Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ancient Mysteries

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW
In 1900 a sponge diver taking shelter from a storm near the Greek island of Antikythera found the wreck of an ancient ship. Two years later archaeologists studying the ship found a strange bronze lump that turned out to be a geared mechanism. So complex was the artifact that some archaeologist believed it was from the 14th century that somehow fell on to the wreckage. It was later dated to 65 B.C but the Antikythera Mechanism, as it became known, remained a mystery.

Now the mystery may have been solved. It appears to be an ancient calculator, a thousand years ahead of it time.

"It could be described as the first known calculator," said Professor Mike Edmunds, a professor of astrophysics at Cardiff University in Wales.

"Our recent work has applied very modern techniques that we believe have now revealed what its actual functions were."

The calculator could add, multiply, divide and subtract.

It was also able to align the number of lunar months with years and display where the sun and the moon were in the zodiac.

Professor Edmunds and his colleagues discovered it had a dial that predicted when there was a likely to be a lunar or solar eclipse.

It also took into account the elliptical orbit of the moon.

"The actual astronomy is perfect for the period," Professor Edmunds told Reuters.

"What is extraordinary about the thing is that they were able to make such a sophisticated technological device and to be able to put that into metal."

The model of the calculator shows 37 gear wheels housed in a wooden case with inscriptions on the cover that related to the planetary movements.

Francois Charette, of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said the findings, reported in the journal Nature, provide a wealth of data for future research.

"Newly deciphered inscriptions that relate to the planetary movements make it plausible that the mechanism originally also had gearings to predict the motion of the planets," he said in a commentary.

Professor Edmunds described the instrument as unique, saying there is nothing like it in the history of astronomy.

Similar complicated mechanisms were not been seen until the appearance of medieval cathedral clocks much later.

"What was not quite so apparent before was quite how beautifully designed this was," he said......."

Years ago ,I visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. There you will find the Hypogeum a large underground temple-burial complex over 5000 years old. In one section there a carved chamber called the Oracle Room. Speak into it and it will amplify the human voice. But it will only amplify the male voice, a woman's voice , with a different pitch will not be amplified. Now. Did some bronze age builder know enough about acoustics to work it out? Was it trial and error or just coincidence?

As the professor said: 'Well gosh, if they can do that what else could they do?'

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Missing But Active

I apologize for leaving this space blank for over a week. Claudia and I were out and about on a 3000 mile road trip. Our eldest son, Christopher Chamberland, was married on Friday, November 18th. We left the next day for a speech at the Explorer’s Club in New York City where we reviewed the missions of the Scott Carpenter Space Analog Station. We then departed there for Thanksgiving celebration in Atlanta. Then from there we spent a few days hiding out at our Stonebrooke, Tennessee hideaway and then back home. The opportunities to get to a computer were scarce, hence no blogs were issued! Further, I gave Ralph Buttigieg a break since he is always so faithful to pitch in while I am away. I felt like I had abused our friendship. But – all is well and we are back to blog on! We got our break. Ralph got his break. You got your break. But – alas – the vacation is over!

In a few days I am going to post what looks like the beginning of a great adventure – the first news to be broken right here – so be sure and check back as you are able!

Friday, November 17, 2006

New Lands

Ralph Buttigieg
NSW Sydney
If you think all of Earth's islands have been discovered and there are no new lands to explore you will be surprised to read this:

New island emerges in Tonga

06 Nov 2006, 18:35

Nuku'alofa, Tonga:

A NEW island has emerged out of the sea between Tonga's volcanic islands of Kao in the Ha'apai Group and Late in the Vava'u Group, according to an eyewitness report.

The island is thought to have emerged after a volcanic eruption in early September that has also spewed large amounts of floating pumice into Tongan waters that has been sweeping across Fiji about 350 km to the west south west of where the new island has formed.

Siaosi Fenukitau, a captain of one of the fishing boats of the Maritime Projects Co. (Tonga) Ltd., confirmed on Saturday, November 4, that about six weeks ago they sighted a new volcanic island near Home Reef, to the South West of Vava'u. "It was bigger than Fotuha'a," he said comparing it to the small raised limestone island in Ha'apai with a population of about 134 people.

Siaosi said that they tried to make radio contact with Nuku'alofa when they sighted the new island but they could not make contact with any government offices, and since then they had forgotten all about it.

There has been no official confirmation of the new island from either Tonga's Ministry of Lands or the Tonga Defence Service, but Siaosi said that the captain of another Maritime Projects fishing boat, Feleti Tonata, who is due in port on Thursday this week, had witnessed the actual emergence of the new island. ......

