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Podcast title Quantum Limit.com
Website URL http://chamberland.blogspot.co...
Description Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers
Updated Tue, 29 May 2018 05:09:31 +0000
Category QuantumLimit.com
Dennis Chamberland
Mars Curiosity Rover
Mars Exploration
SCUBA Diving
Undersea Colonization
Undersea Colony
Undersea Exploration
Undersea Habitats
Atlantica Expeditions
Neil Armstrong

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Link to this podcast Quantum Limit.com


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Virtual Reality and Oculus Rift Reviewed
I fully confess – as I write, my hair is on fire and my socks are smoldering.  It is difficult to contain my excitement to the point that I can even write a coherent review!  But what I want to accomplish here is twofold.  One is to review the virtual reality (VR) experience which is currently affordably available.  And two, review the top-of-the-line rated VR equipment – Oculus Rift.
Two Kinds of VR
Before I get into this, let me describe the two kinds of VR equipment available.  The first is ‘quasi-VR’, such as “Google Cardboard”, that uses a larger screen cell phone for its display.  There are some really nice, comfortable headset “VR Goggles” available. The second type is the full range high fidelity 3-D VR equipment described in much greater detail below.
The ‘quasi-VR’ equipment, such as Google Cardboard, capture the general idea of VR by immersing the user in various two dimensional scenes of highly variable VR quality.  Many of them are panoramic scenes covering from 180 degrees to a full 360 degrees, but most of these do not envelop the entire available spherical panorama from the apex to the feet of the observer in a complete 360 degree wrap around.  These goggles are nonetheless very exciting, and demonstrate the physiology of the entire VR experience, as described below.  And the good news is that the Google Cardboard and other, more comfortable VR headsets are readily available, and relatively inexpensive; the cost is truly in nearly every price range.  I paid a mere $10 for my very nice and comfortable Tzumi Dream Vision headset on Black Friday.  There are also lots of ‘Goggle Cardboard’ type stills, videos and apps available free online for download.  But there is one key point to be made here.  These lower end VR applications are nearly all 2-dimensional (2D) and of highly variable quality.  Yet they are still great fun because of what is going on in the user’s mind the moment they strap the VR goggles on their head. 
The VR Mind Connection
The VR experience – low end or high end – works so spectacularly because of a trick called ‘visual immersion’.  We are all familiar with that idea.  Watching a movie is a much different experience on our TV at home vs. seeing the movie on the big screen in a theater.  The difference is visual immersion.  The larger the screen, the greater the experience of visual immersion in the scene. The effect can be ramped up by employing immersive sound tracks, curved screens and 3D.  The greater the immersion, the more authentic the experience is perceived psychologically.  And yet the visual immersion experience is still limited even in a theater by the reality of people sitting all around us, by the frame of the screen, by exit signs, curtains, voices, and countless other distractions, even while viewing the largest screen.  Our mind will simply not allow us to accept total immersion in the scene before us because of the real world that invariably – even relentlessly – imposes itself on our peripheral field of vision.  We are simply locked out of perfect immersion by the world crowding in on the screen, no matter how large it is.
But in VR, all of that changes – even in the lowest cost, lowest fidelity 2D VR headset! The true magic of VR is total immersion.  The VR display, literally inches from the eyes, is specifically engineered to completely fill the visual field and specifically block out everything except for the display.  When that happens, the visual brain easily gives up and gives in!  Without any visual cues to the contrary, the brain readily accepts the new reality displayed before it.  Even the ‘knowledge’ that it is an artificial reality is not powerful enough to overcome the seamless new world before the eyes. It is a near perfect visual immersion and, therefore, it is a new reality that is easy for the mind to accept. In VR, the brain communicates that the person is actually ‘in the scene’ being viewed, because there is no visual information to tell the brain any different.  Thus, the term ‘virtual reality’ perfectly describes what the human brain so easily accepts once all cues to the ‘real world’ are covered up and replaced by another virtual world. 
VR Quality
VR quality is easily understood.  For example, when I was a young boy, my family had a 13” Zenith black and white television.  The immersive experience of that TV vs. my television today (52”, flat screen, 4K, 3D) is wildly different!  I can watch the same movie on both televisions and have a totally different experience because of the quality of the display.  The same is true of VR equipment.  Total immersion is defined by visual cues such as 3D, and visual accessibility to the entire spherical hemisphere all around the viewer – in a 360 arc in ALL directions.  In a truly virtual world, this extends to the capacity to walk, run or fly through the new world far beyond the starting point and still always maintain that 360 degree sphere of visual accessibility.  In less capable VR systems, the views are quite often not a 360 degree sphere, not 3D, and the viewer is fixed in one place.  In higher quality systems, the VR world is 3D, perfect 360 spheres, and movement within the VR world is permitted.
Oculus Rift Review
I have always been excited about my quasi-VR headset using mostly Google Cardboard applications and a few 2D VR adventure applications.  With that in my mind, I thought I knew what to expect when I strapped my Oculus Rift headset on for the first time just after Christmas.  I cannot adequately describe the difference between the 2D VR experience and the 3D Oculus Rift experience, but I shall try! It was incredibly, awesomely, astonishingly different – and I had always been totally amazed by the Google Cardboard experience!  The Oculus Rift was literally one of the most astounding experiences of my life from the first moment I strapped them on.
The Ramp Up to Oculus
I have never played a video game in my life, ever.  My 5 grown sons are a different story.  Video games have been a large part of their lives from day one.  I just never caught the bug and have always been very ‘meh’ about it.  Nothing has changed.  I did NOT invest in Oculus Rift for games.  I discovered Oculus at, of all places, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. A special event permitted visitors to “fly through” the classic Dali masterpiece “Elephants” using an Oculus Rift. The second I strapped the headset on, I was caught up in a surprising ‘Virtual Reality’.  Unexpectedly, I was completely inside a bizarre world created by the mind of Salvador Dali.  As I flew about the work of art from all angles, heights, and even inside the structures of the painting, I was completely sold.  I knew that I had to have this technology in my study… and not for games!  Ironically, Oculus Rift was specifically designed for video games and the only desktop computers capable of running it properly are the high end gamer computers with powerful video cards.  Fortunately, I had resisted buying a computer for several years and was due a new one anyway. That opened the door to purchase a computer specifically powerful enough and with the appropriate video capacity to run the Oculus technology.  Note of caution: not all “VR capable” video processors can handle the requirements for the Rift.  Make sure you check all of your computer capabilities against the list of required specs on the Oculus site.  If you intend to run with the computer that you have, you can test your system in advance before you purchase the Oculus hardware by running the test on your computer available on their website.
Opening the Box
I ordered my new computer and the Oculus Rift headset on the same day (from Best Buy).  I also pre-ordered the new Oculus Touch handsets that were not released until December 1st of 2016.  The touch sensors attach to your hands and allow you to touch and move things in the virtual world.  I waited for the Touch sensors to arrive before installing everything.  When I turned my Oculus Rift system on, the touch sensors had not even been on the market for one month.
