Star Trek and Its Influence on Space Exploration and the World!

Star Ship Enterprise from the original Star Trek series with stars in the background
Image by p2722754 from Pixabay

The original Star Trek franchise, which ran from 1966-1969 was not just a great sci-fi series. It was a catalyst of innovation, inspiration, and collaboration for people across the world. Concepts such as warp drive, transporter technology, and deflector shields have sparked discussion, and terms such as dilithium crystals initiated conversations. Let’s take a closer look at how Star Trek has influenced fans and scientists alike in space exploration and society as a whole.

Inspiring Future Generations

The franchise ran from 1966-1969 and became a milestone in ingenuity. The series influenced people to look to the skies, wondering what was out there. Star Trek was and still is an inspiration to countless individuals seeking careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and of course, space exploration. Many astronauts, scientists, engineers, and space enthusiasts have cited Star Trek as a formative influence on their interest in space and their decision to pursue careers in related fields.

Woman scientist lookiing up

Viewers were fascinated as they watched the Enterprise crew encounter new civilizations. Some were more advanced and some whose evolution was considered primitive by 23rd century Earth standards. That is where the Prime Directive came into play. A central tenet of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets’ principle prohibits interference with the internal development of alien civilizations, particularly pre-warp ones, meaning they have not yet developed the capability for faster-than-light travel.

The stories captivated audiences as to how the crew would struggle to maintain the directive when encountering obstacles they had to overcome. One of the most enduring encounters was in “The City on the Edge of Forever” where Dr. McCoy accidentally went back in time and somehow changed Earth’s history. It was up to Kirk and Spock to find McCoy and reverse what he did. Shatner mentioned this as his favorite episode during a YouTube interview with renowned astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson.

A Galaxy of Predators and Peacemakers

It wasn’t just the prime directive the Enterprise crew had to deal with. There were civilizations within the galaxy that found Starfleet to be a threat to them, namely the Klingons, as well as other aliens such as the Gorns – a reptilian humanoid species who Kirk was forced to fight on an alien planet in the episode “Arena“.

Arena was one episode and no more Gorns appeared throughout the series, but the Klingons were another story, as the crew had numerous encounters with them. In “Day of the Dove,” they become entangled in a conflict with them, controlled by a mysterious entity that thrives on hatred and conflict. Fortunately, it ended well, at least for that time, but we won’t spoil the ending by explaining how it happened.

Needless to say, the Klingons were always a thorn in the side of Star Fleet; however, that changed in the Next Generation when a peace treaty was consummated with them. Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon was the security officer on the bridge. We’ll venture into Captain Picard’s universe in a separate article, focusing only on the original series here.

The show’s optimistic vision of humanity’s future in the 23rd century depicted people from diverse backgrounds working together. This resonated with audiences worldwide and represented a peaceful coexistence between all parties back on Earth. 

Overall, “Star Trek” is a cultural phenomenon that has inspired generations of fans by exploring bold ideas, emphasizing inclusivity, and envisioning a future where humanity’s potential knows no bounds.

The Characters

Lieutenant Uhura

In the 10th episode of the third season titled “Plato’s Stepchildren,” Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kissing Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) broke barriers that echoed across the country as the first interracial kiss on TV, and still today, it is looked upon as a milestone that has advanced racial relations in TV and across all media platforms.

Nichols was the first African-American woman to play a lead role on television as Communication Officer Lieutenant Uhura. She met Dr. Martin Luther King, who was inspired by her character on Star Trek and said to her, “Do you not understand what God has given you? … You have the first important non-traditional role, a non-stereotypical role. … You cannot abdicate your position. You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.


Star Trek was aired during the Cold War and the Russian national officer Chekov, played by Walter Koenig, sent a clear message that there was mutual peace between the US and the Soviet Union in the 23rd century. Interestingly enough, this did become a reality after the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991. 

Unfortunately, recent current events are proving otherwise, as Valdimar Putin’s attack on Ukraine is reminiscent of past Soviet colonization. Despite this, the International Space Station (ISS) is still strong. It is a collaborative project involving multiple space agencies, including NASA (United States), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), CSA (Canadian Space Agency) and yes, Roscosmos (Russia).

What happens after the Ukraine war remains to be seen, but let’s hope that when the 23rd century arrives, Gene Roddenberry’s view of future world peace still holds.

Lieutenant Sulu

George Takei portrayed Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series and the first six Star Trek films. He served as the helm officer aboard the USS Enterprise under Captain Kirk. He’s known for his calm demeanor and exceptional piloting skills, expertly navigating the Enterprise through dangerous situations.

Although “Hikaru” is a typical Japanese first name, “Sulu”
isn’t a Japanese surname. It refers to the Sulu Sea, near the Philippines. This is reportedly what Gene Roddenberry wanted – some ambiguity to his origin. Since Sulu was never referred to as specifically Japanese, it allowed Roddenberry to represent him with a broader Asian background, allowing him to represent all Asians within the entire Star Trek universe.

It is no coincidence that in real life, George Takei is full Japanese and felt the wrath of the American internment camps after the Pearl Harbor attacks. He has since become a vocal advocate for racial and social justice and has talked about his experience at previous Star Trek conventions. 

George Takei was born on April 20, 1937, and is 86 years old.


Lieutenant Scott, or “Scotty” (James Doohan), as Captain Kirk called him, was the chief engineer of the Enterprise. He is known for his technical expertise and his ability to keep the enterprise running smoothly, even under the most challenging circumstances. Scotty’s catchphrase, “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” has become iconic in popular culture.

