Tuesday, March 20, 2012

GTL (Gas to Liquids) and CTL (Coal to Liquids) + HT GCR (High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors) = Cheap Hydrocarbons w/ Excellent EROEI

Unconventional liquid fuels are slated to provide ever growing proportions of future demand for transportation fuels. The burgeoning success of plants such as Shell's Pearl GTL plant in Qatar herald a new era of liquid fuels production.
In terms of what GTL is, it is the process of chemically turning natural gas into cleaner-burning liquid products, including fuel, base oil for lubricants and feedstock for chemicals. To produce, the process firstly involves methane and oxygen which are converted into a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide known as synthesis gas or syngas. This is then fed to a reactor with a proprietary Shell catalyst that accelerates the conversion of the mixture to long-chained waxy hydrocarbons and water.

From the GTL reactor, the long-chained hydrocarbons are then reacted with hydrogen and ‘cracked,’ into a range of smaller molecules of various sizes using another proprietary Shell catalyst. This process is referred to as ‘hydrocracking.’ The final step is distillation. Various boiling points are reached to separate out the products, which can be in the form of GTL naphtha, GTL kerosene, GTL normal paraffins, GTL gas oil, or GTL base oils. These are then eventually fed to their own storage tanks ready for use.

...One of the products, GTL gasoil (diesel-type fuel), can contribute significantly to the diversification of the diesel fuel supply. This product can reduce local emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides and particulate matter. Because it contains virtually no sulfur or aromatic compounds and has a high cetane number – a measure of combustion quality – GTL gasoil burns more efficiently than conventional oil-based diesel and thus produces fewer local emissions and less black smoke than conventional diesel. The high cetane of GTL gasoil can lead to noise reductions in certain engines under certain driving conditions and improve cold start performance. GTL gasoil can also be blended with conventional diesel and/or biodiesel and used in the same vehicles and infrastructure, thus offering a low investment cost compared with other alternatives.

GTL Kerosene is an alternative to conventional oil-based kerosene. Its primary use is expected for aviation. GTL kerosene can be used as a blend with traditional jet fuel without any modifications to existing aircraft and engines. Given that the aviation sector will rely on liquid hydrocarbons for decades, this fuel can help support the future energy needs of the industry, and offer customers fuel diversification. GTL kerosene has higher energy density than conventional oil-based kerosene and this reduces the required fuel payload, thus aircraft may be required to carry less fuel weight to cover the same distance. _QatarShell
When even pro-nuclear activists such as Rod Adams are speaking out in favour of a coal - nuclear partnership to produce liquid transportation fuels, you should understand that people are finally beginning to look at the possibilities.
Coal is a valuable resource that can be safely mined for centuries by well-trained and compensated miners. Instead of eliminating the use of coal, I would prefer to help coal miners and coal mine owners to recognize that they could make more money and sell a cleaner product if they upgraded their fuel at the mine rather than shipping a dirt-filled, unrefined product that sells for a huge discount in the energy market.

...My pitch to the coal industry would be to use cheap, clean nuclear heat to convert H2O and their carbon rich fuel into a refined hydrocarbon that could compete with petroleum products.

...Shipping oil instead of coal from our domestic mines would also be very beneficial to the US national security and to the prosperity of the world. Just think about the positive impact that substantially lower US demand would have on the price of diesel fuel delivered to a developing country. _RodAdams
Until more people are able to think of energy in multi-disciplinary, multi-industrial terms, societies will be forced to pay higher prices for fuels and energy than is necessary. By including cheap and unlimited nuclear reactor process heat into the fuel production mix, we can immediately bring CTL, GTL, bitumens to liquids, kerogens to liquids, and even biomass to liquids (BTL) into the feasible and profitable arena.
Fortunately, more nuclear advocates are beginning to understand the importance of cleanly integrating coal and gas into the overall energy and fuels mix. But we need more bright chemical engineers like Robert Rapier, and physicists like Tom Murphy, to crunch the numbers once again -- this time including the powerful impact of high temperature process heat from modular and mini-modular HT gas-cooled nuclear reactors.
By utilising scalable, factory produced reactors which can be sited at the point of production of gas, coal, bitumens, kerogens, methane hydrates -- and even biomass in some situations of intensive cultivation -- it should be clear to any objective observer that a new era of hydrocarbon production is quite feasible.

