Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yes Virginia, There is a Afterlife

It is fitting that on the last day and the last post of 2009, that this post is number 1400 for this blog.  I provide these thoughts to carry with you for the next year and perhaps the rest of your life.  If they inspire, then share them with your friends and tell them about this blog. Perhaps we may inspire a lively discussion.

This is one of the best first hand reports on contact with the afterlife that I have come across.  It also mirrors many others, but remarkably here there is a prior pattern of consideration and developing sensitivity so that when the key events occurred the author was open to observing them properly.  This is unique.

So I post this item to provide a tale of hope that the mythology surrounding the concept of the afterlife may have merit.  It is far better to cross over if you are not wracked with fear.

Yet also I post this item to extend my own investigations.  I have thought for some time that human progress in the sciences would reach the point in which it becomes possible to image the human mind in its totality.  It becomes even plausible that a whole human life might be recorded if thought useful.  It is at least a challenging research goal.

I have also suggested that it would be marvelously effective if we could link to memories directly across time via molecular based wormholes if such actually exist.  It allows our organic brain to link to the memory in time and place without creating a physical memory.  And since nature is notoriously efficient, if nature can do it then it is likely done this way.

We have also found excellent reasons to believe mankind has already done all this and then left Earth for space habitats while Earth itself was properly terraformed.  We, of course, are the mugs stuck with the dirty work.  It would make complete sense to transport personalities and full memories in and out of the available hosts and to operate in terms of an afterlife.  Of course we would not have that knowledge because we would quickly become difficult.

Of course my principal conjecture is unrelentingly scientific.  It is just that few understand how much scope that provides.  I can replicate Heaven and Earth, the human soul, and a media based afterlife and just about everything spun our way in the Judaic tradition which now appears to be reports passed down from the earliest resettlement efforts on Earth. Once we accept that the scientific agenda was accomplished once before by humanity, the rest falls into place and all become possible.

So I have given you a second source of hope.  We are not asked to believe in a mystery that is hooey but to understand that scientific inevitability may well achieve the same result and that possibly humanity has already completed the job and is preserving our souls while we do the dirty work of physically terraforming Earth.

A principal theme of this blog is to investigate methods of terraforming the Earth to achieve optimum living conditions.  A natural conclusion of the underlying conjectures is that Space based humanity is looking forward to been resettled on Earth.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after death

Jack Cashill

Posted: December 24, 2009
1:00 am Eastern

On an early morning last week, just 10 days before Christmas, as I lay in bed gathering my thoughts, I heard a loud crashing sound downstairs in my house.

No sound had preceded it, so I did not fear a break-in. But it was loud enough to wake my wife. "What was that?" she asked, alarmed. "I'll go check," I said dutifully.

In that no one else was home, I had figured that the Christmas tree had toppled over or a picture had fallen off a wall, but I could find nothing out of order.

With no place else to look, I checked the sparest and smallest room downstairs, the one where I kept my weights and a TV to watch while working out.

What I found there, especially on reflection, was evidence enough for me to come to a rather stupendous conclusion: yes, Virginia, there is indeed life after death.

To understand how and why I concluded thusly requires a little back-story. It begins with a family friend we will call "Anna," a sensible young wife and mother I have known forever.

After years of suppressing her gifts, and more years still of struggling to reconcile them with her deep Catholic faith, Anna has let a few people know what she believes herself capable of doing, namely – hang on here – communicating with the dead.

I have been historically agnostic about all things irrational and/or intangible like extraterrestrials or ESP or telekinesis or poltergeists or pro-life Democrats or people who self-combust in their living rooms.

Despite my doubts, Anna approached me because of my access to the media. There were missing person cases where she thought she could be helpful but, understandably, she had made little headway with skeptical authorities.

Curious, I asked her what she could tell me about Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, the title character of my book, "Ron Brown's Body."

The apolitical Anna had not heard of Brown but came back a day later with astonishingly accurate details about his life and death. Still wary, I figured, she could have pulled some of these details from my book, but not all.

For one, the death scenario she drew differed from the one I had depicted as most likely, but hers was nonetheless entirely plausible.

For another, the personal details she evoked went well beyond anything I knew. To check, I called Brown's confidante, Nolanda Butler Hill, and the precision of Anna's revelations took Nolanda's breath away.

Some time later Anna called me without prompting. She told me that my late father had visited her the night before. This was not an area I was eager to explore, but I chose to listen.

