How to unplug when you should

Do you obsessively fiddle with your phone all the time? Win back some mental space with these tips – Michael Duran, Wired

I see many articles like this. They all recommend similar steps. Don’t put your phone in your pocket, keep it in your desk where you have to make some effort to get it. Go a couple of days without connectivity.

These tips are not helpful. Keeping my phone out of reach would create more problems than it’s worth, because it’s a legitimate inconvenience when my phone is out of reach. The problem is that I fiddle with the phone at times when I should be doing something else. THAT’S what I’m looking to control.

Going a few days without connectivity is like going without electricity. It’s doable. People call that “camping.” And it’s good for you. But it’s kind of a big deal. Not to be entered into casually.

One tip that is helpful: Turn off nearly all your notifications. You do NOT want to be notified when you get new email, a mention or comment on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You just don’t.

Peek inside NASA’s simulated Martian house

NASA built a dome on the isolated slopes of a Hawaiian volcano, where six people lived on a simulated Mars mission for a year. They wore space suits when they went out. Inside, they enjoyed six bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, pantry, science lab, solar power, preserved food, and an Internet connection with a 20-minute delay (just like on Mars). The dome even has a TARDIS, though it’s out of order.

Nadia Drake, National Geographic

Taylor Rose Nations was one of about 1,000 people selected as a finalist for Mars One, a planned real life Martian colony

Pasted_Image_4_24_16__1_39_PM“To turn around and see Earth is a lifelong dream, and not something I ever thought was going to happen in a million years,” she tells the Love + Radio podcast: Hostile Planet

Nations was previously turned down for “The Bachelor.”

We think of certain events as profoundly life-altering. Getting married or emigrating to a new country, say. But you can always get divorced, and you can almost always move back. Taylor is weighing a life decision from which there would be no turning back.

She apparently didn’t make it to the final round for Mars One.

The final frontier

Stephen Hawking and a Russian billionaire want to build a tiny interstellar starship

“Breakthrough Starshot,” announced Tuesday by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner in conjunction with Stephen Hawking, is a $100 million program to lay the groundwork for interstellar travel. The first step is building light-propelled “nanocraft” that can travel up to 20% of the speed of light, reaching Pluto at that speed in three days an the nearest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri, in 20 years.

Maddie Stone, Gizmodo:

The technology behind the billionaire’s ambitious proposal—of which prototypes were revealed today—includes a “Starchip,” a gram scale wafer carrying cameras, photon thrusters, power supply, navigation, and communication equipment. Propelling that miniature science laboratory is a “Lightsail,” a meter-sized sail that’s only a few hundred atoms thick and weighs a couple of grams. The light sail will be launched away from the Earth by a phased array of lasers, which Milner envisions carrying a combined power of over 100 Gigawatts, similar to the power needed to lift the Space Shuttle off Earth.

By directing that much energy at an object weighing just a few grams, we can theoretically accelerate said object up to 100,000,000 miles per hour—a thousand times faster than the fastest spacecraft today. The idea is to launch a small fleet of craft toward Alpha Centauri, allowing us to perform many, many New Horizon-like flybys of our nearest neighbor’s potentially habitable real-estate.

The EmDrive, a space drive that supposedly runs on background radiation, is getting peer review

The drive supposedly gets its propulsive power by absorbing microwaves. If it works, it would revolutionize space travel and open up the Solar System to exploitation and colonization.

Of course it’s bullshit. If things seem to violate the laws of physics, it’s because they do.

But what if it’s not bullshit?

The gist of EmDrive is that it’s an engine that appears to gain intense amounts of propulsion via ambient microwave energy. Supposedly, this could make for spaceships that can gain speed without propellant in the vacuum of space. If it’s true, then this technology would be a revolution in space—a way to drastically cut down on the mass of spaceships and keep them going by producing continuous thrust, bringing long voyages closer to reality.

In reality, of course, the EmDrive has always been dubious at best. A tenuous connection to NASA has made the idea sound more plausible, but it isn’t. People get starry eyed at the idea of a low-power microwave drive that could propel humanity to the stars and forget the cardinal rule of technology: that if something seems to violate the law of physics, then there’s probably something wrong with the analysis, not the physics.

[Report: The EmDrive Finally Will Undergo Peer Review / John Wenz / Popular Mechanics]

It’s not space tourism, but it’s close

Priestmangoode_World-View_Capsule-space

Luxury Balloon Could Take Space Tourists 100,000 Feet Up

As [Nigel Goode, director of Priestmangoode, a British design studio,] sees it, the World View trips would begin before dusk. The large balloon that powers the capsule might need about an hour and half to get to 100,000 feet; after that, World View could drift into orbit for a few hours. The view that would afford is its own special kind of luxury, so Goode and his team designed the pod around four circular windows, each of which would allow two of the six passengers (and the two crew members) a front row seat.

Elon Musk is suing the government to stop awarding no-bid contracts for national security satellite launches.

The Air Force awards lucrative launch contracts to a sole rocket provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), on a non-competitive basis.

Musk says it’s a continuing monopoly, unfairly blocking SpaceX from competing, and costing taxpayers billions.

ULA is a joing venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that manufactures Delta IV and Atlas V unmanned, expendable rockets that are currently the only boosters certified to launch high value military payloads at issue in the lawsuit. Musk wants his newer and much cheaper Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets certified and includd in competition for launch contracts.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Sues Government to Break US Air Force’s National Security Launch Monopoly.