The system set-up was somewhat involved.  There are a pair of sensors that judge your position, the position of your hands, and the position of your VR headset as you look around which monitor your every movement inside the virtual world.  The headset is very comfortable and easy to adjust.
Entering the Virtual World of Oculus Rift
Quite honestly, I was totally unprepared for the first minute of high fidelity virtual reality through the Oculus headset.  Even though I had the experience at the Dali Museum, the painting was dark, surreal and of ‘oil painting quality’.  As a first experience, it was wonderful and unexpected.  But nothing like a ‘real world fidelity’ VR experience.  Further, I had many hours using Google Cardboard VR applications which I considered magnificent and exciting.  But those experiences were nothing at all as spectacular as a high fidelity, 3D, totally immersive VR experience as delivered by the Oculus Rift.
After a calibration screen (rather spectacular in itself), the screen went dark for a few seconds and then opened inside a habitat on the surface of another planet. It was the free Oculus Training Program called “First Contact”.   The first moment in that habitat was so visually stunning that I was totally unprepared for it.  I felt exactly like Neo must have felt when he entered the virtual worlds of the Matrix with Morpheus!  It was THAT spectacular!  The fidelity of the VR was nearly perfect.  The habitat was in faultless 3D and so realistic that there was no way to tell that I was not actually there.  It was not a cartoon or a drawing at all – but a real habitat with windows (facing up).  So I will go ahead and make the intellectual leap and tell you that, unequivocally, that habitat was actually real to me in every respect and there was no way to tell otherwise.  It was just real! I could turn a full 360 degree circle – look up, down, and in any direction, and it was flawless.  I could see the weave of the carpet at my feet; reach out with my virtual hands and pick up objects; drop them, toss them, and bang them against one another. I could move equipment, drop balls that bounced, stack cans, and load videos into VCRs.  Virtual, pixelated butterflies landed on my hands if I held them out.  If I did not, they simply flew about the habitat.  I could get down on my knees and look under the tables and experience a short range of motion in the habitat.  It was not a driven game at all.  I could choose to just stand there for hours or get on with the training.  I could experiment with objects or just stare. There was no clock ticking.  It was my habitat to spend as much time in as I wished and do whatever I wanted there.  It was in every respect a true virtual world, although there were limits in this training habitat.  I was not allowed to leave and go outside as I was supposed to be here for the sole purpose of training.  But the experience was completely at my speed and direction.  I could lollygag all I wished or get to work.  I left for diner in the ‘real world’ and returned later. Everything was exactly as I had left it. It didn’t matter.  It was my virtual world in my own sweet time at my speed and at my pace.  And I could come back as any times as I wished.  As for sounds – the habitat featured standard, white ventilation noises and what I will call ‘mindless background VR music’.  It is not onerous in any way – it’s just there, hanging in the background.
I was supposed to be training in the habitat, but I was so completely mesmerized by its perfect 3D fidelity that I was tracing wire bundles, examining equipment, pushing buttons, and looking out the upper window at the sky until I had my temporary fill of this amazing virtual world.  Ready to proceed through orientation training, I began to follow my prompts and it was then that I met my instructor.
The first act of Oculus VR training was to pay attention to the arrows hanging in the air that prompt the user (me) to utilize my virtual hands to participate in the training. So, with my right virtual index finger, I pushed down on a vintage VCR door.  It clicked shut and as it did, what appeared to be a small format VCR instantly transformed into a ‘Wall-e’ type robot.  Frightened by my presence, he bounced off the walls and hid, peeking out at me.  Then he waved at me.  Nothing happened until I waved back with my virtual hand.  He approached me (floating) in mid air, chattered robot-speak, handed me a digital disk, and an arrow prompt pointed to a nearby slot beneath a monitor.  The exercise was learning how to wave, point and grip with my virtual hands, use them to move objects from one point to another, then to release them. 
I was quite mindful that this habitat and the ‘Wall-e’ Oculus Touch interface program had just been released only two weeks before, so I was one of the first users.  And so interfacing with a digital entity was made even more interesting.  ‘Wall-e’ has such an endearing personality that I focused on him much more than the training tasks.  I reached out to touch him but as I did, he moved away, just out of my reach.  As I ignored my training tasks and focused on him, he cocked his binocular head to the side, communicating his puzzlement both by his motions and in his increasing level of robot noises, trying to figure out what the human was doing instead of learning VR.  I wanted to experience and live in VR; thus, interacting with this digital entity-personality was far more interesting to me than learning the mechanics of Oculus Touch!  I was never out to become an accomplished VR rocket jockey.  Instead, I wanted to actually live in the VR world.  ‘Wall-e’ added to the incredible habitat I was in and exponentially increased its fascination to me.
There were four or so disks with various tasks to learn.  As I pushed each disk that ‘Wall-e’ handed to me into a digital 3-D printer, it would print up a new object to handle with both digital hands and fingers, demonstrating various forms of manual dexterity.  Each had its own interesting object to handle and to operate, and it was one of these that birthed a cloud of bright pink pixelated butterflies that interacted with you if you wished, or flew by if you ignored them. 
I have visited the habitat and ‘Wall-e’ nearly a dozen times, and on each visit I learn a little more about this amazing place and ‘Wall-e’.  Each trip is different because I learn new things about the habitat and its little robot. That is why the virtual world is so much like the real world.  I awaken in my bedroom each day and things are new and different each morning, totally depending on how I interact with my space at any given time.  In another sense, each new visit is like the movie ‘Groundhog Day’.  The initial setting is always the same (unless you leave the game on all night) yet the outcome is different depending on your new actions.
As this is the very first virtual place that allows for human virtual dexterous interactions, I am very, very much looking forward to forthcoming applications, such as much larger habitats with many compartments and much more able android beings to interact with.  For example, it would be quite interesting if Siri or Cortana could be integrated into these VR worlds for a link to reality and internet data.  Oculus already has a ‘Virtual Desk” App which sets your desktop in any virtual setting you choose and responds to the Oculus fingers, but I have not experimented with this App yet.
After my first venture into the Training Habitat, as I departed it, the world round me faded to black and, in a few seconds, I heard what I can only describe as ‘mall music’ as I was suddenly standing in what I can best describe as a very large, open space that resembles the open, grand atrium of a very spacious hotel.  Remember that in high fidelity 3D VR, the space you are standing or sitting in appears EXACTLY as it is designed.  If it is created as a huge space, your mind sees it exactly that way!  It turns out, this space replaces the “desktop” of a standard computer.  This awesome space is the launching point of all VR activities and Apps.  The atrium is created with what I will call ‘virtual license’.  It is quite open on the edges and sides, outside are virtual trees with exaggerated leaves, and it is snowing with very large snowflakes drifting down.  There are very tall, cubist-structured buildings outside in the snow, lifting upward to many stories high.  The feel of immense space, openness, and a kind of surreal beauty is clearly a part of the scene.  The carpet beneath is so well defined you can see its individual threads.  Before me are holiday images, because the scene is generated real time at the Oculus company and is new each day.  My name, avatar, and interfaces are located on a big board to my right (at least 20 feet high).  In front are today’s Oculus bargains (if I want to buy more games, apps, etc.), and to the left is my recent destinations and link to my own Oculus library.
