But baby it's cold outside

By Phil Plait | September 26, 2008 2:22 pm

I have always wanted to travel to Antarctica. Such beauty, such alien landscapes! I’ve had my taste of cold weather, too; I live in Colorado, after all, and have lived in Michigan.

But somehow, this video makes me less eager to head on down.

http://view.break.com/487339 – Watch more free videos

Sure, if I ever went, I’d want a flamethrower to make sure I could ward off any shape-shifting aliens trying to take over the bodies of my co-workers. But I wouldn’t have thought I’d need it just to stay warm.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Humor, Video Blog
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Comments (54)

  1. Greg in Austin

    How do we know that’s really Antarctica? They could really be in Hollywood with a fan behind the door, and sound effects. Oh, and the snow could be the stuff you put on X-mas trees. *end sarcasm*

    What an incredible environment. Great place to test future lunar and martian habitats, if you substitute the snow for dust.

    8)

  2. Andrew

    At least there aren’t any sandworms…

  3. Your “flamethrower to stay warm” comment reminded me of The Cremation of Sam McGee where he says, “Close the door, it’s the first time I’ve been warm since I left Tennessee.”

  4. Is it sad that I want to go even more now?

  5. Pete G

    That’s incredible.

  6. Antarctica is fantastic! I went to the Antarctic peninsula with my wife on a 9-day cruise, four of which were on the continent. Sure, it is more expensive than a regular holiday, but it was our honeymoon. The weather conditions are not nearly as bad as in the video, I even hiked up a mountain in my T-shirt.

    You can see some of our pictures on my website (although right now the server seems to be down).

  7. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing 😀
    If I ever go, I’ll be certain to mark my calendar for the Antarctic summer…

  8. ioresult

    Like Rystefn, that video makes me want to go even more! But I don’t think it’s sad. I’ve always wanted to try for a winter contract down there. Test my psychological solidity and such.

    Greg Austin: dust is way more heavy and abrasive than snow. It doesn’t even compare. A few years ago, an African country imported huge snowblowers, the ones they use to clean an airport runways here in Quebec, but for their airport that kept being encroached by the Sahara desert. The blowers made exactly one run and they never bothered towing them off the end of the runway. Today, they’re so much scrap metal.

  9. CompaniaHill

    Here’s a trick to impress your friends. I was visiting a friend-of-a-friend in Frostbite Falls (okay, International Falls) Minnesota the first time I ever met Forty Below. (Note: -40 is the magic point at which Farenheit and Celcius are the same, so this is truly an international trick.)

    They insisted on showing me the Boiling Water Trick. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not believe it. They filled a big soup pot with water, put it on the stove and brought it to a full rolling boil, then in one smooth motion picked it up by the handle, opened the back door and tossed the still-boiling water horizontally out over the (shoveled and dry) sidewalk. I had expected the sidewalk to get wet, possibly melting some of the snow on the grass. Nope. The boiling water turned collectively into glittery mist and icy shards before it could hit the ground — THE SIDEWALK NEVER GOT WET.

    I can’t even begin to imagine A Hundred Below on a calm day, much less with those winds. In a word, yikes!

  10. Vat

    Holy crap! Puts this beautiful Brisbane morning into some context.

  11. No wonder they shipped 65,000 condoms down there to get the scientists through the winter.

  12. Johnfruh

    So, Phil,
    Antarctica is not for you, eh? and yet, you support manned space missions to the moon and Mars.

    May I remind you that space is some 400 times more hostile. At least in the antarctic habitat shown, you could walk around. You even have room to swing a good sized cat.

    In contrast, any foreseeable space mission will confine you to, at best, a small trailer home sized habitat.

    Still interested in getting your jollies as spam-in-the-can? And for what? The view? Please do tell.

    …John

  13. MattGS

    Rystefn, you’re not the only one. I’ve always been fascinated with Antarctica, and this makes me really want to go there.

    And Michael L – if that’s true then I’ll definitely go there. What a beautiful place.

  14. Johnfruh, are you being serious, or snarky, or sarcastic? I honestly don’t understand what you are trying to say.

  15. That entryway reminded me of home, in northern Alberta. During the winter the windows would get thick frost buildup like that. You knew it was a cold day when the door started to develop the same layer of frost… on the inside.

  16. Johnfruh

    Phil,
    I am not being snarky at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that you are a big fan of manned space missions. I, on the other hand am through with manned missions. They are too costly and so are not a good return on investment. Ever since the advent of microprocessors and the maturing of robotics, I have lost my interest in manned missions. I used to be a space cadet. I felt the thrill of Neil Armstrong’s giant step for mankind. But the rationale for manned missons is now gone. We get much more bang for our bucks from robotic missions and from unmanned probes, communications sattelites, etc.
    So, given the enormous hostility of the space environment to our fragile biology, I am suggesting that we abandon the manned program in favour of enhanced robotics. Just imagine what we could learn if we promoted the development of advanced robotics for interplanetary missions. Who needs a lunar colony when people such as yourself are put off by Antarctica.

    …John

  17. Amber

    Apparently you need to be extremely cheerful to work in Antarctica. Makes perfect sense.

  18. Nemo

    Being a supporter of manned space missions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re volunteering to go yourself. Anyway, space is serene compared to Antarctica — there’s no weather, and you can only go out in a pressurized, temperature-controlled suit, so you never really even get a taste of the nastiness.