As Anna related, she had been awakened by a very loud rendition of the song "Sloop John B." She heard my father's voice filtered and coming from her left. This meant, she told me, "He did, in fact, shoot himself."

Anna laid out the details: my father been demoted from top grade detective to cop on the beat in a political purge by an incoming administration. "He hated the corruption around him," she told me.

This stuff happened in Newark, I explained. I was 15 years old at the time. Anna had yet to be born, but she was eerily accurate.

"It was not only a self-esteem thing," she told me. "His salary had been cut, too. It caused him to feel badly about himself."

Anna then proceeded to tell me the when, where, how and why of his death in detail beyond what my three siblings and I had ever shared or even knew.

After the conversation, I called my oldest brother, Bill. For about an hour, we parsed the lyrics of "Sloop John B."

"We come on the sloop john b/ My grandfather and me/ Around Nassau town we did roam." My father's grandfather was John D. Cashill, who had come of age in Princeton, N.J., "Old Nassau."

Beyond that, we were struck by the haunting repetition of the refrain, "I wanna go home." Anna had explained that as a result of the suicide my father remained in a purgatorial "healing place" and had yet to get home.

That much said, my brother and I laughingly conceded that we might have been reading more into it than a Beach Boys song could possibly bear. Still …

Shortly after this revelation, my brother, Bill, was diagnosed with a potentially fatal immune disorder.

Despite a valiant struggle and a bone marrow transplant, he died last month, two years after the diagnosis.

Bill was largely asymptomatic during those years, and I spent a good deal of time with him and his lovely and loving wife, Maybel.

Spiritually, and politically for that matter, Bill and I were on pretty much the same wavelength. He chose me to deliver the eulogy.

When Anna learned of Bill's death, she e-mailed me her regrets saying, "I am sure Bill will send you some sort of sign to let you know he is OK."

A day later Anna sent me another e-mail. Bill had come to her. Although she had never met him, her description of him and my mother and father with whom he had happily reunited was absolutely on target.

Bill's message, "There is nothing to fear. It really is that beautiful. It's truly amazing."

Although Bill did not tell me what to say, my eulogy mirrored the sermon preached that day and the Bible verses he chose.

"In the last third of his life Bill learned to appreciate his faith," I concluded. "There is no wisdom without it. This is something that he wanted you all to know and remember, especially his family."

In the final sentence I echoed Anna's comment, "And now that he has had firsthand experience with what happens next, he would want me to share with you one final thought: There is indeed life after death, and it is a beautiful and amazing thing."

Two weeks later, before going to bed, I reread these words. As much as I wanted to believe them, I still hoped for "some sort of sign" from my brother as Anna had predicted.

"Billy," I thought, "I have negative ESP, a brain encased in lead. I have never even won at the track. Make that sign obvious."

What I found that next morning seemed to be about as obvious as a sign could get: One of my two 25-pound barbells had somehow come off the radiator and fallen into an unwanted gift basket, breaking two cups and waking my wife.

Those barbells had nestled in the radiator's grooves without incident for the last 10 years. I had placed them there at least 1,000 times and not touched them in two days. Plus, they were about the only items distinctively mine in the whole house.

That night I had some friends over, and we tried without success to conceive of a physical explanation for the jumping barbell. We could find none.

My friends were spooked. Seeing had made them believers, in no small part because they knew an additional detail I have yet to share: That day was my birthday; the incident had taken place at my birth hour.

I e-mailed Anna and explained what happened. "Whaddya think," I asked.

"Is your question supposed to be rhetorical?" she joked. "A sign like that is hard to overlook and dismiss. Consider it a special birthday gift."

So I do. Thanks, Billy, and Merry Christmas!

Jack Cashill is an Emmy-award winning independent writer and producer with a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue. 

A Blue Moon On New Years Eve

We are been graced this year with a full moon on New Years Eve.  Take advantage of it and get outside.  Unless you have cloud cover, there will be a well lit countryside.

Otherwise enjoy this history of the idea of a blue moon.  It is a case of science having to invent a definition for a truly ambiguous nomenclature.  It is surprising how often that has happened.  It is a little bit of science acting like cooking.

Have a happy New Year celebration.

Blue Moon on New Year's Eve

Dec. 29, 2009: Party planners take note. For the first time in almost twenty years, there's going to be a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve.

"I remember the last time this happened," says professor Philip Hiscock of the Dept. of Folklore at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. "December 1990 ended with a Blue Moon, and many New Year's Eve parties were themed by the event. It was a lot of fun."

