Papers, Presentations, and Publications

By John F. McGowan, Ph.D.


Articles on the Math Blog



Articles at The Space Review

Cheap access to space: lessons from past breakthroughs
The Space Review, May 11, 2009

Can the private sector make a breakthrough in space access?
The Space Review, June 8, 2009

Interview on The Space Show

Broadcast 1196 (Special Edition) Guest: Dr. John F. McGowan Date: July 26, 2009

Major Technical Works

John McGowan's AVI Overview
An Internet Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Web Page on Microsoft's AVI audio/video file format, Video for Windows, DirectShow (formerly ActiveMovie), and related topics.

Wings on Mars: Unmanned Aerial Exploration of Mars
John F. McGowan, III, "Wings on Mars: Unmanned Aerial Exploration of Mars," in Martian Expedition Planning, Charles Cockell, Editor, American Astronautical Society, Univelt, San Diego, California (2004)

ABSTRACT

Neither manned landings nor stationary or slow, short range robotic probes such as Mars Pathfinder can explore the surface area of Mars, 144 million square kilometers comprising as much surface as all the continents and islands on Earth. For example, a half million manned or robotic landings capable of surveying a 300 square kilometer region of the Martian surface will be needed to survey the surface of Mars once. The handful of astronauts likely to be sent to Mars in manned missions, even equipped with rocket planes or ballistic hoppers, will directly survey only a tiny fraction of the planet. A complete survey of Mars will require high-speed low altitude or ground based devices, either remotely piloted, semi-autonomous, or autonomous, such as airplanes, balloons, or high-speed rovers. Fast moving robotic explorers will need high frame rate imaging, such as digital video, to properly survey the planet and for remote operation either by astronauts on Mars or mission control on Earth. They will also generate very high data rates compared to current Mars to Earth communication data rates.

This paper reviews concepts for unmanned aerial exploration of Mars including airplanes, balloons and more exotic vehicles. The primary focus of the article is on Mars airplanes. A brief history of aerial Mars exploration concepts is presented. The major scientific, engineering, and operational objectives - why do it -- of unmanned aerial missions on Mars are discussed. Some discussion of objectives appropriate for privately funded aerial missions on Mars is presented. Major engineering issues for aerial vehicles on Mars are discussed including some discussion of the engineering and economics of manufacturing fleets of aerial vehicles for Mars exploration.

Nanometer Scale Lindenmayer SystemsAdobe PDF Format
ABSTRACT

Lindenmayer systems or L-systems are a mathematical model of plant growth and cell differentiation proposed by the late biologist Aristid Lindenmayer. L-systems can generate photorealistic computer graphics models of trees, flowers, and other plants as well as other complex structures. An L-system is a set of rewriting rules such as A ==> Aa and A ==> a that replace the left hand side of the rule with the right hand side. The rewriting rules are applied repeatedly until only the terminal symbols, such as (a) in the example, that only appear on the right hand sides of the rules remain.

A nanometer scale L-system is a set of simple nanomachines that replace target modules with a payload of replacement modules. At nanometer scales, the nanomachines may be able to use thermal diffusion for transport and complementary shapes and chemical affinities, molecular recognition, for targeting. Internal power sources, propulsion systems, guidance, navigation, and control systems may not be needed. Each nanomachine in a nanometer scale L-system is only a few nanometers in cross-section and probably much easier to fabricate than a complex nanorobot. Their small size may enable them to non-destructively enter fragile structure such as cells. Nanometer scale L-systems may be able to assemble complex structures and complex systems of interacting components. The theory of nanometer scale L-systems is presented as well as a discussion of experimental tests and potential practical applications such as the programmed repair of chromosomal and genetic damage in cancer cells.

Jigsaw model of the origin of life
Second Astrobiology Science Conference 2002
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA
April 7-11, 2002

Press Release
Poster (HTML)
Abstract from Book of Abstracts
Updated Version of Paper Presented at the Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV ConferenceAdobe PDF Format

Very Low Bitrate Video for Mars MissionsAdobe PDF Format
A presentation and paper for the Fourth International Mars Society Convention, August 23-26, 2001, Stanford University, Stanford, California. The paper appears in On to Mars: Colonizing a New World (with CD ROM), Robert Zubrin (Editor), Frank Crossman (Editor), Apogee Books, July 2002, pp. 171-176.
On to Mars is distributed by Univelt Inc. (http://www.univelt.com/)
ABSTRACT