Government action could certainly prevent this development. The great carbon hysteria delusion -- if firmly enacted into law in the developed world -- would not only kill unconventional fuels, it would kill the economic viability of the underlying societies themselves. That is what several governments, from the UK to Obama's US to Australia to the EU are attempting to do in various ways.

A far less likely -- but still potentially effective -- way to stop the revolution in unconventional fuels, is for the national oil companies of OPEC and other oil dictatorships to route needed funds into oil field production, exploration, discovery, and development. It would be easy for existing oil fields and fields under development to ramp up production to overwhelm even the current inflated levels of global demand -- if the equipment, manpower, and funding were allotted for the purpose. But this will not be done, because governments from Russia to Venezuela to Saudi Arabia etc need oil prices to remain artificially high so that they can use oil profits to pacify unstable populations and pay off highly placed insiders.

Previously published on Al Fin Energy

Extra bonus just for loyal Al Fin readers: China apparently has vast shale gas reserves. China is vigorously pursuing the development of these gas reserves.

In the early phases this will help the North American engineers and drilling companies who assist in China's learning curve for shale gas production. It will also help China negotiate more favourable gas prices with Russia's Gazprom.

In the long run, these huge natural gas reserves will help reduce China's oversize demand for imported crude oil. This down-shifting of global oil demand will occur due to China's increasing use of an up and coming coal -- natural gas hybrid liquefaction process. This process of synthetic fuels production should become particularly economical when using cheap nuclear process heat as the primary heat source.

Russia itself will be forced to adopt GTL technologies as it finds some of its best customers turning to their own shale gas reserves, and turning away from Gazprom.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Space Planes and Supersonic Biplanes

DVice features two stories here and here, dealing with the next generation of space planes and supersonic atmospheric craft. First, 5 spaceplanes you may want to keep an eye on:

1. Virgin Galactic

The heavy hitter in commercial suborbital flight right now is definitely Virgin Galactic. Its White Knight Two carrier aircraft and Space Ship Two passenger spacecraft are currently undergoing flight testing. WK2 has undergone 78 flight tests, and SS2 has done 16 glide tests. The rocket engine is being test-fired on the ground (with the most recent firing lasting the full duration that SS2 would need to make it to orbit), and Virgin plans for a fully integrated flight of SS2 later this year, which should reach 110km at Mach 3.5.

Looking farther ahead, Virgin Galactic's Vice President of Special Projects William Pomerantz said that it's "actively exploring" both point to point suborbital transportation (sweet!) and flights to low Earth orbit. As far as we know, this makes Virgin the first company to talk about point to point flights: you shouldn't go expecting a suborbital commuter flight yet, but it's exciting to think about taking a rocket plane into space to travel across the world.

2. XCOR Aerospace

XCOR's Lynx rocketplane is undergoing hardware integration, which means that they're sticking a bunch of operational bits together to make the final spacecraft. XCOR COO Andrew Nelson promised that a prototype would be "off the ground toward the end of this year," and since Lynx is self-powered, that suggests a flight with the engines lit up and everything (although probably not to space).

XCOR also announced their first passengers and payload: researchers from SWRI (sponsors of the NSRC conference) along with some science experiments including a bio-harness for astronauts, something about asteroid regolith, and a small telescope. This highlights one of the other major markets for suborbital spaceflight besides tourism: it's possible to get some series science done in a few minutes of high-quality microgravity, and since it's not something we can replicate on Earth, suborbital flights are the going to be the cheapest way to make it happen.

3. Blue Origin

Bretton Alexander, the director of business development and strategy over at Blue Origin, made it clear that the recent loss of its test vehicle was unfortunate, but that it "always expected to lose it during flight testing." The rest of the panel very deliberately backed Alexander up on this, saying that they all expected to lose test vehicles at one point or another and that it was just part of the process. Still, potential space tourists should certainly be aware of the risks: getting into space does generally involve sitting on top of a barely controlled explosion, and while it's probably one of those things that'll end up being safer than driving a car, we imagine that strapping yourself into a rocket is probably one of the most nerve-wracking things that a human can do.

