Monthly Archives: June, 2008

The Fallacy of Biofuels and GM Crops

Here is a subject I might know a little about, farming.

I grew up on a dairy farm in the 1960s and 1970s. I saw a lot of changes during that time, tractors getting larger, haying and grain equipment getting larger and cows getting larger.

See the pattern here?

But my Dad didn’t believe in that philosophy. Mainly because he couldn’t handle a business worth a shit, but some of what we did at that time had wisdom to it. Like breeding a first calf holstein heifer with a small breed like a Jersey so the calf wouldn’t be so big and cripple the heifer while she was giving birth. Or saving some of the previous harvests seed, like corn, oats or winter wheat for planting the next year. People call that ‘organic farming’ now, but back then it was SOP.

Let’s take a look at organic farming for instance. To be certified ‘organic’, a farmer must prove that he/she hasn’t used any kind of chemical or artificial hormone on their livestock and feedstock for three years. Any and all seed must be of the heritage variety, no Monsanto, Dow Chemical or Bayer GM crap at all. And that’s a tall order now because these corporations have the seed market monopolized to the point where almost all farmers if they want to plant any crop, they have to use the dangerous GM stuff.

I have four cousins who farm organically, one has done it for twenty years. There’s a market for it and the prices are high for organic commodities, thus they are able to make pretty decent livings from it despite the planned destruction of the family farm. Amish communities in Pennsylvania have been able to make good livings from classical farming methods for over three hundred years. It’s only been during the past twenty years they’ve had difficulties because their young people are leaving for the big city and corporate farms buying up all the good cropland.

It is because of these corporate farms and the massive government subsidies they receive for growing corn for ‘biofuel’ that the current world food crisis is occurring now.

And guess who’s in the thick of the biofuel debate now? That’s right, Barack Obama, Democratic Party Presidential candidate:

When VeraSun Energy inaugurated a new ethanol processing plant last summer in Charles City, Iowa, some of that industry’s most prominent boosters showed up. Leaders of the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, for instance, came to help cut the ribbon — and so did Senator Barack Obama.

Then running far behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in name recognition and in the polls, Mr. Obama was in the midst of a campaign swing through the state where he would eventually register his first caucus victory. And as befits a senator from Illinois, the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel.

Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates.

In the heart of the Corn Belt that August day, Mr. Obama argued that embracing ethanol “ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.” America’s oil dependence, he added, “makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”

Mr. Obama very noticably declines to mention the issue of the subsidies. It is a well known fact that Obama’s home state Iowa is the second largest producer of corn in the U.S. and Obama of course would be remiss if he left his clientel hanging should he be selected to be President.

So how does the world feel about corn being diverted from food to fuel production? Well, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) makes a token attempt to protest biofuel subsidies in the U.S. and Brazil:

As was widely expected, the U.S. and Brazil’s biofuel programs came under heavy criticism at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food crisis meeting yesterday in Rome. Jacques Diouf, its head, reserved most of his reprobation for the U.S.’s billions of corn ethanol subsidies (roughly $12b in 2006), which he said were depriving developing countries of food, reports The Guardian‘s Julian Borger.

He accused the U.S. of diverting close to 100 million tons of cereals from human consumption to “satisfy a thirst for fuel for vehicles.” Officials from U.S., Canadian and European biofuel industries had written to Diouf prior to the summit to warn him not to lash out against biofuels — advice he clearly (and rightly) chose to disregard. Ed Schafer, the U.S. agriculture secretary, tried to deflect blame from the ethanol subsidies, claiming biofuel production only accounted for 2 – 3% of the rise in food prices.

By comparison, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) research estimates that it has accounted for 20 – 30% of the price increases over the last 2 years. For its part, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) believes that biofuels caused nearly 60% of the increase in the consumption of cereals and vegetable oils between 2005 and 2007.

Schafer also tried to peddle the canard that corn ethanol was an “efficient producer of energy,” despite mountains of evidence to the contrary (see this post about the significant land-use concerns).

