Monthly Archives: November, 2009

Black-hole Starship Drives: Future or Fantasy?

In mainstream science, especially rocket science, building a rocket that is capable of attaining the speed of light is akin to fantasy, like using a mirror to enter Wonderland.

Now however, there are two physicists who insist that using black-holes (or singularities) to power spaceships is not only possible, but it’s the very reason black-holes are in the Universe to begin with:

In August, physicist Jia Liu at New York University outlined his design for a spacecraft powered by dark matter ( Soon afterwards, mathematicians Louis Crane and Shawn Westmoreland at Kansas State University in Manhattan proposed plans for a craft powered by an artificial black hole (

No one disputes that building a ship powered by black holes or dark matter would be a formidable task. Yet remarkably there seems to be nothing in our present understanding of physics to prevent us from making either of them. What’s more, Crane believes that feasibility studies like his touch on questions in cosmology that other research hasn’t considered.


Aside from the technological challenges, Crane thinks black hole starships may also have remarkable philosophical implications. Crane first started thinking about artificial black holes 12 years ago when physicist Lee Smolin, now at Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, asked Crane to read the manuscript of his book The Life of the Cosmos.

Nobody knows what happens at the singularity of a black hole, the point where space and time become so warped that the laws of relativity break down. In his book, Smolin suggested that a new universe could be created and bud off. So universes in which black holes are likely to arise will give birth to more and more such universes. This means that our universe could be a baby universe, and is more likely to have come from one that is good at making black holes than one that isn’t.

Crane then wondered what would happen if intelligent civilisations could make black holes. This would mean that life in these universes played a key role in the proliferation of baby universes. Smolin felt the idea was too outlandish and left it out of his book. But Crane has been thinking about it on and off for the last decade.

He believes we are seeing Darwinian selection operating on the largest possible scale: only universes that contain life can make black holes and then go on to give birth to other universes, while the lifeless universes are an evolutionary dead end.

His latest calculations made him realise how uncanny it was that there could be a black hole at just the right size for powering a starship. “Why is there such a sweet spot?” he asks. The only reason for an intelligent civilisation to make a black hole, he sees, is so it can travel the universe.

“If this hypothesis is right,” he says, “we live in a universe that is optimised for building starships!” (italics mine)

That’s quite a hypothesis to pronounce and one that will no doubt be tested to the maximum in the near future.

Dark power: Grand designs for interstellar travel

NASA’s HSF Gap: Planned for Years

As this holiday season comes upon us (in the Anglo-descended cultures), many space geeks like me have been sitting on pins and needles about what the Obama Administration might use from the Augustine Commission v2.0 to consider what path NASA might take.

What? You’re surprised that I keep track of ‘mainstream’ spaceflight issues?

Of course I do. How else would I get the ‘scuttle-butt’ of the inner politics of corporate government and how pork money gets spread around to certain states?

Also, I have a soft spot in my heart for NASA and the rocket engineers who work, or have worked in the industry. To them I owe my initial interest in science and the human spaceflight program since I was eight years old despite of my research in more Fortean issues now-a-days.

So it breaks my heart to read comments on mainstream blogs like Nasaspaceflight, SpaceTransportNews, NASA Watch, The Space Review and others, because the people who comment on these sites are so intelligent and gifted that it’s obvious most of them have either worked in the industry or wish to work there. And the ideas and solutions they have come up with to close the gap in NASA’s space program are so practical that six blind men could tell that there’s an elephant in the room!

But in spite of their intelligence, most of them have no idea the gap in NASA’s human spaceflight program has already been preordained and there’s nothing they, or anyone in the public (taxpayers) can do about it.

Spaceflight political analyst James Oberg, (yes, the very same UFO debunker) has had the inside skinny on this very thing for around 16 years, since the Clinton Administration. Yup, the Clinton Administration. That’s how long the ‘gap’ in America’s spaceflight capability been in the making:

Now, there have been some pointed questions about how the United States wound up in the situation of supposedly being excessively dependent on Russian space services in the first place. Ironically, these inquiries usually are posed by critics of the Bush administration — which actually inherited that posture from the Clinton administration.When the Russians were first invited to join the international space station effort in 1993, a suspicious Congress approved the deal under the conditions that the Russian contribution “enhance but not enable” the project. That is, Moscow could play as add-ons, but it could not be placed “in the critical path” of any station function. These conditions were accepted by all parties.

