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Tag: space

Sell your refrigerator while it still has value: a new understanding of physics makes it possible to keep food from perishing WITHOUT refrigeration, using the astronomical object known as a “black hole.”

Background:

Refrigeration is a great way to preserve foods. But chilling and/or freezing foods can have adverse effects on taste.

What if there was a way to stop time for the food WITHOUT chilling it?

Proposal:

Luckily, physics provides a solution: as an object moves more quickly through space, it experiences the effects of time more slowly.

We can make use of this phenomenon by creating the “black hole fridge”: a miniature black hole that objects can orbit at nearly the speed of light, preserving them from spoilage (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: The “black hole fridge” consists of an enclosure around a black hole (top). Food (depicted as red geometrical objects, bottom) orbits the black hole at nearly the speed of light, causing the food to experience the flow of time thousands of times more slowly.

Caveat:

When placing food into the fridge, it is important to place it in ORBIT around the black hole. Be sure not to drop the food directly into it. See Figure 2 for instructions.

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Fig. 2: CORRECT USAGE (left): place food items in orbit around the black hole. INCORRECT USAGE (right): do NOT simply drop items into the fridge (right)—those items will vanish forever beyond the black hole’s event horizon.

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Fig. 3: An additional danger when dropping food into the black hole is the increased mass: this will cause the black hole to expand, both voiding the warranty AND swallowing up the planet.

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Fig. 4: It’s easy to tell if a black hole fridge has been properly maintained by eye. Left: a properly-maintained fridge. Right: a black hole that has swallowed up too much additional matter, and is in danger of a catastrophic failure.

PROS: Preserves food for thousands or millions of years WITHOUT requiring freezing or refrigeration!

CONS: None! Food spoilage is now a thing of the past.

Sitting down all day is bad for you! Instead, wriggle through the crawlspace under your house and possibly fall down the stairs in a mad dash to run between rooms of your house while playing this new insanely immersive simulation game! Also, it makes your house into a spaceship.

Background:

There are a few cell phone games that use real-world GPS data to control your in-game character.

The most well-known are probably the two games by Niantic, Pokemon Go and Ingress, in which you physically walk around in order to move your in-game character.

However, no one has yet implemented a smaller-scale version of this idea.

Proposal:

This proposal is for a simulation game that is played on a portable device (probably a cell phone) in which you are the pilot of a large crew-operated vehicle; perhaps a train, a 17th-century galleon, or a futuristic starship.

The vehicle will have several physically-separated “stations” that all need to be manned (by you!). For a galleon, this could include following: the wheel, the sails, an anchor, and the cannons.

In order to operate each station, you (the player) will have to physically run around your house to different locations. Your cell phone GPS will figure out where you are, and will give you the appropriate controls.

  • So if you want to operate the sails, you have to run upstairs to the “sails” station in the second floor hallway.
  • If you want to operate the cannons, you have to go to the “cannon” station in the kitchen, etc.

See Figure 1 for an example of a possible house that this game could be played in, and Figure 2 for an example of a spaceship-ification of the same floor plan.

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Fig. 1: A regular floor plan for a house. We will turn this into a spaceship; each different room is designated (by the player) as being a different crucial spaceship component (see Figure 2).

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Fig. 2: We have overlaid a spaceship onto this one-story house. NASA guidelines strongly discourage the conversion of a 2-bedroom house into a spaceship, due to the unsuitable floor plan. See artist’s rendition of this architectural fiasco in Figure 3.

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Fig. 3: Although this spaceship has a terrible layout and extremely poor atmospheric handling, it may be the best that could be done given the layout constraints (see Figure 2).

Addressing GPS issues

Realistically, GPS may not have the required resolution. It also has a hard time with elevation, so it might not be able to report whether you were on the first or second floor of a multi-story dwelling. It might be possible to use WiFi signal strength to fix this, but we also have a more low-tech version that should work.

Instead of using the GPS at all, we just draw a set of symbols that can be easily identified by the cell phone camera.