Blue Origin is currently building its next vehicle, which will have a capsule on top that separates from the propulsion module in flight. The module will come to a powered landing, while the capsule coasts up to space (spending 3-5 minutes in microgravity) before using parachutes to land. Long term, this will be an orbital (not just suborbital) launch system, but nobody is talking about selling tickets for an orbit or two quite yet.

4. Masten Space Science Systems

Masten is focusing primarily (let's just go ahead and say exclusively, at least for now) on cargo flights as opposed to passengers. Just over a week ago, their Xaero rocket (which is functionally complete) made a short-hop test flight, and CEO Joel Scotkin says that Masten is ready to start FAA testing, gradually increasing fuel tank size and target altitude, with flights to five or six kilometers happening in the "very near future.

To hit 20 kilometers, they'll need a bigger rocket, and parts are currently on order for what will be called "Xaero20." 100km+ suborbital flights should happen within a few quarters, and Masten has been secretly working on a suborbital lunar lander demonstration vehicle called Xeus, which you can see in the picture above. Xeus won't be going to the Moon, but it will be proving a testbed for the technologies that will one day take private industry to the lunar surface, asteroids, and beyond.

5. Armadillo Aerospace

Armadillo has been working on a rocket called Stig B (after The Stig from Top Gear), which should be complete in under 70 days. Stig B is tall and skinny, and a "six pack" of them will likely be used to launch payloads (including people). Neil Milburn, a VP at Armadillo, said that they hope to make a first flight in May of this year, but that they're still working on a few different options for re-entry, including a supersonically-deployed balloon to slow down followed by steerable parachutes to make a landing somewhere near the launchpad.

Long term, Armadillo will be partnering with Space Adventures to develop a crewed vehicle codenamed "Hyperion." It may look something like the concept in the picture above, and it'll make vertical takeoffs and landings, taking two passengers into space. Hyperion will only seat two people, meaning that no pilots will be on board: it'll be under autonomous control the whole time, making for a "personal and intimate" experience. Yeah, use your imagination on that one.



When an airplane is in flight, it's continuously pushing a series waves of air out of the way in front of it, the same way that a boat moving through water is pushing out a bow wave. These waves of air travel at the speed of sound, and as long as the airplane is going slower than that, the waves can get out of the way of each other and people on the ground will just hear a regular airplane noise when the plane passes overhead.

Sonic booms happen when an aircraft starts going fast enough that the waves of air (pressure, really) that it's producing can't outrun the aircraft anymore, and they all stack up on each other, forming a single shockwave of sound at the front of the plane which can be decidedly unpleasant for anyone on the ground who gets smacked with it. And then they get smacked again by another, trailing shockwave, formed by the negative pressure at the rear of the aircraft. This is where that distinctive "double boom" comes from.


Misora (the honorific name for "sky" in Japanese) is a conceptual design for an entirely new sort of supersonic aircraft, from the Institute of Fluid Science at Tohoku University. As you can see, it's a biplane, a type of aircraft that went out of style back in the 1930s since two wings create tons of drag, generally making high speeds difficult. If you're clever, though, you can arrange those two wings to reflect shock waves back at each other, taking the positive pressure shockwave and the negative pressure shockwave and zeroing them both out. Without shockwaves, you get supersonic airspeeds with no booms at all.


As far as getting to supersonic speeds with two wings, a group from MIT and Stanford has come up with a design that uses smooth inner-wing surfaces combined with bumpy wing edges to reduce drag so much that it should be possible to develop a supersonic biplane that can travel at Mach 5 while simultaneously using half as much fuel as a conventional supersonic aircraft. Mach 5, for the record, is nearly 4,000 mph, which is fast enough to make the hop from LA to New York, or New York to London, in under an hour.

