#276: Geekout: Life in the solar system and beyond Transcript
00:00 We're back with another geek out episode. Richard Campbell, a developer and podcaster will also dive deep into science and tech topics is back for our second geek out episode. Last time we geeked out about the real science and progress around a moon base. This time it's why is there life on earth? Where could it be or have been in the solar system and beyond? In case you didn't catch the first geek out Episode 253. This one is more of a general science and tech episode, I love digging into the deep internals of all the tools of the Python space. But given all that's going on in the world, I thought it'd be fun to take a step back and just enjoy some fun geekery and give you all something to sit back and let your mind dream. This is talked by me Episode 276, recorded July 14 2020.
00:58 Welcome to talk Python to me, a weekly podcast on Python, the language, the libraries, the ecosystem, and the personalities. This is your host, Michael Kennedy, follow me on Twitter, where I'm at m Kennedy. Keep up with the show and listen to past episodes at talk python.fm and follow the show on Twitter via at talk Python. This episode is brought to you by brilliant org. And us. Here's an unexpected question for you. It was C sharp or dotnet developer getting into Python, do you work at a company that used to be a Microsoft shop, but is now finding their way over to the Python space. We built a Python course tailor made for you and your team. It's called Python for the dotnet developer. This 10 hour course takes all the features of C sharp and dotnet that you think you couldn't live without Entity Framework lambda expressions, ASP. net and so on. And it teaches you the Python equivalent for each and every one of those. This is definitely the fastest and clears path from C sharp to Python. Learn more at talk python.fm slash dotnet. That's talk Python, FM slash d o t n et Richard, welcome back to talk Python to me. Hey, man, it's great to be back. I'm flattered. You know, I generally don't have a guest back within a year unless something really special happened. So it was it only February the last time I was on. Yeah, it wasn't that. Let's see. Yeah, February. So it's only 100 years ago, right? Well, yeah. Everyone was extremely long ago. And yeah, it wasn't that long ago. Like on wall time. It was five months. Yeah. No suicidal time. The world. Everything has changed. Everything has changed. Yeah, it's astonishing. This is the longest stretch I've been home in 10 years. Yeah, maybe longer. Yeah. And certainly my wife would be the first one to tell you that
02:40 adjusting to having you permanently here so round. Oh, by the way out somewhere beat down that honey do list like it's nailed, but she's run out of things to keep me to do doing so. Yeah, our house is looking pretty taken care of as well. Like, what else gonna do you know, everybody's yards amazing. It's really something I'm super fortunate. I live in a great neighborhood where most of my neighbors at least one day a week all we all go out on our driveways and sip a glass of wine, you know, near sunset and chat a bit. So yeah, those types of things really are making a big difference for folks like, do that as well meet up with people, you know, sit outside and have a beer. Yeah, good. Something to connect with a broader community. It's funny how valuable that is. You don't think about it till it's a problem, Phil, it's a challenge. Yeah. Well, and you know, being developers, I suspect that we feel less disconnected than others. Yeah, I think you're right. Also, I you know, I work a lot in the IT space. And I realized it people not only were just busy, because there was so much to do. But you know, most of your work is crisis to crisis anyway. So this was just another crisis to process in some ways, I don't think they've actually dealt with the reality of the disruption of society, because the job is calling them and they're useful and important at this particular time. But yeah, technology's kind of saved our bacon on this pandemic. I think that not that we're anywhere near done. No, definitely not done. Definitely not in the US for sure. But yeah, I think we're pretty fortunate in the timing. But yeah, so five months ago, not that long ago, but again, quite a different time. So let's maybe start our whole story here by just summarizing what the geek out idea is, yeah. Previously, you were on talking about the moon base, right was the moon base geek out, where we just dove into this concept of a moon base and how people are going to get there, what it might be like and so on. So we're going to touch on something sort of similar but not not the same for sure this time around. But you've done many, many of these. How many of you say like, ah, or something? Yeah, I think we're ready to at right now and I haven't kind of stopped making them at the moment because I'm pouring most of my research energy into the book in the history of dotnet. And it's just you know, it's it's all it's it's way more consuming than I realized. Like I've been doing more interviews just this week, as I'm getting through the ball.
05:00 Have the work and really get into narratives and love seeing the holes. And then good news. Knowing enough people have said, I know who to fill this hole with. So I'm going in knocking down more interviews. So yeah, I've worked on that book for two years. And, and I hope I can get it done this year. But it's just been a lot. That's a big, definitely a big project. I know last time you were on, we talked about it. You see, I was killing me dance here still is? Well, and the other thing is, I promised myself that when I when the book is finally out of my head and on it and out in the world, I will stand the geek outs up as their own show that people love the topic. I love the material I think they deserve to be I mean, that's 100 hours or so of really interesting, deep research into stuff that most people are not talking about. Definitely not at that level. I think you're right. And if I have any particular talent, besides being just a good researcher said, I do adore the complexity of things, I find that a lot of science communication is oversimplified for my tastes anyway. And so getting into the more complex elements, and then being able to service them the way that still palatable, they actually enjoy. Hey, you know, this is why this is hard. Right away. You know, what we don't actually understand about these things. Well, that's a careful balance, you got to cover a Memory A Lot Of like science for non scientists, books. Mm hmm. Like fair mas theorem and other stuff that's been covered the the stuff the Large Hadron Collider, and, you know, some of those books, they're just dry. Yeah, some of them are like not realistic. They, they don't actually, you don't really feel like you've learned science on the other side. But there's a few clear ones that are like, do both, and they entertain, and they inform and it's amazing. Yeah, when you get it, right, it's really something. I also think that intersecting sciences to, you know, especially when you talk about a subject is tricky is life in the solar system. It's not just about astrobiology, or aerospace engineering, it's also a lot of other aspects of biology and physics that come into play, that is the composite of that knowledge. That really gives you a sense of what's possible in the solar system, much less beyond Yeah. And so you do these two podcasts, you do not dotnet rocks, and you do run as radio, yes. And in the dotnet, rock genre, every now and then, when you're not deep in a book, book authoring, you will go and do research into one of these areas. And you've been calling those geek outs. Yeah. And it really what it is, is I'm always doing the research, in a way, like my idea of a perfect Sunday morning is tearing through a couple of scientific papers in the topic areas that I care about, which are pretty broad based. And so I was always making notes. Anyway, it was Carl's idea to start to geek out. So it goes all the way back to 2011. And really, what a geek out means is me taking a cut of my understanding of a topic at the time, and making it into an hour long conversation. That's in the essence of what it is. So when it comes to life of other planets, I did do a geek out this in 2018. And so when we talked about doing a show on it, I went and looked at those notes, and I looked at the new stuff that I've been gathering that areas like so much has happened in the past two years. Like it's just astonishing how much the understanding of the way planets operate. And the way life can exist in just a couple of years. That just for a two year old show felt stale. Like it's crazy. It was at the time when the Cassini Cassini had already just been dormant and deorbited. The fall before I did that show in 2017. And they're still writing papers off Cassini data that they figured this 10 to 20 years of more writing off of what