From the beginning, the Clinton White House and then-NASA Administrator Dan Goldin misrepresented the plans and their implementation. Russia was quickly placed “in the critical path” for orbital hardware and space transportation. (Their self-esteem demanded it, one White House adviser asserted.) Alternate NASA-only approaches were scrapped.

That’s certainly an eye-opener, especially the “Alternate NASA-only approaches were scrapped.”

I wonder how many avowed space cadets know that? I didn’t until I read this article.

That’s why the x-33, x-38 and the NLS (National Launch System) died on the vine.

Pure international politics.

So I’m writing this to most of the fans of NASA and the proponents of the commercial spaceflight industry, “don’t count on the Obama Administration and Congress to add more funds to NASA ” and expect only minimal support for private space enterprises.


Because the fix is in.

“Soon, when space shuttles are taken out of operation, we will only be using your Soyuz rockets to put our astronauts into orbit,” John Beyrle said in an online conference hosted by

The new Orion spacecraft, still in development in the U.S., will not be put into service until 2014.

Soyuz spacecraft have been contracted to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA signed a contract with the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos to provide transportation services to the U.S. segment of the ISS with Russian Progress freighters and Soyuz manned spacecraft in 2007.

Under the $700 million contract, Russia will build two Soyuz and four Progress spacecraft for NASA.

You see, the Soyuzs’ and Progress’ have already been paid for.

There’s not going to be any extra money for human-rated EELV’s or COTS-D for Musk’s Dragon capsule or Orbital’s Taurus II.

Fa-getta ’bout it!

IMHO, the Obama Administration will let the Shuttle Program die a slow death by 2010/2011, as it has been doing. Count on the ARES I program to get some token funds, depending on the year to year whims of Congressional Appropriation Committees. And those funds will be pork ear-marked for states in which various ARES components are built.

Count on the first manned flight of ARES I in 2019/2020 at the earliest.

Maybe, just maybe, the International Space Station might be extended to 2020.

But I think that depends on how many more partners Obama and Charlie Bolden scrounge up to support it, China being the main candidate (India is also a possibility).

If not, it’ll be de-orbited (or the US part anyway) into the Pacific by the 2015 time-frame as planned.

There’ll be no heavy-lift (ARES V) until after AREAS I flies a regular schedule.

Don’t count on a NASA HLV (Heavy Lift Vehicle) until the 2030s.

Money, of course, will be the issue. There will simply be none.

SpaceX (or another contract/commercial flier) will have an HLV before NASA. Maybe NASA hopes to contract out HLV activities by then (2025)?

And as Oberg points out, “…I’ve found that expecting rationality in the debate over space policy is often a folly that ends in tears.”

Keep in mind also the Obama Administration are neo-liberal internationalists and have recycled Clinton Administration people.

As a fellow space-cadet, I’m not confident of hearing what I want to hear.

Maybe by the end of the year, we’ll be pleasantly surprised by a decision that is space progressive?

To me however, the glass is half empty.

Now, NASA and Russians Need Each Other

US To Continue Using Russian Spacecraft After 2010

Which Way For NASA? A Step-By-Step Path

LHC Proton Smashing and Long Lost Martian Ocean

The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) has started to smash proton beams together:

The low-energy collisions came after researchers circulated two beams simultaneously in the LHC’s 27km-long tunnel earlier on Monday.

The LHC is smashing together beams of protons to shed light on the cosmos.

Operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), the LHC is the world’s largest machine and will create similar conditions to those present moments after the Big Bang.

Scientists will search for signs of the Higgs boson, a sub-atomic particle that is crucial to our current understanding of physics.

Although it is predicted to exist, scientists have not yet detected it.

Researchers working on the collider have said they are delighted with the quick progress made since the machine restarted on Friday.

“It’s a great achievement to have come this far in so short a time,” said Cern’s director-general Rolf Heuer.

“But we need to keep a sense of perspective – there’s still much to do before we can start the LHC physics programme.”