Please note that although Brazil subsidizes their biofuel industry, they use cellulose from switchgrass to turn into alcohol fuel, which isn’t food to begin with. But wholesale clearing of rainforest to grow it is a big issue. Thus this has ecological impact as well.

So what to do? Well, quit giving corporate welfare to mega-farms for one thing. But campaign coffers are filled by corporate PAC money and Monsanto is a big player here. Not only that, Monsanto gengineers the seed for the ethanol:

No doubt Monsanto plans to come up with new, “improved” corn seed products that will target new, improved pests, and will be able to resist new, improved herbicides. That is the treadmill that the human race has put itself on, and whether we’ll ever be able to get off of it seems a highly doubtful proposition, unless food prices rise so high that biofuels become politically impossible. But that dreary quagmire is not the point of this post.

For some time, How the World Works has been convinced that the rush to biofuels will significantly boost the ongoing rollout of genetically modified organisms. There’s just too much money at stake in the energy business for it to be otherwise. The popularity of the latest biotech crops is a perfect illustration of this. These seeds aren’t cheap — they are top-of-the-line products. But for well-financed farmers and industrial-scale agribusinesses aiming to cash in on ethanol demand, seed costs are not a significant barrier. It seems reasonable to expect, in the not-too-distant future, quadruple- and quintuple- and sextuple-stacked hybrids that do all kinds of fancy things such as incorporate herbicide resistance, targeted pesticides, and modifications that make the corn cheaper and easier to industrially transform into ethanol

So there it is in a nutshell. Or a GM corn kernal anyway. Follow the money and you will find how the world works. I have to hand it to the mega-corps though, they have managed to ‘collectivize’ farming to the point that would’ve made the old U.S.S.R. blanch. Or bow down to them.

Well, the U.S. is due for a round of neoliberal corporate communism anyhow and the ‘green technology’ field is slated to be the next big bubble economic powerhouse. And corporate GM corn for biofuels plays a big part in it. Plus picking the wallets of the slaves to pay for it just sweetens the pot even more for these assholes.

Also, don’t expect this to create any middle-class jobs for American citizens, most of the machinery that agribusinesses use are automated, even the tractors.

And there are plenty of illegal immigrants willing to work for three dollars an hour to monitor the equipment!

Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol

FAO Takes on Biofuel Subsidies, U.S. Claims 2020 Climate Targets “Unachievable”

Why Monsanto loves ethanol 

More Cosmic Destruction

Larry Klaes of the Tau Zero Foundation writes at the Centauri Dreams blog about how “explosive” the Universe really is and how we perceive the twinkling lights in the sky as a peaceful, beautific scene is severely flawed:

When we look up at the night sky with our eyes alone, everything about it seems calm and even peaceful. Aside from a passing airplane or satellite, only the occasional meteor or twinkling star indicate any natural activities up there. Otherwise, the Universe seems almost immobile and permanent, even when we watch the stars for a long while.

Recent news by the astronomy community shows just how much of an illusion this perception actually is. On May 14, NASA announced the discovery of the youngest local supernova remnant yet known, an object unpoetically known as G1.9+0.3, located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy about 26,000 light years from Earth.

Though most stars exist for ages far longer than human minds can conceive, they are not immortal. Some last for billions of years and eventually more-or-less quietly fade away; this will be the fate of our Sun.

More massive suns do not exist for quite so long, nor do they leave the Universe peacefully. These natural fusion reactors often end up in a titanic explosion called a supernova. Some lose their nuclear fuel, causing their cores to collapse and release huge amounts of energy in the process, leaving a neutron star or black hole in their wake. Other large suns that are part of a binary system where one star is a white dwarf create their death act when too much material from the giant star is pulled onto the white dwarf companion, causing its core to heat enough to create runaway nuclear fusion and tear itself apart.

