Amazing Nature Almanac – WIF Science

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Strange and Beautiful

Natural Phenomena

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Nature is amazing. There is no doubt about that. People have marveled at nature’s beauty since they came into existence. Not knowing what was happening, these people of old came up with some truly magnificent stories, trying to give a sense to the world around them. Today we are blessed with more knowledge about the world, but nevertheless this doesn’t diminish the magic taking place before our very eyes. If anything, it only makes nature more interesting.

 And while we no longer believe the “sky to be falling” every time it’s raining, or that Thor is smiting his hammer with every lightning strike, there are some natural phenomena out there we common folk still don’t understand. Here are 10 such natural occurrences, explained by our most prized of storytellers: scientists.

10. Snow Rollers

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No, these weren’t made by gnomes during the night, but rather by a series of meteorological events, in a particular order. Snow rollers aren’t a common sight, but when they do happen, and you stumble upon some of them, be sure that a fairly unlikely series of events took place the night before. First and foremost there needs to be two separate layers of snow already present: a first, icy or crusty layer of snow underneath, and a wetter one above. This way, the wet layer has something on which to roll over. Then you need some wind, strong enough to scoop out balls of snow and push them forward, similar to a tumbleweed, but not so strong as to blow it apart.

They will also form in relatively sloped areas, but this is not absolutely necessary. Just imagine yourself making a snowman, and the process is more or less the same. The biggest differences are that one is made by a person, the other by the elements. Also, snow rollers are more often cylindrical in shape, rather than a sphere, and they can vary in size from that of an average snowball, to that of a car. Nevertheless, the many meteorological conditions which need to take place in that exact order, at the exact time, make these snow rollers a very rare phenomenon to behold, and they usually make headlines in the newspapers the following day.

9. Mammatus Clouds

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Looking very ominous, mammatus clouds are sometimes the harbingers of an imminent and powerful thunderstorm. But more often than not, they form just after the storm has passed. Also known as mammatocumulus, they translate to “mammary cloud” due to their appearance as pouches, usually hanging beneath a larger, anvil cloud. As updraft pushes precipitation enriched air to the top of one such anvil cloud, the air begins to spread out, and the heavier precipitation, usually water particles and ice fall back to the bottom, forming these mammatus clouds. As the air falls back down to the ground, it heats up, evaporating the precipitation within it. The more precipitation there is the further down they will sink.

These clouds usually span over an area of several hundred miles in all directions and last for about 10-15 minutes at a time. While they usually form underneath an anvil cloud, they also appear on occasion under altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, cirrus clouds, as well as volcanic ash clouds. Whatever the case, they look amazing and ominous at the same time, especially when sunlight is reflected off of them.

8. Ice Flowers

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This natural phenomenon in particular is as beautiful as it is rare, and only takes places in late autumn or early winter, before the ground freezes over. As the air goes below freezing point, the sap within some plant stems, plants like theFrostweed (Verbesina virginica), begins to freeze and expand, pushing through the plant itself and forming an amazing thin sheet of ice, similar to a flower petal. Certain conditions need to take place for this beautiful phenomenon to appear. As the ground is still unfrozen, water keeps on going up the stem and through the microscopic cracks, the sap escapes and transforms into ice, adding to the ever longer sheet.

In some instances, this phenomenon can happen to wood as well. Wood which hasn’t yet dried completely and is kept in freezing conditions can sometimes present these Ice Flowers. More often than not however, the wood cracks from the pressure within, generating these wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles, giving this phenomenon both its name and appearance.

7. Columnar Basalt

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This type of rock formation occurs, as it name suggests, in basalt, which is a lava flow rock. These formations can be found all over eastern Washington state, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or the Los Organos on the northern part of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, and many other places around the world. Based on their name, you can clearly see what kind of stories people used to give these, back in the day. Nevertheless, there are columnar basalt formations found even on Mars. The way these form, is similar to how the ground cracks during a severe drought. As the water evaporates, or goes into the water bed below, the ground above contracts and cracks. The same thing applies here, as the lava flow progressively cools over a period of maybe longer than 100 years. The cracks form perpendicular to the original flow direction.