Don't expect the Moon to actually turn blue, though. "The 'Blue Moon' is a creature of folklore," he explains. "It's the second full Moon in a calendar month."

Most months have only one full Moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28- to 31-day length of calendar months. Indeed, the word "month" comes from "Moon." Occasionally, however, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full Moons squeeze into a single month. Dec. 2009 is such a month. The first full Moon appeared on Dec. 2nd; the second, a "Blue Moon," will come on Dec. 31st.

This definition of Blue Moon is relatively new.

If you told a person in Shakespeare's day that something happens "once in a Blue Moon" they would attach no astronomical meaning to the statement. Blue moon simply meant rare or absurd, like making a date for the Twelfth of Never. "But meaning is a slippery substance," says Hiscock. "The phrase 'Blue Moon' has been around for more than 400 years, and during that time its meaning has shifted."

The modern definition sprang up in the 1940s. In those days, the Farmer's Almanac of Maine offered a definition of Blue Moon so convoluted that even professional astronomers struggled to understand it. It involved factors such as the ecclesiastical dates of Easter and Lent, and the timing of seasons according to the dynamical mean sun. Aiming to explain blue moons to the layman, Sky & Telescope published an article in 1946 entitled "Once in a Blue Moon." The author James Hugh Pruett cited the 1937 Maine almanac and opined that the "second [full moon] in a month, so I interpret it, is called Blue Moon."

That was not correct, but at least it could be understood. And thus the modern Blue Moon was born.

Blue moon has other connotations, too. In music, it's often a symbol of melancholy. According to one Elvis tune, it means "without a love of my own." On the bright side, he croons in another song, a simple kiss can turn a Blue Moon pure gold.

The modern astronomical Blue Moon occurs in some month every 2.5 years, on average. A Blue Moon falling precisely on Dec. 31st, however, is much more unusual. The last time it happened was in 1990, and the next time won't be until 2028.

So cue up that old Elvis record and "enjoy the extra moonlight on New Year's Eve," says Hiscock. "It only happens once in a Blue Moon."

Warming Lakes

This information presents us with a conundrum of significance.  It begs questions and more data.  I have already noted that the surface of Lake Superior is also warmer.  Therefore we might make the conjecture that all lakes in the Northern Hemisphere have warmer surface water during the past two decades.

The obvious causation is increased solar radiation ably collected by surface waters.  Perhaps additional heat collected on land enters the drainage to super charge the lake itself.

This is also a good reminder of the heat capacity of water and its central role in managing the climate.

We know that the northern hemisphere is warmer the past two decades than previously.  We know that the Atlantic surface waters have strengthened at both ends.  The effect is been best expressed as warmer waters.

When we observe these effects it is difficult to discern the chain of cause and effect in a correct manner.  The first instinct is to assume the sun grew warmer somehow.  Yet if the heat absorption layer in water were to be altered in some manner (by velocity change) then its dwell time would be changed and temperature would change.  A change in algae populations should also impact temperatures.  So the observation of an increase in temperature reveals the limitations of our present modeling methods, if such even exist.

Once again the advice is to keep your powder dry and work on improving the models or even to create some.

NASA study: Lakes warming quickly

by Staff Writers

Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Dec 27, 2009 

New U.S. scientific findings suggest that climate change may be affecting aquatic environments faster and sooner than the atmosphere.

Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., came to conclusions after noticing that Lake Tahoe, Clear Lake and four other big lakes in Northern California and Nevada are heating up faster than the surrounding atmosphere, The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.

The newspaper said the researchers tapped satellite sensor temperature data compiled over 18 years in what is believed to be the first time that long-range lake surface temperatures have been dissected. What the data reportedly showed is that the lakes' water temperature rose two times faster, on average, than the regional air temperatures.

"It was a big surprise to see that," Philipp Schneider, the study's lead author and a post-doctoral research scientist at the NASA lab, told the Bee. "If it turns out they're actually changing faster than the air temperature, then there's a whole new phenomenon going on here. The lake ecosystems are going to be very much affected, especially because the trend we observed seems to be quite rapid."

GOCE Gravity Mapping Begins

This technology represents a major jump in resolution of the Earth’s gravity potential.  At present it is early days, but we can see from the illustrations the shape of things to come.  By next year we should have a map showing fine resolution for the whole earth.

I wonder if it is good enough to develop a sense of depth also as is possible with magnetic surveys.  Perhaps in time this will become possible.

High res gravity surveys have always been attractive to the mining industry because a number of valuable minerals typically increase ore density uniquely to surrounding rock.

