My Blender Project: The Ginormous Space Telescope Concept

I used Blender to model an idea for a space telescope:


Here is the transcript:

Throughout history, our knowledge of space was extremely limited.

Of course, it still is.

Four hundred years ago few people even knew that moons revolve around Jupiter.

Now we’ve discovered planets orbiting around our nearest stars.

These discoveries were made with telescopes.

And, if it weren’t for telescopes, we’d be almost completely ignorant of what’s beyond Earth.

It’s important to understand what’s around us – long-term survival of humans depends on it – and, to see much of anything beyond our solar system, we need big telescopes.

I’m going to provide an overview – a summary of a concept – for a potentially huge space telescope.

First, I want to make a couple of comparisons.

Certainly, the Hubble Space Telescope has been incredibly successful.

With a single mirror less than three meters in diameter, it’s given us amazing views of space such as this – and it’s enabled many scientific discoveries.

Now The James Webb Space Telescope is designed with six times the light gathering power of Hubble.

It’s a significant advancement.

Technologies that make this possible includes a large segmented primary mirror and adaptive optics.

Existing designs, such as the James Webb, require assembled structures to be fit within the payload shrouds of their launch vehicles.

Then, once in space, these telescopes are unfolded by mechanisms.

So, there must be extreme reliability of many moving parts and this is achieved with high-quality components, testing, and redundant systems.

Many of these components and systems have nothing to do with astronomy.

It’s unfortunate because the costs of these items limit the sizes and capacities of the telescopes.

For the concept I’m proposing, construction of the major structures will be done in space.

In addition, the mirror positioning system will be simple and affordable.

These characteristics enable it to be scaled to a huge size.

It can be more powerful than any telescope that’s now planned for earth or space.

It could be enormous.

Any name for this needs to distinguish it from telescopes that are just “extremely large”.

So, I’m calling it The Ginormous Space Telescope.

Although it’s bigger, some aspects of this are similar to other space telescopes.

As with the James Webb, it will most likely be placed in a solar orbit about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

Some of the optics and systems can use existing designs and technology.

However, to be significantly larger, this telescope will have to be different to be affordable.

Because it is constructed in space, it can be larger than anything that needs to be assembled and then packed into a launch vehicle.

Also, costs of mechanisms to unfold the structures are avoided with assembly in space.

To assure efficient construction, this concept uses simple snap-together connections whenever possible.

Many of the connections can be made without fasteners using permanent magnets bonded to structural members.

Beam elements and components can be designed with low mass since they’ll be transmitting small loads.

Like other large astronomical telescopes, the Ginormous Space Telescope has a segmented and adaptive primary mirror.

However, the concept solves size limitations of other designs.

It enables an extremely large primary mirror because of the simple and low-cost way it positions the mirror segments.

A patent for this is owned by The Boeing Company and is titled Adaptive Reflecting System.

This states the need for a mirror system that, quoting from the patent, “…can provide massive light-gathering capacity, while allowing compact stowage in a spacecraft payload compartment.”

That’s what the Ginormous Space Telescope does.

By the way, while I’m the inventor and I worked for Boeing when the patent was filed, there’s currently no affiliation.

As a rough concept, the precise size of this telescope isn’t important, but I’ve modeled it with a total surface area of approximately 1000 square meters.

At this size, it has 40 times more light gathering power than the James Webb and it will be much larger than other proposed space telescopes.

It will be even larger than the earth-based European Extremely Large Telescope.

And, not only will this concept collect more light, its performance won’t be affected by the atmosphere.

I’ll describe the concept.

One end of the spacecraft will always be sun-facing.

This is the aft side.

The primary mirror is positioned forward of a sunshield.

Almost everything on the forward side will have a black optical coating.

On the aft sun-facing side, the sunshield will have reflective panels to block sunlight from the optics.

Aft structures support a laser that will be used to control positioning of the primary mirror segments.

I’ll explain how it’s used after pointing out a few more things.

For this simulation, dark components are shown lighter than they’ll actually be so they can be visible.

Mirror segments have a gold color.