IFS Biplane (PDF), via LiveScience and Gizmodo



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Questioning the Peak Oil Dogma

We are being told once again to expect ever-higher fuel and energy prices in the coming years, with a consequent drag on economies. Underlying these gloomy predictions is an underlying belief that humans are running short on sources of energy -- the peak oil dogma -- and will have to pay more as shortages worsen. But is the peak oil dogma based upon superstition, or fact?
Myth of Scarcity

Unless humans look for energy, they are unlikely to find it. But if they are willing to use their brains and their eyes, they can detect ever more geologic locations where a wide variety of hydrocarbon fuels were formed.
It is said that the cheap and easy oil is all gone, and that the low hanging fruit has been picked. But the "cheap and easy oil" was not that cheap and easy when it was first tapped. Technology had to be developed for each type of deposit to be exploited. This will continue to be the case.
This is an IEA estimate of hydrocarbon resource. It is very likely to be a vast unerestimate, as is typically the case.
Here is another scholarly estimate of world hydrocarbon resources, also likely to have significantly underestimated the true resource.
Here is another estimate, which clearly fails to account for the economic impact of cheap and abundant nuclear process heat from high temperature gas-cooled reactors, in the processing of gas to liquids, coal to liquids, kerogens to liquids, etc.
This graphic includes an estimate of comparison between relative carbon resources of gas hydrates and all other hydrocarbons.
This graphic compares relative gas hydrate resources in various locations.
This graphic looks at recoverable fossil fuel resources by nation. It underestimates a number of probable resources across the board, including shale oil & gas and several others.

When humans are confronted with resource shortages, they take a number of parallel approaches to relieving the resource scarcity.

But when shortages are caused by political or ideological perversity, there may be much less that humans can do, until the political or ideological constrictions are removed. That appears to be the situation associated with the multiple political dogmas of peak oil, carbon hysteria, overpopulation, and various other faux environmental political dogmas.

In the modern world, Russia, China, India, and a number of third world and emerging states stand out as distinct outliers from the global faux environmental rush to energy suicide. It is unlikely that Europe, Oceania, and North America will be willing to take the final faux environmental step of cutting their own throats (figuratively speaking), when such a large part of the world stands ready to loot their corpses in a very un-PC, un-green manner.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

High Altitude Zombie Monitoring System Offers Higher Level Protection

Global Near Space is working with agencies of the USA government to provide advanced monitoring and communications services to ground stations, in case of a zombie outbreak and apocalypse. The two-stage system pictured below is called "Star Light."
Star Light

Here is more information on the Star Light two-stage system for high level zombie monitoring and early warning:
Exploiting Near Space [for zombie monitoring] has always presented a riddle for engineers:

How can you create an unmanned vehicle that can:

remain airborne for long periods of time;
reside high enough to avoid ground attacks and weather;
hold its position without being tethered;
avoid normal space interference;
carry a variety of payloads for [anti-zombie] purposes;
withstand strong winds; and
be easily controlled [by a dwindling number of human survivors]?

Past efforts—including high-altitude airships and cigar-shaped blimps—have either failed, are cost-prohibitive, require too much infrastructure or are stuck in long development cycles.

The patent-pending Star♦Light—a two-stage, saucer-shaped, lighter-than-air, unmanned communications and surveillance vehicle—is the first technology to solve the riddle.

The Star♦Light's Primary Benefits:
The Star♦Light costs a fraction of traditional unmanned aircraft and satellites.
The Star♦Light's superior aerodynamic design results in high performance.
The Star♦Light can be assembled on site and launched within hours—not days, weeks or months.
The Star♦Light can carry a wide range of payloads for [zombie detection and warning] purposes.
The Star♦Light is solar-powered and uses no petroleum-based fuels. _Star Light via Global Near Space
An additional benefit of the Star Light system is its patented laser zombie detection and targeting sub-system, and the ability to fry zombies to a crisp from near space. No competing systems offer such flexible zombie handling functions from high altitude, over such broad areas from one strike position.

Remember, the good folks at Global Near Space worry about the zombie apocalypse so you do not have to. Despite their best efforts, you may not survive the tidal wave of zombies when it hits. But rest assured that those who do survive will be damned glad for Star Light and all the good work being done by Global Near Space.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Treating the Power Grid as a Dumping Ground: Green Intermittency Costs

In April of 2011, the MIT Energy Initiative held a symposium on the challenges of integrating green intermittent power sources into power grids. Today, the PDF report from that symposium was released for public download.

