Kuiper Belt

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pages: 242 words: 81,209

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

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indoor plumbing, Kuiper Belt, Pluto: dwarf planet

And I might tell you a little history, about how in the early 1990s no one had seen such a thing as this Kuiper belt, but a small group of astronomers who had predicted its existence had named the region the Kuiper belt after Dutch American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who had speculated about its existence decades earlier. And finally, if you were still listening and the plane had not yet landed, I would tell you how this Kuiper belt was finally seen, for the first time, in the late summer of 1992, and how I first learned about it on the roof of the Berkeley astronomy building a day before it appeared on the front page of The New York Times. But when Jane told me she had just found the Kuiper belt, I didn’t know any of this. Jane explained. She had not found this vast collection of bodies beyond Neptune, exactly, but simply a single small icy body circling the sun well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

By the end of 1999, on the foggy December night when Sabine and I were sitting underneath the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory and I was proclaiming that I thought there were new planets to be found, astronomers around the world had already discovered almost five hundred of these bodies in a vast disk beyond the orbit of Neptune in what looked very much indeed like the Kuiper belt. From being something that most astronomers had perhaps heard of once or twice, the Kuiper belt had become the hottest new field of study within the solar system. Of the five hundred bodies that were then known in the Kuiper belt in 1999, most were relatively small, maybe a few hundred miles across, but a few moderately large objects had also been found. The largest known at the time was somewhere around a third the size of Pluto. A third the size of Pluto! Pluto had always enjoyed a somewhat mythical status as a lonely oddball at the edge of the solar system, but it turned out that it had more company than astronomers had originally thought. Over the years since I had dismissed the entire Kuiper belt as not quite interesting enough to pull my mind away from Jupiter, I had actually been thinking a bit about Pluto and about those five hundred small icy bodies recently discovered in the distant solar system.

What I didn’t immediately grasp when Jane Luu joined me on the roof overlooking the San Francisco Bay at the Berkeley astronomy department in 1992 was that the discovery of the Kuiper belt gave Pluto a context. It took me and most other astronomers a few more years to realize that Pluto is neither lonely nor an oddball, but rather part of this vast new population called the Kuiper belt. Just as the explosion of asteroid discoveries 150 years earlier had forced astronomers to reconsider the status of Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta and change them from full-fledged planets to simply the largest of the collection of asteroids, the new discovery of the Kuiper belt would certainly force astronomers to reconsider the status of Pluto. It was becoming more and more clear that if the asteroids were the schools of minnows swimming among the pod of whales, then Pluto and the Kuiper belt objects were simply a previously overlooked collection of sardines swimming in a faraway sea.

pages: 190 words: 52,570

The Planets by Dava Sobel

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Albert Einstein, Colonization of Mars, Dava Sobel, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, friendly fire, Isaac Newton, Kuiper Belt, music of the spheres, Norman Mailer

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. 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.

While Uranus and Neptune also participated in this planetesimal diaspora, they lacked the power to hurl objects entirely beyond the Sun’s reach, and relegated them instead to the Kuiper Belt. As a result of these displacements, Jupiter lost some of its orbital energy and moved in closer to the Sun. Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, in contrast, gained energy and edged farther away. Pluto, which is thought to have occupied a round, regular orbit at this early stage, was shoved outward by the gravitational influence of Neptune. Over tens of millions of years, Neptune forced Pluto, the ultimate expatriate, to follow an ever more tilted, more elliptical course. Pluto and the other Kuiper Belt residents have thus been worked over by events in the Solar System. Although scientists had hoped the Kuiper Belt might preserve pristine material, unchanged since the formation of the Sun, they now see it as a war zone where bodies have been deposited and left to fray each other.

