Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lunar Networking

To support humanity's establishment of a permanent presence on the Moon, according to a new study, a satellite-based communications network will be necessary. Without such a network, any expeditions to the far side would be out of radio contact with Earth. There are also certain areas in the lunar polar regions-- where a lunar base might be built to take advantage of water ice that may exist in permanently shadowed areas-- where rough terrain would block direct radio contact with the home world.

Such a com-sat network, therefore, would keep astronauts on the surface in constant contact with Earth, even while opening the far side to exploration. At the same time, the network could also serve as a GPS=type system, giving surface explorers more autonomy from Earth by allowing them to establish their own location.

A project establishing the beginnings of permanent lunar settlement will need to bring private industry into the effort. Creating and maintaining such a communications network may be one ideal assignment that could be given to a private concern.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Terraforming Venus

Terraforming is, essentially, reworking a planet so that it becomes more Earthlike. Largely, that involves manipulating the atmosphere, if only because we don't yet know how to alter geologic processes. Mars is almost always the subhect of the debate over whether or not to terraform, both because, as advocates see it, Mars has the most potential as a second home for humanity and because terraforming Mars seems relatively straightforward.

Another possible terraforming target, however, is Venus. Virtually Earth's twin in size, it no doubt has vast material resources under its hellish atmosphere. The basic process that led to such an environment is understood. The question is: Could we intervene in that process, break the necessary cycles, and establish a new, stable environment conducive to humans? That would be terraforming-- and the prize would be a world rich in natural resources and well-positioned to allow us to take full advantage of solar power.

Terraforming Venus would be a huge, complex project, but it has one advantage. Venus is a biologically dead world. Mars, on the other hand, may have had life at some point-- and may still have it. Changing Mars to suit ourselves, therefore, may have a moral dimension. If advocates of terraforming want to spread life through the cosmos, they should perhaps see Venus as a place to develop their skills.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Black Hole Jets Explained

Among the brightest objects in the universe are jets of material that seem to explode out of black holes. Of course, that seems contradictory ro laymen-- black holes gobble up everything in their neighborhood, right? Well, professional physicists have had a theory explaining the jets, and, after a recent study, they have evidence to support that theory.

Astronomers studied the jets from the black hole at the center of a relatively nearby galaxy and established the jets were formed and controlled by twisted magnetic lines of force. The material in the jets did not come from the black hole itself, but from the accretion disk that surrounds the black hole. The disk material does not fall into the black hole because it wasn't headed directly into the black hole; the inertia of that mass allowed it to orbit in the accretion disk. All the data gathered fit perfectly with theory.

Amazing what the human mind can accomplish.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

GAO Weighs In

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has issued a report questioning the ability of NASA to complete the construction of ISS before the scheduled retirement of the space shuttle in 2010. GAO says everything will need to go right for NASA to complete that construction on time.

After ISS is complete and the shuttle is retired, supplying ISS will be a problem until the next American manned spacecraft is flying. Using the capabilities of the completed station to do scientific research will be hampered if access to the station is a problem. Currently, post-shuttle, unmanned craft from Europe, Russia, and Japan will take cargo to ISS, but the Russian Soyuz will be the only way to get people to and from orbit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wet Mars... Again

Two recent studies of images taken of the surface of Mars by orbiting spacecraft suggest the planet once had substantial water, or water ice, on the surface.

One study sees evidence of a glacier in the equatorial regions of Mars in the relatively recent past-- within the latest 100 million years. Scientists calculate the glacier would've been about a mile thick. Today, of course, the only ice on the surface is at the poles. This evidence suggests Mars' climate oscillates between wet and dry epochs. We happen to be seeing the planet during a dry period.

Another study suggests hydrothermal springs once existed on Mars. Not only would that put water on the surface, but a warm, watery springs, scientists believe, would be a place life might thrive.

Other studies, however, also based on images from orbit, have suggested Mars has been, at least for the past couple billion years, essentially a dry world. Volcanically active, perhaps, but a world where water played a minor role. Barring cooperation from Mars, the only way to finally nail down Mars' climate history would seem to be putting extremely advanced scientific instruments on the surface over a period of several years and doing the hard work of gathering and analyzing physical evidence.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Soyuz Problems

As recently reported in this blog and elsewhere, the latest Soyuz flight returning crew from ISS missed its landing target by a wide margin. Now, a source in the Russian space agency is saying re-entry was in fact a close call for the people onboard.