Artist\'s conception of a supernova

White dwarf stars are not only formed in binary systems, main sequence single stars such as F, G and K types are capable as well. When these stars age, they use up most of their hydrogen fuel. Our sun is a type G, so it is theorized that as it ages and uses up its fuel, it will swell in size as it tries to fuse heavier elements like helium and lithium. The core starts to get more dense as it converts the heavier fuels into heavier yet materials, but the surrounding gas envelop expands. Eventually, the sphere will gulp down Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and eventually Saturn as it enters its red giant phase:

As a red giant, the Sun will have a maximum radius beyond the Earth’s current orbit, 1 AUm), 250 times the present radius of the Sun.[28] However, by the time it is an asymptotic giant branch star, the Sun will have lost roughly 30% of its present mass due to a stellar wind, so the orbits of the planets will move outward. If it were only for this, Earth would probably be spared, but new research suggests that Earth will be swallowed by the Sun due to tidal interactions.

Life of the Sun

Eventually the Sun will “blow” off the outer gas layers in a “semi-nova” (because it’s not massive enough to collapse into a full nova) and a white dwarf star will result.

Of course by then I fully expect the Solar System to be empty of life, either by Exodus, Diaspora, already extinct or transcension by Singulary(s) (or other means).

The Universe is an interesting, and violent place.

Even our own little corner of it has that “take a walk on the wild side” quality!

The Explosive Cosmos

Life cycle of the Sun

Creative Destruction

Kirn floated above the swollen red disk of the star in resplendent glory.

E was clothed in golden light from head to foot ( or analogs thereof ) and soaked velvetly through all the firmament in a heavenly haze. The landscape ( if viewed three dimensionally ) emitted a preternatural sheen that would’ve blinded an ancient baseline humans eye. To Kirn, it was the scene E personally selected for this moment in time, which was all aspects of the term “now.”  Quantum states froze and wave functions collapsed as Kirn viewed the scene in its normal 4D state, but from Er position in 5D, Kirn discerned the coming events in the infinite possibilities the unfrozen quantum states presented.

A human being from five billion years ago would’ve been driven mad from miscomprehension. Or not perceive anything at all because the brain was still too primitive.

But Kirn saw it in all Eternities.

The star in question was ten billion years old and dying. The huge gaseous red sphere was way past fusing hydrogen anymore. It started dining on helium and lithium about two billion years ago, now those elements were exhausted. Further cannibalizing itself, the outer shell of red gases was expanding out further from the stellar center, encompassing the orbital distance of what would be Saturn in old Earths System.

In fact, it was old Earth’s System.

Sol was the aging, rapidly dying elder nearing the End of its sequence.

No longer the bright yellow orb of its youth, Sol was entering the terminal stage in which it was a swollen gas giant star that was going to blow off its outer layer of gases in pseudo-nova glory, incinerating everything that was left in the ancient Solar System.

The resulting nebula will reach out from 1000 AU to about a half a light year initially, rapidly spreading to where Proxima Centauri once was in about twenty to thirty years. Then the nebular gases will thin out and slow to about 200 AU an Old Year, carrying elements of ancient Sol to a nearby stellar nursery two hundred and twenty old light-years out. Sol will feed new children.

Kirn’s job is to record this event for all Eternity. Eternity in this case is beyond the Death of the Universe. The Heat Death. Final Entropy. Omega Point.

The Children of Eternity they call themselves. They try not to call themselves “God” or gods for that matter. They learned from past experience that there’s always a bigger kid on the block willing to knock that galaxy size chip from their shoulders. But they learned, sometimes the easy way. Mostly the hard way though, as with most of human history.

The Children are the Last Human Intelligence though. To call them human is a huge misnomer, because there is billions of years separating them and the original baseline human being.

It’s like comparing an anerobic bacteria colony with 21st century New York City. Not even close.

But observing an event like the Death of the Parent Star isn’t Kirns only job. Oh no.

It’s not even Er main job. Kirns primary duty is to use the energy that is to be created by the blow-off of Old Sols’ outer layers of gases to create an artificial Hole in Time.

A wormhole. A time-gate.