His character is depicted as fiercely loyal to the captain and the crew of the Enterprise. He is often portrayed as having a gruff exterior but also demonstrates compassion and camaraderie with his fellow crew members.

Scotty’s loyalty takes control with support from Dr. McCoy

Scott’s background was from Scotland. His strong Scottish accent and colorful expressions are instantly recognizable. In addition to his engineering skills, Scotty is known for his fondness for Scotch whisky, which adds depth to his character and provides moments of levity in the series. The term “Beam me up Scotty” is a common idiom known worldwide.

Dr. McCoy

Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelly) is a prominent character in the Star Trek franchise, known for his role as the ship’s chief medical officer. He is a highly skilled physician with expertise in various fields of medicine and surgery, but, at times, he finds himself faced with challenging situations, especially when confronted with alien physiology,

Star Trek Enterprise sick bay
Sick Bay Star Trek Museum Ticonderoga, NY

Despite his occasional verbal battles with fellow crewmembers, mainly when addressed by Mr Spock’s lack of human emotion, McCoy can get very poignant and is not afraid to speak his mind, particularly when he feels that ethical principles are at stake. He often serves as a voice of reason, questioning authority and advocating for what he believes is right, even if it means challenging orders from superiors. Overall, however, he shows compassion for the well-being of his fellow crew members.

McCoy shares a close friendship with Captain Kirk, and this dynamic is characterized by playful banter, mutual respect, and unwavering loyalty to one another. His personality is often remembered for his remarks when confronted with events that force him to step outside his expertise, which prompts him to yell out his memorable catchphrase, “I’m a doctor, not a … “.

McCoy’s background is not directly mentioned; however, there are subtle implications that he comes from the southern United States.

Leonard Nimoy’s most iconic role as Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human science officer, has become a pop culture phenomenon, admired for his logic, loyalty, and the Vulcan salute he originated. “Live Long and Prosper” were the words that accompanied Spock’s salute. He used two fingers to donate it. Although not explicitly addressed in the series, the Vulcan salute represents the Hebrew letter Shin (ש) and refers to the Jewish Priestly Blessing. A blessing from the Old Testament that Nimoy witnessed as a child.

This author was privileged to meet Nimoy while visiting the Jewish Museum in NYC. I asked him what he thought of the other Star Trek series. He responded, “I think of them as my grandchildren. They come, and then they go away”. 

Leonard Nimoy passed away in 2015 from COPD, but his influence on science fiction and popular culture remains immense, especially among NASA engineers. His mindset and discipline helped bridge the gap between human emotions and logic, enlightening children and adults to think clearly and logically when encountering problems.


Captain James Tiberius Kirk, portrayed by William Shatner, is one of the most iconic characters in science fiction history.  As the captain of the USS Enterprise, his persona became synonymous with strength, leadership, and exploration of the unknown, along with the phrase “Boldly go where no man has gone before“, and boldly they did travel through the galaxy, encountering new life and civilizations. 

Black and white portrait of William Shatner
Wikipedia Public Domain

You Can Call Me Bill

William Shatner always had a passion for space travel. In 1978, he recorded his version of Rocket Man at the Sci-fi Awards. But his passion did not end there. On October 13, 2021, at age 90, he went from fictional to real spaceman aboard billionaire Jeff Besos’s Blue Origin spacecraft and became the oldest human to ever set foot into space.

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds, and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her,” reads an excerpt from “Boldly Go” that was first published in Variety Magazine.”

I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary, extraordinary. It’s so much larger than me and life. It hasn’t got anything to do with the little green men and the blue orb. It has to do with the enormity, quickness, and suddenness of life and death.

Shatner, at age 93, is still going strong. On March 17, 2024, he was the guest at the Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, NYC, hosted by  Neil Degrasse Tyson for a Q&A session after screening his new movie “You Can Call Me Bill.” 

William Shatner speaking with Neil Degrasse Tyson at Lincoln Center
William Shatner and Neil Degrasse Tyson discuss Shatner’s life and philosophy of the universe

Mission Names and Concepts

NASA and other space agencies have drawn inspiration from the show when naming missions or developing mission concepts. The Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the show. It’s a nod to the franchise, reflecting its enduring influence on the community and its role in shaping the language and imagery of space exploration.

Fueling Public Interest

The series’ portrayal of space travel, alien worlds, and encounters with extraterrestrial life has captured the imagination of millions of people, inspiring them to learn more about the universe. The famous Star Trek conventions and related events have provided forums for enthusiasts to unite, share their passion for space exploration, and engage with real-world space missions. 

Engineering room on the Star Trek Enterprise spacecraft
Engineering room on the Enterprise Museum Ticonderoga, NY

Shaping Spacecraft Design

The original spacecraft, the USS Enterprise, designated by NCC-1701 (Navel Construction Contract, 17 for Starfleet’s 17th starship design, and 01 – the first of this design series), has influenced real-world spacecraft planning. While the functionality of these fictional vessels may differ from actual spacecraft, their sleek and futuristic designs have inspired engineers to think creatively about spacecraft aesthetics and functionality. 

Four views of the Star Ship Enterprise
Image by Gerhard Janson from Pixabay

Promoting Scientific Inquiry

Star Trek’s emphasis on exploration has promoted a culture of curiosity and exploration in society. The series’ portrayal of futuristic technologies and scientific concepts has sparked interest in science and encouraged viewers to learn more about the universe and the possibilities of space exploration. Concepts introduced in Star Trek, such as the Prime Directive and the exploration of strange new worlds, have inspired discussions about ethics, philosophy, and humanity’s role in the cosmos.