According to reports, the propulsion module of the Soyuz did not separate from the crew module as it should; that extra mass helps explain why the craft landed short of its target. Further, the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere improperly aligned; the area around the hatch took the direct heating instead of the heat shield, which was in any case still covered by the propulsion module.

In short, the flight could have ended tragically. Russia has already appointed a commission to investigate what went wrong. Soyuz, however, has been flying for decades, and has an extraordinary safety record, all things considered. The Russians clearly know the vehicle inside and out. There seems to be no reason to this mishap will turn out to be anything more than an isolated event.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Phoenix Lights II?

On Monday evening, April 21, 2008, strange lights were seen flying over Phoenix, Arizona. They were also recorded on video. In fact, ABC News showed video of the sighting in a short report about the event on its nightly news broadcast. Showing such vudeo on a network's major news broadcast might suggest there's something behind the images, right? At least some mystery?

Well, in this case, maybe not so much. An Arizona man has come forward saying he attached flares to some balloons, and that's what people saw. It was a hoax.

Of course, this is not the first brush with UFOs for Phoenix. Famous, documented, widely observed sightings of lights and huge, silent craft occurred over the area in March, 1997. That complex of sightings became known as the "Phoenix Lights." Several investigations were pursued into that event, mostly by private groups or individuals. The official explanation of those sightings involves flares, as well-- flares dropped by the Maryland Air National Guard during training exercises. Perhaps that's where thus hoaxer got his bright idea.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hawking On Life In Space

Stephen Hawking, the famed theoretical physicist, recently gave a speech at George Washington University in connection with NASA's 50th anniversary in which he said primitive alien life may well exist somewhere fairly nearby in our galaxy. Citing the failure, so far, of SETI to detect alien signals, he said intelligent life is probably rare in the universe.

Hawking also argued for an aggressive human move into space, embracing the U. S. Moon/Mars program as a good beginning. He put the case in stark, simple terms. Long-term human survival, he said, demands that we move into space.

It's an argument some scientists have been making for decades. Up to and including the present, a cataclysm on Earth could lead to human extinction. If independent human communities were scattered on other worlds in the Solar System, and possibly in free space, a disaster on any one world could be overcome. Once communities are established in another star system, humanity will be essentially immortal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Off-Target Homecoming

The latest crew returning to Earth from ISS had a bit of a rough ride. For reasons not yet clear, their Soyuz took a steeper re'entry angle than normal, subjecting the three people inside to up to 10 times normal Earth gravity at times. The Soyuz also missed its targeted landing area by 280 miles. All aboard, however, seem fine.

Before the space shuttle, American capsules occasionally missed their landing areas by wide margins, and this is by no means the first Soyuz to do so. Flying a craft from orbit to a dead stick landing on a specific runway may be the most impressive advance of the shuttle program, providing a glimpse of what will be possible at some point in the future. The next manned NASA spacecraft, however, will be a capsule design. Misses of landing sites by many miles will again be a routine possibility for NASA.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Getting Political

Space advocacy groups, for various reasons, have largely stayed out of the political debate over space policy for the last three decades. The upshot of that lack of engagement has been a drifting space program. Politicians who believe there will be no political consequences for either opposing or supporting a strong NASA are unlikely to give space policy much thought.

The Committee for the Advocacy of Space Exploration intends to give members of Congress reason to focus. It is a political action committee that intends to make space policy a political issue. The Committee will stake out policy positions, and will endorse or oppose political candidates. Led by Jeff Brooks, a veteran lobbyist in both the Texas Legislature and Congress, the goal of the Committee is to help craft policy that will lead to the creation of a spacefaring civilization.

Go to to learn more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hoosier Sighting

Two nights ago, there were various reports of lights in the sky, loud booms, and a possible crashed vehicle near Kokomo, Indiana, which is just up the road from this blogger. So far, three reports on the event have been submitted to the National UFO Center.

