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greek technology rebuilt

2:43 min.s

Interesting short film.

“One of Archimedes's creations was saved, though. The general took back to Rome a mechanical bronze sphere that showed the motions of the sun, moon and planets as seen from Earth.”

“Now, however, research on the battered remains of a mysterious ancient device suggests that Cicero was telling the truth. While the Antikythera mechanism is not the same one seen by Cicero - it was not made until a century later - it proves that clockwork mechanisms like the one he described really did exist, and that ancient Greek technology was far more advanced than thought. Freshly deciphered inscriptions on its dials also hint at the origins of this technology.”


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will socialists now demand homo sapiens invaders leave europe?

“Last week in Nature, scientists reported major progress in sequencing the genome of woolly mammoths. They reconstructed it from two fossilized hair samples. One was 20,000 years old; the other was 65,000 years old. Now, according to Nicholas Wade of the New York Times, biologists are discussing "how to modify the DNA in an elephant's egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother.”

“… But that's not the half of it. …

“The full genome of the Neanderthal, an ancient human species probably driven to extinction by the first modern humans that entered Europe some 45,000 years ago, is expected to be recovered shortly. If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals.”


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pilotless sun-powered spy 'plane close to continuous flight

Zephyr solar plane. Image: Qinetiq
Zephyr solar plane. Image: Qinetiq

These pilotless, solar-powered aeroplanes are much cheaper than spy satellites. Unlike satellites, these vehicles can remain aloft, hovering over the same area for as long as is required. Spy satellites move on regular orbits, having regular times of passing. Thus, the observer must wait to take snapshots when the satellite is in an appropriate position. Further, serious naughty people will be well aware of the timings of spy satelllite orbits.

Spy satellites are usually in orbits that range from 100 to 500 miles above the Earth, while solar-powered ’planes only fly at 60,000 feet or about 12 miles height. At such heights, Zephyr can fly far above most terrestial weather and above the commercial air-lanes. Obviously, normally the closer the spy equipment is to the target the better. Doubtless, the heavier drones being planned are likely to have in mind other payloads than cameras.

“The engineers from the Farnborough-based company are now collaborating with the American aerospace giant Boeing on a defence project codenamed Vulture.

“This would see the biggest plane in history take to the sky, powered by the sun and capable of carrying a 450-kilo (1,000lb) payload.

“US commanders say the design must be able to maintain its position over a particular spot on the Earth's surface uninterrupted for five years.”

  • Lightweight plane (30-34kg/70lb) launched by hand
  • Coms or surveillance payload of about 2kg (4.5lb)
  • Flies autonomously and can climb to more than 18km (60,000ft)
  • By day, Zephyr flies on solar power and recharges its batteries
  • Advanced amorphous silicon solar arrays supplied by Unisolar
  • Rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries supplied by Sion Corp

Zephyr solar plane at altitude. Image: Qinetiq.
Zephyr solar plane at altitude. Image: Qinetiq

Buy a big umbrella as the transparent society rapidly advances

[Note, Zephyr is developed by UK defence firm Qinetiq.]

related material
photovoltaics (solar cells)
Fuel cells and battery-powered vehicles


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radiation from granite counter tops

“The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day. In Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are expected to be higher because the gas usually seeps into homes from decaying uranium underground, the readings were 6 picocuries per liter.”

“Research scientists at Rice University in Houston and at the New York State Department of Health are currently conducting studies of granite widely used in kitchen counters. William J. Llope, a professor of physics at Rice, said his preliminary results show that of the 55 samples he has collected from nearby fabricators and wholesalers, all of which emit radiation at higher-than-background levels, a handful have tested at levels 100 times or more above background.”

related material
nuclear power - is nuclear power really really dangerous?
the nuclear energy option

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quick as a flash

This is techologically revelant.

“Researchers have found a way to generate the shortest-ever flash of light – 80 attoseconds (billionths of a billionth of a second) long.

“Such flashes have already been used to capture an image of a laser pulse too short to be "photographed" before.”

“Jonathan Marangos at Imperial College London, UK, says the super-short flashes could let researchers image the movement of electrons around large atoms.

“ "Any better understanding of the microscopic world is going to have an impact across all of science," he says.”

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the cloak of silence - diverting sound waves

Acoustic cloak. Credit: Institute of Physics“[...] metamaterials, materials defined by their unusual man-made cellular structure, can be designed to produce an acoustic cloak -- a cloak that can make objects impervious to sound waves, literally diverting sound waves around an object.”

“To realise the cloak physically, the Spanish research team calculated how metamaterials constructed with sonic crystals, solid cylinders in a periodic array that can scatter sound waves, could be used in a multilayered structure to divert sound completely around an object.