Inspiring Technological Innovation

Star Trek has inspired the development of numerous technologies that were once considered futuristic but have since become reality or influenced real-world technology development. Examples include cell phones (inspired by the communicators used by Starfleet officers), tablet computers (similar to the PADD devices seen on the show), voice-activated computers (reminiscent of the ship’s computer), medical imaging devices (such as MRI and CT scanners), and more. The franchise’s imaginative depictions of technology have inspired scientists, engineers, and inventors to push the boundaries of what is possible and strive to turn science fiction into reality.

Exploring Moral and Ethical Dilemmas

Star Trek often explores complex moral and ethical dilemmas through its storytelling. Episodes frequently address issues such as the ethics of scientific experimentation, the consequences of war and violence, and the challenges of diplomacy and cooperation between different cultures and species. By tackling these issues thoughtfully and thoughtfully, Star Trek encourages viewers to reflect on their values and beliefs.


Star Trek’s influence on space exploration is profound and far-reaching, extending from its role as a source of inspiration and imagination to its impact on technology, collaboration, and public engagement.

By envisioning a future where humanity explores the cosmos with curiosity, courage, and cooperation, Star Trek has helped shape the collective aspirations and ambitions of the space exploration community. It continues to inspire generations of space enthusiasts worldwide.

Raising Cranes in Skyscrapers

Tower crane on top of building under constructon in Manhatan, NY

Look up! It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. No, it’s a tower crane! That’s the official term for a crane (sometimes called a ‘derrick’) placed onto under-construction skyscrapers. But how do they get there, and how do the workers raise the crane after each floor is completed? Here, we will delve into the intricate steps involved in accomplishing this amazing engineering feat.

The Jump

Raising cranes, technically called “crane jump” or what construction workers call “jump the crane,” is a fascinating engineering feat that involves meticulous planning, specialized equipment, and skilled labor. 

Although this sounds sophisticated, it is a process that is done on a routine basis, especially in cities like New York, where skyscraper construction is a daily routine.

Jumping the crane is a crucial step for facilitating the construction of tall buildings efficiently and safely. 

Dual collage of Vandebilt Building in NYC under construction
Vanderbilt Building. 42nd St. NYC showing tower cranes during its construction. Photo: SMS

Where’s My Crane?

The first step is selecting the appropriate type of crane for the job. Below is a list of the major types of cranes used in construction.

Mobile Cranes

Mobile cranes, as the name suggests, are mounted on tracked vehicles, allowing them to be easily transported to different locations. 

Crawler Cranes

These cranes use tracks instead of wheels, providing mobility on uneven or soft ground surfaces. They are often used in heavy-duty lifting operations such as bridge building and equipment installation.

Tower Cranes

Most famous for the construction of tall buildings, especially supertalls. 

Overhead Cranes

Also known as bridge or gantry cranes, they are installed on elevated runways or gantries within a building or industrial facility and are commonly used in manufacturing and warehouses.

Jib Cranes

These compact lifting devices with a vertical mast or pillar are commonly used for lifting materials in workshops, loading docks, and assembly lines. Not to be confused with the jib erected to a tower crane on skyscrapers.

Telescopic Cranes

These machines contain telescoping sections that can extend or retract to adjust the reach and lifting capacity.

Floating Cranes

These are specialized cranes usually mounted on barges, allowing them to operate on rivers, lakes, or ports. They are used for lifting heavy loads onto ships, offshore construction projects, and marine salvage operations.

Loader Cranes

Also known as knuckle boom cranes, loader cranes are equipped with hinged booms that resemble knuckle joints. This design allows the crane to fold and unfold, enhancing maneuverability and reach. Loader cranes are commonly used for loading and unloading cargo.

Skyscrapers Choice

From the choices above, the Tower Crane is used for skyscraper construction. It is characterized by its tall vertical mast and horizontal boom, which can rotate to lift and move heavy loads across the construction site. This makes it the perfect choice for the construction of tall buildings.

Assembling the Crane

Once the crane type is chosen, the construction team begins assembling the structure on the ground. This typically involves erecting the tower mast section by section, securing it with bolts or pins, and attaching the horizontal jib or boom. Each crane section is carefully hoisted into position using smaller cranes or hydraulic systems.

Photo of a jib crane
Jib/Boom Section fo a Tower Crane. iStock

As the crane assembly progresses, special attention is paid to ensure the stability and structural integrity of the crane. Counterweights are strategically placed to balance the crane’s load capacity and prevent tipping. Additionally, anchoring systems, such as tie-downs or concrete footings, are installed to secure the crane to the ground and provide stability during operation.

Safety measures are paramount throughout the crane-raising process. Construction workers receive thorough training on its assembly, and strict safety protocols are enforced to prevent accidents and injuries. Quality control inspections verify that each crane component meets safety standards before being put into service.

Lifting the Crane into Position

Photo of tower cranes on top of building under construction in lower Manhattan
4 World Trade Center. 150 Greenwich Street, NYC, under construction. SMS

Once the crane is fully assembled and tested, it can be hoisted into position. This is typically accomplished using hydraulic jacks or a climbing system that incrementally lifts the crane to the desired height. As the crane ascends, additional mast sections may be added to extend its reach as the building grows taller.

Installing the crane at the correct location maximizes its efficiency and effectiveness. Engineers carefully analyze factors such as building layout, wind patterns, and logistical considerations to determine the optimal placement for the derrick. This ensures the crane can reach all construction site areas while minimizing interference with other construction activities.

