Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, July 30, 2007

New Exploration Site

Today the population of the most expansive region of the earth is zero – and it has always been. But - there is a group of engineers, scientists and explorers who are seriously intent on changing that status-quo by establishing the first permanent human colony in the ocean. Their website, the ATLANTICA EXPEDITIONS is now open.

The group (of which I have an intimate familiarity) has already begun the process which culminates in the first ever undersea colony off the central Florida coast in 2012. Until then the Atlantica Expeditions are planning two experimental undersea stations, the New Worlds Explorer and the Leviathan – scheduled for launching in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The relatively huge site features several videos and other awesome graphics as well as many pages. It is definitely worth a test drive of the site!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prehistoric Exploration

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

One of the great explorers of the 20th Century was the Norwegian ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl. He believed that prehistoric societies were capable of trans oceanic travel and trade. He would point to similarities in language and artifacts on different continents as well as legends of great sea voyages as evidence. In 1947 Thor and a small crew set sail across the Pacific on a balsa wood raft to show that Polynesians may have originated from South America. In latter years he sailed an Egyptian type reed boat, the Ra, across the Atlantic to South America.

His book “Kon-Tiki” is a true exploration classic, still in print its one of the touch stones of my generation. Get a group of people of a certain age together and you can bet a large percentage would have read it. I think it must have been in every school library in Australia.

Of course none of these expeditions prove prehistoric societies actually had intercontinental trade. Although the discovery of traces of nicotine and cocaine in the mummy of Ramses II and tobacco beetles in Egyptian graves sure appear convincing to a layman like me. However, the Kon-Tiki and Ra expeditions traveled with the prevailing currents and winds, they were one way journeys, If transoceanic trade was possible then the vessels had to get back.

Now another group of explorers are trying to show two way trade was possible. The Abora III expedition is trying to sail a reed boat from North America to Spain.

From explorersweb:

Now a ten-person crew including Tormod and led by Dominique Gorlitz is out to prove that others may have taken that historic intercontinental voyage far before Columbus — up to 14,000 years ago — by crossing the North Atlantic in a prehistoric-style boat made of reeds.

Gorlitz and his crew left port in New York City bound for Spain in the ABORA III, a boat made from reeds harvested at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Since its July 11 departure, the boat has traveled 188 miles into the Atlantic.

“The prevailing opinion is that the North Atlantic passage was not possible 14,000 years ago,” Gorlitz says. “And if the return journey from the Americas into the Old World was impossible, so too was regular commerce between the two continents. But every assumption is valid only when the opposite is proven to be untrue.”...

Aside from the heady implications the completion of their voyage could entail, first the crew needs to deal with the crossing itself.

“Waves have been reaching 10 feet and winds have been blowing up to 17 knots per hour,” the crew reported this week. “Handling the fragile boat demands conservative judgment. Last night, Görlitz had no choice but to partly lower the sail in order to temporarily reduce the speed of the ABORA III. The boat performed well in the challenging conditions, but left many a crewmember sleepless as ABORA III rolled heavily in the waves.”

Certainly a successful voyage would show that primitive boats were capable o the trips but of course , not prove it was actually done. To my mind there remains one big question, how did they navigate? Could ancient sailors successfully navigate the Atlantic to allow trade? I realize the Polynesians could sail the Pacific without instruments but the Atlantic is a rough ocean I'm not sure their methods would be suitable.

Maybe they did have instruments after all. Crichton Miller makes the case that the ancient Celtic Cross was a navigation tool. Perhaps it was, or perhaps Mr Miller is being too imaginative. I not qualified to have a proper opinion but as recent discoveries show the ancient world can surprise us .

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mystery Space Ship

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney NSW

I enjoy reading retro Space Fiction, science fiction stories written years ago about a future that never was. One of my recent reads was “Edison's Conquest of Mars” by Garrett P. Serviss. The story was published in 1898 and features the first fictional appearance of space suits, asteroid mining, scientists-astronauts and manned maneuvering EVA guns. It inspired a young Robert Goddard who would regularly re-read the novel during his life.

Properly the author who inspired the early rocketeers the most would have been Jules Verne. His book From The Earth To The Moon is the great science fiction classic, but its more, its the first book on astronautics. Verne describes in detail how a Moon expedition could be accomplished using the known science of the day.

It seems Verne is still influencing the current generation of space pioneers. Above is a photograph of a full scale model of the Jules Verne moon ship (more here). It appears to be in some office lobby and may belong to's Jeff Bezos. Can anyone please confirm this?

The Discovery Enterprise

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW


Theres a new blog on the Internet. The Discovery Enterprise is a group blog with contributors from three continents: Dennis Chamberland, Florida USA, Ralph Buttigieg, Sydney Australia and Alex Michael Bonnici, Malta Europe. Our themes are exploration, science and science fiction. Come on over and have a look, Alex has posted a wonderful article in commemoration of the Apollo 11 anniversary.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Space Suits II

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

Recent discussions regarding the old Major Matt Mason play dolls brought up memories of his Moon suit. The suit was not some designers fantasy but was based on work NASA was doing at the time. The Encyclopedia Astronautica describes it as:

Class: Manned. Type: Space Suits. Nation: USA. Manufacturer: Grumman.