The images below were taken from the MIT report. The full report is downloadable at the link above.
Large electrical power grids are complex systems which help make modern affluent societies possible. Common tells us that we should not put undue stress on systems which are that important.
Intermittent power sources such as big wind and big solar cannot be controlled, because the wind and the sunshine cannot be controlled. This means that if power grids attempt to integrate these unreliable power sources, they will be forced to pay a number of costs on several levels. The cost of maintaining grid stability and reliability will rise. The cost of maintaining existing power plants will rise appreciably. The cost of supporting structures -- such as backup power sources, large-scale energy storage facilities, new grid infrastructures, new power management technologies, etc. is likely to prove enormous.
Environmentalists would like to shut down hydrocarbon and nuclear based power plants and replace them with wind and solar. Making an attempt to do so would prove an unmitigated catastrophe. But even the partial replacement of coal, gas, and nuclear by wind and solar could easily prove disastrous, if the integration of wind and solar were pushed too far, and too fast.
Frequent shut downs and startups of power plants is costly -- both short-term and long-term. Keeping personnel and machine systems on a hair-trigger, just in case wind and solar should pick up or slow down unexpectedly, is ludicrous.
As intermittency takes its toll on machinery and economies, wise and prudent observers should begin to question the rationale for pushing intermittency onto the power grid in the first place.
The "cure" for intermittency is thought to be new energy storage technologies at utility scales. But how long before such technologies become economically feasible?

Again, wise persons are forced to question the underlying rationale behind forcing destructive intermittencies onto the power grid.

You may think that only politicians could be so stupid as to quickly push ahead with intermittent sources long before the problems associated with intermittency have been solved. But that is not quite right. Academics and journalists are every bit as stupid as politicians, on that score, as are government bureaucrats -- and especially environmentalists. There has never been a shortage of stupidity.

There has always been a relative shortage of workable human ingenuity paired with wisdom.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Electromagnetically Levitated Space Launch Tube Must Be Tethered to Maintain Its Connection to Earth

Dr George Maise invented the Startram orbital launch system along with Dr James Powell, who is one of the inventors of superconducting maglev - for which he won the 2002 Franklin Medal in engineering. Startram is in essence a superconducting maglev launch system. _Gizmag
When we think about space elevators and other high altitute electromagnetic space launch methods, we are typically concerned about creating materials that are strong enough to support the weight of the massive launch apparatus. The Startram approach to cheap, high frequency space launch turns this thinking on its head, by utilising a form of electromagnetic levitation which requires the launch apparatus to be tethered to prevent it from whipping out into space.
All Images Courtesy of Gizmag

It's easy to levitate objects electromagnetically. If you push enough current through two conductors in opposite directions, the conductors will be subject to a force pushing them apart. The more current the greater the force. With the advent of superconducting cables being developed for superconducting power grids, it is now possible to construct cables which can carry hundreds of megamps of current. These amperages are sufficient to supply a levitating force of 4 tons per meter of startram guideway, even when the conductors are separated by 20km.

...One of the challenges of the Space Elevator concept is to engineer tethers that have breaking lengths (i.e. the length of tether can attain before it breaks under its own weight) of thousands of kilometers. Startram tethers, in contrast, needs tethers with breaking lengths of only tens of kilometers, which is well within the specifications of modern fibers. _Startram Technology
The Startram launch tubes are evacuated in order to reduce friction losses from air resistance during high velocity launch. According to the developers, the system can be built using existing materials and technologies.
The scope of the project is challenging. A launch system design for routine passenger flight into LEO should have rather low acceleration - perhaps about 3 g's maximum, which then requires 5 minutes of acceleration to reach LEO transfer velocities. In that period, the spacecraft will have traveled 1,000 miles (1,609 km). The maglev track must be 1,000 miles in length - similar in size to maglev train tracks being considered for cross-country transportation.

Like a train, the Startram track can follow the surface of the Earth for most of this length. Side forces associated with the curvature of the surface can be accommodated by the design, but not the drag and sonic shock waves of a craft traveling at hypersonic velocity at sea level - the spacecraft and launching track would be torn to shreds.

To avoid this, the Startram track must be contained inside a vacuum tube with vents to allow air compressed in front of the spacecraft to escape the tube. A vacuum equivalent to atmospheric conditions at an altitude of 75 km (about 0.01 Torr) should suffice for the efficient operation of the Startram launch system. Rapid pumping to achieve this pressure will be provided by a magnetohydrodynamic vacuum pump.

