Marc Norman is standing ice-side in the new skating rink in Salt Lake City, Utah-the site of this year’s Winter Olympics. It’s noisy in here: Workers are installing a high-tech dehumidifying system. Speaking over the persistent clanging, Norman makes a prediction. “Once that’s completed,” he says, “we will be able to control just about everything that happens in this building.”
That boast makes Norman, the rink’s building operations manager, sound like nothing less than an insufferable control freak. But one can forgive him his obsessiveness, given that the 2002 Winter Olympics are fast approaching-they run from Feb. 8 to Feb. 24-and along with them the deadline for his ambitious goal: making the fastest ice on earth.
If Norman succeeds, some pros predict that world records will be broken during this year’s Winter Games in all 10 speed-skating events-the 500-, 1,000-, 1,500-, and 5,000-meter races for both men and women, as well as the women’s 3,000-meter and the men’s 10,000-meter races. In the 18 Winter Olympics that have taken place since the games originated in 1924 in Chamonix, France, such a thing has never happened.
An ex-skater who was good enough to have twice tried out for-but not made-the Olympic team, Norman, 28, has worked in rink maintenance for about a decade and came to the Utah Olympic Oval roughly two years ago. Over the years he’s become a sort of ice guru-a Frankenstein of Freeze, if you will-bent on breathing zippy new life into what most of us consider to be one of the most mundane of materials.
The new rink Norman helped design in Salt Lake City is a $30 million temple devoted to fast ice. Nothing has been left to chance: From the height of the ceiling to the sophisticated equipment that monitors subtle shifts in temperature and humidity, the building is a marvel of environmental control.
The temperature of the Salt Lake City ice is calibrated to within hundredths of a degree, thanks in part to 1,000 tons of chilled calcium chloride solution (that is, saltwater) that circulates continuously throughout the 33-mile network of polyurethane pipes beneath the ice. The pipes, which are 11/2 inches in diameter, are set just 4 inches apart. Because saltwater freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater, Norman can chill it down to -8
Option A: Orbiting Mirrors
Temperatures on the Martian equator already touch 32
Option C: Global Warming, The Earth Remix
The best way to warm a planet-Earth, for example-is with strong artificial greenhouse gases. With evidence gleaned from our own global warming, scientists have a good idea of which emissions are best suited for climate change. Zubrin, among others, believes tetrafluoromethane (CF4) is the best gas for the global-warming job. Twentieth-century thinking says factories are the best way to create emissions. So Zubrin proposes building several chemical plants on Mars to release fluoromethane continuously. Emitting 1,000 tons of gas an hour would raise the temperature by 50
STEP ONE: GET TO THE POINT OF TERRAFORMING
According to Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society, colonization will take place in three steps, and we’ve already started with the first: exploration. Multiple human landings are necessary to uncover mineral materials, ice deposits and suitable habitats. Next, bases will be built, and finally, a self-sufficient colony must be established. Now it’s time to start terraforming. For this article, let’s say the year is 2150. Terraforming begins with the warming of the planet. Zubrin describes it as “trying to drive a runaway greenhouse effect.” He proposes three methods to get the planetary hot tub started. Critics argue that the first two will be ineffective; the third is sketchy but feasible.
STEP THREE: TIME TO GARDEN
By 2250, the 100th anniversary of the first CF4 factory opening, the atmosphere will be one fifth as thick as Earth’s: about .21 atmospheres, with .20 atmospheres of carbon dioxide. Martian residents will be able to walk outside without spacesuits (though they’ll still need oxygen). Not only will this introduce the first interplanetary fashion trends, but the climate will be suitable for planting, flying planes, and building domed (these would be more efficient for oxygen management) cities. Once the equator´s surface reached a constant temperature of 32
STEP TWO: SET SOIL-TRAPPED GASES FREE
A mere three billion years ago, Mars possessed a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere. Huge amounts of remnant CO2 have been absorbed in the soil but could be liberated by warming temperatures. In other words, Mars is cold and boring now, sucking gases into the soil, but warm it up and you´d have a CO2 planet party. To keep within our stated 1,000-year timeframe, Zubrin says: “The additional gases [liberated from the soil] will raise the temp another 10 degrees over 20 years, thawing some ice, which will lead to evaporation and the first signs of weather.” By these calculations, Mars’s atmosphere would have .10 atmospheres of CO2 by the year 2200-just 50 years after beginning the terraforming process.
POPSCI Contest: The Martian Flag
The Mars Society´s current flag design is sort of a demented take on the French tricolore. The contest to design a new Martian flag is now closed. Thank you for the submissions-the winner will be announced in a gallery on PopSci.com soon!
Option B: Ammonia Asteroids
Asteroids are essentially frozen stockpiles of greenhouse gases. If earthlings could direct an asteroid 1.6 miles in diameter to a collision course with Mars, the energy from impact would be enough to melt one trillion tons of H2O, and the amount of ammonia released from the asteroid could raise the Martian temperature by 37
STEP FIVE: WAIT 1,000 YEARS
It’s all seemed so simple to this point-50 years to experience weather and then another 50 to walk outside in your new Martian threads. But it would take our little space gardens 1,000 years to produce enough oxygen for Martian colonists to breathe unassisted. During those 1,000 years, residents would have to continually plant and harvest, playing the role of Mother Nature to speed the conversion of the atmosphere from carbon dioxide to oxygen.
STEP FOUR: HARVEST SEASON
Growing plants will begin the process of converting the carbon dioxide atmosphere into delicious oxygen. But there’s a speed bump: Leaving the dead plants to decay (as farmers do today, in the process of tilling fields under) would release more carbon gas, slowing the process down. Zubrin believes that the solution would be for Martian residents to aggressively harvest plants and dispose of waste materials through a careful composting process, to prevent CO2 leakage. Genetic engineering could play a part too. Zubrin imagines a strain of “Little Shop of Horrors”â€style mutant plants that would produce more oxygen.