Thursday, February 18, 2021

PERSEVERANCE IS ON MARS !!!

 


Here it is one of the first pictures taken by Perseverance after it landed safely on Mars!!! talk about excitement and anticipation. As they stated at JPL it is alive and well on the red planet. Yes another robot on our celestial neighbor.

I have had the great privilege of being alive for most of the space program. I was alive and saw the first man land on the moon. I was watching television when the first American rover, Sojourner landed on Mars. However as I was watching this landing live I still got excited, anxious and a lot nervous.

I listened as they ran off the speed and altitude of the rover over Mars. I thought it was fascinating when they stated that because all that was going on the rover would not send a binary stream of data but a heart beat tone to indicate it was doing well. When they said it had landed I was overjoyed and relieved. In such technical feat many things can go wrong. In order for it to be successful many more things have to go right.










It was so tense as it slowed its speed and the surface was looming ever closer. The descent was a few minutes but it seemed a lot longer. Here is a picture of the process and below is a small video of these minutes of terror!!





So here we are in an age that has accomplished its first steps in the cosmos. Our robots are our first emissaries in this vastness. It is to wonder what we will find. We can go into that future because of the hardiness and stamina of our robot friends. Here is a review of those who have preceded Perseverance.

 

Here is Sojourner!!



Here is Spirit who looked like his brother Opportunity!!




Here is Curiosity working to get us more data!!

Rest my good and loyal robots and best of luck to Perseverance!!!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Duke of Caladan has arrived !!!

 



The Duke has arrived, the father of Muad'Dib!! Bless the coming and the going of the Maker!! This is actually a little dune talk and anyone who has read the books will understand. This the latest of those precious dune books. Now before I make my point, and yes I have a point a little rant!

There are those who read Frank Herbert's books and say they are great. I am one of them and though some are a hard slog they are enjoyable. However he got a lot confusing in his story telling and by God Emperor it was total. I know because I read it twice. By the end of the second reading it was better. Thankfully the last two books got back on track. However I wondered what had happened in the intervening years to cause the universe of Dune to come to this place and time. Sadly Frank died and left us hanging.




For me the series of books by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson made it much clearer. I finally got to know what happened in The Butlerian Jihad and the in between times. I like them as well though there are those that do not and that is there right, may their blades chip and shatter!!

To anyone who has not read Dune, please do !! I am a Dune nut and have read ALL the books. I cannot get enough of Dune so I was shattered when I heard that the new movie would be delayed. I ask what are those of us with taste in science fiction going to do till then ,watch raised by wolves or discovery?? I said tasteful, not disgustingly stupid and an utter waste of time and space!!

Now this is the first book of a trilogy. I do not know yet when they they will be published. From experience with the last great trilogy they are usually space out by about one year. So now I have a big, big, big problem. If I start reading it I will get drawn into the story and before I realize I would have read the about three hundred pages. I know I will love it because the stories about these people who populate the Dune universe are wonderful.

Then what do I do ??? I will have to wait, and wait. Then today's world will come crashing in and this will sadden me greatly. Not that the world of Dune ever portrays a walk in the park kind of life. right from the very first page of the very first book the worlds and the future that Frank Herbert creates is deliciously intricate with plots and plans and powers and principalities. We learn as the story progresses what man's future has become. When you read the book it has a section that explains many things and words used in the narrative. After a while you get very comfortable with it all.




Before long you will be introduced to one of the most important elements that exist in Dune. The giant worms of Arrakis are big. In one estimation they have the diameter of a house and the length of a city block. They patrol and protect another important item , the spice, melange. This spice is the most important commodity in the known universe. It possesses special properties and the entire structure of the Dune universe is supported on this one , singular pillar. It is only found on one planet, Arrakis or as it is often called Dune. A planet without any water, just dessert. To control this most precious commodity the humans in the future, much like the ones today, scheme, plot, kill and maneuver powerful political, religious and military forces.


As such the stories go into detail how these forces clash. In all human endeavors there are the protagonists and this where DUNE excels. The people who are behind all the action are very real. They have a past, are very passionate about what interests them. The good are , with some very human traits, basically decent people with good intentions. The evil are also very realistic in their greed and cruelty. Of course we could not have a good story without some very stupid and helpless individual who are used by the one who have plans within plans. You cannot help but get drawn into what they are up to in each of the books.

So here is my dilemma , if I start reading the book I will get so interested as to what happens that within a short time I will have read it all. Then I will have to wait. However there is a sliver lining. Usually I read the book again to remind me of the story and then read the second one right after so the story is fresh in my mind!!



