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An Interview With The First Person To Play Golf On Mars… Sort Of



Jocelyn Dunn is the first person to play golf on Mars.

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Ok, not really on Mars, but pretty darn close. Sort of. Dunn is part of a six-person crew of faux Martian astronauts living in a facility on the Big Island of Hawaii. HI-SEAS – the Hawaii Space Exploration and Analog Simulation — is a NASA-funded effort to study the psychological effects of long-duration space travel. The idea is to put astronauts together in a simulated Martian habitat for various periods of time and study what transpires.

HI-SEAS’ physical facility is a dome on the slopes of Mauna Loa, one of the two mega-volcanoes that make up a large part of the Big Island of Hawaii. The current crop of astronauts is the third to spend a lengthy time in the habitat. The third mission’s astronauts are spending eight months inside the facility living as though they were actually living on Mars, with time-delayed communications and limited access to the Internet, etc. They’re about six months into their journey and disaster has yet to strike. What’s more – they still like each other!

Figure 1. The HI-SEAS facility.


But back to golf. Here’s Jocelyn’s swing in her space suit on the slopes of Mars/Mauna Loa:

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Figure 2. Dunn’s impressive golf swing. 

Dunn golfing

I read in the New York Times about the new crew that entered the HI-SEAS dome back in October and noticed that one of the crew (Dunn) had many things in common with a character in a novel I’m writing that takes place on the Big Island. Seeing the chance for a cool plot development in my novel, and having always been interested in space travel and Martian colonization, I reached out to Jocelyn Dunn via email. To my pleasant surprise she responded and we’ve had an interesting dialogue about her experiences.

Interview With Jocelyn Dunn

I asked her the obvious questions: why did you decide to spend eight months cooped up in a fake Martian habitat? “Well, mainly because I feel passionate about this type of research and it unites all my academic interests: aerospace, biomedical, and data science.  But also because I was attracted to the idea of signing off from worldly distractions and focusing on personal and intellectual growth.”

tambookHow is your time structured each day? “We do not really have rules about how to spend our time, we just have milestones and expectations for certain tasks, then the rest is up to us.  The goal is to have an autonomous crew.”

What is your command structure? “In terms of command structure, we do have a commander, Martha [Lenio].  She’s not a micro-manager, but she is a decisive leader. Then we have the mission support which has two ties. First is for the simple questions and help, like ‘please send me the manual for the radio, a weather report, etc.,’ and then second tier are NASA researchers and mission directors. They respond to more important problems that have unclear answers.”

Is there a policy about dating in the habitat? “There is no policy about dating. We had conversations before we moved in about how we all felt about romance developing among the crew. The consensus was that we did not mind as long as the romance remained as private as possible and did not interfere with mission goals.”

What is your power source and would it be the same on Mars? “Primarily, the HI-SEAS habitat runs on solar energy. We also have hydrogen as backup and a gas generator. Yes, solar and hydrogen would be the primary power sources on Mars. Without an atmosphere, the solar arrays built for Mars would be able to utilize more wavelengths of light than those built for usage on Earth. Hydrogen will also be a vital part of the energy system on on Mars as hydrogen can be produced through electrolysis of water or other methods. This would be especially useful in high sunlight scenarios when the batteries have been fully-charged and there is excess power being generated that can then be used to produce hydrogen.”

Establishing “Human Redundancy”

At the risk of cheapening the value of Martian colonization, I analogize establishing colonies on Mars, from a practical perspective, to having multiple credit cards or having multiple backups of important documents on your computer and in the “cloud.” It’s all about redundancy. Having all of humanity’s eggs in the Earth basket we call home leaves us pretty vulnerable to various possible disasters. If we value a role for humanity in the unfolding of the universe in future eons it would be good to have some additional homes in case Earth runs into serious problems.

