Sunday, March 26, 2006

Taiwan Time Slip

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, there is the idea of the Martian time slip, a 39.5 minute period between midnight and 12:01 that "stops the clock" each night to allow practical use of an Earth-like 24 hour clock despite Mars' slightly longer rotational period. After a 32-hour door-to-door journey from Boston to Taipei (including ground transport and layovers in San Francisco and Nagoya), I feel like I have experienced such a time gap. On the 11+ hour flight leg from SFO to NGO, I slept for several long blocks, waking up for short periods to check the flight map and read for a while, never quite sure what time it was, since there were four time zones in play (EST, PST, Japan, and Taiwan). Usually I try to follow a jet lag regimen in which I mentally switch to destination time, and sleep or rest only when it's night time at my destination. But this time I just let the time flow and slept when I was tired. I still slept a full melatonin-assisted first night in Taiwan, so I guess it's working out. I'll know by tonight I suppose.

One thing I miss on these long Pacific flights is Orbiter's time acceleration feature. Press the T key and speed up the clock by ten times. Doesn't work in the real world, alas, so I wonder if I'm really cut out for a Mars journey. Not that this is an imminent possibility, probably not at all unless the life extension thing kicks in pretty hard and soon. Andy McSorley has been working on the Earth-Mars chapter for the new edition of Go Play In Space (he thought he was done until I suggested looking into some promising future launch window dates in 2014 and 2033 - sorry Andy!). Depending on the dates and the delta-V you're willing to spend, a Mars flight can take from three to seven months. I hope I can get a business class upgrade for that flight!

The picture is only vaguely related, a new Orbiter add-on called Mars Hourglass Crater Base by "peaceman." This is a futuristic Mars base with some great 3D terrain based on NASA MOLA and ESA Mars Express data. The hills look especially realistic. I downloaded but no time to try it so far (real work to do here in Taiwan). Mars is getting to be a cool destination - in Orbiter at least!

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