Forward of the primary mirror is the Optics and Instrument Module.

An earth-pointing communications antenna is mounted to the aft structure.

The forward end of the telescope holds the secondary mirror assembly, which returns light to the optics and instrument module.

The secondary mirror is supported by long beams.

I’ll provide a little more detail and…

I’ll start with the primary mirror assembly and some of the surrounding components.

Each mirror segment is mounted on a spherical bearing that’s secured to the mirror assembly frame.

The bearing provides freedom of movement so the mirrors can be precisely aligned.

While this concept model shows circular mirror segments, they could be hexagonal.

Space between the sunshield and mirror assembly contains the spacecraft bus.

This is a module that holds instrument and spacecraft control systems.

Beams are also in this area to separate the primary mirror from the sunshield.

These beams form integral trusses when connected to the mirror and sunshield structures.

In addition to being parts of the mirror backing, the trusses connect to the aft structures and secondary mirror supports.

The aft side of each mirror segment is connected to a long slender rod that extends to the sunshield structure.

This is for positioning control of the mirror segments.

These rods are very thin and don’t show in the model.

Low-mass beams are snapped together to make the sunshield structure.

Node points of some these beams hold small devices to control the position of the mirror segments.

After the structure is assembled, the reflective panels are snapped onto the beams.

This concept model has 560 mirror segments and each of these are one-and-a-half meters in diameter.

With so many segments, having complex and expensive mirror positioning controls really wouldn’t be practical.

The Adaptive Reflecting System patent addresses this with a simple, low-cost method to control the mirrors.

It makes this concept feasible.

Here’s generally how the controls work.

As I mentioned, node points on the mirror assembly frame have spherical bearings.

These bearings hold the mirrors and allow a gimbaling movement.

This shows the back of a mirror segment, a bearing, and part of the frame.

The end of the positioning rod that’s opposite the mirror connects to a thermal actuator with a permanent magnet that acts across a small gap.

This gap allows the assembly to slightly rotate.

Red parts in this image are magnets and a thin nonferrous membrane is shown green.

The thermal actuator is held onto the other side of the membrane by the magnets.

When the actuator moves across the membrane, the rod connected to the mirror segment also moves.

The laser that’s mounted on the aft structure directs light onto the thermal mirror positioning devices.

A tracking scope can be mounted with the laser to provide machine vision to precisely direct the light.

The positioners get energy from the laser, so no wiring is routed to the actuators – for either power or sensors.

When a mirror segment needs to be realigned, the laser is directed at the thermal actuator.

This device is a simple heat engine that makes that makes small movements in response to the laser light.

When the optics systems detect misalignment of a mirror segment, the laser is pointed at the device to cause the needed movement.

This shows one of the actuators mounted on the sunshield frame.

As you can see, these are simple devices.

They’re inexpensive to manufacture as most of the parts can be 3D printed by laser sintering of metals.

Then they are bonded or snapped together as a subassembly while still on Earth.

I’ll briefly summarize how they operate.

In the patent diagram on your left, the green item is the nonferrous membrane.

This is the mirror positioning rod.

All parts with a blue color are ferrous so they are attracted to the magnets shown in red.

There’s a small center assembly and a larger outer ring assembly.

Both are held to the membrane by the magnets and friction and this is probably easier to see in this cross-section view.

Due to the arrangement of the magnets, friction is lower for the center assembly when it is heated by the laser.

This has a switching effect that’s needed for the actuator to operate.

The laser will either heat the center assembly or the outer ring segments.

These ring segments are made of nitinol, which has a high thermal expansion coefficient.

The result is that the laser energy produces controlled movements of the actuator across the membrane.

It’s nothing magical and I won’t go into the details but, when the actuator is caused to move, the rod follows it and the mirror segment is adjusted.

Well, I just wanted to give an overview of how mirror positioning works.

Of course, the patent describes this more thoroughly.

This concept for positioning the mirrors, along with a design that can be efficiently assembled in space, makes it possible for this telescope to be extremely large.

I appreciate your time.

This could become a funded project with support from a private investor or a government space agency.