All Set

Once in position, the crane becomes an essential tool for the construction process, lifting materials, equipment, and personnel to various building levels. Skilled operators control their movement with precision, coordinating with ground crews and construction workers to safely transport loads to their designated locations.

As the skyscraper’s construction progresses, the crane may need to be modified or repositioned to accommodate changing project requirements. This could involve adding or removing mast sections, adjusting the boom length, or relocating the crane to a different part of the site. These adjustments require careful planning and coordination to minimize downtime and ensure continued productivity.

On Top of the World

Collage of WTC Freedom Tower under construction
One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) is under construction. (L-R) March 2010 and November 2011. Photo SMS

Once assembled and set into place, the lifting begins, which can be steel beams, concrete sections, or other large, heavy items. 

The Take Down

Eventually, as the skyscraper nears completion, the crane will be disassembled in a reverse process, as it was erected. Each component is carefully lowered to the ground using hydraulic systems or smaller cranes and dismantled for transport to the next construction site or storage facility.


If you live in a big city like Chicago or New York, you no doubt have seen these tower cranes in action. Now, you can appreciate the complexity and intricate process needed, along with the skilled labor and specialized equipment.

From selecting the right crane for the job to safely assembling and operating it on the construction site, every step is essential for ensuring the successful completion of tall building projects. So, the next time you look up at a skyscraper, you can credit the tower cranes and the construction workers who put it all together.

How Does Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) work?

Photo of LCD screen showing the James Web Telescope
Photo: SMS

In 1994, a man walked into a Manhattan audio-visual store and saw something astonishing, A flat screen was hanging on the wall with a TV picture displayed. The width of this display was about 2”, and the cost was $18,000. That’s over $40,000 in today’s market.

Fast forward to 2024 and flat screens are the norm. Nowhere, or perhaps in a museum, would one find those bulky cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs that the world used 50 years ago. When we buy a TV, we look at all kinds of flat screens, technically called Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs). There are also more advanced technologies, but we will focus on LCDs in this article as they are still trendy in the commercial market.

We will explore the inner workings of these types of TVs, from the liquid crystals, filters, and electricity to how these elements collaborate to produce the stunning images we see on our TV and computer monitors.

Illuminating the Screen

Incandescnt vs. Fluorescent

The  LCD’s source of illumination is known as a ‘backlight.’ Initially, the backlight comprised fluorescent lamps. This is a step above the well-known incandescent light bulbs we use in our homes. In other words, incandescent light provides light through the continual heating of a metallic filament, which constantly uses electricity to heat the filament and produce light. Fluorescent bulbs consume much less electricity than incandescent bulbs because they don’t require continuous electricity output to heat them.

Enter Light Emitting Diodes

In more recent years, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have become the standard due to their improved energy efficiency and better control over brightness levels. This energy savings is due to the LEDs not being needed to generate the amount of heat that fluorescent lighting does.

With LCDs, the backlight uniformly illuminates the entire display panel, providing brightness for image formation.

Liquid Crystal Layer 

Directly in front of the backlight lies the liquid crystal layer. Liquid crystals are unusual in that they can possess the properties of both liquids and solids. They have the ability to flow like a liquid. This flow is random by nature, but temperature changes can cause these crystals to bypass their natural random state of flux and move in a certain direction. Additionally, adding an electric current through the crystals will also cause them to ‘straighten out’, and in so doing, one can harness the crystal flow allowing a certain degree of light to materialize. 

How the Crystals are Harnessed to Produce Light

When electricity is transmitted through the crystals, they become polarized, which causes the molecules to straighten and move in one direction. Similar to when an electric field is sent through a wire, the electrons become polarized and move in one direction from one pole to the other. In the case of crystals, it is the molecules that are affected. They will align and move in a specific direction.

Polarizing the liquid crystals is a crucial component in controlling the amount of light being emitted; in other words, it controls the orientation of the molecules to produce the appropriate amount of luminescence on the TV display, which forms images on the screen.

This amount of luminescence is controlled by a polarizing filter. By adding a polarizing filter to the electrically charged molecules, the crystals will align either horizontally or vertically. One direction will block the light and the other direction will allow the light to pass through.

But this is just a black-and-white situation (pun intended). 🙂 What happens between the pure black or pure white luminance that passes through the crystals is significant. In other words, the shades of black and white produce what we see on the screen. Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Enter the Pixel

Copilot AI Generated image of a woman's face
Each square in this image is a pixel. Copilot AI-Generated Image

There is a polarizing filter for each of the LCD molecules. This combination of a crystal and filter is called a pixel – a liquid crystal cell. (The actual components and how the components react within these cells are beyond the scope of this article).

Rotating the filter regulates the amount of light that will be released. Another way of putting it is that the rotation of the filter controls the intensity of the light; thus, the filter can make the pixels very bright, not too bright, or have no brightness at all (blackness), depending upon how much the filter is rotated either way.

Close up view of pixels in an image of an eye.
Close up view of how each pixel contains a different shade of black and white due to the amount of light that is emitted through the pixel from the polarizing filter

For LCDs, this specific control of light transmission forms the basis of how images are displayed on the screen since some pixels will be brighter or darker than their neighbors.

An analogy would be If you look at any black and white photograph, the images are little dots of pure white or pure black and everything in between which forms the figures we see. 

Next, we will discuss adding color, but understanding how light is released through pixels is a prerequisite. 