I would certainly miss Earth if I were to embark on a ship for a life on Mars or some other part of our solar system, but Mars is spectacular in its own way. I’ve read and re-read Kim Stanley Robinson’s amazing series of novels about Martian colonization: Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars. He paints vivid portraits of the Martian landscape, including features like the Pavonis Mons crater that is a five-kilometer sheer circular wall. Robinson also paints a convincing picture of what he calls the “areophany,” the unfolding transformation of Mars into a habitable planet that takes place in his series of books, that has a real spiritual component for many of the Martian colonists creating entirely new lives on a new planet.

While colonizing Mars remains a fictional endeavor for now, there are a number of companies and countries working hard to make it reality in just a decade or two. Mars One is an interesting effort to send a one-way mission to Mars within the next decade, similar to the mission described in Robinson’s books. Elon Musk and his SpaceX company are taken more seriously in their efforts to eventually carry humans to Mars. Musk plans to announce the details of the planned Mars mission later this year, though no date has been set yet for when the mission might take place. Early speculation suggests sometime between 2025 and 2030.

NASA is working on space vehicles that could in theory take astronauts to Mars, but there are no U.S. plans to actually do this until sometime in the 2030s, if then. So for now Martian colonization seems likely to be mostly a private sector endeavor and that may well be a good thing, because private companies can move more quickly and innovate better than national space agencies.

I asked Jocelyn whether she would volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars. “If participating in a one-way trip to Mars with current technologies, it seems likely that my life would end in a year or so after running out of supplies, so, no I would not. There is still much research and development required before a mission to Mars will be viable. I’m skeptical that my generation will begin colonizing Mars, but I am hopeful that my generation will begin exploring Mars with round trips to and from Mars!”

I’m reading a new novel about Mars, The Martian, by Andy Weir, and it paints believable scenarios for all sorts of potential disasters for the first Martian explorers. So Jocelyn’s concerns are pretty well-founded!

Is Our Desire For Space Exploration Spiritual In Nature?

Robinson’s books do an excellent job of weaving a spiritual theme into Martian colonization, with his exploration through various characters of the areophany, the re-making of Mars. I asked Dunn whether there was a spiritual component to her volunteering for HI-SEAS and being interested in Mars:

Yes, some say that the desire to explore is innate to humanity. We must keep exploring so that humanity can expand beyond Earth and have a continued presence in the universe. On a higher-level, this question reminds me of debate in the space community about whether we should keep searching for life elsewhere or if we should aim to spread Earthly life throughout the universe. So instead of sending rovers to explore for evidence of life, should we start sending rovers to distribute microbial life, etc.? It’s not the same for everyone, but for me, exploration nourishes my spirit and encourages positive-thinking while testing endurance and determination.

Inside a spacesuit, there’s a solace that I’ll try to describe. Even though radio comms are chattering in my earpiece, there’s a separation from everything – the people, the terrain, and even reality. In order to protect against a harsh environment spacesuits purposely exclude the outside world from the senses. But this separation also opens up space for the imagination, for self-reflection, and leaves room for an individual’s spirit to thrive – similar to how it feels to sing in the shower or dance while no one is watching! However, in requiring maximal physical and mental toughness to meet the objectives of exploration, rather than feeling like a personal retreat for a reflective soul, the confinement of a spacesuit could be likened to entrapment with an anxious mind, for some, the epitome of claustrophobia.

It’s an exciting time as Jocelyn and her fellow pioneers work to multiply our single spaceship (Earth) into one or more additional spaceships (Mars and other planets/moons). Dunn and her colleagues keep interesting blogs here. I’ll be following Dunn and her colleagues as they continue their adventures. Maybe one day I’ll get to golf on Mars too, or even play low-gravity tennis.

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If You Could Power Your Entire Home With 60 Minutes Of Cycling, Would You Do It?



In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Mechanical energy, converted into kinetic energy can provide the energy that we use on a regular basis to power our homes and electronic devices.

  • Reflect On:

    Rather than focusing on the current problems in our world it is great to change gears and have a look at all of the solutions that are popping up all over the world.

Imagine if your morning workout could power your home for the entire day, all the way until your next morning workout. Well, you may not have to imagine, as this technology exists now. Manoj Bhargava has invented a new exercise bike that can power some homes for 24 hours after use for only sixty minutes per day.

