This is a relatively brief post today to make a point.
A decade ago, “Future Brief” was a news publication that I edited and which was sent out to subscribers five days a week and is the namesake of this blog. We included new articles each day in key areas drawn from around the Web, but we also published original work by experts. One of those experts was Jeff Harrow who had been the chief technologist for the Corporate Strategy Groups of both Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation. Jeff wrote on tech advances and he had a slogan. “Don’t Blink!” In other words, if you blink, you will miss something. At the time, tech progress seemed to be moving at an astonishing rate of speed.
As the saying goes, that was then, this is now. I bring to your attention two articles, both published on the same day, May 1, last Friday.
At Business Insider on May 1, Kelly Dickerson provided a well-written summary of research published that day in Science Advances, a peer-reviewed science publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It described an experiment blasting mouse brains with radiation to simulate what it would be like to get hit with cosmic rays, a very likely event in space travel over long periods. The damage done to their brains was significant. Given that, as the article states, a manned mission to Mars “would take at least six months (my emphasis) using today’s space travel technology”, this was potentially a huge obstacle to space travel.
On exactly the same day, Science Alert reported an announcement from NASA titled, NASA has trialled an engine that would take us to Mars in 10 weeks. It has a wonderful tag line, “And may have inadvertently created a warp drive in the process”.
Of course, this new space drive will require verification by other scientists and much testing, but NASA is not the sort of agency to make a public announcement on a subject as important as this without being very comfortable that they have something important to say. For now, at the speed of Voyager 2, it would take about 296,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. At the speed of the Space Shuttle (17,600 mph or about 28,300 kph), it would take about 165,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. If this new system works, it would take 92 years. The danger of cosmic rays remains, but nowhere near as severely.
Although a holiday in many nations, it was quite a day for tech news. So with a nod of the head to my old friend, Jeff Harrow, we once again have been taught the lesson he taught a decade ago.
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