 



Friday, December 18, 2020

HEY WORLD CHANG'E 5 DID IT!!!



 Way to go Chang'e 5!!! You did it WOW!!!  FANTASTIC !!!! MARVELOUS !!!!! I am so excited , so enthralled , so joyous!! The Chinese  National Space Agency  has accomplished something truly amazing. I waited and waited for the so called media to shout it from the rooftops to let the world know !! THERE WAS NOTHING mentioned!?? Thank goodness for the internet. I can announce to the world that Chang'e 5 left earth, landed on the moon, got some moon rocks, lifted off from the moon, transferred the rocks and came home. This was done in three weeks. WOW! WOW! WOW! I cannot get a parcel delivered on this small patch of Mother Earth in the same time.


The video above shows the thermal images of the capsule with those very precious moon rocks. This is the last step. However it had to drill on the moon for the rocks. I am thrilled looking at this because it is on the moon!!


Now that is has retrieved the moon rocks and stored them on the ascender it launches itself from the surface. It sends a chill down my spine watching it disappear!!




It has to transfer the rocks to the waiting orbiter module so they are secure for the three day journey back to earth.





Now here at this point in the mission I had to wait for days for something new. I waited and waited and I did not get any information, any videos about it leaving the moon's orbit or its passage back to earth. I wondered if it had achieved earth orbit. Then yesterday I saw the video of it landing. Now there are few real cool ones of it streaking across the sky. 




In this messed up world this is news that is happy. Mankind is accomplishing some innovative and gut wrenching great things. Here is a video of the capsule that survived re-entry being looked after carefully by the ground crew in a cold place on the good earth.




   Now the first part of this blog was a pleasure to write. What follows is my personal analysis of why, why, why and yes why the world is not taking note of this historic achievement. I find the American media completely absorbed with just the U.S. I feel they think the world revolves around them. Their space program was once supreme but they have dropped the ball, as they have done in the past. They use private enterprise at their peril to re-supply the international space station. It was because of the Americans refusal that the Chinese were not invited to join. How pathetic is that !!


    I am a proud Canadian and even though we are a small nation we have punched above our weight for decades. I am concerned at the state of affairs in our neighbour to the south. Yet our media is all excited that we will join the U.S. in a possible, maybe flight to the moon. Yes someday they will do this, someday they will do that. All I say is SHOW ME!! Do not talk the talk, instead walk the walk!! Show me concrete action, rockets and of course cold hard cash. 










The Chinese are doing great things and they are accomplishing feats of technical prowess. They have a vision and a great deal of courage. So now the ball has been passed to them, while the Americans and the Russians concentrate on the trivial, stupid and mundane and ignorant things on this planet.

Yes the world is suffering through a horrific pandemic and that is the focus of many. I am aware of this salient fact. However this expedition to the moon should be celebrated by all Mankind as a triumph for our species, a bright moment in an otherwise dark and dismal year!!

Why this story is not the first on newsflashes confounds me.




Well I care about this deeply so world hear me ROAR!!

CHANG'E 5 RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

WOW Chang-5 WOW!!!!

 My goodness it was a week ago when I last wrote about this amazing space feat. Now Chang-5 went into orbit, landed, got the samples and just now launched the ascender to rendezvous with the orbiter to the precious moon rocks! They surely are not wasting anytime on this mission. So after making attitude adjustments then it will meet up with the orbiter and transfer the rocks. then the return to earth begins and this will take about 3 days. So it looks like I will be writing this blog again. I do not mind at all for what mankind had to endure these past few months it is an extreme pleasure to have some genuine great news to show off!!!

Here it is landing on the moon. This is tricky because the landing sight is full of rocks.



It seems like it just landed, but it just did, and sure enough it starts drilling near the lander for samples. This is fascinating to watch and it sends shivers up my spine.



Then it sure does let the moon dust settle on it, the ascender full of samples lifts off from the moon. Man it climbs very fast an disappears leaving the lander all alone on the surface.





So for now I feel like a little child, I am excited, happy, anxious and full of hope, and yet a bit scared all at the same time. It has been a great mission and the best is yet to come!!!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

CHANG'E 5 Launched !!

BEST OF LUCK CHANG'E 5 !!!!!!!!



 Chang'e 5 has launched and we on this planet that are excited about this space stuff wish it the best of luck!! Just think in less than a month we will have new samples of rocks from our moon!! Now I like taking my time creating these blogs but this mission is amazing . It's time line is so short . Yes , hopefully before Christmas it will be back on the good earth with some very interesting samples.




