Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eden Climatics

My post yesterday explains how we might implant garden like conditions everywhere. Of course, I look to resolving the worst conditions like the center of the Sahara and also recognize that it will be process of advancing the living edges toward those centers. We mean though that in time it we can plausibly replace all deserts everywhere with a woodland climate holding ample humidity. Dry grasslands are obviously included as are mountain slopes and hillsides.

It will take a long time and a huge number of human work years to achieve once we decide to do this.

Yet anyone who looks at the globe knows that the present well watered ecosystems are a small fraction of the globe’s land area. The Sahara leaps out, but so too does Western North America and most of Asia. Well watered is not how you would describe most of the Globe. Yet our objective is to make all of it well watered.

This will have a major impact on global climate and most pronounced in the Northern Hemisphere. Most importantly, all this woodland will be absorbing energy into its biology. This is sunlight that has previously been reflected back out into space and lost or at best used to warm the atmosphere.

Thus we can expect the climate zones to migrate north and a huge moderating effect to be observed. I would expect a full spring breakup and flushing to develop in the Arctic of all sea ice every year. We are close to those conditions now and a flushing of excess heat would do it quite nicely. We saw it in action in 2007.

Such a transformation would certainly moderate the northern climate and create European weather to the higher latitudes in North America and Russia where we are already used to dealing with shortened growing seasons.

We already have surmised that a covered Sahara during the Bronze Age gave us the climate optimum of the time that lasted just to the end of the Bronze Age. That acts as a good check on our expectations but also tells us the correct direction of change.

In practice woodlands and general growing environments that are not arid bring their own natural microclimate. Properly managed, these can cover most of the globe.

Maturation of Solar

This item is out of Scientific American and is illustrative of the implementation of new technology. Everyone starts of just making do with whatever is on the shelf even at the expense of performance. This often damages the introduction phase of new tech.

What is surprising here is that the scope for improvement in solar energy in particular is far larger than I might have imagined. I certainly would not have asked my engineers to spend a lot of effort, but here we are seeing surprising improvements very quickly. One wonders why no attention was paid to this before.

In a way this is a repeat of the wind business. There was nothing wrong with the first designs except that bigger really was better.

Here a design integration process is clearly superior and will obviously be more consistent.

The industry is targeting grid parity and looks well on the way to achieving just that and it sounds like it will all be very quick. My guess is that technical maturity is just around the corner as the new solar cell technology begins to flood the market.

April 21, 2009
Beyond Fossil Fuels: Barry Cinnamon on Solar Power

The CEO of Akeena Solar weighs in on the hurdles facing his industry

Editor's note: This Q&A is a part of
a survey conducted by Scientific American of executives at companies engaged in developing and implementing non–fossil fuel energy technologies.

What technical obstacles currently most curtail the growth of solar power? What are the prospects for overcoming them in the near future and the longer-term?

Right now, homeowners and business owners interested in solar systems are concerned about two things—performance and reliability—as these factors play an important role in a system's return on investment. From a panel standpoint, the silicon solar panels on the market are just about as efficient as they can be, as the industry has labored intensively over the years to increase energy yield. Yet there are several other system components—we call them part of the balance of system—that can threaten the performance and reliability of a system and decrease the amount of energy harvested. Hardly any time and energy had been spent to improve the racking, wiring and electrical grounding elements.

Last year we introduced our Andalay system, which was the first major improvement in solar system design in more than three decades. As the first integrated solar solution, Andalay incorporates all the wiring, racking and electrical grounding elements into the panels themselves. Compared to traditional solar systems with a jumble of parts from various companies, Andalay's prefabricated panels decreased the parts used in panel installation by about 70 percent. The resulting streamlined process—our panels snap together like LEGO bricks—drastically reduced the room for human error that can compromise the integrity of a system. We've continued to improve the balance of system pieces to boost our system's performance and reliability. When you are designing a solar power system, the devil is in the technical details—many systems today still use 30-cent zip ties to hold together the exposed wires of a $30,000 system. Recently, we announced several upgrades, which included new stainless steel racking mounts and stainless steel clips that hold together exposed wires.

Efforts like these—and we are seeing a lot of new companies starting to stress balance of system improvements—will speed along solar adoption.

Are there obstacles to scaling up solar power to serve a larger national or global customer base?

Since I started my business in 2001, I've seen demand for solar power increase dramatically from year to year. Now that we are coming out of a period of silicon shortage into one of silicon oversupply, and we have a manufacturing infrastructure already in place, the residential installation industry is in a great position to meet a larger national customer base. Wherever the sun is shining and incentives are strong, we as an industry will be able to meet demand.

The only obstacle currently preventing the continued growth in the commercial sector is limited financing. Because many of these projects are so huge—often in the hundreds of kilowatts—many businesses need forms of financial assistance from big banks. With those lines of credit currently seized, moving these projects forward is challenging.

Can the existing energy infrastructure handle growth in solar power? Or does that, too, need further modification?

Our nation stands to benefit from an abundance of clean, renewable solar energy, and rooftop solar energy is an immediate in-grid answer. The problem is, the current energy infrastructure is outdated and the grid can't fully enable a greater demand for distributed sources of renewable energy. At Akeena Solar, we are encouraged by the proposed federal stimulus package with the inclusion of $11 billion to update our electrical grid [Editor's note: This survey was submitted before the stimulus bill was signed into law], even though we know much more will be needed to fulfill the promise of renewables as a viable source of our energy mix in the U.S. A "smarter" electrical grid is critical to shift to renewable sources like solar, helping America move to a low-carbon economy.

Given the current economic crisis, can your industry get the necessary capital (from public or private sources) to adequately finance its growth?

As I mentioned before, in our current economic
climate, there is not as much financing available for large-scale commercial projects. Nevertheless, increasing federal investment and last year's extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) are encouraging, especially for homeowners, as they make solar energy more affordable. As part of the current package working its way through Congress, the solar energy community is calling for those tax credits to become refundable—meaning businesses could take advantage of the tax credit regardless of their tax liability. This is an important step to help spur development in our industry. With strong public policy in place and increasing demand as a result of ever increasing electricity bills, you can expect to see a capital flow to solar power projects in the near future.

From a strategic standpoint, which is the bigger competitor for solar: incumbent coal, oil and gas technologies or other alternative energy technologies?

\The major goal for solar and all renewable sources of energy is one in the same—grid parity—and right now cheaper, dirty sources of energy like coal and oil are our biggest competitors. Luckily, policymakers nationwide are realizing that what is cheap in the short term is not necessarily in the best interest of the U.S. from a financial and security standpoint in the long term. Electricity costs are continually increasing. And if you look at peak demand costs, generally daytime during office hours, solar energy is cost-effective. It also delivers benefits at times when the grid is strained, especially those hot summer days when the AC is cranked to full blast. In short, distributed generation helps reduce high costs at peak load times on the grid.

As we continue to bring down the cost of solar, we are optimistic that we can reach grid parity in a few years versus a few decades.

Is there a cost target that you and others in your industry are aiming to achieve in, say, five years?

Grid parity. Solar energy is already cost-efficient at peak demand but clearly more expensive than average cost. You can expect that solar manufacturers and installers over the next five years will be going into overdrive so that solar is cost-competitive at all times.

Lomborg on Cutting CO2 Emissions

Bjorn Lomborg once again makes a powerful argument questioning our assumptions regarding action on Global Warming and points out that the cost reward ratios for the proposed solutions simply fail to work, while other protocols have better outcomes altogether while appearing counter intuitive.

Been a champion on the implementation of biochar carbon sequestration done in such a way as to fully engage agriculture even at the subsistence level, I obviously do not care much how much carbon is burned so long as an equal amount is sequestered while improving the life way of billions of subsistence farmers.

I am also too well aware that directly tackling CO2 without recruiting the sun is certain to expend as much energy as perhaps originally generated. This is the end of the entropy food chain.

Lombord has published many critical results pertaining to the economics of various strategies and is a recognized authority that is not likely to get things wrong. This is in sharp contrast to the likes of Al Gore who cannot leave an expedient stretched fact alone.

The one take home here is how much the developing world relies on burning carbon. We can waltz into the sunset on nuclear, and geothermal and even solar and happily displace the coal burners. China and India do not have that luxury. They want power now. Later perhaps.

This is going to be just as true for Africa and South America. And there, they are stripping forests to produce charcoal and need coal technology right now.

The really good news is that these countries are passing through the industrial revolution in literally a man’s short lifetime. A child today been fed with food cooked over a charcoal burner, will grow up to mine coal and retire to a home heated with nuclear power.

Op-Ed Contributor

Don’t Waste Time Cutting Emissions

Published: April 24, 2009

WE are often told that tackling global warming should be the defining task of our age — that we must cut emissions immediately and drastically. But people are not buying the idea that, unless we act, the planet is doomed. Several recent polls have revealed Americans’ growing skepticism. Solving global warming has become their lowest policy priority, according to a new Pew survey.

Moreover, strategies to reduce carbon have failed. Meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, politicians from wealthy countries promised to cut emissions by 2000, but did no such thing. In Kyoto in 1997, leaders promised even stricter reductions by 2010, yet emissions have kept increasing unabated. Still, the leaders plan to meet in Copenhagen this December to agree to even more of the same — drastic reductions in emissions that no one will live up to. Another decade will be wasted.