they gathered from that spacecraft. And so just those publications alone, sort of changed the way we think about where life could exist in the solar system. I think, maybe just, you know, understanding what is required for life is a good starting point as well, right? Because for so long, we thought, okay, we need liquid water, we need sunshine. The Goldilocks zone you hear talked about a lot. Yeah. But as we'll see going through it. That's not necessarily the case. Uh, one thing I was thinking is, are you surprised that we've not recreated life in a laboratory setting? Well, there's an argument that the way that we have are not because we're getting clever about our ability to combine things I ended up in prep for this conversation rereading a couple of Carl Sagan papers. And Sagan was very, I mean, he also created the set, you know, search for extraterrestrial life, right SETI as well as a whole bunch of other things. But he worked really hard on what would you do to detect life? And what you know, what would that even look like? and broaden our understanding of it. So one of the things that came out of an awful lot of that research was that the ingredients for life are pretty much everywhere. Yes. So now it's really about cooking technique. You know, how do you assemble them? What is the perfect mixture and so that whole idea, the Goldilocks zone is
10:00 This is the point at which a planetary size body orbiting a star can have liquid water on the surface, which was firmly but you know, at the time believed unnecessary requirement for life. And so as we started imaging planets around other stars, and there are different kinds of stars like, like brown dwarfs, like very dim stars, weird that Goldilocks zone is tremendously closer to the star, but that has other side effects. Like almost certainly, when you have close orbiting bodies like that, the body will end up being tidally locked. So you can imagine the effect that you'd have on the earth that was orbiting the star, but one side of the planet face the star all the time, that is one side is always lit and one side is always dark, that's going to cause some troubles. Right? The You know, there's some thing about just the tilt, that causes of winter and summer, it's super minor well, and yet, and I think incredibly important, it's when you start looking at the different bodies in the solar system, you see that it's only those small variation differences that that may be crucial. I would go a step further. This is like even more recent reading is that
11:07 are the continents essential to life, not that they're landmasses, but that they force warm water to circulate away from the equator and up towards the pole. So what we've known is the North Atlantic conflict, conveyor, is a pump system, essentially, that exists in the ocean where water is warmed in the Gulf of Mexico, and then is drawn up the eastern seaboard of the United States all the way to the Arctic, where the ice there drives that water down cools it, and that creates this pump, and the side effect of that is the North Atlantic is substantially warmer than it ought to be. And so it provides more rain and more heat to the northern latitudes into Europe, which makes them far more habitable. Yeah, Europe is super far north, much better than my conception of it, relative to other places. Sure. That's partly why right. And in fact, when the we have evidence now that in the round 15 1600s, that conveyor broke down to some degree, they called it the Little Ice Age that in Northern Europe where people were already leave it living winter got dramatically worse the canals of of the of Amsterdam froze. So you know, it makes a big difference and is part of the dynamics of what makes a habitable world where can life evolve in advance? There's a lot of different ingredients in there. Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's start our exploration of this whole idea with what I think of as the two classic thought problems or thought, thought experiments here. And that would be Fermi's paradox and Drake's equation, right. And so Enrico Fermi and father of the atomic bomb, you know, after after becoming in the destroyer of worlds, and then add to his credit than staying in the process to stop humanity from using them successfully, I might add so far, then came up with that whole, you know, his, his paradox was given that, that astronomy is showing us just how many stars there are, and how many galaxies there are. The inevitability that even if a tiny fraction of the planets that exist, can carry life, where are they because there should be lots of them? Yeah, it's just it didn't make no sense. And it was Frank Drake that went deeper into that as part of the gap, the original SETI gathering, where he started building this probabilistic formula, known as Drake's equation that sort of went down to how many stars have we got? What's the rate of new stars being made? how likely are they to have planets? How are they in the conditions to support life? Which is a you know, big factor of this? And then does life actually evolve? What's the likelihood that that's actually advanced intelligence and then can it communicate way we can detect and then how long that lasts as a society before it gathered right before society breaks down and the prey die out and whatever right.
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15:02 Or perhaps evolve away? You know, there's there's a group of thought that says that the actual purpose of the universe is like every other competent creature to make more of itself. And so one of the possibilities is that, that in the end, a successful universe is one that creates conditions whereby all advanced biological life can form become intelligent, developed technology that ultimately leads to being able to make their own universes, you know, which one of the ways you could answer Drake's equation and say, the reason we haven't heard from any other life forms is that the window between you developing technology and being able to make your universes a few thousand years, and then you're gone, you've moved on, why would you hang out in this universe, you can make your own right, you made your wormhole, you've got the perfect place you've designed. And I mean, you could look at it the same way as you when you climb out of the cave, or you climb out of the ocean. Like it's just the next logical evolution of an intelligence is to go make universes. Yeah. And the math of Drake's equation, you know, you think about the math when you do as you know, astrophysics, and astronomy, relativity, all that stuff is insanely complicated. We know so much more now. 90 6070 rights, that equation, we did not have a good count of stars and star formation we certainly do now, right? We know that roughly three solar masses worth of stars are formed in our galaxy alone, every year. So it might be one big star, it might be a bunch of little ones, but like it's a constant thing. We know that virtually every star we've ever looked at that we're able to see reasonably with our exoplanet systems has planets planets are super common, like everything less recent news, right? Yeah, that's in
16:44 there. So this is a certainty not a speculation, right? Because we've counting them or finding them. We're getting better at finding them. We're even getting better at finding ones in the Goldilocks zone. And likely Rocky, roughly one g worlds for you know, when our first sensors were being used to find exoplanets, we could only find hot Jupiter's stuff that's Jupiter size or bigger, orbiting very close to a star because our scent, we were not our senses weren't that good, right? We weren't able to measure the wobble and stars well enough to sense something small. So when he said something big, so one of the arguments was, yeah, there's lots of planets, but they're not good ones. But now as the sensors have gotten better, we are being able to say that rocky worlds seem to be pretty common to so every pardoning number, every maturing, estimate that we've got around Drake's equation points to more not last, until you get into this life part. What does it really take this support life? And then here's where our solar system suddenly is a great example, because we have other planets, some of which, you know, especially when you look at something like Venus, it ought to be life sustaining what's going on there. And again, in the past few years, our knowledge of that has expanded dramatically. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So Drake's equation is this interesting, basically, seven, or however many factors ways to speculate because the math is just independent probability times independent probability, right? out pops another number. And so let's try to put some concreteness around the speculation, I guess. Let's just look at here like we know there's life on Earth. You and I were talking, we're pretty sure we're not a simulation. We're not sure about that at all, but close enough.