    I hate cold, but I’m still fascinated by Antarctica. I’d probably go if I could. And to space, too, yes.

  19. IBY

    Holy crap, that was a really strong wind. I have always wanted to be in Antarctica for at least a day, but jeez, that weather is kind of extreme, ain’t it? Still, I still want to go to Antarctica, and bask in that fresh -60 degrees celsius, hurricane force wind.

  20. alfaniner

    We had a presenter at work talk about his job in Antarctica (McMurdo Station, I believe). The kid couldn’t have been more than 23 years old. He showed several pics and described life in 6 months or so of darkness, and the screening tests it takes to get there. It reminded me of the astronaut program. I know he said that all kinds of skills are required — I think he was a carpenter. I wish I could find the link he showed about applying for jobs, but someone with sufficient mettle should be able to find it on their own.

    I admit as the resident of many northern winters that it appealed to me, for a very short time. I’ve done the “coffee trick” but not sure if I’d ever want to join the “300 club”.

  21. Greg in Austin

    @ioresult,

    I totally agree about the dust. On the moon, you’d still have the extreme temperatures (even worse) but at least there’d be no air to blow it around. You’d only have to worry about what you have stuck to your spacesuit. On Mars, however, it would be much much worse.

    Manned space missions are actually key and logical steps in humankind’s journey to the unknown. No robot will ever be able to tell you how it feels to see the sun rise on Mars, or what the martian soil feels like to your hands, or what it tastes like. No robot will ever watch the moons of Mars dance across the sky and write poetry describing the wonders it sees. And for all of the amazing things the robotic missions of Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity, and the rest have accomplished, they pale in comparison to what one single human being could accomplish.

    The need to explore the universe around us transcends all other needs. Maybe you personally don’t need to go there, but we as humans do.

    8)

  22. Ryan

    That looks amazing. I’ve always loved winter.

    And John, manned spaceflight will always be superior than robotics. There are a lot of reasons why, but the main thing is flexibility. A person can do a much wider range of activities with a minor range of tools than any robotic platform can. Especially if something goes wrong with the experiment and some aspect of it needs to be repaired. Robotic programming cannot cope with that nearly as effectively as a human being can.

    Also, as you get farther and farther from earth you start getting the light speed delay problem. Even to the moon there is a significant delay. To Mars it’s up over a half an hour. You can’t effectively operate something by remote with that sort of delay. It requires a large amount of automation that is pushing the limits of currenty programming and engineering.

    And even more, I think one of the major goals of space exploration (or at least what I want from it) is pure colonization. I think it’s an important goal for our species. As it stands right now, we have every known sentient mind in the universe all directly dependent upon a single biosphere. Now sure, we haven’t had any sort of extinction level event in a long time, but it’s still risky in the long term. (Somehow, I feel like there’s a spot for a plug for Phil’s book in this paragraph)

    And finally, the reason that manned space travel and exploration will continue is simply because there is demand for it. There are people who want to travel into space. Who want to be a part of a manned mission. Who want to colonize a new world. Who are or would be willing to expose their fragile biology to the hostility of space to further mankind’s or simply their own goals.

  23. Greg in Austin

    Oh, and the second half of my comments were directed @ Johnfruh. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    8)

  24. TSFrost

    Man, that! I’m staying right here in New Orleans where MY hurricane-force winds are still in the 70’s or so!

  25. madge

    I will NEVER complain about being cold again!
    :)

  26. My cousin just got back from a 6 month stay in Antarctica where he was helping to build a new section of one of the American science buildings. He said the people are crazier than the weather, and the skin on his hands was being held on with super glue. Sounds like a fun time though. Definitely worth it for the stories!

  27. I, like Pieter, did the tourist thing to Antarctica too except we went due south of Australia to East Antarctica – near and into the Ross Sea. Our trip was about a month long. Absolutely awesome. You never got sick of the huge, 5 kilometre long, icebergs. We went to Commonwealth Bay and landed at Mawson’s Hut. The ice shelf is amazing – you can hear the crack for miles when it calves. The animals are amazing – seals, penguins, sea birds and whales. We stopped at the Sub Antarctic islands on the way to and from Antarctica. Macquarie Island was a highlight. We probably spent 2 weeks in the ice. We walked on the sea ice, we drank drinks chilled with 10000 year old ice from icebergs that calved and rolled over right in front of us.
    And sea sickness. Boy was I sick. The Southern Ocean can really get a swell up. Once you hit the ice it is as smooth as a billiard table but before then… did I mention how sick I got?

    I have some pictures here… antarctica.nixons.net (click my name above to get there too)

  28. Johnfruh

    @ Nemo,
    No Space weather? How about the solar wind, cosmic rays, etc.? You could also wear a space suit in Antarctica and not feel the cold. So what? The point is that colonizing the moon & Mars is 400 times more difficult. I’m all for the exploration of space. I just feel that manned missions are a poor return on the investment. The knowledge that we have gleaned from unmanned missions FAR out weigh any we have obtained with manned missions.

    @Ryan, Yes, today the state of robotics is limited. But, Tomorrow? It could be great! IF we put our minds to it. So, what if something goes wrong? The mission fails, the platform/vehicle/instrument is lost. We then learn from the shortcoming, build a better tool and try again with no loss of life. In your scheme we loose a crew if something goes wrong with the life support system. How many shuttle disasters are you willing to endure?