Actually, a natural rip in the normal four dimensional fabric of space would be a result of the semi-nova energies anyway. Kirn is just there to control the energy release in order to form the shape of the rip and use the matter from the explosion and convert it into a negative matter cage to hold the wormhole open.

Sounds good in theory.

The Children are proven stellar engineers though. Creating wormholes, albeit small ones, are a matter of course for multiple-Singularity non-corporeal entities who reside in a higher dimension. Or dimensions.

But there’s one thing the Universe beat them at, aggravating the Children to no end and smacked their left-over human hubris right between the proverbial eyes.

And that was the ever accelerating expansion of the Universe.

NASA is a Globalist “Dog and Pony Show”

NASA is just a big front for the secret government’s military industrial congressional complex’s hog trough, without any regard to mankind’s destiny in space. It’s Ares spacecraft and Constellation Project is a bunch of horse-shit designed to siphon what little money Americans have left in their wallets. With their cries of “chemical rockets are the best way to get back to the Moon” and “we’ll save money reusing Apollo 1960s tech (which in reality is Von Braun Nazi tech from the 1940s)” lies, they’re ensuring that thousands of skilled engineers will lose their jobs in the ensuing years, while feeding the globalist agenda of outsourcing skilled labor to cheaper places, this time Russia and at the same time draining the United States of much needed brain power.

I bet you’re thinking I’m going around the bend on this. Well, check this shit out:

It’s the rocket NASA won’t talk about — but proponents insist it could change everything. If built, they say, it could get America back on the moon faster and cheaper than anything NASA is designing — and save thousands of jobs in Florida.Kennedy Space Center when the shuttles are mothballed.

It’s called Direct 2.0, or the Jupiter 120 rocket. The simplicity of its design, and the possibility that it could shave years off a projected five-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight once the shuttle retires in 2010, is gaining Direct a growing following among engineers and space enthusiasts — including NASA workers who are secretly helping the project on their own time. Adherents say it could fly by 2013 for less than the projected cost of NASA’s Ares rocket.

Indeed, an unfinished internal NASA study — shut down and disowned by the agency last fall — showed Direct 2.0 would outperform Ares, which the agency is designing for its Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon. The initial results showed Direct 2.0 was superior in cost, overall performance and work-force retention — a big issue for Florida.

This is beyond pathetic, it’s fucking criminal. Especially when one reads headlines like this:

NASA told a U.S. Senate panel on Monday that it anticipates losing 3,000 to 4,000 jobs at its launching site once the space shuttles stop flying in two more years, about half the cutback initially reported.

Although as many as 6,000 to 7,000 shuttle jobs will be eliminated at Kennedy Space Center, about 3,000 positions will open up in the new exploration program, said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Those jobs will be created to build and fly new spaceships to the international space station and, ultimately, to the moon.

“I can’t say it’s good news, but it’s certainly news that’s a step in the right direction,” said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee, who organized the hearing…

…Nelson said layoffs could economically devastate the area, similar to what happened during the lull between the Apollo moon shots of the early 1970s and the first space shuttle flight in 1981.

“The last thing we need to do is to lose this tremendous work force, to put people out of work, give them a pink slip, while at the same time we’re generating jobs in Russia to accomplish the same mission,” Martinez said. “It’s shortsighted. It makes no sense. We need to reverse it.”

Griffin acknowledged he finds it “unseemly in the extreme” to have to rely on Russia.

“However, I can’t find a way to avoid it,” he said.

“However, I can’t find a way to avoid it,” he says. Bullshit. He and his masters knew how to avoid it and made a conscious descision not to. Just business as usual in the One World Order as they say.

It’s bad enough when an agency that professes to have America’s and mankind’s future interests at heart deny that Tesla/Carr technology for spacecraft exists and is currently being used by the U.S. military, but when they purposely  turn away chemical rocket technology  that’s slightly better and is able to return Americans to the Moon safer, cheaper and sooner, that shows me that NASA isn’t the ‘big’ player they claim to be.

