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#1 Re: Science, Technology, and Astronomy » Super heavy elements found in nature » 2008-05-11 14:05:54

Hi all,
  I found this very interesting...

Super heavy elements found.

From the article:


What do we know about 122? Marinov and co say it has a half life in excess of 100 million years and occurs with an abundance of between 1 and 10 x10^-12, relative to thorium, which is a fairly common element (about as abundant as lead).

Theorists have mapped out the superheavy periodic table and 122 would be a member of the superheavy actinide group. It even has a name: eka-thorium or unbibium. Welcome to our world!


Warm regards, Rick.

#2 Re: Terraformation » Methods of terraforming - How to go from bone dry & lifeless » 2008-05-03 23:08:36

...nuclear blasts or comet impacts on the poles would kick up dust onto the poles.  likewise soot factories placed near the poles would darken them without having to truck dirt all over the place.

Hi everyone, kippy.
  I reread "New Earths" by Oberg a little while ago and indexed it.  One thing he was talking about was albedos.

Current albedo of Mars: 15%
albedo of liquid water (if deep):  3%
albedo of new snow: 90%
albedo of old snow: 50%

Now the albedo of old snow was mentioned in passing and he did not define what 'old snow' is.  I have seen snow that has laid around for a while and it is less white.  Areas that have melted and refrozen are darker, as the snow and ice gets rougher it has more shadows and light reflects down into the dips and can be trapped there.  No doubt there is some dust on the snow even tho it is not visible. 

I do not know how long the snow must remain on Mars before it gets 'old' but likely it is longer than on Earth.

I had thought that as we start to get a hydrological cycle going on Mars we would get snow and this would be a major set back to the heat budget.  But if the snow gets 'old' at any reasonable rate, it might not be as bad as I first feared.  We still will be reflecting more than 4 times the energy than we would on the non-snowy Mars but that is an improvement over more than 6 times for fresh snow.

Now Mars has lots of very fine dust.  It will start to clump together as we free up water.  But by the time there is a lot of water the planet will be 40 C warmer than it is now with a lot thicker atmosphere.  This will allow the winds to move larger dust grains.  So with time we should get dust on and in the snow which might make it DARKER than the 50% value given above.

Anyway, I've given my few facts and realize that there are a lot of questions.  I welcome posts from anyone who has better data.

Warm regards, Rick.

#3 Re: Human missions » Xenon as an Anesthetic? » 2008-04-19 17:41:15

Hi all,
  Xenon is an attractive anesthetic on Earth but is little used because of its expense.  However, it is a side product of liquefying oxygen cryogenically which industries are likely to do on Mars.  Furthermore, it will be cheaper as Mars is some 80 degrees C colder than Earth which will significantly reduce the expense of cooling the air to liquid oxygen temperatures.

  Xenon is about as common on Mars as Earth (a bit surprising as much of it is formed by radioactive decay of plutonium which Mars formed much less than Earth).  There are 90 parts per billion (ppb) on Earth and 80 ppb on Mars.

  Here is some information on Xenon as a anesthetic:

Xenon: A modern anesthetic

Dr Sanjay Singh

Xenon is well known as an inert gas filled inside incandescent lamps. Although, named after a Greek word ‘stranger’, Xenon is becoming less and less of a stranger for anesthesiologist. Knowledge of the anesthetic properties of xenon goes back to 1939, where Behnke and Yarborough investigated for the US Navy, the reason for mental effects in deep sea diving. Lawrence published initial experiments with xenon anesthesia in 1946. With a minimum alveolar concentration of 0.63, it is more potent than N2O. However, the extremely high cost (approx USD 10.00 per liter) has hindered its wide clinical application. Xenon was completely forgotten for more than 30 years since the early clinical trials in 1950’s, until Lachmann, Erdmannand their colleagues at Rotterdam rediscovered it in 1990. Since then, there has been a growing interest in xenon, especially in Europe and Japan, and two multi-centre clinical trials have been completed in the European Union.

Xenon belongs to the group of noble gases and is found in very small concentration in the air (0.0000087 per cent). It is manufactured by fractional distillation of liquefied air, which is obtained as a by-product during the process of pure oxygen production. After several separation processes, a purity of 99.995 per cent can be obtained; only impurity being O2 and N2. The production of one liter of Xenon consumes 220-Watt hours of energy. Corresponding to its rarity, xenon is expensive. The current world production of xenon is approximately 10 million liters per year.

Only 1.5 million liter per year is utilized for medical purposes, with half of this amount being used for anesthetic purposes. Xenon has been used for decades to study blood flow and gas distribution in lung although recent technical developments have expanded its use in magnetic resonance imaging. The resurgence of xenon as anesthetic despite its rarity and high cost may invite natural wonder in this era of cost containment.

There are three major reasons for Xenon’s popularity:

    * Pharmacological and clinical advantage
    * Its usefulness as scientific tool
    * Environment friendliness.

Pharmaco clinical advantage –Xenon exists as a monatomic gas under normothermic and normobaric conditions. Although virtually inert, the very large outer electron shell of xenon may get polarized and distorted by nearby molecules and permits xenon to interact with and bind to proteins such as myoglobin as well as bi-layer lipids. Xenon’s ability to interact with cell proteins and cell membrane constituents is presumably responsible for its anesthetic potency.