18:27 You know, probability says that we're almost in a simulation. Yeah. Yeah. So let's just, you know, it's a little bit like you started off, right, like, we think that it was the sun, and the liquid water on the surface, and all of that, that turned out to be most important. But then people started going into the ocean. Yeah, and find volcanic vents. And that kind of broke, broke into the woods holes finds in the Galapagos is where they first found. They speculate again, you always have amazing people who can come up with an idea that hey, look like there's volcanoes. And there are an above ground volcanoes have vents. Why wouldn't underground volcanoes have vents? Why wouldn't it be vents everywhere. And so then they build a theorem around that and say, what we should be looking for warm spots in the deep water. And so then they build a sensor rain, drag it behind a ship, which they did in the Galapagos, which is why it goes very much like Hawaii in the sense that it's literally just a chain of islands made from volcanoes. And they found evidence of potential density leads in the late 70s to the Alvin submarine going down and they find clams in the bottom of the ocean like what the heck is going on here. They follow this trail of clams to a black smoker to a hydrothermal vent, spewing iron sulfites into the water and the water 700 degrees Fahrenheit like screaming hot and it's surrounded by life. Some of it is is like surface life like clams that have found a new ecological
20:00 nitsch living in the dark, surviving off of the the plankton that grows around that then some of it is unique to the area that tube worms and other strange critters, it's just like, here, which should have been nothing should have been a desert. The bottom of the ocean there is this wellspring of life in the absolute pitch black. But there are is chemical and thermal energy available. And right and that, you know, that sort of changed the math. It just said, Hey, as long as I have energy in the form of chemistry and air and heat, and still water, water may be the deniable one, the intractable one, you know that science fiction used to speculate around the idea of silicon life, I just read a great paper where it said,
20:46 you know, silly, we like silicon is potential life, because it's just one tear down on the periodic table below carbon, we know we have carbon based life, we are carbon based life. And so if you stay in the 14th column, you go down one, you get silicon, and it is also a 10 attari. atom, and it says it'll make for bonds, just like carbon well, but it doesn't make them anywhere near as well as carbon does. And so it probably doesn't work. And it would need if they get into this idea of carbon combined with water, and he really needs throw some nitrogen, they call it Shawn, right carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, you get those basic elements together, that's all of organic chemistry, more or less, and so and so the water, which might be optional, the good news is every bit of astronomy we've done shows, water is everywhere. Water is just, it's not even, it's not even and in fact, your amount of available water tells an awful lot about how your planets doing one way or the other. So water is pretty common. Carbon pretty common, like we're doing all right, in those respects. We could probably find life anywhere those things exist, right? And we found water in the craters on the moon, we found evidence at least of water. In Mars, there's Yeah, we're pretty sure this will actually a lot of water on Mars. Now we're just a little careful going to near because it's almost certainly life in it. And we don't want to accidentally destroy it. Yeah, that'll be amazing. You've got Venus, which has evidence of something flowing a lot on it. You look at Well, at one time, the ground Yeah, the Venus Express mission, which is still in orbit today. But it did a lot of the detailed map modern mapping of Venus. So it definitely shows ocean bases and things like that. It also shows over 100 large scale active volcanoes scattered around the planet. So you know, and there when a large I mean, like, big Hawaiian island, large, right? Manalo Monica, but 100 of them, like yeah, okay, so there's a reason why there's a lot of sulfur gas in the atmosphere of Venus, right. But one of the things that made they really dug into from there is they said, Well look, seeing that the gradients are so common, but clearly, Venus is like that anymore, right? Like surface of Venus is 90 times atmospheric pressure, it's 900 degrees Fahrenheit, their lead will melt on the spot. The toughest Soviet lander ever made of an arrow 11 lasted two hours on the surface before it broke down. Like it's not fun down there. But it doesn't look like it was always like that, that a billion years ago or so. Venus was Waterworld, that it had oceans, but something went wrong. Yeah. And the went wrong seems to be the magnetic field, the magnetic field of Venus was not strong enough to repel solar wind. In in the end solar winds, nothing magical. It's the byproduct of fusion of the Sun spews a constant stream of highly charged protons from the star all the time, and it hits everything all the time. And because it's highly charged, it's magnetically sensitive, so are very strong magnetic field on the earth, push it those protons away, actually. And if they're low enough energy, it'll capture them in the Van Allen belts, but the main part is that it doesn't get to the atmosphere, because when a high energy hydrogen atom shows up like that, it finds itself another hydrogen atom, they like to be in pairs. And so it'll rip a hydrogen atom out of the atmosphere in a big old hurry. The typical place it's going to get it from is a water molecule. So it'll yank a hydrogen on one of those high energy polar solar particles is going to grab a hydrogen atom off of a water molecule and head off into space. And the brine then you'll end up with a hydroxyl radical and Oh, ah, which is then going to try and combine with something else or maybe that other hydrogen will get ripped off as well. And then you have elemental oxygen. The elemental oxygen does not like being elemental. It finds a home. Yeah. And so it grabs whatever it can find. And in the case of Venus, it grabbed carbon atoms and turned Venus. Venus gradually lost more and more of its hydrogen. And all of that oxygen found homing in carbon and you had a ton of carbon dioxide until you
25:00 Get the atmosphere of Venus that you have now, which is incredibly dense as you said, Yeah, 90 times even though the size of Venus, the radii of the gravity of Venus is about the same. It's not like close Jupiter or something, say no. But yeah, it's, it's just turned into this hot, dry place. Yeah, but gravity is not the thing that protects an atmosphere, it appears it's the magnetic field that makes a difference. And pretty much the same thing has happened at Mars. It's just that Mars is further away, and it's smaller. Right, so only half the size of Earth right, we always think of Mars is close to Earth, Venus is way more related to Earth than Mars is. But Mars to was once a wet world, our detail maps from the Mars Odyssey and other mapping satellites has shown us where oceans ran, and, in fact, still seeing occasional bursts of water come up, bubble up onto the surface and roll down hillsides and then disappear again because of sublimation is the atmospheric pressure so low, but same thing happened, the hydrogen got stripped away, the oxygen found a home it made it carbon dioxide atmosphere granted a very weak one. It's also why the planets red because it bombed with all of the iron it could find and turn the planet red. But in both cases, it's the weak magnetic field that has been the big difference maker. For that planet. People mostly think of Mars as where as like the, the old earth or whatever, right long ago might have been like that, because Venus is so different with its temperature. But yeah, but they're both the same result. If you make a heavy duty carbon, dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, you get a runaway greenhouse effect. If you don't have enough mass to hold on to your atmosphere. Well, when the atmosphere is struggling, you get a dry desert like Mars. Yeah, but they were both likely wet worlds and quite possibly had life on them. Whether or not any of that has survived now seems unlikely. But in a NASA has been admitting that they want to be really, really careful around any native life on Mars. And the their protocols for putting stuff down on the surface of Mars to detect life are strict enough that they generally don't want to build spacecraft that way because they need to sterilize the spacecraft so thoroughly, that it's actually hard to make a spacecraft you need in order to really sterilize to kill bacteria that will survive the journey in space to Mars and reentry. You have to bake the spacecraft in incredibly high temperatures and most spacecraft don't survive the baking process. So, so far with the missions they've been sending to Mars, they stay away from areas that are likely to have life so they don't have to follow those steeper protocols. Right. And how certain Are you that a little tiny bed didn't get through? Right? Yeah, it's microbiology constant concern. Well, and a great example of this is the the Israeli Mars lander had tardigrades on it? The lander was supposed to do an experiment with tardigrades, what's often called water bears is these little microscopic critters that are insanely tolerant to harsh conditions are insanely tolerant to being tried out and being wet and brought back to life again, to our hard radiation conditions and so forth. So tardigrades are great, interesting things to experiment with? Well, the bedsheet lander didn't make it to the moon, it hit the moon, just with a little bit too much vigor. You can you could see a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter picture of where it landed. It's a big old splat. But there's also a conversation says starter grades probably survived, we have contaminated the moon with water bear. And that little tiny spot that spawns Yeah. Now I don't think they're gonna rise up and repel, you know, and attack us someday. But it speaks to the reality that when you get down to microscopic life, they're incredibly resilient. And our risk of contamination is really significant. And this gets into this really interesting ethical discussion around how do you look for life? If it's almost a process of looking destroys it? It's like, if you observe it, you may change it. Yeah. Better. You got like one shot to check his life here. Yeah. And how you check it, and then you want to study it over time, right. So the more we've learned about Mars with the more we've come to appreciate that there's very likely briny, liquid water under the surface, you know, one thing we have not done much of and all of our explorations of Venus and Mars and the moon and so forth, is really dug into the ground at all. And so you don't know what's going on a few feet down, you know, the earth itself, depending on where you dig transforms. Amazingly, as you dig down. You know, the first meter is one thing, the next 10 meters something else 100 is something else, again, the first kilometer again and so forth on down, we just don't know for sure. But as the models have gotten more coherent and reliable, it looks like there's briny liquid, you know, salty water, subsurface of Mars, and it almost certainly has bacterial scale life in it. And because the question is, is it worth constructing a mission to do that?