Fortunately, there is a better option: to make low-carbon alternatives like solar and wind energy competitive with old carbon sources. This requires much more spending on research and development of low-carbon energy technology. We might have assumed that investment in this research would have increased when the Kyoto Protocol made fossil fuel use more expensive, but it has not.

Economic estimates that assign value to the long-term benefits that would come from reducing warming — things like fewer deaths from heat and less flooding — show that every dollar invested in quickly making low-carbon energy cheaper can do $16 worth of good. If the Kyoto agreement were fully obeyed through 2099, it would cut temperatures by only 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Each dollar would do only about 30 cents worth of good.

The Copenhagen agreement should instead call for every country to spend one-twentieth of a percent of its gross domestic product on low-carbon energy research and development. That would increase the amount of such spending 15-fold to $30 billion, yet the total cost would be only a sixth of the estimated $180 billion worth of lost growth that would result from the Kyoto restrictions.

Kyoto-style emissions cuts can only ever be an expensive distraction from the real business of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. The fact is, carbon remains the only way for developing countries to work their way out of poverty. Coal burning provides half of the world’s electricity, and fully 80 percent of it in China and India, where laborers now enjoy a quality of life that their parents could barely imagine.

No green energy source is inexpensive enough to replace coal now. Given substantially more research, however, green energy could be cheaper than fossil fuels by mid-century.

Sadly, the old-style agreement planned for Copenhagen this December will have a negligible effect on temperatures. This renders meaningless any declarations of “success” that might be made after the conference. We must challenge the orthodoxy of Kyoto and create a smarter, more realistic strategy.

Bjorn Lomborg is the director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center at Copenhagen Business School and the author of “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reclaiming the Garden of Eden

The myth or legend of the Garden of Eden tells us of a human dawn age in which humanity lived in and managed a well appointed garden, free of unfortunate interaction with a wilder world we know so well. The tale is particularly unique and is also likely our oldest single story. It is unique in the sense that it is not obviously created in those few unrelated cultures we have run into. Other mythic images have certainly recurred again and again. However, I am unaware of evidence that this one has at all. Besides, it does not sound like a tale from a barbarian campsite. Yet this tale is drawn from our oldest extant civilizations and clearly indicated that this tale was foundational to their own mythology.

It is the oldest cultural tale and closest to the events of the Pleistocene nonconformity that I have posted on extensively. Our thinking regarding that event has matured and we find ourselves accepting inferences that were unthinkable when we started out on this investigation.

The most important inference that we can draw is that mankind resided on the continental shelf and major lowlands throughout the tropics. He had the capacity to manage these lands and optimize their support for the human population. The remainder of the continental land situated above the three hundred to six hundred foot mark was largely inhospitable in the temperate to semi tropical zone. This was true because Ice Age temperatures ranged over several degrees making organized agriculture as we understand it rather difficult.

This was still a lot of land but also visibly a fraction of the possibility. We know from our own experience that agriculture is developing into husbandry conforming more and more with the concept of the managed garden. My blog has been discussing many aspects of that future putative model farm/garden. A big part of that model is the integration of the human lifetime and way of life into the model farm.

We have surmised that the following took place:

1 All humanity elected to remove themselves to space habitats by the expedient of bearing a whole generation of space adapted children. Space transport has been posted on and our ability today with stem cells and genetic manipulation is quickly reaching this level. Most of you will likely live to see this all been possible.

2 They then slammed a comet into the northern ice cap in such a way that the crust unstuck and momentum shifted the crust to the exact spot needed to activate the full thrust of the Gulf Stream. There was little room for error and its precision revealed the likelihood of human intervention.

3 Most fauna survived in most places and quickly readjusted to the new circumstances. Mankind was also reintroduced in every convenient locale and allowed to go forth and start terraforming the Earth. They did so but have been allowed to proceed without direct communication and in as much actual ignorance of this as possible.

This all sounds like a lot except that it needs only one decision point. The capabilities needed to exist, but they had more time than we had to create those. We have already reached all that capability quite recently and what is not mastered today is been actively pursued in the lab. It will not take us centuries to replicate space lift or anything else. If you haven’t yet, do read my post on reverse engineering the UFO.

Once that decision was made, the rest follows and is rest is details. The rise in sea level destroyed all sign of the preceding world and we can be sure that a clean up was conducted as necessary.

Our task on earth becomes rather clear and much of this blog is talking to those types of issues. With our ability to manufacture soil, however presently controversial, we can create healthy growing conditions everywhere on earth between tree lines and optimize those growing conditions, so long as we can also deliver water.

To deliver water, we have the Eden machine itself to strip moisture out of the atmosphere anywhere we like. Again read my posts on the Eden machine.

With these two tools, it becomes possible to look at every hectare as a potential garden. Separate out the rocks and debris and you have the beginnings of a seedbed. Start by creating seed hills using a biochar blend and apply an appropriate seed blend and ample water and let nature take its course. Of course it is supposed to be more difficult but I am far from been convinced to that. I suspect a couple of years with the right plants and you will be startled at how securely the new soil has been established. Right now experimenters are playing with plants they know and it is early days.

I know that corn is great for producing biomass for biochar. It is lousy for producing an actual soil. There I like alfalfa but suspect that grass blends with deep root systems will get the job done fastest. Remember, we may be starting with barren sand. The roots need to fill the soil matrix with organic material. We may end up liking couch grass for a few years of soil building.

Reclaiming the Earth one garden at a time will reclaim the Garden of Eden for humanity and it will be many times larger than the original and as rich and productive. I cannot begin to imagine just how many people could live on Earth as this comes to pass and they would all have their place as direct contributors to their private gardens. All the deserts, and all the jungles and all the grasslands and even throughout the mountains and even the boreal forests can be reasonably managed and optimized. And yes, that does mean managing the wild wood to create open cathedral woodlands uncovered by massive debris.

It can be the population density of India applied everywhere the land is flat. It would be necessary if space man plans to transition back into Earth man.

Brazilian Oil Rise

This item does not say a lot except to bring home that Brazil’s success offshore is phenomenal and is likely to continue for a long time. At the present reserve picture of 70 billion barrels, they are well on the way to been a major supplier. Been all offshore it is all capital intensive, but that is the nature of today’s oil industry at the level of the majors.

Otherwise, the great untapped potential of Brazil is really the onshore basins that have barely been explored. The biggest single basin in the Western Hemisphere is in Brazil and is in the south and is called the Parana Basin. It has been hampered by a basalt flow that acts as a seismic shield making it impossible to use seismic.

I think it is time for Brazil to take a page from Alberta and to establish a section by section bidding system to stimulate local investment and development of an indigenous oil industry. The majors are actually no longer serious players in the onshore stuff and that is particularly true in North America. Outside North America, they have focused on large concessions which never get the proper attention that comes to the offshore.

Recall that any given onshore basin, and there are hundreds of them, needs around two dozen dry holes for the geology to be well understood. It is not unusual for hundreds of dry holes to be drilled in good country before it all comes together. Alberta had over a hundred before Leduc #1, and today you look at a map and wonder how they ever missed.

The Parana and Brazil in general needs that sort of drilling action to piece together the subsurface geology. It they are finding billions of barrels offshore then the onshore potential is surely spectacular. Remember blind drilling luck found the East Texas field in the early thirties ands it was a mega field. It was too big to miss forever.

Brazilian oil: China's carnival?

Western energy firms wanting access to Brazil’s vast offshore oil fields must navigate complex political currents in the country, and its growing ties with China, argues Juliet Hepker

The recent discovery of potentially vast oilfields buried beneath a thick layer of salt off the coast of Brazil has become a focus of excitement among many of the world’s big energy firms.

Though the total size of reserves is not yet known, government officials estimate 80bn to 100bn barrels – enough to vault Brazil well into the top ten of oil-producing countries.

Described as “a gift from God” by Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, the pre-salt fields could significantly boost Brazil’s economy and influence on the world stage, while shifting the dynamics of global resource geopolitics.

For major oil and gas firms the pre-salt fields present a tantalizing opportunity for replacing their reserves (and this is notwithstanding the economic downturn – the planning horizon of most such firms is decades, beyond the current slump).

Several western energy firms including Shell, ExxonMobil, BG Group, and StatoilHydro were fortunate to be awarded concessions before the government realized the vastness of the reserves. These and many other companies may soon be vying to expand their involvement.

Hobbit Thoughts

Let it be said that paleontology needed a firm kick in the ass for a long time, and that the Flores hobbit has just as firmly delivered that kick. Hominid speciation is firmly indicated by the full old world distribution of evidence and the time involved. Every other animal faced with the same opportunity speciated like crazy.

In my manuscript Paradigms Shift, I develop the thesis that modern Homo Sapiens Sapiens emerged first in the Indonesian archipelago somewhere around perhaps 70,000 to 100,000 years ago from a hominid distribution that had reached there long since.

You know, the idea that ancient man was contemporaneous with dawn reptiles out on the Australian New Guinea coastal plain is no longer ludricous.