Anyway, the process has begun and we should soon be looking at fresh 3D representations of sinking plates and hot spots.  Perhaps we will discover a number of buried hot spots.

Europe's Goce satellite probes Earth's gravity

By Jonathan Amos 
Science correspondent, BBC News

A first glimpse at the data coming down from Europe's Goce satellite

Europe's Goce satellite is returning remarkable new data on the way the pull of gravity varies across the Earth.

Scientists say its first maps clearly show details not seen in previous space and ground measurements.

Goce was launched by the European Space Agency (Esa) in March from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in north-west Russia.

Its information is expected to bring new insights into how the oceans move, and to frame a universal system to measure height anywhere on the planet.

Researchers who study geological processes, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, will also make use of the data.

The first maps built from Goce observations were presented at the American Geophysical Union's (AGU) recent Fall Meeting, the world's largest annual gathering of Earth scientists.

More or less

Although they represent just 47 days of operation following the start of the satellite's science campaign on 30 September, the maps prove Goce is attaining an exceptional level of performance.

"There is a tremendous amount of geophysics in these plots," explained Rune Floberghagen, Esa's Goce mission manager.

"You see where there are big variations, for example in the mountain range of the Andes, or the Mariana Trench, or the Indonesian Arc, or the Himalayas. In fact, on most of the continents, you see a lot of variation," he told BBC News.

The maps reproduced on this page illustrate "gravity gradients".

The red colours indicate a positive variation in gravity moving from one place to another - i.e. places where Earth's tug becomes greater.

The blue colours indicate a negative variation in gravity - places where Earth's tug is a little less.

Simply put, if you were to take some bathroom scales to these locations you would weigh fractionally more in red places and weigh less in blue ones.

Compared to existing models, it is clear Goce has something new to offer

Most people are taught at school that the acceleration due to gravity at the Earth's surface - known as g - is about 9.8m per second squared. But, in truth, this figure varies around the planet depending on the nature of the material underfoot.

The planet is far from a smooth sphere; the radius of the globe at the equator is about 20km longer than at the poles.

This ellipsoid is then marked by tall mountain ranges and cut by deep ocean trenches.
The Earth's interior layers are also not composed of perfect shells of homogenous rock - some regions are thicker or denser.

Such factors will cause g to deviate from place to place by very small but significant amounts.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (Goce) maps these differences with a state-of-the-art gradiometer produced by the French Onera company.

The instrument is sensitive to accelerations of about one-tenth of a millionth of a millionth of g.

And the gradiometer measures these accelerations across all three axes of the spacecraft to obtain a multi-dimensional view of the Earth's gravity field.

"These are by far the smallest accelerations ever measured from orbit," said Dr Floberghagen.

Ocean shape

The first maps not only record the three components but also compare their signals to the best available gravity field models assembled from existing space- and ground-acquired data-sets.

Again, in this challenge to the existing models the Goce gradients appear most pronounced in high latitude and continental regions. The gradients seem less marked over the oceans where a lot of gravity field information has already been determined by spacecraft that measure sea-surface topography.

The Goce team stresses that its data is not yet fully homogenous; some areas of the Earth are currently covered better than others. This is evident in the diagonal stripes that can be seen in a number of the maps. The scientists say that some work also remains to be done in understanding how best to process the data.

Nonetheless, it is hoped that sufficient high-quality information will have been gathered in the opening months of the science campaign to construct.

what geophysicists call a geoid.

This is a special type of Earth model which traces its idealised "horizontal" surface - the plane on which, at any point, the pull of gravity is perpendicular to it. If you could put a ball on this hypothetical surface, it would not roll - even though it appears to have slopes.
The geoid is of paramount interest to oceanographers who study the causes of the "hills" and "valleys" on the sea surface.

If local gravity differences are not pulling water about to create these features, then other factors such as currents, winds and tides must be responsible

Extended mission

The mission team also announced at the AGU meeting that Goce is likely to keep flying far longer than anyone had envisaged at launch.

This increase in lifetime is a result of the unusually quiet behaviour of the Sun at the moment. In periods of reduced solar activity, the Earth's atmosphere is less extensive and this means satellites do not experience quite so much drag.

Even at its ultra-low altitude of just 254.9km, Goce requires little effort from its propulsion system to maintain a steady orbit and keep itself from falling out of the sky.

Esa had been expecting the satellite to stay aloft for about two years. Current solar conditions suggest Goce will still be orbiting and gathering science data in five years' time.

