Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pyramid Demolished in Belize

"In this image released by Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology on Monday May 13, 2013, a backhoe claws away at the sloping sides of the Nohmul complex, one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids on May 10, 2013 in northern Belize. A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday. (AP Photo/Jaime Awe)" Image Source: J. Awe via Yahoo.

From Yahoo News, there is a report that a construction company in Belize has destroyed a Mayan pyramid for road fill:
BELIZE CITY (AP) — A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday.

The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial center dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.

"It's a feeling of Incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity ... they were using this for road fill," Awe said. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."

Nohmul sat in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 100 feet tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well-known and the landscape there is naturally flat.

"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness", Awe said.

Photos from the scene showed backhoes clawing away at the pyramid's sloping sides, leaving an isolated core of limestone cobbles at the center, with what appears to be a narrow Mayan chamber dangling above one clawed-out section.

"Just to realize that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines," said Awe. "To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."

Belizean police said they are conducting an investigation and criminal charges are possible. The Nohmul complex sits on private land, but Belizean law says that any pre-Hispanic ruins are under government protection.

The Belize community-action group Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action called the destruction of the archaeological site "an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history."

It is not the first time it's happened in Belize, a country of about 350,000 people that is largely covered in jungle and dotted with hundreds of Mayan ruin sites, though few as large as Nohmul.

Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked in Belizean research projects in the 1980s, wrote in an email that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan center has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet."

"In this image released by Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology on Monday May 13, 2013, a looks at the damaged sloping sides of the Nohmul complex, one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids on May 10, 2013 in northern Belize. A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with backhoes and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities announced on Monday. (AP Photo/Jaime Awe)" Image Source: J. Awe via Yahoo.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cave Houses: Bridges between Pre-History and the Present

Continuity with the distant past is alive and well in many cave dwellings around the world. I09 has just published a piece on cave houses, some of which have been continuously inhabited for between 2,000 and 9,000 years! They also included the cave houses in the UK which inspired J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit holes. All of these examples show how different societies carved their civilizations right out of the environment, while living in harmony with it. They also in the most graphic and clearest possible way show the origins of architecture, masonry, and brick-built houses. See more photos, including similar sites in Asia, in the i09 article.

Above: Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey: "This hotel is a combination of six cave houses with a total of 39 rooms from the 5th and 6th centuries and a 200-year-old Greek mansion," via Yunak Evleri Press Room.

Above: Cave homes and a chapel in Louresse-Rochemenier, France: via Wikimedia Commons/Pymouss44, Tango7174 and GaMip.

Above: Sassi di Matera, Matera, Italy: "These houses were dug into the rock itself, and it's the only place in the world where people have been continuously inhabiting the sames houses for the last 9,000 years," via  Tango7174.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Plasma Device Could Change Energy Futures

Image Source: redOrbit.

Imagine holding a little sun in the palm of your hand. Plasma, the fourth state of matter, has been harnessed at the University of Missouri, which could revolutionize the generation and storage of energy:
Scientists at the University of Missouri have devised a new way to create and control plasma that could transform American energy generation and storage.

Randy Curry, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, and his team developed a device that launches a ring of plasma at distances of up to two feet. Although the plasma reaches a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun, it doesn’t emit radiation and is completely safe in proximity to humans.

While most of us are familiar with three states of matter – liquid, gas and solid – there is also a fourth state known as plasma, which includes things such as fire and lightning. Life on Earth depends on the energy emitted by plasma produced during fusion reactions within the sun.

The secret to Curry’s success was developing a way to make plasma form its own self-magnetic field, which holds it together as it travels through the air. “Launching plasma in open air is the ‘Holy Grail’ in the field of physics,” said Curry.

“Creating plasma in a vacuum tube surrounded by powerful electromagnets is no big deal; dozens of labs can do that. Our innovation allows the plasma to hold itself together while it travels through regular air without any need for containment.”

The plasma device could also be enlarged to handle much larger amounts of energy, he said.

For the current work, Curry and his team used older technologies to build their prototype of a plasma-generating machine. But a considerably smaller device using newer, miniaturized parts could also be built within three to five years with sufficient funding, Curry said.
See a video about the discovery below the jump.

Future Family Transport

Synergy Illustration:  Nick Kaloterakis. Images Source: PopSci.