So even five years ago as I penned those words, my expectation was that this region should be a gold mine for paleontology discoveries.

I also remind my readers, that the region has been hugely inundated since the Pleistocene Nonconformity, and that we are talking of lost lands that surely are equivalent to Europe or India or China.

While we are at it, perhaps we can put our modern living hominid brother back on the list. Gigantpithecus or as we name him the Sasquatch, is clearly alive and well and wonderfully adapted to his ecological niche of the pine forest in particular. We now have thousands of first level sightings inventoried to date and about a dozen coming in every month.

All this begs the question of what happened to all these earlier hominids? I hardly have to ask when our ancestors were able to ritualize warfare as a way of capturing excess young men to eat.

Just as obviously, the Sasquatch was the one hominid that was not susceptible to human predation. Just as clearly, the hobbit here was a light snack once mankind showed up ten millennia ago.

A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree

Published: April 27, 2009

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Six years after their discovery, the extinct little people nicknamed hobbits who once occupied the Indonesian island of Flores remain mystifying anomalies in human evolution, out of place in time and geography, their ancestry unknown. Recent research has only widened their challenge to conventional thinking about the origins, transformations and migrations of the early human family.

Indeed, the more scientists study the specimens and their implications, the more they are drawn to heretical speculation.

¶Were these primitive survivors of even earlier hominid migrations out of Africa, before Homo erectus migrated about 1.8 million years ago? Could some of the earliest African toolmakers, around 2.5 million years ago, have made their way across Asia?

¶Did some of these migrants evolve into new species in Asia, which moved back to Africa? Two-way traffic is not unheard of in other mammals.

¶Or could the hobbits be an example of reverse evolution? That would seem even more bizarre; there are no known cases in primate evolution of a wholesale reversion to some ancestor in its lineage.

The possibilities get curiouser and curiouser, said William L. Jungers of
Stony Brook University, making hobbits “the black swan of paleontology — totally unpredicted and inexplicable.”

Everything about them seems incredible. They were very small, not much more than three feet tall, yet do not resemble any modern pygmies. They walked upright on short legs, but might have had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running. The single skull that has been found is no bigger than a grapefruit, suggesting a brain less than one-third the size of a human’s, yet they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids with larger brains. They appeared to live isolated on an island as recently as 17,000 years ago, well after humans had made it to Australia.

Although the immediate ancestor of modern humans, Homo erectus, lived in Asia and the islands for hundreds of thousands of years, the hobbits were not simply scaled-down erectus. In fact, erectus and Homo sapiens appear to be more closely related to each other than either is to the hobbit, scientists have determined.

It is no wonder, then, that the announcement describing the skull and the several skeletons as remains of a previously unknown hominid species, Homo floresiensis, prompted heated debate. Critics contended that these were merely modern human dwarfs afflicted with genetic or pathological disorders.

Scientists who reviewed hobbit research at a symposium here last week said that a consensus had emerged among experts in support of the initial interpretation that H. floresiensis is a distinct hominid species much more primitive than H. sapiens. On display for the first time at the meeting was a cast of the skull and bones of a H. floresiensis, probably an adult female.

Several researchers showed images of hobbit brain casts in comparison with those of deformed human brains. They said this refuted what they called the “sick hobbit hypothesis.” They also reported telling shoulder and wrist differences between humans and the island inhabitants.

Even so, skeptics have not capitulated. They note that most of the participants at the symposium had worked closely with the Australian and Indonesian scientists who made the discovery in 2003 and complain that their objections have been largely ignored by the news media and organizations financing research on the hobbits.

Some prominent paleoanthropologists are reserving judgment, among them Richard Leakey, the noted hominid fossil hunter who is chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University. Like other undecided scientists, he cited the need to find more skeletons at other sites, especially a few more skulls.

Mr. Leakey conceded, however, that the recent research “greatly strengthened the possibility” that the Flores specimens represented a new species.

At the symposium, Michael J. Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who was one of the discoverers, said that further investigations of stone tools had determined that hominids arrived at Flores as early as 880,000 years ago and “it is reasonable to assume that those were ancestors of the hobbits.” But none of their bones have been uncovered, so they remain unidentified, and no modern human remains have been found there earlier than 11,000 years ago.

Excavations are continuing at Liang Bua, a wide-mouth cave in a hillside where the hobbit bones were found in deep sediments, but no more skulls or skeletons have turned up. Dr. Morwood said the search would be extended to other Flores sites and nearby islands.

Peter Brown, a paleontologist at the University of New England in Australia, said that his examination of the premolars and lower jaws of the specimens made it almost immediately “very, very clear that this was a hominid in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The first premolars in particular, he said, were larger than a human’s and had a crown and roots unlike those of H. sapiens or H. erectus.

Dr. Brown, a co-author of the original discovery report, said that no known disease or abnormality in humans could have “replicated this condition.”

At first, Dr. Brown and colleagues hypothesized that the hobbits were descendants of H. erectus that populated the region and had evolved their small stature because they lived in isolation on an island.
Island dwarfing is a recognized phenomenon in which larger species diminish in size over time in response to limited resources.

The scientists soon backed off from that hypothesis. For one thing, dwarfing reduces stature, but not brain size. Moreover, researchers said, the hobbit bore little resemblance to an erectus.

In an analysis of the hobbit’s wrist bones, Matthew W. Tocheri of the
Smithsonian Institution found that certain bones were wedge-shaped, similar to those in apes, and not squared-off, as in humans and Neanderthals. This suggested that its species diverged from the human lineage at least one million to two million years ago.

So if several lines of evidence now encourage agreement that H. floresiensis was a distinct and primitive hominid, the hobbit riddle can be compressed into a single question of far-reaching importance: where did these little people come from?

“Once you establish that this is a unique species,” said Frederick E. Grine, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook, “then these primitive features that it has suddenly take on a profound evolutionary significance.”

Scientists said in reports and interviews that they had only recently begun contemplating possible ancestries.

As a starting point, scientists rule out island dwarfing as a primary explanation. Dwarfs and pygmies are simply diminutive humans; they do not become more apelike, as the hobbits appear to be in some aspects. Besides, normal dwarfing would suggest that the hobbits presumably evolved from H. erectus, the only previous hominids identified in this part of Asia or anywhere outside Africa; the first one was discovered in Java in the late 19th century. But research has found few similarities between the hobbit skeleton and Asian H. erectus.

If the hobbit is a throwback to much earlier hominids, scientists said, reverse evolution would be the most far-fetched explanation. Dr. Jungers, a paleoanthropologist who organized the symposium, said there were no known examples of mammals becoming significantly reduced in size and anatomy as a consequence of reverting to an ancestral form.

“Is it possible?” he asked rhetorically. “If that is the case, it is unprecedented and a tremendous discovery.”

Several scientists think the answer to hobbit ancestry lies deeper in the hominid past. If this species is unlike H. erectus, it presumably descended from even earlier small-bodied migrants out of Africa that preceded erectus into Asia. Just the thought questions conventional wisdom.

Possible candidates include Homo habilis, the first and least known species of the Homo genus. The short, small-brained habilis might have emerged as early as 2.3 million years ago and lived to co-exist with the brainier, long-limbed H. erectus. At present, erectus fossils, found in the republic of Georgia and dated at 1.8 million to 1.7 million years ago, are the earliest well-established evidence for hominids outside Africa.

If hobbits resemble habilis in some respects, scientists said, it indicates that habilis or something like it possibly left Africa earlier and became the likely hobbit ancestor.

Another possible ancestor might even have been a pre-Homo species of the Australopithecus genus. The first evidence for stone toolmaking in Africa, at least 2.5 million years ago, is associated with australopithecines. Several scientists called attention to skeletal similarities between hobbits and A. afarensis, the species famously represented by the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy skeleton from Ethiopia.

The suggestion that the H. floresiensis ancestor might have reached Asia a million years before H. erectus left Africa was raised earlier this month at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

And then there is the idea, raised again at the symposium, of hominid migrations out of Africa and back. Dr. Jungers advised abandoning the old image of the long-limbed H. erectus striding out of Africa in the first wave of hominids making their way in the world.

“Why think they couldn’t have done it many times, even before erectus?” he said. “Other mammals have migrated in and out of Africa.”

The idea revived speculation that erectus itself might have evolved in Asia from an earlier migrant from Africa, and then found its way back to the land of its ancestors. Similarly, other hominids arriving in distant parts of Asia might have churned out new species, among them the hobbits.

Robert B. Eckhardt of
Penn State University, an ardent hobbit skeptic, is unyielding in his opposition to the interpretation that the Flores skull belongs to a previously unrecognized species. He insists that it will prove to be from a modern human stricken with microcephaly or a similar developmental disorder that shrinks the head and brain.

“Convincing others is much more difficult than I thought it would be at the outset,” Dr. Eckhardt acknowledged in an e-mail message, “but increasingly it is becoming evident that what is at stake is not just some sample of specimens, but instead the central paradigm of an entire subfield.”

Susan G. Larson, an anatomist at the Stony Brook School of Medicine who analyzed the non-human properties of the hobbit shoulders, said in an interview that the investigations had entered “a period of wait and see.”

