space industry, Productivity paradox, profit motive, race to the bottom, RFID, rising living standards, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sensor fusion, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transatlantic slave trade, Travis Kalanick, universal basic income, V2 rocket, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, working-age population

Like the planets, asteroids orbit the sun, although few of them are purely spherical. The ones that are, such as Ceres, are often referred to as ‘dwarf planets’ as they are so large that their own gravitational mass has compressed them into a sphere. More generous estimates believe there may be 200 dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt of the outer solar system, as well as more than a million asteroids larger than a kilometre in diameter. In terms of medium-term prospecting, however, there is a more interesting group of objects that reside far closer to home. At present we know of more than 16,000 near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) ranging in size from one metre to more than thirty-two kilometres.

., 198 internal energy insulation, 113 International Astronautical Congress, 119 International Bank for Energy Prosperity, 222 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), 221 International Development Association (IDA), 221 International Energy Agency (IEA), 100–1, 103, 105 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 103–4 International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), 166 internationalism, 197–200 internet bandwidth, 45–6 Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), 119, 120 IPCC, 101 IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), 103–4 IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), 166 Ishee, David, 9, 153–4 ITS (Interplanetary Transport System), 119, 120 Jain, Naveen, 127–8 Jameson, Fredric, 17n Japanese Space Agency, 131 JD.com, 89 Jennings, Ken, 80, 81 Jevons, William, 164, 167 Jevons Paradox, 164 Just Foods, 174, 178 Kalanick, Travis, 84 Kalecki, Michał, 230, 231 Kasparov, Garry, 80 Kennedy, Robert, 233 Keynes, John Maynard, 51, 56–9, 243 ‘KIVA’ robot, 89 Kodak, 40–2 Kranzberg, Melvin ‘Six Laws of Technology’, 237 Kuiper belt, 130 Kurdi, Alan, 156–7 Kuznets, Simon, 233 labour, when capital becomes, 69–71 Labour Party, 229 Łaski, Kazimierz From Marx to the Market, 230–1 LEDs, 242 Lehman Brothers, 21 Leia, 4–5 Lendlease, 205 Leninism, 196 Leontief, Wassily, 75–6 Letter on the Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren, 56–7 Lewicki, Chris, 132 Lewis, Clive, 207 life expectancy, 139–40, 142, 166 lithium, 117, 118 livestock farming, 169–70 ‘lost decade’, 26 Luther, Martin, 240–1 luxury populism electoralism and society, 194–6 against elite technocracy, 185–8 FALC and, 192–4 against globalism, 197–200 green politics and red politics, 188–92 towards internationalism, 197–200 Machiavelli, Niccolò Discorsi, 95 Madrid Protocol, 136 Malthus, Thomas, 167 An Essay on the Principle of Population, 163–4 market capitalism about, 197–8 emergence of, 39–40 market socialism, autonomy of publicly owned firms under, 231 Mars, 120 Martinelli, Luke, 226 Marx, Karl on capitalism, 16, 34–6, 35, 51, 54–5, 128, 199 The Communist Manifesto, 51–2 compared to Wycliffe, 241 Grundrisse, 51–2, 56–7, 61–3 on information, 49 on mode of production, 195 on production, 60 on technology, 237 May, Theresa, 29, 141, 206 McAfee, Andrew, 93 McCauley, Raymond, 146 McDonnell, John, 207 meat cultured, 170–5 synthetic, 168–70 from vegetables, 175–7 medicine, automation in, 91 meganucleases, 150 Memphis Meats, 172, 173 Mendel, Gregor, 149 migration, globalism and, 197 milk, cellular agriculture and, 177–9 Millennium Project, 87–8 minerals, 117–18, 134–7.


pages: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

business cycle, call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, disinformation, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, MITM: man-in-the-middle, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, performance metric, phenotype, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, slashdot, South China Sea, stem cell, technological singularity, telepresence, The Chicago School, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, web of trust, Y2K, zero-sum game

But I'm wondering about on-site intelligence. Once the comet gets more than a couple of light-minutes away –" "You can't control it. Feedback lag. So you want a crew, right?" "Yeah. But we can't send humans – way too expensive, besides it's a fifty-year run even if we build the factory on a chunk of short-period Kuiper belt ejecta. And I don't think we're up to coding the kind of AI that could control such a factory any time this decade. So what do you have in mind?" "Let me think." Pamela glares at Manfred for a while before he notices her: "Yeah?" "What's going on? What's this all about?" Franklin shrugs expansively, dreadlocks clattering: "Manfred's helping me explore the solution space to a manufacturing problem."

Gianni prods, pretending to ignore the frowns that Annette is casting his way. "And as for the time-binders," Manfred nods again, "they're like Sirhan. Deeply conservative, deeply suspicious. Holding out for staying here as long as possible, until the Vile Offspring come for Saturn – then moving out bit by bit, into the Kuiper belt. Colony habitats on snowballs half a light-year from anywhere." He shudders. "Spam in a fucking can with a light-hour walk to the nearest civilized company if your fellow inmates decide to reinvent Stalinism or Objectivism. No thanks! I know they've been muttering about quantum teleportation and stealing toys from the routers, but I'll believe it when I see it."