This invention was a part of a new initiative to bring electricity to places that undergo frequent power outages or may only have access to power for a few hours during the day. In our modern age, going without electricity can really separate a person from the rest of the world. Bhargava’s mission is to bridge the gap for those who suffer from poverty and make it easier for them to access the same information as the rest of the world, potentially giving them more opportunities in life.

The Free Electric

The above heading is also the name of this awesome and innovative bike serving as a solution to a pretty significant issue in the underdeveloped nations of the world.

According to Bhargava, the Free Electric is meant to lead to “better health, more leisure time, better access to education and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” He also feels that it could, “literally change the world.”

Power to change the world? Bold statement, but if this is able to be implemented worldwide, I would absolutely have to agree with him. This technology not only has the capacity to assist those in poverty, but can also be used by the rest of the world as well as more and more people around the world who are aiming to reduce their usee of fossil fuels. I have a feeling that Millennials (such as myself) and younger generations would be all over this if its made available! Not only is it a great way to get your cardio in, but it provides FREE electricity that produces no other pollution.

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As mentioned in the video, it is also a great solution in the face of natural, or even man made disasters because this type of electricity would not rely on that generated and sold by power companies. Perhaps even one day a way to stock up and store this energy will be possible — then, the opportunities here will be much more plentiful and could be a huge factor in reducing the amount of pollution our current methods of energy production are creating.

The Future Is Friendly

As much as there is sometimes destruction all around us, there is also innovation and ingenuity. Human beings have tremendous potential. Even though there are many problems that we as a society are facing, solutions are popping up and fast, and in most cases they already exist. Finding solutions doesn’t seem to be the problem, so ask yourself, what is?  It’s so great to see ideas such as these being conceptualized and then created and put into use so efficiently, it shows how our species is capable of stopping and potentially reversing some of the destruction that we have caused over the years.

This is absolutely a double win! We are constantly bombarded with news stories and articles that are telling us to be more active, stop sitting so much, and now with the Free Electric, we will have to be active before we can relax and enjoy the use of our precious technology.

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Physicists ‘Grow’ A Man Made Diamond From Nuclear Waste That’s Able To Generate Electricity



In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have developed a technology that can convert leftover radioactive materials into diamond batteries to power a wide range of electronics.

  • Reflect On:

    Could this be the solution to use op all the radioactive materials on the planet and shut down nuclear power plants worldwide?

Currently there is more than 2 billion tons of nuclear waste across the globe. This nuclear waste is a hazardous threat to the environment if not disposed of correctly. Scientists have recently begun attempting to transform nuclear waste into batteries that could last for thousands of years. If they are successful with this conversion project it would be a double win, less nuclear waste contaminating our environment, and a way to reuse energy that was generated to give power to whatever requires it.

Diamond batteries that use the energy from leftover radioactive materials have been developed and tested by researchers at the University of Bristol. They are now hoping to be able to recycle the waste leftover from decommissioned nuclear power plants in the UK. According to the University, “New technology has been developed that uses nuclear waste to generate electricity in a nuclear-powered battery….A team of physicists and chemists from the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current.” (source)

How Does This Work?

According to The Independent,

Carbon-14 isotopes extracted from graphite blocks produced by the plant are infused with wafer-thin diamonds to create the batteries, which researchers say are capable of providing power on a “near-infinite basis”.

Potential applications range from powering hearing aids and pacemakers, to extending the range of spacecraft to distances much further than are currently possible.

“Eventually, a highly powerful version of a diamond battery could power a mobile phone,” James Barker, from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Independent.

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“Primarily though, they are best for devices requiring long lifetime, low power and where it is difficult to replace energy sources.”

In order to make these diamond batteries safe for medical and consumer use they are encased in a non-radioactive diamond layer, which will absorb any radiation given off by the C14 source.

According to the University,

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University’s Interface Analysis Centre and a member of the Cabot Institute, said: “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation.  By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy.”