The difference in thickness of these columns depends on the speed at which they cool. While there are cases of a lava beds contracting as a whole, it is more likely for them to crack. The faster they cool, the thinner the columns will be. And while hexagons are most common, polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed. Their length, which can be greater than 50 feet, is based on how thick the original lava flow was.

6. Fallstreak Hole

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This particular cloud formation looks as if someone took an enormous cookie cutter and made a hole in what, otherwise, looks like an enormous flat cloud covering the sky. In fact, some people call them Holepunch clouds. Another particular aspect here is that a streak of cloud usually hangs underneath that hole. What’s happening up there is quite interesting, to say the least. For starters, we need to know that air at higher altitudes is much cooler that the temperature at the ground level. In fact, temperatures can go well below freezing point.

But despite this, water vapor and tiny water droplets “refuse” to freeze and remain in a “supercool” state. Water usually begins to freeze due to the impurities inside it: salt, dust particles, all sorts of other minerals, and so on. Cold, distilled water can also begin to freeze instantaneously if a piece of ice is added to it, in a process known as “ice nucleation.” Since water vapor is quite pure, water stays in liquid form even under freezing temperatures. Here, a piece of ice falls from higher altitudes and comes in contact with the water inside this cloud. This in turn sets out a chain reaction, freezing the droplets around, and making them fall to the ground – thus, the cloud streak below the hole. If a plane happens to pass through a cloud at a shallow angle, it can also cause it to freeze and form a cigar-shaped Fallstreak hole.

5. Brinicles

Brinicles are a fairly rare sight to see, not because they rarely happen, but because they take place underwater. In fact, they were only discovered in the 1960s. When seawater freezes, it releases its salt, creating super-salty brine. This percolates through cracks in the ice, into the water below. This brine then sinks because it’s much denser than the surrounding water. That is also the reason you can float in salty water, far better than in a fresh water lake. Nevertheless, this brine is also much colder, and the seawater around freezes on contact. Over time, this creates somewhat of an inverted cone, or funnel if you will, which goes ever deeper towards the bottom. This stalactite is what’s known as a brinicle.

Since brinicles appear in shallower waters, closer to the coast, in a course of some 12 hours it’s able to reach the bottom, trapping everything in ice. Creatures usually living on the ocean floor, like starfish and sea urchins, move far too slow and they get trapped in this newly formed ice, which then spreads along the bottom. Not surprisingly, brinicles are more commonly known as “The Ice Fingers of Death.”

4. Volcanic Lightning

Also known as a dirty thunderstorm, volcanic lightning is a weather phenomenon related to the production of lightning in a volcanic plume. What causes them was somewhat hard to figure out, and is still not yet fully understood. While during a thunderstorm, lightning is caused by colliding ice crystals, which generate enough electricity to cause a lightning bolt, ash clouds are far more difficult and a lot moredangerous to study. At first glance, it would seem counter intuitive to attribute ice as the main culprit behind a “dirty thunderstorm”. Some new scientific studies and better equipment, however, have begun to show us what’s really happening during one such volcanic inferno.

Once an eruption begins, large quantities of positively charged particles are blown into the air, which in contact with the negatively charged air particles around make for an electric discharge. These lightning bolts occur in and around the plume, which is ejected by the volcano itself. At first this theory was mostly based on speculation, but thanks to the very high frequency (VHF) radio emissions technology, scientists were able to get a better look inside one such dense volcanic plume and figure out what’s actually happening. But this is not all when it comes to lightning and volcanoes together.

Another study has tracked the location of lightning strikes some 60 miles from the eruption, and at near-stratospheric heights of about 12 miles above the ground. This seems to be caused somewhat in the same way as in a usual thunderstorm. As the ash cloud is blown by the wind, it thins out, and ice begins to form at its extremities, resulting in further lightning strikes. These studies, while not that surprising, can help a great deal in aviation as they can inform on the way to properly respond to a volcano eruption and the usual flight paths of commercial airliners passing above.