This is just the warm-up phase. The LHC is at the point where last time it broke down.

Is it unscientific to cross one’s fingers at this juncture?

Cern’s Large Hadron Collider makes first collisions


Well, it’s official. The northern part of Mars once harbored an ocean:

The findings come just a week after Nasa, the American space agency, announced that they had found water on the surface of the Red Planet, raising hopes of finding life on Mars.

New maps showing that the valleys cover a larger area than previously appreciated has led scientists to believe there was once a single ocean covering much of planet’s northern half.

The extent of the Martian valleys, and what they mean for the chances of life on the planet, have been hotly debated since they were first discovered by the Mariner 9 Spacecraft in 1971.

Until now the only map of the networks was drawn by hand from satellite images in the 1990s.

These led some scientists to claim that the valleys were carved not by rivers but by “groundwater sapping”, small amounts of water springing or seeping out of the ground.

But the new evidence of the sheer scale of the network suggests that that is unlikely.

Scientists now believe that the rivers fed an ocean which covered around one third of the entire surface of Mars.

Their study also suggests that, billions of years ago, much of Mars had an “arid continental climate”, complete with rainfall, similar to that found in drier countries on Earth.

The new maps have been created by computer analysis of up to date satellite pictures.

In some regions of Mars the valley networks are almost as dense as they are on Earth, according to the findings, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets.

Prof Wei Luo, from Northern Illinois University in America, who led the research, said that it was now “difficult to argue against” the theory that rivers caused the erosion.

He added that the best explanation for the pattern of valleys was a large ocean in the northern half of the planet.

“All the evidence gathered by analysing the valley network on the new map points to a particular climate scenario on early Mars,” said Prof Luo.

“It would have included rainfall and the existence of an ocean covering most of the northern hemisphere, or about one-third of the planet’s surface.”

Dr Tomasz Stepinski, from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, a co-author of the study, said: “The only other global map of the valley networks was produced in the 1990s by looking at images and drawing on top of them, so it was fairly incomplete and it was not correctly registered with current datum.

“Our map was created semi-automatically, with the computer algorithm working from topographical data to extract the valley networks.

“It is more complete, and shows many more valley networks.

“The presence of more valleys indicates that it most likely rained on ancient Mars, while the global pattern showing this belt of valleys could be explained if there was a big northern ocean.”

The latest research was also funded by NASA.

Two years ago a different team of scientists also suggested that Mars could once have been home to a large ocean, based on what appeared to be ancient coastlines on the surface of the planet.

Mars will likely have to wait another generation before NASA will even consider sending a manned crew to its surface.

Now Augustine Commission v2.0 suggested that NASA send instead an expedition in the 2020s to Phobos ( a Martian moon) and conduct robotic teleoperations from there to conduct reseach as a precursor to manned landings in the 2030s or ’40s.

Much is speculation on NASA’s future these days, but I suspect that the Pentagon already has a foothold on good ol’ Barsoom.

Huge ocean ‘once covered much of northern half of Mars’

Weird Science: The Large Hadron Collider Restarts

The Large Hadron Collider, located underneath Geneva, Switzerland in a 27km. long circular tunnel, restarted 1930 GMT on Friday after a 14 month hiatus in which many speculated the machine would never do so because the ‘Higgs Boson’, a primordial sub-atomic particle, was so inimical to nature that it was capable of travelling back in time to prevent its own discovery.

This time though, it didn’t happen:

Engineers have made two stable proton beams circulate in opposite directions around the machine, which is in a tunnel beneath the French-Swiss border.

The team may try to increase the £6bn ($10bn) collider’s energy to record-breaking levels this weekend.

The LHC is being used to smash together beams of protons in a bid to shed light on the nature of the Universe.

It is the world’s largest machine and is housed in a 27km-long circular tunnel.

During the experiment, scientists will search for signs of the Higgs boson, a sub-atomic particle that is crucial to our current understanding of physics. Although it is predicted to exist, scientists have never found it.

Dozens of giant superconducting magnets that accelerate the particles at almost the speed of light have had to be replaced after faults developed just days after the collider was inaugurated last year.

Operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), the LHC will create similar conditions to those which were present moments after the Big Bang.