"The air drag that we have experienced on orbit after launching has been very different from what any model was able to predict pre-launch," said Dr Floberghagen.

"And that in turn means there is a lot of new science not only in the gravity field measurements but also in the measurements of the surface forces acting on the spacecraft.

"So we plan to generate another product from this mission which will serve modellers of the thermosphere, people who model the air density in the upper layers of the atmosphere."

1. Goce senses tiny variations in the pull of gravity over Earth
2. The data is used to construct an idealised surface, or geoid
3. It traces gravity of equal 'potential'; balls won't roll on its 'slopes'
4. It is the shape the oceans would take without winds and currents
5. So, comparing sea level and geoid data reveals ocean behaviour
6. Gravity changes can betray magma movements under volcanoes
7. A precise geoid underpins a universal height system for the world
8. Gravity data can also reveal how much mass is lost by ice sheets

1. The 1,100kg Goce is built from rigid materials and carries fixed solar wings. The gravity data must be clear of spacecraft 'noise'
2. Solar cells produce 1,300W and cover the Sun-facing side of Goce; the near side (as shown) radiates heat to keep it cool
3. The 5m-by-1m frame incorporates fins to stabilise the spacecraft as it flies through the residual air in the thermosphere
4. Goce's accelerometers measure accelerations that are as small as 1 part in 10,000,000,000,000 of the gravity experienced on Earth
5. The UK-built engine ejects xenon ions at velocities exceeding 40,000m/s; the engine throttles up and down to keep Goce at a steady altitude
6. S Band antenna: Data downloads to the Kiruna (Sweden) ground station. Processing, archiving is done at Esa's centre in Frascati, Italy
7. GPS antennas: Precise positioning of Goce is required, but GPS data in itself can also provide some gravity field information

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cancer Might be Cured

Reading this article one must read between the lines.  The authors are working overtime to not raise expectations.  Yet we are describing a mechanical system that impacts tumors specifically in a way that allows a whole body attack without impacting much else.


The method appears likely to work on most major tumors.  In fact we immediately narrow ourselves down to cancers of the liver and spleen only as problematic and perhaps leukemia.  Any tumor needing a blood supply is completely vulnerable.


Mouse tests worked completely.


A range of strategies and protocols are discussed but all are secondary to the principal discovery.  We can inject gold nanorods into the bloodstream, wait a few hours and then successfully induce warming in localized tumors.  We likely cannot get away with a full body scan while we are at it but this is more than good enough.  Objectively, a workable protocol can be designed plausibly for all cancers.


I do not see the long development cycle been maintained for this therapy.  The metal itself has a long history of human usage.  The various coatings will have solid histories also.  Then it will be applied first to terminal patients.  After which the ethical burden switches to the other side of the argument.


After all, if thirty terminal lung cancer patients are outright cured, it is obscene to withhold treatment of the thousands dying from the disease.


Besides, why would you not try this method before surgery or chemotherapy?  They are both clearly harmful in application while this method is most likely not harmful in the least.


We have a completely new mechanical method of surgical removal of cancerous cells.  If we are lucky, it will take out all colonies of daughter cells also.  Most likely, it will reduce populations well below what is necessary for a supported immune system needs to finish the job.


In my opinion, if we cannot beat cancer with this magic bullet, then we are hopeless.  At worst, we will have to work at it in some cases.  Best is that there is no biological sidestep to a mechanical solution as has been shown on almost every biochemical method ever applied.  We may have actually won the war on cancer with this simple trick.



Targeting tumors using tiny gold particles

Gold nanorods could detect, treat cancer
Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

October 27, 2009

MIT researchers developed these gold nanorods that absorb energy from near-infrared light and emit it as heat, destroying cancer cells.
Photo / Sangeeta Bhatia Laboratory; MIT

May 4, 2009

It has long been known that heat is an effective weapon against tumor cells. However, it's difficult to heat patients' tumors without damaging nearby tissues.

Now, MIT researchers have developed tiny gold particles that can home in on tumors, and then, by absorbing energy from near-infrared light and emitting it as heat, destroy tumors with minimal side effects.

Such particles, known as gold nanorods, could diagnose as well as treat tumors, says MIT graduate student Geoffrey von Maltzahn, who developed the tumor-homing particles with Sangeeta Bhatia, professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) and in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Von Maltzahn and Bhatia describe their gold nanorods in two papers recently published in Cancer Research and Advanced Materials. In March, von Maltzahn won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, in part for his work with the nanorods.