Xenon also inhibits plasma membrane Ca++ pump, an action similar to that of volatile anesthetics, which may be responsible for an increase in neuronal Ca++ concentration and altered excitability.

Franks et al found that xenon despite a relatively simple atomic structure, acts selectively by blocking the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor. This NMDA receptor inhibitor is responsible for inhibition of nociceptive responsiveness of spinal dorsal horn neurons.

Xenon has been shown not to alter voltage gated ion channels in the myocardium, nor does it sensitises the myocardium to the dysrhythmogenic effects of epinephrine. Xenon has many properties of an ideal anesthetic gas. These include:

1. Non-inflammable and non explosive

2. Rapid induction and emergence due to its low blood gas partition coefficient (0.12), which is lowest of all known anesthetics.

3. Human minimum alveolar conc (MAC) value of 0.63 makes it suitable as an inhalation anesthetic in a mixture of 30 percent O2. It is 1.5 times more potent then N2O.

4. Sufficient analgesic and hypnotic effect in mixture with 30 per cent O2.

5. The absence of metabolism, low toxicity and devoid of teratogenicity.

6. Compared to another anesthetic regimen, xenon anesthesia produces highest regional blood flow in the brain, liver, kidney and intestine. Dangers of tissue hypoxia are greatly reduced. It therefore appears to be an interesting alternative for anesthesia in transplant surgery.

7. It may protect neural cells against ischemic injury. During cardiopulmonary surgery its neuro protective effect is confirmed.

8. Undisturbed ventilation and pulmonary function. Despite higher density than N2O it does not alter respiratory mechanics. Airway resistance is not increased.

9. Lack of cardiovascular depression is the most appealing characteristics of Xenon. Even with 80 per cent concentration of Xe, Ca++ flow in human cardiomyocytes remains unaffected. Myocardial performance Index (MPI) and contractility, as measured by measuring the velocity of circumferential fiber shortening (Vcfe) and left ventricular and systolic wall stress (LVESW) using Tran esophageal echocardiography did not show any depression. The unique combination of analgesia, hypnosis and lack of hemodynamic depression makes it a very attractive choice for patients. Though its limited cardiovascular reserve, makes it expensive.

10. Diffusion hypoxia is less than N2O.

More information can be found at:

Xenon as an Anesthetic

Warm regards, Rick

#4 Re: Terraformation » Hints for atmospheric retention... » 2008-04-04 21:44:48

If we got Mars' air pressure up to 1 Bar it would last many millions of years.  Also the greater air depth would provide plenty of radiation protection just as the Earth's atmosphere protects the Eskimos from all the solar particles that would hit the Earth. 

If you check the FAQ, there are links about Mars' magnetic field there.

Warm regards, Rick.

#5 Re: Terraformation » New ideas for terraforming mars » 2008-03-30 11:47:17

Hi bstvns139, everyone.
  Your questions are so vague I do not know what you are asking.  But if you are asking: "can you do anything strictly with in a planet's atmosphere that will change its orbit?" the answer is no.

  If you are asking: "can you do anything strictly with in a planet's atmosphere that will change its rotation about its own axis?" the answer is not really.

  To change the rotation of the planet you must move some radius from the center of the body (the planet's surface is fine) and fire mass off of it at an angle (90 degrees is best) at as high of a speed as possible.  This creates torque and will change the planet's rotation.  However the mass must LEAVE the planet.  If it falls back the angular momentum you have gained in the firing you lose in the impact.

  Now the not really part of the answer come up with you start dealing with gyroscopes.  Let us say that the body we are discussing is a spaceship with a gyroscope at the center of mass.  Let us say that the rotating part of the gyroscope masses 1/1000 as much as the rest of the spaceship.  If you start the gyroscope rotating 10,000 revolutions per minute, the rest of the spaceship will rotate in the other direction at 10 rev / min.  (You also have a bomb's worth of energy humming in the center of your ship.)

  Now the net angular momentum of the spaceship as a whole has not changed, but the outside of the ship is spinning!

  (c) 2008 Richard Wayne Smith
  HOWEVER, this has given me another idea that I think would work.  Let us say we want to make a tide locked body - say a moon - start to spin.  We build a giant accelerator around the equator that will spin 1 kg steel ball bearings around the planet at high speeds.  Spin the millions of these steel balls up quickly.

  Now the whole moon starts to rotate.  But it does not complete the rotation.  There is a mass concentration on the near side which keeps the massive side of the moon pointed at the planet.  But let us say that we have enough torque to move the moon 1 meter clockwise.

  Just when we reach the maximum displacement (which takes, say, an hour to do) we send those millions of steel balls into tens of thousands of side loops off our accelerator and reverse the direction.

  The moon swings back because of gravity (its tide locked after all and we are no longer forcing it off center) AND it swings a bit further.  It goes 2 meters counterclockwise.  About 2 hours after we reverse the direction of the steel balls, the moon reaches maximum displacement counterclockwise.

  Then we reverse the direction of the balls again.  The result is that an hour later it swings 3 meters clockwise.

  You can see what is happening.  We are building up a swing using the natural resonate frequency of the moon.  We are using a gigantic expenditure of energy to create a torque.  The interaction with the gravity of the main planet allows us to transfer this torque off the moon itself.