A favourite of Life magazine in the 1960's, this Grumman / Space General design for extended lunar surface operations allowed the astronaut to withdraw his arms from the flexible manipulators and work within the pressurised 'cabin' of the can enclosing his upper torso and head.

Now I'm skeptical about the practicality of pressure suits for space colonization. I regard them as the equivalent of the old hard hat diving suits, but there is something to be said for a space suit that allows you to scratch your nose!

An alternative to pressure suits is the mechanical counter pressure suit and progress continues to be made:

Newman and colleague Jeffrey Hoffman, a former NASA astronaut and spacewalker, have been working with students and the design firm Trotti and Associates for seven years to build a viable BioSuit.

A current prototype of the suit consistently exerts pressures of about 20 kilopascals on its wearer but newer models have reached pressures of up to 25 to 30 kilopascals, which is about one-third that of the Earth's atmosphere and the target for spaceworthy BioSuit, researchers said. A fully functional suit could be made ready for spaceflight in about 10 years, they added.

At the heart of the BioSuit is mechanical counter pressure, which uses tightly wrapped layers of material that are both flexible and protective to the astronaut inside. The suit's layers are wrapped in a meticulous fashion -- based on three-dimensional maps of the human body in motion -- to provide structural support while maintaining mobility, researchers said.

If nothing else is the Biosuit is far more stylish then current space wear.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Future Shock

Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney, NSW

The Tom Swift novels inspired many people including former NASA scientist Jack Cover who invented the Thomas A Swift Electric Rifle, commonly known as the Taser. Now tasers have been used by police forces for many years but progress never stops the Taser people have developed a wireless stun gun.

Above is a picture of the Taser XREP projectile, described by the company as follows:

The XREP comes pre-packaged in shell that is compatible with existing 12 gauge launchers. The transparent shell ensures officers properly identify the XREP prior to loading it in the shotgun.

As the TASER XREP is deployed, a rip cord attached between the shell and the projectile activates the projectile. Once activated, the TASER XREP is “live” as it comes out of the barrel. The XREP autonomously generates incapacitating Neuro Muscular Incapacitation for 20 continuous seconds -- enough time to close the distance and take the offender into custody without risking injury to officers.

Don't think you can pull the dart off either:

Another innovative and unique feature of the XREP nose is the reflex engagement electrode. A normal reaction to the pain of a projectile impact is for the subject to grab at the impact site. If the subject tries to grab or disconnect the XREP projectile, the reflex engagement electrodes complete a circuit allowing TASER NMI to discharge from the Nose Electrodes, through the subject’s body, out to the hand that grabbed the XREP. This creates a significant spread that allows the XREP pulses to affect a large body mass, causing overpowering Neuro Muscular Incapacitation.

However the ideal stun gun would not have any projectiles, instead it would use a stun beam, just like in those science fiction movies. Well another company, XADS, is working on just such a weapon.

Conventional stun guns - the best known of which is the Taser - work by firing darts into the target. The darts trail wires connected to the gun by which the electric shock is delivered. However, its use is limited to single targets at very close range. It is also highly controversial: 40 people have died following shocks from a Taser, although in every case the death has been attributable to other factors, including alcohol or drug use.

The new device works very differently: it fires a stream of plasma, or ionised gas, at its target. This provides a conductive channel for the electricity. Early versions have a limited range - just 3 metres - but because of the way it works, it will be possible to sweep the beam across multiple targets.

"We will be able to fire a stream of electricity like water out of a hose at one or many targets in a single sweep," said XADS president Peter Bitar.

The 21st Century was supposed to bring us holidays in Space, flying cars and ray guns. I realize stun guns are useful for law enforcement , but I rather have a flying car.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Perpetual Motion Monster

Editor’s Note: Before I get all wound around yet another axle of discontent among my readers such as with the “Puddles on Mars” controversy, let me excuse my brashness as coming from a rather peculiar source:
I Am An American Scientist.
That means that while the Internet is embedded in the “World Wide” web, I am still an American Scientist embedded in the USA. That has implications – among them is the God granted right of freedom of speech and and a certian degree of implied audacity – all of which were either created behind heaven’s gates or were created right here in the good old USA – things like freedom, like the Internet (with or without Al Gore) and blogs. So, let’s all agree that we can still be scientists and still speak about controversy. If the PC Nazi’s show up and dictate my blog titles, then let’s just go ahead and have another war. We defeated the demons of fascism before and we can do it again.

There – I feel better now. On to the topic at hand….