Swede Fredrik happened to be sailing past the new island on his way to Australia and was fortunate enough to witness the birth of the island. Heres what an island birth looks like.:

Sea of pumice:

New land rising:

Island born:

Read and see the rest. Sooner rather then latter someone is going to be the first to set foot and explore the new island. Lucy so and so.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Snow, Water and a Cave

Greenland 11pm Sunset from the last Kitesled expedition
Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW


I covered the Icebird project some time ago. Since their return from Greenland Pat Spiers and Ben Deacon have been making further progress and intend to have another crack at Greenland in April/June next year before their big Antarctica expedition in December 2007. Remember, this will be an attempt to transverse the frozen continent with their revolutionary vehicle, the kitesled.

They have some new pictures and a fascinating video of New Zealander Peter Lynn developing the kitesled too. Sorry, no sub titles are provided for non New Zealander speakers.

Meanwhile the other Icebird, Andrew McAuley has a little project to keep him occupied until the Antarctica trip. This month he will attempt to be the first person to paddle a kayak from Australia to New Zealand. Thats a journey of 1600 km and he is going to do it solo and unsupported in only a modestly modified sea kayak. But, he has some competition, two young Sydneysiders will attempt their own Tasman crossing on December. I'm astonished by these ventures, usually the traffic is in the other direction.

Lloyd Godson is still developing the Biosub project. You can read the latest news here but I was interested to learn he intends to use the Fluorosolar light pipe system to provide sunlight to th e habitat. I have long though optical fiber systems are an ideal way to provide Space habitat illumination.

Finally, as a follow up to Dennis's article yesterday, the Brits have recently discovered their largest cave, with a height of 140 meters from floor to ceiling. (Now we know where the British hid during the Quantum Storm) . Have a look at the article it reads like a Jules Verne story.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Card Carrying Spelunkers

I am going to guess that for most true adventurers at heart, the thought of a good caving expedition sometimes crops up in the imagination. Not that long ago, such an aspiration would have been somewhat difficult to satisfy, since the information used to be relatively hard to come by. Not so today, now that we have the internet to help guide our way. I just wanted to take this opportunity to point those of my USA readers who have been hankering for a good day “down under” to make the right connections.

Click here to take a really fabulous tour of the possibilities with the National Speleological Society’s website. It is just chock full of essential information for the seasoned caver to the newbie. It has lots of stuff on cave safety, caver education in general and, of course, a listing of caves near you. And if you really like the site, you can actually pay your dues join 12,000 other Americans who are card carrying pro-cavers too!

Just think, you never have to worry about rain or time of day when you go caving.

Have fun and be safe!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Internet Fool’s Paradise

"For the dream comes through much effort but the voice of a fool through many words.” King Solomon

In that wisdom we find the folly of endless, effortless discussion in pseudo-scientific circles such as is found on many internet discussion groups. For example, I had the misfortune of actually answering the innocent question of a student on a Space Colonization discussion group last week. She wanted to know the amount of energy consumed by a single lunar settler. There was MUCH discussion, incredibly enough, even a few flames toward her for just asking the question and no hard facts from anyone save a lot of arrogance and feigned knowledge.

So I picked up the telephone and called one of NASA’s chief modelers of advanced life support systems. He told me that based on past experience with real space systems that they used one kilowatt continuous power requirement for every settler as a modeled power requirement. I dropped that on the discussion group as a real number actually used by the world’s most advanced modelers in real space settlement modeling. But alas, it was not enough, and I should have known better all along. The endless discussion engendered by the real number would nauseate a gutter maggot. In the end, I kicked myself for even entering the discussion in the first place. I felt like a half drunk Deacon wasting my precious time at a sleazy strip bar.

The point to be remembered here is quite simple. No matter how fancy or expensive the computer is, the brains to operate it properly is not to be confused with the ‘user friendliness’ of the device itself. And its codicil is just as important: high technology actually enhances the need for civility and manners, it does not diminish it.

No brains and no manners is a flammable mix. Instead of powering the cause of exploration, it is just as likely to burn it down. Fortunately, the fix is simple:

1. Education – learning about the subject matter before actually pontificating has always been a good rule. Further - actually publically admitting one does not know is the first step in actually finding out.

2. Listen – if more people went to the discussion groups to listen and learn instead of demonstrating their astonishing stupidity, the nature of the medium might change.

3. Ease Up – the depth of personal character is amply demonstrated in good manners – as is the lack of it. Even Conan the Barbarian had enough manners to limit his words as he said, "Enough talk", just before he killed the one with whom he disagreed.

4. Put Out The Flames – Moderated groups need to ban flamers ASAP. Unmoderated groups should be avoided. They are nothing but stupid people and SPAM magnets and they work very well.

5. Advocate the 50/50 Rule – activists should spend at least a much time actually doing something as talking about it. Go to college, take advanced classes, read technical manuals and actually feed the mind instead of spewing forth regurgitated nonsense. Yeah, I know it’s the nuclear option of true personal character, but it is also the only one that will ever make a real difference.

Wow! Computers are easy. Any fool can drive one. The key point to be added to these pair of profound truths is this: and it is immediately obvious who’s behind the wheel.