They’re just another “dog and pony” show to distract the sheeple!

NASA remains silent on rocket that could rescue the Cape

Direct 2.0

NASA: Fewer employees to lose their jobs

Phoenix finds water ice?; galactic star streams and Japanese astronomers look for ET

Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it.”It must be ice,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it’s ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can’t do that.”

The chunks were left at the bottom of a trench informally called “Dodo-Goldilocks” when Phoenix’s Robotic Arm enlarged that trench on June 15, during the 20th Martian day, or sol, since landing. Several were gone when Phoenix looked at the trench early today, on Sol 24.

Also early today, digging in a different trench, the Robotic Arm connected with a hard surface that has scientists excited about the prospect of next uncovering an icy layer.

If one takes JPL and NASA at its word, this is indeed good news. Some people speculate the white stuff is salt or CO2 ice though. From what I saw at the Space Daily site, I couldn’t really tell for certain the white substance was sublimating or not. Maybe a better trained eye can tell.

Mars Science Is A Sublime Affair For Phoenix Lander


The Star Streams of NGC 5907
Image Credit & Copyright: R Jay Gabany (Blackbird Observatory) – collaboration; D.Martínez-Delgado(IAC, MPIA), J.Peñarrubia (U.Victoria) I. Trujillo (IAC) S.Majewski (U.Virginia), M.Pohlen (Cardiff).

From my old pal Quasar 9‘s (who’s a very busy individual when he’s not posting photos or poetry) site.

This is a look at tidal star streams surrounding galaxy NGC 5907.



Everyone wonders at least once in their lifetime whether space is infinite and whether aliens really do exist,” said Shinya Narusawa, chief researcher at Nishi-Harima Astronomical Observatory in western Japan.

The search for aliens and UFOs is not new to Japan. Last year, unidentified flying objects grabbed the headlines after a lawmaker submitted a question to the cabinet on whether the country had confirmed any cases of their existence. The government’s answer: no.

In the scientific world, Japanese researchers have used antennas to catch radio signals from outer space and analyzed the prisms of celestial lights to see if any laser emissions from space can be found, Narusawa said.

By concentrating on one star the Japanese believe the chances of finding an ET civilization are enhanced simply because it would be easier to filter out artificial radio ‘noise’ from Earth, thus cutting down on false positives.

I don’t know about this. Our own industrial civilization is only 250 years old and we’ve only had radio for little over 100 years, and we’re already phasing it out in favor of fiber optics and broad band.

This is like tilting at windmills. If we were serious about finding ET, we would be investigating UFOs more seriously, developing ways to detect neutron beams, graviton waves or even patterns in quasar flashes.

All theater for the masses this is.

Life in outer space? Astronomers hunt aliens

Star Trek Esoterica

Recently myself and my old pal Highwayman expressed our difference of opinions concerning mankind and space travel. While HW believes that humans must change literally into angelic, sinless creatures in order to enjoy the company of likewise entities in the Universe, I take the more traditional spaceship route. Since we both liked ‘Star Trek’ in our respective youth, that is often given as an example of what I think the ideal should be.

But what I didn’t take into account was the history of one Gene Roddenberry, and the road of esoterica he followed:

In between the Star Trek TV series and the first Star Trek motion picture, Gene Roddenberry would find himself confronted with a real-world galactic Brotherhood. The ensuing drama would serve to be one of the strangest episodes recorded in the life of major Hollywood figure.

In early 1975, a broke and depressed Roddenberry was approached by a British former race car driver named Sir John Whitmore, who was associated with a strange organization called ‘Lab-9.’ Though unknown to the public, Lab-9 were ostensibly a sort of an independent version of the X-Files, dedicated to the research of paranormal phenomena. However, Lab-9 had another, more complex agenda- they later claimed to be in contact with a group of extraterrestrials called the ‘Council of Nine’ or simply ‘The Nine’, who had been communicating through ‘channelers’ or psychic mediums.