Neither manned landings nor short-range robotic probes such as Mars Pathfinder can explore more than a small fraction of the surface of Mars, 144 million square kilometers comprising as much surface area as all the continents and islands on Earth. Complete exploration of Mars to find or conclusively rule out important discoveries such a past or present life will require high speed low-altitude or ground-based probes such as airplanes, balloons, or high-speed rovers. These devices will need high frame-rate imaging such as digital video to explore the planet and for remote operation either by astronauts on Mars or mission control on Earth. A major limitation for transmission of video both on Mars and especially between Mars and Earth is the limited bandwidths available, currently less than 100 Kilobits/seconds between Mars and Earth when line of sight is available. One solution is to establish a network of communications satellites in Mars orbit. Even with a communications network, bandwidth will be limited, especially between Mars and Earth. A complementary approach is to develop very low bitrate video compression algorithms, e.g. VHS videotape quality at 56 Kilobits/second. Methods that may be able to achieve this such as the H.26L and MPEG-4 video coding standards, contour-based image coding, and object-based image coding are discussed, including applications and special issues on Mars and in deep space such as the high bit error rates of deep space communication links.

Note: This was written and presented in 2002, before the breakthrough in low bitrate video coding that reached the market in 2003.
 
 
 
Jigsaw model of the origin of lifeAdobe PDF Format
John F. McGowan, III, "Jigsaw model of the origin of life" in Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology IV, Richard B. Hoover, Gilbert V. Levin, Roland R. Paepe, Alexei Yu. Rozanov, Editors, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 4495, pp. 199-210 (2002)

Press Release

ABSTRACT

It is suggested that life originated in a three-step process referred to as the jigsaw model. RNA, proteins, or similar organic molecules polymerized in a dehydrated carbon-rich environment, on surfaces in a carbon-rich environment, or in another environment where polymerization occurs. These polymers subsequently entered an aqueous environment where they folded into compact structures. It is argued that the folding of randomly generated polymers such as RNA or proteins in water tends to partition the folded polymer into domains with hydrophobic cores and matching shapes to minimize energy. In the aqueous environment, hydrolysis or other reactions fragmented the compact structures into two or more matching molecules, occasionally producing simple living systems, also known as autocatalytic sets of molecules. It is argued that the hydrolysis of folded polymers such as RNA or proteins is not random. The hydrophobic cores of the domains are rarely bisected due to the energy requirements in water. Hydrolysis preferentially fragments the folded polymers into pieces with complementary structures and chemical affinities. Thus the probability of producing a system of matched, interacting molecules in prebiotic chemistry is much higher than usually estimated. Environments where this process may occur are identified. For example, the jigsaw model suggests life may have originated at a seep of carbonaceous fluids beneath the ocean. The polymerization occurred beneath the sea floor. The folding and fragmentation occurred in the ocean. The implications of this hypothesis for seeking life or prebiotic chemistry in the Solar System are explored. 
          Research team finds important role for junk DNA (May 15, 2009)

          Section 2.2 of The Jigsaw Model of the Origin of Life, "Molecular building blocks and L-Systems" discusses how mobile genetic elements, so-called junk DNA, can implement sophisticated computer programs and generate coding DNA.    

          
Digital video quality metric based on human vision
Andrew B. Watson, James Hu, and John F. McGowan III, Journal of Electronic Imaging 10(1), pp. 20-29 (January 2001)
Televising Mars Missions: Real-Time Television Quality Full Motion Video for Mars Missions
A presentation and paper for the Third International Mars Society Convention, August 10-13, 2000, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The paper appears on the companion CD-ROM of On to Mars: Colonizing a New World (with CD ROM), Robert Zubrin (Editor), Frank Crossman (Editor), Apogee Books, July 2002.

SLIDES FROM PRESENTATION

ABSTRACT

Neither manned landings nor short-range robotic probes such as Mars Pathfinder can explore the surface of Mars, 144 million square kilometers comprising as much surface area as all the continents and islands on Earth. Complete exploration of Mars to find or conclusively rule out important discoveries such as past or present life will require high speed low-altitude or ground-based probes such as airplanes, balloons, or high speed rovers. These devices will need high frame-rate imaging, such as digital video, to explore the planet and for remote operation either by astronauts on Mars or mission control on Earth. A variety of uses for video on Mars are presented. Previous results including the size, weight, power, bit rate, and bit error rate requirements for a video system using commercial off the shelf International Organization for Standardization (ISO) MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 digital video compression standard technology are reviewed. A significant concern unique to Mars and space missions is that radiation, especially single event latchup, may require fabrication of video encoder chips in radiation hardened semiconductor processes. In this paper, the feasibility of fabricating an MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 video encoder in a current radiation hardened Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) semiconductor process technology is demonstrated. The near Earth uses of these compact, light-weight, low power digital video systems are also discussed.