So here is a video of the launch. I have been around for many, many decades and I have seen via television many, many launches. I will say now that the last ten seconds of the count , whether it is in English, Russian, Chinese, or French are always so tense. I calm down when I see the light emerging from the rocket and see the ship slowly rise. That means the first crucial step of many has been a success.





Here is a picture of the lander and the ascent vehicle. Fascinating in that all of this will be done by robots. It takes its time and tries to collect as many rocks as it can and then place them into the ascent vehicle. This vehicle will then launch and link up with the orbiting ship. It will then place the samples into the ship. The return will then begin and in a few days it will enter orbit . It will release the samples for the reentry into the earth's atmosphere. It is scheduled to land Mongolia.


Now in a paragraph I have explained what will occur to the best of my knowledge. However I must remind those reading this that each of these steps is very complex and as more tasks are done there is a chance of errors and machine failures, or communication foul ups. Space exploration is vital for the future of all of mankind but it is still a risky business. 


It does my heart good to see China become a spacefaring nation. If we are to survive the troubles we face now and in the future we have to do it as human beings representing humanity. Regardless of the minor differences that separate us now these will be removed. It is ironic that the great expanse , that space is will be the place the greater expanses of politics and belief will be nullified.






Here is a picture of the moon. My how black is the horizon. It looks challenging but somehow inviting. Though it would be frightening at first I could picture my self inside a spacesuit bouncing around on that surface. I would be looking around talking to my fellow explorers via a radio link. It would take some time because in this possible future , women and men from all over our wonderful Mother Earth would be present. Our common language , hopefully English, would be hard for some , at first. It is hard for me at times and I have been corrected on its use after speaking it for over sixty years!! I know this is just an idealistic dream. However I cannot help it, for even now as I stand in my garden an look up at the moon, my mind drifts up to it!!


GO CHANG'E 5 !!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Deconstruction of Isaac Asimov is wrong !!!



Isaac Asimov





















     As a young lad I read many of Isaac Asimov's books. Those in this twenty-first century who have not read his words are missing out on an experience that is hard to describe. It is  intellectual and adventurous and a fun treat! His writings are like your favourite meal or drink, they never age. He never insults the reader as he weaves his magic with mere words. His stories are brilliantly conceived with many endearing characters you come to care about.
He wrote more than 500 books on a great number of subjects. He wrote about astronomy, space travel, science, biology, physics, science fiction and religion. He was truly a renaissance man!!


     Other science fiction writers would ask him to help them clear up any scientific questions. At an early age he was tired of those stories that were written about robots. These stories would always go along the same predictable plot, person creates a machine with intelligence and the machine turns against the creator. Asimov recognized this as the Frankenstein story. Before I go on I want to tip my hat to Mary Shelley for her well written and during tale. The many movies that have come out in our modern era are great fun to watch but are never true to her original work. I hope everyone reading these words has the chance to read her work. It is well worth the and effort.




     Asimov wrote his stories which made the creation, the robot, more as a benefit and friend to mankind. Since most complex machinery has safeguards, Asimov thought that the most complex machines created should also have some kind of control. He explored this idea in several stories. His now famous and often referred to, Three Laws of Robotics were the natural conclusion of this line of reasoning. Let us examine them now.


                    

#1     A robot may not injure a human Being, or through inaction,  allow a human being to come to harm.

#2     A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.

#3     A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

                                                                                                   Handbook of Robotics
   56th Edition 2058




      Simple enough at first sight , but a bit of analysis will show how complicated they really are. The first law makes supreme sense. A robot of complex construction, intelligent, very strong, ambulatory and independent cannot be allowed to hurt its creator. Without this law the robots, the children of mankind's collective genius, will never be able to integrate into our society. In order for them to be effective they must be invisible, in the sense that humans will not have to look over their shoulders concerned about what they will do. Asimov constructed the laws as a cascading logical sequence. One law leads to the next. They build a potential that guides the robot properly.

     The second law is to me a bit problematic. I am a daily witness to how , humans do not always reach for their highest potential. Humanity, the apex of evolution still makes dubious choices. They act like they are mercifully devoid of the vestiges of intelligence. So when a robot MUST obey the orders given to it by a human being, I shudder. What are those individuals who are not competent giving orders to a robot to do ??? As it stands I will have to leave it but I think it deserves a second and third look.

    The third law makes the most sublime sense. A robot must protect itself, so long as such protection do not conflict with the first and second law. It will most likely incorporate very complex and costly components and highly sophisticated programming. To be destroyed or ever abused would not only be a terrible waste , but a crime.!!




     Now Asimov realized than when you mix humans and robots with the three laws situations arise that are far from ideal. He explored these in some fascinating stories. We are so fortunate that he left us entire books and series of books about robot and human characters interacting with each other.