You can change things about your page through ‘Settings.’.  To do so, you touch buttons in front of you with your virtual fingers.  But instead of regular buttons, your finger enters into a pool of vertical standing water on each touch, which is a totally astonishing effect all in itself.  Remember, this is all happening in a setting of perfect, total immersion so that it is indistinguishable from what we know as ‘reality’.
And I haven’t even opened up any other Oculus apps yet!  I cannot wait to see what lies even deeper in the Oculus experience! 
Personalizing Oculus
It is one thing to integrate yourself totally into a high fidelity 3D adventure created by someone else or by a VR team – but it is yet another to integrate your personal vision and mind in a high fidelity, 360 degree, perfectly spherical image or video that you took of your own life, you home, your family, your vacation or adventure. This exciting technology has kept pace with VR technology so that anyone can fuse and preserve their personal life in perfect VR photo and video fidelity.
Let me compare this technology with what we are all accustomed to.  The difference between the best, highest resolution electronic photo capture from the top of the line cell phone or electronic camera, and a 360 degree high fidelity VR image, is like comparing the best electronic photo to a crude civil war tin-type image.  In the future, a standard, everyday image will always be in 3D high fidelity 360 degree VR.  Therefore, (this is essential to understand) the VR images of today are the first to preserve the early days of the 21st century for the future in what will soon be considered standard imagery.  Our old 2D snapshots of a single frame of time and space will soon be absolutely obsolete antiques.  The questions our children’s children will be asking is this: are there any VR images or videos of our grandparents or our parents?  They will ask that because all other photographic technologies will be considered crude, at best. With the older images and videos, they will only be able to look at them, not actually enter them!
The difference is stark. The 2D photo we now take for granted is flat, limited and represents only an instant in space and time.  But a 3D 360 degree spherical image or video represents the entire surroundings at the moment of capture.  With such an image or video, future generations will not see a flat image, but will actually enter into the photo or video – literally walking into the time and space – and be able to sit or stand before us as though they were standing there at the moment of the capture.  They will see and hear us in full fidelity; not as tiny, flat head shots – but literally standing before us in full height with the world we stood in surrounding us and our future descendants!
The most amazing things is that this technology is available right now!  In fact, as I write this, I am looking at the camera that will capture this VR reality in the highest resolution available today – 4K 360 degree video or stills.  The one that I have purchased is called the Samsung Gear 360.  With this camera, we will be able to leave our family with images and videos they can literally walk into and experience as though they were standing there with us when it was taken!
The Samsung Gear 360 (shown) has a pair of special lenses that captures dual 180 degree spherical images and videos and then internally links them together into a perfect image or video sphere.  When loaded into Oculus, the personal image or video becomes a full fidelity 4K VR experience, not just an image. 
Now, if you will allow me a few wide-ranging thoughts on VR.
1.  Is it really all that perfect?  The realistic answer is no, it is not.  I say that because these are truly the first steps in high fidelity VR.  I predict that by this time next year, all headsets will be 4K so that the image will be even more crisp and detailed than what we know of as true reality.  The facemask is probably as comfortable as they can make an eye-hugging mask.  After an hour or so, you can feel it.  Look for full face masks, or even VR helmets, with ventilation in a year or so.
2.  Look for even more spectacular destinations.  As I said previously, I anticipate much more detailed and much larger worlds and living spaces with far more intelligent android characters.  Eventually, there will be VR rooms (similar to the holo-decks of Star Trek fame). 
3.  Is it dangerous?  It has that potential for sure!  It is easy to imagine a lonely or disaffected person getting lost in VR worlds and not wanting to come back to a sometimes bitter, dangerous and harmful real world.  And who could blame them?  The VR worlds are astonishing beyond description and can even be made ‘virtually’ perfect.  And we have only taken the first primitive baby steps with this technology.  What we have today is nothing compared to what will soon be.
4.  Are there positive benefits?  I believe that there are far more positive benefits to VR than negative.  It can be used for training, or for vacations that last one hour or one week.  It can be used for virtual meetings, or it can be the ticket for literally anyone to explore other planets in real time.  But the most positive benefit of all is that, for a very reasonable cost, it allows regular people like us to participate in experiences and visit places only dreamed of, or only previously available to a few select, wealthy individuals – not to mention off-world and other world locations.
5.  Are there any health effects such as visual or balance issues?
A.  It can induce you motion sickness.  If you are prone to motion sickness in the real world, it works exactly the same in VR. 
B.  Since your eyes are completely covered and you are literally in motion in another world, it can cause accidents to you and others in this world.  Everyone using VR should have a safe, clear VR space.
C.  Having a small screen inches before your eyes is causing some concern, but there have been no studies yet about its long term effects. Many users complain of eye ‘fatigue’ after a certain period of use.
D.  There is the potential that VR could interfere with normal socialization among younger users.  I absolutely do not believe that is going to be a significant, widespread issue because we have nearly two generations experience with younger users all being tied to non-stop video gaming.  They turned out no better or worse than their pre-video-game-generation parents.  VR is no different except that the screen is much closer while the exact same gaming immersion is going on.  And, parents should ALWAYS have their hand on the technology switch if things start looking iffy.
E.  Again, disaffection is a potential issue for both young and old alike because of the sheer power of perfection of the escape mechanism.  But I feel it is unlikely to capture otherwise ‘normal’ people and cause them to disappear from society.  VR disaffection is more apt to be a problem with people who are already undergoing some psychological trauma.  Ironically, in a virtual world of perfection, it may be that they will return much better off than before they entered!
The VR Safety Valves
There are several built-in VR safety valves that immediately come to my mind that will ALWAYS force anyone back into the real world.  Bathroom breaks.  No VR space I am aware of has a toilet – and because of real world plumbing, it’s not likely!  Food breaks. No virtual refrigerator is going to dispense real food and nourishment.  Cell phones. If there is a medium more powerful than VR, it is cell phones, email, social media, texts, etc.  And finally, sleeping.  Sleeping in a VR headset would have to be torturous. 
Bottom line
My review of Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch: hair still on fire! 

