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

Evidence Mounts For A Real-Life Multiverse


"Are we alone?"

Quite possibly the biggest question posed by eusocial primates. The need to know encouraged our forebears to climb down from the treetops. To brave the savannahs in hopes of sighting distant forests, or making meaningful contact with other clever apes. Over the millennia humans crossed oceans to new lands in hopes of deepening their gene pool, or their pockets. Unlike Alexander the Great, we do not weep when we see the breadth of our domain, knowing there are no more worlds to conquer. Instead we turn our gaze to the stars in hopes of expanding our real estate portfolio, and perk our ears heavenward to eavesdrop on aliens.

More esoterically, cosmologists and mathematicians propose the existence of parallel universes. If it happens we are the sole inhabitants in this dimension, maybe one day we can ping nearby branes of other universes, and hear what our parallel peers have to say about the human condition. The math seems to bear out the many-worlds interpretation, but where's the evidence?

Back in 2010, Stephen Feeney and pals performed the first observational tests of eternal inflation. They combed WMAP's 7-year survey of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) for evidence of cosmic collisions. Their theory predicts our universe exists inside a single bubble within an expanding multiverse. Other universes exist within their own bubbles, sometimes 'bruising' ours. Bringing us to Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan detecting concentric circles in the CMB. These patterns could be indicative of a cyclical universe, with each incarnation ending with a big bang. The subsequent universe contains each of the previous universes, presenting a cosmological model akin to a Matryoshka doll. Feeney did note with the volume of data from WMAP, "[I]t is rather easy to find all sorts of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB."

More observations would be needed to support these theories. WMAP's successor, the Planck observatory, was up to the task. More sensitive than its predecessor, Planck left behind reams of data after its decomissioning in 2013. Ranga-Ram Chary took it upon himself to renew the search. His Spectral Variations of the Sky: Constraints on Alternate Universes describes bright anomalies in the CMB, possibly from our universe bumping into others. Chary's method was to subtract the CMB, dust, gas, and stars from Planck's data which should've left nothing but random noise. At the frequency of 143 GHz he found some parts of the sky were significantly brighter than others, proposing they're evidence of those bumps. With such outlandish claims, there's a high burden of proof to support them. Chary proposes two explanations outside of alternate universes. He suggests the bright spots may be carbon monoxide in the foreground interstellar medium (ISM) from stellar nurseries. Something similar happened with BICEP2's data when scientists crowed about last year's detection of gravity waves. Instead, those waves turned up being dust in the ISM. Ranga-Ram goes on to say carbon monoxide in the ISM is highly unlikely, since the lines aren't as strong as they ought to be. Therefore a multiverse is a distinct possibility. At least 'til NASA's Primordial Inflation Explorer, or PIXIE, launches in 2016 to disprove these theories.

Bringing us back to Feeney's eternal inflation model. Once inflation starts it doesn't stop, producing smaller pocket universes within the multiverse. Most of these bubbles would have their own physics and composition, some tearing themselves apart in the blink of an eye. Others would be more or less indistinguishable from our own. Some, like Edward Harrison and John Gribbin, posit this is evidence of why our universe is so stable.

[Harrison] says that there are three possible answers. First, that God designed it, though he argues that this answer precludes further rational inquiry. Second, the anthropic principle, but he finds this unsatisfactory. His third answer is that our Universe was created by life of superior intelligence existing in another physical universe. How does he arrive at that conclusion? First, he picks up on the above suggestions of black holes as the birthplaces of new universes. Second, he argues that due to the rapid evolution of intelligence (which we currently see in humanity) there is every reason to expect that a time will come when we will be able to design and create our own universes. Thus, the fine tuning of this Universe is to be explained as an engineering project of superior beings. They have created this Universe out of a black hole. He calls it a 'natural creation theory', and claims that it also explains why the Universe is intelligible to us. It is created by minds similar to our own, who designed it to be that way. cite

What if all those brief-lived universes are failed experiments? The product of graduate students pursuing their masters or doctorates, conjuring up each universe like a game of SimCity just to see what works. Or beings from another universe planning the ultimate exit strategy, abandoning their universe for another. Take Marvel's Galactus. Formerly known as Galan of Taa, his universe collapsed on itself. In the ensuing big bang, he was reborn as Galactus: Devourer of Worlds. In Stephen Baxter's novel Ring, an alien race called the Xeelee hopes to escape the heat death of the universe via the Great Attractor. It's the ultimate big dumb object, created by the Xeelee using cosmic strings as an escape hatch to other universes where physical laws aren't so familiar.

The possibilities are, literally, endless.

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Imaginalus: The Imaginal Realm and Idea Emporium


Researcher of esoterica, Forteana and all the Damned subjects in between, Blair MacKenzie Blake - who has amazingly contributed an article to *every* Darklore release so far! - sends word of a new website where he will be posting articles on a variety of topics (no doubt, mostly from the shadow areas of history and knowledge) as well as creating some occult-flavoured merchandise for fellow travellers on the roads of the strange: "Imaginalus: The Imaginal Realm and Idea Emporium". Blair notes that...

For the launch, I have posted "THE CURIOUS DIARY ENTRIES OF VERITY PENNINGTON", which reads a bit like a short story, and concerns the possible connection between the colonial farmer-astronomer Benjamin Banneker and a secret of Egyptian Freemasonry? I am also offering a deal of including for FREE a parchment copy of a SIGNED unpublished 'homage' to Crowley prose-poem entitled "IDEALITY IN A BEAST'S TEACUP" with the purchase of both "Crowley Collection" tee shirts.

BMB's writings are worth paying close attention to - a superficial reading may leave many of the gems within uncovered. 'For those with eyes to see' indeed!

Link: Imaginalus: The Imaginal Realm and Idea Emporium

News Briefs 03-11-2015

The Daily Grail: always here to unveil the mysteries of your childhood...

Quote of the Day:

Live long and prosper.


Alan Moore and John Higgs Discuss the 20th Century

Our good friend John Higgs - author of the acclaimed recent book Stranger Than We Can Imagine - recently chatted with comics maestro Alan Moore (who has also recently released a new, acclaimed comic series, Providence) about a shared interest - the 'hidden threads of history' that helped form the cloth of the 20th century, and in particular the influence of science fiction and horror on modern western culture. The 23 (ahem!) minute long video is embedded above for your enjoyment.

The discussion ranges from Lovecraft to George Lucas, but also finishes with Moore reiterating a point he's made before - that somehow, fictional (or 'imaginal') elements have a habit of bleeding across into reality:

I believe that the membrane between fiction and fact is porous and semi-permeable, and I have become used to my most ridiculous ideas - whether that be coming up with V for Vendetta and then suddenly seeing a load of Guy Fawkes mask anarchists invading the world stage...or having come up with the idea related to my film project Jimmy's End of having a sinister clown manifesting in various locations around Northampton, and returning from holiday and finding that a sinister clown had manifested in Northampton, at the end of my street, about a hundred yards from my front door. You start to get the impression that sometimes things can kind of percolate through from the realm of ideas into the realm of actuality.

Moore has also, of course, previously mentioned bumping into another of his characters, John Constantine.

Two gentlemen with fascinating insights into the the making of modern culture - recommended viewing!