The two hard parts are getting at or to a router, and paying – that's going to mean traveling with someone who understands Economics 2.0 but doesn't want to hang around the Vile Offspring. "As it happens, these old acquaintances of mine went out and fetched back a router seed, for their own purposes. It's sitting about thirty light-hours away from here, out in the Kuiper belt. They're trying to hatch it right now. And I think Aineko might be willing to go with us and handle the trade negotiations." He raises the palm of his right hand and flips a bundle of tags into the shared spatial cache of the inner circle's memories. Lobsters. Decades ago, back in the dim wastelands of the depression-ridden naughty oughties, the uploaded lobsters had escaped.


pages: 356 words: 102,224

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, germ theory of disease, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, linked data, low earth orbit, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence

But they are much bigger than the run-of-the-mill comets we know. They may be the vanguard of a vast array of small worlds that extends from the orbit of Pluto halfway to the nearest star. The innermost province of the Oort Comet Cloud, of which these new objects may be members, is called the Kuiper Belt, after my mentor Gerard Kuiper, who first suggested that it should exist. Short-period comets—like Halley's—arise in the Kuiper Belt, respond to gravitational tugs, sweep into the inner part of the Solar System, grow their tails, and grace our skies. Back in the late nineteenth century, these building blocks of worlds—then mere hypotheses—were called "planetesimals."


pages: 326 words: 97,089

Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by Lee Billings

addicted to oil, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Colonization of Mars, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, Dava Sobel, double helix, Edmond Halley, full employment, hydraulic fracturing, index card, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Magellanic Cloud, music of the spheres, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, planetary scale, profit motive, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, random walk, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Solar eclipse in 1919, technological singularity, the scientific method, transcontinental railway

It’s not like we have the option of not being destroyed by the Sun, and that’s probably why economists think a planetary valuation is a bit silly.” Laughlin shot a smiling glance my way. “But we do have an option. We can move the Earth.” A pregnant pause. “Move the Earth?” “Sure.” “Like, tow it out of the way?” “Essentially, yeah. We have more than enough time. Just take some large comets or asteroids from the Kuiper Belt and use them to tap and transfer some of Jupiter’s orbital energy and angular momentum to the Earth over a timescale of hundreds of millions of years. Each time one flew by the Earth, you’d get a small kick, and you’d expand the Earth’s orbit very gradually through those repeated close encounters.

., 224 Kennedy Space Center, 185 Kepler, Johannes, 82, 83 planetary motion laws of, 82–84 Kepler field stars, 41 Kepler Space Telescope, 13–14, 53–54, 56, 62, 71–73, 98, 108–9, 166, 201, 225, 229–30, 263 Kirschvink, Joseph, 142 Knapp, Mary, 259 Korolev, Sergei, 186 Kuchner, Marc, 217–18 Kuiper Belt, 76 Large Magellanic Cloud, 238 Lasaga, Antonio, 178 Late Heavy Bombardment, 3, 140 Laughlin, Greg, 5–6, 48–50, 53–57, 69–70, 93–100, 107–12, 114–15, 117–20 Alpha Centauri planet search and, 94–98 idea to move Earth, 76–77 magnetic toy of, 93–94 SETI as viewed by, 99 valuation equation of, 71–77 laws of nature, 155–56 Lederberg, Joshua, 15, 16, 167–68 Le Gentil, Guillaume, 85, 117 Leinbach, Mike, 185–86 Lick, James, 112–14 Lick Observatory, 58, 61, 62, 70, 113–19 life, 32 on Earth, see Earth, life on intelligent, 23, 32 single-celled, 20 technological, see technological civilizations light: photons of, 72, 89, 115–16, 156, 191, 193–94, 201, 202, 213, 216, 237–38 polarization of, 115–16 waves of, 213–14, 216 Lilly, John, 15–16, 20–21 Local Group, 88 Lovelock, James, 168, 170, 174–76, 178, 181–83 Lucretius, 80–81 Lyot, Bernard, 217 Madwoman of Chaillot, The, 36 Manhattan Project, 23 Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, 127, 149 Marcellus formation, 126–30, 137, 138, 141, 144, 160 Marconi, Guglielmo, 48 Marconi Conference Center, 48–50, 53–57 Marcy, Geoff, 57–63, 69, 70, 114, 194, 230–32, 235 Margulis, Lynn, 175 Mars, 19, 50, 87, 100, 107, 109, 155, 167, 179, 191, 192, 239 Kepler’s study of, 82, 83 missions to, 187, 188, 196, 207, 221 water on, 28, 179 Marshall, James, 105–6, 112 Martian Chronicles, The (Bradbury), 98–99 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 251–52, 259 ExoplanetSat project, 256–57 “Next 40 Years of Exoplanets” conference at, 225–35, 263 Mayor, Michel, 58 McPhee, John, 145 mEarth Project, 228–29 mediocrity, principle of (Copernican Principle), 83, 89, 91 Mercury, 82, 109, 239 meteorites, 20 methane, 140, 142, 168–71, 174, 200 methanogens, 140, 142, 169 microbes, 28 Miletus, 77 Milky Way, 16–17, 25, 31, 39, 41, 79, 86–87, 191, 237, 238 Sun’s orbit in, 95 Miller, George P., 101 Miller, Stanley, 19 Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science, 48, 74 mitochondria, 143 Moon, 3, 76, 100, 229, 242 in early cosmology, 78, 83 formation of, 30, 139 Moon, missions to, 188, 196, 221, 224 Apollo, 1, 50, 151, 187, 202, 212, 239 Morrison, Philip, 15, 18–19, 21, 23–24 Mosely, T.


