Archive for November, 2012

Interstellar travel

26.11.2012 1 comment

Imagine an expedition to the center of our Galaxy, which is about 27,000 light years away. It takes the light from the center of our Galaxy 27,000 years to reach Earth. In the year 2100 young, 25-year old astronauts would board a new kind of interstellar spaceship. The ship would start accelerating at 1g and keep accelerating for 10 years. Due to the constant acceleration of 1g, the astronauts would feel the same as on the surface of Earth. After 10 years have passed, the ship would turn around and start decelerating. After another 10 years it would stop decelerating and arrive at the center of our Galaxy. It would take 20 years total to get there. After gathering scientific data and refueling their spaceship, the astronauts would return to Earth to retire. The trip back would take them another 20 years.

The problem is that the Special Relativity Theory would come into play. For the astronauts only 40 years would pass. During this time they would travel a distance of roughly 55,000 light years. However on Earth, roughly 58,000 years would pass. If they left in the year 2100, they would return in the year 60,100! This would be the result of time dilation.

A drive capable of accelerating constantly for 20 years would be the peak of conventional space drive technology. It would not make any sense to make more powerful drives, because it would be hard for humans to live in higher artificial gravity conditions for so long.

In my opinion such trip would not make much sense. The humans left on Earth would have thousands of years to develop better technology and get to the destination before the conventional space ship. Developments in artificial intelligence could lead to smarter machines which would help us better understand physics, ultimately leading to the development of drives such as the Alcubierre drive and the like. Today we think such breakthroughs are impossible and the Special Relativity Theory forbids anything, including information, to get to distant places faster than the speed of light. Still there is yet so much we don’t know about physics and our Universe…

Categories: Universe


25.11.2012 Leave a comment

I recently read an article about daguerreotypes. This was the first commercially available photography technology from 19th century. What stroke me was that these first captured images had good composition! No wonder, composition was invented by painters long before photography was even remotely feasible.

Today photography is accessible to everyone. Most often people take photos with their pocket computers, commonly referred to as phones. The photos taken with these mobile devices are of very poor quality, not only technically due to low quality lenses and sensors, but also due to the fact that the authors of these photos know nothing about composition, lighting etc. Photography is available to the masses, not only to the talented ones. The richer ones spend money on digital SLR cameras, but many of them leave their DSLRs in the closet at home considering them too bulky and heavy and turn back to the cheap pocket devices.

If you are wondering what I mean, go over the photos of your friends on Facebook. Unless you only know professional photographers, I am sure you will find lots of pearls such as photos of a man with the face in the middle, legs cut off and the upper half of the photo containing only the ceiling.

One could argue that this is normal when you make any technology available to the average Joe. But it does not have to be this way. Today’s pocket computers are getting more sophisticated and powerful. They are capable of analyzing images taken with their cameras. The next step is to improve the camera software. Today’s camera software on mobile devices has sophisticated image processing algorithms to convert the ultra-poor quality data from the cheap sensors into photos. But the authors of this software need to push it to the next level.

The desktop entry-level photo editing software such as iPhoto or Picasa is already capable of recognizing faces in photos for the purpose of cataloging them. These algorithms need to be merged with the camera software. Then we need to add algorithms which will recognize feats such as composition and aid the casual photographer in improving their photos.

I expect that future generations of digital cameras in pocket computers will suggest to the users how to improve their photos using simple means. If the person decides to shoot a bad photo anyway, the software will crop it automatically giving the option to restore the original as the last resort. This will improve the quality of most photos which are shown to us.

Categories: Computing