David Jewitt (Institute of Astronomy, Hawaii) and Jane Luu (University of Leiden), while working together at the University of Hawaii’s telescope on Mauna Kea, discovered the first Kuiper Belt Object, which they called “Smiley,” after the spy in the novels of John LeCarré, though its official name remains 1992 QB1. Quaoar, Varuna, and Ixion, as well as the controversial 2003 UB313, have all been discovered from Mount Palomar in California by the team of Mike Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory), and David Rabinowitz (Yale), who chose their approved KBO names, following IAU guidelines, from among the worldwide catalog of underworld deities. 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.

pages: 221 words: 61,146

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

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

George Wetherill had suggested as much several years before, during a talk on finding new planetary systems that he had delivered at a conference held at Caltech, in Pasadena, California, on December 7-10, 1992. 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. Without Jupiter, Wetherill noted, Earth would be whacked by comets roughly 1000 times more often than is the case with Jupiter at bat.

Soon after the initial discovery, astronomers realized that Xena had a satellite, and Brown named the satellite Gabrielle, for Xena’s television sidekick. 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. At first it appeared that Ceres was the long-sought “missing planet” between Mars and Jupiter, but then another object with a similar orbit, Pallas, was found in 1802; a third, Juno, in 1804; and a fourth, Vesta, in 1807.

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. However, we were focused on the upper-mass end: How massive could an object in orbit around a star be and still be called a planet?

pages: 310 words: 89,653

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

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Albert Einstein, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, gravity well, Isaac Newton, 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, V2 rocket

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.

Today, taking advantage of substantial improvements in telescopes and camera detectors over the past few decades, more than 1,200 of these Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs, as they are now known, have been discovered. Many of them, like Pluto, are in an orbital resonance dance with Neptune that always keeps them far away from that giant planet’s gravity (Neptune orbits the sun exactly three times for every two times Pluto orbits the sun). Over the 4.5-billion-year history of the solar system, it is hypothesized that some fraction of KBOs that were in unfortunate orbits bringing them too close to Neptune either crashed into the planet or were slingshot out of the solar system or even into the sun. But, just possibly, one of them—Triton—survived that close encounter and was captured by Neptune’s gravity. Voyager’s flyby of Triton, then, may have been humanity’s first encounter with a Kuiper Belt Object, a small planetlike body that originally formed in the cold reaches of the outer solar system, and which may provide a glimpse into the ices and rock that formed the original cores of all the giant planets.

., 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.

pages: 257 words: 66,480

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

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Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Donald Davies, Edmond Halley, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, 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. With adaptive optics in regular use on many of the largest ground-based telescopes, astronomers are now able to obtain images that are in some cases as sharp and sensitive as those from space-based observatories.

After all, the need for revision had been building up for years—since 1992, to be exact. 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. The issue came to a head in 2005, when Michael Brown at Caltech and his colleagues found a body, later (fttingly) named Eris after the Greek goddess of discord, estimated to be not only bigger than Pluto but also more massive.

The planets, captured with the help of adaptive optics on Gemini North, have estimated masses between seven and ten times that of Jupiter. “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. What’s more, David Lafrenière was able to recover the outermost planet in images taken ten years earlier with an infrared camera on Hubble.

pages: 360 words: 110,929

Saturn's Children by Stross, Charles

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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

But it’s still large (the two-kilometer dome of Eden Two is a small seedless grape balanced beside its ripe plum tomato—I’m learning to tell these pregnant foodstuffs of the gods apart), and it’s densely crowded in a way that no terrestrial city would be, for within the Forbidden Cities volume is at a premium. 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.

Silent Movie MERCURY, UNIQUELY AMONG the planets, is locked in a spin/orbit resonance with the sun; it revolves on its axis and has days and nights, but it takes three of its days to orbit the sun twice. 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.

“Not me, personally, no, I didn’t find them.” He’s so smug it’s ridiculous. “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. And I suppose it’s understandable that, without the guidance of our Creators, certain people who were entrusted with maintaining specific programs let them drop.

pages: 88 words: 26,603

Asteroid Hunters (TED Books) by Carrie Nugent

Dava Sobel, John Harrison: Longitude, Kuiper Belt

The main belt isn’t the only place in the solar system where you can find asteroids. 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. As comets get close to the Sun, their ices—frozen CO2 and water—sublimate, changing from a solid straight to a gas, leaving the surface.