The BBC’s Pallab Ghosh in Geneva says the restart of the collider was the moment the scientists had been waiting for.

It means they can once again go in search of the new discoveries they believe will roll back the frontiers of understanding our universe, says our correspondent.

“It’s great to see beams circulating in the LHC again,” said Cern’s director-general Rolf Heuer.

We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.”Record attempt

The beams themselves are made up of “packets” – each about a metre long – containing billions of protons. But they would disperse if left to their own devices.

Electrical forces had to be used to “capture” the protons. This keeps them tightly huddled in packets, for a stable, circulating beam. 

Engineers had not been expected to try for a circulating beam before 0600 GMT on Saturday.

James Gillies, Cern’s director of communications, told BBC News: “It happened faster than anyone could have dreamed of.”

“Everything went very smoothly.”

The first beam was sent all the way round the LHC’s circumference 100m underground after 1930 GMT on Friday.

Engineers captured this clockwise-circulating beam at 2100 GMT. A second anti-clockwise beam made a full circle of the LHC at 2153 GMT and was captured at 2310 GMT.

Dr Gillies said that if everything continued to go well, Cern might try to reach a record-breaking beam energy of 1.2 trillion electron volts this weekend.

Only the Tevatron particle accelerator in Chicago, US, has approached this energy, operating at just under one trillion electron volts.

But other team members want to keep the beam circulating at low energy and try for the machine’s first proton beam collisions.

“The LHC is a far better understood machine than it was a year ago,” said Steve Myers, Cern’s director for accelerators.

“We’ve learned from our experience, and engineered the technology that allows us to move on. That’s how progress is made.”

So far, so good.

But what will happen when real science begins and maybe, just maybe, the Higgs Boson will rear its ugly head?

Will Time be on our side?

Cern Large Hadron Collider restarts after 14 months

NASA Wants Algae-Fuel Too

More on renewable algae-fuel from NASA this time.

From OnOrbit

NASA ARC: As a clean energy alternative, NASA invented an algae photo-bioreactor that grows algae in municipal wastewater to produce biofuel and a variety of other products. The NASA bioreactor is an Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae (OMEGA), which won’t compete with agriculture for land, fertilizer, or freshwater. 

NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., licensed the patent-pending algae photo-bioreactor to Algae Systems, LLC, Carson City, Nev., which plans to develop and pilot the technology in Tampa Bay, Fla. The company plans to refine and integrate the NASA technology into biorefineries to produce renewable energy products, including diesel and jet fuel. 

“NASA has a long history of developing very successful energy conversion devices and novel life support systems,” said Lisa Lockyer, deputy director of the New Ventures and Communication Directorate at NASA Ames. “NASA is excited to support the commercialization of an algae bioreactor with potential for providing renewable energy here on Earth.” 

The OMEGA system consists of large plastic bags with inserts of forward-osmosis membranes that grow freshwater algae in processed wastewater by photosynthesis. Using energy from the sun, the algae absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and nutrients from the wastewater to produce biomass and oxygen. As the algae grow, the nutrients are contained in the enclosures, while the cleansed freshwater is released into the surrounding ocean through the forward-osmosis membranes. 

“The OMEGA technology has transformational powers. It can convert sewage and carbon dioxide into abundant and inexpensive fuels,” said Matthew Atwood, president and founder of Algae Systems. “The technology is simple and scalable enough to create an inexpensive, local energy supply that also creates jobs to sustain it.” 

When deployed in contaminated and “dead zone” coastal areas, this system may help remediate these zones by removing and utilizing the nutrients that cause them. The forward-osmosis membranes use relatively small amounts of external energy compared to the conventional methods of harvesting algae, which have an energy intensive de-watering process. 

Potential benefits include oil production from the harvested algae, and conversion of municipal wastewater into clean water before it is released into the ocean. After the oil is extracted from the algae, the algal remains can be used to make fertilizer, animal feed, cosmetics, or other valuable products. 

This successful spinoff of NASA-derived technology will help support the commercial development of a new algae-based biofuels industry and wastewater treatment.

Again, would Exxon-Mobile, Chevron, Dutch-Shell and British Petroleum allow this to happen without their mitts in the pie?