The technologies exist so it would be great to see at least some form of this in space.





Jeff’s Art of Pi

The number pi interests me. I’m also interested in producing something that has the possibility of lasting a very long time. Reasons for pi being incredibly interesting are well documented elsewhere. Reasons for my interest in survivable artifacts are something I will describe here. This is about art and is not practical or useful – it’s just something I like.

I wanted to create something that, a million years from now, might be recognized as an artifact of intelligence. The number pi should be eternally recognizable and stone can be extremely stable so I produce natural stone sculptures marked with a pattern of holes that represent the number pi.piRelic_testThere will be a time when almost nothing we make will exist due to erosion and other forms of decomposition. Wood rots, plastics and concrete disintegrates, glass flows slowly as a liquid, and metals corrode. At some point, nothing will remain from any existing building, device, or artwork.

The question of how to record information that can be read in the distant future is not new. Messages were carefully designed to include on NASA’s Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft for the potential benefit of aliens, possibly millions of years from now. These crafts are now drifting toward the stars at approximately 25,000 miles per hour. They carry metal plaques with diagrams that depict generally how we appear and where we are located. The plaques will eventually be degraded by impacts from interstellar dust and larger debris, but they could remain intact for eons before they are drawn into a star.

pioneer 10 plaque

Artifacts most likely to exist 100 million years from now are those made of stone. Common stones with low intrinsic value are not likely to be reshaped and repurposed and stone is durable and chemically stable. Unlike plaques on spacecraft, it’s possible for stones on Earth to become shielded from erosion. So, a representation of pi in stone makes an unusually recognizable and potentially survivable artifact of intelligence.

artofpi piece 248

artofpi piece 265

artofpi piece 260 3

I fill the holes in the pieces I make now with strontium aluminate mixed with epoxy. The epoxy will help protect the holes for an indefinite period and the strontium aluminate glows for several hours after absorption of light.

Digits of pi are represented by holes using the type of copyrighted pattern shown below. This pattern represents the first 25 digits of pi:


artofpi pattern

Use of number symbols would be a more efficient representation than a series of holes. However, simple patterns of holes will be more long lasting since the finer details of symbols are susceptible to erosion. Holes make a more pleasing pattern as well. The patterns are arranged to form a square or rectangle to contrast with geometries of nature.

You can view and purchase any pieces currently for sale at this link:

Jeff’s Art of Pi Gallery

Shipping is free via USPS Priority Mail to any of the United States of America. International shipping is not available.

Polluting for Sugar

There is no way it is a good idea to burn fields for food production – especially for a nonessential food. I made the graphic below to illustrate how relatively thin our atmosphere is. I think it makes the point. Unnecessarily dumping toxins into the air we breath is just nuts.

atmosphere thickness

Atmosphere Thickness

Unfortunately, this is done for sugar production on Maui by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (a Division of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc.). In addition to burning the plants, polyethylene plastics used for drip irrigation are burned. A&B contends that burning these plastics do not produce any harmful compounds.

Since the company is phasing out sugar cane as a crop, this article will probably be the extent of my activism to end this. However, A&B is working to find more economical crops. This is good, but if they continue polluting the atmosphere as part of their agricultural process, I intend to put more effort into ending this.

sugar cane field burn

Sugar Cane Field Burning on Maui



Triglyceride Advice

Mayo Clinic posted this video years ago, which includes two critical health actions for anyone:

  1. Exercise
  2. Lower Carbohydrates.

This should be important to any person who wants better health and to avoid cardiovascular conditions – the most common reasons Americans become unhealthy and die.

They indicate that exercising and lowering carbs is important because you can lower LDL and triglyceride levels. While their advice is excellent, the idea that simply lowering LDL will improve health is incorrect. This part of the video is simplistic and idiotic. You can find out more about that elsewhere on my blog.

The focus on refined carbohydrates is also unfortunate. All carbohydrates are processed into simple sugars. Some process faster than others yet there is little difference in glycemic load between whole and refined grains. There’s much more about that elsewhere too.