pages: 448 words: 116,962

Singularity Sky by Stross, Charles

anthropic principle, cellular automata, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, disinformation, Doomsday Clock, Extropian, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, life extension, means of production, new economy, phenotype, prisoner's dilemma, skinny streets, technological singularity, uranium enrichment

Just good old-fashioned fission bombs, jacketed with a high-explosive shaped charge and a lens of pre-fragmented copper needles—shrapnel that, in a vacuum engagement, would come spalling off the nuclear fireball in a highly directional cone, traveling at a high fraction of Hghtspeed. The next thirty minutes passed in tense silence, broken only by terse observations from Radar One and Two. No more targets burst from hiding; there might well be others in the Kuiper belt, but none were close enough to see or be seen by the intense lidar pulses of the warship. In that time, passive sensors logged two nuclear detonations within a range of half a light-hour; someone was definitely shooting. And behind them, the telltale disturbances of six big ships emerged from jump, then powered up their combat lidar and moved out.

Nevertheless, they signaled the squadron astern; and behind them, one of the elderly battleships peeled off to pick up any survivors from the disastrous attack. The big picture, when it finally gelled some eight hours later, was very bad indeed. The "missile carriers" were actually refinery tugs, tending the migratory robot factories that slowly trawled the Kuiper-belt bodies, extracting helium 3 from the snowballs. Their sudden burst of speed had a simple explanation; seeing alien warships, they had panicked, dumping their cargo pods so that they could clear the area under maximum acceleration. One of the distant explosions had been the Kamchatka, landing a near miss on one of the "enemy battleships"—the cruiser India.


pages: 804 words: 212,335

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

game design, glass ceiling, gravity well, Kuiper Belt, planetary scale, random walk, statistical model

They were spacedwellers to be sure, but they did not crew interstellar ships and so their outlook was very different to the wraithlike Ultras, with their dreadlocks and old-fashioned expressions. There were others still. Icecombers were a Skyjack offshoot; psychomodified for the extreme solitude which came from working the Kuiper belt zones, and they kept themselves to themselves with ferocious dedication. Gillies were aquatically modified humans who breathed liquid air; capable of crewing short-range, high-gee ships: they constituted a sizeable fraction of the system's police force. Some gillies were so incapable of normal respiration and locomotion that they had to move around in huge robotic fishtanks when not on duty.

Delta Pavonis was a chip of warm-red ambergris fixed at the middle, the system's eleven major planets spaced around it on their respective orbits, positioned at their true positions; smears of asteroidal debris and comet-shards following their own ellipses; the whole orrery haloed by a tenuous Kuiper belt of icy flotsam; tugged into slight asymmetry by the presence of the neutron star which was Pavonis's dark twin. The picture was a simulation, rather than an enlargement of what lay ahead. The ship's sensors were acute enough to glean data at this range, but the view would have been distorted by relativistic effects, and — worse — would have been a snapshot of the system as it was years earlier, with the relative positions of the planets bearing no resemblance to the present situation.

Because the scale adopted was large, the terrestrial planets — Resurgam included — were crammed into the middle; a tight scribble of concentric orbits banded around the star Delta Pavonis. The minor planets came next, followed by the gas giants and comets, occupying the system's middle ground. Then came two smaller sub-Jovian gas worlds, hardly giants at all, then a Plutonian world — not much more than a captured cometary husk, with two attendant moons. The system's Kuiper belt of primordial cometary matter was visible in infrared as a curiously distorted shoal, one nubby end pointing out from the star. And then there was nothing at all for twenty further AU, more than ten light-hours out from the star itself. Matter here — such as there was — was only weakly bound to the star; it felt its gravitational field, but orbits here were centuries long and easily disrupted by encounters with other bodies.


pages: 480 words: 123,979

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters With Reality and Virtual Reality by Jaron Lanier

4chan, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Bill Atkinson, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, carbon footprint, cloud computing, collaborative editing, commoditize, cosmological constant, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, Firefox, game design, general-purpose programming language, gig economy, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, impulse control, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, lifelogging, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Minecraft, Mitch Kapor, Mondo 2000, Mother of all demos, Murray Gell-Mann, Netflix Prize, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Snapchat, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Bannon, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, telepresence, telepresence robot, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, WikiLeaks, wikimedia commons

An example of my 1980s usage of the term “mixed reality” is found in “Virtual Reality: An Interview with Jaron Lanier” (Kevin Kelly, Adam Heilbrun, and Barbara Stacks, Whole Earth Review. Fall 1989, no. 64, p. 108[12]). Chapter 2 1.   I have no sympathy for the recent campaign to demote Pluto to prominent Kuiper Belt object instead of planet. Its weird orbit out there is an inspiration to every kid who doesn’t fit in. Are we not full-fledged planets? Will you only accept us if we conform? Let Pluto remain a planet, now and forever! If you planet demoters want to campaign to make folk categorizations of our world more rigorous, why don’t you insist that Europe isn’t a continent?