“Someday,” Dr. Larson said, “people may be saying, why was everyone so puzzled back then — it’s plain to see where the little people of Flores came from.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

USA Deploys Ray Gun

This item will not come as a surprise for those who understood my posting on the crop circle phenomena a year ago. The circles or more appropriately the images are produced with six inch pixels, obviously induced by the dissipation of microwave energy. In that article, I posited that this was a secret program to develop microwave laser guns as a weapons system. Well, here we are.

Likely the Brits developed the system to maturity and are now sharing the technology with their allies and not bothering to tell anyone.

Perhaps they will do us the favour of punching out an American flag in an Iowa wheat field.

The requirements of the crop circle fabrication scam pretty well tells us minimum range is several miles and that the delivered energy is a pulse that quickly heats its target. It is also incredibly accurate.

Thus as an anti ballistic missile device, it could be expected to reach out into space and blind an incoming missile and turn it into an unguided dumb bomb.

It is possible that I was one of the few who knew this sucker had to exist. Anyway, it is no longer much of a secret and perhaps they will fess up to their games around Sheffield in England.

As an aside, the crop circle phenomena is an excellent example of how often even scientists do bad science. That circus went on for twenty years without anybody apparently getting down on their knees and doing a close inspection of a grid square. Any person with a modicum off practical skill would have done just that. Where was Sherlock Holmes when we needed him? The second someone did, I learned that we actually had pixels. That ended any further debate.

Of course knowing the military interest in microwaves helped also but that was not critical except as to define a suspect with all the right moves.


Boeing Airborne Laser Team Begins Weapon System Flight Tests

by Staff Writers
Edwards AFB (SPX) Apr 27, 2009

Boeing and its teammates from industry and the the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have begun Airborne Laser (ABL) flight tests with the entire weapon system integrated aboard the ABL aircraft.

ABL, a heavily modified Boeing 747-400F aircraft, completed its functional check flight April 21 from Edwards Air Force Base with the beam control/fire control system and the high-energy laser onboard, confirming the aircraft is airworthy, ready for more airborne tests, and on track for its missile-intercept demonstration this year.

"With ABL's return to flight, we are on the verge of fully demonstrating the unprecedented speed, mobility, precision and lethality that ABL could provide to America's warfighters," said Michael Rinn, Boeing vice president and ABL program director.

ABL would deter potential adversaries and provide speed-of-light capability to destroy all classes of ballistic missiles in their boost phase of flight.

Eliminating missiles in their boost phase would reduce the number of shots required by other elements of the layered ballistic missile defense system. ABL also has the potential to be employed for other missions, including destroying aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.

The program has logged many accomplishments over the past several years. In 2007, ABL completed almost 50 flight tests that demonstrated its ability to track an airborne target, measure and compensate for atmospheric conditions, and deliver a surrogate high-energy laser beam on the target.

In 2008, the team completed installing the high-energy laser onboard the aircraft and, for the first time, operated the entire weapon system at high power levels.

Boeing is the prime contractor and overall systems integrator for ABL, and provides the modified aircraft and battle management system. Northrop Grumman supplies the high-energy laser, and Lockheed Martin provides the beam control/fire control system.

Plasma Tornadoes Drive Northern Lights

As expected THEMIS continues to surprise us as it maps the plasma surrounding the Earth. We have now discovered that huge tornado like plasma funnels shape electrical flow into our ionosphere to produce the Northern Lights. And that pretty well ends any further speculation over what makes the lights and why they are sporadic.

The speeds and implied heat are spectacular, except of course there is so little gas involved, it is barely noticeable. Of course the electron flow is what we have all noticed forever.

One cannot be impressed by these first glimpses of the fine structure of the magnetic field surrounding Earth. We will undoubtedly end up with a radically different picture and understanding when this is finished.

It is also noteworthy that the solar flux is at a minimum at present and when it comes back on stream we will be able to better observe the effects.

Giant Electrical Tornadoes In Space Drive The Northern Lights

by Robert Sanders,

Vienna, Austria (SPX) Apr 27, 2009

Earth-bound tornadoes are puny compared to "space tornadoes," which span a volume as large as Earth and produce electrical currents exceeding 100,000 amperes, according to new observations by a suite of five NASA space probes.

The probe cluster, called Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS), recorded the extent and power of these electrical funnels as the probes passed through them during their orbit of Earth. Ground measurements showed that the space tornadoes channel the electrical current into the ionosphere to spark bright and colorful auroras on Earth.

The findings were presented during a press at the general assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) in Vienna, Austria.

Space tornadoes are rotating plasmas of hot, ionized gas flowing at speeds of more than a million miles per hour, far faster than the 200 m.p.h. winds of terrestrial tornadoes, according to Andreas Keiling, a research space physicist at the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.

Keiling works on THEMIS, which was built and is now operated by UC Berkeley. The five space probes were launched by NASA in February 2007 to solve a decades-long mystery about the origin of magnetic storms that power the Northern and Southern Lights

Both terrestrial and space tornadoes consist of funnel-shaped structures. Space tornadoes, however, generate huge amounts of electrical currents inside the funnel. These currents flow along twisted magnetic field lines from space into the ionosphere where they power several processes, most notably bright auroras such as the Northern Lights, Keiling said.

While these intense currents do not cause any direct harm to humans, on the ground they can damage man-made structures, such as power transformers.

The THEMIS spacecraft observed these tornadoes, or "flow vortices," at a distance of about 40,000 miles from Earth. Simultaneous measurements by THEMIS ground observatories confirmed the tornadoes' connection to the ionosphere.

Keiling's colleagues include Karl-Heinz Glassmeier of the Institute for Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics (IGEP, TU) in Braunschweig, Germany, and Olaf Amm of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Dynamotive Advanced Pyrolysis

This appears to be good news on the pyrolysis front. That they are designing around a scale that broadens access to feedstocks is welcome. They have to make it easy and attractive for a biowaste producer to handle the material through a shredder and to then pack and haul to a plant that is not too far away.

It even needs to be profitable. That they can haul back an occasional load of char is also welcome as an additional source of long term profit.

I still have a basic problem with plant based technologies. The sheer logistical component is a lot of money per ton is you have to hit the road. I very much think that this technology needs to package the pyrolysis component for placement on the farm. Permitting will be less onerous and the farm is handling biowaste the least number of times.

The produced fluids can then be sold at the farm gate and shipped to a reforming plant. That may have a chance to work economically.

Otherwise, the same effort and cost can open a trench kiln and the material can be made over into primitive biochar.

I am actually not that optimistic over the future of pyrolysis unless it is specifically subsidized. It looks like a low margin business that is vulnerable to costly setbacks on several fronts. If a premium product emerged from the blends somehow, then it would be different.

Renewable Gasoline And Diesel From Ligno-Cellulose Biomass

by Staff Writers
Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Apr 27, 2009

Dynamotive Energy Systems has announced that it has successfully produced significant amounts of renewable gasoline and diesel from biomass at its research facility in Waterloo Ontario through a novel two stage upgrading process of BioOil.

The process developed by Dr. Desmond Radlein and his research team, involves pyrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass to produce a primary liquid fuel, BioOil, which is then hydro-reformed to a Stage 1 gas-oil equivalent liquid fuel that can either be directly utilized in blends with hydrocarbon fuels for industrial stationary power and heating applications or be further upgraded to transportation grade liquid hydrocarbon fuels (gasoline/diesel) in a Stage 2 hydrotreating process.

The major by-product from lignocellulosic biomass pyrolysis is Biochar which has emerging value for soil productivity enhancement and carbon sequestration. Dynamotive markets its Biochar under the trade name CQuest.

Based on initial test and analysis, the Company currently estimates that it can deliver advanced (second generation) fuels from biomass at a cost of less than $ 2 per gallon of ethanol-equivalent fuel in facilities processing about 70,000 tonnes of biomass per annum (current scale of its 200 metric tonne per day plant). For further details on the process please visit Dynamotive's website

The upgrading process addresses several critical issues in the development of sustainable fuels from biomass.

1) Food vs. Fuel: The Company converts residual biomass from agricultural and forestry operations and/or dedicated non-food crops through a thermochemical process into BioOil and Biochar. BioOil and Biochar plants can coexist with existing forestry and agricultural facilities, providing an additional benefit to operations.

2) Yield: Dynamotive's pyrolysis process converts roughly 85% of the total biomass feed into useful solid (char) and liquid (BioOil) fuels. The balance is utilized to provide energy to the process.

3) Yields of Diesel/Gasoline from BioOil through the Stage 2 upgrading process of 37% have been achieved at bench-scale. The net overall yield from whole biomass to diesel/gasoline is approximately 25%, which to our knowledge is the highest ever reported.

4) Scale: Dynamotive's process is projected to be economically viable at 1/7 to 1/15 scale of competing technologies currently known or under development. It is projected that a plant processing under 70,000 tonnes of biomass a year would produce approximately 4,500,000 gallons of renewable gas-oil at under $ 2 per gallon. The scale factor enables distributed production i.e. plants can be developed in diverse locations creating sustainable "green" jobs, while being compatible with agro and forestry operations.

5) Flexibility: the two stage process developed by the Company also allows for the opportunity to further upgrade the stage 1 renewable gasoil into diesel and gasoline fuels at a centralized facility or the development of a fully integrated plant if production logistics and economics merit it. This provides for flexibility in development and application.