30:00 to actually test for that safely, which is very challenging to do to teach you exactly what other than to assert for sure. There's bacterial life on Mars. Right? And that would be interesting. But you know, how significant Is it very true, it'd be much more interesting to find creatures that move around in some way. Right? And so that brings us back to well, if it's actually the magnetic field that matters. Other places around here have magnetic fields as well. Right? Well, and part of what led us to that understanding, were the the Galileo and Cassini missions out to Jupiter and to Saturn respectively. Because there you've got an epic magnetic field. It's just not your the moon's field. It's this gas giants field. And there's no solar radiation getting that you get more radiation off of the host planet than you do from the sun. Once you get Yes, that's crazy radiation, right? Yeah, and so does Jupiter. And pretty much the same reason is you can press gas to that point, they talk about metallic hydrogen and things being down there, you create these electro magnetic fields, from the friction of everything moving around, that they're incredibly destructive, it certainly will kill any human that gets anywhere near but making real electronics that tolerate that you wonder why these space missions are so expensive. It's really tough to make hardware that can tolerate the radiation exposure that they get. And they don't orbit in neat, tidy orbits, the way you think about it from science fiction. And both Galileo and Cassini did orbits where they got a long way away from the gas giant on a regular basis to decrease their radiation load as well. It helped them also do maneuvers when you're at that far Apogee, when you're further away, it takes very little fuel to tweak your orbit and be able to make a close pass on a different moon. But it also it means that you have shorter bursts of time at higher speed in those strong radiation belts right went by them really quick, take your judgment and get out. But you know, speaking of detecting life, the GALILEO mission which was flew back in 89, outside out of a space shuttle back winch, a space shuttles operated and B, they were still launching satellites, which they stopped doing, because it finally clued into someone after that how dangerous it was to put a rocket engine inside of a space shuttle, full of fuel when you're going up. But what was cool, but many things are cool about the the GALILEO mission, its mission to Jupiter was great, but part of the way that it got to Jupiter is it actually did a slingshot maneuver off of Venus, and then another one off of the earth on its way out, which took it about six years. But it was Sagan remember him Carl Sagan, who said, Hey, can we craft an experiment for Galileo to detect life on earth? But given this limited sense of sensors that we're going to send to Jupiter, to go look at the moons and go to Europa and all those cool things like what would we do to actually detect life on earth? And so he was primarily using spectrographs. So he's imaging the atmosphere to read and say, What are the unique signatures in Earth's atmosphere that are life indicators? One of the points he made in this paper from 93 was that this atomic option, oxygen in the atmosphere, because oxygen doesn't like being on its own, it always is going to find some that combined with the only way you would measure atomic option, oxygen in an atmosphere is something is producing it constantly. And his argument was that is almost inevitably life. Like they really can't think of another model that is constantly producing oxygen. In our case, his plants, right plant life rose first in the form of algae's on the earth. And it's what pumped oxygen into our atmosphere that created these all these possibilities, right? Our ambient atmosphere was mostly nitrogen before that, it wasn't until plant life really got going. That we started having an adoption but he also indicated that me thing was an interesting indicator as well, in combination with oxygen. We think it's super simple. It's a carbon and for hydrogen atoms, it's it is created in space all the time. Right? cosmic gases form into methane. Write it regularly. And if you get lots of methane it's probably created that way. But methane does not exist in in amongst atomic oxygen very easily. So where it does exist, it means there's some kind of what they call method Genesis going on or something some process is making methane and it's probably life. And so you know, the most famous methane producer on the planet for most people are cows, right? Because they because they ferment their cut their grass, and a byproduct of that is methane, which they mostly burn out not the other way. But it is an interesting indicator, that mixture of atomic oxygen and methane is probably a really good measure of life. And the delicious part of this is one of the reason I bring it up in this story is
35:00 So he writes that in 93 makes that postulation. And years later, would find that exact mixture elsewhere. Well, we'll talk about that when we get there. Yeah, for sure. And especially, you know, the GALILEO mission was focused on Europa. Which is ice moon in orbit around Jupiter. Yeah. And we have all these moons around Jupiter, and Saturn. Yes, remember which, but it's like 20 to 80. Yeah, I think you're over 80 for Saturn alone now, because when you start sending spacecraft close enough to actually orbit, you know, the Voyager missions, were just flybys, they whizzed by Jupiter and Saturn, I saw a few things. But when, you know, Galileo orbited around Jupiter for years, and so found a lot of moons, as opposed to you know, ones that Galileo, Galileo a saw from a primitive telescope, you saw the first four. Yeah, but isn't it supposed to be cold out there? It is very cold. There's no two ways about it. And then that was the expectation, right? So we're gonna go see ice balls. And then when they actually imaged Europa, they found there were cracks in the ice. I mean, that makes no sense, right? Like, why would there be cracks in the ice, and only that wherever there was cracks, there was read, sort of a muddy read around. Well, here comes Sagan again. They eventually they were trying to figure out what it was. And they had this theory that it was a it was a chemical compound, and so they started making it on Earth. So take your your common cosmic gases, the stuff that naturally forms it, like methane and ethane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, those CT science compounds, all relatively simple compounds, carbon with a bit of hydrogen, nitrogen with a bit of hydrogen, that sort of thing, and then expose it to ultraviolet light and a few cosmic rays. And it changes it changes into a weird reddish substance that it's actually really tough to measure. For a long time. They called it star tar, which is good name, okay, but ultimately settled on photoline, which is derived from the Greek word for muddy, because it is kind of a sticky, muddy substance. And so the theory goes that you have these common compounds, and then they come to the surface and get irradiated. And then that radiation turns it into the sort of primitive compounds. And we've, since Europa was really the first time we saw thrulines, in substantial amounts all along the cracks in Europa's ice, and we've seen them elsewhere since then. So the model for what made Europa interesting then was this combination of a very strong magnetic field from Jupiter, also very strong title flexing so that the gravitational pull of Jupiter is so strong, it flexes Rue Europa regularly, which keeps the core of Europa warm. And so the estimates now is that there's 100 kilometer deep liquid ocean underneath the ice of Europa.