VR and avatar and robots doing work of as source of value specialness of working with real Human Use of Human Beings, The (Wiener) Huxley, Aldous Hyneman, Jamie hypercubes hypertext hypnosis IBM Iconic Mathematics (Bricken) icons icosahedrons idealism II Cybernetic Frontiers (Brand) illusions improvisation Inception (film) India industrial applications infinity, perception of information biasing of “free” vs. traceable to origin Information Age inner life input Inside Out (film) interactive screen technology interactivity Internet Gore and extremism on flaws in design of interpreters inversion inversion of human body investigative journalists invisible hand iPhone Ito, Teiji Izadi, Shahram Jackson, Michael Jacobson, Linda Japan Jaws (film) jazz Jeopardy (TV show) jobs Jobs, Steve Johnson, Lyndon B. Joy, Bill juggling Kalman filter Kapor, Mitch karate Kay, Alan Kelly, Kevin Kemp, Jack Khan, Ali Akbar Kickstarter Kim, David Kim, Scott Kinect Kinect Hacks King, Stephen kitchen design Klein Bottle Knitting Factory Knuth, Don Kollin, Joel Kotik, Gordy Krueger, Myron Kuiper Belt Kurzweil, Ray Kyoto Prize LaBerge, Stephen Langer, Susanne language translation Lanier, Ellery (father) death of death of Lilly and dome and mysticism and PhD studies and science writing and teaching career and Lanier, first wife divorce from Lanier, Lena Lanier, Lilibell (daughter,) Lanier, Lilly (mother) death of laser procedure on retina lasers Lasko, Ann latency Lawnmower Man, The (film) Learning Company Leary, Timothy Lectiones Mathematicae LEEP Lennon, John Lennon, Sean Leonard, Brett Levitt, David Levy, Steven libertarians licensing light pen lightweight optics limerence links, one- vs. two-way Linn, Roger LISP Lissajous patterns “Little Albert” experiment lobster avatar Los Alamos Los Angeles LSD Lucas, George lucid dreaming Lumière brothers Macedonians machine learning “Machine Stops, The” (Forster) machine vision Macintosh computers operating system MacIntyre, Blair Macromedia Macromind magazine stands magic magical thinking magicians magic window magnetic fields malware Manchurian Candidate, The (film) Mandala mapping marijuana markets Mars Marxism mass media Mateevitsi, Victor mathematics video games and Mathews, Max Matrix films Matsushita Mattel MAX design tool MAX visual programming tool McDowall, Ian McFerrin, Bobby McGreevy, Mike McGrew, Dale McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan ramp McMillen, Keith MDMA (Ecstasy) measurement medicine.


The Mission: A True Story by David W. Brown

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Berlin Wall, Columbine, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, obamacare, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, transcontinental railway, urban planning, women in the workforce, Y2K, zero-sum game

In March 2006—a year before the Quad Studies started—fifteen hundred scholars from across the country and around the world gathered to present papers, network, give talks, and organize working groups.281 Even NASA’s science leadership at headquarters attended annually to face the community in a town hall session. On the first day of the conference, as was tradition, an influential scientist would give a keynote address called the Masursky Lecture—a sort of master class on some science, celestial event, or pressing planetary issue. Topics tended to trend along the lines of “Kuiper Belt Binaries: A New Window on Runaway Accretion” or “Mercury as an Object Lesson on Approaches to Planetary Exploration.”282 In 2006 the Lunar and Planetary Institute, which sponsored the conference, asked Professor Lunine to deliver the keynote. Jonathan’s talk was titled “Beyond the Asteroid Belt: Where to Go Next in the Outer Solar System, and Why.”283 He did not intend for his talk to be controversial.

Which translated from the Chippewa language more literally as “this is a valley,” but I mean it’s not like any Chippewa lived in California, so who would know? Pasadena, California it was. 16.S. O’Keefe, telephone interview by author, May 31, 2017. 17.National Aeronautics and Space Administration (abbreviated NASA from this point forward), “New Horizons—The First Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt: Exploring Frontier Worlds,” press kit, January 2006, https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/139889main_PressKit12_05.pdf. 18.R. Taylor, Prometheus Project Final Report (982-R120461) (Pasadena, CA: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology [abbreviated JPL, CIT from this point forward], October 1, 2005), 112, https://trs.jpl.nasa.gov/bitstream/handle/2014/38185/05-3441.pdf?