PopSci reports on the 2013 Invention Awards; one of the winners was the Family Flier, a family-sized aircraft that will be mainly autopiloted by computer. One commenter on the article complained that the McGinnis plane resembles Charles Ligeti's Stratos, a similar small Australian craft (see here); nevertheless, this looks like an interesting American design:
John McGinnis
Synergy Aircraft
John McGinnis thinks ordinary families would rather skip the airport and fly themselves. So he is trying to reinvent the personal airplane with the help of his father, son, and a rotating crew of about two dozen volunteers. Unlike small aircraft today—which can cost more than a house—McGinnis says Synergy could be cheaper, quieter, and, at more than 40 mpg, three times as fuel-efficient.

McGinnis, a 47-year-old composite manufacturer, flew his first airplane in second grade. Perplexed by the inefficiencies of personal aircraft, he taught himself aeronautical engineering and fluid dynamics over two decades. One day, while perusing scientific studies at a desk in his daughters’ bedroom, he read a NASA researcher’s paper challenging a classic aerodynamic drag equation. McGinnis could see the possibilities. “I came out of the girls’ bedroom ranting like a madman to my wife,” he says. “‘Honey, you’re never going to believe this. I think I just solved a problem I’ve been working on since I was a little kid.’”

Synergy’s wings bend upward and into a box shape for minimum drag and maximum efficiency. The top half of each wing swoops behind the body to function as a tail while providing greater in-flight stability. The double-box tail design also makes gliding easier by counteracting tornado-like vortices at the wings’ tips. And instead of a front-mounted propeller, an impeller placed behind the bullet-shaped body quiets noise while adding thrust.

1) A 200hp turbodiesel engine expels heat below the impeller, adding thrust.
2) Large wings allow slower takeoffs and landings.
3) Box tails create airflow patterns that reduce drag and increase flight stability.
4) An autopilot computer can land Synergy at a nearby runway during an emergency; a ballistic parachute can also be deployed.

McGinnis works on Synergy in his father’s garage, where he uses CNC machines and custom molds to fabricate components and 3-D software to rapidly model new ideas. Family members serve among the core build crew, with McGinnis’s son, Kyle, second-in-command. A quarter-scale prototype made from fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar suggests that both the team’s manufacturing process and unusual wing configuration work. Using about $80,000 in crowdfunded cash, they hope to finish a full-scale, five-person aircraft this year. “I work on it 90 hours a week, with a few hours of sleep,” McGinnis says. “What drives me to do it is that no one else will.”

Scale Models: The McGinnis family—Pat, John, and Kyle—and pilot John Paul Noyes [front to back] stand in their Kalispell, Montana, workshop.  Photo by Kali McGinnis.

One commenter on the PopSci article remarks that there are non-technological reasons why we do not all have small personal aircraft or flying cars:
[T]he flying car isn't new. There have been many models of flying car and many developers of them. Why, you ask, haven't big companies like Boieng or Lockheed taken up the easy challenge? Because there is no way that your government is going to allow a flying population right now. The system is setup to charge you tax for roads and has spent a great deal of money on traffic lights. They also like to know that you can't just pile in your aircraft and fly to Cuba, Mexico or Canada. If the flying car materialized today, with full ability to hover without propellars, and was completely safe... they would never allow it. The biggest oponenets of this technology would be car companies as well. What happens to their normal car stock once the flying car is here? 100's of millions of four wheeled vehicles now useless.

To prepare for the flying car is nothing short of a transportation overhaul of FAA regulations and laws, state infrastructure on tracking flying vehicles, amd much, much more. Nothing in our lives is pointing to the fact that the government is going to allow us all to have personal flying aircraft or flying cars. Cops would all instantly have to switch to the same flying vehicles as well.

Flying car creators are going to be stuck in their garages, right where theyve been, for years to come. There is a reason that the big car companies and aeronatuics companies aren't developing personal flying vehicles, in spite of the fact that there is a TON of money in them from your average consumers. Deal with the poilitics people. At least acknowledge they exist. Fine line between naivety and paranoia but the laws behind flying, and airspace to fly in, are strictly governed right now and have no intention of making room for the flying car or cheap personal aircraft.

I will say that getting a cheap aircraft into the hands of the masses, will be key if it is ever to move in that direction. Licensing will be a force used to limit such personal aircraft growth, however
[- Commenter's typos left in in the quotation.]

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mauritia: Lost Continent beneath the Indian Ocean

Image Source: i09.

I09 reports that geologists have identified tiny bits of the lost continent of Mauritia, in a grain-by-grain analysis of the sand on Mauritius's beaches:
For ages now, Mauritia has been hiding. The small, precambrian continent once resided between Madagascar and India, before splitting off and disappearing beneath the ocean waves in a multi-million-year breakup spurred by tectonic rifts and a yawning sea-floor. But now, volcanic activity has driven remnants of the long-lost continent right through to the Earth's surface. After millions of years, and some incredible geologic sleuthing, it seems Mauritia has been found.

