Archive for the 'Ralph Buttigieg' Category

Lost Civilization of the Amazon

courtesy Washington Post
Was there an advanced civilization in the Amazon? Evidence seems to be mounting there was.:
But scientists now believe that instead of stone-age tribes, like the groups that occasionally emerge from the forest today, the Indians who inhabited the Amazon centuries ago numbered as many as 20 million, far more people than live here today.

“There is a gigantic footprint in the forest,” said Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo, 49, a Colombian-born professor at the University of Florida who is working this swath in northeast Peru.

Stooping over a man-made Indian mound on a recent day, he picked up shards of ceramics and dark, nutrient-rich earth made fertile hundreds of years ago by human hands. “All you can see is an artifact of the past,” he said. “It’s a product of human actions,” he said.

The evidence is not just here outside tiny San Martin de Samiria, an indigenous hamlet hours by speed boat from the jungle city of Iquitos. It is found across Amazonia. 

It looks like Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was on to something.

The making of 2001: Space Odyssey

An Orion III, Pan Am's first Space Clipper, fe...Image via Wikipedia

One of the greatest science fiction movies of all time was 2001: Space Odyssey. The man in charge of the special effects, Douglas Trumbull, is producing a documentary on the making of the movie. See the trailer after the jump. Mr Trumbull’s website is here.

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The Danger of Space Radiation

How to deal with space radiation is one of the unsolved problems of human spaceflight. Which is one reason it would properly be better to put Mars on the back burner for the moment. Here’s a NASA video explaining the problem.

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Life in a Space Colony

What would life be like in an orbiting Space Colony? Maybe something like this:

Although no one is going to build anything that large in LEO, atmospheric friction would bring it crashing down to Earth.

Heres another vision:

Lost technology of the Ancients: Antibiotic Beer

A mug of golden beer with a white froth; again...Image via WikipediaHere’s a fascinating story. Apparently the ancient civilization of the Sudan had at least one technological advancement we don’t, antibiotic beer.

Chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Sudanese Nubians who lived nearly 2000 years ago shows they were ingesting the antibiotic tetracycline on a regular basis, likely from a special The find is the strongest yet that antibiotics were previously discovered by humans before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

“I’m going to ask Alexander Fleming to hand back his Nobel Prize,” joked chemist Mark Nelson, who works on developing new tetracyclines at Paratek Pharmaceuticals and is lead author of the paper published June in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Nelson found large amounts of tetracycline in the bones tested from the ancient population, which lived in the Nubian kingdom (present day Sudan) between 250 A.D. and 550 A.D. and left no written record.

“The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” Nelson said in a press release August 30. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”
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Red Rain – Alien life?

Alex has posted on Panspermia , the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, and planetoids, previously, but finding real evidence has been difficult. In 2001 there was the mysterious “Red Rain” was it alien life? The There has been some interesting research:

Today Louis, Wickramasinghe and others publish some extraordinary claims about these red cells. They say that the cells clearly reproduce at a temperature of 121 degrees C. “Under these conditions daughter cells appear within the original mother cells and the number of cells in the samples increases with length of exposure to 121 degrees C,” they say. By contrast, the cells are inert at room temperature.

That makes them highly unusual, to say the least. The spores of some extremophiles can survive these kinds of temperatures and then reproduce at lower temperatures but nothing behaves like this at these temperatures, as far as we know.
This is an extraordinary claim that will need to be independently verified before it will be more broadly accepted. ;

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Mission to an Asteroid

I have previously discussed the need for planetary defense and the required ability to send astronauts  beyond Earth orbit. So how far off are we from being able to send people to the near Earth  asteroids? Well, Lockheed Martin  have just release a study of such a mission. They looked at a minimal two person mission using two Orion spacecrafts. From the executive summary:

In the last decade, the search for hazardous asteroids which might impact Earth has yielded an unexpected benefit. Astronomers have discovered a few dozen very small asteroids whose  orbits around the Sun are similar to Earth’s. Round trip missions to these asteroids are therefore much easier than to previously known Near Earth Asteroids, and roughly as easy as landing on the Moon. These asteroids represent a new potential destination for near-term human space exploration. Since favorable mission opportunities occur only a few times per decade, it probably would not be prudent to focus the human spaceflight program exclusively on asteroid exploration and develop new spacecraft customized for asteroid missions. Instead, asteroid exploration should be conducted in parallel with other missions such as Lagrange point visits or lunar landings, using common spacecraft designed for multiple types of missions. The authors have investigated the feasibility of conducting an asteroid mission that would complement NASA’s lunar exploration architecture, using the launch vehicles and Orion spacecraft which would be used for lunar exploration. The proposed mission concept, called Plymouth Rock, combines a pair of Orion spacecraft with only modest modifications to provide the necessary propulsion, living space, and life support capability for two astronauts. Human asteroid missions have many of the same functional requirements as lunar landings, so that complementary asteroid and lunar missions may be feasible even if the lunar exploration architecture changes from the current plan.
We have concluded that the dual-Orion configuration can probably support deep space mission durations of five to six months. Longer missions are constrained by radiation exposure, volumetric packaging limits for life support consumables, and the small habitable volume available. There are at least three opportunities between 2015 and 2030 when such a mission could be performed. These occur in 2019-2020, 2028, and 2029. All of the asteroids in question are small, between 5 m and 50 m in diameter. The number of opportunities is increasing as more asteroids are discovered. A dual-Orion configuration probably represents the minimum
capability necessary to perform an asteroid mission. Several additional mission opportunities to larger asteroids would be feasible for an upgraded spacecraft with a larger propulsion system. Desire for enhanced capabilities, such as a larger crew size and improved extravehicular activity (EVA) support may drive the need for a larger spacecraft. One of the two Orion spacecraft could be modified into an Orion Deep Space Vehicle with a larger habitat module suited for deep space operations rather than reentry.
By sending astronauts to explore these asteroids and bring back samples for study on Earth, we can learn about the formation and evolution of our solar system. We can improve our understanding of the threat to our planet from asteroid impacts, develop the practical knowledge needed to protect ourselves if necessary and even test this capability. We could also assess the feasibility of harnessing asteroid resources for a growing human civilization. If performed prior to the next lunar landing, a mission like Plymouth Rock can support lunar exploration plans by proving out the launch vehicles, spacecraft, and many of the operations for a lunar mission before the lunar lander is ready, much as the Apollo 8 mission did in 1968. A mission to an asteroid would also be valuable practice for a trip to Mars. Progressively more challenging asteroid missions provide an opportunity to incrementally develop expertise needed for long missions in deep space, without the leap in cost, complexity, duration, distance, and radiation exposure required for a Mars mission.

Of course theres a bit of a problem with all this, the Orion spacecraft does not exist and is no longer supported by the Obama administration.;
Note: Trent Waddington blogs regularly on asteroid missions and is worth following.