“The researchers performed multiple simulations to test their theory. They investigated the optimum number of layers required to completely divert sound and how thin the materials could be made to maintain their use but also ensure that they are easy to implement.

“Results were very encouraging, showing that optimum cloaking requires approximately 200 layers of the metamaterial but that there is scope for much thinner materials to be used than technology can currently produce.”

“One of the first uses of the material is likely to be warships, hoping to avoid sonar radars which pick up on the noise that ships emit, but if developments continue apace it could be used in concert halls to direct noise away from problem spots or even as a way to deal with noisy neighbours. ”

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phoenix, first mars scout, lands on mars

NASA's Pheonix probe lands on Mars. Artist's rendition: Corby Waste  
NASA's Pheonix probe lands on Mars. Artist's rendition: Corby Waste
Taken by Phoenix, soon after the lander touched down. False colour image: NASA
Taken by Phoenix, soon after the lander touched down. False colour image: NASA

“Launched [on 4th] August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission is the first in NASA's Scout Program. Phoenix is designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil.”

“The science team will co-locate for the first three months of the mission, to operate all the instruments and to perform the first analysis on data that may provide important answers to the following questions: (1) can the Martian arctic support life, (2) what is the history of water at the landing site, and (3) how is the Martian climate affected by polar dynamics?

“To answer these questions, Phoenix uses some of the most sophisticated and advanced technology ever sent to Mars. A robust robotic arm built by JPL digs through the soil to the water ice layer underneath, and delivers soil and ice samples to the mission's experiments.”

Other equipment includes

  • miniature ovens and a mass spectrometer will provide chemical analysis of trace matter
  • a chemistry lab-in-a-box will characterize the soil and ice chemistry
  • imaging systems will provide an unprecedented view of Mars—spanning 12 powers of 10 in scale
  • a meteorological station

As well as the USA, equipment contributors are Switzerland, Germany and Canada.

NASA animation video of this mission available from this page.

some interesting facts

  • size: 18 feet (5.5 meters) long with the solar panels deployed
  • science deck alone: roughly 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter
  • height: roughly 7 feet (2.2 meters) tall
  • weight: 772 pounds (350 kg)
  • science payload: 59 kilograms (130 pounds)
  • measurement system: standardised to be metric
  • parachute: 39 ft (12 meters) in diameter
  • fuel: mono-propellant hyrdazine system, that is decomposed in catalyst chamber into exothermically into hydrogen, nitrogen and ammonia, which is then fed to thrusters by pressure
  • distance travelled from the Earth to Mars: about 423 million miles, and increasing. The distance of Mars to Earth can vary from about 32 million miles to 260 million miles. Launches are organised to minimise the travel distance.
  • Earth-Mars distance on 4 Aug., 2007: 121 million miles (195 million kilometers)
  • Earth-Mars distance on 25 May, 2008: 171 million miles (276 million kilometers)
  • signal travel time: currently over 15 minutes between Mars and Earth.
  • journey time: 9 months, 22 days
  • travelling speed: average speed roughly 60,000 mph (97,000 km/h)

Phoenix landing on Mars, taken by camera on Mars Orbiter. Image: NASA
Phoenix landing on Mars, taken by camera on Mars Orbiter. Image: NASA

related material
space robots - international space station
Cité de l'espace - Space city
Mars rovers
NASA—sopping wet mars
and what of the first recent NASA rover, Spirit?
Martian rover car-wash
dust devils clean Mars rover? illustration included
more Mars

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another step to understanding antarctica

This news item has been considerably extended and incorporated into the gathering data to test global warming - briefing document. The section now includes a useful commentary on temperature measurement and statistics.

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the recovery of the archimedes palimpsest [1]
page 2 page 3

“The Walters [Art Museum] faced a daunting task: what arrived was a clump of folios, crushed, torn, punctured by worm holes, in the inflexible grip of old carpenter's glue, charred at its edges, and covered with mold and water stains.”

“Archimedes was a lonely genius with few contemporaries who understood his ideas. In his letters, Noel finds "a faint note of exasperation. There was no one to write to, no reader good enough." They were yet to be born: "Archimedes would eventually be read by Omar Khayyam, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Newton. He must have known he was writing for posterity." ”

end note

  1. palimpsest
    A palimpsest is a twice-used book. In medieval times, vellum, on which texts were written, was very expensive. Thus, old, discarded texts were scraped off the vellum, which was then used as the support for another text. The new text was often written at right angles to the first text.
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old trees

“Carbon dating of the trees carried out at a laboratory in Miami, Florida, showed the oldest of them first set root about 8,000 years ago, making it the world's oldest known living tree, Umea University Professor Leif Kullman said.”

“Although a single tree trunk can become at most about 600 years old, the spruces had survived by pushing out another trunk as soon as the old one died, Professor Kullman said.”

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