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38:37 And that flexing has got to be causing some volcanic like behaviors they call cryo volcanoes, right that you get these bursts of of warm water above freezing water that bubbles onto the surface carrying these simple compounds here methane and ethane and ammonia and so forth onto the surface where it gets irradiated by the sun and turns into felons. Yeah, I would point out that Arthur C. Clarke, who To this day I am still convinced is actually a time traveler and didn't die but rather what home who predicted geostationary satellites 20 years before anybody could fly them also wrote in the book 2010 is sequel to 2001 A Space Odyssey that you know, the star people said all these worlds are your save Europa attempt, no landing there. And the first time we get a good look at Europa, it looks like there's something there.
39:27 Yeah, that's insane. That was such a rate imaginitive story. And wow, I didn't realize that part, though. I remember when the paper when this stuff came, the reports came out. I looked at it was like, How How did he know?
39:42 He keeps being right. It's crazy. And that is totally crazy. totally crazy. Yeah. I would love to see us go. Go there. Even with that warning, maybe I don't know. The problem is once you go there, the clock is ticking for at least very small microbiotic
40:00 Well, there are mission proposals like this thing called Jupiter Express where they want to put a lander down on the ice close to one of those cracks. They want to melt their way through the ice and drop a submarine down yeah, and motor around their space heater, you're gonna need right at Radio thermal generator, which generally what they use out there anyway, because there's not enough sunlight to really make solar work. And most of those rtgs generate four to one heat to electricity. So your typical RTG, like the one that's on the Curiosity rover on Mars, is generally 100 watts of electricity, and 400 watts of thermal of heat, so you could get a big one, and put it down on that ice. And it's not only making electricity, so it's still able communicate to the surface, but it's also generating enough heat that instead of you trying to dissipate it, you're actually pumping it into the ice to melt your way through it. Yeah. Now you get into question like, knowing what we know now that this almost certainly liquid water on there, and it's caused by these tidal effects. That which means there's cracks in that core. If it's warm enough, maybe this hydrothermal vents down there and knowing what we find in our hydrothermal vents. We find in there, hydrothermal vents. Yeah, it's exciting. It's absolutely exciting. Mm hmm. Another place that's in this kind of realm is Saturn and its moons. Mm hmm. So you know, the GALILEO mission was the late 80s, early 90s. Cassini was one of the last of what they called the great observatories, they built these huge spacecraft. They don't build them this big anymore. He said he was a tank and arguably arguably one of the largest explorer spacecraft ever built. There's literally the size and weight of a large school bus of a full size box, right, you know, almost six metric tons. Wow. That's like four cars or three cars. Yeah, a huge machine and left in the late 90s got to Saturn in 2004 operated for 13 years. It was originally planned for three year mission, but they kept extending it. And in fact, they intentionally deorbited it because what they found in the moon system of Saturn was so profound that they weren't willing to take a chance that Cassini might accidentally crash into one of the moons when they lost control of it when it ran out of fuel. And so instead, they intentionally deorbited it into Saturn's atmosphere. And it sent data right up until it lost control had enough of the atmosphere that started to spin. But the story of Saturn's at the exploration the main course the big one was the see Titan. And Titan is the largest moon in the souls of Titan is larger than Mercury, you know, a B planet, except that it happens to be orbiting a gas giant. And the Voyager missions had imaged it well enough that they knew it had it was completely clouded over credibly dense atmosphere on it. And so they had a lander on the Cassini mission called the Huygens probe to land on the surface of Titan. And what it found this great video, they composed of all of the photographs of that the Huygens probe toe as it descended by parachute, down to the surface, it looks like a wet world. The problem is, it is extraordinarily cold, I guess it's that negative 209 degrees Fahrenheit in the surface. So like, bring a jacket, right? It's cold. And so the atmosphere is almost entirely nitrogen, with traces of ethane and methane. And in fact, there's Ethan and may think clouds that rain onto the surface and cause erosion. And there are lakes, bodies of liquid on the surface of Titan, it's just they happen to be the liquid methane, oxygen, it's cold enough that oxygen is frozen solid there. So you would be able to mine oxygen, if you get there and the atmosphere, the pressure on the surface there is about 10 times sea level charge. 10 bar is the atmosphere is thicker, it's very thick. And again, it's decent size, not a huge thing, but it's big enough, but you see gravity's low enough in your atmosphere stick enough that if you could get a warm enough coat and a respirator so you could breathe, you could probably strap a couple of wings onto your arms and fly. Just flap it'd be enough you've got enough atmosphere to push against and a low enough gravity you could probably fly around tight. Wow, that would be insane. It'd be like kind of like swimming. But yeah, in the whole sky. The problem is that that level of cold everything is brittle and hard. And yeah, it would be very challenging to function there but it is if you were picking candidates for places that humans could live that's one of them. We just have to solve certain challenge you know, non trivial problems. But they atmosphere is thick. Is there life there? It's awfully cold. The water there is water. Absolutely water ice, but it will be like rock so intensely hard. Yeah, so maybe, maybe not. Who knows. But that was the you know what their plan for Cassini was obviously to drop the Huygens probe on on Titan because this amazing moon but they were generally going to image all the moons they wanted to find some Europa and so forth. And it was the sedulous stole the show. Yeah, absolutely.
45:00 Instead of this is the sixth largest moon of Saturn, so it wasn't high on the rank they expected it. Well, the only thing it was interesting about it satellites going in with Cassini was it had the highest albedo of any moon. So it was incredibly white, very reflective. So it was expected that it was gradually white because it was a nice ball, it was just covered in ice. And so it reflected a lot of light. And so, after a few orbits in from the initial mission, one of those orbits was going to get close enough to unsettle us It almost as an afterthought, like I would just snap a couple of pictures of the satellites, like they weren't planning on doing anything substantial and sedulous. And then one of those pictures when they got it back, there was a cryo geyser erupting on the southern half of unsettled us. And it was visible in the photograph, right? It was they were somehow between the like the sun, and then instead of instead of this, and then the spaceship, right, so they caught it in the light, they caught it in the light, they could see the cry, and it again, totally unexpected. And to NASA's credit, they rewrote the mission at that point.
