Gangkhar Puensum, meaning three mountain siblings, is the tallest mountain in Bhutan with an elevation of 7,570 meters. Since the 80s several attempts have been made to climb this mountain – a part of which lies in Bhutan and the other part in Tibet. None of the attempts have ever been successful.
However in the year 1999, a team of climbers from Japan, after a protracted attempt to get a permit, were able to reach the top of one of the three peaks – Liankang Kangri – from the Chinese side of the mountain. Later, protests from local people in Bhutan made them stop.
So technically, the highest peak has never been climbed by anyone till date. Gangkhar Puensum remains the highest unclimbed mountain. The reason mostly is because obtaining a permit to climb it is almost impossible. It is prohibited by the government of Bhutan.
The prohibition by the government has mostly to do with the lack of rescue services at that place, and due to the local belief which considers the peak sacred – a home to holy spirits.
Gangkhar Puensum is certainly one of the uncharted mysterious places in the world where no one has gone and probably never will.
Thanks to the LAser GEOdynamics Satellite or LAGEOS 1 developed by NASA, we can rest assured that a message ensconced in it will be received by our descendants 8 million years from now, when the satellite is estimated to crash land on Earth.
Note: LAGEOS 2 was a joint effort by NASA and ASI of Italy
Structure: LAGEOS is basically a heavy metal ball measuring 60 cm in diameter containing no electronics or any sensors whatsoever. Its body is made up of aluminum and the internal core is made of brass. The brass core has been used to make sure that it weighs enough to do its job properly – the complete satellite weighs around 400 kg. The outer part is embedded with 422 reflectors. These reflectors make sure that the craft reflects back the light (laser) shone at it, to its source with minimum scattering.
Purpose: The primary purpose of the satellite isn’t to send a message to our future races, rather the satellite has been put up on orbit around the Earth to monitor several kinds of changes in long-term data like – exact shape of the planet, motion of tectonic plates, gravitational field measurement, measurement of the Earth’s wobble etc. This is done by sending laser pulses towards it from bases around the world located in US, Mexico, France, Germany, Poland, Australia, Egypt, China, Peru, Italy, and Japan. These laser pulses are reflected back to the Earth bases by those 422 reflectors. As the satellite has a very stable orbit, the measurement of time difference taken to send and receive the laser pulse gives away a lot of useful information.
The message plaque:
Quoting from the NASA’s website:
LAGEOS 1 also contains a message plaque addressed to human and other beings of the far distant future with maps of the Earth from 3 different eras – 268 million years in the past, present day, and 8 million years in the future (the satellite’s estimated decay date).
There’d be hardly anyone among us who hasn’t played with a roly-poly toy during their childhoods. If you know it by some other name, you could think of it as a toy that never falls, no matter how hard you hit it, and sells in variants which look like this. That isn’t exactly what a Gomboc is, but you get an idea about what it does – It does not fall. For more, read on.
What is a Gomboc?
A Gomboc (Gömböc) is a mathematical 3-D shape which has only one position in which it can stand and is made up of a single material of uniform density. If you try to make it stand in some other way, or try to knock it down, it moves back to that single stable position, gradually. When placed on its side, it starts rocking magically, gains momentum, straightens itself and gradually comes to rest in that single position. Here is a video of a Gomboc doing its thing.
A Gomboc is an object surrounded by a number of complex curves, it takes an immense amount of accuracy to get the surfaces right. An accuracy of the orders of around 1/10th of a human hair’s thickness is required for it to work properly. For better, people have started 3D printing these complex shapes.
The world’s largest Gomboc was displayed in China in the year 2010 which measured around 3 meters in all directions.
Terrestrial tortoises, who use a similarly shaped shell to get on their feet when turned upside down, were using it long before humans had found a way to construct it. The first time we made it, was in the year 2006. Evolution got there first!
How is it different than a Roly-Poly toy?
A roly-poly toy usually has an internal counter weight made up of a heavier material. But a Gomboc is made up of a single material.
Uses: Use it as a paper weight or to gift it to your friend who is a math geek. Tortoises use it to save their own lives.
Where can I buy one?
You can get one for yourself from an official website of the inventors – Here.