  This works like a child pumping herself up on a swing with out touching the ground.  It would not work if the body was by itself in deep space, anymore than a child could pump a swing without a gravity field.

  I think it could work in any solar system using the sun as a bank to pass the angular momentum to.  However, the weaker the gravity field, the less angular momentum you can pass and the more effort & time it would take to build up any sort of rotation.

  I'm quite proud of this idea, I've never read it anywhere and I think it would work.  Can anyone find a flaw in it?

  Warm regards, Rick

#6 Re: Terraformation » Worse case global warming - Hydrogen Sulfide ecologies » 2008-03-29 16:07:49

Doctoral student Catherine Powers at the University of Southern California has found evidence that the Permian extinction started in the deep oceans, spread to shallow waters and then onto the land.

This conclusion was gained from studying bryozoans, (a family of marine invertebrates).  The species of bryozoans adapted for deep water started to decline 270 million years before the end of the Permian.  However, 10 million years before the end, there was a sharp increases in deep water extinctions followed by shallow water extinctions.  Shoreline species were affected last.

This pattern is the opposite of the types of deaths found in impact extinctions.  In those, the land species are hardest hit with marine species having a much larger chance of surviving.

She says, "There are very few people that hang on to the idea that it [the Permian Extinction Event] was a meteorite impact."

A similar pattern of extinctions happened 200 million years ago, ending the Triassic era.

The full article can be found in the November, 2007 issue of the journal Geology.


Dr. Lee R. Kump, professor of geosciences told the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America:

"However, we find mass extinction on land to be an unlikely consequence of carbon dioxide levels of only seven times the preindustrial level.  Plants, in general, love carbon dioxide, so it is difficult to think of carbon dioxide as a good kill mechanism [for plants].

On the other hand, hydrogen sulfide gas, produced in the oceans through sulfate decomposition by sulfur bacteria, can easily kill both terrestrial and oceanic plants and animals."


I (Rick) have been trying to get the CO2 level at the end of the Permian and Kamp's report is the first mention I've found.  However, I don't think that it is fair to say that if we reach 7 times pre-industrial CO2 levels we will automatically get a Permian style extinction event.  The Siberian Traps kept this CO2 level high for a long time, the Permian had wide shallow seas on the equator.  Both of these are dangers that we do not face today.

However, China is doubling its use of fossil fuels every 5 years.  India is doubling them every 6 years.  And several other 3rd world nations are growing their economies quickly.  The USA and other western countries are still increasing the rate that we burn ground carbon.

At a lecture at the University of Washington, which I attended, Robert Zubrin said that projections indicated that the world would be burning fossil fuels at 8 times the rate that we are now, by the year 2050.  (This assumes that we don't go to nuclear power.)

Fusion power is on the ragged edge of success and funding for it has been cut world wide to almost nothing.  I suggest that we SUPPORT FUSION!!!

EDIT: I came across this.  Same old, same old but talks about the Medical community using H2S for treating severe wounds.
Peter Ward - Wired interview.

Zombie Mouse Master Extends Lifespans.
Warm regards, Rick.

#7 Re: Terraformation » Mars: Direct water->oxygen approach with fluorine compounds » 2008-03-29 15:16:09

Do we know how much pressure we'd get from just the pure CO2 in the ice caps? Somebody must know this, surely? We know the depth and we have pictures of the extent. ...

Hi workstation, everyone.
  The number I usually see quoted is 14 mBars.


#8 Re: Terraformation » High pressure 'terraforming' of Venus - trimix atmosphere and cooling » 2008-03-29 04:19:41

Hi Karov,
  This is a very interesting thread but I see a few problems.

- Where does the He and H2O come from.  Postulate 'from space'.
- As others have pointed out, the long day is a problem.
- To maintain an O2 atm. you must have a viable biosphere.
- I doubt that an aerobic biosphere is stable in the scenario you describe.

Consider, H2O can dissolve O2, the colder the better.  On Venus this water will be significantly hotter than on Earth.  So Venus' oceans will start more oxygen starved than Earth's.  The water will have as much CO2 in it as it can hold.  If the water is maxed out on the amount of CO2 it can carry, does this decrease the O2 carrying capacity?  I am not sure, but it easily could. 

Under the water ocean is an ocean of CO2.  O2 does not dissolve in CO2 liquid to any large extent.

The oceans must be living.  As life dies it floats to the bottom and rots.  The little O2 dissolved in the CO2 liquid ocean will be used up by the first wave of rotting material and then...

We get the dead biologicals being broken down with sulfur oxidizing bacteria (anaerobic decay).  This produces hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas which sterilizes your oceans, sterilizes the land and then breaks up O3 which lets the UV light from the sun (twice as dense as at Earth) thru.  Once we have H2S in shallow waters, purple algae starts to grow which uses sunlight to produce H2S directly via photosynthesis.

(Note, I've read that the H2S breaking up O3 may not be as bad as first thought.  Also Venus has a thick atmosphere so any ozone layer will be deep.  The problem with the UV light is a maybe.)

This sort of hydrogen sulfide ecology is seen in the Dead Sea and off the coast of Namibia on Earth.  There is geochemical evidence that it was much more wide spread at several periods in Earth's past (particularly at the end of the Permian).

I really think you will have to get rid of the CO2 somehow, not just say that it will be safely out of the way at the bottom of the ocean.