Global Catastrophic Risks by Nick Bostrom, Milan M. Cirkovic

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, availability heuristic, backpropagation, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black Swan, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, complexity theory, computer age, coronavirus, corporate governance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, death of newspapers, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, feminist movement, framing effect, friendly AI, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, global village, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, means of production, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, P = NP, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, South China Sea, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, Tunguska event, twin studies, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty, Westphalian system, Y2K

For instance, one recently well-studied case is the system of the famous nearby Sun-like star Tau Ceti which contains both planets and a massive debris disc, analogous to the Solar System Kuiper Belt. Modelling of Tau Ceti's dust disc observations indicate, however, that the mass of the colliding bodies up to 10 km in size may total around 1 . 2 Earth-masses, compared with 0.1 Earth-masses estimated to be in the Solar System's Kuiper Belt (Greaves et al., 2004) . Thus, Tau Ceti's dust disc may have around ten times more cometary and asteroidal material than is currently found in the Solar System - in spite of the fact that Tau Ceti seems to be about twice as old as the Sun (and it is conventionally expected for the amount of such material to decrease with time).

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History, pp. 403-41 3 (New York: W. W. Norton & Gould, S.J. ( 1 987). S ET! and the Wisdom of Casey Stengel. In Company). Greaves, J . S . , Wyatt, M.C., Holland, W.S., and Dent, W.R.F. (2004). The debris disc around r Ceti: a massive analogue to the Kuiper Belt. MNRAS, 3 5 1 , LS4-LS8. Grinspoon, D. (2003). Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life (New York: HarperCollins). Hanson, R. ( 1 999). Great Filter. Preprint at http:/ fhanson.berkeley.edufgreatfilter.htrnl Hanson, R. (200 1 ) . How to live in a simulation. ]. Evol. Techno!., 7, http:/ f www. jetpress.orgjvolume7 jsimulation.html Hunt, G.


pages: 1,263 words: 371,402

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois

augmented reality, clean water, computer age, cosmological constant, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, financial independence, game design, gravity well, jitney, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kuiper Belt, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Paul Graham, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Skype, stem cell, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, urban renewal, Wall-E

Here she tells the storyof a woman who is forced to leave behind everything she knows, and is thrust, quite literally, into the unknown. Do you want to dream?” “No.” The woman in uniform behind the desk looked at her screen and then looked at me, expressionless. I didn’t know if she was real and far away; or fake and here. “Straight to orientation then.” II I walked. The Kuiper Belt Station—commonly known as the Panhandle—could afford the energy fake gravity requires. It wasn’t going anywhere; it was spinning on the moving spot of a minimum-collision orbit, close to six billion kilometres from the sun: a prison isle without a native population. From here I would be transported to my final exile from the United States of Earth, as an algorithm, a string of 0s and 1s.

Our fate: to be pole-axed and buried in the mud where the bridge of dreams will be built. I wondered when ‘orientation’ would begin. The cold of deep space penetrated my thin quilt. The steady shift of the clock numerals was oddly comforting, like a heartbeat. I watched them until at some point I fell asleep. III The Kuiper Belt Station had been planned as the hub of an international deep space city. Later, after that project had been abandoned and before the Buonarotti Device became practicable for mass exits like this one, it’d been an R&R resort for asteroid miners. They’d dock their little rocket ships and party, escaping from utter solitude to get crazy drunk and murder each other, according to the legends.

These are consistent with a large numbers of bodies decelerating from relativistic flight.’ Consternation. Voices shouting. Questions questions questions. Suguntung held up a hand and there was quiet. ‘On answer to your questions, somewhere in the region of thirty-eight thousand objects. We estimate them at a range of seventy astronomical units beyond the edge of the Kuiper belt, decelerating to ten percent light-speed for system transition.’ ‘Ninety-three hours until they reach us,’ Torben said. The numbers, the coloured numbers, so beautiful, so distant. ‘Yes,’ said Suguntung. ‘Who are they?’ Belej asked. ‘I know,’ Torben said. ‘Your enemy.’ ‘We believe so,’ Suguntung answered.


pages: 237 words: 76,486

Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account From Curiosity's Chief Engineer by Rob Manning, William L. Simon

Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover

Would he continue the support for MSL and the other JPL projects, or would he campaign with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to shift focus and spend the money on projects perhaps nearer to his own heart and scientific goals? Stern came with impressive credentials. Holding a PhD in astrophysics and planetary science, he had pursued research involving arcane topics with mysterious-sounding names like the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, as well as solar systems around other stars. He had been principal investigator on a number of projects with tongue-twisting names like the “ALICE UV Spectrometer for the ESA/Rosetta comet orbiter.” We found out Stern’s priorities in short order. He made it clear he was not happy that his predecessors had signed up for an MSL budget of over $1 billion.


pages: 265 words: 76,875

Exoplanets by Donald Goldsmith

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, megastructure, Pluto: dwarf planet, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking

See Exoplanets Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, 73 Extraterrestrial life, 4, 7, 14, 88, 157–65, 173 Extremely Large Telescope, 194, 197–98, 201 Fischer, Debra, 37, 48–49 Flares solar, 167 stellar, 31, 56, 123, 169–79, 189 Fomalhaut, 106 Fulton, Benjamin, 129, 131 Gaia spacecraft, 21, 142, 159, 183–85 Gamma Cephei, 31 Ganymede, 122 Gas ­giant planets, 40, 67–68, 72, 98–99, 115, 138, 140, 145–47, 151 Gaudi, Scott, 1, 78, 109–10 Gemini Planet Imager, 72 Gemini telescopes, 72, 105 ­Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), 196 GJ 1132 b, 107–8 Goddard Space Flight Center, 174, 180 Gran Telescopio Canarias, 195 Gravitational bending of space, 74–76, 205 Gravitational force, 8, 10, 16, 19–22, 26, 31, 37–46, 58–59, 64, 67, 74–85, 92, 96, 100, 109, 112–13, 122, 127, 137–41, 146–52, 164, 166, 185, 220 Gravitational microlensing, 59, 78–83, 127–28, 166–67, 188 HabEx (Habitable Exoplanet imaging mission), 193–94 Habitable zone, 45–46, 111, 161–64, 172 HARPS (High Accuracy Radial-­ velocity Planet Searcher), 44, 111–12, 117, 170 Harvard University, 46, 52, 109, 157, 169 Hat Creek Observatory, 86 Hawaii, 47, 65, 95, 128, 198–99, 204 Hawking, Stephen, 212, 224 HD 3651, 37 HD 10180, 116–18 249 Index Ice, 137–38, 165 Ice line, 137 Infrared radiation, 8, 12–13, 43, 56, 64–72, 94, 104–8, 142, 172, 177–83, 198–99, 204 Interferometer, 204 Interferometry, 199, 203–4 International Astronomical Union, 26 Iron, 88, 108, 112, 137, 153, 164–65, 198, 215, 220 K2 spacecraft mission, 61–63, 80, 123, 187 Keck Observatory, 48, 72, 95, 125, 195–97, 204 Keck Planetary Finder, 47–48, 203 KELT (Kilodegree Extremely ­Little Telescope), 108–11 KELT 9 b, 110 Kepler, Johannes, 37, 51 Kepler 10 b, 95 Kepler 11, 113–16 Kepler 11 b–­g, 114 Kepler 16 b (Tatooine), 96 Kepler 22 b, 97–99 Kepler 36, 99–101 Kepler 36 b, 100–101 Kepler 36 c, 100–101 Kepler 70 b, 87–88, 110 Kepler 90, 116–17 Kepler 452, 101–2 Kepler mission, 51–63, 80, 86–105, 109–10, 113–17, 125, 127–32, 154–55, 166–67 Kepler Prime, 62–63 Kepler Space Telescope. See Kepler mission Kfir, Sagi, 223 KIC 8462852, 92 Kipping, David, 131 KOI-1843 b, 41 Kuiper, Gerard, 138 Kuiper ­belt, 138 James Webb Space Telescope, 122, 171, 176 Jupiter, 15–22, 27–30, 33–34, 38–41, 58–59, 63, 68–73, 90, 98, 102, 104, 107–11, 116, 119, 122, 127–30, 137, 142, 145–50, 155, 164, 166, 182–86 Jurgenson, Colby, 48 Land, Edwin, 89 Las Campanas Observatory, 196 ­Lasers, 70, 208–13 La Silla Observatory, 44, 46, 58, 123 Latham, David, 52, 109–10 Le Gentil, Guillaume, 53 LHS 1140 b, 111–12 HD 176051, 20 HD 189733 b, 90 HD 209458, 52, 60, 103–6 HD 209458 b (Osiris), 103–7 Helium, 67, 101, 105, 130–33, 138, 140, 152–54, 186–87, 218 Helium-3, 218 Henderson, Calen, 80 HIP 65426, 73 Hot Jupiters, 41, 63, 90, 104, 109–10, 127, 145–46, 186 Howard, Andrew, 47, 49 HR 8799, 72, 106 HR 8832, 116–18 Huang, Su-­Shu, 161 Hubble Space Telescope, 55, 70, 83–84, 106, 108, 111, 176–79, 182, 188, 193 Hydrocarbon, 165 Hydrogen, 67, 