3. Sailing Stones

sailing-stones

Death Valley in California is notorious for its scorching heat during the day and extreme cold during the night. Among the many mysteries and legends linked to this place, none is more fascinating than the “sailing stones” phenomenon taking place within the Racetrack Playa, an exceptionally flat and level scenic dry lake. Some weighing around 700 pounds, the stones which dot the lake bed seem to be moving across the desert floor when nobody’s watching, leaving long trails behind them. This has puzzled scientists for decades now, but now geologists Richard and Jim Norris, believe they have found the answer. Though the phenomenon itself was under scrutiny since the 1940s, only recently did the two geologists actually capture these sailing stones on film. They set up a weather station in the area and fitted stones with GPS trackers. Two years into the project, the stones began to move.

What actually happened was that it rained the day before, and during the night a thin layer of ice had formed over a few inches of liquid water. As day came, the ice began to break apart and, pushed by the breeze, these ice sheets simply dragged the stones with them, scraping a trail on the bottom. By the end of the day, when all the ice had melted, some of the stones moved more than 200 feet. However, the conditions for this phenomenon to take place are hard to come by, and Norris compared the chances of actually stumbling upon it with winning the lottery. This also explains why this seemingly simple occurrence has intrigued people for so long.

2. Penitentes

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Penitentes are narrow ice formations, commonly found at high altitudes of over 13,000 feet, with low humidity, especially in the Andes Mountains of South America. What’s curious about them is that they usually point towards the sun, ranging from a few inches to six or even 16 feet in height. Their name comes from their resemblance to people kneeling, as when doing penance. More precisely, they resemble the brothers of the Procession of Penance in Spain, who wear hats with very tall, narrow, and white sharp tips (just like the KKK).

Anyway, the existence of these Penitentes was known about as early as the 1800s and were originally believed to have been formed by the wind. But in fact these jagged snow structures are the result of dimples in the original snow sheet. These in turn result in ever larger ablations, through a process known as “sublimation” – where ice and snow melts and vaporizes without turning into liquid water first. This happens more easily at high altitudes due to the reduced pressure of the atmosphere, together with the lower temperatures of the air and the more powerful rays of the sun above. The Penitentes are what remains behind, thanks to their angle towards the sun.

1. Light Pillars

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This stunningly beautiful light show usually makes an appearance in cold, arctic regions and can be described as optical phenomenon in which columns of light seem to emanate below or above a light source, in a vertical orientation. This light source can be of natural origins, like the sun or moon, in which case these light columns are called Sun or Lunar Pillars, respectively. Or, they can occur due to the presence of artificial lights as well. These light pillars form when the two astral bodies are close to the horizon and tend to take on the color of the body emanating that light in the first place.

The effect itself is created by the reflection of that light onto the many ice particles suspended in the air or clouds. Because of this, light pillars fall in the category of halos – optical phenomenon produced by light interacting with ice crystals. The reason for why they appear vertical and not as a circle, is because the ice crystals which reflect them consist mostly of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to orient themselves more or less horizontally as they fall through the air. Together they act as a giant mirror, reflecting the light either up or down. Thanks to the slight turbulences in the air, these ice crystals somewhat change their horizontal orientation, elongating the light column even further. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect becomes. In some rare cases, column-shaped crystalscan cause light pillars as well.


Amazing Nature Almanac

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WIF Science

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 74

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 74

…Miss Bouchette, can I count on you to help me out here? I will grant you blanket access with Level 1 Security status

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“You could barely speak English this morning when we spoke this morning.”

“I have not had the honor to meet you until now; I would like to express the gratitude of all the Nepalese people for being part of the great Space Colony. My government sends its deep condolences for the horrible accident.”

This man was genuinely sincere and definitely not the Gherkin Dogma he had met right before the Colony disappeared from the Mars Mockup.

“Are you saying that you didn’t man this station until after Space Colony was taxi-001destroyed?” Roy is more confused than ever.

“That is correct Director Crippen. I was late in arriving because my taxi driver could not find Galveston Launch Facility; it seems he took a wrong turn as we left George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which is odd because you can see Colony Mission Control from many miles away.”

“Sounds fishy to me Director Roy,” Francine interjects her opinion. “I know that many cabbies are new to this country, but they cannot be blind.”