Televising Mars Missions
A shortened version of the Televising Mars Missions presentation was made at the Space Frontier Conference 9, Los Angeles, California, USA, Oct. 19-22, 2000.

Oil and natural gas on Mars
John F. McGowan III, "Oil and natural gas on Mars,"Adobe PDF Format in Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology III, Richard B. Hoover, Editor, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 4137, pp. 63-74 (2000).

SLIDES FROM PRESENTATION

ABSTRACT

On Earth, according to conventional theory, the largest, by mass and volume, identifiable trace of past life is subsurface oil and natural gas deposits. Nearly all coal and oil on Earth and most sedimentary source rocks associated with coal, oil, and natural gas contain molecules of biological origin and is proof of past life. If Mars possessed an Earth-like biosphere in the past, Mars may contain subsurface deposits of oil and natural gas indicating past life. Life might still exist in these deposits. Subsurface oil and natural gas on Mars would probably cause seepage of hydrocarbon gases such as methane at favorable locations on the Martian surface. Further, if Mars contains substantial subsurface life, the most detectable signature of this life on the Martian surface would be gases generated by the life percolating up to the surface and venting into the Martian atmosphere. In this paper, systems that can detect evidence of subsurface oil and gas, including ground penetrating radar and infrared gas sensors are explored. The limitations and future prospects of infrared gas detection and imaging technologies are explored. The power, mass, and volume requirements for infrared instruments able to detect venting gases, especially methane, from an aerobot is estimated. The maximum range from the infrared sensor to the gas vent and the minimum detectable gas density or fraction of the Martian atmosphere - as appropriate for the instrument type - is estimated. The bit rate and bit error rate requirements for transmitting the data back to Earth are also estimated.
Martian Methane Reveals the Red Planet is not a Dead Planet (NASA Announcement, January 15, 2009)

Note: Three different research groups reported finding methane in the atmosphere of Mars in March of 2004. 

White Paper on Video Technologies for Mars Airplane Adobe PDF Format
A white paper on video technologies for a Mars Airplane prepared for NASA Ames Research Center. The Mars Airplane was included in the original NASA budget request for Fiscal Year 2000, with an initial plan to send the Airplane to Mars arriving in 2003. The Mars Airplane would fly down the 2000 mile (3000 km) long Valles Marineris canyon on Mars.

ABSTRACT

Video Technologies for Mars Presentation to International Symposium on Deep Space Communication and Navigation Technologies (DESCANSO)Adobe PDF Format
A presentation on Video Technologies for Mars at the International Symposium on Deep Space Communication and Navigation Technologies (DESCANSO) sponsored by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, September 21-23, 1999. The presentation was made during Session V, the "Mars Networks" session, on Thursday, September 23, 1999. JPL develops, manages, and operates the Deep Space Network that communicates with interplanetary missions including Mars missions. The presentation is also available at the official DESCANSO web site.
Video Technologies for Mars Presentation for the Second International Convention of the Mars Society Adobe PDF Format
A presentation on Video Technologies for Mars at the Second International Convention of the Mars Society, University of Colorado at Boulder, August 12-15, 1999. The paper appears in On to Mars: Colonizing a New World (with CD ROM), Robert Zubrin (Editor), Frank Crossman (Editor), Apogee Books, July 2002, pp. 165-170.
Design and performance of a digital video quality metric
Andrew B. Watson, James Hu, John F. McGowan III, Jeffrey B. Mulligan (NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035)

ABSTRACT

The growth of digital video has given rise to a need for computational methods for evaluating the visual quality of digital video. We have developed a new digital video quality metric, which we call DVQ (Digital Video Quality). Here we provide a brief description of the metric, and give a preliminary report on its performance. DVQ accepts a pair of digital video sequences, and computes a measure of the magnitude of the visible difference between them. The metric is based on the Discrete Cosine Transform. It incorporates aspects of early visual processing, including light adaptation, luminance and chromatic channels, spatial and temporal filtering, spatial frequency channels, contrast masking, and probability summation. It also includes primitive dynamics of light adaptation and contrast masking. We have applied the metric to digital video sequences corrupted by various typical compression artifacts, and compared the results to quality ratings made by human observers.