    You say: “To Mars it’s up over a half an hour. You can’t effectively operate something by remote with that sort of delay. It requires a large amount of automation that is pushing the limits of currently programming and engineering.”

    You are correct. Which is why I am pushing for spending our resources on improving autonomous robotics. Just think what we could achieve in this area if we did not spend so much on “life support” systems. We would not need quadruple redundancy. We would not need shielding from radiation (well, actually, just a little. After all, even the mercury mission needs a sun screen).

    You say: “And even more, I think one of the major goals of space exploration (or at least what I want from it) is pure colonization.”

    I think that you are dreaming in technicolor. We are “designed” for this planet. The effort tha would be required to adapt to the moon/Mars would be astronomical (Ooooh, a pun). You mention extinction. Well, what if your moon/Mars colony goes extinct? Where will you go then?
    Yes. 99% of all life forms have gone extinct. So will we! Deal with it. NOTHING is forever.

    You say that there is a demand for it. Maybe, but I don’t see a stampede to the launch pads. Maybe a few enthusiasts are willing to risk life and limb but not the majority. If you are so inclined, I invite you to test out your idea by colonizing Antarctica first as a sort of baby step. Once you have done that, do the same at the bottom of the ocean. Lets see, the 5 mile deep “Challenger Deep” in the Mariana’s trench would be a good start.

    Lastly, there is the cost of such colonization. If you want to do it, come up with the funding yourself. Do it on your own nickel, by all means, but NOT on my nickel (i.e. on the public purse).

    …John

  29. Whoah Johnfruh, you’re coming on a little strong there. I didn’t think anybody could be that passionately against manned exploration of space? Frankly your only argument that has any credibility is the economic one. Even then one could argue against almost anything being paid for with public money – roads, defence, medicine… anything. But that is not how most democracies work. Public money will be used whether you like it or not. Deal with it. Having said that the very best argument FOR manned exploration is that the general public just does not give a toss for anything extra-terrestrial unless there is a dude in a space suit. Would China’s latest launch get mentioned on the news if there weren’t three warm bodies strapped inside? I don’t think so. Nothing catches the public imagination more than manned space travel. Look what happened in 1969. The whole world stopped to look. Even in Vietnam. By the way I’m not saying manned instead of robotic, they go together hand in robotic pincer.

  30. Gary Ansorge

    Johnfruh
    :
    You are in error. You keep pulling this “400 times more difficult, 400 times more dangerous”stuff out of what? Where do you get this idea? Space has no temperature, hard vacuum, radiation and meteors,,,that’s about it as far as a deleterious environment is concerned. We protect against vacuum and meteors just fine, thank you. HArd radiation is a bit more difficult however, ever hear of Staphylococcus radiofurans? A bacteria that lives quite happily and reproduces quite successfully in radiation 5000 times more powerful than that required to kill a human. Do you think we can’t copy that trick?

    Living in tin cans is what we do in the early days. True space colonies of the Gerard O’Nielle type are miles long and wide affairs, so large that clouds form and the opposite wall of the cylinder disappear in the atmospheric haze. Expensive? Yes! But,,,so is Los Angeles and for a 10 mile long, 10 mile diameter space colony, we’re talking 300 square miles of interior space, about the size of LA.

    I expect we’ll figure out how to retain bone mass and muscle density from our studies of hibernation in bears. They produce a particular parathyroid hormone that eliminates those problems of inactivity/low gee, so we could use that to allow us to function healthfully in zero g. Of course, bone mass and muscle strength is really only a requirement if the colonist ever wants to return to earth and I for one would not feel so inclined. Planets are nice wombs, bur every baby must eventually be born. Humanity is a classic example of a successful species. It is in the nature of such to invade and exploit every available eco-niche. We’re doing it now. Space is just the biggest, unexploited niche known. Time for us to go,,,

    GAry 7

  31. Gary Ansorge

    The reference to zero gee only applies to colonists who might decide to go “on the cheap”, ie, hollowing out a chunk of asteroid and living in free fall. For a large construct as proposed by O’Neille, rotation of the cylinder at less than 3 rpm provides all the acceleration we might think we need without invoking problems with the inner ear syndrome.

    GAry 7

  32. Gary Ansorge

    PPS:
    Open up the High Frontier and in 10,000 years, there will be (with voluntary genetic manipulation) as many varieties of humans as we now have individual species on this planet. Hey, I’ve always wondered if I would look good with solar sail wings, a hard(radiation proof) carapace and on board (symbiotic) algae to recycle my internal atmosphere. No need for ANY colonies then,,,just float free and acquire sunlight and whatever needed elements from the solar wind.

    Now, THAT would be voluntary evolution in action,,,

    Gary 7

  33. Gary Ansorge

    PPPS:

    Spent three winters in Great Falls, Montana. Woke one morning when the temp went from 60 degrees F. above to 45 degrees F. below, overnight. The wind chill dropped that to minus 65. Oil in my car engine turned to tar and the battery froze. Not a fun thing to experience when you’re just trying to get to work,,,

    GAry 7

  34. Kind of reminds me of the scene from Elmo’s World where he’s trying to shove the muppet tornado back out the door.

  35. Johnfruh

    @Shane,
    Yes, I am passionate. Passionate about knowledge and science. AND, yes, I do make an economic case.

