Recently, there has been much speculation surrounding the colonisation of other planets. From SpaceX to NASA, there have been an array of meetings, plans and discussions surrounding the future of Mars, and whether it should one day be colonised.
One argument for the colonisation of Mars is presented by futurist Michio Kaku, who points out that 99.9% of life forms on Earth have gone extinct. On this planet, he claims, we either adapt or die. With the multitude of problems facing our planet, and a growing private sector in space exploration, the frequent discussion of Mars is understandable. Issues such as global warming, antibiotic resistance, and nuclear disaster threaten the planet, as do the countless asteroids that may hit Earth at any given moment. In the case of our planet’s destruction, many argue that a ‘backup planet’ is a viable solution. Such an argument was also supported by the late Stephen Hawking, who conjectured that we needed to colonise the planet in the next 100 years to avoid extinction.
Although such a topic undoubtedly stirs excitement among the population, the reality is that the colonisation of Mars is highly impractical. Ideas such as home-building robots, genetically modified plants that can survive on Mars and other necessary technologies are, in many respects, a huge challenge to attain. Whilst easy to succumb to the fantasy of life on Mars, one must not forget the many dangers associated with space travel. Life on a planet with little gravity, high doses of radiation, and micrometeorites is hardly appealing.
Of course, with sufficient research and investment, these issues could be tackled. But why should the government and the taxpayer invest such large sums of money in another planet, as opposed to their own? Even in the event of large- scale disasters such as global warming, or an atomic bomb, the Earth would be far more habitable than Mars. Many have concerns over polluted water, and yet the only water on Mars is in the frozen ice caps. Many have concerns over the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and yet the atmosphere of Mars is 96% carbon dioxide. It is certainly hard to envision a scenario in which Mars is more habitable than Earth. Then why spend so much money, time and resources fixing these problems, instead of focusing on rebuilding our own planet?
The issue of asteroids still remains. Many theorize that the potential for asteroids to destroy Earth is a valid reason to seek shelter elsewhere, and colonise another planet as potential backup. However, if an asteroid was on course to Earth, surely instead of relocating the population, it would be far simpler to build asteroid deflecting technology? In the unlikely case that no area on Earth was safe, one could invest in constructing deep sea colonies in bio domes. Although this sounds challenging, it is still more feasible than relocating a population to a planet nine months away.
To summarise, although the idea of travelling to Mars is both exciting and tempting, one needs to look at the practical implications of this. Spending billions on robots, housing, GMO food and all the necessary technology to achieve such a feat is far less reasonable than focusing on renewable technologies, and our own planet. In times of great uncertainty, we should not be focusing on the colonisation of space, but rather the current state of Earth, and tackling our climate crisis.
By Tatiana, 11L
Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity were singularly revolutionary and radical at their time of conception; established laws of physics and previous understandings of reality itself were uprooted. Albert Einstein, one of the most famous scientists of all time, proposed his theory of special relativity in 1905, and the theory of general relativity in 1910, contributing fundamental ideas, forming the basis of modern physics. By combining the ideas of Isaac Newton and John Clerk Maxwell, Einstein conceptualised a new reality. The seemingly inexplicable discrepancy between Maxwell’s finding that the speed of light (c) was constant regardless of motion, with Newton’s laws of motion, was reconciled through Einstein’s proposal of spacetime. Einstein challenged Newton’s understanding of the universe as a ‘clockwork universe,’ where a metre is always a metre and one second is the same anywhere in the universe – Einstein’s spacetime stated that space and time are not two separate dimensions, they are not separate from each other, but are unified in a dynamic, 4-dimensionsal continuum. This fabric of the universe is sensitive and respondent to the presence of mass and energy and dictates how mass and light moves through the universe. Time and time again, different phenomena such as the Eddington solar eclipse in 1919, has proven Einstein’s theory right.
The theory of special relativity also concluded that simultaneity, things happening at the same time, is relative to motion, which Einstein explained through a simple thought experiment: suppose one person is standing still, equidistant from two trees, and two bolts of lightening strike both trees at the same time. A second person who was also equidistant from the two trees, but was instead in a moving train, would have seen one tree struck before the other. This led to the conclusion that both time and distance are relative to motion. Such is the genius of Einstein – his musings, questioning, and inherent curiously led to such revolutionary ideas, explained through equally enlightening and simple terms.
What is particularly striking is the use of thought experiments themselves, as oppose to the empirical and experimental methods we are accustomed to today. For all of these theories were derived from sparse evidence, considering how revolutionary they were; evidence which even now, continues to arise, repeatedly proves Einstein’s genius. For he did not experience these things before formulating his theories – they were predictions, and this required immense creativity, intellect and imagination.