NASA Develops Algae Bioreactor as a Sustainable Energy Source

Son of Dyna-Soar

Next year the Air Force will launch atop of an Atlas V rocket an unmanned space plane code named “X-37”.

It will have a 4′ x 7′ cargo bay and extensive improvements that was learned during the space shuttle era.

But the X-37 has a deeper ancestry than the space shuttle that reaches back to the beginnings of the space program:

The X-37 embodies other modifications of shuttle technology. All shuttle-era hydraulics have been eliminated; the new spaceplane’s flight controls will be operated electromechanically, making the X-37 fly-by-wire. Unlike the shuttle, with its one vertical stabilizer, the X-37 has two short diagonal ones, called ruddervators—surfaces that combine the functions of rudders and elevators. These reduce the amount of propellant needed to handle trim and control during the high-speed, high-angle-of-attack reentry, and provide room for a centerline speed brake that manages the vehicle’s glide energy just before landing.

Upon reaching orbit, the craft will deploy a solar array that will power batteries. Those batteries have replaced hydrogen fuel cells, the shuttle’s power source in orbit. The vehicle will maneuver in space powered by a combination of nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine. Theoretically, the X-37 could rendezvous with other satellites of interest to the Air Force, friendly or otherwise.

If the X-37 is to carry out such national security missions, its roots will extend back beyond the space shuttle, to earlier spaceplanes. Says Mark Lewis: “I would draw a heritage not only to the shuttle, but to my very favorite program that never was: the X-20.”

A follow-on to the X-15 rocketplane, which didn’t have the power to get to orbit, the X-20 Dyna-Soar spaceplane, initiated in 1957, would have ridden a massive Titan III booster all the way to orbit if needed, and carried a pilot. (Neil Armstrong was one NASA test pilot selected to fly it, but in 1962 he transferred to the Apollo program.) Dyna-Soar would have given the Air Force a manned system that could have filled a variety of needs: research, reconnaissance, or even attack. It was designed to reach any target in the world in 45 minutes, deliver a weapon, and glide to a friendly base. Its altitude and hypersonic speed would have made it very difficult to intercept.

While this type of capability sounded like something the Air Force needed, the service had difficulty justifying it. NASA was making progress with blunt-body capsules that reentered the atmosphere without the need for pilot control, and intercontinental ballistic missiles were dominating the nuclear delivery mission. A controlled-reentry spaceplane puzzled Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara; he directed the Air Force to study whether concepts such as NASA’s Gemini could handle some of the roles better. In December 1963, shortly after prime contractor Boeing started building the vehicle and after about $660 million had been spent, McNamara killed the X-20.

I’m not surprised that McNamara killed the Dina-Soar program. Like all short-sighted politico types, he only saw the next war for empire and resources on the horizon.

Not above it.

Space Shuttle Jr.


Wonky Planet Discovery and Algae Against War

The theory of planetary formation is now being questioned.

A discovery of a planet that orbits its parent star in reverse of its spin is certainly an oddity; only three have been discovered to date.

Now planetary scientists are scratching their heads about how this phenomenon can occur:

Astronomers have found an extrasolar planet with an “outlandish orbit” that circles its star either backwards, or at an angle of around 90º to the orientation of the star’s rotation.Planets in our own Solar System orbit in the same plane and direction as the Sun’s own rotation. This led astronomers to propose the ‘nebula hypothesis’ – whereby planets form from a flat, swirling disk of gas around a proto-Sun.

Now two teams of astronomers – one in Japan and the other in the U.S. – have independently discovered a planet about 1,000 light-years away, which orbits its star either in reverse or at an angle of more than 86º.

Predicted but never seen

Such objects have been predicted in models of Solar System formation, whereby a companion star or gravity from another planet knocks it out of orbit. However this strange phenomenon has never been observed until now.

The exoplanet, HAT-P-7b, is 1.8 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits a star about 1.5 times the mass of the Sun. Out of the more than 400 exoplanets discovered so far, only three are known to have misaligned orbits, but none as widely divergent from their Sun’s orbital plane as this one.

Details of the discovery (made using Hawaii’s Subaru Telescope) were published in October by both astronomers led by Norio Narita, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo, and a second team led by Joshua Winn from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, USA.