The Perpetual Motion Monster rears his ugly head from time to time. The last time around it was called “cold fusion”. It all originated in the UK. This time, the UK is back again, but this time it is called “Orbo Steorn”. I know – it only sounds Scandinavian – but it is entirely UK through and thorough. Here’s the claim:

“Orbo produces free, clean and constant energy - that is our claim. By free we mean that the energy produced is done so without recourse to external source. By clean we mean that during operation the technology produces no emissions. By constant we mean that with the exception of mechanical failure the technology will continue to operate indefinitely. The sum of these claims for our Orbo technology is a violation of the principle of conservation of energy, perhaps the most fundamental of scientific principles. The principle of the conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it can only change form.”

Ok - what is this? Is the perpetual motion machine back (again)?

Yes – and big time. The UK company invited a panel of impartial scientific jurors to watch the machine in operation at the Kinentica Museum in London. 5000 applied to the Economist Magazine ad – 12 were selected. The “free energy” demonstration was to be held on July 5th. It was to have a world wide audience and streamed to the web. It never happened. Here is their press release:

"Further to Steorn’s announcement yesterday (5th July) regarding the technical difficulties experienced during the installation of its “Orbo” technology at the Kinentica Museum in London, Steorn has decided to postpone the demonstration until further notice. Sean McCarthy CEO stated that “technical problems arose during the installation of the demonstration unit in the display case on Wednesday evening. These problems were primarily due to excessive heat from the lighting in the main display area. Attempts to replace those parts affected by the heat led to further failures and as a result we have to postpone the public demonstration until a future date.”

What’s going on here? Is this yet another repeat of the Fleishman and Pons cold fusion debacle? Or has someone actually discovered a new way around (as they claim) the clearly laid pathway of the laws of energy and momentum? It seems obvious that these guys are certainly not charlatans, but then neither were Fleishman and Pons. The questions remaining are there: what did they actually discover – and - what happened in the Kinentica Museum that did not happen in their laboratories?

Perpetual motion nonsense? How can we ever know unless we go see? Any scientist who runs away from this show cannot call themselves a true scientist. Whether they succeed or not is never the point – but the method and the finding is very much! And yet, the stuffy, starched coated, arrogant, upward pointed noses of the robed inquisitors remains as always. Rather than finding all of this fascinating beyond measure, they rely on what Leonardo DaVinci referred to as “memory” rather than intellect. As for me, I am very much looking forward to attending the demonstration online. I don’t care if it’s boom or bust for Steorn – it is still interesting and a true-science test for the rest of us.

Check out their website by clicking here.

"Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but memory." Leonardo DaVinci

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

We Salute America!

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW


Today I received the message below from regular Quantum Limits reader Alex Bonnici. Alex is an American of Maltese heritage currently living in Malta. I'm an Australian also of Maltese background who agrees with Alex 100% . Only societies that encourage free thought, entrepreneurship and risk taking will succeed in the new frontiers. America, the country that gave the world the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and , of course, the great Colonel Sanders, will pioneer the frontiers because of it very nature, it must. So today, this July 4th , we salute the United States!

Do have a look at the full New York Times article. Its a great article on some remarkable Americans.


The Spirit of Innovation is still Alive and Well in America:

the Amateur Future of Space Travel

Today is July 4th, 2007, the birth date of a unique nation and a unique people. Two hundred and thirty one years since fifty-six men with an “iron pen” and on the authority of the good people of the colonies, signed the Declaration of Independence, mutually pledging to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, thus, creating a nation whose very name is synonymous with ideas of freedom, liberty, and justice. With the strength and resolve with which the Declaration was written these men forged a new nation and a new people noted for its rugged individualism and inventive spirit when confronted with the challenges of necessity in the face of a new frontier.

We are a nation whose structure of governance stands as the very hallmark of innovation in the very way a free people choose to conduct their lives. Our nation and its freedoms is the cauldron from which new and independent inventive spirit emerged. We are a people who never shied away from a challenge.

We are a nation on the forefront of science and invention. We are a nation that gave the world the light bulb, the phonograph, broke the sound barrier, that reached for the stars and came back with a piece of the Moon. We are a nation that is poised to defy the very elements pose by the frontiers of Earth, Space and Ocean. And, we will be the people that will one day pave the way towards the eventual settlement of these new frontiers. The following article from the New York times illustrates that this spirit of innovation is still alive and well in America.

"Americans, perhaps more so than people of other nations, have great faith in the idea of the outsider inventor. The stories of inventors who made it out of their garages (Steve Jobs) and those who stayed there (Philo T. Farnsworth) are part of the national mythology. Ever since Benjamin Franklin broke with his apprenticeship in Boston as a teenager and recreated himself as a freethinker and fearless inventor (a narrative, some say, he simply repeated and wrote large with the founding of the nation)"

Our Independence Day is just as much a celebration of our innovative spirit as a celebration of freedom. Happy Birthday America we have much to feel pride for in our brief history.

Alex Michael Bonnici

Malta, Europe