If the entire Startram tube is at sea level, on exiting the tube the spacecraft will suddenly be subjected to several hundred g's due to atmospheric drag - rather like hitting a brick wall. To reduce this effect to a tolerable acceleration, the end of the Startram vacuum tube must be elevated to an altitude of about 20 km (12 miles). At this height, the initial deceleration from atmospheric drag will be less than 3 g's, and will rapidly decrease as the spacecraft reaches higher altitudes.... how do we hold up the exit end of the Startram vacuum tube? Well, the tube already contains superconducting cable and rings. Powell and Maise realized that the tube could be magnetically levitated to this altitude. If we arrange that there is a superconducting cable on the ground carrying 200 million amperes, and a superconducting cable in the launch tube carrying 20 million amperes, at an altitude of 20 km there will be a levitating force of about 4 tons per meter of cable length - more than enough to levitate the launch tube. _Gizmag
Sandia National Laboratories has carried out a '"murder-squad" investigation of the Startram concept, whose purpose is to find any flaw in a proposed project. They gave Startram a clean bill of health. Estimates suggest that building a passenger-capable Startram would require 20 years and a construction budget (ignoring inflation and overoptimism) of about $60 billion.

Why take on such an enormous project? Simple - $50 per kilogram amortized launch costs. The total worldwide cost of developing and using rocket-based space travel is more than $500 billion. The Space Shuttle program cost about $170 billion. The International Space Station has cost about $150 billion to date. _Gizmag
If access to space can be made safe and routine, humans will suddenly find ways to make space travel and habitation safe, sustainable, and profitable. The challenge of surviving and prospering in space is the type of challenge which malaise-laden modern humans need, to revive a much needed sense of transcendence and open-ended overcoming.

Startram website

Why it is so important for people of the western world to find their way into space

More: Brian Wang is also beginning to look at this exciting space launch technology


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Large Comet Impact May Have Wiped Out Early Human Culture in North America

We have speculated here that seafarers from North America -- either Homo Neanderthal or Homo Sapiens -- arrived in eastern North America well before immigrants from Asia. But what happened to these early American settlers and their culture?

There is archaeological evidence that other cultures, possessing cruder tool technologies than the Clovis people, were present in North America before the earliest Clovis dates.

Is it possible that the culture of these "first Americans" was obliterated by a cosmic impact which led the the Younger Dryas cooling period?
A 16-member international team of researchers that includes James Kennett, professor of Earth science at UC Santa Barbara, has identified a nearly 13,000-year-old layer of thin, dark sediment buried in the floor of Lake Cuitzeo in central Mexico. The sediment layer contains an exotic assemblage of materials, including nanodiamonds, impact spherules, and more, which, according to the researchers, are the result of a cosmic body impacting Earth.

These new data are the latest to strongly support of a controversial hypothesis proposing that a major cosmic impact with Earth occurred 12,900 years ago at the onset of an unusual cold climatic period called the Younger Dryas. The researchers’ findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. _Astrobio_via_GlobalWarmingPolicyFoundation
The evidence is new, and supports an older theory that the Younger Dryas cold period was caused by a cosmic impact. It may also help explain what happened to the earliest North American cultures. More on this theory from back in 2007:
The Clovis people of North America, flourishing some 13,000 years ago, had a mastery of stone weaponry that stood them in good stead against the constant threat of large carnivores, such as American lions and giant short-faced bears. It's unlikely, however, that they thought death would come from the sky.

According to results presented by a team of 25 researchers this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Acapulco, Mexico, that's where the Clovis people's doom came from. Citing several lines of evidence, the team suggests that a wayward comet hurtled into Earth's atmosphere around 12,900 years ago, fractured into pieces and exploded in giant fireballs. Debris seems to have settled as far afield as Europe.

Jim Kennett, an oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and one of the team's three principal investigators, claims immense wildfires scorched North America in the aftermath, killing large populations of mammals and bringing an abrupt end to the Clovis culture. "The entire continent was on fire," he says. _NewScientist
More from an earlier Al Fin article

More from an even earlier Donald Sensing article

The identity of "the first Americans" is shrouded in mystery. There is evidence that seafarers from Eastern Asia survived an early harrowing trans-Pacific voyage to settle on the Pacific Coast of North America. There is also evidence for early settlement of the South American Pacific coast from Polynesia. Evidence for early migration from Europe is also present, as noted here earlier.