45:58 They just read it. Okay, that's now an important body. Let's figure out how we do more passes on it. Let's it's active. Now. We need to see this thing now. And so while they still map, the tremendous number of moons for Saturn is over 80 now and they got pictures of all the other bodies and some great and learn more about the rings that figured out that there's a cloud formation on the north and south poles that is hexagonal like they've learned astonishing things about about Saturn. Yeah, but they really studied the heck out of unsettle us to the point where they decided whether they're getting towards the the most extended parts of Cassini's mission, they were going to take a chance and they made a pass, pass the South Pole of Cassini and sedulous within 12 kilometers and ended up flying through a glide geyser pool and to the point that the spacecraft almost lost control and spawn out. they genuinely that thing got splattered with that crowd geyser they took an incredible chance with this machine. They hit like a hose type of thing. Yeah. thousand miles an hour or something right? I mean, that's crazy. You know, when you're bombing down the highway and the guy in front of you washes windshields and it lands on yours that in a billion dollar six metric tons spacecraft 100 and 20 million kilometers away from a pitstop, but the byproduct is that they caught some of that material and they measured it and you know what they found? Well, I'm a hydrogen and methane. Oh, how interesting the same stuff that we've measured with the Galileo spacecraft like in the right ratios where it's like something biological could have made this and that is just it you know, from a what they thought was an icy ball. It was an interesting too. We have measured unstable compounds in the effluent of this moon that indicate something down there is producing and lots of water right? Well, there's a lot Yes, certainly plenty of water and briny water, salty water and a bunch of other hydroxyl that are like compounds, again, unstable compounds. But that experiment that Sagan had done 20 years before with the Galileo spacecraft, and that piece of research is sort of mapped neatly on to the dataset they got back from Cassini is fly through with the subtlest, cryo volcano, cryo geyser, and it just sort of hit you. You sit back in your seat go, what did we found? Look? What do we know now? And of course, there's colons all over and subtlest. To me, this looks like our best hope. Honestly, if you could go down the water and find creatures in the water. This looks like a good option to go down and check out Yeah, I mean, it's a long way to go. But it definitely worth doing another another concept around a melting mission rather than Europa to do to unsettle us a little bit further, because you're going up to Saturn, smaller ball, and certainly active, right. So they mean, one of the challenges you have is like we can see all the evidence of potential life on Mars, but it's traces from the past, there may still be some hanging on in a subsurface sea. But this is way more active. It's just a long way away, right? Would you would find it in Mars is probably just biological, as you already said, right? Where's this mean? There could be something like a whale down there. Who knows? I would hope for like a barnacle, dude, right, the idea of a filter feeder. That means that ecosystem exists where there's microscopic life that eats other really small life that ultimately gets to a film like that would be astonishing. The most, you know, the higher probability is a slime mold, but you know, okay, life. And yeah, but what's interesting is seeing that this theme happens over and over again that when you have a combination of strong magnetic field that protects the atmosphere from solar stripping, and you have some heat in the form of tidal forces or core heating, and you have liquid water, also generated by those things. You have these elements come together.
50:00 Again, that shows the precursors to life, the art at least, or the evidence of a relatively simple life. Yeah. Well, really quickly. I know you guys had Ron Connery, Robert Murray on your show. Yeah, he had written an interesting book called The Curious moon, which is like a learn Postgres database. Yes. But his sample data was NASA's in satellite data. And what's lovely about that is not only is it super real, and so forth, and it's a fun book, and I actually helped him edit it. I was one of the early readers on it as well, and we argued vociferously about it. But it is a really a good teaching tool. But you know, NASA publishes absolutely everything they gather, it's part of their basic policies. And so including that data is the fact that they actually changed the data structure halfway through the research, when they went to the second phase of the like, I like to say define, I'm gonna shoot this data, farmers have all those problems. And I know Rob is a friend, and I think his book is brilliant. And we all should own a VM with anyone who wants to learn Postgres. Like there's no nicer way. And you'll work at this story. He tells his if you know, fictionalized story based on real data is delightful, like just a really a fun thing. But that's cool. I definitely check it out. Yeah, I totally encourage you. So what we've covered so far, was on my radar, these are things that I at least knew about, I knew about right, the geyser, you know, you look at Venus, and it obviously has what looks like, you know, Grand Canyon type of structures and, and whatnot. But it turns out, if you look farther, there's still interesting stuff out there that was not on my radar well, and I'll skip over the other two gas giants Neptune and Uranus, for no other reason, then we just don't have good data. We've never been if you had a Cassini class mission out there, there's a big pitch right now, to send a major mission to Neptune, it would still take a decade plus to get there. But we happen to be recording this almost right on the five year anniversary of New Horizons getting to Pluto. And, you know, New Horizons a very unusual mission there. Pluto is a weird orbit, it was only discovered in 1930. It does not orbit on the ecliptic plane of all the other planets. It's tilted. It also crosses into Neptune's orbit then passes back out. And in fact it when they were proposing the New Horizons mission, what they're saying was like, Listen, we're at a point right now where we can get a couple of good gravity slingshots and get something there in a reasonable length of time, right in 10 years or so. And if we don't do it now, we won't be able to for like 50 years. Wow. And so they got a budget. And it's a relatively It was a quite a small spacecraft about the size of a piano. And I mean, like a baby grand piano within it's actually triangular shape. And it was actually the fastest moving vehicle we ever made. It did a direct ascent to Earth escape. Like generally, you put something in orbit around the Earth before you fire another engine and fly it and fly it off to Mars or Jupiter or anything like that. They did not do that with new horizons. It was in an atlas five, it was overpowered and it just shot as fast as it could to do a slingshot off of Jupiter to get to Pluto. And it got there in 2015. I mean, Pluto at that point was a dwarf considered a dwarf planet. And it was supposed to be an ice ball. It's out in the middle of nowhere. And the first photos that came back from New Horizons, there was a heart shaped patch of red, huge on the size of a side of Pluto. It's all phones. And wow. And it's this muddy stuff that you talked about. Yeah, it's all it's doesn't cover the whole thing. It means very cold on Pluto. Make no mistake, right? It's a very chilly place. water ice is like rock. There are glaciers of methane and liquid and nitrogen it may even snow nitrogen there times, because it does have this oscillation in its orbit that it gets closer to the sun when it's inside the orbit of Neptune and then gets colder as it was further away. But you wouldn't it had more texture and structure, young structures on it, you know, maybe less than 100 million years old. That indicated activity, a trans Neptunian algae looks something so far, far away. And so again, it just sort of shook us up to this idea that the ingredients for life tend to exist anywhere enough of it can gather to coalesce into its structure. The after it made the flyby of Pluto, as it was moving off faster was only in close to Pluto for a few days, they were able to do some tweaks to maneuver to make a flyby of one other trans Neptunian object, which they've subsequently named ultimate to lay, which actually two rocks sort of sticking together. But it looks like it's entirely covered in felons. Oh, wow, the whole thing is red. Wow, how cool. Yeah. So you know, the byproduct of this is just this repeated kind of indication that these things keep happening. The chemistry is always there. Which brings up the issue question, which is why are there no phones on her? Hey, you think other than the thoughts we've made ourselves and then the main reason is elemental oxygen. As soon as you introduce elemental oxygen, it is going to rip apart all those stolen compounds. Alright, it just wants to extract
55:00 Oxygen is greedy, right? Oxygen always finds a way to grab, you know, it'll you mix oxygen in with ammonia and you get nicer monoxide and water. Right? You know, oxygen always gets in there. So it's I think what we see in the stolens are these early stages of life. And then it has it advances they get destroyed to become resources as auctions and introduced active auctions introduced to the system, right. So there's a lot of possibilities a lot of places where this could be a lot of it is not obvious it's underground, or it's it's something but especially those moons that sound really, really interesting to me. Yeah. And definitely a lot of energy around Can we make a mission? another mission to unsettle us? and land on unsettle us? Yeah, maybe not actually bore through the ice the first try the chances, you know, I know they're doing experiments now in places like Antarctica to see can we actually melt through the ice kilometers? Because we don't have good enough measurements right now. Maybe we start with an orbiter. The problem is the flight times are a decade, like you pretty much commit to a lifetime. So it takes you five to 10 years to build a mission. 10 years to get there and 10 years to operate it. That's career. Yeah, that's just insane that the timescales need to work on and I will probably be coming back to that for a second here. But I think one of the things that's happening recently, that's pretty interesting is what do we do if we want to have people go to other places, yeah, to what we talked about, so far, as you know, is their life around, you know, black smokers or some other potential thing I was there previously life on Venus. But there's some really wild ideas like maybe we could live on Venus, even though it's 90 times atmospheric pressure, and it's 900 degrees and whatnot. So there's a spot on Venus, that is almost one G.