99, 106, 130–33, 137–40, 152–53, 164–65, 185, 187 250 Index Life, extraterrestrial, 4, 6–7, 90, 98, 102, 111, 124, 156–75, 191–94, 199, 206–7, 210–13, 216–19, 222 Light year, 11–12, 68, 208, 214 Lissauer, Jack, 1, 139 Loeb, Avi, 157, 169 Lowell, Percival, 47–48 Lowell Observatory, 47–48 Lubin, Philip, 209–12 Lucretius, 5–6 Luminosity, 43–44, 82, 93, 101–13, 117–19, 152, 163, 169, 172, 185, 207 Luni-­solar tides, 148–49 LUVOIR (Large UV / Optical InfraRed surveyor), 193–94 Macintosh, Bruce, 154 Magellanic Clouds, 143 Magnesium, 137, 219–20 Magnetic fields, 24–25, 150–51, 158, 168 Makemake, 138 Mars, 47, 49, 54, 98, 116, 124, 137, 140–41, 160–65, 189, 205, 212, 218, 220, 224 Mass of exoplanets, 18, 31–32, 41, 46, 51–62, 70–72, 89–94, 100, 108–12, 116, 124–34, 137–42, 145–47, 150–58, 162–65, 178, 187, 192, 200 of stars, 31–32, 79, 81 Mast, Jerry, 195 Mauna Kea Observatory, 45, 67, 72, 94, 195, 198–99, 204 Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, 108 Mayor, Michel, 32 MEarth, 46, 107, 111 Mercury, 26, 40, 52–54, 96, 113, 115, 129, 133, 145, 149, 151 Metal, 58, 88, 99, 153–54, 177, 219–20 Metallicity, 153 Meteorites, 136 Meteoroids, 124, 136, 159 Methane, 72, 106, 108, 137–38, 165, 172–73 Michelson, Albert, 204 Microlensing, 59, 78–83, 127–28, 166–67, 188 Milky Way, 6, 11–12, 16, 19, 25, 32, 45–47, 57, 62–63, 68, 76–81, 88, 118, 120, 130, 163, 184–88, 199, 208, 210 Millimeter radiation, 8, 142–44, 197 Millisecond pulsars, 26 Milner, Yuri, 212 Moon, 5, 15–16, 64, 75, 122, 128, 136–37, 148–49, 164, 176, 212, 218–21 Moons, exoplanetary, 16, 137, 140, 144, 165–66 Mount Wilson Observatory, 204 M Stars, 46, 111, 118–19, 163, 169–70, 207 Multiple planetary systems, 116, 132 Multiple star systems, 12, 68 NASA, 1, 51, 54, 61–62, 94, 105, 139, 165, 174–81, 188, 192, 203–4, 209, 212, 220 Neap tides, 149 Nelson, Jerry, 195 Neptune, 21–22, 43, 98, 101, 115, 128–33, 138, 144 Nereus, 219–20 Neutron stars, 24–26, 77 Newton, Isaac, 15, 37 Newton’s laws, 29, 38, 50 NGTS (Next Generation Transit Survey), 126 Nickel, 88, 219–20 251 Index Nitrogen, 153, 162 Nuclear fusion, 56, 67, 82–83, 99–100, 119–20, 137, 152, 218 OGLE-2011-­BLG-0420Lb, 82 OGLE-2012-­BLG-0026, 79 OGLE 2016-­BLG-1195Lb, 80–82 Orbital brightness modulation, 85, 87, 90 Orbital resonance, 92, 127, 149 Osiris, 60, 103–7 Outer Space Treaty, 221–22 Oxygen, 137, 143, 153, 162, 172–73, 199, 219 P1257 + 12, 25–26 Palomar Observatory, 195, 204 Panspermia, 124 Paranal Observatory, 49, 73, 126, 197 Parsec, 11–12, 201 Peloton effect, 140 Perlmutter, Saul, 212 Phobetor, 26 Photons infrared, 8, 12–13, 43, 56, 64–72, 94, 104–8, 142, 172, 177–83, 198–99, 204 millimeter-­wave, 8, 142–44, 197 radio, 23, 25, 27, 85–89, 94, 102, 142, 168, 202–3 synchrotron, 24–25 ultraviolet, 8, 43, 56, 110, 123–24, 169, 177–78 visible-­light, 24–25, 55, 58, 76–79, 122, 182, 184, 189–90, 194, 209, 211–12, 215–16 x-­ray, 8, 90, 167, 169–70 Planetesimals, 118, 139–41 Planet Nine, 21–23, 129 Planets, extrasolar.