I had heard rumors years ago about Roddenberry possibly encountering UFOs in the late 1950s when he was still a policeman with the LAPD. After some brief research I dismissed that as hocum. But the involvement with the “9” and its influence on his later works, especially ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ is quite obvious if one studies it up close. And the number 9 figures prominently in the later ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Voyager’ works.

Did Roddenberry have brushes with creatures beyond our ken that influenced his works? Or is this just fantasy like his ‘Star Trek’ universe?

I recommend going to Chris Knowles’ The Secret Sun to read about the symbology of Star Trek, you won’t be disappointed!

The Council of Nine and the Star Trek Pantheon

Secret NASA

Lately I have been railing against NASA’s covert space program and related cover-ups. “Covert space programs”, you say? “Dad, you’ve really taken a turn around the deep bend this time”, you’d note.

Well, maybe I have. NASA claims that it would be the first to proclaim that there’s other life in the Universe from the highest roof-tops and towers, given the proper evidence. One must remember NASA is a government agency, and thusly subject to orders from said government, or an entity that really is the government! If NASA is told to cover something up because the entity deems it so, they will.

The following are two videos that show that NASA is very aware there is life outside of Earth, and is actively covering it up, at least from the Apollo days (probably further back).

The question you want to ask yourselves are, “Is this all just disinformation to spread virally throughout the ‘Tubes, or is this possibly real?”

You be the judges.

Fox Anchor Laughs, Animals in Space Theory…
Video: Truth About the Moon

A take on the ‘Ultimate Project’

I knew if I waited long enough today, I would find something good to comment or blog on. One of my favorite haunts to hang out at is Centauri Dreams, a hard science astronomy blog maintained by Paul Gilster and a forum of the Tau Zero Foundation. Paul generally posts peer reviewed research papers with subjects that relate to interstellar research and deep space exploration. Today’s post was put up by Larry Klaes, a Tau Zero Foundation member, and it’s a subject that’s very old, near and dear to my heart; Interstellar travel via generation ship:

Despite how they appear to us in the night sky and the relative ease and speed with which spaceships in most science fiction stories fly to them, the twinkling stars in the heavens are, in reality, immensely far away. The few robotic probes that have left our Solar System faster than any other vehicles yet built would not — if aimed in their direction — reach the the nearest stars for 77,000 years. Spaceships that could attain speeds approaching that of light (186,000 miles per second), while theoretically possible, have many technological and physics hurdles to overcome and are a long way from being built.

Due to this reality, scientists began contemplating in the last century how humans could reach other star systems alive aboard vessels that could become practical in the not too distant future.

Birth and Death Among the Stars

One idea that was quickly taken up by science fiction authors is the multigenerational starship. A large selection of people would be placed aboard a giant spacecraft with the necessary tools and resources to survive the many centuries it would take a relatively slow-moving vessel to reach another star system. The crew members who eventually arrive at the target sun and its circling worlds would be the distant descendants of the original explorers, ready to disembark from their ship and settle in these new lands.

Alpha Centauri and environs

I cut my eye-teeth on Heinlein’s ‘Universe’ way back when I first learned to read books I think (actually the story was ‘Far Centaurus’). There was something almost primal about a culture that loses its roots and forgets it lives on a huge spaceship. Another story in the same vein was an old Star Trek Original Series episode titled ‘For I Have Touched the Sky…’ about another culture who forgot they were on a spaceship.

Believe it or not, there are people who are actually planning an interstellar multi-generation mission project with a vision for the long view called the ‘Ultimate Project’:

The initial mission design consists of a cylindrical spacecraft, 2 km long and 2 km in diameter, with a crew of one million and a cruising speed of 600 km/s. The spacecraft will be designed, constructed and tested over the span of 500 years and travel to a nearby solar system will take on the order of 10,000 years.

The initial design is a starting point that demonstrates that the mission is plausible. It is expected that the plan and design will be overtaken by events and it is recognized that the initial concept may have very little in common with the final mission.

