It's about respecting Earth as our "pale blue dot", a place to cherish, and the only place in our solar system where humans can live without protection from a vacuum or a hazardous atmosphere. There's no need to rush to Mars, let's start with the Moon which we know we can visit safely for both Earth and the Moon. This puts the other side of the story to the breathless excitement of enthusiasts who say we are going to have a city of a million on Mars by the end of the century. See for instance my new article: Debunked:The Planetary Protection Racket - Zubrin's Claim That There Is No Need To Protect Earth From Mars Microbes
I've been interested in astronomy and space since I was a youngster, from before the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon. I have a good first class degree in maths and I'm also a software developer, who has been programming on and off since the early 1970s starting on a big mainframe computer which you never saw, writing programs on punched cards.
The banner is a detail from this artist's impression of the Europa lander. A mission to investigate Jupiter's Europa, perhaps one of our best chances (along with Mars and Enceladus) of finding extra terrestrial life, at least microbial, and perhaps higher life, in our solar system. But that also makes it one of the places most vulnerable to our microbes.
This is a mission that's potentially of great interest for the search for life but I think the scientific motivation behind it is flawed (it was chosen by Congressional directive rather than by scientific evaluation) and has some risk of contaminating the Europan ocean with Earth life.
Luckily (in my view) the lander is now postponed and the interesting orbiter is going ahead, which has no planetary protection risks. I think the focus for now should be on geyser flythrough missions - and on developing landers that can be sterilized 100% for the future (something that is possible with modern high temperature electronics that can function at temperatures so high, at 500 C, that they are 100% sterilizing for life). I cover this in detail in my Touch Mars? book.
I blog about a wide variety of topics. The first to get attention was "Ten Reasons not to Live on Mars, Great Place to Explore and my most popular articles on my Science20 blog are:
- Ten Reasons not to Live on Mars, Great Place to Explore
- "Ten Reasons Not To Live On Mars, Great Place To Explore" - On The Space Show
- Trouble With Terraforming Mars
- Need For Caution For An Early Mars Sample Return - Opinion Piece
- Asteroid Resources Could Create Space Habs For Trillions; Land Area Of A Thousand Earths
- Will We Build Colonies That Float Over Venus Like Buckminster Fuller's "Cloud Nine"?
- Why Elon Musk's Colony on Mars in 2020s is Unfeasible - What Could We Do - Really?
- If Mars Is For Hardy Explorers Only, Where Is The Best Place In The Solar System For First Time Colonists?
- Maths from Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations: What Could It Be Like - And Would We Understand It?
- How Easy Would It Be to Communicate with Musical ETs - as in "Close Encounters Of A Third Kind"? - that was a fun one to write, arising from a question someone asked me during my first Space Show appearance.
- Metronomes - Do You Need Them? And A Metronome Using Conducting Techniques For Visual Precision
- Rhythms In Maths - Most Out Of Time Perfect Drummers Can Be - Penrose Tiling Rhythm - Cantor's Set Rhythm,...
- Music And Mathematics Of Fractal-Like Sloth Canon Number Sequences,
For the last nine months I've been working pretty much full time on my new planetary protection book Touch Mars? Europa? Enceladus? Or a Tale of Missteps?.
It's about protecting the most potentially vulnerable places our solar system from the effects of invasive microbes from Mars, for instance places where there could (amongst many possibilities) be early life that got out competed by DNA life on Earth long ago. Also making sure Earth is kept safe from microbes we might return from other places in our solar system, perhaps even based on a different biochemistry.
As far as I know it's only the second book written on planetary protection for the general public It's now 1800 pages and growing. My first full length (more than novel sized) kindle book was : Case for Moon First, about the Moon as the cool place for space geeks in the 2020s. The idea is, no need to risk trashing Mars, let's go to the Moon which we already know how to go to. I was surprised to find that in many ways it is actually much better than Mars, for humans, and then went on to go into details about lunar gardening and all sorts.
If you wonder how anyone could be a gardener on the Moon - well it's not a patch on Earth of course, even Bouvet Island, glacier covered, the most remote island in the world, is a far easier place to live than the Moon. But the Moon is sunny at the poles, 24/7, year round, except during solar eclipses, and for a few days of the year when the sun dips below the horizon. It also has ice nearby in the permanently shadowed craters, which for humans in space is probably more valuable than gold or platinum right now. If we can use it, it could make the poles of the Moon the "des res" of the solar system outside of Earth.