    You say: “Even then one could argue against almost anything being paid for with public money – roads, defense, medicine… anything.” Sure, but then you would be arguing against the greater good.
    I think you’re wrong about the public not caring for unmanned missions. Witness the Hubble Space Telescope, the rovers on Mars, the Gelelao and Cassini missions. All garnered headlines.

    You say: “Would China’s latest launch get mentioned on the news if there weren’t three warm bodies strapped inside? I don’t think so. ”
    Oh, I think you might agree that the Chinese got lots of press whe they shot down one of their aging satellites. And, as for why they are reinventing the wheel, so to speak, it demonstrates to Asia that they have mature rocketry. Guess who is going to get the business to launch asian satellites into orbit. Hint: not Europe or NASA.

    You say:”Look what happened in 1969. …”
    I agree, I was there. I too was a space cadet and agreed with the objectives of the Apollo program. But this is a different time. We have micro computers, mature robotics, etc. Back then we needed a warm body to accomplish the stated tasks. Witness the failure of the russian attempt to have a robot land on the moon, scoop up a bit of dust and return to earth (Lunacod, I believe).

    @Gary,
    Okay, okay, so I go on and on about the 400 times more difficult. I did so because I remember someone at some time saying that. But as I can not now find the reference for you, I will stand down from that particular number (until I find it again). BUT, whatever the number, I think that you will agree that space missions are orders of magnitude more difficult than Antarctica.

    You say: “Space has no temperature,…”
    Well, actually it has a temperature of about 3.7 degrees Kelvin (Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation actually). In our near earth space environment, the temperature depends on whether or not you are exposed to the sun. If so, the temp. is something in excess of 400 degrees (F or C, I can’t remember just now).

    “Staphylococcus radiofurans”, you say! I agree that there are extreme-o-files. BUT, we are not them. Yes, in 10K years we may evolve to have their capabilities. But then what? what is the point of exploring the unknown with our bodies when we have our tools to do our bidding for us. Just imagine how advanced computing and robotics will be by then. After all, we are the best tool makers in the in the universe, as far as we know, Let’s leverage that to the max.

    O’Neille colonies, eh? You are dreaming in technicolor. And that’s fine. Dreaming is good. But the reality is that we are built for this planet, for this environment. ALL of the medical information that we have learned by means of long duration exposure to the space environment suggests that ther is nothing positive or healthy about space. The Universe is NOT friendly. It is out to do you mate! Better know where your towel is. My towel is right here on mother earth, and I’m not leaving.

    So, “Planets are nice wombs”, eh? In that case, please explain why the struggle for life is so hard even on this less than idealic orb.

    “Humanity is a classic example of a successful species.”. Lets be a little more humble. I could argue that we are a cancer on the face of the planet. Witness global warming, etc. etc.

    You say: “It is in the nature of such to invade and exploit every available eco-niche. We’re doing it now. Space is just the biggest, unexploited niche known.”
    Yes, life exploits every eco-niche it can. Given the availability of life sustaining resources, life will find a way to exploit them. This is far different from claiming that space is the biggest unexploited niche. Please explain to me what “eco” niche is available in space that is not already available here on earth.

    @Gary’s PPS,
    Sounds like you are quite the romantic and that’s fine. But you do know that you are talking fantasy with a capital “F”.

    …John

  36. @Johnfruh: “Passionate about knowledge and science”.
    Obviously not about human physiology and the innate curiosity that drives mankind to explore and experience.

    @Johnfruh: “I think you’re wrong about the public not caring for unmanned missions. Witness the Hubble Space Telescope, the rovers on Mars, the Gelelao and Cassini missions. All garnered headlines.”
    For about 10 minutes. Pretty pictures all, but do the masses really care about the science? Look at how the rovers were anthropomorphised. Can’t you imagine what would happen the instant someone steps out onto the Martian surface?

    I said: “Even then one could argue against almost anything being paid for with public money – roads, defense, medicine… anything.” Johnfruh says:”Sure, but then you would be arguing against the greater good.”
    In your opinion, but ok, bad examples from me. You don’t like your taxes going to manned space flight. I think too much money is spent on the War On Drugs and The War On Nouns (Terror).

    @Johnfruh: “I think you might agree that the Chinese got lots of press whe they shot down one of their aging satellites. “
    Of course they did. You’d have to be pretty thick not to be concerned by something like that. Sabre rattling. But go and look for some mainstream headlines that don’t involve killer satellites or astronauts… except for Chinese news sites and some specialist space sites like space.com there aren’t many headlines are there?

    @Johnfruh: “We have micro computers, mature robotics, etc. Back then we needed a warm body to accomplish the stated tasks.”
    And we still do. Robotics isn’t so advanced that the Hubble can repair itself for example.

  37. @Pieter Kok,
    I noticed on your website that the ship you travelled has sunk. It is amazing that an ice strengthened ship could sink. I remember when we were sailing through the ice the terrific clang of the ice bouncing off the hull when we were below decks. It was kind of unnerving but after a while we got used to it and didn’t think about it much. Excellent photos btw and it looks like you were lucky enough to see a leopard seal? Not bad.

    antarctica.nixons.net

  38. I have a rocket with a small high def camera inside. I want to go SOOO BADLY just so I can plop my pad down on the ice shelf and launch that bad boy for some once in a life time video from 3,000 feet !!