I know people will note that societies today have relatively short attention spans and that long term, multi-generation projects won’t appeal to anyone and I have to agree with that. Never-the-less, the individuals working on this Project note examples like The Great Wall of China, Notre Dame Cathedral and Great Pyramids of Egypt as successful multi-generational projects.

I would like to note also that ideas of the Singularity proponents can be incorporated into the generation ship theme also, via mind uploads and genetic encoding into a biochemical substrate that can be reconstituted later upon arrival to a candidate world (Hat tip to Greg Egan and Peter Watts here). No physical volunteers required!

Unfortunately, I don’t see a government or conglomerate of corporations undertaking this project though, there is no emergency survival imperative involved. Yet. But I do see this as an extension of an out-growth from a future Asteroid Belt civilization if one ever comes to exist.

Disgruntled future Belters leave the Solar System to find ‘elbow room’!

How cool would that be!

The Ultimate Project to the Stars

The Ultimate Project

Latest from Phoenix, Super Earths

The Phoenix lander team revealed the latest images from the mission at a press briefing on Friday. This first image shows an area dug by Phoenix’s scoop, which disclosed a bright surface just a few inches down, which may be ice. “There’s still some debate about the bright material,” said Phoenix Principle Investigator Peter Smith. “Not everyone is sure that this is ice. So there’s been some debate on our team, centering around that perhaps there’s a salt layer just under the soil that also would be bright. Everyone does believe there’s ice under the surface, and whether this is ice or not is the question. The other question is, is this thick ice that goes down deep beneath the surface, or is this a thin layer and we’ll be able to scrape through? So being able to scrape with our scoop is a high priority for us.”

This pair of images taken by the Optical Microscope on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander offers a side-by-side comparison of an airfall dust sample collected on a substrate exposed during landing (left) and a soil sample scooped up from the surface of the ground beside the lander. In both cases the sample is collected on a silicone substrate, which provides a sticky surface holding sample particles for observation by the microscope.

Similar fine particles at the resolution limit of the microscope are seen in both samples, indicating that the soil has formed from settling of dust.

The microscope took the image on the left during Phoenix’s Sol 9 (June 3, 2008), or the ninth Martian day after landing. It took the image on the right during Sol 17 (June 11, 2008).

The scale bar is 1 millimeter (0.04 inch).

This is the latest color image of Phoenix, its surroundings and the scoop with soil.

While we can’t look inside the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) oven which will “bake” the Martian soil to test the type of gases that are released, we can see that some of the soil has gone into TEGA. “We were finally successful and some of the material has slid down over the screen” said Smith, “sort of like material going over a cheese grater, and some of the material has slid down and filled the oven. We sent the commands for the first operation of TEGA last night, but we don’t have our data back yet, so we can’t report on any results. That will be coming later next week. So this is a very exciting time for us. We find the soil is very clumpy, it’s sticky, it’s an unusual soil not at all like the types of soils we used in our tests, which worked just fine with all the instruments. So we’ve developed another method of collecting samples, which is to tilt the scoop and vibrate it, and so it shakes down a small amount of material onto the instruments.”

And finally, here’s the latest weather report for Mars, on the 17th sol of Phoenix’s stay on Mars.

A commenter joked that Mars and Minnesota have the same temperatures just about. I’m not going to put that to the test because it’s cold enough here in Upstate NY sometimes to put Siberia to shame!

As for ice or salt, it sure looks salty to me. But another commenter pointed out that white salt is from refinement. I guess we have to wait until next week for the oven test results to come out to verify yay, or nay.

Latest Phoenix Images: Ice or Salt?


Does every single star harbor planets and, if yes, how many?” wonders planet hunter Michel Mayor. “We may not yet know the answer but we are making huge progress towards it.” Mayor and his team of European astronomers have found a star which is orbited by at least three planets. Using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, they have found a triple system of super-Earths around the star HD 40307. This is the first system known to have at least three planets.Jupiter or Saturn, and current statistics show that about 1 out of 14 stars harbors this kind of planet.