Could This Be The Solution We’ve Been Searching For?

“The ultimate aim is to have a factory based at one of the former power stations in the South West that takes Carbon-14 isotopes directly from the graphite blocks for use in diamond batteries. This would significantly reduce the radioactivity of the remaining material, making it easier and safer to manage,” said Professor Tom Scott, director of the South West Nuclear Hub.

“With the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants set to go offline in the next 10-15 years this presents a huge opportunity to recycle a large amount of material to generate power for so many great uses.”

Time will tell how effective this method that scientists have come up with will be able to be implemented worldwide, but if it is, just imagine the implications of what this technology could represent.

Is It Time To Move Away From Nuclear Energy?

You’d think since the Fukushima disaster there would be a worldwide agreement for countries to stop generating power from nuclear reactors and to safely shut down these plants. Nuclear disasters have devastating effects on our planet and all of it’s inhabitants, recovery from such accidents can take tens of thousands of years to lose their hazardous radioactivity. Take the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986 and is now contained under a metal shell, this site will likely remain radioactive for up to 20,000 years.

Instead of waiting for these disasters to occur, shouldn’t we be safely dismantling these sites before any more devastating disasters occur? Thankfully many countries are vowing to shut down their nuclear power plants and we can only hope that the rest of the world will follow suit.

The Future Is Here

There are so many amazing technologies that have the capacity to revolutionize the way we use energy on this planet. Of course many of those are hidden from us, especially if they cannot be in some way profited from, and unfortunately as it seems, if they don’t exploit the environment and our resources in some way.

As innovative ideas abound and technology continues to rapidly develop, we have to assume that safer and more innovative means of producing electricity will be uncovered. Hopefully these technologies will also have the capacity to undo some of the damage that we have done to our planet.

At the end of the day, using nuclear energy is not needed anymore, and in reality nuclear waste should not even exist at this point in our development as a collective.

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Galaxies Millions of Light Years Apart Seem To Be Connected By Invisible “Large Scale Structures”



In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A study published in The Astrophysical Journal in October found that hundreds of galaxies were rotating in sync with the motions of galaxies that were tens of millions of light years away. This suggests that an invisible force somehow connects them.

  • Reflect On:

    How much of what we know, and what we think we know, is false? Are our minds open to accepting new concepts of reality that don't fit within the framework of accepted knowledge?

“We are all connected” — a statement that may evoke an eye-roll from someone you express this to. This is common when it comes to such topics, or any topic that dives into the ‘spooky’ world of quantum physics, which seems to be directly intertwined with philosophy and metaphysics in various ways. These subjects are going to really conflict with the belief systems of many, and that’s ok.

“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” This statement was made by Lord Kelvin — a famous Scottish mathematician and physicist who contributed to many branches of physics — in 1900, and shattered only five years later when Einstein published his paper on special relativity. The new theories proposed by Einstein challenged the current framework of understanding, forcing the scientific community to open up to an alternative view of the true nature of our reality. This serves as a great example of how things that are originally taken as truth can suddenly turn out to be fiction.

This type of thing is happening quite often today, and with most of us trying to put food on the table and pay our bills, we don’t really have time to keep up with all that’s being discovered.

When it comes to the connection between all living systems, there are a number of examples one could use from many different fields of study. We see connection in all different forms, including all the way down to smallest bits of matter, the physical ‘stuff’ that our world is made up of. In quantum entanglement, for example, particles remain connected so that if you separate them, regardless of distance, whatever actions are performed on one of them affect the other. This has been seen with photons, for example.

This strange connection is not only seen at the smallest levels of the physical world, but also in large scale. This has been demonstrated by a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal  last October, which found that hundreds of galaxies were rotating in sync with the motions of galaxies that were tens of millions of light years away.

This is a new discovery and a new phenomenon that came from studying 445 galaxies within 400 million light years of our planet. The observed coherence is quite astonishing, and the authors hypothesize that it must have something to do with “large scale structures” that are perhaps connecting them, causing them to move so precisely in sync as they do, especially given the fact that the galaxies observed are separated by approximately 20 million light years. Somehow they “directly interact with each other,” said Joon Hyeop Lee, an astronomer at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute.

