Skip to main content

Space laser

A while back, I was thinking of a space laser. No, not one which looks down at the earth but one that looks up at the heavens. So you don't need to worry. You don't. Really. Don't!

Anyway, the point was to build a microwave laser satellite with the ability to shoot high powered laser beams at nearby planets, comets, asteroids or meteors. No, it won't be strong enough to blow up potentially life-threatening asteroids hurtling towards earth (sorry) but it is supposed to be strong enough to burn/ionize/vaporize a part of the surface. The whole point of the laser was to study the composition of these objects. Currently, studying the albedo of an object is the one way to understand it's composition (surface and atmospheric). Albedo is the amount of light reflected off the surface+atmosphere of an object. This gives us a good idea of the object's composition. And i thought that it might be better if we vaporize bits of the surface so we can study it better.

But i forgot to take into account one of the biggest source of energy in the solar system, our unrelenting sun! Even in the microwave region, the sun is an extremely strong source of energy. In fact, it is common knowledge that comets have tails. These tails are made up of the comet's particles that were evaporated off it's surface due to solar radiation. Well, solar radiation + solar wind (a strong flux of particles that emanates from the sun in in all directions, primarily neutrinos). So I dont think that we can build a space laser that can beat the sun in terms of luminosity. It was supposed to be powered by the sun. It was meant to be a pulsed laser, in order to give enough time for the laser to build up energy. It was supposed to operate in a narrow region of the microwave window so as to penetrate any atmosphere without getting reflected or attenuated. It was meant to be on a solar orbit beyond mars so that it is closer to the asteroid belt between mars and jupiter. But no matter what, I don't think we can make a space laser that's strong enough. I need to do some back of the hand calculations. I need to get used to making back of the hand calculations and do them fast...

Popular posts from this blog

Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.

I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…