For example:

  • Draw a triangle on a plain piece of paper. Put that piece of paper in your laundry room. Now it’s the “engine room.”
  • Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Put it in your kitchen. Now it’s the “control room.”
  • Etc.

So when you travel to the correct room in your house, you briefly hold the cell phone camera up to the marked piece of paper, and the phone then knows which room you’re in.

Of course, someone could cheat by putting all the cards together on their desk, but that’s probably not worth worrying about.

We could also use proximity-sensing NFC-enabled cards to prevent having to use the camera, but this is a much less low-tech solution than drawing a triangle on a sheet of paper.

Bonus possibly actually-useful feature:

Instead of being totally frivolous, this game could actually incentivize you to perform useful real-world tasks! Useful tasks that involve walking around a home could include the following:

  • Replace your home’s fire alarm batteries
  • Find the emergency natural gas line shutoff (and the wrench you might need to close the valve)
  • Find the emergency water heater shutoff
  • Check your home for poor drainage around the foundation
  • Water your plants

More difficult tasks:

  • Water a lawn
  • Mow a lawn
  • Re-roof your house (this is the equivalent of taking your galleon into dry dock to scrape barnacles off the hull). (For advanced players only)

PROS: Brings new exercise opportunities to otherwise indolent game aficionados.

CONS: May be difficult to integrate the location-determining aspect without ruining the flow of the game. People would probably also trip and fall down the stairs while playing it.

One Weird Planet You Must Visit On Your Next Vacation, Assuming Your Vacation Involves Traveling Through Space

Here’s the idea:

Many people are fascinated by the idea of interplanetary travel.

It may seem initially appealing: you travel between the stars in your spaceship, and periodically land on interesting planets to poke around and see what wonders they have to offer.

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Fig 1: Travel across the galaxy

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Fig 2: Land on weird planets

 

But, imagine the reality of it:

Even if it were as convenient to travel to other planets as to take a plane, here’s what you would do once you actually got there:

1) You would put on an enormous and bulky spacesuit.

2) You would walk around on a desolate plain, perhaps kicking a rock or two.

3) Admittedly, you might have some fun in a low-gravity environment.

The reality of the situation is that you would generally be limited to a featureless expanse of frozen (or boiling) terrain, and you would be stuck in a huge life-support suit.

Things you will never encounter:

1) A civilization that has inexplicably progressed to become an exact copy of 1920s-era Chicago.

2) A planet inhabited by the descendants of Earth’s dinosaurs.

3) A giant planet-wide computer that only you can stop from terrorizing the galaxy.

In conclusion, the reality of interplanetary travel would be more expensive, dangerous, time-consuming, and ultimately incredibly boring than any destination on Earth.

But people still like the idea.

 

So imagine this alternative approach:

We rig up a standard-sized cargo container to seem like a spaceship on the inside. It will have a bunch of flat panel viewscreens, some amenities of space, and (naturally) artificial gravity set to Earth-standard 1.0 G.

We load the cargo container onto a regular 18-wheeler truck, which then takes it to interesting destinations on Earth. While en route, the flat screen would display suitably convincing hyperspace travel graphics to give the sense of motion.

 

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Fig 3: Get driven from landmark to landmark

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Fig 4: Wander around a national park in a hilariously bulky and unnecessary spacesuit

Example:

From inside the “ship”: “Set a course for the scorching desert world Gamma V.”

From outside the “ship”: “Drive the truck to Death Valley.”

Ideally, the cargo container would go on a route with a number of interesting features in relatively close proximity.

Bonus option for additional verisimilitude:

The occupants could wear bulky spacesuits for their “planetary excursions” and communicate with each other by radio.

Proposed locations that are in reasonable proximity in the United States:
* The Grand Canyon
* Basically any state park
* Death Valley
* Monument Valley
* Yosemite
* Essentially anywhere sufficiently remote to have human-free areas

PROS: Provides a superior experience to actual space travel at a fraction of the price. Avoids attracting the attention of nameless horrors that lurk beyond the stars.

CONS: As is no doubt evident, there are none!