Warm regards, Rick.

#9 Re: Terraformation » Building Soil with Salt Marshes » 2008-03-29 03:50:10

It the ability to generate that bio-mass in sufficient quantities that will be one of the primary thing that will hold us back from transforming that regolith or soil into good soil for growing plants that we want to introduce from Earth. It is the millions of years of dead plants and animals that has made the soils on the Earth good growing soil for growing plants too. whether or not we can use a pond for generation large amounts of bio-mass or not to start the process is still open for debate.


Hi Larry, everyone.
  Soil can be generated fairly quickly on Earth when lava flows are colonized with life.  Now, Earth has a lot of advantages Mars doesn't.  Some off the top of my head are:

- plenty of nitrogen for nitrogen fixing bacteria.
- birds flying over with droppings to speed things up.
- plenty of warmth and sunlight.
- liquid water.
- oxygen for faster, higher energy metabolisms.

   Mars has one advantage over Earth:
- Earth's atmosphere is CO2 starved which slows plant growth.

  Anyway, if conditions were ideal on Mars, (say a small area with lots of warmth, water, minerals, sunlight, nitrates, etc.) and we used lichen and bacteria & other life as conditions allowed, I think we could grow shallow soils in thousands of years not millions.

  If you are talking about having soil EVERY WHERE on Mars, I don't think millions of years is long enough since most of the planet is likely to be a desert even if very optimistic terraforming scenarios.

  A question to the list.  Does anyone know of studies that say how long it takes soils to form.  Hard numbers are always better than opinions.

  Warm regards, Rick

#10 Re: Terraformation » Mars: Direct water->oxygen approach with fluorine compounds » 2008-03-29 03:38:12

Do we know how much CO2 there actually is on Mars?

I have read 75mb or so in the poles and then an unknown amount in the regolith. ...

Hi workstation.
  There is almost certainly CO2 in the regolith.  Various clays absorb CO2 when cold and there is lots of clay on Mars.  (These have been detected directly and they are formed when basalt weathers.  And there is LOTS of basalt on Mars.)  There is also likely to be plenty of CO2 dissolved in ice (a clathrate).  The polar caps do not have anywhere near 75 mBar of CO2 unless you count clathrates.  (And I've seen no figures on how much CO2 is dissolved in that ice.)

  As for how much CO2 Mars has, we only have guesses.  MY guess is lots.  Mars had a warm, wet period back when the sun was only 70% as warm as it is now, and people have calculated that Mars would have needed about 4 Bars of CO2 to have that temperature.  CO2 is too heavy for Mars to lose to space so its all got to be there somewhere.  That does not mean it will be easy to get at it tho.

So in this case, why not split water from the ice caps to release O2. ...

The reason is energy cost.  If we have enough energy to do that, it would be cheaper to build perfluorocarbons and heat the planet and let plants split CO2.

However, if there is fluorine mineral on Mars, ...

Mars almost certainly has fluorine ores (they are concentrated in volcanic melts) but no-one has actually detected any fluorine on Mars.  However, it is a very rare substance and no one has looked for it very hard.

I suspect the lack of nitrogen will prevent much wildlife from growing (unless the soil is really full of nitrates: anyone know?), ...

No one has suggested any reason why Mars would have not started off with its share of N2.  However, lightning and cosmic rays create nitrogen compounds (various nitrates) which leach into the soil.  (Life recirculates these compounds on Earth.)  Some deserts on Earth have extremely concentrated nitrate deposits caused by thousands of years of lightning.  I expect Mars will have vast nitrate deposits with a certainty approaching 100%.  The question is: if we get a bacteria biosphere going, will the bacteria find these nitrates accessible enough to free a significant amount into the air?  No one knows this.

Actually, I'm assuming there's enough oxygen in the ice of the polar ice caps for this? I have no figures or intuitive grasp at present. That must be correct, though?

I can't see it being a problem as it is very likely that there will be enough O2 for a breathable atmosphere in the CO2, and it is very likely that there will be enough CO2 once the soil is warmed by 50 degrees C.

Warm regards, Rick

#11 Re: Terraformation » Re-starting the Martian core » 2008-03-29 03:11:45

Hi all,
  Very little (read almost none) radioactive material is at the core of Earth or Mars.  The rare earths (which include Uranium et. all.) are silicon loving elements that are concentrated in the crust.  The elements that reach the core are the ones that love iron.  These are especially, iron, nickel, sulfur (on Mars) and the elements that can close pack with these under pressure.

  The majority of the heat in the core does not come from radioactivity but from gravity.  Specifically the potential energy released when dense materials drop in the gravity field and get closer to the core.

  One way to add heat to the core would be to dig a mohole, say, 1 km wide and 50 km deep.  Then fill it with pure iron.  The mass of the iron would be so high it would crush the rock under it forcing its way downwards.  As this mass of iron sinks, it gets hot (mass dropping in a gravity field releasing potential energy)  As the iron sinks out of sight, keep adding more iron.

  There will be earthquakes, the crushed and heated rocks will be shoved sideways.  With enough time, volcanoes will erupt (either thru our mohole or near by).

  If you invent some scheme to get radioactives to sink deep, the best you can likely hope for is the lower mantle.  (Not that I think that there is ANYTHING WRONG with the lower mantle.  Some of my favorite parts of the Earth come from the lower mantle.)