Proceedings of SPIE, Volume 3644, p. 168
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging IV

Bernice E. Rogowitz
Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas
Chairs/Editors

25-28 January, 1999
San Jose, California

Porting Complex Multimedia Algorithms: An MPEG Example, by John F. McGowan, March 1998, Multimedia Systems Design Magazine, p.50
An article on the pitfalls of porting complex algorithms written in C from one processor to another. The article is now available on-line. Click on the article title above or go to the Multimedia Systems Design web site. Navigate to the March 1998 back issue: Click on Back Issues, Click on the image of the March 1998 issue cover, and scroll down under features to find the link to the article.
List of Physics Publications
Physics publications on which I am listed as an author. These reflect several years contributing to the SLD experiment at SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).
Isobar Model of e+ e- ==> pi+ pi- pi0 pi0 Adobe PDF Format
An unpublished article formulating an isobar model of e+ e- ==> pi+ pi- pi0 pi0. My personal belief is that the assumption of sequential two-body decays is not valid for this subatomic process, that it proceeds by an N-body fragmentation process. This belief is not discussed in the paper.

Miscellaneous Other Works

Complex Algorithm R&D: A Guide to the PerplexedAdobe PDF Format (October 17, 2008)
A white paper on complex algorithm research and development for executives, policy makers, software professionals and the general public. Complex algorithm research and development may solve or help to solve many pressing problems including the rising cost of energy, our limited lifespan, and the growing need for free time. Complex algorithm research and development is an esoteric area with a small number of practitioners. This white paper explains the activity for non-practitioners.
 
Complex Algorithm R&D: A Guide for the PerplexedAdobe PDF Format (May 6,2008)
A PowerPoint presentation on complex algorithm research and development for executives, policy makers, and the general public. Complex algorithm research and development may solve or help to solve many pressing problems including the rising cost of energy, our limited lifespan, and the growing need for free time. Complex algorithm research and development is an esoteric area with a small number of practitioners. This presentation explains the activity for non-practitioners.
Flying Saucers and Science (Book Review)Adobe PDF Format (Version 1.0: August 5, 2008, Version 1.1: August 18, 2008)
A detailed review of Stanton Friedman's Flying Saucers and Science.
 
The Inconclusive UFO Evidence (Book Review)Adobe PDF Format
A detailed review of Richard Hall's The UFO Evidence, Volume II.
 
The Inconclusive UFO Evidence II (Book Review)Adobe PDF Format (September 16, 2008)
A detailed review of J. Allen Hynek's The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry.
 
Standard Based Monopolies and Near Monopolies: The Wintel Example Adobe PDF Format
How standards are used to achieve and maintain monopolies and near monopolies, with Microsoft and Intel as examples.
Advanced Applications: Improving Image and Video Compression Adobe PDF Format
A presentation on the NASA Desktop Video Expert Center Advanced Applications effort for the NASA Collaborative Engineering Environment (CEE) group on June 15, 1998.
Images and Image Processing in Java Adobe PDF Format
A presentation for the NASA Ames Research Center Java Users Group (JUG) on February 18, 1998. The presentation discusses the pros and cons of using Java for prototyping and demonstrating image processing algorithms.
Low Bitrate Compression Presentation Adobe PDF Format
A presentation for a group of visiting faculty at NASA Ames on January 24, 1997.
Installation and Configuration of Desktop Videoconferencing Systems Adobe PDF Format
A guide for installing and configuring desktop videoconferencing systems for NASA. Installation and configuration problems on PC platforms have been one of the major obstacles to use of desktop videoconferencing.
Windows NT and Appletalk Printers Adobe PDF Format
Short note on how to configure Windows NT to work with printers on a Macintosh centric Appletalk network for NASA.
Intel ProShare Evaluation Adobe PDF Format
An evaluation of Intel's ProShare desktop videoconferencing product for NASA.
Microsoft NetShow Evaluation Adobe PDF Format
A brief evaluation of Microsoft's NetShow streaming video product for NASA.

http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html


2008-2012 by John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

Send Mail to John

Back to John's Home Page