I have long been a proponent of opening the space frontier, space colonization (Venus especially), Carl Sagan and space exploration, as many of you know. I often find myself emailing people lists of my favorite space related YouTube videos, short stories, and articles. Eventually I realized that I should simply type these links into a blog post about the Cosmos, Carl Sagan, and more to easily share with people and reach an even broader audience.
Cosmos by Carl Sagan
For starters if you haven’t seen the original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan – that is absolutely the first thing you should check out. It’s incredible. Despite being made in 1980 and featuring some seriously dated graphics, the concepts are so lucidly explained, simple, and yet often mind bending that it’s quite a journey. You can find the entire series on YouTube for free. Here’s Episode 1 of Cosmos by Carl Sagan
A full playlist can be found here. Occasionally episodes of Cosmos get deleted out and you have to find another one on YouTube, but it shouldn’t be too hard.
Cosmos & Consciousness
As part of my ongoing meditation practice I love digging into some of the deeper and more grand mysteries of both our existence and the cosmos itself. To that effect, I’ve created a YouTube playlist of a number of my favorite videos around the concept of life, our place in the cosmos, and what we are. Here’s a sample of one of these – a video by Symphony of Science called “We Are All Connected.” It gives me goosebumps to listen to this.
Awesome Short Stories
Whenever I get into a conversation with someone about space exploration, I always recommend checking out two incredible short stories.
The thing that impresses me about both of these stories is how long ago they were written, yet how timely they seem today. The last question is a classic science fiction story by one of the genres all time greats. I don’t want to say too much without giving it away – but its deep and thought provoking.
This story is absolutely amazing. Its one of the most lucid and clear descriptions of what I think “the singularity” might look like (and for those of you unfamiliar, all the more reason you should read this story). This one will take a bit of time to read but its incredibly worth it.
The Fermi Paradox & The Drake Equation
The Fermi Paradox is another space concept that I absolutely love. This was a favorite of Carl Sagan’s as well. The concept is essentially – if you look at the fact that the Milky Way alone has 400 billion stars – each of which likely harbors multiple planets (the math of crunching these numbers is called The Drake Equation) – the math works out that we should be seeing alien life all over the place – but we don’t. Well why not? First, check out this great video which explains the paradox simply and easily.
But to me, the most interesting examination of this is actually the idea that Carl Sagan’s model for understanding the expansion of alien life slightly misses the point that it really more of a “big bang” type model – the notion that as soon as a single intelligent lifeform evolves in a given galaxy – within a relatively short cosmic time frame (approx. 20mm years) they will come to completely dominate their galaxy. So instead of many pockets of intelligent life within a galaxy – there will almost always ever be a single dominant life form. The chart below explains this distinction and this article is a full read on the theory and the math behind it. The main takeaway is the notion that humans are likely in 1 of 2 phases – either we are about to takeover our entire galaxy (assuming we avoid wipeout) or we are just at the cusp of another alien civilization taking over the Milky Way. Essentially we are either at Point A or Point D of this graph today. Either way – its fascinating stuff and I suggest digging into it if it’s the kind of thing that gets you excited. If you want to really go deep on this, read through the “Explaining the Paradox Hypothetically” section on Wikipedia, its great.
While most people are focused exclusively on the colonization of Mars, there is actually a surprisingly strong case for the colonization of Venus. I originally discovered this one day in a deep Wikipedia binge and have really gravitated to it since. Specifically there are 3 major risks to Mars colonization that people just gloss over.
- Gravity – Mars only has approximately 0.4 of Earths gravity and the long term impacts of this low gravity could be several damaging. There are currently no known solutions for this problem. This is also something that even long-term would make terraforming Mars tough because we still end up with a planet that is too low gravity.
- Pressure – Mars also has almost no surface pressure – requiring both every structure to be completely pressurized, which is extremely expensive and challenging from a design perspective, and people to constantly wear pressurized suits.
- Radiation – Mars has almost no atmosphere which also makes radiation a very dangerous prospect – requiring further protection and raising the expense and challenges of permanent colonization.
The problem with Venus is that everyone looks solely at the surface – you have to zoom up about 30-40kms into the atmosphere to find the single most earth-like place in our solar system. A place where the atmosphere protects you from solar radiation at the equivalent of earth’s sea level, a place where the gravity is approximately 1g, and a place where the pressure is exactly the same as sea level pressure on earth. This means that all you would need to wear is a gas mask and you would be perfectly fine. The real kicker though is that at this height in Venus’s atmosphere – breathable air is lifting gas when unpressurized. What this means is that just filling a civilization with breathable air makes it automatically float – and there is no risk of a Hindenburg-esq explosion event because the pressure would be equal – the civilization doesn’t have to be pressurized so that even a rupture or tear would cause a very slow leakage of gas instead of an immediate implosion/explosion.
Here are also two great articles about the colonization of Venus.
Additional Space Resources
Lastly, I wanted to share a few awesome websites to check out about cosmos, space exploration, and much more.Here are three of my favorite sites to check out (all of them are in my Feedly RSS reader and I check them pretty much every morning) related to space news.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’re passionate about space exploration please share and comment!