2. Paint the Sky With Suns - 2014 Book Project
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Last year I announced the title of a new book project I am currently engaged in, a family history, titled, "Lord of the Stars".  but after a considerable amount of family research and plot development, I have renamed the book, "Paint the Sky With Suns".  It is the same story, of course, but with a newly developed emphasis. The photo on the cover is of my great grandfather, William Matthew Wattenbarger, from the Cherokee tribe.

 I am 'hoping' for a late 2014 release - but "Apocalypse Moon" has taken priority for this year and hopefully I can fit two publication projects into this year!

3. Apocalypse Moon New Release Date Announced
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The latest Aaron Seven Adventure, APOCALYPSE MOON,  is currently scheduled for release during the first quarter of 2014.  Sorry for the delay - but like a good wine - sometimes time is also an essential ingredient to a great novel!  I promise to keep you updated more regularly.  But stay tuned right here as Aaron Seven continues his adventures.

4. Radiation Exposure on Mars - On the 10th Anniversary of NASA Mars Rovers
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     When the NASA Rover Curiosity landed on Mars, it carried with it a radiation meter to assess the dose of ionizing radiation on the surface of the Red Planet.  Since there is so much interest in launching human missions to Mars, the greatest known risk was thought to be radiation exposure from cosmic rays.  Unlike earth, Mars has a fractional atmosphere and equally insignificant natural magnetic shield to buffer and push the high energy – high mass cosmic radiation away from human contact.  But after more than a year on the surface of Mars watching the radiation meter daily – here is what Curiosity has reported – and it is not good news at all for would be Martian explorers:
     The rover discovered that the ‘natural’ background radiation exposure on Mars (almost entirely- 95% - from high energy cosmic rays) was on the order of 0.67 millisieverts per day. Let me put that in perspective. On the earth – with its very effective cosmic ray shield of a thick atmosphere and the magnetosphere protects us from this natural cosmic environment endless bombardment of ionizing radiation.  Thus, for the average human at the average spot on earth, we routinely receive on the order of 0.007 millisieverts per day of background radiation – a difference of almost 100 times less!  Here are some other comparisons.  One day on Mars would be the equivalent of receiving 33 chest x-rays per day, or on average, one whole body CAT scan every 5 days.  The Martian astronaut would be receiving 244 times the allowed radiation dose from all nuclear power sources for the public and 60 times the maximum dosage allowed for professional nuclear power plant workers.  And at that rate, the astronaut would be receiving in a single one year nearly twice the current allowable lifetime dose for career NASA astronauts – and the minimal Mars mission is estimated at three years for a cumulative over-dose of six times the current career radiation exposure.  Further – during the time of measurement, the sun was unusually quiet and did not add its typical solar induced dose to the picture, which only inevitably adds to the bleak picture.
     What is the solution? I believe it is ‘relatively simple’:  increase the transit speed and thereby reduce the transit time and future Martian explorers and settlers will all inevitably live under the Martian surface where they can be effectively and safely shielded from the hazardous environment on the surface.   
PS.  The same is true for lunar explorers as well as practically everywhere outside of low earth orbit. 