    WOW Drooling over the idea!

  39. Johnfruh

    @Shane,
    My passion for knowledge and science extend to human physiology as well. We have learned from MIR and other long duration flights that humans do not do well despite our best efforts and I see no solutions or even potential solutions on the horizon.
    I’m all for exploring! BUT, as Clint Eastwood said so memorably in “Dirty harry”, and I quote .. “A man has got to know his limitations.”
    As for experience, I am no longer willing to pay for some astronaut to have an “experience” that he/she will relate to us with words such as those of John Glenn when he said … “The view is tremendous” or “Magnificent desolation” said of the moon by an Apollo astronaut, etc., etc.

    I detect a tone in your comments and those of Gary, et al, of unbridled optimism (e.g. anything is possible). Well maybe so. However, not everything that is possible is also probable. I tone, I think, is more that of a realist gained from the school of hard knocks.

    You are right, I don’t want my taxes going to manned missions anymore. There was a time for them but that time is gone.

    You say: “except for Chinese news sites and some specialist space sites like space.com there aren’t many headlines are there?”
    That’s mainly because Chinese news is not about us. We only hear about them when what they are doing impinges upon US! BTW, when was the last time that CBS interrupted an NFL or NBA game? In case you don’t remember, it was back in the day’s of Apollo. At that time the outcry by our sports minded public was so great that CBS has not done it since, So, tell me again how manned flight stirs the public imagination? If it did, NASA would not have to go begging, hat in hand, to congress year after year because congressmen would give them a free hand knowing that it would be a sure ticket to re-election.

    You say: “Robotics isn’t so advanced that the Hubble can repair itself for example.”. Ah yes. Now lets see. As I recall, the Hubble was designed from day one to be serviced by human servicemen back in the day when NASA promised cheap access to Space by means of a fleet of shuttles that were allow for monthly trips to near earth orbit. However, we all know how well that worked out (i.e. NOT!) Now, in contrast, suppose that the HST had been designed to be serviced by robotic missions. The designers would have made sure that its vital components were easily accessible by robots such as “Dexter” which is now doing some of the work outside the ISS so as to minimize the risks and hassles of EVAs by its crew.

    Need I remind you that even the military is increasingly removing the human element from its frontline weaponry, witness the predator and other UAVs. They rightly reason that it makes more sense to use a tool such as the predator costing a few million than to risk a pilot and his $500 million fighter. The risks and limitations of manned aircraft are becoming increasingly difficult to justify.

    Having said that, I agree that much more can be done to improve robotics by means of artificial intelligence, better tactile feedback and other “awareness” / “sensory” facilities. I would much rather my taxes be spent on these efforts than on the endless task of providing life support to the weakest and link in the chain. Even now, real scientists are complaining about the contamination of their experiments by the crew of the ISS. The contaminants that they produce get into everything!

    Over to you guys…

    …John

  40. @Johnfruh: “I’m all for exploring! BUT, as Clint Eastwood said so memorably in “Dirty harry”, and I quote .. “A man has got to know his limitations.””
    What are these limitations you speak of? Sent a man into space? Tick. For an extended period? Tick. Survived in a hostile environment? Tick. Kicked regolith on an another world? Tick. Brought him back safely? Tick. You sound like those naysayers that say that every time there is a big storm or natural disaster that say we have to fear mother nature forever and we can’t control nature (building a storm proof house is controlling mother nature thanks very much) or that there are something that we weren’t meant to know.

    Robotic war machines? Now who is being overly optimistic. One wonders why there are 130000 grunts on the ground in Iraq then?

    Ok, again, using Chinese news was a bad example. Replace China with US then, my original point still remains. As far as interrupting football goes, nothing should interrupt football. Here in Oz it has happened twice in recent years and each time I was so… let’s just say I was a little annoyed. Actually TV channels are stupid. They do something like interrupt a show and people get annoyed, so the channel assumes people aren’t interested in what the news was and won’t show it again. That is as dumb as the initial interruption. That was a slightly OT rant on my behalf. Sorry.

    We should be grateful that the Johnfruhs of the world didn’t belong to the Royal Society or the Admiralty in the 18th Century when Cook was sent on his voyages of exploration or that he didn’t whisper in Isabella’s ear in the 15th century not to fund Columbus.

    One of my favourite quotes when some accuses me of being overly optimistic is:
    When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
    –Arthur C. Clarke

  41. Johnfruh

    Hi Shane, Nice to see that you are still up and interested in this debate.

    Yup, I agree with all of your ticks. But so what? Garry was going on about colonizing the moon/Mars! Yes, we have visited the moon and, at tremendous cost/danger we might, just might visit Mars. But colonize it? Make a life there with families and colonies? Now that’s a stretch.

    Limitations you ask?
    How about the fact that we have to take ALL of our earthly environment and sustanance with us when we venture into the hostile environment of space. In Antarctica, we can at least breath the air, we can use the snow/ice for water, etc., etc.
    How about our heirarchy of needs (ah la Mazlow) So far all we have managed is the bottom rung (i.e. that of basic needs). Where are the rest? Without them we are a miserable excuse of an energy wasting life form.

    You say: “building a storm proof house is controlling mother nature thanks very much…” Oh come on now Shane. You may be building a safe haven from the natural forces, but you are most definitely not controlling them. Show me control of climate, of a huricane, of a tornado, of volcanoes, of earthquakes, of plate techtonics and then we can talk about controlling nature.

