Living on Mars: A 4-step guide for humans
Physicist Michio Kaku discusses the main difficulties humans face in colonizing Mars and how to overcome them.
Michio Kaku: Well, the question is, if we’re entering a new “golden age” of space exploration what is the main bottleneck that we face?
The main bottleneck has to do with life support and the human. See, we’ve already sent robots to Mars. We’ve already sent objects the size of a bus to the planet Mars, but now we’re talking about humans, which require a whole support network, and so we have to realize that things that we don’t even consider at all with the robots become central and a bottleneck for humans.
Humans will have to live in an environment where there’s radiation; where there’s loneliness; where the journey can take two years; where temperatures are below freezing; where the atmospheric pressure is only one percent the atmospheric pressure on the planet Earth, and eventually we want to create a base there. We’re not going to go there just to plant the flag and come back and crow about it, no! We want a self-sustaining planet, a base on Mars that can support people. This means it has to be done in several steps.
The first step would be to create a base on Mars with power. Solar power could provide the energy, and lava tubes, underground lava tubes might be able to provide caves by which astronauts could live and create the first outposts underground. That’s the way it was done in the movie 2001 [A Space Odyssey].
The moon base on the moon in that movie was underground, providing a natural barrier to radiation. And then once you have the base set up you have to begin the process of creating a self-sustaining agriculture there. I mean what are you going to eat on Mars? You can’t order a hamburger, because everything has to be shipped from the planet Earth. You want to create an agriculture and this means genetic engineering. This means creating genetically-modified algae and plants that can consume the rich carbon dioxide atmosphere, live in a very cold environment, and thrive. We’re going to have to genetically modify our plants so that we can create an agriculture so that it is self-sustaining on Mars.
Then we have to create mining operations. We have to mine the ice. Ice can provide oxygen for breathing, water for drinking, and hydrogen for rocket fuel. And so we have to begin a mining operation so that we have the materials to build cities, materials to build bases, oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and hydrogen for rocket fuel.
Then the last step in the process—and this will take maybe another hundred years—is to send satellites orbiting around Mars to begin the process of melting the polar ice caps. This is called space solar power. We have the blueprints already; the problem is cost.
But the costs are dropping for sending payloads into outer space—dramatically—and so people are once again dusting off these old plans to create satellites around Mars that can beam energy and begin the process of melting the ice caps.
Now, once you raise the temperature of Mars by about six degrees, once the temperature of Mars rises six degrees it becomes autocatalytic, it takes off, it becomes self-feeding, because the more heat you have on Mars the more carbon dioxide you loft into the atmosphere, which creates more greenhouse effect, which allows you to melt even more ice to raise the temperature even more, so you have a positive feedback loop.
The question is: can we reach six degrees? That’s the key point. If we can raise the surface temperature of Mars by six degrees we can create this artificial spiral by which it feeds on itself and we can begin the process of terraforming Mars.
And so remember: robots don’t need terraforming, humans do. And so to make Mars suitable for humans that’s going to be the big problem.
Physicist Michio Kaku discusses the main difficulties humans face in colonizing Mars and how to overcome them. He pinpoints the "bottleneck" in our space exploration and how we can turn Mars into a habitable planet by terraforming it.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.
- Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
- The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
- Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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