The teams calculated the distant planet’s orbit by looking at how its transit affected the spectrum of light from its rotating star. As the surface of the star spins towards us, its light is blue-shifted (the light spectrum is shifted towards the blue end of the spectrum) due to the Doppler effect (where light is squashed or stretched depending on its motion towards or away from us).

The other side of the star spinning away from us is red-shifted, so astronomers expected to see a blue- then red-shift pattern. But because of the interference of the dark body of the transiting planet, this pattern is reversed in HAT-P-7’s case.

“The extraordinary orbit of HAT-P-7b presents an extreme case for theories of planet formation and subsequent orbital evolution,” write Winn and colleagues in their paper.

It just goes to show that Humanity must spread out to the stars to visit these sites personally, instruments and probes just don’t cut it!

Outlandish planet has wonky orbit

hat tip

One of the biggest arguments in the memestream is whether global warming/freezing/climate change is man-made or natural.

The petro-chemical/hydrocarbon industry runs our planet de facto and global wars are occurring this very minute in order to secure these resources for certain nations/empires, the very same resources that are contributing to ‘anthropic’ climate change.

But what if a very suitable substitute came along that was able to use the same infrastructure as the above industry with no muss, no fuss and most inportantly, no wars?

One of the nascent industry’s biggest and most well-heeled players, Sapphire Energy, announced last week that it would be producing 1 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel a year by 2011, double its initial estimates.

The La Jolla, Calif.-based company – with big-name backers like Bill Gates and the Rockefeller family – says it will be producing more than 100 million gallons a year by 2018 and 1 billion gallons a year by 2020 – enough to meet almost 3 percent of the U.S. renewable fuel standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons.

But there’s a hitch: Federal law makes no room for algae-based fuel in the RFS. The 2007 energy law caps corn ethanol production at 15 billion gallons a year by 2015 and has the remaining 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels coming from advanced biofuels, including 17 billion gallons from cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel.

“There needs to be policy work done to incorporate these new concepts like algae, which is an organism that actually consumes large amounts of carbon in the process of creating a liquid transportation fuel,” said Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs at Sapphire.

Sapphire is working to get lipids(oils) from various strains of algae, which would then be fed directly into the current refining cycle, as any other crude product. Source

Algae-based fuel producers use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to convert carbon dioxide into sugar, which the algae metabolize into lipids, or oil. The industry says it can do so using non-potable water and without converting more forests into farm fields – thus addressing major criticisms of corn- and soy-based biofuels.

Sapphire says its technology is unique because it produces a fuel that can be used with existing U.S. pipelines, refineries, cars, trucks and airplanes. “We are 100 percent convinced that the only way to address climate and energy security is to use the same infrastructure we already have,” Zenk said.

Zenk said his company is supported by major oil companies. Its newly appointed president, C.J. Warner, is a 10-year BP executive.

“They really like us because we’re providing them with what they do today, which is refining crude oil,” Zenk said. “It’s not ethanol, it’s not biodiesel. It has the same molecules as gas, diesel or jet fuels.”

The company’s jet fuel was tested earlier this year by two of three airlines testing the commercial use of algae-based fuels in flight. Continental Airlines reported that the Boeing 737-800 test flight on Jan. 7 was successful. That test was the first commercial airline test of algae-based biofuel.

“Continental’s primary role in the demonstration was to show that the biofuel blend would perform just like traditional jet fuel in our existing aircraft without modification of the engines or the aircraft,” said Holden Shannon, Continental’s senior vice president for global research and security, during a congressional hearing last month. “This is important because … the current engine and airframe technology is unlikely to change materially for many years, so it is crucial that alternative fuel be safe for use with the current aircraft technology.”

Zenk said the test flight showed that algae fuel gets better mileage than petroleum-based jet fuel. “We noticed a 4 percent increase in energy density in the fuels because of the lower-burning temperatures in the engine itself, which resulted in greater fuel mileage,” he said.

But more work needs to be done. Both Zenk and Shannon noted the long certification process to approve jet fuels for commercial aviation. Still, the airline industry thinks it could be using biofuels in its flights on a large scale within three to five years. And Sapphire said its “drop in” transportation fuels – jet fuel, gasoline and diesel – will be ready for commercial deployment in three years.

