Day 2 -- Mining the moon and the life of a photon

Aside from the actual science, I am learning that 1) Copenhagen can be quite cold in the summer and 2) that the natives here are quite friendly. More than once people on the street have stopped to help me find my way. And the streets are full of people -- walking, riding bikes, taking buses. It seems to be a fitting place to have sessions on urban planning. From what I can see, Copenhagen has adopted some of the better ideas.

After a morning of biology, I went for physics and aerospace in the afternoon. The subject was the Google LunarX prize.  To get the $20 million, the winning team will have to land a robot on the moon, have it go 500 meters and send images back to Earth. the speakers were from the European Space Agency and the team leader of the Part Time Scientists -- one of 18 teams competing for the prize.

While the teams are busy working out the engineering, Bernhard Foing of the ESA is making plans for colonizing the moon, at least with robots, and possibly even mining it. With 3-d printers that can utilize moon dust, they are already planning the shelters that can be built.

"The moon is the Earth's eighth continent," he says. At first, he believes we will mine knowledge. Then it will be materials for use there and, finally, we will identify the ores or isotopes that it will be worthwhile to haul back to Earth. Make no mistake, the part-timers (who have people working full time on the project) have serious backing from industry. They see a future in this, and if countries are not going to step up to the plate, they will.

The press release they handed us, by the way, with the heading Google Lunar XPrize, started with the question: Who owns the moon? (The google representative, by the way swears it's not Google.)

Serge Haroche Serge Haroche

Next, I went straight for the hard stuff and attended another keynote lecture -- by Serge Haroche. Haroche's talk was dizzying. One minute he was explaining the fairly technical details of an experiment and the next he was bemoaning the fate of a photon that dies the moment it is detected. Bohrs, Einstein and Schroedinger were all there. But at the end, I felt I understood, if not everything, at least the basic physics of what he had accomplished. I won't recap here -- go to his Nobel lecture if you want to know about capturing and detecting single photons.

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Enjoy your comments,, have not seen mention of the meeting in the papers I read.

By Leonard Schloff (not verified) on 23 Jun 2014 #permalink