Terraforming 101: How to Make Mars a Habitable Planet
Before we can journey to the stars, we must first go to Mars.
That’s Elon Musk’s philosophy, anyways – and just days ago he revealed new details on his ambitions to colonize the Red Planet, including sending two cargo rockets by 2022 and four rockets (two manned, two cargo) by 2024.
In 40 to 100 years, Musk suggested that up to a million people could live there.
Change of Seasons
As Elton John wisely noted, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.
Indeed, the average temperature on Mars is −55 °C (−67 °F), dust storms are frequent and potentially deadly, and the planet has extremely low atmospheric pressure (about 1% of Earth). Because of the atmosphere and temperature swings, meaningful occurrences of liquid water on the planet’s surface are almost impossible. And while Mars is thought to have plenty of frozen water at its poles and in underground deposits, the logistics of tapping into these resources could be quite difficult.
In other words, for any meaningful and long-lasting human presence on Mars, we would likely want to alter the planet and its atmosphere to make it more habitable for human life. And while the exact mechanisms we would use to accomplish this are still up for debate, the basics behind what’s needed to achieve Earth-like conditions are actually pretty straightforward.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it details what might need to happen on Mars to make it more accommodating to human life.
Here are two steps we could take to get Mars into the “Goldilocks Zone”, where water is liquid – and harmful ionizing radiation like x-rays, UV rays, and gamma rays are not problematic.
One way to ward off harmful ionizing radiation is to add a thicker layer of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere of Mars. Such an atmosphere would also allows less heat to escape, meaning warmer temperatures on the planet.
A strong magnetic field on Earth is something else that makes life easier. Earth’s solid inner core, composed primarily of iron, creates this field when the planet spins – and it deflects cosmic rays and other harmful types of radiation.
One interesting solution to solve this problem on Mars would to have a magnetic field generator in front of the planet at all times, deflecting any such rays coming from the sun.
The Realm of Possibility
While terraforming is still a mixture of theory and science fiction at this point, we do know some of the major problems that have to be solved for attaining a habitable environment – and it will be interesting to see how plans around Mars develop as the prospect of colonization becomes more real.
You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on. … So it’s a fixer-upper of a planet.
– Elon Musk
The Most Popular Wikipedia Pages, 2007-2019
Millions flock to Wikipedia every day to satisfy their curiosity on every imaginable topic. What have been the most popular Wikipedia pages over time?
The Most Popular Wikipedia Pages, From 2007-2019
Where do you go to satisfy your curiosity about the world? Chances are, most people would turn to Google, where the first search result for virtually any topic is likely to be Wikipedia.
Wikipedia often acts as a quick-and-dirty first source of information—and today’s intriguing animation from Data Geek shows what people are reading about the most. The video highlights more than a decade of the most popular pages on Wikipedia, sorted by total monthly views.
Which topics of interest race to the top?
Note to readers: Page view statistics are only for the English version of Wikipedia, which has nearly 6 million total articles to date.
A One-Stop Shop of Information
Since its 2001 inception, Wikipedia has thrived as an open collaboration project, catapulting it into the ranks of the world’s top websites today. Over the years, the upper limit of views for the most popular pages has dramatically increased.
In 2008, the most popular Wikipedia page belonged to Barack Obama, during his U.S. Presidential campaign, garnering about 3 million views per month. By 2019, the page for the United States took its place at the top, this time soaring to nearly 200 million monthly views.
The 12 most popular Wikipedia pages fluctuate in category, with some expected winners. Throughout the years, World War II shows up consistently in the rankings, likely propelled by research for school assignments.
The U.S. is another undisputed, most-viewed page for nine years in a row (2011-2019). Following the November 2016 U.S. election, pageviews for Donald Trump also leapt into the top three.