6) Investment: Given the plant scale, the invesent required is comparatively low. Approximately $ 33 million will deliver a 15 year production capacity of approximately 67 million gallons of renewable transportation grade hydrocarbon fuels. This is a fraction of the capital cost per gallon and per plant required by proposed competing technologies.

7) Time to market; Dynamotive's pyrolysis platform is available today, with plants of 130 Mt and 200 Mt per day completed. The upgrading process uses conventional hydrotreaent equipment and process conditions allowing for rapid implementation at pilot and commercial scale.

8) Construction of an upgrading pilot plant is planned for later this year.

Dynamotive's path: The Company followed the philosophy that having small scale processing plants (against micro and large scale plants) would provide an opportunity for efficient management of biomass resources and economic operation.

The approach allows access to biomass pools that otherwise would not be commercially accessible and allows for the development of distributed fuel production plants.

Dynamotive's technology is in its 5th generation, having progressed since 1995 to date from bench scale to first pilot at 500 kgs day and 2,000 kgs day, second pilot at 10,000 kgs day and 15,000 kgs day and first and second commercial at 130 and 200 tpd biomass input.

The Company also followed a product development path, aiming at producing renewable fuels that could be blended seamlessly with existing hydrocarbon fuels from biomass. The objective: integrating its products to existing infrastructure and engine technologies.

In doing so provide:

1) A Biomass based refiners input that is competitively priced at source (BioOil).

2) A finished product that would be capable of competing on level terms with existing hydrocarbon based fuels.

3) A finished product that would be compatible with existing infrastructure thus avoiding cost and complexity of dedicated storage, delivery, blend ratios and engine platforms.

Dynamotive through its approach proposes a practical alternative for advanced biofuels production and use which can be competitive on its own merits against traditional fossil fuels in a wide range of economic conditions.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sauropods of the Likouala

This is a much more detailed history and discussion of the Mokele-mbembe phenomenon.

It is evident that it has attracted plenty of serious effort by experienced researchers. It is also very clear that what is been described is exactly what we understand as a Sauropod. It fortunately eats during daylight and has thus been spotted the same way we spot bears all the time.

The scope of the Likouala Swamp was a surprise and strongly suggests that it is a long way from giving up its secrets. There may even be theropods in there. In fact there should be theropods in there. There should be a lot of other interesting critters but I think we have a handle on the big ones if we also include that giant snake photo I saw decades ago. We may even have an Apatosaurus (also popularly known as a brontosaurus) in there also.

What is becoming a lot clearer is that this small subgroup of dawn reptiles was swamp adapted and includes the crocodile and the alligator. That they survived clearly opens the door to others also surviving, particularly in this swamp which is itself a survival from the same era.

Also clear is that these critters are aquatic adapted and dry land travel is a minimal activity and likely uncomfortable to them. This makes great sense since they require cooling or a stable core temperature provided by immersion. These animals all have to stay near ample water which is why they have never strayed far from a river or swamp.

Now we better understand their ecology, we can make a few conjectures. Mokele-Mbembe may love a certain special fruit, but I have to believe that the rest of the time it eats water plants like the infamous water hyacinth. The supply is simply too ample and too convenient to be ignored. It also provides excellent cover for a shy creature that spent its early live dodging crocodiles.

All these animals, including the crocs have positive buoyancy. But it is easy for them to lurk just under the surface and be unobtrusive. A theropod particularly could easily be mistaken for a crocodile in the water. The theropod certainly hunts smaller crocodiles as a principal food and most likely does that in the water. It may even den like a crocodile.

In fact even the Apatosaurus would be mostly submerged and amazingly unobtrusive.

It is noteworthy in this article that the region of the subject critter, that the hippopotamuses are missing. This is very good news. In order to attract a Mokele-mbembe to a blind it should be sufficient to haul an angry hippo into the middle of the swamp where the blind is set up and wait to see what shows up to deal with the bellowing of the staked out hippo.

We are a long ways closer to getting these critters on film today and as this article shows, a pretty serious effort has been underway for decades. I think that using the above strategy and whatever else may work a season’s campaign and a couple of millions of dollars would end the mystery. These critters are inherently instinctual and aggressive when provoked and should be easy to bait again and again. That is not true for most critters.


Today in Africa, in the People's Republic of the Congo, there lies a vast, hot and humid area covered with thick forests and dotted with streams and swamps. Of these swamps, there exists one that is undisputedly the largest in the entire world . . . the Likouala Swamp. Approximately 55,000 square miles, larger than the entire state of Florida, the government has officially declared it 80% unexplored. To the scientific community, this area is as foreign as an entirely new planet.

Early Years

Reports of dinosaur-like creatures in Central Africa go back for more than 200 years, according to William "Bill" Gibbons. In 1776, French missionaries passing through the forests reported finding huge footprints in the ground. The clawed prints were three feet in circumference and were spaced about seven feet apart. This would have made the animal as big as an elephant, but it was common knowledge to the locals that the tracks were not from an elephant, since elephants do not posses claws. One of the priests, amazingly, even gave claim to have seen several specimens chewing on vegetation while wading in the rivers. Regardless, it was certain that these were an entirely new group of animals. At that time, however, they were neither "dinosaurs" nor "prehistoric," the words waiting to be invented nearly one hundred years later.

In 1913, a German explorer reported stories of, what the natives called, "Mokele-mbembe," which he had heard while in the Congo. Hearing the reports, a few scientists noticed that the descriptions of the creatures made them sound much like Sauropod dinosaurs. Sauropods were the giants of the dinosaurs world, averaging about 70 feet (21 meters) long and standing 12-15 feet (3.7 to 4.8 m) tall at the hips.
In 1932, a British scientist, exploring near the Likouala region where the creatures are said to live, came across some abnormally huge footprints. Later, when he went down one of the rivers in a canoe, he heard strange sounds, but did not see anything.

Coincidentally, that same year the world famous zoologist and biologist, Ivan T. Sanderson, along with animal-trader Gerald Russel, were paddling up the Mainyu River in the heart of western Africa when, according to Sanderson's report:

"The most terrifying sound I have ever heard, which sounded like an on-coming earthquake or an exploding, nearby robot, suddenly greeted us from a large underwater cave."

While the water of the river was boiling and foaming directly in front of their canoe, a darkish, shining lizard-like head suddenly rose from the dark water. They described the head as nearly the size of the head of a fully grown hippo, which sat on a thick, swan-like neck. The enormous neck was turned towards the two men, and for just a few seconds, although it seemed like an eternity, the monster simply stared at Sanderson and Russel. Mr. Sanderson summed up his thoughts with these emphatic words:

"I don't know what we saw, but the animal, the monster, burned itself into my retinas. It looked like something that ought to have been dead millions of years ago. As a scientist, I should have been happy, of course, but this encounter was so frightening, so nasty that I never want to see it again."

A Brief Analysis

Mokele-mbembe is Lingala, and can mean a variety of things. The word is commonly defined as "One that stops the flow of rivers," but can also mean "one who eats the tops of palm trees," "monstrous animal," or even "half-God, half-beast." Mokele-mbembe is also used as a generic term to refer to other animals like Emela-ntouka, Mbielu-mbielu-mbielu, and Nguma-monene.


Mokele-mbembe has been described as an animal with a long neck, a long tail, and rounded shape tracks with three claws. The closest known animal that has these characteristics is a sauropod dinosaur.


Mokele-mbembe lives in the pools and swamps adjacent to the rivers of the Likouala swamp region of The People's Republic of Congo on the continent of Africa. It is said to use the lakes as a crossing path to go from one river to another.


The body size of each specimen is said to be somewhere between the size of a hippopotamus and an elephant. Its length is reportedly between 16 to 32 feet (5 to 10 meters). The length of the neck, according to various descriptions, is between 5 to 10 feet (1.6 to 3.3 meters). The length of the tail is somewhere between 5 to 10 feet as well, varying slightly.


Interestingly, there have been a few reports of a frill on the back of the head. The frill is said to be like the comb found on a male chicken (cock). There have also been reports of a small horn on its head.

The color of the skin is predominately reddish-brown with a color range from gray to brown. There are no reports of hair on the animal. If there were, it would obviously contradict the reptilian dinosaur theory.


Tracks possess a significantly rounded shape between 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 centimeters) in diameter with three claws. The distance between tracks is about 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters).


The predominant belief is that Mokele-mbembe does not create any sounds, though there have been some conflicting reports. This is probably due to the fact that Mokele-mbembe is used generically for other animals and the sound is being confused with Emela-ntouka, a creature which makes a sound like a snort, howl, roar, rumble, or growl.


The pygmies, natives of the Likouala Swamp region, report that the essential diet of Mokele-Mbembe consists primarily of the Malombo plant. Since it only eats plants, it is classified as an herbivore. The Malombo plant actually describes two plants: Landolphia mannii and Landolphia owariensis.


Mokele-Mbembe lives underwater most of the time except when it eats or travels to other parts of the swamp. It has as been reported that it does not like hippopotamuses and will kill them on sight, though it does not eat them. According to the pygmies, Hippopotamuses cannot be found where Mokele-Mbembe lives.