The news comes from a team of researchers led by University of Oslo geologist Bjørn Jamtveit. In the latest issue of Nature Geoscience Jamtveit and his colleagues present the result of a study that examined the beaches of Mauritius, a volcanic island off the coast of Madagascar ... . The lava sands of Mauritius are laced with very interesting particles called ... "zircon xenocrysts."

The vast majority of Mauritius's volcanic lava sands date to around 9 million years ago. But a grain-by-grain analysis revealed the sparsely distributed xenocrysts to be anywhere from 660 million to 1.97 billion years old. A strange find, to be sure, but Jamtveit and his colleagues have a compelling explanation for the anachronistic crystals.

The zircons, write the researchers, likely originated in fragments of ancient continental crust situated beneath Mauritius, and were in fact pushed up through to the planet's surface through volcanic activity. How far were they pushed? Geologist Trond Torsvik, first author on the paper, told the BBC he thinks pieces of long-lost Mauritia are likely situated 10km beneath the island and a chunk of the Indian Ocean. Analyses of Earth's gravitational field corroborate his claims, revealing several regions of the sea floor where the crust is significantly thicker than normal (around 30 kilometers thick, where it should be closer to 5 or 10). ... [A] 2-billion-year old zircon xenocryst on a beach covered in 9-million-year-old volcanic sands is a hell of a geological riddle, and right now, fragments of an ancient precambrian microcontinent, coaxed surfaceward particle-wise by volcanism, seem a rather compelling explanation. [Nature Geoscience via BBC]
 Image Source: i09 via BBC / T. Torsvik.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wonders of the Millennial World 6: Canadian Astronauts are Cool

Image Source: Healing Ana.

And now for a space first. Someone had to do it: half the world has probably seen Commander Chris Hadfield doing a cover of the 1969 hit Space Oddity by David Bowie on 12 May on the International Space Station. For those of you who haven't seen him, the video is below the jump. My earlier post on Peter Schilling's related 1983 hit, Major Tom is here.

Unlike David Bowie's famous fictional astronaut, Hadfield landed safely in his Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan on 14 May 2013; from the LA Times: "During his sojourn on the station, Hadfield effectively reset the bar for social media with his tweets from space, including the video he posted Sunday. He is the first Canadian to command the station, heading the six-man Expedition 35 crew."

The Problem with Memory 7: Space Museums

"The collection of images included on EchoStar XVI may be easier for any extraterrestrial intelligences to find than the plaques and records flown on the Pioneer and Voyager missions." Image Source: Creative Time via Space Review.

Space, the final archive. Some may remember this post on the Voyager spacecraft time capsules. A commercial communications satellite, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 20 November 2012, continued the tradition and carried a collection of photographs and images of artwork designed to outlast humanity. Objects in geosynchronous orbit (aka the Clarke Belt, named for writer Arthur C. Clarke) could stay in space for over four billion years; the new satellite's payload is meant to survive for this duration, to offer a potential time capsule for alien intelligences to discover.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 11: Ruins of Star Wars Movie Sets

Gen X photographer Ra di Martino tracked down the abandoned Star Wars sets near Tozeur, Tunisia using Google Earth, traveled there, and took a series of fascinating photos that show decades-old husks of Hollywood sci-fi orientalism. Taxi:
Eroded by 35 years of dust, sand and wind, these sites are known only by a few locals and are hardly ever visited by anyone—di Martino has managed to find them using pictures from Google Earth.

In addition to the set for Luke Skywalker’s home, the fictional Lars Homestead on Tatooine, the photographer has also located a number of other Star Wars sets, including the abandoned ruins of Mos Espa.

She has documented these sets for posterity with a couple of photographic projects—“No More Stars” and “Every World’s a Stage”.
From di Martino's site:
NO MORE STARS (Abandoned Movie Set, Star Wars) 33°59’42 N 7°51’00 E Chot El-Gharsa, Tunisia 01 September [2010]

This is a series of photographs taken in the abandoned movie sets of the film saga Star Wars, filmed through the years in different locations in the south of Tunisia. Unexpectedly those sets have been left on location, probably because in the middle of nowhere and because no-one from the local authorities complained and therefore after years some of it have now become ruins, almost as some sort strange archeological sites. The particular hot and dry climate has helped mantain intact many parts of the sets, or buried under the sand just sections of it. The sets visited are in four different locations.
All photos are © Ra di Martino. Images are from: PopSci, Taxi, and Ra di Martino's Website (here and here). See more below the jump.