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The paper suggests that the synchronized galaxies are somehow embedded along the same ‘large scale structure,’ which is slowly rotating in a counter-clockwise direction and could be an explanation for the coherence seen between the rotation of these galaxies and their neighbours.

Obviously, a lot is still unknown.

“The dynamical coherence even out to millions of light-years was unexpected and surprising to us, because such distances are obviously too far for neighbor galaxies to directly interact with each other” says Joon Hyeop Lee, first author of the study, from KASI at Daejeon, Korea “Nevertheless, since the observational evidence supports the interaction origin of the dynamical coherence, we could not but think of the possibility that it is the vestige of past interactions.” (source)

These large structures are, as of now, invisible. Astronomers can’t identify what they are, but the discovery hints to the idea that the structures are made predominately of dark matter that links these galaxies in some sort of cosmic web, as galaxies and space in general seem to be dominated by dark matter.

This is where the world of non-material science comes in, as we start to bridge the gap that seems to separate science and metaphysics.

More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.

Non-material, invisible substances dominate our world — they are not perceivable to the senses, but they can be detected.

If you’ve looked into dark matter, you may also know that what scientists refer to as the quantum vacuum is often mistaken for dark matter or ‘dark energy,’ but we don’t hear about this in mainstream channels.

Space is actually not empty and it’s full of energy… The energy in space is not trivial, there’s a lot of it and we can actually calculate how much energy there is in that space and that reality might actually come out of it. Everything we see is actually emerging from this space. – Nasim Haramein

This idea was illustrated decades ago with the “Casimir Effect,” which demonstrates what’s called zero-point energy. Today, we are beginning to see that these concepts are not just theoretical, but instead are very practical. (source)(source) This is why it’s interesting to point out how multiple scientists, over the past little while, have been expressing the idea that what we call “Dark Matter” might actually be mistaken for this ‘zero-point energy.’

Take, for example, this Defense Intelligence Agency unclassified document entitled “Warp Drive, Dark Energy & The Manipulation of Extra-Dimensions,” written and prepared for the agency by senior research physicist Richard K. Obousky, Ph.D. and Eric W. Davis, Ph.D.

When it comes to dark energy, here’s what the paper states:

This is what now is being accepted as the ‘substance’ of space. Space is not empty–if you look at an atom, it’s mostly made up of ’empty space,’ but the space is not actually empty, it’s full of energy.

Nikola Tesla was well aware of this substance/force at the turn of the 20th Century:

All perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha, or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life-giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never-ending cycles all things and phenomena.” – Nikola Tesla, Man’s Greatest Achievement, 1907

The late Parahamsa Tewari recently had a paper published in Physics Essays. The paper is titled “Structural Relation Between The Vacuum Space and The Electron.” You can access the full study here. Tewari also points out that dark matter has been mistaken for the ether.

Ether has got to be, once again, established, then there will be the meaningful understanding of physics, meaningful understanding of metaphysics, and meaningful understanding of spiritual processes.” – Tewari (source)

I believe that there is something non-physical connecting these galaxies, connecting space and connecting time in ways that we are just beginning to understand, and I believe that what’s beyond this non-physical ‘substance’ is consciousness.

The Takeaway

Science still has a long way to go with regards to making discoveries about our universe, as there are many more questions than answers, but something seems to be a common theme, and that’s the fact that invisible forces like dark matter, dark energy, and the zero-point energy field are key components with regards to the structure and nature of reality.

What’s even more fascinating? The fact that consciousness itself may play an integral role in shaping how our physical world behaves. You cannot go into quantum physics without diving into consciousness. Max Planck, the theoretical physicist credited with originating quantum theory — a feat that won him the Physics Nobel Prize in 1918 — offers perhaps the best explanation for why understanding consciousness is so essential: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”(source)

Perhaps the universe itself is conscious?

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