Color Filters 

Ai generated color image of a woman's face
Notice how each pixel has a different shade of color and light intensity. On a live screen, the pixels will not be visible

In addition to the polarization filters attached to each cell, there are the color filters. These filters, typically red, green, and blue (RGB), determine the color of the light transmitted through them. 

Just as the rotation of the polarization filters determines the shades of black and white for the image, the color filters go one step further and choose the correct combination of colors to obtain for each pixel. 

Forming the Image

Whether the initial signal comes from a cable box, streaming device, or computer screen, a set of algorithms in the TV determines the appropriate amount of electrical current for each pixel. The desired image is then formed on the screen by selectively activating or deactivating the brightness levels of the pixels


LCD screens produce images using liquid crystals, which have the unique ability to react to electrical current in a way that permits just the right amount of light to be emitted from each pixel.

The pixels are cells that contain polarization filters and color filters. By fine-tuning the intensity of the electrical current applied to each pixel and carefully manipulating the polarization of light, the TV can reproduce a vast array of colors and shades.

What are the Major Components of Building a House?

Wood frame house under construction

Suppose you want to build a house for yourself and your family. What is involved? It is not just about getting the wood or metal components and assembling them. A lot more is involved, starting with planning. Let’s take a look.

The Design

First, before you hire anyone, you need to decide the architectural style you want. Will it be a colonial, Tudor, Georgian, or contemporary? Or perhaps you are looking for a more traditional or old-fashioned look, such as Victorian or Art Deco? 

When you decide, the next step is to visit an architect. This professional will propose the design and layout based on your specs, such as the number of bedrooms and baths, and any specific requests, such as a library, movie room, gym, or maybe vaulted ceilings with a skylight over the dining room.

The architect will also oversee all the structural components to ensure the building’s stability and safety and begin the procedure for obtaining the necessary permits and approvals from local authorities. You will probably review several designs and floor plans before deciding.

The Builders

Once the design is complete, you will need to find the building developers. This company will build your house based on the architect’s plans and specifications.

The Foundation

The building developers prepare the foundation before the first brick is laid. They construct the foundation walls, which support the structure. Usually, this consists of applying a combination of wood and concrete to line the walls, but it may include other elements as well.

Additionally, a rebar is used to reinforce the concrete to withstand the everyday stresses of tension (pulling apart). If the concrete is not mixed correctly, or the rebar/concrete assembly is flawed, cracks can result in the concrete, compromising the integrity of the structure and resulting in significant costs to fix, as well as posing a danger to those who are in the building.


The developers will connect the water, sewer, electricity, and other utilities required for the house structure.


House under construction showing frame structure

So far, if you look at how your home is taking shape, all you will see is concrete and wood along a hole in the ground. It’s not very pretty, so you will need to come back when the framing begins, which refers to the house’s skeleton that resides above the foundation. 

You will see the structural frame, which is the 2x4s that support the walls, and then the siding will be installed. Wood or concrete are the most common, and finally, the sheet rock will cover the framework. 

Windows and doors and any finishing details, such as a specified interior trim, come next. 

Plumbing and Electrical Work

Photo of electrical wiring in an offic

Interior Finishing

    • Flooring: Putting in the chosen flooring material (e.g., hardwood, carpet, tile).
    • Cabinetry and Countertops: Installing kitchen and bathroom cabinets and countertops.
    • Painting and Wall Coverings: Applying paint or wallpaper.
    • Trim and Molding: Adding decorative elements.

      Fixtures and Appliances

    • Plumbing Fixtures: Installing sinks, faucets, toilets, and showers.
    • Lighting Fixtures: Adding light fixtures throughout the house.
    • Kitchen Appliances: Installing ovens, refrigerators, and other appliances.

      Landscaping and Exterior Elements

      Landscaping: Designing and planting the garden or yard.

    • Driveway and Walkways: Creating paths and driveways
    • Outdoor Features: Building decks, patios, and other outdoor spaces.
  • Final Inspections and Tests:
  • Building Inspections: Authorities check the house for compliance with building codes.
  • Quality Assurance: Ensure all systems and components are functioning correctly.
  • Occupancy and Move-In:
  • Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy: This allows you to occupy the house legally.
  • Move-In: Finally, you can move into your new home.

Building a house is a significant undertaking, and it involves various professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors, electricians, plumbers, and more, to ensure the project’s success. The specific steps and components can vary based on the type of house, location, and individual preferences.



What are White Dwarf Stars?

White Dwarf Star
White Dwarf Stars. Remnant of a dead star in space. The core of a sun after his death. iStock

Stars Can Die in Many Forms

At the end of a star’s life cycle, a star may morph into a white dwarf, a red giant, a neutron star, or a black hole. It all depends upon the amount of mass that is contained in the star’s central core, along with the mass’s gravity.

The more mass that a body contains, the more gravity that is produced, so the more mass an object has, the more gravity that is sustained, and consequently, the more pressure on the object because of its gravitational pull.

llustration of the CNO Cycle of the fusion process.
Illustration of the fusion process. Wikipedia CC

It is this pressure that provides the extreme heat that is generated and subsequently, the fusion of atoms. The types of elements and the density that are fused determine if the dying star will be a dwarf, giant, neutron, or black hole. These rules of physics are universal.

Death Begins

Stars die when the fusion process ceases. Then, depending on its size, it will change into one of the types mentioned above.

Photo of the Sun by NASA
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Our sun, which is in the category called the main sequence, is not an extraordinary star by any means, although we may feel that is not the case here on Earth, as we mortals cannot even set our eyes on it for very long.