  Warm regards, Rick

#12 Re: Terraformation » Antimater core deposition - - re-heating the martian guts » 2008-03-11 21:54:23

Hi Gregori, everyone.
  Do you mean that you don't see the point of heating the Martian core?  The point is that vulcanism is involved in several geochemical cycles that are needed for biosystems over millions or billions of years.  Also, a couple billion years from now Mars will be much closer to a comfortable temperature since the sun will burn hotter.  However, it will have eroded flat and lack the concentrations of elements needed to support complex life.

  There is not much point in the short term.  In the very long term it would be nice if Mars had more volcanoes.

  Warm regards, Rick.

#13 Re: Terraformation » How Quickly Does Mars Lose Air? » 2008-03-09 04:55:09

This is exactly what I've been saying. A thick atmosphere will not have the high escape rate that a thin one has under the same gravity, due to the real gas law. What Mars lost over billions of years could take trillions if it had the atmospheric density required to create 1 bar of pressure. ...

Hi Spatula, everyone.
  I was rereading some old post and saw Spatula's comments above.

  The Ideal gas law is:

    PV = nRT

P is the absolute pressure,
V is the volume of the vessel,
n is the number of moles of gas,
R is the universal gas constant,  (R =  8.314472   J·mol−1·K−1)
T is the absolute temperature (degrees K).

(The ideal gas law assumes that gas molecules bounce freely off of each other.  Real gases have slight molecular forces but these are very, very small, the ideal gas law works very well under a wide set of circumstances.)

Anyway, I have a question Spatula, why do you say that a thick atmosphere would lose mass to sputtering more slowly.  At the edge of space the atmosphere will be equally thin and have a considerably larger area so I would assume that the (slow) sputtering would be faster, not slower.  Considering the Ideal Gas Law, I don't see any reason the rate would increase with the thicker atmosphere.

Warm regards, Rick.

#14 Re: Terraformation » Building Soil with Salt Marshes » 2008-03-09 04:31:09

Hi everyone,
  we are getting a bit off topic here but to answer a couple questions:

  The average temperature on Mars is about -63 C.  It is not too unusual for Mars to get up to +20C during northern summer. The following is a link to a bunch of physical data on Mars:

Facts on Mars.

  Earth's oceans are slightly basic, but the waters on Mars seem to have been acidic.  I am a bit unclear why this is so (if anyone has a link to a good explanation I would be very interested in reading it).  Assuming we would like seas with that are basic, is there anything reasonable we can do about this?

  Having acidic seas in the early period of colonization would likely not be a bad thing.  Life needs to get a variety of elements out of rocks and the acid (whether natural or from a peat bog) will only help release them.

  Anyway, this thread is for peat bogs.  If the discussion is going to be on how acid the seas are, we likely would be better to reactivate this thread:

Will Acid Seas Cause a Problem For Colonization?

  Warm regards, Rick.

#16 Re: Terraformation » Minimal Martian Terraformed Atmospheres » 2008-03-06 15:23:37

Hi Jumpboy11j, everyone.
  I did the calculations in this post here...

Filling Hellas Basin up with Greenhouse Gases.

and it should not be a concern.  The other gases buoy up the SF6 and in any case even if it was by itself it would have a scale height of several km.

Warm regards, Rick.

#17 Re: Terraformation » Minimal Martian Terraformed Atmospheres » 2008-02-22 23:37:59

CO2: ....... 120 mbar.
O2: ......... 200 mbar.
N2 .............. 5 mbar. (Plants can now fix nitrogen.)
Ar ............... 1 mbar.

Wouldn't 60+% O2 simply self combust in 326 mb pressure?

Hi Nickname.
  It should not.  The inferno in Apollo 1 was caused by pure O2 at
slightly above ambient pressure (16 pounds per square inch).  The
gas mixture I picked had the same partial pressure of O2 as Earth's
sea level. 

By the way, I assume you do not literally mean self combust.  The
O2 won't burn with O2, it needs some sort of fuel.

Now fires in pure O2 burn a bit hotter.  One use of a buffer gas is
to lower the flame temperature because this gas that is not adding
to the flame energy will absorb heat to warm it up. 

CO2 takes a bit more heat to warm it than N2 (more vibration modes
in the molecule) but there is less CO2 (in the above suggested atm)
than Earth's sea level N2. So likely the atmosphere suggested above
would have slightly higher flame temperatures.  However, I can't
see the flammability of things being orders of magnitude more
combustible.  The key point in the Apollo 1 fire was that there was
5-6 times more O2 than normal.  The above atmosphere, has 1
times the normal (sea level) O2.  Look at the partial pressures of the
gas components and not their percentages.

Now the air mixture does not have to have that much O2.  We can
breathe lower partial pressures of O2 and if we pick a mix that say
has 50 mbar less, then fires should be slightly less likely to spread
than sea level fires on Earth.

(I am a bit out of my area here.  Can someone comment on my
educated guesses?)


#18 Re: Terraformation » Ceres » 2008-02-22 00:03:46

This topic is being moved from the "Reheating the Martian Guts" thread.

Hi RickSmith,

I agree the idea won't work on a body without an atmosphere.
We can't cheat on Ceres to dump rotational energy to the atmosphere.