56:50 And it's one atmosphere of pressure. And it's 50 kilometers off the surface. So it's above the for the most part above the sulfuric acid clouds. Good. Although we can make sulfuric acid repellent materials. It has a ton of solar power about 40% more than Earth and its atmosphere so dense that you could put a balloon filled with Nitrox, with breathable air in there big enough that you could build a town in it. And it would simply sit on, it would float on the atmosphere at that altitude to cover the top of it and solar panels, it says is at one atmospheric pressure. If you get a hole in it, it's not like the air rushes out. In fact, you probably make your sphere just slightly higher pressure. So you, you tend not to have the carbon dioxide come in which you had the atmosphere come up, but you could easily stitch it back up again. Yeah, there was a concept mission developed called habit, the high altitude Venus operational concept, using essentially blimps and rockets to go and explore it that altitude around Venus. But one of the most interesting realizations was that the atmosphere composition at that level has lots of carbon and oxygen and even some hydrogen still, there's still some water vapor at that level, lots of nitrogen, sulfur, that and it's all in gaseous form. So if you want to live off the land, if you want to do in situ resource utilization, you just need a gas pump, you just pump the gases from the air in. And then you typically what you do is you chill it because each one of those compounds turns to liquid at different temperatures. So you literally are doing cryo fractionation. And you separate out each of the fluids into the respective elements. And then you use them in chemistry. You want to make breathable air, no problem, right? You need to make some carbon structures bad we got those no problem like the all of the compounds, you need to take care of a lot of your consumables there there. It's just a you're building a Cloud City, which is weird, like that's straight science fiction stuff, until you understand how dense that is straight out of science fiction. Yeah, except the atmosphere is so dense, you don't have a buoyancy component. Your breathable air is buoyant. And it's the only place where you'd be able to go outside without a pressure suit. Now, you'd still be wearing something because there's droplets of sulfuric acid, but turns out Teflon repel sulfuric acid just fine. So imagine wearing a body suit, Teflon coated helmet on, you've got a respirator, but you're not under pressure. You're not you're not inside a balloon like you are in a spacesuit. So you can move very freely. It's going to be very bright. You have enough radiation protection, because the there's enough magnetic field and is enough atmosphere to protect you there. So it's unique outside of the earth. One g one bar pressure, sufficient radiation protection, ton of solar power and some resources. Yeah. And eventually you could build out the infrastructure to have enough resources to at least keep yourself in water and air. Yeah, it's more compelling than it ought to be. That is such an insane idea, but it sounds actually better than living on the moon or living on Mars. Well, because the moons always going to be almost, I mean, not quite a camping trip, but definitely an outpost. It's always going to need supplies. Yeah. But you know an Elan is keen to get to Mars.
01:00:00 Because buyers, everybody can relate to Mars, you can see its surface, it sort of has an environment to it. We've made movies about it. But the radiation protection on Mars is simply not adequate. So, you know, all of those cartoony science fictiony we're going to build a city on Mars is not likely will more likely build underground. There has been enough volcanic activity over the millennia on Mars that there are significant lava tubes. So the pre formed tunnels that you can put a pressurized habitat into, you're always gonna have to wear a pressure chute. The atmosphere is simply not strong enough, it's less than 1%. So you're going to have all the spacesuit problems, which is not trivial. When you get to that low pressure environment. You have huge electrostatic problems. You have the perchlorates, which are an iodine compound that we find in very desert areas in the earth as well. The Atacama Desert in Peru has has perchlorates but perchlorates are everywhere on Mars. And they're quite bad for humans. They're quite a nasty contaminant. They have to be chemically processed out, which is not energy cheap, right? energy's expensive out there, you're far from the sun. Yeah, solar panels are not great there, we make them work on golf cart size machines. But as soon as you get any bigger than that, like the Curiosity rover is about the size of a mini, and it just couldn't be solar powered, the solar cell panels would be too large. So it has a RTG a radio thermal generator on it. If we're actually going to put humans on Mars, we're going to need nuclear power of some form. It's a bunch of interesting technologies around that, that'll make it feasible. That tap this the amount of solar required the dust problems, the electrostatic problems, it's just not efficient, it's even hard to make solar work on the moon for the same reason. And you get a lot more solar power on the moon than you do on Mars. But you're still talking less than a kilowatt per square meter on the moon, and you're talking half that on Mars and maintenance. It's just not enough power. So you know, they are though you get double at Venus, so you have more options there and you don't have the atmospheric problems. You still going to need to do some maintenance because they are they're gonna have to resist sulfuric acid and things like that, but it certainly has more possibility heat will be a challenge. But none of these planets is going to be if Ilan built it. If he built this starship, would you go? Oh, yeah, but I'd want to come back. I'll take a ride for sure. You know, I don't have the money for the current generation of space explorers. But you know the side effect of when starship works it's not gonna be the trip to Mars is going to be interesting. It's going to be orbital hotels. Yeah, because they suddenly get way more feasible now it's like I could buy a house or spend a week or two in orbit and that's Yes, I'd be tempted you know got a house raised my kids I'm happy to spend their inheritance at this point would be like a really different cruise yeah really extraordinary cruise in very very expensive but you know, this may well be coming in our lifetime. Especially I mean, it star starship is going to take longer than Ilan plans, but then everything Ilan plans take longer than Ilan plans. But his design seems essentially sound. And if he has 100% reusable spacecraft so that we're only paying for fuel. Now we're talking pennies a kilo into orbit instead of hundreds of human he's gotten full. Even Falcon nine is below $2,000 a kilo or bit which is astonishing. Like it's a great it's a revelation. It is literally an order of magnitude improvement. Yeah, but starship would be three more orders of magnitude, like down 20 cents. Akilah like that. That is insane. You're in the ballpark. So if anyone's gonna do it, that guy's gonna do it. He's got Well, don't come Bezos out. The only reason you know, Ilan is a showman for a reason he needs money. Now he's mostly showing off to his billionaire friends, right? It's Sergei and Larry that are funding him a lot of the time. But Jeff doesn't need the money, which is why he sort of keeps it to himself. Yeah. Well, I think we may get surprised by him that new Glenn is further along than we realize. And that is one heck of a rocket design. And it'll obviously be different than what's known because he keeps itself close to the chest. But his mission is not to put humans on Mars. He's much more in the O'Neill cylinder category. He he'd like to build habit, learn how to mine asteroids, build structures in space, and build one g habitats, gravity wells are dumb. Like, why would you go back down into a gravity well and make it expensive, flying around. When I can hollow out an astronaut asteroid could put some artificial light in the center of it, spin it up so that you have one G and fill it full of people and wildlife and resources. And anytime you want to go back into space, you take an elevator to the center where there's no gravity again and out to the tune a non rotating rim where you can hop in a spacecraft and take off now that's a tremendous amount of technology that's probably decade's worth of work.