The fact remains that in comparison to other stars in our Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies, our sun is a mere pea when equated to some of the giants in the universe.

With that said, when our sun dies, it will expand to become a red giant.

What is a Nebula?

The Nurseries of Life

Photo of a nebula
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Take a telescope, any telescope, or even binoculars and on a clear day you can see some of the most colorful and beautiful objects in space. These objects are nebulas. The birthplace of stars. It is where it all begins.

Planting the Seeds

When we say seeds, what do we mean exactly? Well, these seeds are actually vast clouds of gas and dust that are floating in space. They come from stars that have previously exploded and left their remnants to roam the universe around like lost soles.

Think of dropping seeds into a pond and watching them float around in the water. Some will collide and some will be pulled away from the other seeds but if that is all there is, we would have these particles floating around arbitrarily for infinity.

Fortunately, there is more than just this particle chaos.  A force is involved that will put all these disorganized fragments to converge into something meaningful.

Helix Nebula
Helix Nebula. Photo: NASA Via Wikipedia CC

What is This Force that Pulls the Particals Together?

The easy answer – gravity. Yes, gravity pulls these particles together. So let’s imagine the nebula as a giant, fluffy cloud in space. Deep inside this cloud, there are regions where the gas and dust are getting squished together. The pressure and temperature rise in these squeezed spots, and eventually, a new star is born from the material in that region.

So, in a way, a nebula is like the starting point for a star’s life. It’s where the ingredients for making a star come together, and as they collapse under their gravity, a bright new star is born, lighting up the cosmic neighborhood.

The Helix Nebula above, which some call “The Eye of God” or “Eye in the Sky” because it resembles a cosmic eye, is located  700 light-years away from Earth. A mere speck of a distance when speaking about the vastness of the universe and is 2.5 light-years in diameter.

The nebula was formed because of the death of a star similar to our Sun. As the star depleted its nuclear fuel, it expanded into a red giant, shedding its outer layers into space.

To learn more about the different types of nebulas there are in space,  Wikipedia gives a complete list of these fascinating and beautiful clouds of life-forming stars.

The Birth of a Star

This phenomenon is the result of gravity pulling gas and dust together. It is a process that is multiplied millions of times within the nebula and the beautiful objects that are forming are the fetal stages of stars being created.

Specifically, the gas is a combination of hydrogen and helium which clump together to form larger masses and since gravity gets stronger as the mass of the object gets bigger, additional matter is attracted to the object, which eventually becomes massive enough to form a star. In other words, it is the gravitational force of an object that is directly proportional to the object’s mass.

Nebula’s Molecular Breakdown

Illustration of an atom's valence electrons
Photo: Pixaby

Unbeknownst to many, most of the universe is not a complete void. There is much (loose) matter floating around between the stars. And this matter is not visible to the naked eye, as it is in its atomic form; such as the atoms of hydrogen and helium, as well as plasma and other materials. This sub-atomic matter is called the interstellar medium (ISM). More specifically, the interstellar medium is composed primarily of hydrogen, followed by helium with trace amounts of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

In areas of the ISM where the atomic particles are densely populated, the formation of molecules begins most commonly hydrogen (H2). The more the molecular masses clump together, the greater their gravitational attraction will be to other bodies and particles in their vicinity. As the particles clump further to form larger and more massive structures, they attract more dust and gas.

The Nuclear Element

Enter nuclear fusion, since the gravitational pressure becomes so high that the fusion of hydrogen atoms occurs. This results in the emission of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, which in turn ionizes the outer layers of gas. Ionization is the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons to form ions.

Ionized gas is known as plasma, and plasma along with electromagnetic radiation is now added to this mixture. This then materializes into the early stages of star formation.

Hence, the formation of stars occurs exclusively within these molecular clouds. This is a natural result of their low temperatures and high densities because the gravitational force acting to collapse the cloud must surpass the forces that are working to push the particles outward and the molecular cloud is now a nebula.

Gem Hunting – The Details

Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone
Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone. Photo: Maxpixel

We have previously talked about gem hunting, but we have not discussed the steps as to how to approach the prospecting for gemstones, so let’s get right into how you start your gem-hunting adventure:

Research Your Locations

Different types of gemstones are found in a variety of regions, so it’s important to identify areas where the stones you’re interested in are found.

Start with the Ineternal Gem Society. They can provide you with some of the top locations around the country where you can dig for gemstones.

Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment for Your Gem Search

Depending upon the location you select, they should be able to provide you with the necessary tools for your hunt, most probably for a fee, but you could bring your own equipment as well. That would consist of a pair of gloves, a shovel, a bucket, a screen or sifter, and a magnifying glass. Additionally, when you are there, ask for a gemstone identification guide.

Where to Look for Gems?

Bunch of gemstones
Image by Emilian Robert Vicol from Pixabay

Ever gone bird watching?

If yes, then you know that you have to travel to a certain spot of a particular destination to view a specific species of bird. To find the right destination for bird watching, one has to find out the species’ habitat, migration patterns, food choices, etc.

Knowing these things will help you figure out the location where a particular species of bird is likely to be found. You cannot simply wander around the forest in the hope of finding the types you are looking for; it would be nothing more than wasting time.

Experts say that gem hunting is much like bird watching. You most likely will not find minerals dug in the soil outside your home; however, the practical approach is to first research the areas where the gems are naturally found and then use the right technique to access the deposits.