It might work on Mars because we can dump rotational energy to the atmosphere.
If we fire west with just enough force to soak most of the launch energy into the atmosphere the impactor returns with no east energy.
Now all we would need is a reason to do such a thing on Mars. smile

To true about moving Ceres being a bit off topic.
Started as a way to re start the core of Mars but the mechanics of moving it expanded it.

Hi Nickname,
  It won't work even if it is done on a planet with an atmosphere.

  Let us say that we cover Ceres with a thick atmosphere. 

  Then we build a huge mass driver on the equator pointed east.  We take a mass equal to 1/100 of Ceres mass and blast it out of the mass driver in such a way that it pulverizes to dust and sets the atmosphere spinning.

  Let us say that we fire the mass fast enough so that Ceres stops rotating completely.  OK.  Now what happens to these mega-hurricane force winds?  They blow up against the sides of craters, they blow against the mountains and ridges and any valleys.

  That angular momentum is conserved.  As the spinning wind slows down, it pushes on the craters, mountains, etc. and spins up the planet.

  Another example, you have a space craft with a big gyroscope centered exactly at the center of mass.  You want to point the ship in another direction.  You spin it up, and the ship slowly starts rotating.  You then slow it down and the ship stops again pointing the way you want.  You have taken energy, converted it to angular momentum.  However A. momentum is conserved so the ship has to rotate slightly in the opposite direction t

#19 Re: Terraformation » Antimater core deposition - - re-heating the martian guts » 2008-02-20 22:08:41

Basically the idea was a mag launcher fired on an angle that put material nearly into a stable orbit of a planet,
As the impactors return with a very low angle on the other side of the planet they impart much more forward velocity to the planet increasing the spin.

Hi Nickname,
  This won't work.

  The launcher is sitting at the equator and launches east.  The momentum is conserved so while the projectile (light) is moving east very fast, the planet (heavy) rotates a little faster west.  When the particle reaches the other side of the planet the projectile crashes and slows down and the planet regains its angular momentum and speeds up.  Net result, zero.

  However the the particle was fired off at above the escape velocity, the planet would speed up to counter balance the torque supplies by the escaping matter.

  Perhaps speculations on spinning Ceres could be moved to the Ceres thread?  It is easier to find posts if they stay on topic.

  Warm regards, Rick.

#20 Re: Terraformation » Antimater core deposition - - re-heating the martian guts » 2008-02-10 16:50:18

Hi everyone.
  My interest is in near future terraforming but I thought of another way to heat up the Martian guts that is a far, FAR future possibility.

  Either make neutronium (impossible now) or a Boise Einstein condensate out of Lithium (possible now).  Neutronium is unstable unless you get sun sized masses and the B-E condensate is unstable at high temperatures (tho as it gets more massive it becomes more stable).

  Make either of them the mass of a small mountain.

  Wrap them in a package to keep them safe.  Perhaps a diamond cage wrapped inside a tungsten teardrop.  (Impossible with current technology.)  Call these packages, 'volcano pills'.

  Drop on ground where you want a volcano. 

  Massing the size of a mountain but only a couple meters across, they crush the ground beneath them and sink into the ground.  As they sink they release potential energy that turns into heat.  Hopefully they will last long enough to reach the area of the core.  Will they rip thru the bottom of our hyper strong cage because of friction of the rock?  Preventing this is left as an exercise for the student.

  Design them so that by the time they reach the core, they break down.  This will be in the form of a powerful explosion heating the core.  If a volcano pill, turns back into lithium, the iron / nickel is more dense and so it will sink forcing the lithium upwards.  As the denser iron sinks it releases potential energy creating heat.

  You might wonder why we are getting potential energy twice here.  Basically a huge amount of energy was stored in the hyper dense material, and it is released at the core of the planet.  Forcing a less dense material under the iron takes energy.  Basically, it takes energy to compress a substance and we are getting that energy back.  The point of this is it forces the heat, deep inside the planet.

  The fractured trail of broken rock left behind will make an easy place for volcanoes to erupt. 

  Drop a few thousand of these volcano pills in an area and I think that it would be likely to increase the temperature of the core, drive out volatiles making the air thicker and create lava flows where you want them.

  If the B-E condensate is very unstable, we might have to drop them from orbit to get them deep enough, quickly enough, to do useful work.  Since they are much easier to build in zero gee, this might make the whole process easier all the way around.

  To repeat, this is WAY beyond our technology.  It may be flatly impossible (depends on the stability of these hyper dense materials).  But I've never seen the suggestion before and I think that theoretically it should be possible.

  Warm regards, Rick.

#21 Re: Terraformation » Place to put Book Reviews on Martian Terraforming. » 2008-02-10 03:17:54

"The Geology of Mar: Evidence by Earth-Based Analogs", Edited by Mary Chapman, Cambridge University Press, (c) 2007, ISBN-13 978-0-521-83292-2, 460 pp, ~$150.00.

I was so excited by this book that I bought it for full price rather than waiting a few years and letting the price drop.  I was hoping for a book that would be full of geological information that would be useful for people planning colonization.  There was not that much along those lines.

The book is divided up into articles that talk about strange structures on Mars that are hard to explain.  These are compared to unusual terrestrial geologic formations. 