A decade after special relativity, Einstein had introduced acceleration into his theory, which resulted in the theory of general relativity. Einstein completely changed the Newtonian notion of gravity as a force, into the idea that gravity is the distortion of the fabric of spacetime, caused by massive objects. Understanding of this distortion has led to much scientific discovery, including the study of stars and galaxies that are behind massive objects, using gravitational lensing! This is when the light around a massive object, such as a black hole, becomes bent, which then acts as a lens to see things behind it.
Einstein’s genius has enlightened and enriched our understanding of the reality of the universe. His theories continue to guide us, more than a century later. His genius stretches into the future, inspiring infinite discoveries.
How will our universe end?
The mystery of our universe and its end has left scientists baffled since it was discovered that our solar system was the smallest part of a cosmos larger than was every previously thought possible. While the earth is predicted to vaporize in about 6 billion years, the universe will continue long after that. The issue with finding an answer to how our universe will eventually end is that with such a large part of our universe being made up of the elusive dark matter, and the potential ‘end’ of the universe being trillions of years into the future, it is difficult to come up with one definitive theory. So far, there are three major competing theories hypothesizing potential ways that the universe will end.
The Big Freeze theory grounds itself in the field of thermodynamics, the study of heat. In the universe, events, processes and more generally, everything, occurs due to a heat difference between different sources. This theory suggests that since heat always moves, eventually heat will be evenly distributed throughout the entire universe. At this point, also referred to as ‘heat death’, all stars will run out of fuel and die, all matter will decay and the only thing remaining would be a few particles that would also over time be shifted away by the expansion of the universe. Even the largest stars that collapse into black holes would eventually give off Hawking radiation, eventually evaporating these too. A rather bleak theory, this suggests that the universe will eventually end up cold and empty.
In many ways the Big Crunch theory is a direct opposite to the Big Freeze. Thanks to the theory of relativity, and the consequent discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, it was discovered that the universe is expanding. As a result of this discovery it has been speculated that although the universe is expanding right now, it will eventually reach a threshold where there is so much matter in the universe that gravity becomes the dominant force, causing the universe’s expansion to slow down, stop and then to contract. The universe would contract faster and faster, becoming denser and hotter as it does so, until all matter finally implodes in on itself in a final singularity. This is often though to be in effect a reverse big bang. However, this theory is less widely though because of a more recent discovery that makes this theory improbable, the rate at which the universe is expanding is increasing.
The Big Rip is the final major theory entirely grounds itself in the activity of dark matter. Dark matter is thought to be responsible for the universe’s expansion, and since its density remains constant despite the universe growing, it is thought that more and more dark matter ‘pops’ into existence in order to keep up the rate of expansion. Oddly enough, this does not contradict the fundamental law of conservation of energy. This law states that in an isolated system, the total amount of energy will remain constant. This law is conserved because as energy and momentum are dependent on spacetime, if spacetime stays the same, total amount of energy remains the same but since spacetime changes, so does total energy. It is suggested that eventually, so much dark energy will have popped into existence, that its density would be above that of ordinary matter so the forces of expansion from the dark matter will overcome the gravitational forces of ordinary matter. This will essentially rip the universe apart, with larger objects of a lower density like planets and stars being ripped apart first, then humans and other living creatures and finally atoms will be destroyed before the universe will finally be entirely ripped apart.
All of these theories have their merits and provide good explanations for what will one day happen to our universe, but none yet provide conclusive evidence. What we can be sure of, is that by the time that these doomsday scenarios might happen, after trillions of years humans will be so far evolved that we probably will not still be able to call those living at that time humans anymore, if life still continues to exist for that long.
By Yuval, Year 11
Robots in Movies
Robots have always been lurking at the back of directors’ heads. From The Terminator of 1984 to Wall-E of 2008, robots may have evolved, but they remain the turn-to option for a merciless villain ready to take over the world or end humanity as we know it. In this article, I will be covering 3 different movies with 3 different types of robots with a similar motive.
My first movie is 2001- A Space Odyssey. Released in 1968 and directed by Stanley Kubrick, the main antagonist is more an artificially intelligent software than a robot. In case you aren’t familiar with this movie, it’s about a space quest to go to Jupiter to find what a monolith was aiming at, run by HAL 9000, the AI software. His increasingly bad behaviour forces two of the astronauts, Bowman and Poole to disconnect HAL. By lip reading their private conversation, HAL turns Bowman back into a foetus and kills Poole and the rest of the crew. While being disconnected, HAL explains that his secret mission was to kill all the crew members. This movie is the 7th earliest about robot, setting the example that robots are ordained to kill us all, and is a curse covered by a blessing.