Still, the basic advice is excellent. What interests me about this video is that it is an example of a mainstream institution advocating health through lowering carbs.

Probably the most important blood lipid metric is the triglyceride/HDL ratio. This happens through exercise and long-term LCHF eating. Ideally, your Trig/HDL ratio will be less than one and mine was 0.69 when last checked. For me, this is one of many indicators that confirm LCHF benefits.

Except in extreme conditions, heart health can only be achieved without drugs. It’s simple – just follow Mayo Clinic’s basic advice and take carb reduction more seriously than to just avoid sugar.

Here is a recent example of CNN picking up on this, but still focusing on high glycemic carbs:

In spite of pressure from health institutions, misguided nutritional education, and disinformation from the pharmaceutical industry, some medical professionals actually use the simple steps (exercise and LCHF eating) that reverse metabolic syndrome:

Credit Suisse Research’s Fat: The New Health Paradigm

I want to point you to a really interesting report: Fat:The New Health Paradigm, which was released this month from Credit Suisse Research. This is more about how reversing trends of metabolic syndrome start with ignoring conventional nutrition guidelines. The link is to the report in PDF format.

Eating Trends Follow Guidelines

Americans have followed dietary guidelines. The USDA has recommended that Americans eat MORE of the following foods and data from the 1970-2005 period(1) show the extent to which this occurred:

Percentage of Actual Increases in Consumption

+91  Vegetable Oils
+41  Grains
+23  Vegetables
+13  Fruits

The USDA has recommended that Americans eat LESS of the following foods:

Percentage of Actual Decreases in Consumption

-73  Whole Milk
-17  Red Meat
-17  Eggs
-16  Animal Fats
-14  Butter

There has also been a 19 percent increase in sugars and sweeteners. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines will almost certainly suggest an upper limit on added sugar. Unfortunately, their messaging does not include significant warnings regarding sugar. For example, see The USDA Likes Pancakes Topped with Fruit and a Sprinkle of Sugar.

Carbohydrate consumption continues to increase, although this remains within the 45 – 65 percent guidelines recommendations. See More About Macronutrient Targets.

The chart graphs obesity data, but this is really just indicative of more serious issues of metabolic syndrome. Correlation is not causation, but there is plenty of science and other important types of information that strongly point to causes. To be healthy, Americans will need to stop following guidelines and rediscover the foods that were eaten before chronic diseases became epidemic. For more of what I think regarding the failure of dietary guidelines, see Comments for the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Chart by Jeffrey Willits

Chart by Jeffrey Willits

1. Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U. S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Information Bulletin Number 33, March 2008.

Jeff Volek, PhD, RD – Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of LCHF

Good video… Prof. Jeff Volek gives an excellent lecture explaining metabolic benefits of low-carbohydrate high-fat (LCHF) ketogenic diets. He brings up some of the intricate details of the science of ketosis, but he makes it relevant with information about the health effects to individuals and the worldwide consequences of failed dietary protocol. He gives some statistics that show horrendous effects and predictions regarding the metabolic syndrome epidemic. Some of the promising science showing therapeutic use of ketogenic diets is also discussed.

Low carbohydrate diets are shown to improve a wide range of biomarkers. Although it is an inconsistent effect, carb restriction causes 15 to 20 percent of people to have increased LDL cholesterol. However, the size of LDL particles is probably more important than the concentration. Also, particle size consistently increases with carb restriction.

Volek points out the fact that there is no association between dietary saturated fat (SFA) and heart disease, while saturated fat in blood does correlate with incidence of heart disease. Although a low carb diet is typically higher in SFA, dietary saturated fat decreases SFA in the blood.

One of the points is that people’s tolerance to carbohydrates is widely variable. His summary:

Consumption of carbohydrates at levels that exceed an individual’s ability to directly oxidize them contributes to increased circulating SFA… …and exacerbates the features of insulin resistance.

Regarding carbohydrate levels, Volek notes that, eating a “heart-healthy” muffin and a banana for breakfast causes you to take on ten times the amount of glucose that is normally in your bloodstream.