All the while digesting and deciphering, Roy is finally seeing the handwriting on the wall. As Phil Jansky’s replacement continued to ramble on about other trip delaying travails, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together:

 1)   Philip Jansky, Spatial Debris Specialist {20 year NASA employee} dies of a rare & sudden cerebral hemorrhage

2    That death occurs at a critical time in Space Colony 1’s mission, with the McKinneys on Mars surface

3)   In a scramble to replace personnel, a Nepalese technician is flown in by supersonic transport

4)  Space Colony 1 disappears from its orbit around Mars, cause unknown

“From Earth-to-Mars, no one’s laughing from here-or-there.”

5)  A rescue mission involving the premature launch of the New Mayflower is hastily thrown together

6)  One man, two manred man, blue man. A human shell game has been going on, with sketchy timelines and miss-identifications

“Time is winding down Francine and I do not have time to do a full-blown investigation. Can I count on you to help me out here? I will grant you blanket access with Level 1 Security status.”

“A good reporter never turns down the opportunity to do what she does best.” She is developing more than a casual interest in both this interplanetary intrigue and this intriguing man specifically. “You can count on me….as long as I get the exclusive.”

Roy is going to need the help…no matter what she is angling.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 74


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

…There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser…

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Informant from the 1980s by Mohammad Omran

As they dash inside Roy explains, “If I did not think this was of the utmost importance, I would not have asked you here. But I need to confirm the source of a smell in my control room, before I can act on any hunches.”

The freshly minted investigative duo and one armed {with two arms} escort enter Colony Mission Control, heading straight for Braden King, who will have the latest of the late news.

“The New Mayflower has been reprogrammed to liftoff at 11:57 to dodge a meteor… oh and and the downrange tracking is ready. That puts us on t-minus 1:49.55.” Braden has really pushed the whole ground crew in Roy’s short absence.

There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser. And we’re not talking about an old-fashioned-Chinese-like-cyber-attack.”

“Thank you for the professional manner in which you included us in your story. Those folks on Mars are dear to us and had you just blurted the news out, we would have lost control of things.” Braden doesn’t bother her with the wrenching details of Deke and Gus’ reaction to her report.

“We will be in the briefing room Braden, not to be disturbed.”

“If there is a hitch in the countdown, I’ll let you know, t-minus 1:42 and counting.”

He nods, checks his PDA and opens the door to the classified room by placing his palm on the encoder on its right side. It is not as neat or pristine as she would have guessed one long littered table that is used for confidential meetings, taco parties and card games. Roy enters a ten character code into the comprehensive NASA database, brightening the 75” monitor on the wall to display personnel files that may hold the clue to an inside traitor.

But it is Francine who holds the key that unlocks the dark secret. She tells him every detail she could recall from that very hectic and eventful 10 minutes, which seemed much longer than 9 1/2 hours ago.

“Are you sure he had a Pakistani accent, I know that country became part of Talibanistan ten years ago,” asks Roy who knows just about everyone who has not bought into Space Colony 1.

“He said the words ‘assalamu alaikum’, I looked that up; ‘may Allah’s peace be with you’ in the Arab culture. And he referred to Korean, Nepal and Taliban joy about the accident… and we are imperialistic infidels.”

The Nepal reference strikes a nerve.

“I wasn’t aware that Nepal had an axe to grind about the Mars project. But there is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 71


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 65

…Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”…

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Surprise by Leonard Filgate

“Damn!” Sam galumphs into spread-eagle prostrations. “Maybe we should be using the helmet lights,” he taps the side of his head to do so, to light their way and expose the upright-cancelling offender.

“Whooaa!” he springs to his feet like a wrestler scoring 2 points on a lightning-quick reversal {and low gravity}.

Celeste would have laughed had she not popped her light on, fearfully recognizing the cause of Sam’s fall, “That is a body!”

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Sampson backs off a few steps, so they can both see a space traveler of unknown origin, who had met his doom several steps from the entrance. The not-of-this-neighborhood being had the rough configuration of a human; a pair of legs and one arm… at his side and the other onyx-black-001extended out, as if to retrieve a black object, like they found minutes before.

IT must be a device of some kind, though either she or Sam could get theirs to so much as light up. While Sampson inspects the spaceman, Celeste further fondles her gizmo, hoping to solve its mysterious function. Had it been a ray gun, she would have blasted everything around her, but gladly it was not.