pages: 313 words: 95,077

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Andrew Keen, Andy Carvin, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, c2.com, Charles Lindbergh, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, Garrett Hardin, hiring and firing, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Joi Ito, Kuiper Belt, liberation theology, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Merlin Mann, Metcalfe’s law, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, Picturephone, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, prediction markets, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tragedy of the Commons, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Vilfredo Pareto, Yochai Benkler, Yogi Berra

By way of example, the article on Pluto as of May 2007 begins:Pluto, also designated 134340 Pluto, is the second-largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the tenth-largest body observed directly orbiting the Sun. Originally considered a planet, Pluto has since been recognized as the largest member of a distinct region called the Kuiper belt. Like other members of the belt, it is primarily composed of rock and ice and is relatively small; approximately a fifth the mass of the Earth’s Moon and a third its volume. It has an eccentric orbit that takes it from 29 to 49 AU from the Sun, and is highly inclined with respect to the planets.


pages: 624 words: 104,923

QI: The Book of General Ignorance - The Noticeably Stouter Edition by Lloyd, John, Mitchinson, John

Admiral Zheng, Albert Einstein, Barry Marshall: ulcers, British Empire, discovery of penicillin, disinformation, Dmitri Mendeleev, Fellow of the Royal Society, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invention of the telephone, James Watt: steam engine, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, lateral thinking, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, trade route, two and twenty, V2 rocket, Vesna Vulović

Its orbit is eccentric and on a different plane from the other planets, and its composition is completely different. The four innermost planets are medium-sized and rocky; the next four are gas giants. Pluto is a tiny ball of ice – one of at least 60,000 small, comet-like objects forming the Kuiper belt right on the edge of the solar system. All these planetoid objects (including asteroids, TNOs and a host of other subclassifications) are known collectively as minor planets. There are 371,670 of them already registered, around 5,000 new ones are discovered each month and it is estimated there may be almost 2 million such bodies with diameters of over a kilometre.


pages: 571 words: 111,306

The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job by Emily Lakdawalla

3D printing, active measures, centre right, data acquisition, Kuiper Belt, Mars Rover, Maui Hawaii

The second was that schedule pressure and development problems likely meant that the mission would need a budget increase of about $75 million. 1.5.5 Stern descopes The mission requested more money at an unfortunate time. There was a new Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA: Alan Stern, a planetary astronomer and aerospace engineer best known for being the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Stern had already publicly expressed frustration with cost overruns on some NASA missions harming others. In a period of 5 years, he noted, a total of $5 billion worth of cost overruns had diverted funds from research programs and caused opportunities for other missions to be lost. Also, Stern shared with other members of the science community a concern that NASA was focusing too much of its limited resources on Mars, to the detriment of all the other compelling destinations in the solar system.


pages: 483 words: 134,062

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt

He’d do it again and again, until it felt the way it had before. “Excuse me, Corbin,” Lovey said through the vox. “Yes?” The AI paused. “There’s a sib call coming through for you. It’s from Tartarus.” Corbin looked up from the algae and said nothing. Tartarus. A prison asteroid, out in the Kuiper Belt. There was only one person who would be calling him from there. Lovey spoke again, her voice awkward. “I can dismiss the call if you like.” “No,” Corbin said. He wiped the smear of green slime from the end of his sampling tool and set it aside. “Put it through down here.” “Okay, Corbin. I hope it goes well.”


pages: 648 words: 170,770

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

different worldview, gravity well, independent contractor, Kuiper Belt, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, pattern recognition

The moon itself—Phoebe—filled the frame, turning slowly to show all sides like a prostitute at a cheap brothel. It was a crater-marked lump, indistinguishable from a thousand other asteroids and planetesimals Miller had seen. “Given Phoebe’s extra-ecliptical orbit,” the sociopath went on, “one theory has been that it was a body that originated in the Kuiper belt and had been captured by Saturn when it happened to pass through the solar system. The existence of complex silicon structures within the interior ice, along with suggestions of impact-resistant structures within the architecture of the body itself, have forced us to reevaluate this. “Using analyses proprietary to Protogen and not yet shared with the Martian team, we have determined beyond any credible doubt that what you are seeing now is not a naturally formed planetesimal, but a weapon.


pages: 573 words: 163,302

Year's Best SF 15 by David G. Hartwell; Kathryn Cramer

air freight, Black Swan, disruptive innovation, experimental subject, Georg Cantor, gravity well, job automation, Kuiper Belt, phenotype, semantic web

The Aleutians, the only aliens humanity had yet encountered, had never been very good at explaining themselves. Nobody would have been allowed to keep the Buonarotti on a desktop on Earth, anyway. The voters were afraid an Instantaneous Transit Collider might rend the fabric of reality and wanted it as far away as possible. So the aliens had created the Torus, and set it afloat out here in the Kuiper Belt as a kind of goodbye present—when they’d tired of plundering planet Earth, and gone back from whence they came. Wherever that was. But the Aleutians had departed before Malin was born. The problem right now was the new, Traditionalist government of the World State. A fact-finding mission was soon to arrive at the Panhandle station, and the Torus scientists were scared.


pages: 945 words: 292,893

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Biosphere 2, clean water, Colonization of Mars, Danny Hillis, digital map, double helix, epigenetics, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, Filipino sailors, gravity well, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, kremlinology, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, microbiome, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, phenotype, Potemkin village, pre–internet, random walk, remote working, selection bias, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, the scientific method, Tunguska event, zero day, éminence grise

Which was what Kath Two ought to be doing. They represented a civilization that had, during the Fourth Millennium, executed a plan to undo the damage caused by the Agent by identifying, cataloging, reaching, corralling, and revectoring millions of rocks in orbit around Earth, while also reaching as far as the Kuiper Belt to acquire chunks of frozen water and methane and ammonia and bring them home and smash them into the ruined planet. Essentially all of this work had been accomplished by robots. So much metal had gone into their construction that millions of humans now lived in space habitats whose steel hulls consisted entirely of melted down and reforged robot carcasses.