To find out more see my Astronaut Gardener on the Moon, now part of my second full length book MOON FIRST: Why Humans on Mars Right Now Are Bad for Science (including Astronaut Gardener on the Moon).
I also answer questions on Quora where I've been one of the top writers for the last two years, and my answers there now amount to around 450,000 words or 1000 pages. I write on many other topics. See the list of my answers on Quora A selection of my Quora answers have been featured on Business Insider, Forbes, Huffington Post, Newsweek, and Slate and I have and my own blog on Science 2.0
I was invited to David Livingston's "The Space Show" after I wrote "Ten Reasons Not to Live on Mars, Great Place to Explore" in August 2013.
Since then I've been invited back four more times. See Robert Walker at The Space Show. This is a guest interview lasting usually one to two hours in which he and his listeners ask questions about some topic to do with space and often human space exploration. None of it is prepared in advance so you never know what you are going to be asked. You get challenging and searching questions by email or phone. He gets a mix of top names in the space industry and science bloggers, authors etc like myself. Most of my visits there have been connected with planetary protection in one way or another.
I'm now the author of several software programs that I sell over the internet - to rather niche markets but my buyers are very enthusiastic about the programs. So I also blog about maths, and music, especially about music using notes that don't fit on the keys of a twelve equal piano, and unusual rhythms.
Also sometimes I blog about artificial intelligence - putting forward the other side to the view that's so popular that some day we will be able to write computer programs that behave like humans, and even, somehow extract a computer program and data from our brains and "upload" it into a computer. I don't think computer programming can get us there at all and that the analogy with a computer is very limited though of course understandably striking - a bit like the earlier analogies of humans with clockwork automata. There is very little in our brain that actually resembles the way that computers work and they are really pushing this analogy very hard to try to make their point in my view.
I'm not paid for any of this. I have switched off ads on my Science 2.0 posts - as much as I am permitted to (you don't see any at all if you are logged in) and don't take any income from the few that I can't switch off.
ASTEROID IMPACTS AND DOOMSDAY SCENARIOS DEBUNKING - PLEASE DON'T USE PATREON FOR THIS
I mention this only to ask you not to support me via Patreon for this work. I wish all my work on this topic to be voluntary and unpaid. If you want to help, you can join our Doomsday Debunked facebook group and help debunking. I have a book online and on kindle here: Any proceeds from it go to international suicide prevention charities (currently Befrienders International). If you buy it then it can help bring the book to the attention of other Amazon customers. But it is also available to read in its entirety for free online.
So anyway - I also write articles debunking the many doomsday scenarios and educating people about asteroid impacts. Some of this is totally nuts, like Nibiru But others are real scenarios, like asteroid impacts - but often way over exaggerated. We are not at risk from a 10 km asteroid hitting Earth as they have already found them all. They have found all but 50 of the 1 km asteroids too and the chance of any of the remaining ones hitting Earth before 2100 is minute. 10 km is large enough to cause mass extinctions, 1 km is large enough for global effects. The main focus now is on smaller ones of 10s to 100s of meters which can be devastating to countries and cities - the "regional" impacts.
So anyway I blog about all that as well. I have written an online and kindle book about it here: Doomsday Debunked,
MUSIC AND 3D SOFTWARE
My rhythm posts are related to my Bounce Metronome program. They are based on research I did while doing my music software programming, or things you can do with the programs. The musician's market is dominated of course by the big players and though I have many keen users of the software, if I could cast the net world wide, it's not so easy to get to them. Here is Martin Walker's review of Bounce Metronome in Sound on Sound. I get a small income from this, enough to get by, as I lead a simple life with not much by way of daily needs and in the UK I get support from a UK government scheme to help people with low incomes to stay in work.
But the programs are fun, and I sometimes blog about them. This is my intro video for Bounce Metronome:
My other main music program is Tune Smithy, which makes "tunes as intricate as snowflakes". Tune Smithy was my first program to be reviewed in "Sound on Sound" by Martin Walker with his review of Tune Smithy.
This is one of my favourites, an endless tune for solo violin.
