Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Exploration of Inner Space

I keep up with the latest in science and technology news primarily through podcasts. Here is one I really want to share with my readers...

OCEANOGRAPHER ROBERT BALLARD delivers an eye-opening presentation on the most ignored frontier in the world--the oceans--at the TED Talks Conference.

For low bandwidth readers, you may wish to listen to MP3 audio version of the above:

Some of the most juicy bits:

(1) NASA's annual budget is 1600 times larger than that of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(2) Only about a tenth of a percent of the oceans has been explored.
(3) Fifty percent of the United States is under the ocean, and we have better maps of Mars than that unexplored territory.
(4) The greatest mountain range on earth is under the ocean, running around the planet like the seam of a baseball. It covers 23% of the earth's surface, but men did not actually visit the Mid-Ocean Mountain Range's rift valley until after the first man on the moon!
(5) This largest planetary feature is unlike any other mountain range we know about, for it is a mountain "under tension" unlike all of the ones on dry land. In fact, oceanographers call it the "boundary of creation" since it drives the process of plate tectonics which creates those mountains that we do see on land! But the mid-ocean ridge is apparently also a source for potentially unlimited geothermal energy as well as vast stores of commercial grade ores of chromium, zinc, gold and other valuable materials.
(6) Most of the ocean is in total darkness but there are tens of thousands of active volcanoes along the 42,000 mile length of the Mid-ocean ridge. There are millions of submarine hot springs full of life forms based on bacterial chemosynthesis, which mimic photosynthesis but without light!

Lots, lots more in Dr. Ballard's talk. Watch or listen to it all!

What I take away from this talk is the awareness that vast stores of energy and material resources appear to be waiting for humanity in the ocean. At the end of the Age of Oil may be dawning the Age of Water. There is even the suggestion that humanity ought to move into the oceans.

A related site to bookmark is the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island where Dr. Ballard is based.


blackshama said...

Cousteau batted for that years ago.

The thingy is that the oceans don't have that shock and awe (read as "The Superpowers have can nuke you to kingdom come!) value that outer space has.

Jego said...

Yeah. One of the main reasons we're in outer space is because of military one-upmanship. Spying on citizens is merely a bonus.

Those telescopes looking for planets in some distant star we would NEVER go to are better trained at the depths of the oceans.

Amadeo said...

Why limit that frontier to the ocean depths? Why not include the crust and core of this blue planet. How much do we know about them?