“The Ginger-shaped Asteroid 4179 Toutatis: New Observations from a Successful Flyby of Chang’e-2.” 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.” Physics Today 67, no. 9 (September 2014): doi:10.1063/PT.3.2516. Barry, Ellen and Andrew E. Kramer.

pages: 654 words: 204,260

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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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, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, supervolcano, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Most star systems in the cosmos are binary (double-starred), which makes our solitary sun a slight oddity. 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.

Naval Observatory press release, “20th Anniversary of the Discovery of Pluto's Moon Charon,” June 22, 1998. 7 “. . . after a year's patient searching he somehow spotted Pluto . . .” 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 . . .” PBS NewsHour transcript, August 20, 2002. 14 “fills less than a trillionth of the available space.”

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

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

Orbiting fusion reactors pulse down, kicking churning storms of methane away from the core. 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. But it's too young, too small; too well embedded in the Main Sequence.

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?" Oshi shook her head, dumbly. A horrible sense of déja vu overtook her as he continued.

We're fleas, we can sneak up on it. Or die trying. 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. A spider, dangling from a fullerene fibre web.

pages: 476 words: 118,381

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

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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, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, 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, V2 rocket

Since the early 1960s, space vehicles have commonly relied on the heat from radioactive plutonium as an electrical power supply. 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. Good reasons for this view are not hard to find. Inadequately shielded plutonium and other radioactive elements pose great danger; uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions pose even greater danger.

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. Fourteen more were launched over the next two decades.

., 66–67, 124 Johnson Space Center, 8, 220 Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover, A: Moon, Mars and Beyond, 146 Jupiter, 32, 33, 37, 40, 46, 52, 85, 88, 102, 112, 115, 117, 128, 157, 201, 245, 246 slingshot effect and, 119–20 Jupiter-C rocket, 126 Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO), 169–70 Kazakhstan, 121, 123 Kelvin, Lord, 108 Kennedy, John F., 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: 489 words: 148,885

Accelerando by Stross, Charles

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call centre, carbon-based life, cellular automata, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, Conway's Game of Life, dark matter, dumpster diving, Extropian, finite state, Flynn Effect, glass ceiling, gravity well, John von Neumann, knapsack problem, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, market bubble, means of production, 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

We use FPGAs for all critical electronics and keep it parsimonious – you're right about it buying us the self-replicating factory a few years ahead of the robotics curve. 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."

We'd be right back to iteration one of the waterfall model of singularity formation within a couple of gigaseconds of arriving. That's why I came back: to warn her." "So?" 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." "Which leaves what?" Annette demands.

And it follows that, instead of taking potluck on the destination, we should learn about the network protocols the routers use, figure out some kind of transferable currency we can use to pay for our reinstantiation at the other end, and also how to make some kind of map so we know where we're going. 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. Manfred brokered a deal for them to get their very own cometary factory colony.

pages: 561 words: 167,631

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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

Wait until things calm down again.” 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?” They looked at each other. The first said, “There’s a network of cadre layers, like the panchayats in India.

She was coming to Saturn, with Jean Genette; they wanted to descend into the clouds of Saturn to look for a spaceship possibly adrift in the big beauty’s upper layers. 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. The impact caused flash steam explosions across a plane and split the moon as if spalling granite.

The water quickly freezes in its flight, and some of it makes it up to the slender E ring; the rest falls back down and under its own weight turns to firn and then back to ice again. 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. More about Titan later. Extracts (9) One question for computability: is the problem capable of producing a result If a finite number of steps will produce an answer, it is a problem that can be solved by a Turing machine Is the universe itself the equivalent of a Turing machine?

pages: 356 words: 102,224

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

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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, Kuiper Belt, linked data, nuclear winter, planetary scale, profit motive, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, telepresence

Sometimes called minor planets or asteroids, they are more likely to be inactive comets (with no tails, of course; so far from the Sun, their ices cannot readily vaporize). 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." The flavor of the word is, I suppose, something like that of "infinitesimals": You need an infinite number of them to make anything.

pages: 326 words: 97,089

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

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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, Kuiper Belt, 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. You’d need on order of a million close passes, one every several thousand years, but you could move the Earth’s orbit out, close to where Mars is now.