01:05:00 But it starts with being able to get into orbit cheaply. Yeah, absolutely does. How interesting. Alright, let's wrap this up. We're getting short on time. Sure, bring it back to the beginning. So we talked about Drake's equation, which puts a bunch of probabilities together. Almost any nonzero number you put in there, knowing how many stars are in a galaxy, and how many galaxies that are right shoot done in a tremendous number of potential habitable places with life forms. And yet, there's Barry's paradox. Yeah, where are they? Where are they? I mean, we're finding all these exoplanets. What do you think? What is your gut feeling here? I think that the ingredients for life are super common. But the conditions the ingredient for life are super common. But the conditions are more challenging. How do we get a planet with a strong magnetic field. So it has an oversized moon, which, you know, these days, we talk more and more about the chemistry of the moon's lower core, that it's not just the nickel iron that's compressed in the center, but also that there are tendrils of spirals of sulfur coming out of them that help amplify that magnetic field. So it made it the only particular windows of time in the evolution of a planet where it actually makes it magnetic field strong enough to really defend its atmosphere. And hopefully, it has enough atmosphere to defend at that point. But then also is cooled down enough that the floating pieces of land that created land masses don't float so freely, there's just one big landmass you have a homogeneous life on it, but rather start to stick to each other and break apart and become and create plate tectonics that then distribute, create these currents that level out the atmospheric and weather patterns and all that right, but also create conditions for rapid evolution. What happens when you fragment the landmass up is you create micro environments for evolution. You know, we wouldn't have kangaroos and all of those weird monotremes, if not for the isolation that is Australia. And so how do you create conditions where different things can evolve and then encounter themselves later. And I think continental drift is important part of it. So you need a planet that is hot enough and energetic enough that it's making a strong enough Matic field, but cool enough, that it's plate tectonics are exist in a fracturing land to create that petri dish of evolution, like now you're starting to get into tougher numbers. Yes, and then, and then throw into that little indicator, I threw it in the beginning, which is when you finally evolve a tool building life that starts developing technology, and they go up that hockey stick of technological advancement, how long before they wink out of existence, as far as we're concerned, either by destroying themselves or by evolving beyond this universe? Yeah. And the other thing that comes back from me all the time is you talked about, let's just go visit. What was it Pluto? If we do it at the right time, it'll only take 10 years of flight time. If we do the wrong time, it'll take 50 years of flight time, or networks just within the solar. Yeah, space is so big that I think it breaks our conception, like, Oh, yeah, there's a billion of them over there. But they happen to be so far away that it's inconceivably far, there's no, the thought of going there doesn't make sense, like generations won't, you know, how many generations Do you need to get there, but let me throw you a wrench into those numbers for you. We use chemical rockets right now, where they which burn out very brightly, very briefly.
01:08:35 There are better rocket engines. And not that I know that we have the answer this, but we have a few good ideas about better engines, nuclear engines being one example of it. But imagine, at the right period, right? This is certain moments where it makes sense to fly between the Earth and Mars. So I pick the right moment to fly between Earth and Mars. But I have a very special spacecraft. I have a spacecraft that can accelerate at exactly one G. Okay, so it's like normal Earth gravity, the engine runs continuously. So I'm going to burn continuously at one g of acceleration towards Mars. So we get about halfway, then I'm going to turn around and I'm going to burn at one G to decelerate so that we arrive at Mars. How long did it take me to go from the Earth to Mars at one gf continuous acceleration, deceleration when g Yeah. Because it take now is for four to six months, depending on a bunch of factors. I don't need you to do the math for and I'll just tell you, I think I'm gonna say one month, it's three days. Okay, so this is the so you can imagine if we could send cheese, it'll be a day and a half. Given we can put smart people in space and create incentives to actually fly between bodies on a routine basis. We can make better engines we can make the solar system far more approachable. We have not needed to every engine we've ever flown in space we built on earth and first it had to survive being put into orbit and then operated when we start building via
01:10:00 vehicles in space for space, they will be very different. And they will have new capabilities, we will learn to do things with the different resources we have available to you. We build spacecraft out of aluminum because we have to lift them into orbit. It makes no sense to do that. Once you're in weakest metal that melts easily. Yeah, it's as a whole ton of problems. And and it's not that common, you know, what would be easier to find? nickel iron, they make asteroids out of the stuff. You know, maybe a true spacecraft built in space will be made from a nickel iron Hall. It'll be heavier, but it won't matter. You know, we're not there yet. We're still starting to get the ingredients to start thinking in terms of more powerful engines and vehicles built for interplanetary flight. We can do much better. We just haven't needed to yet. We will. But we were not there yet. Well, I think we probably will here right? I mean, 400 years ago, we used wind and sails on the water. Yeah. And still, we coveted rare, rare kinds of woods like iron wood from the Indies. You know, for mass like they, you know, one of the claims to fame for the Americans was their American oak made incredible holes that we came up with a technique thing that they built the constitution with old iron sights. Well, there's no iron on the old iron sights. It's wood. Like there is abilities as you start functioning that space to get better at it. We just never done it because we have not had people building in space yet. The moment we do, things will happen. Yeah, well, that sounds very exciting. It's been really fun to explore this whole idea of, you know, life, the universe. Where is it? Where could it be and beyond so yeah, Richard, thanks for coming back on the show. Oh, my pleasure friend. I will do this with you anytime you like it's it's an excuse for me to sit down and update all that research, right to say okay, all the notes I've taken over the past couple of years since the last time we sort of dug into this. What have we learned and I'm always in I come out of it always excited like I can't believe I've learned in this short amount. If you just stop and take in everything that's going on. It's such an exciting time. It is the civilization is that is doing amazing things right now. We have non trivial challenges and we could have spoken for an hour on Coronavirus. I don't let anybody want to listen to it. But we could have because again, we are doing remarkable things there as well. Some less remarkable also. But it's never been a bad time to be alive. It doesn't feel like it's at times, but truly, we're at the height of our civilization right now. I agree. I think the there's some rough times, but I think there are bumps in the road well and so much more to do. Like if you thought we've Yeah, okay. We've done everything. We're good. No, explore to do not even close. All right. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. It's great to chat with you. All. You bet, brother. Thank you. Yep. Bye.
01:12:49 This has been another episode of talk Python. To me. Our guest on this episode was Richard Campbell. And it's been brought to you by brilliant org and us over at talk Python training. brilliant.org encourages you to level up your analytical skills and knowledge, visit talk python.fm slash brilliant and get brilliant premium to learn something new every day. Wanting to level up your Python. If you're just getting started, try my Python jumpstart by building 10 apps course. Or if you're looking for something more advanced, check out our new async course the digs into all the different types of async programming you can do in Python. And of course, if you're interested in more than one of these, be sure to check out our everything bundle. It's like a subscription that never expires. Be sure to subscribe to the show, open your favorite pod catcher and search for Python we should be right at the top. You can also find the iTunes feed at slash iTunes. The Google Play feed is slash play in the direct RSS feed at slash RSS on talk python.fm. This is your host Michael Kennedy. Thanks so much for listening. I really appreciate it. Get out there and write some Python code