    You say: “One wonders why there are 130000 grunts on the ground in Iraq then?…”
    Oil baby, oil!

    You say: “We should be grateful that the Johnfruhs of the world didn’t belong to the Royal Society or the Admiralty in the 18th Century when Cook was sent on his voyages of exploration or that he didn’t whisper in Isabella’s ear in the 15th century not to fund Columbus.”
    Oh dear, here we go again comparing space flight with earthbound exploration. Lets take a closer look at the dangers of making this apples and oranges comparison, shall we? Yes, they are both fruits BUT, my, what a difference!

    Lets explore (pun intended) a few, shall we?

    1) Columbus’ voyage was more akin to exploitation than exploration. He was looking for a short cut to India (a known source of riches), so as to beat the Portuguese who were going the long way around the bottom of Africa to get there. Recall that his mistaking America for India is why we call our natives INDIANS! No such “riches” are known to exist in space. And please don’t bother mentioning asteroid mining. I’m talking reality here rather than sci-fi.

    2) Isabela and Ferdinand, his queen & king, could ONLY fund & send a crewed ship because that is all there was at the time. We, however, have a choice. We can send substitutes for our senses out there. Substitutes, bye the way, that are much better than our own senses for doing the jobs we want them to do (e.g. electronic “eyes” that can see the entire spectrum rather than just the narrow strip of visible light that our eyes can see. I can give you more examples for our other senses but I think you get the point).

    3) The environmental differences are astounding! Space is something like 400 times more hostile than the south pole environment (learned this somewhere but can’t recall the source so please don’t challenge me to produce it at a moment’s notice). And, you can see how well we have done in populating that extreme environment (i.e. not well at all)! The best that private enterprise could achieve there was to rape it’s animal resources at its shores.

    4) Columbus could expect to resupply his ships with basic essentials from the environment around him, air to breath, fish to catch, fresh water on the shore, etc.. In contrast, space explorers must take EVERY life support resource with them.

    5) The cost of Columbus’ expeditions/journeys, or whatever, were miniscule compared to the potential riches he could bring back to his king & queen. In contrast, the cost of manned space flight is exorbitant with little or no return involved.

    I could go on, but I think you catch my drift (Ooh, another pun!).

    Now then, If you had compared space flight with underwater exploration, it would have been a much more “apples to apples” comparison (i.e. Mac’s v. Granny Smith’s). You could have compared nuclear subs to the ISS and I could have pointed out the lack of undersea habitats, Jacques Cousteau not withstanding. Even so, we already know of many, many riches to be found on the sea bed, and yet, and yet, no colinization! Go figure!? Private enterprise seems to be content with scratching at the sea bed and pocking holes into it from surface ships and oil rig platforms ( hmmm, I wonder if cost has anything to do with it? Do you think?).

    …John

  42. hiya Johnfruh,
    How about the fact that we have to take ALL of our earthly environment and sustanance with us when we venture into the hostile environment of space. In Antarctica, we can at least breath the air, we can use the snow/ice for water, etc., etc.
    Air and water is about all you can get locally in Antarctica. Everything else has to brought in. Everything. Most of it has to be removed too btw. There isn’t a better environment on earth to practice for Mars for example. Most of the Mars plans I’ve seen involve extracting air and water from the local environment.

    Making local modifications to your local environment, eg. shelter etc, to keep out the extremes ensures that it doesn’t matter about controlling it. If it can’t get at you who cares?

    Hostile environment? Meh. We’re designed to be adaptive. There isn’t a place on earth we can’t adapt to including underwater. True there is a distinct lack of undersea habitats at the moment but there is a lot of undersea exploration by manned submersibles – Alvin for example.

    Columbus hoped to get to the Indies – it was pure speculation as to whether he’d hit pay dirt. Who knows the returns on space exploration? Anyway it is the exploitation that will require a manned presence. Cook’s travels though were purely scientific expeditions with a bit of flag waving thrown in so the analogy is appropriate I think.

    OT (slightly), nice photos of Baikonur Cosmodrome at the Boston Globe’s Big Picture…
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/09/the_baikonur_cosmodrome.html

  43. Nemo

    Johnfruh:

    Space is something like 400 times more hostile than the south pole environment (learned this somewhere but can’t recall the source so please don’t challenge me to produce it at a moment’s notice).

    I challenge you to simply stop using this meaningless number, as you had already said that you would.

  44. Johnfruh

    @Shane
    Actually, we could harvest, and have in the past, the many life forms that inhabit the coastal waters but we choose not to.

    You say, about nature … “If it can’t get at you who cares? ” Have you forgotten that YOU had said that we can control it? We can, and do in fact, provide ourselves with shelter. But this in no way suggests that we can control it (your earlier claim).

    You say, about undersea exploration: “there is a lot of undersea exploration by manned submersibles – Alvin for example.”
    Actually, Alvin is old and infrequently used. ROVs are all the rage now. Witness the magnificent views of the Titanic.

    You say: “Columbus hoped to get to the Indies – it was pure speculation as to whether he’d hit pay dirt. ”
    Actually, it was more than pure speculation. As I had said, the Portuguese had already been bringing ritches back by going the long way around. So all he was betting on was a short cut. The same is true, BTW about the search for the North West Passage and look what happened to the mighty Franklin expedition! It got crushed by the ice. It is only now, with the melting of the ice sheets that the passage is being considered as a short cut.