., 101 Journal of Geophysical Research, 178 Jupiter, 76, 109, 191, 239 Galileo’s study of, 81 Kepler’s laws and, 83 moons of, 28, 110 Jupiter-like planets, 13, 28, 50, 56, 59, 60, 108, 109, 226, 228, 248–49 Kasdin, Jeremy, 219–20 Kasting, Jerry, 150–52 Kasting, Jim, 150–67, 169–84 children of, 153 Kasting, Sandy, 150 Kasting, Sharon, 153 Keck Observatory, 59, 60, 62, 66, 118 Kennedy, John F., 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: 804 words: 212,335

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

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

Skyjacks — at least here — made up a significant portion of the others she saw. 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. And then there were Conjoiners: descendants of an experimental clique on Mars who had systematically upgraded their minds, swapping cells for machines, until something sudden and drastic had happened.

Hand under chin, she had been staring into the orrery for hours, like a child transfixed by some glittery toy. 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: 448 words: 116,962

Singularity Sky by Stross, Charles

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anthropic principle, cellular automata, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological constant, 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. "Launch point in six-zero seconds," called Helsingus.

Civilian ones…" The Lord Vanek was going far too fast to slow down, and as flagship and lead element of the squadron, had a duty not to do so. 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. (Minor hull damage and a couple of evacuated compartments had resulted; unfortunately, the cruiser's chaplain had been in one of the compartments at the time, and had gone to meet his maker.)

pages: 237 words: 76,486

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

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Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, 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. In many respects he was unhappy with the entire Mars enterprise.

pages: 1,263 words: 371,402

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

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augmented reality, clean water, computer age, cosmological constant, David Attenborough, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, financial independence, game design, gravity well, jitney, John Harrison: Longitude, Kuiper Belt, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, Paul Graham, Richard Feynman, 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

She lives in Brighton, England, with her husband, her son, and a Burmese cat. 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. It’s illegal to create a code-version of a human being anywhere in the USE, including near-space habitats and planetary colonies.

The weaklings, casualties of the transit, may ensure in some occult way the survival of a few, who may live long enough to form the foundation stones of a colony, on an earth-like planet of a distant star. 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. I thought of those old no-hopers as I followed the guidance lights to my first orientation session; but there was no sign of them, no scars, no graffiti on the drab walls of endless curving corridors.

‘At 12:18 Taynish Enclave time, we detected gravity waves passing through the system. 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. ‘There are characteristic signatures in the gravity waves and the spectral analysis.’

pages: 624 words: 104,923

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

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

It isn’t much larger than its own main moon, Charon (two more, smaller, Plutonian moons, Nix and Hydra, were discovered in 2005). 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. Most are much too small to be considered as planets but twelve of them give Pluto a run for its money.

pages: 313 words: 95,077

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

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Andrew Keen, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle, c2.com, crowdsourcing, en.wikipedia.org, 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, Kuiper Belt, liberation theology, lump of labour, 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, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra

Wikipedia’s Content Mere volume would be useless if Wikipedia articles weren’t any good, however. 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. As a result, Pluto occasionally comes closer to the Sun than the planet Neptune. That paragraph includes ten links to other Wikipedia articles on the solar system, astronomical units (AU), and so on.

pages: 483 words: 134,062

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

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Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt

But that was exactly why normal tasks needed doing. He would put algae onto the card, and he’d put it into the scanner. 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.” Corbin gave a curt nod. The vox clicked off. With a sigh, he turned to his desk and gestured at the pixel projector.

pages: 573 words: 163,302

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

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air freight, Black Swan, 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. They were mostly Reformers, notionally, but politics wasn’t the issue.

pages: 648 words: 170,770

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

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gravity well, Kuiper Belt, pattern recognition

Core samples were taken, and when silicate anomalies raised flags, Protogen was approached as cosponsor of a long-term research facility.” 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: 945 words: 292,893

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

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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, microbiome, 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

He too had slipped on a varp, and she guessed from the way he was moving his hands and wiggling his fingers that he was working, as opposed to playing. He was probably filling out his Survey report. 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. It would have been easy for them to blanket the surface of New Earth with robots and, without ever sending down a single human being, perform a kind of survey: one that was heavy on data and light on judgment.