5. Quantum Editions New Website
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We are happy to announce the new grand opening of our publishing website QuantumEditions.com! This website replaces the old rather out-of-date site and now offers all our books in one centralized place and even offers readers and subscribers a look at projects in the creative mix and on the way! Quantum Editions is a direct softcover and hardcover book outlet as well as offering ALL our books in eBook formats that will load on nearly every popular eBook reading device. Customers who order eBooks receive immediate downloading. Please click on the link, go hand out and look around. AND if you want to be put on our mailing list for periodic newsletters, just click on the icon.


6. The Greatest Astronaut
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One of my true heroes in my life is the late Neil Armstrong. Even though hundreds of astronauts and dozens of space missions have come and gone since the epic first manned landing on the moon in 1969, Neil has never been replaced as my favorite astronaut. While working at NASA over all of these years I've had the opportunity to meet many astronauts on many different levels, and although I never met Neil, he still holds the top slot in my heart and mind. There are many things that I really appreciated about Neil, for instance, he had more reason than anyone to cash in on his fame. The Neil resisted that to the end, unlike some of his other astronaut buddies who did anything and everything to get more recognition and money. Also appreciated his coolness as he landed his lander on the moon with alarms going off and running out of fuel, Neil showed us all that he had the right stuff as he floated about the lunar landscape picking just the right place to land. But my favorite memory of Neil Armstrong is the fact that in the end he was really an Explorer. He was not an actor in any way, he was just an Explorer doing his job on behalf of all the rest of us watching him on planet Earth. And because Neil was just an Explorer and not an actor, I love the fact that as he took his first step on the lunar surface, Neil actually blew his only line! He said, it is recorded for all of history to always hear, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Of course Neil left out the little word "a", which made all the difference in the meaning of what he said. What he said made no sense at all grammatically, even though we all knew what he was trying to say, "That's one small step for 'a' man, one giant leap for mankind." But you know what that's pretty small stuff in the life of a truly great man that, as for me I will certainly miss. Neil, thank you for what you did, but more than that thank you for the life that you lived when you came home! (Side note: the picture that you see here was the first picture ever taken of a human being in a habitat on the surface of another world.)

7. Curiosity Landing Photographed From Mars Orbit
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Shown here is a picture of the Curiosity Rover taken from the NASA satellite Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in Martian orbit about one minute before the rover landed in Gale crater. Just after the shot was taken, the parachute holding the rover aloft was released along with the back shell as the rover's rocket sprang into life and finally this sky crane lowered it down gently onto the surface of the red planet. The parachute that you can see in this frame was designed to open at supersonic velocity and is the largest parachute ever flown to another planet.

8. Curiosity's Scientific Gear APXS
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I was privileged to spend three hours with Curiosity last fall as I assisted the Kennedy Space Center team installing the Curiosity Rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).  The sensor head for the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer is installed during testing. The head is 7.8 centimeters or about 3 inches tall.   APXS, which sits at the end of Curiosity's arm, will measure the abundances of various chemical elements in Martian rocks and dirt.  Curiosity will place the instrument in contact with samples of interest, and APXS will shoot out X-rays and helium nuclei. This barrage will knock electrons in the sample out of their orbits, causing a release of X-rays. Scientists will be able to identify elements based on the characteristic energies of these emitted X-rays.  It is shown in its position in this picture.

9. Gale Crater - Scientific Motherlode
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Curiosity now sits inside the 96 mile in diameter Gale Crater, named for an Australian Astronomer, Walter F. Gale who died in 1945.  Inside the crater is a mountain rising some 18,000 off the bottom of Gale crater is Mt. Sharp, named for the NASA Geologist  Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004) – just slightly lower than the highest peak in North America (Mt. McKinley).  As you can see by this graphic, Curiosity has its work cut out for it.  During its two year (and probably much longer) exploration of this part of Mars, the rover is slated to scale the slope of Mt. Sharp along the suggested path on this graphic that depicts the first part of its journey up the slopes.   Gale crater is located about 4 degrees south of the Martian equator and also just south of the Elysium Plains which was the setting of my book, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM.  Gale crater is by far the most interesting site ever chosen for a rover mission and one laden with scientific opportunities.  NASA has played it cautiously with previous Mars rovers, dropping them in flood plains and driving slowly to targets of interest. This time it's different - Curiosity has successfully landed next to the scientific motherlode: a mountain that displays billions of years of Martian history.

10. Curiosity on Mars!
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In the single most astonishing, daring and nail biting spaceflight since Apollo 11, NASA successfully landed its SUV sized Mars Rover, Curiosity after a 345 million mile, 8.5 month mission through interplanetary space.  The amazing spacecraft dropped into the Martian atmosphere at over 13,000 miles per hour.  The rover then shed its heat shield after pulling 13 Gs, released the largest parachute ever deployed off planet at supersonic velocity, fired up its rockets to slow down then lowered the huge rover to the surface with cables using a completely novel and untried rocket powered sky-crane.  After the successful landing, the Rover Curiosity sent back this image of the flat, pebble strewn ground around it. Whew!  Lots of tears were shed at the moment of successful landing including my own at 1:32 AM EDT this morning!

11. Concepts of a New Space in Aquatica
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As a land dwellers we have been accustomed to wide-open skies and open spaces to which we had very little restriction of access. But undersea dwellers will be living in very small enclosed spaces and the only access they will have to outside is when they are dressed in their aquatic year and breathing their life support gases from specially designed equipment. Therefore the new citizens of Aquatica will become accustomed to a different kind of place. Their immediate world will be much smaller and much more restricted even though they live in the largest contiguous region of the world, which is the great single undersea global ocean. They will also be living in a three-dimensional world where the land dwellers are accustomed to living in a two-dimensional world restricted by gravity with their feet and wheels stuck permanently to the ground. Dwellers of Aquatica will become accustomed to this different concept of space gradually over time. And yet by ingenious engineering design we will be able to open up the aquatic dwellers new and majestic view of their vast and beautiful domain. Thus in the end, as three-dimensional dwellers of this new region of the earth opened for permanent human habitation, they will come to know their own unique and powerful view of a whole new world that the land dwellers will never know.

