News Briefs 10-11-2015

Rocks in my head...

Quote of the Day:

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

Carl Sagan

Pyramid Scan Identifies an 'Impressive Anomaly' Behind the Blocks of the Great Pyramid

Pyramid Anomaly

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A couple of weeks ago we mentioned a new project that will scan Egypt's pyramids looking for secret chambers. The initial information on the project suggested that the scanning would begin with the pyramids at Dashour (the 'Red Pyramid' and the 'Bent Pyramid'), but in a news conference today Egyptian authorities have revealed that thermal scanning at the Giza Pyramids has already detected possible secret passageways or chambers:

Two weeks of new thermal scanning in Egypt’s Giza pyramids have identified anomalies in the 4,500 year-old burial structures, including a major one in the largest pyramid, the Antiquities Ministry announced Monday.

Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty and technical experts working on the project showed the higher temperature being detected in three specific adjacent stones at the bottom of the pyramid in a live thermal camera presentation to journalists.

The scanning showed “a particularly impressive one (anomaly) located on the Eastern side of the Khufu pyramid at ground level,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The first row of the pyramid’s stones are all uniform, then we come here and find that there’s a difference in the formation,” said el-Damaty, pointing at the three stones showing higher temperatures.

While inspecting the area, el-Damaty said they found “that there is something like a small passage in the ground that you can see, leading up to the pyramids ground, reaching an area with a different temperature. What will be behind it?”

Here's some video of the press conference that has been posted to YouTube:

But is this discovery as exciting as the Egyptian Antiquities Minister would have us believe? An Egyptian Egyptologist who spoke to local news outlet Ahram Online claimed that "nothing would be found behind the blocks except for fractures, as this is the 'mother rock' of the plateau" - no doubt referring to the bedrock mound that the initial blocks of the pyramid were originally built around and upon.

Pyramid plan

I'm not sure this precludes the existence of an ancient 'secret chamber' - any such natural fracture, if large enough, may in fact have been seen as the most sacred chamber possible, enough perhaps even to inspire the building of a pyramid upon. But I'm also a little skeptical of how hard Egyptian officials are pushing this, knowing the problems they are having with their tourism industry (especially after last week's air tragedy).

Nevertheless, I'm really excited to see this technology being used to search for secret locations around the Giza pyramids, which could result in discoveries that rewrite the history books. Presidential hopeful Ben Carson is probably hoping that they find some grain...

Looking forward to seeing more results from this project as they are released - exciting times!


News Briefs 09-11-2015


Quote of the Day:

Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist.

Westley ('The Princess Bride')

At the End: A Short Science Fiction Film About the End of the World

At the End is a short (20 min) 2012 science fiction film about the end of the world, and what price we'd pay to escape it:

Earth’s days are numbered when a nearby star goes supernova. Seizing the opportunity, an alien race has offered humanity a deal: Be our slaves or be left to die. As one couple struggles toward the last escaping ship, they grapple with the cost of sacrificing their freedom for their survival.

A little over-wrought, but still an enjoyable short story.

News Briefs 07-11-2015

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”

Quote of the Day:

“Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

M. Curie

News Briefs 05-11-2015

Buongiorno! Sto imparando l'Italiano!

Quote of the Day:

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

EmDrive Breakthrough: Show Us The Money!


Roger Shawyer's "impossible" stardrive continues inching its way towards reality. The EmDrive is a RF resonant cavity thruster using microwaves, rather than reaction mass like liquid oxygen, to move. Keep in mind this isn't a warp engine since it doesn't bend spacetime. Yet the EmDrive has the potential to go faster than current technology, getting astronauts to Pluto in 18 months compared to New Horizons's nine year journey, opening up the cosmos to humanity.

What makes this gadget "impossible" is its apparent violation of Newton's Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Best analogy for the EmDrive's counterintuitive mechanism is a person in a car pushing the steering wheel and the vehicle moves forward. Conventionally, a driver can only move the vehicle by pushing the back bumper. Shawyer insists no physical laws are violated by the EmDrive. The thrust happens because the microwaves have a group velocity greater in one direction when Einstein's relativity is taken into account. A pretty neat trick.

