TechKNOW Tomorrow – A Space Flight Involving Only Civilians Plans to Launch This Year

Image by SpaceX via Unsplash.

As children, many of us once dreamed of climbing into a rocket and exploring outer space. What could be more exciting than discovering extraterrestrial life (friendly, of course!), visiting other planets, or even just orbiting the earth and watching the stars?

Of course, this is an unrealistic fantasy for the vast majority of us. You need at least a bachelor’s degree in science, math, or engineering. In addition, add another three years of experience flying a jet aircraft and an intense physical exam. In short, having an ordinary civilian launch into space was a distant pipe dream.

Until now.

SpaceX

Billionaire Elon Musk created SpaceX to support his own dream – to colonize Mars in the event that Earth’s limited natural resources could no longer support the overpopulation of our planet. Musk has spent two decades trying to turn this dream into a reality, and it finally looks like it’s paying off.

For those who don’t know, SpaceX is a privately-owned company that has grown exponentially in recent years. This is in stark contrast to NASA, which is a government-owned and funded organization. SpaceX receives most of its income from space launches of commercial and military satellites. In fact, NASA is one of SpaceX’s best customers, meaning they collaborate on a lot of projects.

Image by SpaceX via Unsplash.

One of Musk’s most noble goals is his desire for more affordable space travel for the average consumer. For that to happen, it’ll require billions of dollars in investments from rich tourists. At the moment, funding this new technology is expensive because the technology is in its infancy, in low production, and requires more testing. Over time, this won’t really be true anymore.

In these next few years, it’s not difficult to imagine the rise of space tourism. As SpaceX receives more funding from wealthy investors who want to travel into outer space, we may start to see average people orbiting Earth or our Moon the moment it becomes a lot more affordable.

The 2021 Plan to Launch Civilians into Space

In a recent announcement given by SpaceX, a plan to launch a Dragon spacecraft with billionaire Jared Isaacman at the helm is already in the works and aims to launch before the end of the year. Isaacman, an experienced jet pilot, decided to donate the other three seats to the general public.

Image by Kyle Wiseman via Twitter.

Isaacman plans to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with donations gained from a fundraiser that’ll determine one of the lucky three civilians travelling to outer space. A female health-care worker at the hospital will also earn a seat, as will one entrepreneur with an online business. A parallel can be drawn between Isaacman and Willy Wonka, in a way.

Of course, these three lucky people will be provided with astronaut training, which will involve “emergency preparedness training, spacesuit and spacecraft ingress and egress exercises, as well as partial and full mission simulations.”

Besides this training, it’s important to note that there are some shifting boundaries here. What was once a requirement in order to demonstrate the skills and knowledge necessary to be an astronaut – education and flight experience – is now being replaced by automation. Technology has advanced far more swiftly than any of us could possibly have imagined.

From the sounds of things, some of what was once found in classic science fiction novels will realistically turn into scientific possibilities in the near future. Maybe not for us, but certainly for our children or grandchildren.

As it stands, this means that many of those kids who still fantasize about exploring space will actually be able to realize those dreams… one day.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – COVID-19 Has Changed the Future of Live Events

Image by Edward Cisneros via Unsplash.

Have you ever gone to a concert for one of your favourite bands or musicians? What about a science fiction convention? A team meeting with all of your coworkers? Most of us have experienced large crowds during live events, festivals, or even business conferences at some point in our lives.

COVID-19 changed everything by illustrating gaps in our culture, workplaces, and skills that we weren’t quite ready to accept. The digital divide, for instance, became more serious once services started to move online. How can we expect someone without an internet connection to be able to work from home or access their local library?

We also have to think about traditional large venues and the danger involved with large crowds. How many people can safely attend your child’s wedding ceremony? Is it possible to have a concert with fans socially distanced from one another?

While live events aren’t going anywhere in the near future, event coordinators have been forced to find ways to adapt to the growing concerns of social distancing during massive live conventions. Without adaptation, live gatherings and functions are being postponed or outright cancelled.

To avoid that, we’re starting to see virtual changes to live venues, changes that will likely wind up being a lot more permanent than most of us are expecting.

Virtual Entertainment

On the first night of CES 2021 – an annual technology trade show – Billie Eilish performed virtually on a computer-generated stage. While virtual concerts aren’t exactly a novel concept, the fact that this one utilized CGI marks a departure for what was traditionally a physical performance.

Image by iHeartMedia via CNET.

VIP audience members were represented by the little white dots on either side of the stage, while the main audience could be found in the swarm of dots below. To speak with one another, users had to drag a dot across the screen to a chat box.