12. Drown-Proofing An Undersea Colony - PART I
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Description: Living permanently undersea is considered by many as the purest kind of unabridged madness on the planet. The chief worry is, of course, catastrophic flooding. Dennis Chamberland addresses this concern in a video out-take from a chapter in the upcoming book, UNDERSEA COLONIES II in this video titled, "DROWN-PROOFING AN UNDERSEA COLONY - PART I"

13. We're Back!
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After a long, tedious, arduous, love- (mostly hate) relationship with Facebook - we are officially back here at QuantumLimit.com TO STAY! You can expect frequent updates and very much look forward to your comments! There's nothing like home-sweet-home!

14. Counting the Days
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Description: We are counting the days until Claudia and I can move to our new home undersea. I long for the slow dawn that only come with awakening under the surface and the sounds of the life support system always humming in the background.

15. Raising an Undersea Family
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Shown here is a photo of our son Eric Milton Chamberland literally departing the land to live for a day undersea. It was the day before he became certified as an aquanaut, living for more than 24 hours in a habitat in Aquatica – the great global ocean. Eric, our other children and their parents found out first hand what it was like to live as a family undersea. Although the habitat was not large enough to accommodate us all, while their parents were doing their research in the ocean, the children were still always connected. In some cases by radio and in others by frequent visits to the habitat bringing mom and dad meals, taking away their trash and just visiting.

It was not an uncommon site to see Claudia sitting in the moonpool tutoring a math problem or giving specific homeschooling instructions. On another occasion, one of the children’s SCUBA instructor sat our son Brett down on the front of the habitat and gave him his final underwater exam – just two feet from where we sat in comfort observing him, having a snack and watching the entire event. It may be the first time parents have enjoyed such a close up and comfortable view of their child being certified as an open water diver – while being in the same element with them!

On their frequent visits to the habitat, their mother Claudia would greet the children at the moonpool and then visit with them. At the end of their visit, she invariably would kiss their salty foreheads goodbye and bid them off with an undersea mom’s loving send off: “Exhale, exhale, exhale…” It’s meaning was unique among mothers on earth. Its meaning was, “Do not hold your breath while returning to the surface, it is dangerous.” While other mothers are warning their children to look both ways before crossing the street, our children’s mother invoked a similar warning, but altogether unique to families who live undersea.

Around our habitat lives a rather hostile looking four foot barracuda. While Fred (the name he was given by the local divers) never seemed to threaten or bite anyone, he was still a rather intimidating stray fish with sporting an absolutely evil looking row of razor sharp teeth. On several occasions Fred would orbit around the habitat and curiously peek inside at us. When they children were around, I would warn them by a hand sigh out the window – with the fingers of both hands together mimicking Fred’s teeth. It at least warned them to look out for Fred, although the worst damage he probably would have induced is causing someone to hurt themselves by trying to get out of his way. But hand signals out the windows to the children were essential when the sound of the voice was strictly confined to the walls of the habitat. Of course there were many other hand signals from ‘shark’ to ‘go back to the surface’ to ‘come inside’ to ‘watch your air pressure’ and ‘you’re getting cold – come inside’.

Families living under the sea will soon become a reality again. While our family may have been the first that we are aware of, and only for a painfully short period of time in 1997 and 1998 - others are sure to follow. And of the Atlantica Expeditions gets its way it will be very soon indeed. But this time, the expedition is never scheduled to end and the trips to the surface will be far less than the trips around the magnificent, crystal void of humankind’s new permanent dwelling place: Atlantica.

16. Diving With Sharks
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When we were in Hawaii recently, a friend shared the details of his relatively recent shark attack. (Please do not reveal his name on replies if you guys know him. He has asked for privacy.) It was totally horrific - he came within inches of death and was hospitalized for over a month. Within an hour of his story we were in the ocean diving with him.

I took my first night dive in the ocean off Honolulu an hour after I saw JAWS for the first time in 1976. I was a younger man then and impulsive and was definitely looking around for the great beasts. But this weekend, diving alongside a man who was seriously attacked, it was a wholly different story. I am not as young as I was and not so much impulsive. The dive in broad daylight was far more intense than the night dive off Waikiki beach. I have been diving in this very spot for hundreds of hours and knew that this was definitely NOT a haven for sharks, but having just heard his story I was definitely looking around.

I know the statistics for shark attacks is lower than being struck by lightning – UNLESS – you live in Florida, that is. And nearly all shark attacks occur in water you can stand up in and most bites are relatively minor leg and ankle bites (ie – surfing injuries). But I also remember the photo that some of my environmental management colleagues took from the air off launch pad 39A. There were countless sharks in the photograph – about one shark every 50 feet or so.

Not all sharks are killers and man-eaters. But all sharks have to eat. They are not known for their intelligence and probably have no idea what a man is, much less swim around and dream up plots against him. But when man encounters shark – it is entirely up to the shark to do whatever he – or they – are going to do.

The shark has very sensitive sensors on its nose. It can detect activity in the water long before it sees its prey and far in advance of the prey seeing the shark. The good news is that sharks apparently do not like the taste of humans. That is why my friend was not killed.