     I know a very, very long preamble, I must come to the reason for all this fascinating stuff. It seems that over the past few years far too many writers have questioned how applicable the three laws are to the so called real world.

     My biggest problem with anyone questioning Asimov, is that as far as I know, no one, NO ONE, has built a sentient, intelligent, autonomous robot. You will hear a great deal how wonderful artificial intelligence ( I prefer the term Machine Intelligence ) is going to be. These pie in the sky articles are written by persons who do not know what they are taking about. I find it personally nauseating to read these articles. I suspect that not one in a hundred of these authours would be able to pick out a hundred kilo-ohm resistor from a pile of electronic components. I love to labor the point and will say they are talking through their hats. Building robots is very challenging and of course lots of fun. To build a true machine intelligence is still a work in progress. I know for I stand before these challenges daily!!

     I have read, to my disgust, how some people have written that Asimov's three laws are out of date, they cannot possibly be applied, or that the A.I. out there have gone beyond them.

      Now the first group who argue against his laws are talking about the so called autonomous weapons. Created by the minions of the various military groups around the world to destroy their perceived enemies. In reality their devices are not true robots, but I will argue for the sake of clarity and for the sake of sanity. These so called smart bombs violate the first law because they have little or no intelligence and as such are not allowed to make up their non-existent minds. The generals and politicians do not want back talk or this case back code. They want slave soldiers, slave machines, created, designed and programmed to obey, without question, all orders given to them. The first law would nullify these destructive artifacts.

      That is why the first law must be employed in robots. Scientists are trying to ban these weapons, however the back splash is affecting legitimate robot research. I recall my old black and white TV and the Superman serial that ran. The introduction went like this " ......... able to change the course of mighty rivers!!! ". Many of us are unaware that we possess great powers. We may not be able to change the world, but each of us affect those around us. As such if enough good people do the right things an ocean of change can occur!!



     Now the Second Law restricts some of an autonomous robot's actions. The generals hate this law, because even though a robot must obey any order given to it by a human, it must never disobey the First Law. In other words it cannot be ordered to kill a human being. Now to the military mind on this or any other planet with so called intelligent life, what would be the use of that. Spend millions in research and development and it ain't going to kick butt. Hey idiots that is my whole point. Robots to me are the children of humankind's collective genius. I firmly believe that they can help us survive and thrive. To use them for killing is just plain stupid and a complete waste.

      Isaac Asimov saw this even before we had the first personal computer. He has gone well before his time. It saddens and angers me that people attack his well developed ideas. He is not here to defend himself. In my mind's eye I see him formulating and expressing his devastating argument against these people. I am a poor substitute for his wisdom but I could not live with my self if I did not try in my own small way to take up his gauntlet and stand against this seemingly overwhelming tide of ignorance. To do otherwise is not even to be considered. I am firmly in Asimov's vision of the future. It makes more sense and where I want to be. Let Mr. Scott for the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 say to those who dare criticize Isaac Asimov,


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID 19 KEEP CALM !!

     
    I have a t-shirt with this on it and I wear it often!! I have the sublime privilege of being able to this. I have assembled a mountain of parts and equipment and have spent many decades doing this delicious work. I have been lacking and lax at placing blog entries. That will stop soon . I do not rush my entries and so this blog is a breaking of this rule.

    Over the years I have been consumed by this most noble task of building robots. I usually keep my distance both physically and intellectually from those who do not share my interests. However in the midst of this biological crisis we now have social distancing . People rush by me and they stay in their cars when I pass too close. I think how great that is but then I notice the fear in their eyes. I argue that this will end soon and I get some who say it will get worse. Again the fear shows in their eyes.

     I am an old man and have seen many things and finally we will come through it. In a hospital in my home of  Toronto there is a plaque and it has this written on it: ' We are all angels with one wing, the only time we fly is when we help each other '. So as the world gets a bit too panicky I say : STAY CALM : , listen to the better angels of our nature and know that it will end. 

   Sadly we have the know nothing media, scared and passing the fear to millions. We have people running and buying out essential items when there is no need. We have governments that should of acted sooner , overreacting. I feel we need DR. WHO and not that WHO organization that should have been more proactive.

    I know as a human that lives on this most beautiful planet that as individuals we all have within us more power that we realize. We have a strength and resilience that we each can tap when we have to and that time is now. Let that be our guide out of this to a better world.

     I will leave you for now with a public service announcement that made me laugh. The Three Stooges are personal heroes of mine and I am considered by some as the fourth stooge. WE all need to laugh for that scares the fear away !!