For example, since diamonds are formed as a result of extreme pressure, they are either found deep inside the earth, in areas where various geological processes have pushed the mantle rocks from the depths of the earth to the surface, or alongside the rivers that flow from such areas.

Similarly, if you are looking for malachite, you have to look for it near copper and limestone deposits.

The occurrence of gemstones may also vary across countries, depending upon their geological processes, volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes, as they cause shifts in the tectonic plates and bring the buried bedrock to the surface of the earth.

Methods for Gemstones Mining

From basic to advanced, there are various mining methods. They include:

  • Underground Mining

When hunting for your stones is done within the pipe and alluvial deposits, it is called underground mining. The methods used for underground mining are:

  • Block caving
  • Tunneling
  • Chambering
  • Open Cast Mining

Open-cast mining uses different techniques. Here removal of the upper layer of rocks is required in order to reach the bedrock, which is buried deep inside the earth that contains the gems. Any of the following methods are used to excavate gems from the deepest layers of the earth:

  • Terrace Mining
  • Pit Mining

Open-cast mining methods are widely used in various parts of the world including the United States, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Myanmar. etc.

  • Sea Mining

Sea mining, marine or undersea mining, as they are alternatively called, is used in areas where marine deposits are present.

  • River Digging

As evident from the name, river digging is performed in and around rivers and lakes to excavate the gems that have been buried in the river soil and rocks naturally, by the water current or geological processes over time. It can further be classified into two types:

  • Wet Digging
  • Dry Digging

Gem Hunting Tools

Sorting and picking of valuable stones from the excavations debris of swat emerald mine in swat valley, Pakistan.
Photo: iStock

As with any other specialized task, you cannot expect to have a successful gem-hunting experience if you don’t have the right tools and equipment.

For example, there is no point in going fishing without a fishing tackle and/or bait. It is highly unlikely to catch a fish with your hands. Similarly, searching for gemstones without the proper gem-hunting tools is nothing more than wasting your time. Tools for gem hunting are easily available at affordable prices, which means that even occasional hunters can easily buy them without exceeding their budgets.

Hammer used for gem hunting
Image by arodsje from Pixabay

For gem hunting, you would need the following basic tools:

  • Shovel
  • Rock Hammer
  • Magnifying lens
  • Bucket and collection bags
  • You may need some specialized equipment to excavate some particular types of gems, such as a metal grid frame for screening, a pan for gold, etc
  • Permanent markers for labeling

For your safety and comfort:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Apply insect repellent and sunblock
  • Wear goggles
  • A GPS device or map to find your way
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Walkie-Talkies for communication

There is More Than One Method for Gem Hunting

You should research the different methods employed when looking for your precious stones. Some of the most popular are: 

  • Hydraulic Mining, where jets of water are used to loose the rocks from the dirt, 
  • River Panning is where you essentially wash away the gravel to find the minerals, 
  • Open Pit Mining, where you physically remove rocks, possibly in a quarry to search for the gems.

But this just scratches the surface (pun intended). Do some research to find the best method you prefer.

Learn Gemstone Identification

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics and properties of the gemstones you’re hunting for. Look for distinguishing features like color, luster, hardness, and crystal structure. Using a mineral identification guide or app can help determine the gemstones you find.


Kepler-186f: Is This an Earth Clone?


Drawing of astronomer Joannes Kelper
Artists drawing of astronomer Joannes Kelper. Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Johannes Kepler was a 17th-century German astronomer who discovered the systematic rotation of planets around stars, called the Laws of Planetary Motion, it states the following:

  • All planets revolve around the Sun in elliptical orbits.
  • A radius of the planets moves out in equal areas and in equal lengths of time.
  • The squares of the sidereal periods (of revolution) of the planets are directly proportional to the cubes of their mean distances from the Sun. (You don’t have to concern yourself with this law for our article here).

Being that Kepler was a cosmologist who focused his studies on planets, it is fitting that NASA named a spacecraft after him which looks for planets outside of our solar system, called exoplanets.

Specifically, the Kepler Space Telescope is designed to locate exoplanets that exist in the habitable zones, also called the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are not too hot and not too cold for life as we know it, and which subsequently provides the ingredients for the possibility of liquid water on the planet’s surface. Liquid water is the ingredient that sets the stage for life to cultivate. Water can be found on many planets, some in the form of solid ice, but without water, the possibility of life to develop is minute. 

A Perfect Find!

The Kepler spacecraft has not disappointed us. It has located numerous planets that fit this habitual category. Not the least is Kelper-186f, which not only contains an abundance of water but is also similar to Earth in significant ways.

Artist interpertation of the Kepler exoplanet and its solar system
Wikipedia (NASA) Public Domain

It is an exoplanet that orbits the star Kepler-186 in the constellation Cygnus and is only 500 light-years away from Earth. A mere ‘drop of the bucket’ in distance when considering how incomprehensibly large the universe is.

Kepler’s Sun

Numerous methods are employed to locate these planets. The Kepler telescope uses the transit method which finds celestial objects by observing the periodic dimming of their star’s light as the planet passes in front of it. In other words, it measures changes in the lightness of stars where periodic dips in brightness occur. 

Kepler-186f’s star is an M dwarf, which is a red dwarf. Red dwarfs are smaller and cooler than our Sun, and this star is about half the size and half the temperature of our Sun.

The Planet 

This orbital body is approximately the same size as Earth, making it one of the first Earth-size, habitable-zoned planets discovered outside of our solar system.