Swimming off the Honolulu Boat Harbor about half a mile out, the shark just ‘tasted’ him and left. In a single instant, the shark clung to his abdomen with its rear teeth. Held him with the back teeth and then took two severing bites with its top teeth in less than half a second. He felt no pain. He thought he had collided with a log. He stood upright in the water and reached his hand out for the ‘log’ and felt the nose of a huge shark. It was at that moment that he saw the ocean around him was ‘purple’. The he felt the huge flap of skin that used to be on his back fold around his arm. The shark turned and left. But he was a half mile out in the ocean bleeding profusely with half his back hanging loose in the water. It was nothing less than a miracle that he survived, and one key part of the miracle is that he apparently didn’t taste very good to the great beast.

As we look forward to longer periods in the water, the site we have selected for the Atlantica I expeditions is also a breeding site for the Bull shark – one of the most aggressive sharks in the world. We will definitely seek more training on diving in those waters from shark experts and diving in and around the habitat will be done with special attention to the activities and behavior characteristics of the rather mean-spirited Bull shark.

Having said all that, we also recognize that our activities are in its waters where it has lived for countless millennia. We are the observers, not the conquerors. We are the scientists there to observe it in its element and we are most definitely not there to remove or injure a single shark. If anything, we wish to study them and count them and understand how the activities of man are encroaching on their habitat. In so doing, we hope to make life easier on them and thereby encourage them to achieve their ultimate balance in the aquatic realm where we have presumed to join them.

17. PODCAST Tour of the Jules Undersea Habitat
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This is a video PODCAST of the Atlantica Expeditions.

18. My Beautiful Machine
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Last evening I stood inside the New Worlds Explorer habitat, leaned up against the walls and considered this beautiful machine. There is much hype floating about these days on what truly constitutes “cutting edge” technology. But as I stood there and looked through her hatch openings and considered where I was standing, I realized that there was truly more here than just materials. The NWE habitat is a fantastic new design – truly the first of its kind. An undersea habitat with a Kevlar shell. It is a living place under the sea that is specifically designed to study and understand very long term – permanent human habitation of the underwater regions of the earth.

That region is no small place either - while we live crowded and struggling on a mere 59 million square miles of dry land, this new territory of certain promise spreads out before our very eyes and unfolds to encompass an astonishing 138 million cubic miles of habitable space! I am speaking of the oceans – whose human population is now and has always been - zero. And that is precisely what my beautiful machine hopes to solve.

I am very much looking forward to discussing all this in the upcoming Motherboard Television documentary on the Atlantica Expeditions and some of the Expedition Leader’s viewpoints. On November 20th – rain or shine – our undersea team will be conducting that interview on the seafloor in Key Largo, Florida, six fathoms down in the Jules Habitat. I am VERY much looking forward to that event! Anytime I can go back and spend any amount of time dry and warm under the sea is awesome. That is, after all, the only place I really consider as ‘home’ to me.

And speaking of ‘rain or shine’ it is interesting how perceptions of even the most basic and simple ideas change when you move into an alien environment. As I so often remind Claudia when walking or running through the rain – “I am an Aquanaut – so how can a little rain make any difference to me?” As a fine example of that thinking, my very good friend Chris Olstad (who holds the record for most logged time living underwater) was chasing his pet Iguana. It leapt out of his grasp and into a canal. Chris just laughed and leapt in after the animal, thinking, “Fine! You’re in my element now!”

If you are interested in all this, please feel free to check out my book UNDERSEA COLONIES at QuantumEditions.com where this and much more is discussed.

19. DIY submarine success!
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Ralph Buttigieg
NSW Australia
Last year I wrote about Mr Tao Xiangl, a Chinese farmer/inventor who was building himself a submarine from old oil barrels and other recycled material. To my astonishment the submarine has sailed and the brave submariner has survived the experience. Happy submarining Mr Xiangl !

20. Rusian leader explores Aquatica
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Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
Seems the Russians take the exploration of Aquatica very seriously. Valdimir Putin himself has just gone down for a visit:RUSSIAN Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has dived to the bottom of the world's deepest lake aboard a mini-submarine, in a media stunt unusual even by the standards of the Russian hardman. Mr Putin, wearing special thermal blue overalls, was able to examine the unique flora and fauna of Lake Baikal in Siberia during his four-hour journey underwater aboard the Mir-1 submarine. "I've never experienced anything like it in my life," the prime minister, who served eight years as Russian president, told state television aboard the support ship after resurfacing. "It's a special feeling. What I saw impressed me because with my own eyes I could see how Baikal is, in all its grandeur, in all its greatness," he added. The lake's mythological beauty has always held a special place in the heart of Russians and is its fresh waters are home to a variety of endemic species, most notably the Baikal seal.
"The dive is going perfectly, there is a perfect view with the lights," Mr Putin said from the depths of the lake on a crackling radio link-up during the dive. However he expressed some surprise about how murky the water was in the lake, which contains around a fifth of the world's freshwater reserves. "The water, of course, is clean from an ecological point of view but in fact it's a plankton soup, or so I called it," he said. The Mir-1 is the same mini-submarine that in 2008 set a world record for the deepest dive in a lake by diving to 1680 metres (5512 feet). Russian news agencies said Mr Putin had dived to a depth of around 1400 metres (4600 feet) - the deepest point in the lake's southern part - and safely returned to the surface after four hours underwater.
Perhaps he will follow up his dive with an expedition to thye Russian claimed Arctic Ocean parts of Aquatica.

21. Now We Know - The Final Frontier Begins At 73 Miles
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If one is venturing to the final frontier, it would be nice to know where it actually begins. Space has a definition – it is that point where the earth’s atmosphere officially ends and the vacuum of space officially begins. In aerodynamic terms, it is that point where there is no longer any lift on aerodynamic structures – such as the wings of aircraft.

NASA has a true need to know where this is for the purposes of piloting the Space Shuttle – and their equations define the boundary layer at 62 miles and the shuttle’s performance is plenty good with this definition.