All of this music is generated from the tuning which you hear first, which is a bit unusual as it doesn't repeat at the octave and even more unusually, it is a scale that goes up for a bit, then down, then at the repeat it goes up a bit further, then down, not so far, and continues like that on and on.
Then after you hear the tuning, you hear a short phrase played in the tuning - of course if you shift a melody around in this tuning its entire shape changes. Where before it went up, maybe now it goes down. After that the piece begins. Everything you hear is generated using just mathematics from the material you heard at the beginning.
I blogged about the maths behind the music here: Music And Mathematics Of Fractal-Like Sloth Canon Number Sequences, and in mathematical detail here: The mathematics of sloth canon number sequences and Per Nørgård's infinity series
It's closely related to the "infinity series" of the Danish composer Per Nørgård though I hadn't heard of his work when I invented it and then wrote the program. It's only long after Tune Smithy was finished that I discovered that he'd invented an almost identical sequence.
Tune Smithy is also used for microtonal retuning. When I wrote Tune Smithy originally, then it was one of the few retuning programs available anywhere in the world for microtonal musicians. This was an accidental feature, I had some interest in microtonality so added some microtonal scales to the program, but just as a mathematician thinking "now that I've got these fractal tunes in twelve equal, what would they sound like in harmonic tunings or with different numbers of notes to the octave or in a Gamelan tuning, etc"
I thought nothing of it until I started to get contacted by microtonal musicians asking if I could add this or that extra feature to Tune Smithy to help them realize their compositional ideas on the computer.
So at that time, there was my program and one other (by Graham Breed) for Windows, SCALA for Linux, and Li'll Miss Scale Oven (now discontinued AFAIK) for the Mac. That was about it.
Now there are numerous microtonal retuning programs. There are even multiple programs devoted to retuning Turkish music. Also the big players typically add at least a few microtonal scales to their programs too. It's not like it was around the turn of the century when everything was in twelve equal unless you used one of these retuning programs, or worked it through laboriously yourself via various methods.
I still have a few people who use Tune Smithy for microtonal work however and even with all these new programs, there are a few things it can do that no other program can do as yet, or they can't do it so easily.
I ran a successful kickstarter to get Bounce Metronome, Tune Smithy and my other music software working on the Intel Mac - they are now available on that platform. And I'm planning to return to that.
Anyway so I do blog about microtonal music too. Mainly on Quora. I plan to do a Science20 blog post about it at some point. I want to come back to this quora answer and turn it into a Science20 blog post, so this is my next music blog project
See: my answer to: Why are there only 12 pitch notes (C, C#, ..., B) in the world? Pitch is determined by frequency of the sound waves. For example, C3 is 130.8Hz and C#3 is 138.6. So what the heck is between those two pitch notes?
INCOME FROM BLOGGING
My only income for this blogging is from kindle books. In 2016-7 I earned $275.
Of that, $50 was for my book Doomsday Debunked, all the proceeds of which go to suicide prevention charities (currently Befrienders Worldwide)
You'll be helping me to continue to write these blog posts.
As thankyous, I've added unlock keys for my software.
This is a video of Lissajous 3D, one of my other programs:
You can run it as a screensaver for your computer, and this video gives an idea of what the screensaver is like. Or you can use it to make your own Lissajous 3D patterns which you can also export as videos from the software.
The music in that video is one of my own compositions - actually, not written music in that case. It's an improvisation I did many years ago in real time and not recorded as midi, so this is it :). It's in a microtonal tuning, retuned using Tune Smithy.
The transition effects were done using Windows Movie Maker - which comes free with modern versions of Windows.
You also get access to a password protected directory of my three Moon First and planetary protection books formatted for Kindle. They are all available for free as well. as online web pages. So this is for convenience of kindle users.
Note that these kindle formatted books won't automatically update because to do that you have to buy them via kindle. I am currently mainly working on the Touch Mars? book but doing some work on the Moon first books too from time to time.
I will also upload my book of tunes for solo recorder, which you can play on other instruments too so long as you can read the treble clef. Just melodies without words. Recorder Tunes from the Heart: 163 New Tunes for Solo Descant or Tenor Recorder. With a Folk Feel and a Refreshing Spontaneity
If there are other kindle books in my kindle bookshelf you want to have uploaded then do say and I will do that too.
Any suggestions do say!
Thanks so much for your support.