“Fuel from algae is not just a laboratory experiment or something to speculate on for years to come,” said Brian Goodall, Sapphire’s vice president of downstream technology, in a statement. “We’ve worked tirelessly, and the technology is ready now.”

Indeed, creating fuel from algae is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Petroleum crude oil used today to create gasoline, jet fuel, plastics and other substances was once pond scum – albeit 500 million years ago.

At that time, the Earth’s atmosphere contained 18 times more carbon dioxide than it does today, which resulted in a giant algal bloom. The algae grew over a period of 100 million years and then died. After time, temperature and pressure worked their magic, and that algae became the crude oil extracted today from the Rocky Mountain West and other reservoirs around the world.

“Once we figured this all out and applied modern biology to it – genetics, genetic engineering, molecular biology – it allowed us to think creatively about how to speed up the evolution of that product, that commodity that we value today, by about 500 million years,” Zenk said.

Many things come into play; the military-industrial-congressional-complex/military keynesism for example.

Will the American Federal Empire give up a main portion of their economic engine (war) in order to switch to a ‘renewable’ fuel source in the midst of a ‘great recession’ ?


Is Algae the Biofuel of the Future?


hat tip

Lost Star Trek Pilot and UFOs of the 19th Century

For all you old ‘Trekkers’ out there, a remastered version of the original Star Trek has been found and will be sold on Blue Ray disk.

As you know, if you’re a ST: TOS geek, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was the pilot version Gene Rodenberry managed to sell to NBC after they rejected the first version (“The Cage”) for being “too” progressive.

Captain’s log, Stardate 1312.4. The impossible has happened. From directly ahead, we’re picking up a recorded distress signal, the call letters of a vessel which has been missing for over two centuries. Did another Earth ship probe out of the galaxy as we intend to do? What happened to it out there? Is this some warning they’ve left behind?

In the briefing lounge, Captain James T. Kirk and Vulcan Science Officer Lieutenant Commander Spock are playing three-dimensional chess. Spock warns the captain that he’s about to checkmate him on his next move, but the captain is preoccupied with awaiting the bridge‘s update on the unexplained Earth-vessel distress signal. The captain notes that Spock plays a very “irritating game of chess”, to which Spock responds with “Irritating? Ah yes, one of your Earth emotions.” Captain Kirk makes a move that surprises Spock, and smiles, to which Spock simply turns to look at him. “Certain you don’t know what irritation is?” Kirk says wryly. As Spock begins to state that despite the fact that one of his ancestors married a Human female, Kirk interrupts him and jokingly chides him, saying it must be terrible to have bad blood like that. Just afterward then, a call comes over the comm. Lieutenant Lee Kelso informs the captain that the object is now within tractor beam range, and that it is only about a meter in diameter, too small to be a vessel. Kirk tells him to lock on to it, and the two of them head out.

SS Valiant recorder-marker

In the transporter room, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott is fine-tuning the transporter, preparing to beam the object aboard. Kirk gives the order, and Scott transports the device into the transporter room. The captain immediately recognizes it as an old-style ship recorder, one that would be ejected in the event of an emergency. Spock agrees, but states that, based on the level of damage the object seems to have sustained, something must have destroyed the ship. Montgomery Scott tries to feed the tapes into the computer, when the marker begins transmitting a signal. Captain Kirk orders red alert, and the crew go to their stations.

This “pilot” version has been broadcast before over the years in various reruns. some of the episodes of the old Trek have been digitally remastered and they look great! None of the flavor of the old special effects is taken away at all.

If you’re a true Trek-geek, this will surely interest you!

Where No Man Has Gone Before (episode)

hat tip

Jules Verne was the consumate speculative science writer of his era and his stories of airships flying about the 19th Century skies surely had folks looking up into the clouds to spot any anomalous seeming ‘balloons’.