But with extraordinary claims, there's extraordinary skepticism. At first, skeptics claimed the source of the thrust was thermal convection from air heated by the microwaves. Paul March at Eagleworks put the kibosh on that, testing the EmDrive in a hard vacuum and still saw thrust. More recently skeptics suggest investigators are measuring the Lorentz force, a force exerted by a magnetic field on a moving electric charge, rather than thrust from the microwaves. Lorentz interactions are the principle behind loudspeakers, railguns, and particle accelerators. On Halloween Paul posted they've tested the EmDrive again, taking those interactions into account, and the anomalous thrust signals remain. Except he can't show us 'til the peer-reviewed paper's published. He does drop a few hints about how Eagleworks compensated for this complication.

I will tell you that we first built and installed a 2nd generation, closed face magnetic damper that reduced the stray magnetic fields in the vacuum chamber by at least an order of magnitude and any Lorentz force interactions it could produce. I also changed up the torque pendulum's grounding wire scheme and single point ground location to minimize ground loop current interactions with the remaining stray magnetic fields and unbalanced dc currents from the RF amplifier when its turned on. This reduced the Lorentz force interaction to less than 2 micro-Newton (uN) for the dummy load test. Finally we rebuilt the copper frustum test article so that it is now fully integrated with the RF VCO, PLL, 100W RF amp, dual directional coupler, 3-stub tuner and connecting coax cables, then mounted this integrated test article at the opposite end of the torque pendulum, as far away as possible from the 2nd generation magnetic damper where only the required counterbalance weights now reside. Current null testing with both the 50 ohm dummy load and with the integrated test article rotated 90 degrees with respect to the TP sensitive axis now show less than one uN of Lorentz forces on the TP due to dc magnetic interactions with the local environment even when drawing the maximum RF amp dc current of 12 amps.

In the meantime there are quite a few makers building their own EmDrives at home. All one needs is a truncated cone of copper, a 2.45 Ghz magnetron from a typical microwave oven, wires and a source of electricity. Over on YouTube, iulian207 has been showing the world his adventures testing a homebrew EmDrive. By no means are his experiments happening under the same, strict conditions one could expect of NASA, but the results are provocative.

Should someone have the moxie, the cash, and the EmDrive's physics are sound, we might be on the brink of a grand diaspora. A democratization of the plutocratic exit strategy where no human's left behind. Science fiction has explored these scenarios in the past. Take Orion's Arm, a collaborative, science fiction worldbuilding project and its entry on backyarders. In the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the little people gained access to tech that used to be the domain of governments and megacorporations. They cobbled together starships, flinging themselves into the dark hoping to find fame, fortune, freedom, or just a little peace and quiet. Closer to our own timeline is Jerry Oltion's The Getaway Special. It's a fun little novel about a scientist sharing his blueprints for a hyperdrive on the internet, enabling anyone with a septic tank, oxygen, and some electrical knowhow to chill out on an alien planet for the weekend.

We are living in interesting times.

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The Glory of Ra: NASA Releases Ultra-HD Video of the Sun

A number of ancient cultures worshipped the mysterious light-giving globe in their sky as a deity, but over time as science has revealed the true nature of our Sun our reverence has been replaced with ambivalence. But staring at this new video released by NASA, of the Sun in 4K ultra-HD, might be enough to make us religious again. Taking in its size, the energy it is releasing, and how its presence sustains all life on Earth, one can only marvel at this slowly rotating sentinel.

It’s always shining, always ablaze with light and energy. In the ubiquity of solar output, Earth swims in an endless tide of particles. Every time half of the Earth faces the Sun, we experience the brightness of daytime, the Sun’s energy and light driving weather, biology and more. But in space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video we experience images of the Sun in unprecedented detail captured by SDO. Presented in ultra-high definition video (4K) the video presents the nuclear fire of our life-giving star in intimate detail, offering new perspective into our own relationships with grand forces of the solar system.

Full screen or GTFO.

News Briefs 4-11-2015

Transitory madness

Quote of the Day:

No single thing abides; and all things are fucked up

Philip K. Dick