    You say: “Anyway it is the exploitation that will require a manned presence.”
    Not so fast, we already exploit the sea bed without a manned presence. Now, we do it with nasty trawlers that drag massive nets along the sea bed but that is besides the point. We also drill deep into the sea bed to extract oil and we do it all from the surface. You may have noticed the odd floating oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico. You know, the ones that get destroyed by hurricanes like Katrina that we can’t control and cause the gas prices to go zoom “to the moon”. Even on land, nobody goers down to an oil deposit to exploit it. The exploitation is all done from the surface. We send extensions of ourselves down there (i.e. our tools). No manned presence required or desired.

    You say: “Cook’s travels though were purely scientific expeditions with a bit of flag waving thrown in so the analogy is appropriate I think.”
    Yes, the analogy is approprite. However, you are choosing to ignore or have forgotten that I had said that the difference between then and now is that NOW we have a choice. We can send manned missions or robotic missions.

    @Nemo
    Okay, Okay I’ll stop using the number, although I hardly think that it is meaningless. It may be wrong but how is it meaningless. It, or any other number is a means of expressing the relative difficulty of the one versus the other environment. Would you at least agree that the degree of difficulty is orders of magnitude greater?

    …John

  45. Johnfruh

    @Shane, Nemo
    Guys, take a look at this report published back in 2002. I hope it gives you some food for thought concerning our discussions

    It’s title is …
    Antarctic Exploration Parallels for Future
    Human Planetary Exploration:
    A Workshop Report

    In the section titled “3.0 DISCUSSION TOPICS AND PARTICIPANT RESPONSES” we find, …

    Here are some of the questions asked of veteran Antarctic explores …

    General
    · Why take risks to gather scientific data?

    · If you had a chance to go to Mars, what would you do and why?

    on Page 21 we find …
    GENERAL
    Question: Why take risks to gather scientific data?
    Answer: Twenty-five-year-olds don’t think of risk, they think of adventure.

    on Page 22 we find ….
    Question: If you had a chance to go to Mars, what would you do and why? (as
    Answer: Fifty years ago I would have leapt at the chance, for most of the same reasons I leapt at
    the chance to go to Antarctica. Now I would decline, with thanks, for pretty much the
    same reasons that I would never winter over in Antarctica again — too long away from
    home and family (I never wintered over again after IGY).

    Here is the link to the entire report …
    http://ston.jsc.nasa.gov/collections/TRS/_techrep/TP-2002-210778.pdf

    I’ve taken exepts that support my views. See if you can find ones that support your views. Hint: hey talk about robotics v. manned missions.

    …John

  46. Johnfruh

    @Shane & Gary
    Guys, here is what I’m talking about … http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/06/29/science-vs-mars/

    Phil is even mentioned!

    …John

  47. Gary Ansorge

    Johnfruh
    @Gary’s PPS,
    Sounds like you are quite the romantic and that’s fine. But you do know that you are talking fantasy with a capital “F”.

    Ah yes, the old, …”¥ou’re such a dreamer,,,”. Somewhat equivalent to ” You’re such a liberal,,,”. Both are dismissive statements.

    Yes! I’m a Dreamer and a Progressive/Liberal.
    For me, the only time the glass is half empty is when I’m filling it up.

    My Son is a software engineer who believes we’ll be uploading our consciousness to computers, which will eliminate the necessity to actually relocate our bodies to space. He may be right but I hope we actually do relocate. It is the only way to insure those bodies(bio-chemical robots of exceptional complexity) can survive any likely disaster scenario. Being restricted to a single planet is just asking for extinction.

    Cost to access space will continue to decline, but it will only happen if there’s money to be made. That’s how Columbus got his point across.

    Referring to humanity as a “cancer” on the eco-system is a knee jerk woo-woo response to our species success. We are what we are and we are at least as successful as those early mammals that took over when the dinos. went belly up. You’ll note that in a mere 65 million years, those mammals and their descendants have spread into every eco-niche on the planet. Were those early successors a “cancer” too?

    We WILL settle the high frontier, if for no other reason than to escape from the IDiots here on earth,,,and to make a buck, as my father did when he chose to work in Saudi Arabia back in the ancient 1940s. It was nearly equivalent to living in a “tin can” in space. That was a half century ago and now most people working in Arabia have much more comfortable lodgings. I expect it will be somewhat similar to settling space. Tough in the beginning. Much easier in a century or so.

    GAry 7

  48. Johnfruh

    @Gary,
    You say: “My Son is a software engineer who believes we’ll be uploading our consciousness to computers,…”
    Could you please give more support for your son’s belief? By itself, believing is easy. It is much harder to provide evidence. As of yet, we have no theory of how consciousness works let alone being able to “upload” it to a computer. If you haven’t noticed, computers are nowhere near the same sort of platform as our brains are. So, please enlighten us.

    You say: “He may be right but I hope we actually do relocate. It is the only way to insure those bodies(bio-chemical robots of exceptional complexity) can survive any likely disaster scenario.”
    Just HOW does relocation INSURE survival. This is an unfounded assertion. In contrast, our survival of likely disaster scenarios is insured first by preventative measures to forestall disasters followed up by appropriate defensive measures in the event of disasters. Relocating to a highly hostile, unknown alternative planet at ruinous cost is no guarantee.