Now there has been a discovery of a book of art drawn by an unknown Texan butcher named Charles A. Dellschau, who’s most curious drawings are a subject of debate:

When he died at the great age of 92 in 1923, Texas butcher Charles A. Dellschau left behind a secret and a mystery. These were a series of note books, filled with paintings of fantastic flying machines, which only came to light when his descendants had a clearout. By a process of serendipity they came to the attention of graphic designer and ufologist Peter Navarro. By decoding and translating writings in and around the pictures Navarro pieced together a tale of Dellschau’s involvement in a secret society of inventors living in gold-rush California. He created a vivid cast of over 60 characters, and a range of Heath-Robinsonish flying machine, the Aeros, with names like Aero Goosey, Aero Babymyn, Aero Honeymoon and so on. They were the work of this secret group The Sonora Aero Club, and its even more shadowy backer the NYMZA.

At the time of the discovery of these notebooks in the late 1960s there was much interest among ufologists in the mystery airships of 1896/7, and the tales of mysterious inventors which surfaced at the time. Ufologists had originally seen the airships as early flying saucers and had assumed that they came from outer space, but as they studied the airship stories in more depth and realised that many claimed contact with very terrestrial pilots, so the idea of secret inventors began to grow on some of them.

Among those who took up the Dellschau story was Jerome Clark, who made it the centrepiece of his chapter on the airship in his and Loren Coleman’s The Unidentified. Clark suggested that the mysterious NYMZA were a group of occult initiates building airships at the bidding of ‘the others’ (whether extaterrestrials or John Keel’s ultraterrestrials was never clear). By the time the book was ready for publication, Clark had repudiated this view in favour of para-depth psychological theorising, and tried, without success, to get this chapter recalled.

As shown in this book, attempts to trace the people in the Sonora Aero Club turned out to be fruitless, and Navarro himself, with obvious reluctance, accepted that the story was the work of Dellschau’s imagination. However some of the other people involved including author?/editor? Crenshaw start going deep down into crank territory, with ideas of 26 elements lighter than hydrogen (as hydrogen consists of a single proton and electron its obvious that no chemical element can be lighter, the only ‘element’ which is, is the very short lived positronium, which consists of an electron and positron orbiting each other before they mutually annihilate), and the ubiquitous Viktor Schauberger.

If this is true, it would implicate that almost all of the “airships” witnessed in the late 19th Century skies in Texas were of “earthly” origin and had nothing to do with aliens at all.

Is this misinformation like the ‘triangle UFOs’ of today?

The book of art seems to be real at least.

Maybe the guy was ‘drawing’ from Jules Verne?

The art and airships of Charles Dellschau

hat tip

Shuttle Atlantis Launches Today

Space Shuttle Atlantis mission STS-129 is set to launch this afternoon around 2:28 p.m. EST.

Broadcast will be live on NASA TV;

For NASA write-up for STS-129, go here;

Big Brother in the American Federal Empire

Big Brother is knocking:

In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day.

The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Web site “not to disclose the existence of this request” unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization.

Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department’s subpoena. (The Independent Media Center is a left-of-center amalgamation of journalists and advocates that – according to their principles of unity and mission statement – work toward “promoting social and economic justice” and “social change.”)

The subpoena (PDF) from U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison in Indianapolis demanded “all IP traffic to and from” on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to “include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information,” including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers’ Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and so on.

“I didn’t think anything we were doing was worthy of any (federal) attention,” Clair said in a telephone interview with on Monday. After talking to other Indymedia volunteers, Clair ended up calling the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which represented her at no cost.

Under long-standing Justice Department guidelines, subpoenas to members of the news media are supposed to receive special treatment. One portion of the guidelines, for instance, says that “no subpoena may be issued to any member of the news media” without “the express authorization of the attorney general” – that would be current attorney general Eric Holder – and subpoenas should be “directed at material information regarding a limited subject matter.”

Still unclear is what criminal investigation U.S. Attorney Morrison was pursuing. Last Friday, a spokeswoman initially promised a response, but Morrison sent e-mail on Monday evening saying: “We have no comment.” The Justice Department in Washington, D.C. also declined to respond.

You may not think you are doing anything illegal, but the Patriot Act laws here in the US set the precident that anything and anybody at anytime can be declared illegal if Big Brother claims you are a ‘terrorist’.

No warrants, no nothin’.

Ain’t living in the American Federal Empire just great!

Justice Dept. Requested News Site’s Visitor Lists