In fact, there was no crash of any craft anywhere in the area. Kokomo, however, is near Grissom Air Force Base, and this incident seems to have followed a well-worn pattern. According to local television news reports, Grissom initially denied it had any planes in the area, but hours later acknowledged fighter planes were in fact engaged in maneuvers in the area at the time of the sightings, and the planes were dropping flares. That would seem to explain everything. Had Grissom reported the flight maneuvers immediately, there would be no story. By telling two different stories within a few hours, the Air Force has left itself open to charges of cover up. Those charges may not get anywhere in this case, but in other cases similar charges have stood for years and decades.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lunar Radio Astronomy

Two groups of engineers and scientists are looking at projects that would put an array of radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon to study what astronomers call the "dark ages"-- the time immediately after the Big Bang, before there were galaxies, or even stars. Studying that era, when simple hydrogen atoms dominated the universe, physicists hope will result in a better understanding of the Big Bang itself.

One of the projects being considered is called DALI, the Dark Ages Lunar Interferometer. It would be an array of perhaps one thousand radio telescopes deployed over an area of perhaps 30 square miles. Working together, they would constitute one huge instrument, like arrays operating now in Australia, the Netherlands, and New Mexico.

DALI would have the advantage over those arrays of being on the far side of the Moon; the Moon itself would block all the radio noise of Earth, allowing scientists to pick out the faint glow of the first hydrogen. Such an array, of course, would also be ideal for pursuing another first, the first radio signal from an extraterrestrial civilization. To pursue that project, the individual telescopes would need to be steerable, which would add complexity to what would already be a huge, complex construction job, but the pay off could be dazzling.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Michael Michaud Interview

Michael Michaud is the author of the recent, terrific book, Contact With Alien Civilizations, and one of our leading thinkers on the subject of possible contact-- the various forms contact may take, how we might manage the initial event, and how human civilization might adjust. He graciously agreed to participate in an email interview with me. I focused the exchange on the possibility of actual, physical contact.

First, Mr. Michaud, thank you again for doing this interview.

*) You have written extensively in the possibility that alien civilizations exist, and on possible contact scenarios. Dr. Seth Shostak has written he believes the SETI searches he helps lead could find an alien civilization within the next twenty years. What do you think of that estimate?

If interstellar radio signals from other civilizations exist, the probability of our finding them will increase as we employ better search technologies and, hopefully, better search strategies. However, the exact timing of a detection is not predictable. We don't know how widespread other technological civilizations are, or if any are sending interstellar communications that we can detect.

*) Unlike Dr. Shostak, you seem open to the possibility that aliens are in fact physically visiting Earth. Actually, Shostak says he has seen no evidence of such visits. Given that such visitors would be intelligent and likely extremely sophisticated, do you think the unadorned scientific method is necessarily up to the task of detecting aliens who may be actively trying not to be firmly, finally established by humans to exist? Might applying the principles used to conduct covert intelligence operations to some UFO cases be useful?

I have not seen any credible evidence that we are being visited now. As I emphasized in my book, there is no reason to focus on our present moment in history. If there ever were any visits, they might have taken place millions or even billions of years ago. Superior technologies might allow extraterrestrial visitors to hide in our solar system, but that does not prove that they are here. A more thorough scientific examination of the small percentage of UFO sightings that are truly puzzling may be a good idea, but it would be difficult to get public funding or to persuade highly credible scientists to participate.

*) Several years ago, I had an instant message conversation with Nick Pope, UFO point man for the UK Defence Ministry for a while. He told me he believed there may well be an alien base within our Solar System. What’s your view of that assessment?

I have never seen any evidence at all to support the claim of an alien base in our solar system. It is not clear to me that a species capable of interstellar travel would need such a base, particularly if they send machines rather than inhabited spacecraft.

*) In your writing, you have dealt with the possibility that aliens may have been visiting throughout human history. If They ever do come—given even our abilities at misinformation and disinformation—wouldn’t even entertaining the idea that aliens may have been the angels of the Bible, for example, give them a huge psychological advantage from the start that could easily be turned against us for no real reason, since we cannot finally determine exactly what happened in the past?