My second choice is Wall-E. This movie, in short is about a space programme to evacuate humans from earth and make it a better habitat. This movie is full of robots, but I would like to focus on Auto, the artificially intelligent steering wheel. He takes over (unofficially) as the captain of the mission and turns a 5-year plan into a 700-year plan. His mission objective to never return to earth- A113, and he does anything to keep to this. This shows how helpful AI can turn on humanity and enslave us. There is also a striking resemblance between HAL and Auto - both are the head of a mission in space with a secret twist which affects humans. They also have a similar appearance - white with a red light in the middle. This could just be a nod to Kubrick by Disney, as they usually include cannon. However, it could have a deeper meaning… what if HAL had been restored generations after the first, unknown of the harm caused. That, really, is for you to ponder over.
My third and final choice is Big Hero 6. This Disney animation, in a nutshell, is about a healthcare robot, Baymax which makes friends with his dead creator’s younger brother, Hiro. He and his friends team up to uncover a mystery of microbots, small metal pieces, when put together forming a larger structure. Instead of talking about the antagonist, I am going to explore Baymax, the robot who is always willing to help. He helps those in need, and without spoiling the suspense too much, when programmed to be destructive, unlike our two other antagonists, Baymax uses his new skills to save people from danger, not to put people in danger. Baymax also shows a sense of understanding, which neither HAL nor Auto did. When his microchip is about to be replaced by Hiro, Baymax plays a video showing his elder brother struggling to create him. This warns Hiro not to make too much changes as the robot has taken shape due to someone else’s tireless effort.
In essence, most robots in movies are considered more of a bane than a boon, yet some always go out of their way to help. It is also interesting to see how robots and AI are shown to have two faces, one to help and one to destroy, yet this does not mean that they are decisively shady.
By Anagha Sreeram, 8C
Raspberry Pi Club
The aim of Raspberry Pi club is to help us improve our computing and programming skills outside of Computer Science lessons.
We started by learning how to set up the Raspberry Pi and familiarising ourselves with the steps and various components to the set up.
Once we had plugged in our Pis, we opened a Python programme and began to use it to program Minecraft. We began by using coding to simply find our co-ordinates, then we advanced teleporting, building large structures with just a click and even leaving flowers in your wake as the player walks.
Next half term’s exciting and interesting project will be the AstroPi project. Not only will we be writing code and using that code to send personal messages to the astronauts in space, but we can also customise it with various different colours. We are also be able to take a temperature of the air in space and allow images or patterns to appear on the screen in space. Then we will then submit our messages and it will send over to the International Space Station and will brighten up the daily routine of the astronauts currently in space. We will also receive a certificate when our code appears on the space station. How exciting!
By Sienna Lee, 7G
SPACE TECHNOLOGY THROUGH THE AGES
Space technology today is a result of various inventions, experiments and discoveries over the last 20,000 years.
Human beings have always been fascinated by the world above us and space exploration is the outcome of this curiosity. Indian mythology has examples of a divine vehicle called the Pushpak Vimana which can traverse through space. Indian mythology also refers to different realms in space where different types of people lived such as the Gods, the demons, normal people etc.
The earliest prototype of a rocket has been constructed by Archytas, a Greek philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who built a wooden bird which could fly based on the theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which later came to be known as Newton's 3rd Law.
Centuries later, the Chinese created the 1st working prototypes of rockets by attaching bamboo to arrows filled with gunpowder. When lit, it would launch itself due to the power of the escaping gas. Soon, it was used as a battle machine in war against the Mongols in 1232. Taking inspiration from the design, the Mongols used it in other battles spreading the design to Europe.
After this, rockets were not only used for warfare but by the late 19th century this technology had advanced enough for use to enter the orbit around the earth defying gravity. One of the 3 fathers of Rocketry, Konstanin E. Tsiolkovsky published the rocket equation, a mathematical equation which considers the principles of a device which can accelerate itself by expelling components at high speeds in the opposite direction. This was significant as it was years before the first propelled rocket was launched by Robert Goddard the second father of Rocketry.
The 3rd father Hermann Oberth published a book about how rockets could be sent out of earth’s orbit. He also studied multi-stage rocketry and proposed human spaceflight.
By this time, the Space Race had begun and after many failed attempts, some famous achievements were made including Sputnik (USSR), Explorer 1 (NATO) and Apollo 11 (NATO). On the 31st of January 1958, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed as an American space research centre.
In the future, NASA promises to make progress with research on habitation in Mars asking questions like ‘Can you grow it / make it in space? Can you do your own repairs and maintenance? ‘ (as NASA states) They will also try and answer the question ‘Are we alone ?’ NASA says, ‘as before NASA will adapt solutions to these and other challenges into technology that will improve lives at home.’
While space remains a frontier for mankind to overflow into and establish colonies if earth becomes overcrowded the world today is less focused on space exploration and rocket science than in the last few decades. This is possibly because there have been no further advances in space science since the Space Shuttle, the end of the Space Wars or exciting advancements in electronics and communications. However, we need to invest in Space as that is where the future of mankind lies.
By Anagha Sreeram, 8C