Showing posts from April, 2021

Chinese Space Station...

...assembly has started. China has begun the process of building its own space station, the Tiangong 3, by launching the first of three modules into orbit. The Tianhe module will be the core of the space station and will provide the living quarters for up to three taikonauts. A further nine launches will be required to place two science labs along with a crew capsule/lifeboat, plus additional cargo and equipment to fit out the station. Tianhe was launched atop a Long March-5B rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan, China. It's 16.6 meters long and 4.2 meters in diameter. The completed station will weigh 66 tonnes, orbit 400km above the earth and have an operational life span of 10 years. It's approximately one quarter the size of the ISS.  

10 minutes of...

...breathable air; about 5 grams of oxygen. It doesn't sound much and the limitless supply of breathable air we have on earth means it doesn't sound an impressive quantity. Yet the location and production of these 5 grams of oxygen make it important. In between the first two flights of the martian helicopter, Nasa announced the Perseverance rover's MOXIE instrument made a less visually dramatic but potentially more useful contribution to manned space exploration; producing breathable air from the thin, carbon dioxide-heavy, martian atmosphere. The nickel alloy MOXIE instrument achieved this by taking in samples of Martian air, heating it to 800 degrees celsius and thermochemically splitting the CO2 into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The latter gas was vented and the oxygen stored. Moxie can produce twenty minutes of breathable air per hour, per person. So three modules could sustain an astronaut indefinitely. Assuming continuous supply of power and reliability. There will be

Ingenuity flies...

...and makes the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world. The flight was the first of five that are planned and this one was mostly proof of concept. The vehicle spun up its rotors, took off, rose to a height of 3 meters and hovered there for a few seconds before landing. An historic moment in space exploration. Hopefully, future flights of Nasa's martian helicopter will be just as successful.

100 trillion parameter...

...gpt-3 models will be a thing by 2023, according to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. He made the prediction in his GTC keynote speech. I've posted the youtube video and it should start at the relevant timestamp. As Jensen points out, the human brain has 125 trillion synapses, so by some measures, especially in the field of language processing, machines could soon be getting close to human-level capability. Document summaries, phrase completion and the ability to produce code from plain English, are a few examples. As Jensen makes clear elsewhere in the video, computers writing the software to run computers is a major goal of the research. With the ability to both understand language input and, in response, code their own software, computers will be showing many of the hallmarks of intelligence while outperforming people numerous tasks. Assuming they're not too busy mining bitcoin.

NASA's Martian Helicopter...

Image ready for its first flight and, if successful, it will be a landmark moment in space exploration - the first time an aircraft has flown on an alien world. It might not be a large vehicle weighing in at 4lbs, but the small vehicle will need all of its peak power output of 350w to get airborne and stay airborne in an environment that, due to its thin atmosphere, is ill-suited to airfoil lift. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars is 1% that of the earth's atmosphere at sea level, equivalent to the earth's atmosphere at an altitude of more than 100,000 thousand feet. To put that in perspective, the highest helicopter flight on earth reached an altitude of 40,000 feet, and though that was a manned flight in a heavy full-scale helicopter, it is still higher than any vertical take-off drone yet flown. The wispy thin atmosphere of Mars is only one of the challenges Ingenuity faces. Some of which it is now encountering before even taking to the air. The nightti

Monkey Mind Pong...

...isn't an Olympic sport, nor would it make for a good spectator sport but it seems to be an effective proving ground for some advances in neuroscience. Scientists at Neuralink, Elon Musk's mind-melding neurotechnology company, have inserted some wires into Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, allowing him to control a computer solely through the power of thought.     Elon joked on Twitter that Pager will soon be on twitch and discord.

Welcome to my blog

Hi, and welcome to my blog. It's only just starting, so there's not much to see yet, but that should change. I aim to post a mix of news and commentary, along with links to the writings and videos of others whose ideas interest me. I've titled my blog Alien Megastructures, but the theme will be a more general mix of my interests in artificial intelligence, space exploration, and futurism. Perhaps some actual alien megastructures might make an appearance, too, there have been a couple of candidates in recent years, Tabby's star and Oumuamua, both now considered natural phenomena, but let's what else shows up. The technology to spot them is improving, and besides, natural phenomena can be of interest, too. Also, alien does not always equate to extra-terrestrial, and megastructures need not always be huge engineering constructions. While any object that fell into both of those categories is the image that most readily comes to mind, and one that would make fo