But something seems to have disrupted the pattern of settlement for most of these immigrants. The pre-Clovis people disappeared mysteriously. The Clovis people disappeared mysteriously. The surviving descendants of the early people of North America do not have records of what happened to their ancestors, although some verbal accounts are suggestive of a cosmic catastrophe.

Scientists are slow to adopt new explanations for mysteries which their old theories do not admit to. But humans who are not attached to any particular theory, will often tug and pull at the threads of a mystery until it reveals itself.

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Could Neandertals Have Discovered America First?

Anthropologists now believe that Neandertals may have become a seafaring people long before modern humans took to the seas for purposes of migration.

Neanderthals were seafaring long before modern humans, in the Mediterranean at least. He thinks early hominins made much more use of the sea than anyone suspects, and may have used the seas as a highway, rather than seeing them as a barrier. But the details remain lost in history. Any craft were presumably made from wood, so rotted away long ago. The oldest known Mediterranean boat, a dugout canoe from Lake Bracciano in Italy, is just 7000 years old. Ferentinos speculates that Neanderthals may have made something similar.

Solutrean Hypothesis
Smithsonian Institute anthropologist Dennis Stanford thinks that the first North Americans may well have paddled along the northern Atlantic ice shelves from Europe, over 20,000 years ago. Stanford believes that the first Europeans to go to North America were anatomically modern humans, rather than neandertals (see below). But there may be reasons to believe that Neandertals -- who likely became seafarers tens of thousands of years before modern humans -- were driven westward by population pressure from migrating sapiens.
National Geographic
Some anthropologists believe the Neandertal were driven into the mountains by population pressures. And some believe they were driven into the far north, into whatever ice-free redoubts to be found. But if Neandertals were truly sea-capable travelers, what about the third possibility?
National Geographic

New evidence from the study of the Neandertal genome suggests that all modern people except sub-Saharan Africans, have portions of their genetic complement in common with the ancient Neandertal. In other words, modern humans and neandertals probably interbred at some point before the Neandertal faded away.

The time in history when neandertals slowly disappeard and modern humans became the sole representative of homo, is quite fuzzy and poorly defined. When actual bone fossils can be found, distinguishing between neandertal finds and sapiens finds is relatively easy. But most other evidence of settlement and migration is lost to history.

Stone tools can help to distinguish between different tool-making cultures, but even stone chips and blades do not necessarily provide foolproof distinctions between groups, if they are undergoing critical transitions.

One thing is for certain, scholarship on the origins of the first North American human cultures is in a state of turmoil:
Since the 1930s, archaeologists have favored a single migration from Siberia to Alaska as the epic event that peopled the Americas about 13,000 years ago. Stone tools found at Clovis, N.M., and elsewhere, suggested that a single culture spread across much of the continent. This “Clovis first” idea became entrenched.

But starting in the 1990s, archaeologists dated sites in Texas, Chile and the mid-Atlantic region to pre-Clovis times. Few archaeologists accepted those dates at first, said Michael Collins, an archaeologist at Texas State.

“People learned it in college and built careers on ‘Clovis first,’ ” Collins said. “They’re unwilling to turn it loose.”

But now they might have to adopt Stanford’s Europe-first slogan: “Iberia, not Siberia.” _WaPo
Unless someone invents a time machine allowing us to observe pre-historical migrations first-hand, we may never know.

Neandertal Sites

Hominid Family History

The Neandertal Genome

Sexy Archaeology Neandertals

How the Neandertal Became the Basque


Friday, March 02, 2012

All Zombies Now

Effective total brain control -- or zombification -- depends upon a fine enough level of control, or resolution, over the pertinent brain centers. Early methods of brain control depended upon the crude tools of pharmacology and macro-electromagnetic stimulation. But we are on the verge of a level of fine-grained brain control which puts us within reach of our goal: total world domination!
Quantum Dot Cell Controller

By harnessing quantum dots-tiny light-emitting semiconductor particles a few billionths of a meter across-researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a new and vastly more targeted way to stimulate neurons in the brain. Being able to switch neurons on and off and monitor how they communicate with one another is crucial...