The book is NOT easy to understand.  I have long studied geology and feel that I have more than an interested layman's grasp of the subject.  But I found much of the book a very tough read as technical terminology obscured what the various authors were trying to say.  Basically, they were writing for a professional audience.  Sadly there is not a glossary of terms, so I had to do some research to follow what was being said on several occasions.

Many pages of the book are taken up with scientific references.  The essays obviously summarize many people's work.

The book begins with a high level essay that explains our current theories for Mars' geologic past.  Then individual essays start carving away at the strange landforms we have discovered.  I'll summarize a few points I found interesting below.

Impact structures on Earth and Mars had nothing too surprising.  I got better formulas for how big a hole meteors dig on Mars.  One thing I learned is that some "sploosh" craters suggest that there were liquid water aquifers as well as permafrost when the rock hit.

A couple of chapters look at Martian volcanism.  Nothing too surprising.  There is evidence that some eruptions were modified by water.  Some cones that were thought to be volcanic are likely conical spring mounds where dissolved minerals build up a cone at lower elevations as the water evaporates.

The next chapter discusses flood lavas. On Mars, these go about ~10 times further and seem to have flowed faster than ones on Earth.  This is very strange as Mars is colder & has lower gravity which would tend to suggest it should have smaller, thicker flows.

I enjoyed the next chapter as it talked about rootless volcanoes.  I had not heard about these before, but they are formed when a lava flow goes over wet sedimentary rock and steam explosions create a local cone when the lava finds an area where it can dig into the lower rock.  When the water is locally exhausted, the mini crater stops.  Usually these are found in fields.  On Mars the rootless volcanoes are all found over the northern 'polar sea' area with the exception of one field found east of Hellas Basin.  They are larger and steeper on Mars than on Earth, because the low air pressure gives better explosions and the lower gravity allow the mixture of sedimentary and igneous rock to be thrown farther.

The next chapter talks about large strange mounds (layered terrain) on the floors of Valles Marineris and the connected Valles Candor.  There is strong evidence that these were formed by volcanic eruptions under glaciers 4+ km thick.  If they are caused this way, they are huge.  The typical layered terrain in these valles are 10,000,000,000 times the size of similar structures on Earth.  For example the Ganges Mensa Interior Layered Deposit is 105 km long and 4 km deep.  (It holds a similar volume of lava as the entire Hawaniian island chain.)  As has been seen before, Martian geologic structures are huge.

After a chapter they discuss wind blown land forms.  Mars has big dunes.  There are dunes composed of sand sized particles but they seem to move much slower than Earth's dunes.

The next essay they suggest that some of the gullies found on Mars are debris flows.  These are formed with loose rock is saturated by water (ice) which then melts causing a 'mud & rock' slide.  So many of the gullies on Mars are not caused by a trickle of water every year but a mass slump caused at rare intervals.  Debris flows in Jameson Land (Greenland) look very much like many of these Martian land forms.

Some outflow channels on Mars look much like Siberian rivers flowing over permafrost.  The erosion is caused both by water and the heat the water carries melting the permafrost.  The flows on Mars were very large compared to the Lena river in Siberia.

The chapter on Cataclysmic flood channels was interesting but I knew most of it already.  They pointed out that we have found signs of catastrophic floods on Earth, Mars, Venus and Titan.

The geology of playa's (dried lakes) are discussed which concentrate minerals in a variety of ways.  Some land forms on Mars are likely to be playas.  (Paleoshorelines are found in many craters.)

The next chapter was very interesting.  It talks about very high altitude lakes in the Andies at over 6+ km.  These lakes get a lot of UV radiation.  I found that clear water allows UV to go fairly deep, but if the water is cloudy with biological biproducts it quickly stops UV rays.  Someone on this forum was asking how well water stops UV rays.  Apparently 45 cm of clear water reduces the UV flux by 1/3. 

They looked at bacteria, plankton and diatoms in these lakes and found that they showed increased UV resistance.  (But plenty had DNA damage from the radiation.)  The condition lakes are in now are similar to Martian lakes during the transition between the Noachian/Hesperian period of Mars history.  (At the end of the heavy bombardment and during the warm / wet period of Mars' history.)  A 5 year study of these and other high lakes is being taken by astrobiologists.

I learned about hourglass grabbens (valley like depressions caused by blocks of land pulling apart and a middle section sinking).  These were caused enmass as the Tharsis region bulged upwards.

The chapter on Geochemical Analogs & Martian Meterorites talked about how elements differentiate on planetary surfaces.  They suggest that some of the Martian meteors are low level KREEP basalts.  KREEP basalts are common in the Lunar highlands and are named after Potassium (atomic symbol K), Rare Earth Elements, and Phosphorous.  This is further evidence that there has been geochemical differentiation on Mars which will have created useful ores.

This essay suggests that acidic volcanic gases (acidic mists) may have broken up many rocks into the Martian soil.  It should be enriched with lead, bromine, antimony, mercury and arsenic since water has not moved these away.

Some clays such as saponite may be formed on Mars.  My impression is that this class of clays are rare on Earth.

The final chapter is how to do studies on Earth to get the most training and preparation for Mars missions.

There were no chapters on rock glaciers or geometric terrain tho both are mentioned in passing.  If you are curious about these formations, pick up "Mars: A Warmer Wetter Planet."