The time it takes Kepler-186f to complete one orbit around its star is approximately 130 Earth days. This is shorter than Earth’s orbit around our sun, which is 365 days, but this does not diminish the possibility of life existing there.

Future Research

Due to the current limitations of technology at this time, the Kepler-186f’s distance, although only 500 light years away, our ability to obtain more detailed information remains a significant challenge. 

So further advancements in observational planetary technology are needed to acquire the specifics of distant worlds such as Kepler-186f, but we should look forward to obtaining more information about this exoplanet as it has so much to offer considering its close resemblance to our planet and other physical factors that exist there. 


Kepler-186f may not be a perfect match to Earth, but we should not expect it to be. The existence of life is still a good possibility and if we expand our horizons a bit more, we can consider the potential of intelligent life as well; although these beings might not look exactly as we do.

Despite the planet’s location in the habitable zone, several factors could affect a being’s habitability there. One circumstance refers to the planet’s closeness to its red dwarf sun, which might expose it to increased stellar activity (sun spots, solar flares, plasma eruptions) that are greater than from our sun.

This could impact the planet’s atmosphere and surface conditions, resulting in life forms that could have much thicker skin than us, in order to avoid the dangers associated with ultraviolet radiation and x-rays common from stellar actions.

AI Image Generator extraterrestrial alien with thick skin fotor
AI Image Generator extraterrestrial alien with thick skin.

Even a slight change in any external factor on the planet (temperature, light exposure, gravitational pull, etc) may make their appearance look different from us in one way or another. But does it matter? We should welcome them anyway, or should we? 

Why do Lithium (EV) Batteries Decrease in Capacity in Winter?

Illustration of an EV being charged
Photo iStock, Credit: Golden Sikorka

The Summer of EV Love 

It’s August and you just bought an electric car. You charged it up to 80% capacity (that is the recommended maximum charging) and your dashboard shows 230 miles of available for your car. 

Now it is December and your car still shows 230 miles when charged to 80%, but when you start to drive, you notice that the mileage diminishes faster than when you were driving it during the summer. Why is that? Let’s take a look.

Why Do EV (Lithium) Batteries Decrease in Capacity Faster in Winter? 

Car driving in winter snow
Photo: Pixaby
    • Ion Depletion: Cold weather reduces the chemical activity of the lithium ions. Ions are atoms that have either gained or lost electrons, allowing them the ability to bond with other atoms. This is the normal process in battery charging, but when cold weather comes, the amount of ions in the atoms decreases, thereby reducing the charging process. In other words, the battery can’t store as much energy as it would normally do when in warmer weather. 
      Illustration of an atom's valence electrons
      Photo: Pixaby


  • Viscosity: Cold weather increases the thickness of the electrolyte, known as viscosity. This makes it harder for the ions to move around within the battery, which reduces the battery’s energy, e.g. its ability to deliver power.
  • Plating: Over repeated charge and discharge cycles, some of the ions can stick onto the surface of the anode, known as lithium plating, which forms a solid layer of lithium metal.

    This can reduce the capacity of the battery and potentially lead to short circuits and is more likely to occur at low temperatures or when the battery is charged or discharged too quickly.

 Note: At temperatures below freezing, some lithium batteries can lose up to 50% of their juice.

What Can I Do to Compensate for This Loss of Energy?

  • If you have a garage, use it. Even if the garage is not heated, it would still be a bit warmer than if the car was in your driveway or on the street.
  • Charge your batteries regularly. This will help to prevent them from discharging too deeply.
  • Avoid fast charging. Fast charging can generate heat, which can damage the battery and reduce its capacity. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use a fast EV charger, but be cognitive about how often you use one. Maybe in the future, as this technology advances, this won’t be as much of a problem as it is now.


Lithium batteries, whether in a car or for any device diminish in capacity when in winter time.  This is because of the decrease in ion capabilities when in cold weather. There are however a number of things you can do to circumvent this decrease, but they are not 100% reliable after you take the vehicle out for a drive. 

Best bet would be to move to a warm climate. Then you never have this problem ????.

Just What is a Supernova?

Man in backyard looking at night sky
Photo: iStock

Picture yourself lying in your backyard on a warm June evening and all of a sudden, a bright flash begins to show up in the sky! No doubt it is an explosion of some kind and your hope is that it is nothing where any lives were lost. On the contrary, it is where life begins as you have just witnessed a supernova explosion! 

So What Exactly is a Supernova?

A supernova explosion
Is this a galaxy? No, it is a supernova explosion!

A supernova, also called supernovea, represents the explosion of a star after it has exhausted all of its energy.  This loss of energy occurs when the star is no able to longer withstand the force of its gravity, thereby causing the star’s core to collapse and subsequently, unleashing an extraordinary burst of energy.

This explosion is a powerful stellar explosion that occurs at the end of a star’s life cycle and is one of the most dramatic events in the universe. Its explosion is so powerful that it outshines entire galaxies, at least for a short time.

According to NASA, a supernova is the largest known explosion in space. The last recorded supernova in the Milky Way occurred in 1604, known as Kepler’s Supernova, and remained visible to the naked eye for an astounding 18 months.

The Seeds of Life

At the time of a supernova explosion, the energy that is released is so extraordinary that, for a short time period, the star will outshine entire galaxies, which is equivalent to a combination of billions of stars combined into one.

This outburst is not just that of light, rather it contains elements like carbon, iron, calcium, and gold, which are the seeds of life via the creation of new planets and stars, called stellar nurseries or nebulas as the term used mostly when referring to the beginning of life in the universe.





Howard Fensterman Minerals