Cancer affects about seven million people worldwide, and that number is projected to grow to 15 million by 2020. Most of those patients are treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation, which are often effective but can have debilitating side effects because it's difficult to target tumor tissue.

With chemotherapy treatment, 99 percent of drugs administered typically don't reach the tumor, said von Maltzahn. In contrast, the gold nanorods can specifically focus heat on tumors.

"This class of particles provides the most efficient method of specifically depositing energy in tumors," he said.

Wiping out tumors

Gold nanoparticles can absorb different frequencies of light, depending on their shape. Rod-shaped particles, such as those used by von Maltzahn and Bhatia, absorb light at near-infrared frequency; this light heats the rods but passes harmlessly through human tissue.

In a study reported in the team's Cancer Research paper, tumors in mice that received an intravenous injection of nanorods plus near-infrared laser treatment disappeared within 15 days. Those mice survived for three months with no evidence of reoccurrence, until the end of the study, while mice that received no treatment or only the nanorods or laser, did not.

Once the nanorods are injected, they disperse uniformly throughout the bloodstream. Bhatia's team developed a polymer coating for the particles that allows them to survive in the bloodstream longer than any other gold nanoparticles (the half-life is greater than 17 hours).

In designing the particles, the researchers took advantage of the fact that blood vessels located near tumors have tiny pores just large enough for the nanorods to enter. Nanorods accumulate in the tumors, and within three days, the liver and spleen clear any that don't reach the tumor.

During a single exposure to a near-infrared laser, the nanorods heat up to 70 degree Celsius, hot enough to kill tumor cells. Additionally, heating them to a lower temperature weakens tumor cells enough to enhance the effectiveness of existing chemotherapy treatments, raising the possibility of using the nanorods as a supplement to those treatments.

The nanorods could also be used to kill tumor cells left behind after surgery. The nanorods can be more than 1,000 times more precise than a surgeon's scalpel, says von Maltzahn, so they could potentially remove residual cells the surgeon can't get.

Finding tumors

The nanorods' homing abilities also make them a promising tool for diagnosing tumors. After the particles are injected, they can be imaged using a technique known as Raman scattering. Any tissue that lights up, other than the liver or spleen, could harbor an invasive tumor.

In the Advanced Materials paper, the researchers showed they could enhance the nanorods' imaging abilities by adding molecules that absorb near-infrared light to their surface. Because of this surface-enhanced Raman scattering, very low concentrations of nanorods - to only a few parts per trillion in water [gf1]- can be detected.

Another advantage of the nanorods is that by coating them with different types of light-scattering molecules, they can be designed to simultaneously gather multiple types of information - not only whether there is a tumor, but whether it is at risk of invading other tissues, whether it's a primary or secondary tumor, or where it originated.

Bhatia and von Maltzahn are looking into commercializing the technology. Before the gold nanorods can be used in humans, they must undergo clinical trials and be approved by the FDA, which von Maltzahn says will be a multi-year process.

Other authors of the Advanced Materials paper are Andrea Centrone, postdoctoral associate in chemical engineering; Renuka Ramanathan, undergraduate in biological engineering; Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering; and Michael Sailor and Ji-Ho Park of the University of California at San Diego.

Park and Sailor are also authors of the Cancer Research paper, along with Amit Agrawal, former postdoctoral associate in HST; and Nanda Kishor Bandaru and Sarit Das of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Whitaker Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Nanopartz Inc. supplied gold nanoparticles, gold nanowires and the precursor gold nanorods used in this work.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 6, 2009 (download PDF).

Cape Breton Gold

I finished of the book on the remarkable apparent presence of decades long Chinese presence in Cape Breton during the fifteenth century.  It is possible that the exploration fleet of Zheng He made land fall during his voyage of exploration that penetrated the Atlantic.

The currents leading north from the southern tip of Africa pass through the equatorial zone and into the Gulf Stream.  Merely going with northerly tending currents culminates with a final land fall on Cape Breton.  Because Europeans were attempting to cross these currents, they were forced to follow far less obvious routes.

What finally mattered though was the immediate discovery of alluvial gold in beach sands at possibly several locales on the island.  That alone would have justified creating a major presence immediately on the island and this was well within the capacity of the fleet.  They also had easy access to coal for fuel that they understood and it appears that they also located sufficient iron to support an iron works of some sort.

The traditional history associates the island with the establishment of seven towns, likely holding populations each of several hundred.  Although we are still at the very beginning of archeological work, there is evidence of fields.  However, the abundant sea life here could easily have supplied ample dried fish protein with assistance from the native population.