I generally had a lot of fun reading this book.  Mars has so many strange features!  I am glad to have bought it as I don't have anything else like it in my library.  However, because of the cost, I would suggest that you ask your local university library to pick up a copy if you want to read it.

Warm regards, Rick.

#22 Re: Terraformation » Minimal Martian Terraformed Atmospheres » 2008-02-09 19:46:24

I'm making this (admittedly massive) post...

Ultimately, we can state with confidence a conservative lower estimate of 120 mbar for the limit of safe CO2 partial pressure. This raises the possibility that CO2 might actually be used as a significant buffer gas in terraformation.

Hi Midoshi,
  Thanks for your research!  This is exactly the sort of thing that I like to see in the forum.

  So to be clear, you are suggesting that a mixture of gases like:

CO2: ....... 120 mbar.
O2: ......... 200 mbar.
N2 .............. 5 mbar.  (Plants can now fix nitrogen.)
Ar ............... 1 mbar.

  could be breathed in both greenhouses and the main residential areas?

  Very warm regards, Rick.

#23 Re: Terraformation » One crater at a time » 2008-02-04 01:24:59

Hi all,
  I bought a book, "The Geology of Mars: Evidence from Earth - Based Analogs".  I'll do a review of it later but I found in chapter 2 formulas for craters on Mars.  They are:

d= depth (km)
D= diameter (km)

For simple craters less than 7 km:
d = 0.26 D^0.67

For complex craters between 7 and 110 km:
d = 0.36 D^0.49

This is very different than the formula I used last post.  This book says that the formula for complex craters on Luna is:
d = 1.044 D^0.301
  ... which is basically the formula I found.

Using the Martian formula, we get a deeper hole (~7.6 km rather than 6.45 km).  My estimates for the amount of digging were very conservative so this strategy looks even more viable with better data.  (Note that this formula is only good up to 110 km diameters and we are talking 500 km for the first impacts, so there are still no guarantees.)

This also assumes that impacts this size would not cause massive volcanic eruptions.

Anyway, it's fun to think about.

Warm regards, Rick.

#24 Re: Terraformation » Asteroid has a chance to strike Mars » 2008-01-15 21:25:17

So, if Mars has even a fraction of the Earth totals this may be a very useful source of impacters.

Everything I've read suggest that being near the asteroid belt, Mars has many more rocks that pass close to it than the Earth.  (In fact when they decided that Pluto was not a planet in part because it had not cleaned out its orbit of smaller debris, many scientists pointed out that by this standard Mars was not a planet.)

Warm regards, Rick.


#25 Re: Terraformation » Minimal Martian Terraformed Atmospheres » 2008-01-15 21:16:24

A good idea dies hard. big_smile

So the 1/2 bar pressure will require thousands of years in the above scenario. Obviously that's a long time. Have you detailed how much/many iceteroids your scenario has introduced?

Now we need to increase the current N2 pressure by about 28 times. I am assuming that half of this comes by H-Bombs in deep rock deposits. I am assuming that for every tonne of nitrogen brought by iceteroid an extra tonne of nitrates are volatilized by the impact. So we would need to increase Mars' nitrogen level by 7 times via direct importation. (This would be 240 impacts of the 2.6 km bodies described above.)

This is from the post near the top of this thread where I'm trying to increase the N2 partial pressure to the point where nitrogen fixing bacteria have enough N2 in the air to fix.

Note that if you halve the radius, you increase by ~8 times the number of asteroids that you need to move.  (Of course each asteroid is 8 times easier to move...)  Large impacts blow away bits of atmosphere, where as small impacts blow away zero to an insignificant amount of air.  So I generally suggest we move lots of smaller bodies than a couple big ones.

Under my "slow but steady" terraforming story above, I suggest it will take several centuries to get the partial pressure of CO2 up to 300 mBar.  But this is based on what the CO2 reserve is like, which is simply unknown.  My estimates were quite conservative.  If there is more CO2 than the minimum, we might reach 500 mBar in only 3 or 4 centuries.

However, even at 200 mBar, we should be able to enjoy lakes that freeze during winter. Many (most?) species of cyanobacteria are not killed by a winter freeze so we should be able to get a biosphere started in small areas quite early. 

Another assumption I make is that we make a push to warm Mars by 10 to 20 degrees and then seriously don't try to warm it more until we have a larger pressure of nitrogen in the air.  But this is an artificial delay so that I can talk more clearly about what happens at each stage.  (It also assumes that some administrations basically ignore terraforming for a while.)  There is no reason to think that after people get Mars 20 degrees warmer they will slow down.  If they keep pushing and get it another 30 or 50 degrees C warmer, then everything will happen much faster.

A lot of this delay is how long does it take the heat on the surface to work its way down into the subsoil.  If the surface is a lot warmer, the wave of heat moves more quickly, which will drive the CO2 out of the soil that much faster.

In summary, I assume in this series of essays that we have a slow and steady push for terraforming.  People do not aim for the final goal that is a long way away.  Instead they say, "forget the O2, I just want to be able to dump pressure suits.  Let's thicken the air some.".  The point is that it is hard for a government to aim for a goal that is 1,000+ years away.  But several subgoals exist that could improve the planet in significantly smaller time frames, which make steady progress on terraforming more likely.  (And Mars is so cold that increasing the temperature just a degree or three will be popular politically for a long time.)

Warm regards, Rick.

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