In an increasingly digital world becoming entirely reliant on technology, it’s great news for people that would otherwise be unable to access a venue like this in person. Concerts and lengthy festivals will soon be accessible by people worldwide… as long as they have a modern device and reliable internet connection.

That said, the physical nature of concerts isn’t disappearing entirely. The goal is to return to offering limited seating once it’s safe enough to do so. Until the end of 2021, however, virtual venues seem to be the future we’re heading towards. Even after these venues become open to the public again, it’s likely that virtual tickets will still be encouraged, meaning most events, festivals, and conferences will likely take a hybrid approach to consuming entertainment.

Of course, this certainly raises a lot of questions. Will virtual tickets to these events be more affordable than physical ones? How different will the experience be? How will troublemakers be moderated? Can virtual audience members chat with physical ones?

With the future hinting at an even larger digital focus, there are a couple of potential issues we should consider…

Issues with Virtual Events

Image by Chris Montgomery via Unsplash.

One of the main concerns with virtual events is “screen fatigue”. All of us have already spent so much time online since the outbreak of COVID-19, and more online activities just doesn’t sound that appealing. On top of this, much of the energy and excitement involved with these live activities will be lost in the transition to a virtual environment.

Another major concern is connected with the overemphasis on digital communication. With texting, instant messaging services, and direct messages replacing in-person conversations, we’re placing even more barriers in front of human connection. Some conversation through text is fantastic, allowing us to build bridges with friends and loved ones who are otherwise too far away physically. But an overreliance on digital communication could be damaging to our society as a whole.

Finally, there’s the issue of the existing digital divide. Despite excellent efforts made by the government and numerous community organizations, an overabundance of people are being threatened with being left behind as we progress into a purely virtual arena. It’s imperative that more non-profit organizations like the Community Sector Council teach digital literacy skills to marginalized populations, but it’s equally important that rural locations be given proper, affordable access to the internet in the near future.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Extreme Weather: Natural Causes or Climate Change?

A typhoon that devastated the Philippines. A brutal 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Greece. Flash floods in Indonesia and Afghanistan that displaced hundreds of thousands of people. A hurricane that ripped through the U.S., Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. These are merely a handful of the catastrophic natural disasters the world has faced throughout 2020.

What do they all have in common? Insurmountable damage, numerous casualties, and, to various extents, climate change.

Between 2000 and 2020, we have seen a massive increase in climate disasters (7,348 total) compared to what was reported between 1980 and 2000 (4,212 natural disasters). “This is clear evidence that in a world where the global average temperature in 2019 was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period, the impacts are being felt in the increased frequency of extreme weather events including heatwaves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires,” the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction reported.

Of course, not all natural disasters can be attributed to human interference in the environment. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, for instance, are merely two factors that can alter the climate. Which is why extreme-weather attribution studies, and the rapidly advancing technology that goes with these studies, are so important to us right now.

Climate Change Attribution

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which gathers data from numerous published studies to form an objective viewpoint, released their fourth assessment report in 2007 and noted, ““Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.”” In their previous report, they had mentioned that “most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”.

Image by Joanne Francis via Unsplash.

While scientists have been researching, collecting evidence, and warning us about climate change for decades, very little has been done to stem the speed of it. In fact, the last couple of years seem to be the first time that politicians have actually taken the issue seriously.

Proof is necessary in demonstrating which natural disasters would have occurred without human intervention; otherwise, the issue won’t be taken seriously enough or it’ll be taken too seriously. But what makes scientists so certain that climate change is attributable to humans?

One of the major technological breakthroughs in climate change attribution is the detailed satellite data that is able to determine natural weather systems. The longer we receive reports, the more accurate a conclusion can be drawn on what’s affecting the climate.

The other major breakthrough is the increased computing power that continues to progress annually. With the first quantum computers finally here, “scientists are able to create higher-resolution simulations and conduct many more virtual experiments”. These virtual experiments mean that scientists will be able to test how slight changes in climate affect the environment, except without the worries of repercussions to our actual world.

Image by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash.

Thanks to these technological improvements, as well as the ability to “distinguish between CO2 molecules that are emitted naturally by plants and animals and those that result from the burning of fossil fuels”, have given scientists increasing statistical certainty about the role global warming plays in natural disasters. 

Because scientists are able to discern the difference between natural or manufactured climate change, the studies they conduct allow us to predict future hazards to the environment and how best to prepare for them. These ongoing studies can “help us understand how to rebuild our cities and infrastructure for a climate-changed world”.

By now, much of the damage caused by climate change is irreversible. However, we can still mitigate some of the damage from natural disasters and prevent less severe repercussions.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.