...Doctors and researchers today commonly use electrodes- on the scalp or implanted within the brain- to deliver zaps of electricity to stimulate cells. Unfortunately, these electrodes activate huge swaths of neural territory, made up of thousands or even millions of cells, of many different types. That makes it impossible [to achieve the level of brain control to achieve complete zombification. (Ed.)]

...An alternative, says the UW team, led by electrical engineer Lih Y. Lin and biophysicist Fred Rieke, is to use quantum dots-tiny semiconductor particles, just a few billionths of a meter across, that confine electrons within three spatial dimensions. When these otherwise trapped electrons are excited by electricity, they emit light, but at very precise wavelengths, determined both by the size of the quantum dot and the material from which it is made... The experiments, says Lin, show that "it is possible to excite neurons and other cells and control their activities remotely using light. This non-invasive method can provide flexibility in probing and controlling cells at different locations while minimizing undesirable effects." _SD
In other words, complete zombification is almost within our reach.

Of course we will continue to follow the progress of cruder tools such as deep brain stimulation, transcranial dc stimulation, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. (Summary PDF review of earlier tDCS research)

And we will continue participating in the OpenEEG project, in order to perfect our remote EEG brain state viewer -- to use in conjunction with our remote quantum dot cell-level brain controllers.

Naturally, we expect our informants to keep their eyes and ears open for any news we may be able to utilise. We can make it worth your while, particularly if you have your eye on someone that you would like to zombify for your own personal use. ;-) But tell no one what you have read here!

We stand on the verge of a brave new world. A greener, cleaner, more orderly world, without all the confusion and cacophony of modern global capitalism, freedom of religion, rule of law, and free markets. Either you are with us, or you are a zombie.

First published at Al Fin, the Next Level

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On the Way to Printing Human Being Robot Zombies

We already have "printers" capable of printing entire houses. There is the Cornell University printer that prints 3-D flying insect robots. A Drexel University paleontologist is building dinosaur robots out of printed 3-D dinosaur bones.

An elderly woman was a recent surgical recipient of a 3-D printed replacement jawbone. And we are not that far away from printing 3-D replacement tissues and organs using tissue printers.

San Diego startup Organovo is printing muscle tissue with a 3-D printer, aiming to create working muscle.
Unlike some experimental approaches that have used ink-jet printers to deposit cells, Organovo's technology enables cells to interact with each other much the way they do in the body. They are packed tightly together and incubated, prompting them to adhere to each other and trade chemical signals. When they're printed, the cells are kept bunched together in a paste that helps them grow, migrate, and align themselves properly. ­Muscle cells, for example, orient themselves in the same direction to create tissue that can contract.

So far, Organovo has made only small pieces of tissue, but its ultimate goal is to use its 3-D printer to make complete organs for transplants. Because the organs would be printed from a patient's own cells, there would be less danger of rejection. _Technology Review
Organovo will first print human tissues of various types to be used in pharmacological research, to replace animal models and other cruder forms of testing new drugs. They will use the income from sales of these tissue models to drug companies, in order to fund their replacement organ printing research.

But do you see where all of this is leading? First you print the bones, for assembling the skeleton. Then you print the muscles, to allow movement. The organs and blood vessels are then printed and assembled together. The only thing left to add is the brain -- the robotic zombie controller.

While cognitive scientists are almost able to create a zombie brain, they are still decades away from creating a realistic human brain. You should not be discouraged by this, since as long as we remove the cannibalistic instincts of our printed zombies, and train them to be docile and obedient, they can be used for many constructive purposes.

Consider the advantages of being able to use the car-pooling lane in your daily commutes. Or just imagine the surprised looks on your friends' faces when you show up at a part in the company of 2 or 3 zombies who look and are dressed exactly like you!

Just think of the many uses to which trial lawyers could put these zombies in class action lawsuits! Imagine the sympathy they could induce in naive jurors who didn't know any better. Why, one might even be elected president of the USA! It would not be unprecedented.

Anyway, give it some thought. We may not be that far away from such a brave new world, and you want to be prepared.

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