People have claimed to have seen the equivalent of angels at many times in human history, though they may have called them by other names. Psychological manipulation of large populations of humans by invoking past myths may not be as easy as some conspiracy theorists believe. We can not assume that alien intelligences, whether biological or post-biological, would be omniscient. Consider this mirror image: If we ever found another intelligent species beyond the Earth, it is highly unlikely that we would know their psychology or history well enough to manipulate their beliefs.

*) There seems to be two schools of thought regarding the consequences of physical contact with aliens, especially. One is optimistic, arguing such an event could allow us to leap ahead. The other is pessimistic, fearing the end of human culture as a vital, living force. You take a more nuanced position. Do you think the political leaders and the international system of today would be sufficiently prepared if an alien craft landed somewhere at high noon tomorrow, making their existence obvious?

Political leaders will not take the ETI question seriously until they have convincing evidence that such beings exist. They are unlikely to make plans for what they see as a low-probability event. In that sense, they will not be prepared. The so-called SETI Protocols were designed to (among other things) provide a reference point if this issue ever arises, and to provoke at least a few policy people to think about the implications of contact. I would emphasize again that first contact could take many forms, including the detection of a faint signal from many light years away. As I said in my book, the landing of an inhabited alien spacecraft on the Earth may be the least likely scenario.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NASA, ESA Talk Joint Exploration

As NASA extends the Cassini mission to Saturn and its environs into 2010, the U. S. space agency and the European Space Agency are discussing the next flagship mission to the realm of the gas giants to launch no later than 2017.

Two missions are under consideration. One would be a Jupiter-Europa flight-- perhaps including a Russian Europa lander; the other would be a Saturn-Titan flight, maybe with a balloon to fly in Titan's atmosphere. Both are clearly consistent with NASA's search for life beyond Earth.

NASA feels confident it has budget authority from Congress to spend $2.1 billion on such a mission. Presumably, ESA would pick up anything beyond that. Both sides hope to have a decision on which mission to fly by November.

Monday, April 14, 2008

170 and Counting

Canada's University of New Brunswick maintains a database of confirmed impact craters on Earth. So far, it contains 170 sites, but that number is expected to grow as more formations are determined to be impact in origin, and as the sea floor is more thoroughly documented.

Essentially, such a database will contain the newest impact sites, plus perhaps the largest of earlier strikes. That's because Earth's geologic activity eventually erases evidence. Without the volcanism and tectonic plate shifts that constantly renew and rework Earth's surface, our planet would look much like the Moon and Mars.

The database should also serve as a reminder. Earth has been hit numerous times even relatively recently, and will be again unless we develop the space capability to detect and deflect such mountains in the sky.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Intelligence In The Universe

Andrew Watson, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain, has published an article in Astrobiology in which he argues intelligence is rare in the universe. He bases his case in biology, essentially arguing that intelligence requires billions of years to evolve-- using Earth as a model-- and that the average star is only stable enough to nurture life around it for a few billion years.

That is fundamentally the same argument biologists have tended to use for decades when addressing this question. Biology is complex, they say, and requires immense amounts of time to produce new forms. In fact, some evolutionary biologists argue evolution works in fits and starts; under the right circumstances, new life forms can emerge relatively quickly. Indeed, for billions of years the only life on Earth seems to have been single cell organisms. Multicellular life only arose around 600 million years ago. Once the multicellular threshold was crossed, it could be argued, complexity exploded. That explosion led to intelligence in fairly short order-- and intelligence reached its current level in humans.

Intelligence, of course, could have faltered along the way, but astronomers are confident there are millions or billions of habitable worlds in our galaxy alone. When asked how the capability to migrate to other star systems would change his conclusion, Professor Watson acknowledged that would change the situation completely.

Indeed it would-- and humans could be only centuries away from that capability.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lunar Scientists Needed

One of the consequences of virtually ignoring the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972 is that the people who worked hard and long to acquire the expertise to conduct lunar exploration are now gone. That storehouse of knowledge and experience no longer resides in NASA. To return humans to the Moon by 2020, therefore, will require a new generation of lunar scientists to build its own knowledge base.

