Just in the Sputnik of time

Podcast: The Space Race | Starting Gun

By: American History Tellers

Link: https://art19.com/shows/american-history-tellers/episodes/52ad3aea-8c1b-4774-bd6d-17c5799f9441


Werner Von Braun was a key part of the Nazi V-2 Rocket Program. Near the end of WW2 he and his team were deliberately captured by the Americans and settled in Huntsville Alabama to prevent their knowledge from going to the Soviets.

The thought was that rockets combined with atomic weapons would give the host nation an insurmountable lead in the years to come.

Von Braun’s potential degree of involvement with pretty horrific war crimes under Nazi rule was ignored and deliberately glossed over. Supposedly he just wanted to build rockets to get to space.

Because of his German background he wasn’t fully trusted by American politicians and military figures.

This led to his projects not being allowed to put a satellite into orbit, and allowed the Soviets to take the lead with Sputnik. This created a huge fear in America about ceding space to the Soviets.

Tim Sweeney is coming for you.

Article: Fortnite Is the Future, but Probably Not for the Reasons You Think

Author: Matthew Ball

Link: https://redef.com/original/5c599eb966c7bb710656c824


  • – Fortnite’s revenue is large but not unprecedented, especially if you include China.
  • – Free to play is nothing new. Also, other free to play games are cheaper to develop and maintain.
  • – Cross Platform games already exist. Though Fortnite’s success convincing Sony to be a part of this was rather amazing.
  • – Having 200MM registered accounts, 5MM active players and another 4MM via  stream watching their season six live finale is significant.
  • – Epic has other successful games, and it seems likely that the Battle Royale pivot was planned, not accidental.

Common thought is that without a defined story/character IP that Fortnite might not have longevity.

In terms of average revenue per user per year, Fortnite beats the four major social media giants combined. This comparison is interesting because the platform has become somewhat of a social square  where friends and families meet up and play from one to one and a half hours per day, vs thirty minutes for Snapchat or Instagram.

Some challenges to Unreal are a major competitor in Unity, the fact that most major publishers don’t use it, and that cloud based gaming could drastically reduce the value of a multi platform engine like Unreal.

The Epic games store becomes more powerful when you consider that Fortnite has given them over 200MM accounts. They now have a really broad reach they didn’t have before.

The Metaverse

Perhaps the most interesting take is if you think about Fortnite in the context of Sweeney’s desire to make a virtual universe where users have the ability to pay, sell, and buy, and there’s a real economy where Epic’s goal is to facilitate this, not obscenely profit directly from it.

Marshmello (a top 10 DJ) held a live concert entirely inside Fortnite that was attended by more than 10MM accounts, with millions more watching on streaming services.

Fortnite is already a social hub. It’s monetization is based on identity (avatars, skins, cosmetics)

They’ve had in game events such as Thanos from the Avengers, NFL jerseys, or Wreck It Ralph. Here the fact that Fortnite doesn’t have an IP is powerful. You wouldn’t be able to do this in Warcraft.

Having a multi platform capability, and a somewhat open situation to have multiple “tenants” to their world means they could start the Metaverse right here and right now.


One thing not mentioned in the article is that because Unreal is free to use, and taught in many curriculums means that in just a few years there will be an entire generation of Fortnite (and Epic) fans that will be extremely well versed in their engine. This could increase the pressure of the major publishers to use these engines to speed up development times and decrease costs.

When the Greek Alphabet turns menacing.

Podcast: Space Radiation

By: Astronomy Cast

Link: http://www.astronomycast.com/2019/01/ep-515-space-radiation/


There are four main types of radiation one can encounter:

Alpha particles: Protons. Blocked by the skin. Potentially dangerous if inhaled or consumed.

Beta particles: Electrons.

Gamma rays (and X Rays): Photons.

Charged nuclei: Galactic cosmic rays and solar events.

On earth we’re mostly safe from these because of our magnetic field and atmosphere but in space travel and the surface of other worlds they’re extremely dangerous. Astronauts on long flights have a much higher risk of cancer.

The Van Allen Belts that surround Earth contain a lot of these particles and are a risk to electronic equipment that passes through them.

Solar flares are extremely dangerous for unprotected humans and electronics. The Apollo missions were lucky that the Sun stayed quiet and didn’t release any major flares in our direction during them.

There are various ideas for shielding spacecraft (surrounding them with water or soil, or generating magnetic fields) but none are really feasible with current technology.