Back in 1995, Mayor, along with Didier Queloz, made the first discovery of an extrasolar planet around 51 Pegasi, and since then more than 270 exoplanets have been found, mostly around sun-like stars.
Most of these planets are giants, such as

“With the advent of much more precise instruments such as the HARPS spectrograph on ESO’s 3.6-m telescope at La Silla, we can now discover smaller planets, with masses between 2 and 10 times the Earth‘s mass,” says Stéphane Udry, one of Mayor’s colleagues. Such planets are called super-Earths, as they are more massive than the Earth but less massive than Uranus and Neptune (about 15 Earth masses).

HD 40307 is slightly less massive than our Sun, and is located 42 light-years away towards the southern Doradus and Pictor constellations.

“We have made very precise measurements of the velocity of the star HD 40307 over the last five years, which clearly reveal the presence of three planets,” says Mayor

Extra-solar planets are definitely common-place. It’s only going to be a matter of time before we find Earth-type ones. When we do find the first one, the pressure to actually send a probe will be enormous, the technical difficulties will be solved real fast.

For better or worse, the stars are calling us.

Three ‘Super-Earths’ Found Orbiting One Star

Dual hat tips to Universe Today and Centauri Dreams

China Moon?

China has been in the international news scene quite often this past year, both mainstream and alternative. It is not a secret that after their “coming out” party as a world power, and potential future super-power by showcasing the 2008 Summer Olympics in August, they are launching their third human crewed space flight, Shenzhou VII. The over-all mission is the performance of the “taikonauts” during a scheduled space walk. While the Chinese space program only gets a small part of their overall military budget funding, they are determined to squeeze every bit of science they can into the missions. And they have four decades of tech to catch up with also, meaning the Russians and Americans of course.

The stated goal of the Chinese space program is to put their own people on the Moon, establish an outpost and to mine Helium3 to fuel future fusion reactors. Now the mainstream media has a take on the rising Chinese space program, the stagnant U.S. one and the curious lack of any discussion of it from the pResidential candidates:

One issue the presidential candidates are not saying much about is space exploration. But some scientists, military experts and intelligence analysts say the next president may well determine whether America keeps an edge in space.

Last year, the United States managed 16 space launches; Russia had 22; China blasted off 10.

China’s exploding economy is paying for the education of hundreds of thousands of engineers each year, they are acquiring less space technology from other nations and developing more of their own, and they appear committed to dominating the heavens.

Their space program is still behind, says Robert Zubring, one of America’s strongest proponents for Mars travel, but it is rocketing.

“And we’re standing still. If we continue to stand still, by the middle of the next decade, their space program will be superior to ours and they’ll be moving on to the moon and Mars, while we’re … looking back on our former greatness,” he said.

Well said. The statement about training their own engineers is particularly striking. Back in the 1960s when the U.S. was racing the U.S.S.R., NASA hired many engineers with just bachelors’ degrees who’s main qualities were intelligence and common sense, not to mention the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide with a sliderule, pen and paper!

Alas, the only thing we pump out from our colleges now-a-days are ambulance chasing lawyers who become politicians and lobbyists for Big Pharma and the M.I.C. (If you need me to spell that out for you after reading this blog for a year, you need to go back to college!)

Obviously it seems we’re ceding our position in manned space exploration, in the public domain anyway. But I maintain that the U.S. military has kept a secret program out of view for decades, at least as long as NASA has existed.

Maybe that’s why the politicians aren’t too concerned with funding NASA’s projects, maintaining the facade is a little boring perhaps and complacency is setting in.

In my view though, the money that is being spent on rapid deployment space planes, nuclear pulse jet satellite killers, antigravity troop carriers, planet killing missile launchers and underground bunkers on the Earth, Moon and Mars to house the “chosen” in case total apocalypse is handed down, could be put to better use by funding peaceful exploration.

And then I woke up.

Raw Politics: Candidates and the space race