This generation, of course, starts with advantages the Apollo generation lacked. Today's technology base, for example, is far superior to the one fifty years ago largely because of the computer revolution in the interim. One of the sparks of that revolution was space exploration. Today's science is also more robust. At the most fundamental level, of cours, the current generation knows exploring the Moon with machines and humans is possible; the Apollo generation had to demonstrate that in full view of the world.

Still, most of the current crop of scientists lack hands on experience in actual lunar missions. Some of those with that experience live in Japan, China, and India. NASA is pursuing some of those, and is also trying to develop its lunar exploration plans into an international effort. Several nations have already expressed interest in participating in such an effort. NASA is also encouraging scientists focused on Mars to broaden their interests to include Luna.

Hopefully, this time, humanity will move into space to stay. Hopefully, there will be no more lost generations of scientists and explorers.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stephenville In Context

A UFO report in January of this year, centered on alleged sightings of a huge craft flying over Stephenville, Texas, on January 8, caused a brief national stir. Last night, on The History Channel's UFO Hunters, that event was put into a broader context.

According to the program, the January 8, 2008, mass sighting was simply the crest in a wave of UFO sightings in the area that started, perhaps, in November, 2007, and continued at least into February, 2008, when the show was taped. Further, Texas seems to have a history of such waves, going all the way back to 1897.

The problem with such waves is precisely their regional nature. If these are real craft, why are they associated with certain areas? Traveling at thousands of miles per hour, they should cover, and be seen, over wide areas along their flight paths. There are indications, in fact, that some independent reports separated by huge distances could be describing the same craft, but such correlations are rare. Why should they be? Where do these things go once they leave their "home areas?" Into another dimension? Into orbit? Maybe only NORAD knows.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jobs Trumping Safety?

Two Florida Congressmen are backing a plan to continue flying the space shuttle beyond 2010-- perhaps two flights a year-- and accelerate development of the Ares rocket and Orion spacecraft in order to close a gap of five years during which the U. S. will not be able to launch astronauts into space. The point of the plan, however, is to save thousands of Kennedy Space Center jobs that will be lost when the shuttle program ends.

Most NASA officials oppose the plan on safety grounds. The shuttle, for all its abilities, is obsolete. A new spacecraft is required, they say. Some experts, indeed, called for the retirement of the shuttles years ago-- before Columbia and its crew were lost. Many production lines that supply shuttle parts have already shut down, they also point out; re-opening them for a few flights would waste resources better spent on the new program.

A better solution may be to spend the money the Congressmen want to use to keep shuttles flying into 2013 on Ares and Orion, that plus the money they already propose to spend to accelerate those programs could accelerate them even more. With that money, perhaps the first flight of the new spacecraft could be brought into 2012.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Obama's Plans For Space

Divining precisely what a candidate might do on any specific issue if elected can be tough. Even on major issues, politicians have been known to say one thing during a campaign and do something else in office. Sometimes such switches can be explained by a changed set of facts; other times, well. not so much. If promises on major issues are open to revision, however, those on issues perceived as minor are likely even more fluid. That fluidity may be space advocates' best hope if an Obama presidency comes to be.

Space policy, as usual, has been almost totally ignored during this presidential campaign. Senator Obama, however, makes one proposal quite clear on his website. He would delay the Constellation program for five years and use the money saved to fund a nationwide pre-kindergarten program. In person, however, he has supported the continued development of the Ares rocket and the Orion, the sucessor to the space shuttle. Those two statements are not necessarily consistent. He seems to be saying he would build Ares and Orion-- perhaps largely as a jobs program?-- but delay deciding on whether to go back to the Moon and on to Mars, the Constellation program, for five years.

Whatever else that might do, it wouldn't seem to save much money for the kids. As pointed out in an article currently on The Space Review website, for the next five years Constellation will consist largely of developing and building Ares and Orion. They are the means by which the goals of Constellation will be met.

Politicians, bless their calculating hearts, often try to have it both ways on an issue; they seem not to understand that doing so ultimately leaves them wide open to criticism no matter what they eventually decide. Arguably, the best politicians pursue strategies that allow them to keep the power of decision in their hands for as long as possible. Maybe that's the needle eye Senator Obama is attempting to thread, on space policy and other issues.

