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

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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.

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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.

HI-SEAS

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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Consciousness

New Study Finds Humans Can Access a Higher Level of Consciousness

Gautam Peddada

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Photo By Zelenov Iurii

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study sheds light on the existence of a higher level of consciousness in humans that is accessible.

  • Reflect On:

    Does consciousness originate in the brain or somewhere else? What does this say about who 'we' are as humans?

Before you begin...

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New research has discovered verifiable evidence of a higher level of consciousness. Researchers used brain imaging equipment to analyze the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across three psychedelic substances, one measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

Neuroscientists discovered a prolonged increase in neural signal diversity — a measure of the complexity of brain activity — in persons under the influence of psychedelic substances as compared to when they were awake.

The variety of brain impulses gives a mathematical indicator of awareness degree. People who are awake, for example, have more diversified brain activity than those who are asleep, according to this measure.

However, this is the first study to show that brain-signal diversity is more than baseline, that is, greater than in someone who is merely ‘awake and aware.’ Previous research has focused on decreased states of awareness, such as sleep, anesthesia, or the so-called vegetative state. More research utilizing complex and diverse models is required, according to the researchers, who are cautiously hopeful.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the University of Sussex’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, stated:

“This discovery demonstrates that the brain on psychedelics functions quite differently than usual.”

“As evaluated by ‘global signal diversity,’ the electrical activity of the brain during the psychedelic experience is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during regular conscious wakefulness.”

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal — but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

For the study, Michael Schartner, Adam Barrett, and Professor Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalyzed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine, and LSD.

Using brain imaging equipment, scientists examined the small magnetic fields created in the brain and discovered that, across all three medicines, this measure of conscious level — neural signal diversity — was consistently greater.

The researchers emphasize that this does not imply that the psychedelic state is a “better” or “more desirable” state of consciousness; rather, it demonstrates that the psychedelic brain state is distinct and can be related to other global changes in conscious level (e.g., sleep, anesthesia) by using a simple mathematical measure of signal diversity.

“That identical improvement in signal diversity was discovered for all three medications, despite their rather distinct pharmacology, are both quite remarkable and also encouraging that the results are robust and reproducible,” said Dr. Muthukumaraswamy, who was involved in all three original research.

The findings might help feed ongoing conversations concerning the strictly supervised medical usage of such medications, such as in the treatment of severe depression.

“Rigorous research into psychedelics is garnering greater interest, not least because of the therapeutic potential that these substances may have when taken wisely and under medical supervision,” said Dr. Robin Cahart-Harris of Imperial College London.

“The current study’s findings assist us to comprehend what happens in people’s brains when they experience psychedelic consciousness expansion. People frequently report having “insight” when using these substances, and when this occurs in a therapeutic setting, it can predict beneficial outcomes. The current discoveries may help us understand how this is possible.”

In addition to informing potential medical applications, the study contributes to developing scientific knowledge of how conscious level (how conscious one is) and conscious content (what one is conscious of) are connected.

According to Professor Seth:

“We discovered links between the intensity of subjects’ psychedelic experiences and variations in signal diversity. This shows that our metric is closely related not just to global brain alterations caused by medicines, but also to features of brain dynamics that underpin specific kinds of conscious experience.”

The study team is currently concentrating their efforts on determining how particular alterations in information flow in the brain underpin certain components of the psychedelic experience, such as hallucinations.

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Discover

Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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Discover

What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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