It is also observed that the Micmac Indians exhibited an advanced knowledge base, language and script on contact with Europeans that was never satisfactorily explained.  It is reasonable that the Chinese communities extended education to the Micmac young.

It is noteworthy that the building ruins observed to date was labor intense.  This is also necessary in order to exploit alluvial gold properly.  Thus the gold would be mined during the summer months, while the off season allowed for the building of the typical walled Chinese towns.

The island of the seven cities was secure and an excellent self sustaining base for an ongoing mapping initiative of the Atlantic.

I suspect the fact that it returned gold each season to the Emperor of China postponed its premature suspension until the gold itself ran out at the end of the fifteenth century.

It is noteworthy that Chinese alluvial miners were highly regarded in gold rush days as the most diligent gleaners of gold in placer operations.  Thus I am unsurprised that no present day alluvial gold is readily apparent in the same waters.  The gold will be there but it will be below easy access by hand miners.  Currents and wind will have buried such since then.

We have expanded on the conjecture made by Paul Chaisson.  I observe that at present the response on the internet to his work is rather modest.  A few noisy naysayers are making themselves heard and several local archeologists made a walk about and argued against the conjecture.

Opinion is wonderful but evidence from well planned excavation is often convincing.  I used to show budding mining professionals that many Canadian mines are located on roads and highways that preceded the actual discovery.  The reason for this is that understanding was possible only after many professional eyeballs had looked at the evidence and worked on the site. 

This site is encouraging and the cultural record of seven cities from the absolute beginning of European exploration is strongly encouraging.  So far we have a handful of folks who have done reconnaissance.  Paul reports a couple of Ming burial sites and these are prime.  The platforms were a site leveling technique that left only themselves and must remain suggestive until actual cultural evidence is excavated.  Known graves and apparent foundries are much better.

A mining operation that established at least one principal operation and half dozen secondary towns on specific mine locales was in contact with their homeland.  It is reasonable that pottery was used and broken over perhaps seventy years at the main locale and likely a lot less at the secondary locales.  It is not likely that it was hauled down to the beach and thrown in the ocean.  We simply have not located any waste tips as yet for what will turn out to be a small community.

The site needs to be carefully mapped with attention to the possible living quarters.  Again this has hardly happened as yet.  Occupation was quite brief as is typical of mining projects.  The build up of debris was thus a lot less than might be expected.  Also most everything has been covered with centuries of moss which is difficult to interpret without a lot of spade work.

Expanding SETI Search

I must admit that I am not an optimist when it comes to the search for alien space signals.  I just think that all such signaling would trend to precision and minimal energy output.  We are certainly tamping back our own emissions as time passes and finding better ways to do things.

Besides, the probability of major system losses for exposed electrical devices is not understood by the public at all. This risk is been presently ignored by most agencies except partly by the military.  Simply put, a solar flare can produce a huge EMP pulse, as can a high altitude nuclear bomb and this can fry all electrical devices not enclosed in a Faraday cage.

We are presently doomed to receive one lesson with millions dead as a result.  After that we will convert to pure optical systems as much as possible and Faraday cage protected equipment.  It is a costly program, but our new superconducting power cables and a lot of high power systems are already operating in this mode as they simply have no choice.  It needs to be brought down to the household level.

The simple expedient of producing all power cables with a thin conducting sheath would solve most of the problem over time.  It will not save the toaster but it allows us to save the house.

Thus it is likely that an advanced civilization will be well shielded and radio based transmission actually minimized over time.

A combination of Faraday cages and information transfer by optical cable is completely feasible for us today.  The result would be complete radio silence for planet Earth and that is our likeliest future.


Search for extraterrestrial life is growing

Sunday, December 27, 2009

(12-27) 04:00 PST Hat Creek, -- Shasta County - The wide dishes, 20 feet across and raised high on their pedestals, creaked and groaned as the winds from an approaching snowstorm pushed into this highland valley. Forty-two in all, the radio telescopes laid out in view of some of California's tallest mountains look otherworldly, and now their sounds conjured up visions of deep-space denizens as well.

The instruments, the initial phase of the planned 350-dish Allen Telescope Array, are designed to systematically scan the skies for radio signals sent by advanced civilizations from distant star systems and planets. Fifty years after it began - and 18 years since Congress voted to strip taxpayer money from the effort - the nation's search for extraterrestrial intelligence is alive and growing.