Monday, April 7, 2008

60 MINUTES Space Segment

CBS's news magazine, 60 MINUTES. had a segment, reported by Bob Simon, on what the media insists on calling "NASA's" plans to return to the Moon and go on to Mars. In fact, NASA has no authority to make such plans; the agency is pursuing a plan laid out by President Bush, and, so far, supported by Congress.

The segment was largely positive towards the effort. Simon pointed out, for example, the tiny percentage of the federal budget that actually goes to NASA-- something the media often fails to do with NASA, or other federal programs, for that matter. In the name of balance, Simon had Rep. Barney Frank in the report. Frank, in effect, said he wasn't interested in putting people on Mars just to prove we can while other matters need resources.

That argument was likely twin born with the space program. One suspects those who use it could always find something else more worthy of resources than spaceflight. To that extent, it's more simple dismissal than reasoned argument. Frank put an interesting twist on it, however. Sending humans to Mars shouldn't be done just to do it. Establishing permanent human outposts on the Moon, and later on Mars, should be done as part of broader scientific and economic policies. The effort risks human life. It should be done with commitment and serious intent or not at all.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Expanding NASA's Mandate

Congress will soon be considering whether to make NASA the lead agency to develop strategies for identifying Near-Earth Objects that threaten a collision with our planet, as well as possible responses to such an event.

Astronomers have determined over the past couple of decades that the possibility of such a collision is more that simply a shot in the dark. Earth has been hit numerous times, and will be hit again, absent defensive action on our part.

Should NASA discover a threatening object, deflecting it would fall to the Defense Department. Before attempting to deflect it, however, analyzing the structure of the body would be necessary. The internal structure of the object would determine the technique used to deflect it, Presumably, NASA and the scientific community would lead that analysis.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jules Verne At ISS

The European Space Agency's unmanned cargo ship, the Jules Verne, has successfully docked at ISS. Jules Verne is the first of a fleet of such cargo ships ESA will use to resupply ISS.

Not only will that cut the cost of resupplying ISS, but after the American shuttles are retired in 2010, maintaining ISS will fall to the Russians and the Europeans. NASA is exploring the possibility of contracting with private companies to ferry cargo to and astronauts to and from ISS in the period between the space shuttle and the new Orion spacecraft, but, so far, none of those private craft exist.

Likely, the United States will build the International Space Station, but maintaining it as a working outpost in orbit will be up to the international partners.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

More Black Hole Stuff

Recently, this blog reported the discovery of the smallest black hole yet found-- an object 15 miles across and about 3.5 solar masses. Another team of astronomers have recently discovered a "mid-size" black hole of roughly 40,000 solar masses at the center of the great star cluster, Omega Centauri.

Previously, scientists had huge black holes at the centers of many, if not most or all, galaxies, and theories suggesting these objects should exist in a range of sizes and in various physical settings. Now, astronomers are beginning to find other points on the black hole continuum, not just the monsters. When observation confirms theory, confidence in our understanding of the universe increases.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Extrasolar Planet Number Still Growing

Astronomers have now confirmed the existence of 277 planets in other solar systems. In just six months, a European team found ten new exoplanets, as they are called, using the SuperWASP system, a technology that monitors thousands of stars for transits of planets across the star's disk.

Another team has found the youngest planet yet, a world possibly only 100,000 years old and still emerging from the gas and dust disk of its birth.

So far, all the exoplanets are gas giants, but astronomers are confident that improved technology and search methods will yield rocky worlds like Earth shortly. Couple that with the list of worlds in our Solar System that could possibly harbor life, and the case for life beyond Earth strengthens steadily.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tiny Black Hole Found

NASA scientists have recently determined the size of the smallest black hole yet measured. The object is about 15 miles across, and weighs in at 3.5 solar masses. For comparison, the biggest black holes, at the centers of huge galaxies, contain billions of solar masses.

Theoretical physicists think that a star must have at least 1.7 ro 2.2 solar masses to have the gravitational power to collapse all the way to black hole status, so studying this one, so close to the lower limit, will hopefully give them insight into the behavior and the creation of the smallest of their kind.