Here’s how the most popular pages shake out over a decade:
|Rank||Jan 2008||Jan 2012||Jan 2016||Jan 2019|
|#2||U.S.||Lady Gaga||Barack Obama||Donald Trump|
|#3||Harry Potter||The Beatles||India||Barack Obama|
|#4||World War II||Barack Obama||Lady Gaga||India|
|#5||Kim Kardashian||Michael Jackson||Michael Jackson||World War II|
|#6||Britney Spears||India||World War II||Michael Jackson|
|#7||Miley Cyrus||Eminem||Game of Thrones||UK|
|#9||Lil Wayne||Lil Wayne||UK||Eminem|
|#10||India||World War II||The Beatles||Game of Thrones|
|#11||Will Smith||Glee (TV)||Justin Bieber||Elizabeth II|
|#12||UK||Justin Bieber||Adolf Hitler||Adolf Hitler|
Musicians also regularly top the charts, thanks to their illustrious careers and the public’s curiosity about their private lives. Michael Jackson holds a record for longest best-selling artist, but also for one of the most viewed Wikipedia pages, especially after his death in mid-2009.
A Crowdsourced Snapshot of the World
These popular Wikipedia pages provide an interesting angle on current events of the time, although it should be taken with a grain of salt.
For example, the 2008 financial crisis is arguably one of the biggest events of this decade—yet it doesn’t make an appearance in these most viewed pages. One possible reason is that more reputable sources of information exist about the event, as it was widely covered in the media.
Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s mission is to freely share knowledge, relying on over 250,000 monthly volunteers to keep its information accessible by anyone.
Breaking Down Barriers
Boasting over 50 million articles, it’s not hard to see why Wikipedia has reigned supreme as a crowdsourced catalog of information. However, a lesser known fact is that just one man is responsible for a significant chunk of the website’s English-language articles.
In 2017, Steven Pruitt was named one of Time Magazine’s “most influential people on the Internet” for making over 3 million edits and authoring 35,000 original pages on Wikipedia—all for free.
Pruitt is even helping to solve Wikipedia’s gender bias, and has expanded the share of biographical articles about women from 15% to 17.6% in a few short years.
I’m very conscious of what it can mean to make knowledge free, to make information free.
Visualizing the Speed of Light (Fast, but Slow)
In our every day lives, light is instantaneous – but in the context of our solar system and beyond, light is surprisingly slow.
Visualizing the Speed of Light
With the flip of a switch, your room can be instantenously flooded with brightness.
In fact, there is no noticeable lag effect at all.
That’s because emitted photons travel at 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second, meaning it takes only 1/500,000th of a second for light to reach even the furthest part of an ordinary room. And, if it could go through the wall, it would orbit the entire planet 7.5 times in just one second.
Light Speed is Fast…
In our every day experiences, we never see light as having to “take time” to do anything. It’s inconceivably fast, brightening up everything in its path in an instant — and with a few odd caveats, scientists believe light speed to be the fastest-known achievable pace in the universe.
But what if we get out of our bubble, and look at light from outside the confines of life on Earth?
Today’s animation, which comes from planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue, helps visualize the speed of light in a broader context. It helps remind us of the mechanics of this incredible phenomenon, while also highlighting the vast distances between celestial bodies — even in our small and insignificant corner of the solar system.
Light Speed is Slow…
Once a photon is sent into the vast abyss, suddenly the fastest possible speed seems somewhat pedestrian.
- Moon: It takes about 1.255 seconds for light to get from Earth to the moon.
- Mars: Mars is about 150x further than the moon — about 40 million miles (54.6 million km) in the closest approach — so it takes 3 minutes to get there from Earth.
- Sun: The sun is 93 million miles (150 million km) away, meaning it takes 8 minutes to see its light.
Let that sink in for a moment: the sun could explode right now, and we wouldn’t even know about it for eight long minutes.
Going Further, Taking Longer
If it takes light a few minutes to get to the closest planets, how long does it take for light to travel further away from Earth?
- Jupiter: The largest planet is 629 million km away when it’s closest, taking light about 35 minutes.
- Saturn: The ringed planet is about as twice as far as Jupiter, taking light 71 minutes.
- Pluto: It takes about 5.5 hours for light to go from Earth to the dwarf planet.
- Alpha Centauri: The nearest star system is 4.3 light years away, or 25 trillion miles (40 trillion km).
- Visible stars: The average distance to the 300 brightest stars in the sky is about 347 light years.
If you really want to get the feeling of how “slow” light really is, watch the below video and journey from the sun to Jupiter. It’s done in real-time, so it takes about 43 minutes:
So while light obviously travels at a ludicrous speed, it really depends on your vantage point.
On Earth, light is instantaneous – but anywhere else in the universe, it’s pretty inadequate for getting anywhere far (especially in contrast to the average human lifespan).
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