The best bet for explorers on other worlds is living underground.

Balloons would never be the same.

Video: The Impossible Element Hiding in the Sun

By: SciShow Space



The first periodic table didn’t include space for the noble gases – since they don’t react with anything they’re very hard to detect through chemistry.

Helium was discovered in space due to a solar eclipse in the 1860s before it was discovered on Earth in 1895 through radioactive decay of Uranium.

By looking at light through a prism, scientists discovered that you can distinguish different types of light by looking at its spectrum.

Light generated by burning different element has a unique collection of dark lines. This is due to each element absorbing light at specific wavelengths. This is governed by quantum mechanics. Atoms absorb photons at different wavelengths, and this behavior is unique to each element.

The solar eclipse allowed scientists to get a spectrum that included Helium from the Sun’s corona by blocking out the main spectrum.

We use spectroscopy to learn about composition of all kinds of things that emit or reflect light. We can even study the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.

If it weren’t for Nixon, we’d have humans that were born on Mars by now

Book: How We’ll Live on Mars

Author: Stephen L. Petranek


Werhner von Braun was a Nazi SS Officer who was taken to the US after the war and wrote a book called Das Marsprojekt which has been an instrumental piece of work outline the necessary steps for travel to Mars to this day.

Nixon’s decision to scrap the Apollo program in favor of the Space Shuttle program was the turning point of advancing our space exploration capability. The military wanted the Shuttle Program as a way to launch and repair spy satellites.

It’s likely the first humans on Mars are going to be the result of private enterprise, not government agencies.

Mars could be a gateway for asteroid mining, either for rare mineral extraction back to Earth or back to Mars.

Large mirrors in space reflecting more sunlight to Mars’ surface is one of the most feasible ways to warm up parts of the planet and start a greenhouse effect cycle of getting more carbon dioxide and water vapor in the air to build even more heat.

My thoughts:

Even though the book is only four years old, a lot of the dates are already incorrect. None of the private companies are as far along as they predicted they would be. As someone else who is aggressively futurist I can relate to the disappointment of technology not being as far along as I want it to be.

If we had kept NASA’s budget at 4% of government spending and kept up the focus we had during the Apollo program, we’d have humans on multiple planets and moons across the solar system by now, and be awash in rare resources and probably much more advanced technology and energy generation methods. Such a shame.

It was cool reading this after the Red Mars Trilogy to get a bit more hard science and see some real life progress being made on Mars missions.

Life, uh, finds a way

Podcast: Planetary Protection Protocols

By: Astronomy Cast

Link: http://www.astronomycast.com/2019/01/ep-514-planetary-protection-protocols/


Based on how likely a destination is to have life on it, there are different levels of cleaning and decontamination spacecraft must undergo before being launched.

The idea is that we don’t want to carry life with us that could potentially be an invasive species on a different planet and destroy or otherwise negatively impact native life.

When the protocols were first written up, we weren’t aware of the potential for life on many places we now think it could reside, such as Titan, Ceres, or even the gas giant planets.

Also, the methods used to clean some of the earlier Mars missions such as Viking I and II would not have necessarily have killed some of the extremophile life we now know exists.

Tardigrades are awesome.

Nothing was wrong with that name until that sitcom from the 2000’s came along and made my In-Laws think they finally understood me.

Video: What’s Wrong With the Big Bang Theory?

By: PBS Space Time


Notes: From the CMB we can see that the temperature of the Universe is every direction is very consistent, even among areas of the Universe that are outside each other’s particle horizons. The best current explanation of this is that the Universe must have started out very small so everything had enough time to mix around, before undergoing a rapid phase of massive inflation – going from the size of a subatomic particle to roughly the size of a grain of sand. At that point it switched to expanding at the current rate of expansion we still observe today.

The current limitations of the Big Bang theory do not explain the origin of the Universe. They explain what has happened after that.

Before the Universe was 400,000 years old it was too hot and dense for atoms to exist. Photons would be emitted and instantly absorbed. So it’s impossible for us to see back further in time than this – there’s nothing to see.

At the initial stages of the Big Bang, temperatures were so hot that the Higgs field didn’t exist to give particles mass. (Editorial: Does this help explain why the Universe didn’t just collapse back on itself as a black hole? Without the Higgs field and mass, there wasn’t anything for gravity to operate on). Also, we can actually create these conditions within the Large Hadron Collider.