    You say: “Cost to access space will continue to decline,…” Experience with the shuttle program contradicts you sir. In fact, the cost is rising.

    You say: “…but it will only happen if there’s money to be made…”
    Absolutely right. Now, please provide some plausible scenarios.

    You say: “Referring to humanity as a “cancer” on the eco-system is a knee jerk woo-woo response to our species success. ”
    What I said was that I could ARGUE that mankind was a cancer on the face of the planet. Our vaunted success and the tremendous ecological cost associated with it is very much akin to the way a cancer grows and ultimately destroys its host and therefore itself.

    You say: “That’s how Columbus got his point across. ”
    Absolutely right. He had a known destination. he knew about the riches/resources to be exploited because the Portuguese were already getting rich by going there the long way around the bottom of Africa. Columbus sold Ferdinand and Isabella on a shortcut. That was my point earlier in this thread. Accordingly, the whole Columbus analogy does NOT apply to manned space exploration. I repeat, you are, in effect, comparing apples to oranges and as such the comparison is invalid.

    No, the mammals that replaced the dinosaurs were not and are not a cancer for they have not upset the natural balance. We, in contrast, seem bent on destroying the fine tuned balance of nature and we do so at our peril. Also, they did NOT fill every eco-niche left behind by the dinosaurs. Most of the spots were filled by birds which are the direct descendants of the dinos.

    You say: “We WILL settle the high frontier, if for no other reason than to escape from the IDiots here on earth,,,and to make a buck, …”
    Did you really mean IDiots? Or did you mean Idiots? The best was to escape them is though education rather than running away. Suppose you do try to run away from them, how are you going to insure that they won’t sneak onto your fleet of space faring Arcs? Will you have some sort of IDiot test? And as to making a buck, again, I ask, how? Don’t you think that the free enterprise system would already have figured this out by now? ow come it hasn’t?

    Lastly, your comparison with respect yo your father and Saudi Arabia suffers the same problem as you comparison of Columbus’ voyages into the “unknown” an so is equally invalid.

    If you haven’t already, I invite you to follow the link I posted above for further discussions on the problems with manned space missions .
    Here it is again… http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/06/29/science-vs-mars/

    ..John

  49. @Johnfruh,
    Thanks for the report but I think you missed the point. The answers you quoted are from one person, a C. Bentley. A quote mine if you will. If you read to the end of the report you will see that the “Observations from group discussions” is far more favourable to manned exploration. In fact, to quote one line myself,
    “Regarding the question of whether it was better to explore with humans or robots, there seemed to be a consensus that a combination of both was the best solution.”

    I’ve been to Antarctica as a tourist and we had former Antarctic explorers/researchers as “guides” and we spoke to people currently manning the stations. Many had done multiple tours. All enjoyed the experience in spite of the hardships. The found it challenging, exciting and educational. Can you imagine have what it was like to have a glacier pointed out to you by the man the glacier is named for? These people love what they do and did. They’re so passionate about what they did they will spend a month with a bunch of tourists to pass on their experiences. They will have no problems finding scientists equally as driven to man expeditions to Mars.

    I don’t think your oil rig analogy is a good one. If the oil rig was remotely operated maybe but the rig itself is manned and sits over the oil field. A drill isn’t exactly a good example of remote operation. In fact I used to know a diver that operated from oil rigs in Bass Strait off Australia. So obviously they there is still stuff that can’t be done robotically there too.

  50. Johnfruh

    @Shane, Hi Again.

    I’m happy to see that you read the report. You may be right about my quote mining. Given that the statement was in the “General” section, I thought that it was indicative of general mood of the report. My bad (god, I hate that expression).

    I’m so happy tp hear that you have been to Antarctica. Bravo for you. I’m all for the science that is being done there. But notice that there is absolutely no discussion of “colonizing” it.

    I’m also sure that you are right that there are many scientists willing to risk their lives for manned space missions. My point is that it is no longer cost effective. Even if robotic missions are not as fruitful, which I debate, so what. All we do then is make better robots. If they fail, so what? We simply try again with improved tools having learned from the mistakes.

    Please note that the greatest return we get from space missions already come from unmanned missions. Note the many communications, weather and earth mapping satellites.

    You are right, robotics does have its limitations today. But, at the risk of repeating myself, what about tomorrow? We have already come a long way. Witness the mars rovers, deep sea ROVs, Dexter, the Canadian robot on the ISS, etc., etc. Just imagine the development potentials if NASA invited private enterprise to bid on advanced robotic devices. We might even get to have a “robonaut”.

    All I am saying is that smart tools like robots are a natural extension of our bodies. Look at what we have already achieved with dumb tools that HAVE to be operated by a person. Our lives have been improved immeasurably. Now extend that to smart tools and the possibilities are astounding. Why, even medicine is using robots to do what doctors used to do. Every time we use a tool, we leverage our natural capabilities and so are able to do more and at less cost.

    The oil rig analogy is a good one and for the following reasons. 1) The manned operations are done from the surface of the ocean. 2) Divers notwithstanding, they are only used in shallow waters. 3) Really deep drilling is ALL done from the surface. The technology being used to solve problems down deep by sending tools down the bore hole are amazing.

    …John

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