ExpeditionsExpeditions primarily began in the 1880s, shortly after the region was taken over by Belgium. For many years, therefore, it was called the Belgium Congo. Beginning from 1909, here is a brief list of over a dozen of them.


Naturalist Carl Hagenbeck recounted in his autobiography how two separate individuals - a German named Hans Schomburgh and an English hunter - told him about a "huge monster, half elephant, half dragon," which lived in the Congo swamps. Later, another naturalist, Joseph Menges, related to Hagenbeck that "some kind of dinosaur, seemingly akin to the brontosaurs," inhabited the swamps. Hagenbeck soon sent an expedition to the Congo to search for the monster, but the effort was quickly aborted due to disease and hostile natives.


In 1913, Capt. Freiherr von Stein zu Lausnitz was sent by the German government to explore the Cameroon. Von Stein wrote of a unique animal called, in the local tongue, Mokele-mbembe, said to inhabit the areas near the Ubangi, Sangha, and Ikelemba Rivers. Von Stein described the creature thus:

"The animal is said to be of a brownish-gray color with a smooth skin, its size approximately that of an elephant; at least that of a hippopotamus. It is said to have a long and very flexible neck and only one tooth, but a very long one; some say it is a horn. A few spoke about a long muscular tail like that of an alligator. It is said to climb the shore even at daytime in search of food; its diet is said to be entirely vegetable. At the Ssombo River I was shown a path said to have been made by this animal in order to get at its food. The path was fresh and there were plants of the described type [a liana] nearby"


A 32-men-strong expedition was sent out from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. After six days, African guides found large, unexplained tracks along the bank of a river and later the team heard mysterious "roars, which had no resemblance with any known animal," coming from an unexplored swamp. However, the Smithsonian's hunt for Moklele-Mbembe was to end in tragedy. During a train-ride through a flooded area where an entire tribe was said to have seen the dinosaur, the locomotive suddenly derailed and turned over. Four team members were crushed to death under the cars and another half dozen seriously injured.


In 1932, American cryptozoologist Ivan Sanderson was traveling in Africa and came across large hippo-like tracks in a region with no hippos. He was told by the natives that they were made by a creature named the "mgbulu-eM'bembe." Later, Sanderson saw something in the water that seemed too large to be a hippo, but it disappeared before he could investigate further.


In 1960, herpetologist James H. Powell, Jr. took interest in the African dragons and organized an expedition to the Congo in 1972. Powell's expedition, unfortunately, was fraught with problems (the United States and the Congo had poor relations at the time). Many months of hardships such as snake-bites, near-drownings and tropical diseases only led to more witness testimonies about Mokele-Membe and another lizard-like creature which locally was called "n'yamala."


In 1976, James Powell decided to go to Gabon instead, inspired by a book called "Trader Horn." (In 1927, the book, a memoir of the author's time in Gabon, specifically along the Ogooue River, was written by Englishman Alfred Aloysius Smith. He recorded hearing of a creature called the "jago-nini" and identified it with the "amali," a creature whose tracks he had seen). He was quick to realize they were probably identical to the Mokele-mbembe. Furthermore, Powell heard local legends of the n'yamala, and locals identified pictures of a sauropod dinosaur as bearing the most resemblance to the animal.


An expedition mounted by engineer Herman Regusters and his wife Kia managed to make its way to Lake Tele, where they heard the growls and roars of an unknown creature. They also claimed to have photographed Mokele-Mbembe in the lake, as well as watching it walk on land through the brush. According to Regusters, the creature they saw was 30-35 feet long.


Powell launched another expedition in 1980, but this time cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal came along. Powell and Mackal found that a large number of reports came from the banks of the Likouala-aux-herbes River near Lake Tele. They said that most witnesses maintained that the animal was between 15-30 feet long (a long neck accounted for much of the length). The creature was also said to be a rust color, and that some had been seen to possess a frill or crest.


Yet another expedition was organized in 1981 - this time composed of Mackal, J. Richard Greenwell, M. Justin Wilkinson, and Congolese zoologist Marcellin Agnagna. The expedition encountered what they believed was a Congo "dinosaur" along the Likouala River, when they heard a large animal leaping into the water near Epena. They also discovered a path of broken branches supposedly made by the animal, as well as a number of footprints.


In April, 1983, a Congolese expedition led by Marcellin Agnagna, a zoologist from the Brazzaville Zoo, arrived to Lake Tele. Agnagna claimed to have seen the beast some 275 meters out in the lake. The animal held its thin, reddish head - which had crocodile-looking, oval eyes and a thin nose - on a height of 90 cm and looked from side to side, almost as if it was watching him. According to Agnagna, the animal was a reptile, though not a crocodile, nor a python or a freshwater turtle.


Englishman William J. Gibbons (presently living in Canada) talked to several eye-witnesses who gave him valuable information about the Mokele-Mbembe. He is currently convinced that the dinosaur exists, but at the time was unable to prove it. However, upon his return to the UK he brought with him the remains of a monkey which he could not identify. This was later classified as a new sub-species of crestless mangabey monkey (cerocebus galeritus). Fish and insect specimens also found in the Congos remain unclassified to date.


A piece of blurry video footage filmed by a Japanese film crew supposedly showing the creature in Lake Tele remains disputable evidence of the animal's existence. The film is indistinct and grainy, possibly just showing two men in a boat with one of them standing upright in the front of the vessel, as is common in Africa. This has been interpreted as a head and neck, but this interpretation of the videotape is purely speculative at best.


Author and explorer Redmond O'Hanlon returned from his failed expedition convinced that witnesses must have mistaken wild elephants, crossing rivers with their trunk in the air, for a prehistoric Mokele-Mbembe.


William Gibbons tried again six years later, this time together with American explorer Rory Nugent. Together they searched almost two thirds of the unexplored Bai River while also examining two small lakes North West of Lake Tele. These are Lake Fouloukuo and Lake Tibeke, which are surprisingly absent from most maps. Both are said to be haunts of Mokele-Mbembe. Rory Nugent also took two interesting photographs of something most unusual in Lake Tele. One may actually show the head of a Mokele Mbembe.ConclusionWhat are we to conclude about the Mokele-mbembe . . . in essence, what would be the correct, most unbiased position to take? To give such a conclusion, we believe, requires the admittance of all facts.

#1. There lies an area larger than the state of Florida in the People's Republic of Congo. This area has been officially declared by government officials as 80% unexplored.

#2. Natives of the area, namely the Pygmies, speak of a strange animal roughly the size of an elephant, possessing a long, thin neck, which they call "Mokele-mbembe."

#3. Expeditions to the area have proven unsuccessful. Though claims have been made of the animal being seen and heard, clear, unmistakable photographs or video footage have not yet been attained.

#4. Unusual footprints have been found, notably by Dr. Roy Mackal. The footprints are large and wide, clearly bearing claws at the tips of each toe. These footprints do not belong to any known species.

These four facts in and of themselves deserve careful consideration. We simply know too little of the area. "The Dark Continent" still remains just that, and time is our only proponent in man's search for a living dinosaur. Until then, we can only wonder what animals have yet to be discovered in this vast and mysterious world of ours.

Special Thanks:

Bill Ford Rallies the Automobile Industry

It is clear reading this article with Bill Ford, that the Ford Motor company is likely to make it through this period of transition very successfully. The industry has been trending toward a plug and play manufacturing model for the past decade. Ford has wholeheartedly embraced it to not just make better cars but to maximize flexibility for the real transition coming down the pike.

The best thing that the USA and North America can do today to assert its stature in the world is to exit the global oil business as briskly as possible. The rest of the world can have all they want, but we are out of here Jack.

North America has access to unimaginable internal reserves provided we reduce our own consumption by two thirds over the next decade. Those reserves are best used for everything except transportation. By doing that, we free ourselves from having our conspicuous consumption impacting agriculture in Africa.

The promise made by EEStor is going to be met by either EEStor of a competitor inside the next five years. Immediately we will be driving electric cars with a three hundred mile range. Bill Ford is telling us that his organization is ready for it and can make the switch of the same dime. It is going to be the most abrupt technology switch in human history

Of course this overnight success took decades of focused work in the laboratory to pull of but the objective has never been in doubt.

And as Bill makes clear, there may be other winners out there also that need to be supported.

After saying all that, the North American was long overdue for a formal restructuring that forced global cost structures on the internal industry. You must be able to compete head to head in your own country and the UAW made the deals for jobs with these competitors and thus broke their own labour monopoly. They have now the pleasure of dealing with the natural result of such practices.

April 21, 2009

Bill Ford: Prepare for Auto Industry Transformation

The Ford scion believes it's a "cool time" to be part of the auto industry, despite ailing U.S. automakers

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Ford Motor Co.'s executive chairman offered a rare glimpse yesterday into the U.S. auto industry's corporate direction and culture, painting a bright picture for the sector even though Chrysler LLC and
General Motors Corp. are flirting with bankruptcy.

Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, said the
U.S. auto industry is facing an unprecedented financial crisis that has shaken its foundation. But, he said, the turn toward insolvency should mean opportunity for an "insular industry" that has long been mired in stale thinking.

