Week 8_ Space & Abstract for Final_Long Lau

As a student in the Earth and Space Science department here, I have to say this week’s topic is by far the most interesting one to me. From very early on, people have looked up into the sky and wondered about all the twinkling lights circling above our zenith. From the refracting telescopes of Galileo to Hubbles Telescope to Mars rovers to NASA’s Cosmic¬† Background Explorer satellite, we have certainly come a long way in developing technology to observe our universe. Over time, we have been gaining more and more knowledge of the void out there but it seems like the more we know about it the more questions arises. The immensity of our universe is demonstrated clearly by the video Powers of Ten shown in class on Thursday, yet it is only 13 and a half billion years old, which is only about 3 times as old as our Earth!

microwave-background-radiation

The microwave background radiation map of the universe used to determine the age of the universe

As mentioned in class,¬† space exploration was ignited by the US and USSR arms race. Ever since then, this “manifest destiny” to conquer space has inspired many fiction writers and movie makers. I think people ought to fantasize more about space; our planet is only so small even compared to our immediate vicinity, the solar system. There is so much out there that can be materials for great science fiction. The idea of extraterrestrial life is one prominent mystery out there that captivates many minds. SETI, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, searches the sky with radio telescopes to pick up unusual pulses of radio waves that could be sent from intelligent life, as shown in the movie Contact. One very interesting thought came to me when I first learned about SETI is that what if these intelligent life out there are doing the same thing searching for us? Radio waves from our radios and TV programs might take thousands or millions of years to reach them and by then will we still be around? In researching on this topic I came across something called the Arecibo message. It is a binary coded message sent into space using FM radio waves and it includes information such as the base 10 number system that we use, the atomic numbers for the main elements found in our body, and a general double helix shape of our DNA, etc. It makes me wonder what would happen when intelligent life received this message, would they ever be able to decode it?

arecibo_message

Arecibo Message arranged in 73 rows by 23 columns.

My idea for my final project will be built upon my proposal I did for my midterm, except that this time it will be set in the future. Like my midterm project, the purpose is to let the participants experience what it is like to be lost in dimensions.It will use the same computer program that constructs topological manifolds, what is different is that the participant will be immersed in a spherical hologram rather than staring at multiple screens. A major development from the midterm proposal is that instead of mounting the exhibit inside the microgravity simulating airplane, it will be installed inside a space elevator situated in the middle of Pacific Ocean at the equator that extends out to almost 1/4 of the distance to the moon. The elevator will utilize carbon nanotubes for support and will be powered by chemicals excreted from photosynthesis of genetically engineered plants that live inside a greenhouse at the outer edge of the elevator, which would be a structure that also serves as a counterweight to provide tension to the carbon nanotube shaft. Main advantage of this change is that the participants will experience an increased gravitational acceleration while the elevator ascends and will feel the sudden apparent weightlessness once it reaches geosynchronous orbit and can stay longer in microgravity than being inside a descending aircraft.

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