Friday, December 21, 2018

A Virtual Christmas

Christmas Tree, 2018, by Dana Tonnies

Well, I think it's pretty safe to say that there would be no Xmas on PMB without a Dana Tonnies Christmas tree, and, once again, she has not failed us. (Thanks, D!) I did something a little different with the tree this year though and decided to feature a close-up; possibly because my fondest memories of Christmas tend to be those quiet moments at night, spent alone, while gazing into the annual Christmas tree. Not at the tree, mind you, but deep into it's softly lit interior, which, depending upon where one looks, appears like a tiny, secret wonderland all in itself. Anyway, that was the idea.

As it so happens, it's the winter solstice today... which is not celebrated much in the states... but Cornwall makes it a grand holiday. Above are some revelers from last year (see here).

And, that's about it this year, my friends. From myself and the Tonnies:

Wishing you joy this holiday and unexpected treasure in 2019!

Till then...


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Habitats on Mars... and the Art of Frank Frazetta

 Mollusca L5 design by team LeeLabs.
(Click  on images to enlarge.)

"Design the First Human Settlement on Mars

The Mars Society is holding a contest for the best plan for a Mars colony of 1000 people. There will be a prize of $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second and $2500 for third. In addition, the best 20 papers will published in a book “Mars Colonies: Plans for Settling the Red Planet.”

In scoring colony designs, points will be allocated on the following basis:
  • 40 points technical design: What systems will be used? How will they work?
  • 30 points economic: How can the colony be made economically successful?
  • 10 points social/cultural: What should Martian society be like? What kinds of schools, arts, sports, and other activities, should there be? How, given a fresh start, can life on Mars be made better than life on Earth?
  • 10 points political/organizational: How should the colony govern itself?
  • 10 points aesthetic: How can the colony be made beautiful?"
- Announcement of a contest for designing the first human settlement on Mars sponsored by the Mars Society. The deadline for the entries is March 31, 2019.

“The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.”

“We won’t ruin Mars,” said the captain. “It’s too big and too good.” “You think not? We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose.” 

- Two excerpts from The Martian Chronicles, 1950, Ray Bradbury (found here).


In the mood for a challenge? Have a lot of time on your hands? Want to play God? If you've answered yes to, at least, two of these questions, then the Mars Society has a proposition for you; a chance to create a virtual blueprint for a human society on Mars (!).

It doesn't seem as if the contest is a members only thing, but open to the public. And, although I'm not sure how much scientific or artistic expertise is required, (see sample entry here), there might be a few of you out there who could pull it off.

RedWorks Habitat design by team RedWorks.

As for me, well, I'm a dreamer... so, while I might gain points for the aesthetics, I'd lose them for capitalistic questions like: "How can the colony be made economically successful?,"  or, even worse, "How should the colony govern itself?" Now, there's a can of worms. Frankly, I'd skip those questions altogether. As a matter of fact, I'd never have asked them to begin with.

But, yes, the visuals and logistics of such a project intrigue me, and, as it was, NASA launched its own contest a few years back: a 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge entailing the design of human habitats which can be established on the moon or Mars, and which are capable of being 3-D printed. This contest involves teams as opposed to lone individuals. Pictured above and inset left (with 2 more examples after the jump) are some of the Top 10 designs of the first phase of the contest. The winning design of the second phase can be found here. As for the third phase, well, most likely each team has to have already been involved with the first two phases (not sure), but, the last phase requires an actual 3-D print of the potential habitat. It's deadline is in April of next year. (Note: the prize is 2 million USD!)