"We haven't had a lot of revolutions, but boy, are we now," Ford said during an extensive interview here. "It's a really cool time to be part of this industry."

Executives at Chrysler and
General Motors who are now taking marching orders from the White House might take exception to that statement, but Ford described the shakeup and government bailouts as essential for an industry that is more than a century old and has often been stuck in a rigid mindset. The old guard, Ford said, is no longer "fighting" the change to new technologies because it has no other choice.

At Ford Motor Co., for example, executives have decided to bring their global platform of vehicles, including smaller models that do well in Europe, to the North American market. Ford described the move as risky, given the recent dip in the price of gasoline, but he said the company is committed to efficiency over the long haul and the belief that a downsizing of the U.S. car market is inevitable when gas prices rebound.

"Nobody wanted change, really, within the industry," said Ford, describing a boardroom atmosphere that was hostile to talk of climate change, energy efficiency and environmental protection. "But I am so energized by what's going on now, I think it's fantastic."

The comments from Ford, who served as the company's CEO from 2001 to 2006, come amid signs that a bankruptcy at GM or Chrysler could disrupt operations for the entire U.S. industry and its supply chain.

Ford Motor Co. officials fear a bankruptcy filing could mean deeper concessions from unions and bondholders for Chrysler and GM, and leave the companies in better competitive shape.

Ford reiterated some of those concerns and said bankruptcy may not be the best option for the sector, especially as it leaves the future of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the hands of a single bankruptcy judge.

"One keeps reading about 'quick and easy' bankruptcies," he said. "I have a hard time believing it will be easy."

Call for stability

Ford was the only U.S. automaker of Detroit's Big Three to reject bailout funds from Congress. And many have credited Bill Ford for preparing the company while he was CEO faster than either Chrysler and GM for constrained oil supplies and the dawn of a carbon-constrained economy.

Ford, who sat for an interview during a forum hosted by Fortune magazine, said his priority from day one as CEO was to diversify the company's fleet to account for "whichever way the infrastructure breaks" over the next few decades. That meant developing cars powered by biodiesel, electricity, natural gas and oil all at the same time, even though predicting a victor among these options is still difficult.

"These are very, very quickly shifting technologies," Ford said. "It isn't clear to us now that ultimately there's going to be one winning technology."

Ford explained that the decision to slim down to a single global platform of vehicles – instead of varying platforms for North America, Asia and Europe – gives the automaker the flexibility to ramp up to, say, electric cars if consumers start pushing the market in that direction.

He called the strategy "a plug-and-play operation" that allows
Ford Motor Co. to not bet on a single technology.

Still, Ford admitted the lack of stability in gas prices is a major problem. Indeed, consumers who had been rushing to buy smaller cars when gas was more than $4 a gallon have lately returned to purchasing bigger models, an issue Ford says should be addressed by government policy.

Ford said he would support a gas tax or a price on carbon to add some stability to the market that could send better signals to the auto manufacturers. Gyrations on the fuel side, he added

"The worst thing for us is instability, and, unfortunately, that's what we've been dealing with," Ford said.

"We have no idea whether we're planning the right vehicle or not."

Shifting dependencies?

To address the highs and lows of fuel prices, Ford would like to see a gas tax or a cap-and-trade system that establishes a hard price on carbon. He also wants
the Obama administration to convene a summit of automakers, nongovernmental organizations and lawmakers to establish a "glide path" for vehicle technology.

A glide path would mirror the European model, which brought players together years ago to effectively select "
clean diesel" as the vehicle of the near future, at least until hydrogen-powered or electric plug-in vehicles develop. Incentives from governments to enact the glide path made purchasing decisions easier for consumers, Ford said.

Ford said he is averse to picking winners and losers, but when the alternative is industrial collapse, he thinks the European model is a viable option.

"It worked," Ford said. "We've really lacked that in this country."

On batteries for electric cars, Ford conceded that Asian manufacturers are ahead in terms of building the
actual batteries, even if U.S. companies are positioned to develop components and design cars to integrate the batteries. He sees the emerging market as a problem if Americans trade oil dependency for battery dependency.

"As a country, we're not well served to trade that one dependency for another," he said.

More broadly, Ford expects a "messy" fight on Capitol Hill over
climate change and the future of his industry. But he also believes the political will is there to shape a federal law within the next year or so.

"We can't go on with cheap gasoline forever," Ford said. "It's just not a path that his country wants to go down."

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

Autism Linkage Discovered

This is a bit of welcome news on the medical front. Perhaps it never happened before, but a large population of equatorial peoples moved directly to Wisconsin. It was large enough to raise a red flag when autism abruptly emerged among children born there. It hardly took any imagination to make the link with vitamin D deficiency. Since vitamin D deficiency is only now been recognized as a health concern in our own populations it is not too surprising that this unexpected test population would have an exaggerated response.

It is perhaps too early to confirm the link but it is not too early to have autistic children go on decent doses of vitamin D. In fact the rest of us should also if we do not get much sunlight. I personally take 2000 IUs per day since I live in Vancouver and never sunbathe.

I personally cared for autistic children on a couple of summer jobs. They are the saddest cases of disability that you have to deal with. A person suffering from brain damage is dealing with a constrained potential. A person suffering from mongolism has certain physical and mental constraints but also a predictable potential. You can optimize the lives of both. With autism you are confronted with a person of normal potential and often superior potential that goes into withdrawal from his or her surroundings and you struggle to even communicate a thing.

If a simple application of vitamin D therapy can overcome the withdrawal symptoms, then these individuals can swiftly enter the normal world as ordinary citizens in need of a crash course in remedial education.

The promise of autism was always that it could be cured by something so simple. Now if we could do the same thing with schizophrenia, we might be able to almost empty our mental health hospitals. It also conforms to a deficiency syndrome triggered by bad genetic luck.
It is thought that there may be several different causation scenarios, but this is all too soon to resolve at all and certainly was not covered in this recent item. Of course, it is a gimme that caregivers everywhere will jump onto this bandwagon and we will soon discover what the effect of therapy is, if any.

What If Vitamin D Deficiency Is a Cause of Autism?

A few researchers are turning their attention to the sunshine vitamin as a culprit, prompted by the experience of immigrants that have moved from their equatorial country to two northern latitude locations

HELP FROM THE SUN? Some researchers are turning their attention to the amount of vitamin D a mother and infant get to try to trace autism.

As evidence of widespread vitamin D deficiency grows, some scientists are wondering whether the sunshine vitamin—once only considered important in bone health—may actually play a role in one of neurology's most vexing conditions: autism.

The idea, although not yet tested or widely held, comes out of preliminary studies in Sweden and Minnesota. Last summer, Swedish researchers published a study in
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology that found the prevalence of autism and related disorders was three to four times higher among Somali immigrants than non-Somalis in Stockholm. The study reviewed the records of 2,437 children, born between 1988 and 1998 in Stockholm, in response to parents and teachers who had raised concerns about whether children with a Somali background were overrepresented in the total group of children with autism.

In Sweden, the 15,000-strong Somali community calls autism "the Swedish disease," says Elisabeth Fernell, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and a co-author of the study.

In Minnesota, where there are an estimated 60,000 Somali immigrants, the situation was quite similar: There, health officials noted reports of autism among Somali refugees, who began arriving in 1993, comparable to those found in Sweden. Within several years of arrival, dozens of the Somali families whose children were born in the U.S. found themselves grappling with autism, says Huda Farah, a Somali-born molecular biologist who works on refugee resettlement issues with Minnesota health officials. The number of Somali children in the city's autism programs jumped from zero in 1999 to 43 in 2007, says Ann Fox, director of special education programs for Minneapolis schools. The number of Somali-speaking children in the Minneapolis school district increased from 1,773 to 2,029 during the same period.

Few, if any, Somalis had ever seen anything like it. "It has shocked the community," Farah says. "We never saw such a disease in Somalia. We do not even have a word for it."

What seemed to link the two regions was the fact that Somalis were getting less sun than in their native country—and therefore less vitamin D. The vitamin is made by the skin during sun exposure, or ingested in a small number of foods. At northern latitudes in the summertime, light-skinned people produce about 1,000 international units (IUs) of
vitamin D per minute, but those with darker skin synthesize it more slowly, says Adit Ginde, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. Ginde recommends between 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day, calling current recommendations of 200 IUs per day outmoded.

Friday, April 24, 2009

KGB Commodity Corner

When I set out to write this article, I already knew my conclusions and the import. I then went out to find through google who else understood the same thing. I found just one lonely article written early last summer just as the oil market was rising up to hit the wall. Learsy makes a call to action that is not as compelling today because the hand of the market is quietly delivering the proper corrective measures.

For the last several years, the trading behavior of the commodity market conforms to a carefully manipulated market with large capital pools overwhelming the natural market. The reason I say this is that volatility has been absorbed. Also the price movements that took place fits that of a well organized exploitation of leverage through the creation of a secret corner.

It was operated primarily on the copper market and then spun out to exploit most of the other traded commodities. Even the natural laggards were mopped up and brought into play.

Here is how it works. You prepare the target market by getting control of some part of the supply so that you have at least that much ability to manage supply. One shipload on anything will create a scramble in the market to replace shortfalls.