However, scientists at the University of Calgaryapplied instrumentation to this question by a rocket launch to this boundary, too high for balloons and too low for satellites. The space boundary instrument was carried by the JOULE-II rocket on Jan. 19, 2007. It traveled to an altitude of about 124 miles (200 kilometers) above sea level and collected data for the five minutes it was moving through the "edge of space."

According to this study, the precise boundary of space is exactly 73 miles above the surface of the earth.

This has a fairly important meaning. NASA defines an ‘astronaut’ as anyone traveling to an altitude of more than 50 vertical miles. For the most part nearly all NASA astronauts fly well above that – but there are some interesting exceptions.

For example: The X-Prize was awarded in 2004 to Scaled Composites as the first private flight into space. But, Spaceship One, according to telemetry, never actually made up what the Calgary definition now defines as 73 miles. Spaceship One only made it to 367,422 feet, nearly three and a half miles short of the boundary. They were significantly above the “astronaut’ definition of 50 miles and just above the space shuttle boundary – but just short of the new definition.

And – there are eight X-15 pilots who have earned “Astronaut Wings” who have flown above 50 miles but still short of 73.

It is, of course, so much trivia and much ado about literally nothing – but – in the future when many millions of dollars are on the line – the precise definition and bragging rights will eventually come into play. This scientist and engineer predicts that the boundary between 50 and 73 miles will be a true no-man’s-territory that no one will want to settle who desire to be called a 'real astronaut'. For after all - who will pay all those hundreds of thousands of dollars and still fly just short of the newly defined boundary? After all - the whole private spaceflight venture is all about and only about bragging rights, period.

PS. If I may be allowed an afterthought – Spaceship Two, is currently designed to carry fairly large numbers of people into that no-man’s-boundary with an advertised max altitude of 68 miles – an agonizing five miles short of the newly defined Calgary limit. I strongly suspect there is going to be an inevitable political argument over this finding!

22. 400 Years of the Telescope
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When I was 12, I sold garden seeds from my bicycle door-to-door in a small Oklahoma town. When the task was done, I had earned $18.00. I thereupon took my windfall down to a local store and bought a 3” reflecting telescope. There were many nights that spring and summer that I slept by my telescope on the Oklahoma parries alone with my scope and the brilliant stars, planets and comets. It was a love affair that sparked my interest in all things science and continues to this day.

With that in mind, I have to let you know that the Public Broadcasting System is ready to release a video special that I personally cannot wait to sit down and watch: 400 YEARS OF THE TELESCOPE, a beautiful new film airing on PBS April 10 (local airtimes may be different from market to market so check it out on your local schedule.)

This is the very first PBS documentary to be filmed on 35mm RED technology. Recorded at 4520 X 2540 pixels per frame, the output is RAW format, over five times the resolution of HD! You definitely DO NOT want to miss this! Here is what PBS has to say about the presentation:

This visually stunning 60 minute film takes viewers on a breathtaking journey back to Galileo's momentous discoveries, through the leaps of knowledge since then, and into the future of colossal telescopes both here on earth, and floating in the cosmos. The cinematography is extraordinary, as we travel across five continents and through space to view the world's leading observatories and the majestic visions of space they capture. Leading astrophysicists describe, with warmth and humor, their startling breakthroughs and near failures. With narration by Neil deGrasse Tyson and a musical score by the London Symphony Orchestra, the film makes accessible the exciting future ahead of us.

The show is tied to the International Year of Astronomy 2009, with events worldwide celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first look at the heavens. The airdate specifically coincides with 100 Hours of Astronomy in early April Astronomy clubs, planetariums and observatories around the world will be hosting star gazing events, with the hope that everyone will take a moment to look up and see what Galileo saw.

Seriously – you just cannot miss this event showing in your living room!

23. Sylvia Earle: Here's how to protect the blue heart of the planet
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Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
Sylvia Earle is one of the great explorers of our time. Oceanographer, aquanaut, author and lecturer she has been exploring Aquatica for decades. Please watch the video below and hear a remarkable woman tell us why we must protect our oceans:

24. Greatest Explorations - Sputnik I
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The launch of the satellite Sputnik I by the former USSR on October 4, 1957 represented a monumentally important step for humankind. It was the first robotic representative of mankind to exit the protective blanket of the earth’s atmosphere and enter space. It also represented the capacity of a single nation - the USSR - to gain the “high ground” of orbital space and by its mere presence there, control it. The tiny beeps transmitted by Sputnik I reminded the whole world that the USSR had the power and capacity to orbit directly over their heads safely out or reach of any other military power to stop it. It was, in fact, this very idea that sparked one of the most ambitious periods of human exploration in recorded history in the form of what would become known as the ‘space race’.

Hence, not only did tiny Sputnik I threaten, it simultaneously sparked in the human psyche a primal need to reach out for various reasons. One – to protect national sovereignty. Two – to occupy a new territory before one’s competitors and enemies. And Three – to initiate a season of exploration and discovery that would take humans billions of miles outward into the deeper regions of the solar system.

All of this was initiated by a simple 23 inch sphere armed with a simple one watt transmitter that signaled earth in 0.3 second intervals.

Sputnik I reentered the earth’s atmosphere and burned up on January 4, 1958. But its legacy will live on as one of the most significant of all human exploration activities – the first benchmark in the eventual human settlement of the space frontier.

25. The New Worlds Explorer Undersea Habitat
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The Atlantica Expeditions has released the latest view of the New World's Explorer Habitat currently in construction in Florida. The model depicts the habitat as it will appear upon launch later this year or early 2010.

The New World's Explorer Undersea Habitat is the first undersea habitat ever constructed from Kevlar. It is also the first habitat ever designed to study various aspects of permanent human occupation of the undersea regions of the world.

The habitat is designed for a prime crew of two or three aquanauts. It is also designed as a modular structure to allow up to four of the NWE type habitats to be connected to a central hub.