With all the actualities going on about Mars – too bad none of you writing about it – I would like to share this amazing piece of software and technology with you.
But first, let us recap on the news around Mars. Only 13 days ago, NASA came up with the exciting news that evidence of flowing (!) water has been discovered on the surface. Tracks of hydrated salty streaks have been found on the slopes of the planet. This means that in Martian summers, salt water might be flowing on these slopes. This discovery greatly enhances the possibility of the existence of microbial life on Mars.
This discovery coincidentally emerged at the same time with the movie ‘The Martian’. For who is unfamiliar with the movie, it is a sci-fi starring Matt Damon surviving on Mars. The thing is, the producers of the movie use current and near-future technologies, which is backed up with real science. The movie therefore enthuses people into real science.
Using real data from 50 years of Mars exploration, NASA launched a new web app: Mars Trek. Thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance satellites, the surface of Mars has now been mapped out. This web app could be considered the Mars equivalent to the well-known Google Earth. Mars Trek is developed for Mars mission leaders and scientists, as well as for the public. It allows us to explore the Martian surface, a place which is on average 225 million km away from Earth. This is another step of NASA to involve the public in the progress of space and planet exploration (unfortunately, no Mars Street View exists).
The app contains interactive maps, which shows data of specific places, just as Google Earth. Furthermore, filters have been added to see the surface as from the eyes of the satellites’ instruments. For instance, this enables us to see topographical details or obtain surface composition data of the Gale crater. Even more astonishing, Mars Trek provides downloadable STL files of some places that one can use to print out 3D-models of those places. In other words, we can now print replicas of actual craters of the planet.
With Mars Trek, it is even possible to follow the 3,000 km path fictional astronaut Matt Damon travelled in ‘The Martian’. We can start in Acidalia Planitia, travel over the dry planes and end in the Schiaparelli crater. Only difference is, we can do this safely from our desks.
My point is, our technology enables us to prepare us for the future. As Brian Day, Mars Trek’s project manager says: “In a couple of decades the first humans will set foot on Mars, but right now we all have the capability of exploring the surface of Mars and preparing for this great adventure”.
IFLScience, (2015). NASA: Streaks Of Salt On Mars Mean Flowing Water, And Raise New Hopes Of Finding Life. [online] Available at: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-streaks-salt-mars-mean-flowing-water-and-raise-new-hopes-finding-life [Accessed 11 Oct. 2015].
Jpl.nasa.gov, (2015). New Online Exploring Tools Bring NASA’s Journey to Mars to New Generation. [online] Available at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4680 [Accessed 11 Oct. 2015].
Marstrek.jpl.nasa.gov, (2015). Mars Trek. [online] Available at: http://marstrek.jpl.nasa.gov/# [Accessed 11 Oct. 2015].
Motherboard, (2015). ‘Mars Trek’ is Google Earth voor de rode planeet. [online] Available at: http://motherboard.vice.com/nl/read/mars-trek-is-google-earth-voor-de-rode-planeet [Accessed 11 Oct. 2015].
Do you remember the name of that one movie with Robert De Niro? You don’t remember? Then you will probably just Google it to find out. Do you know your mother’s phone number by heart? Why should you, the number is stored in your smartphone. Recent studies suggest that the abundance of information and the accessibility of information through the internet are changing the way of how our memory works. Technology is presumed to change the very way how our brains store information.
Information is everywhere and it is overwhelming. Smartphones increase the accessibility of information even further with Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips. If that is not enough, Facebook and other social media are smashing information in our faces. In order to deal with all the information around us, we tend to save it in our smartphones and pc’s. We literally are ‘outsourcing’ our memories to external devices or the internet. When information is stored in these external devices, our brains do not worry about it anymore. As a result, our brains’ cognitive processes alter which leads to digital amnesia: “the experience of forgetting information that you trust a digital device to store and remember for you”.
So is technology making us dumber? Researchers do not believe so. We are just handling information differently. Instead of taking the effort of remembering, we just search for the answers online. Because we know that answers can be found, our brains have learned to rely on the internet rather than remembering the information itself. Our brains have become more efficient in learning where and how to find information. Consequently, the internet is treated as an extension of our own memory.
However, it is the dependency of our brain on technology what is concerning. For example, when your smartphone’s battery is empty, or the internet itself is out, you cannot use Google to access your ‘outsourced’ memory. Even worse, our external memories will be lost when hard disks or the cloud fails. Because we are so used to outsource our memories, we do not think about how vulnerable our external memories are. Researchers do not yet know what long-term implications digital amnesia has. Should we invent ways to better secure our external memories? Or do we need to train our brains in order to stay fit? I do not know. For now, I’ll just stick to Google.
Bohannon, J. (2011). Searching for the Google Effect on People’s Memory. Science, 333(6040), pp.277-277.
Roberts, G. (2015). Google Effect: is technology making us stupid?. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/google-effect-is-technology-making-us-stupid-10391564.html [Accessed 22 Sep. 2015].
The rise and impact of digital amnesia. (2015). 1st ed. [ebook] Kaspersky Lab. Available at: https://blog.kaspersky.com/files/2015/06/005-Kaspersky-Digital-Amnesia-19.6.15.pdf [Accessed 24 Sep. 2015].
Van Raemdonck, N. (2015). Digitaal geheugenverlies: hoe smartphones ons geheugen overnemen. [online] Motherboard. Available at: http://motherboard.vice.com/nl/read/digital-amnesia-hoe-smartphones-ons-geheugen-overnemen?trk_source=recommended [Accessed 22 Sep. 2015].