Then you buy as many open contracts in the market as possible to draw down the trading inventory. The cash needed is around ten cents on the dollar of commodity. In the case of copper that would have been about ten cents per pound of copper. Once the entire known inventory is ordered, you jam the price up to a double. In the case of copper this is $2.00 per pound. Your holdings are now sitting on a one dollar profit which allows you to buy additional contracts using twenty cents worth of this newly acquired equity. You should be able to expand your holdings at least five fold. Most importantly, you are been supplied by mostly short sellers at this level who know this price is not sustainable in the real world. At this point, your only exposure is the initial equity.

However, you have access to State capital that is huge. You let the markets sort themselves out for a while and you encourage as much short selling as you can. This part is a lot of fun except it is a good way to go to jail if you are participating in a regulated market.

Once the short side hook is properly set, you spring the trap and jam the market through $4.00 per pound and you protect that market for as long as you can. In copper’s case this went on for at least two years. What happens is the short side of the market is also operating on ten percent margin and they must put up massive amounts of money. You are putting up huge money, but your huge profits make it far less onerous. Over two years, most short positions will collapse and be closed out releasing huge amounts of money back to the operator of the corner.

The surplus margin created allows you to conduct the same operation on the other available markets and lulling the bankers back to sleep because of the apparent diversification.

The commodity cornering operation produced massive cash while strangely enough having a modest impact on the respective demand for the product. A lot of this is because most commodities are on long term contracts and are hedged to begin with so losses take a long time to materialize. More importantly, metal content has been progressively minimized in all manufacturing over the past thirty years in exchange for organics. Thus the economic impact of all this was acceptable to the economy. Our economy can pay more for all this.

Of course the surplus margin helped set of runs in other commodities such as grains were a real long term corner is impractical.

In order to execute such a program it is necessary to have an army of minions who take your trading instructions and are able to operate throughout the globe accessing banks and trading facilities everywhere. There can be no possibility of disloyalty.

It is my conjecture that this was put in place and reached maximum control of cash and credit in the spring of 2008. This obviously makes it the greatest commodity corner in history and just as obviously illegal as hell.

Since they promoted such a huge amount of credit to start with, it is a good bet that they were substantial buyers of high yielding securities that can be carried on even five percent margin. At least that is what AAA used to mean. In other words they could have their cake and eat it while believing that their money was both secure and earning huge returns. Someone has a trillion dollars of former AAA paper somewhere and the global collapse got to someone somewhere. It cannot be all in offshore insurance schemes that are all lying to us.

I think though that hubris, or the need for another major lift, finally led them to take on the oil market. They were strong enough to do it so long as their calculation on demand was correct. Oil had to be sustainable at $200 per barrel or four times base as was copper and all other commodities. If buying collapsed then they were on their own and they would inevitably be overwhelmed.

Quite simply, they made their move and as the price made its way through $125 per barrel, it is a certainty that every end buyer diverted their product into the market to grab the cash. Their worst case was a spell of shortages and rationing. Best case, they would get to replenish at much cheaper prices. It is an industry that must have huge amounts in the pipeline at all times and short term diversion is much more feasible than it initially appears.

And then it all rolled over. The last of the displaced oil was liquidated in the $30 to $50 range and recent price recovery tells us that the last of the distortion is now fully resolved. Apportioning the losses is probably another matter. A lot of the cash likely was placed in illiquid securities that cannot be presently recovered, which means that the institutions cannot release funds.

There have been other great commodity corners in financial history and we always see the same pattern at work. When they break, all participants are wreaked.

If we then ask the further question of who could have orchestrated such a maneuver, we have only one possible prospect on the globe. The KGB has access to the oil production, financial reserves and far more importantly, they command the loyal operatives who can be printed as almost instant Billionaires and sent out into the world to await trading instructions. Without a large group of such minions it would be impossible to access foreign credit and trading capacity.

Of course, there is no evidence at all that this is what happened. It is merely a conjecture. It is also a great conspiracy theory that everyone can play with.

Russia was a major beneficiary of the run up in oil prices and a modest bit of prudence would have them in a strong financial position for a long time. So why are we hearing stories that they are in trouble? Did they really blow it? Did they really imbibe of the Koolaid? Why is it that they suddenly have deep pockets and short arms?

Posted July 8, 2008 03:40 PM (EST)

OPEC, speculation in commodities market, hedge funds, the falling dollar, peak oil theorists, all play a part in the current run up in oil prices. Yet one of the major players has escaped both scrutiny and careful analysis. Consider two items that were news this past month:

- Russia's new president Dimitri A. Medvedev, speaking to a group of foreign journalists made clear his and Russia's posture that the " United States is in no shape to give advice". He then went on to categorically declare that America is "essentially in a depression."

- A few weeks before Alexei Miller, chief executive officer of Gazprom made an eye opening forecast. Mr. Miller predicted on June 10th that oil prices would rise to $250 a barrel in the near future. Gazprom is Russia's largest company. It controls 16 percent of the world's gas reserves and 116 billion in oil and oil equivalent ranking it only behind Saudi Arabia and Iran as the world largest holder of oil reserves.

Now why would the head of Russia's largest and most prestigious company put his reputation and his company's reputation on the line by making such a seemingly rash prediction. Certainly predictions of ever higher prices serve the interests of oil producers but usually they are left to friendly analysts in the field. Could it be that Mr. Miller is absolutely sanguine about the issue, knowing the price game is cooked.

And President Medvedev making comments about an America in depression whose advice is no longer welcome by an ascendant Russia, itself having become the largest energy exporter in the world, stoking an economy that is now the fastest growing by far among the G-8. This, by a nation that still views America with grave suspicion as succinctly expressed only recently in an interview (May 30, Paris "le Monde") with Vladamir Putin the former President of Russia and KGB colonel and Medvedev's sponsor and mentor, as a "frightening monster".

For Russia this moment verges on the triumphal. A nation ascendant in benefiting handsomely from the fortuitous rise of energy prices. An America sinking into recession if not depression, the cost of energy, especially oil, strangling its economy and in turn its influence on the world stage. The shifts in world order are so profound, so unexpected one needs wonder whether the word fortuitous is appropriate relating to the price of oil. In essence the price of oil has done for Russia what the cold war Kremlin was unable to achieve given all its missiles, tanks and mind numbing divisions of men and armor. Could it be that the Russians through Russia's vast $500 billion in foreign currency reserves, or Gazprom itself, or perhaps even the KGB ,or any combination or variation thereof is gaming the oil futures market to Russia's great advantage and to America's and all oil importing nation's great detriment given the vast expenditures in armaments it would have taken to achieve an analogous result. Gaming the oil futures market would be chicken feed by comparison to the armaments cost needed to achieve the same relative status.

Unconvinced it could/does happen? Let me cite some examples and commentary. In a post here in entitled
"The Trade That Brought Us $100 Barrel Oil Teaches Us to Be Afraid , Very Afraid" 1.7.08 focuses on the single trade that moved the price from $99.53/bbl to $100 on January 2 2008. That trade was for one contract representing 1000 barrels and required a deposit margin of $6750. Thus with that miniscule investment, and as long as that price was preeminent on the trading board, all oil produced or shipped reflected that increased price value or a one days increase of some $40 million given the 85 million barrels loaded and shipped each day. How's that for leverage? And then to help matters along the hedge funds stand ready to pitch in being intrinsically trend players, happy to pile on and sustain any trend real or creative.

In another post (
"Oil at $111 a Barrel: We Are Being Sovereignly Screwed!", 3.17.08),The Sovereign Wealth Funds of the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar,Libyia, Algeria and of course Saudi Arabia were cited as having enormous wealth tied up in their sovereign funds with the means and certainly the incentive to game the futures markets of virtual paper barrels on commodities exchanges to support the price of wet barrels being produced in their home market. The Brazilian Sovereign Wealth Fund was cited because it has openly declared it will use its Sovereign Wealth Fund to support an ideal valuation of its currency the "real," given Brazil's export oriented economy. Here, clearly and candidly is a wealth fund declaring that its currency holdings would be used to pursue a policy in its specific national interest. This in glaring contrast to other wealth funds who are submerged in murky opaqueness without the slightest inclination toward transparency.

Are the Russians gaming the futures markets for oil? They are not innocents nor incompetent. When it comes to using elbows powered by their resources they will do what is necessary. Ask the Ukranians, ask the Europeans. Gaming the futures markets on the London or Singapore commodity exchanges or through electronic trading (please remember the markets offshore have a direct immediate impact on other markets throughout the world) would be a simple matter for the Russians as long as no one catches them out. Here one needs to remember that the Russian leadership is formed by KGB veterans.

What can be done? Given the evolution of pricing on our commodity exchanges and the paucity of oversight by our CFTC this is a job well beyond the CFTC's capabilities. It is Congress that must act. This administration, so in the thrall of the oil industry, whose modus operandi on matters of manipulation of oil prices is to do little or nothing whether it is confronting OPEC or putting teeth into the CFTC. It is Congress, in the interests of national security and rational markets, that must insist we engage the resources of the CIA to put a clear and bright light on this issue. Anything less would be a dereliction of responsibility.