"I think there's been a real sea change in how the public views life in the universe and the search for intelligent life," said Jill Tarter, a founder of the nonprofit SETI Institute and the person on whom Carl Sagan's book "Contact," and the movie that followed, were loosely based.
"We're finding new extra-solar planets every week," she said. "We now know microbes can live in extreme environments on Earth thought to be impossible for life not very long ago, and so many more things seem possible in terms of life beyond Earth."

The Hat Creek array, which began operation two years ago, is a joint project of the SETI Institute and the nearby radio astronomy laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley. Made possible by an almost $25 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the array is unique and on the cutting edge of radio astronomy. SETI and Berkeley share both the facility, 290 miles northeast of San Francisco, and all the data it collects.

The dishes also represent a coming of age for SETI Institute enthusiasts and its sometimes hailed, sometimes ridiculed mission. While their effort was long associated with UFOs, overexcited researchers and little green men, it is now broadly embraced as important and rigorous science, and astronomers and astrobiologists in an increasing number of nations have become involved in parallel efforts.

"This is legitimate science, and there's a great deal of public interest in it," said Alan Stern, a former assistant administrator at NASA who, in 2007, decided that proposals for extraterrestrial search programs should not be banned from the agency, as they had been since the early 1990s. The National Science Foundation had come to a similar decision a few years before.

"It was not a big or difficult decision to change the policy," said Stern, who invited Tarter in to describe her program to NASA officials. "The technology and science had advanced, and so it made no sense to block applications."

Limited search programs for intelligent extraterrestrials in the 1970s and 1980s abruptly lost their federal funding in 1992, after NASA proposed a greater effort. Former Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., led the charge in Congress, telling the Senate at one point: "The Great Martian Chase may finally come to an end. As of today, millions have been spent and we have yet to bag a single little green fellow. Not a single Martian has said, 'Take me to your leader,' and not a single flying saucer has applied for FAA approval."

The funding was eliminated, even though SETI listens for radio signals from distant planets and has nothing to do with Mars or with a supposed search for flying saucers or other space oddities.

But when NASA informed Congress that it was going to allow SETI to once again compete for funds, there were no objections, Stern said. Rita Colwell, who was director of the National Science Foundation when it approved a small-scale SETI Institute proposal in 2004, said several prominent astronomers endorsed the group, saying that the institute had become an important player in the field of radio astronomy.

Still, search activity by the institute and others is often criticized for its lack of results. It has been 50 years since astronomer Frank Drake first used a radio antenna at the Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia to listen for extraterrestrial signals, and so far no messages have been detected and confirmed. UCLA physicist and astronomer Ben Zuckerman often lectures on what he considers the overly optimistic predictions of search advocates, and he argues that if the Milky Way were home to technologically advanced civilizations we would know it by now. "I think very strong arguments can be brought to bear that the number of technological civilizations in the galaxy is one - us," he said.

Although disappointing to scientists searching for intelligent life beyond Earth, the absence of contact is something they consider far from surprising. As Tarter described the effort, the number of star systems studied so far for possible communications is minuscule compared with the number of stars in the sky - on the same scale as if a person searched for a fish in the Earth's combined oceans by drawing out a single cup of water.

"The chances of finding a fish in that one cup are obviously very small," she said. As she and others often point out, astronomers think the universe contains something on the order of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and, given the discovery so far of more than 400 extra-solar planets, it is generally assumed that billions or trillions more are orbiting in distant systems.

What's more, it remains far from certain that listening for radio signals is the right approach. Radio is a relatively primitive form of communication, and advanced civilizations could be sending signals in many different ways. Given that possibility, astronomers have begun using optical telescopes to search for nanosecond laser blips and beeps that might be coming our way.

A Harvard-Princeton University collaboration has resulted in some of the most sophisticated optical searches, and the effort now has worldwide appeal. In November, for instance, a group of 30 optical and radio observatories and amateur astronomers dedicated two nights to simultaneously viewing one particular star system in search of radio signals or laser pulses. The effort, led by Shin-ya Narusawa of the Nishi-Harima Observatory in southern Japan, targeted a system described in 1993 by Sagan and Paul Horowitz (leader of the optical search team at Harvard) as potentially habitable.

"In Japan, our telescopes are all open to the regular people, and when they come in we want to know what are their big interests in astronomy," Narusawa said during the nighttime observation. "The top two are these: Is there an end, a border, to the universe? And is there life, especially intelligent life, anywhere other than Earth?"

Narusawa said he hoped to cooperate with the SETI Institute in the future, as well as with more fledgling SETI programs in South Korea and Australia.
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