They area is spared laser fire, but she finally gets it to do something, somehow causing a momentary digital Related imagesound, hummmm in the key of C, “Hmmm! Come on, work you dumb thing!”

Then, without notice or noise to that matter, what they had guessed to be the front door, opens in a flash.

“Looks like you found the invitation Cel,” utters Sam as they must do something other than stare.

star-crossedUpon further review, this must be the star-crossed vehicles version of an airlock, but it didn’t do either of these guys any good, “Bodies two and three,” he point to the floor.

But as fast as the outside door opened, it closes itself.

Celeste, who could apparently operate her black oval, coaxes the set of parallel and perpendicular lines to open the interior door, followed by a rush of pungent air from inside. It seemed so unlikely, but after all these unknown years, this ship still had some operational time left in the tank.

The combination of gasses inside looked good to the mass spectrometer, but something about the Martian environment caused these life forms to expire and caution needs to displace curiosity. “Oxygen is at 20 big ones Cel!” 20% is surplus good.

Near proper amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen gases are present, along with 2 inert and 1 unknown, defying classifications on the current Periodic Table.

“I believe it’s safe to go inside, what do we have to lose,” states gambler Sam, revealing his new what-to-we-have-to-lose state-of-mind.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Keep Track of Your Progress

Little Known Unsolved Mysteries – WIF Style

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Baffling

Unsolved Mysteries

You May Not

Have Heard About

The mysterious death of a journalist who was investigating a government conspiracy. Two people with the same name who were murdered just days apart in the same city. An elderly man who was possibly killed due to witchcraft. These are just some of the unsolved mysteries you’ll find in this list. So please, read on, and as Robert Stack used to say: “Perhaps you may be able to help solve a mystery.”

10. The Loomis, Fargo, and Company Semi-Truck Heist

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Around 7:30 on the night of March 24, 1999, a transport truck carrying a trailer full of cash from Loomis, Fargo, and Company, left a depot in Sacramento, heading towards a depot in San Francisco. It was an easy route and the truck only made two stops along the way; one at an intersection before the driver hit the highway, and a second at a weigh station on the interstate.

The driver and two guards in the cab of the truck didn’t notice anything unusual along the way. After they pulled into the depot in San Francisco, they opened the trailer and were shocked to find a hole in the roof. Their immediate thought was, even though they didn’t notice it, the hole was created by some natural phenomenon, like a lightning strike, because the door’s alarm hadn’t been triggered. When the Loomis employees went to look for damage they saw that $2.3 million, which weighed 250 pounds, was missing from the truck.

 How the brazen heist went down, according to the actual police investigation, is that when the truck left the depot in Sacramento, there was someone (or some ones) waiting on the roof or above the garage door. They jumped on the roof of the detached trailer. Since the roof was only thin aluminum, the suspect(s) cut a hole and dropped in. The suspect(s) then unloaded the money and escaped without being detected by the Loomis guards and driver.

There was one eyewitness to the crime and they said that they saw one man climbing down from the side of the transport trailer and running away.

No suspects have ever been named in the action movie style robbery and the case has gone cold.

9. The Circleville Writer

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Circleville, Ohio, is only a short drive from Columbus and is home to about 13,000 people. The Pickaway County town is best known for being home to a popular Pumpkin Festival that’s held every year in October. Circleville seems like an innocuous little town, but it’s also home to a bizarre series of crimes that started in 1976 when residents of the town began receiving disturbing letters in the mail. In all, thousands of these letters were sent out to many residents living in Pickaway County.

 All of the letters were written in block lettering and were disturbing in nature. They often contained unsettling personal details about the recipients’ lives. In some cases, the letters accused the recipients of immoral acts or sinister crimes. The unknown writer would often sign off with some type of threat and, at times, the threats were directed at the children of the recipient.

The first known letter was sent to school bus driver Mary Gillispie in early 1976. The unknown author said that he knew Mary was having an affair with the superintendent of the schools and that she should end it. If she didn’t, there would be dire consequences. The writer said he was watching the house and knew that Mary had children. Thinking it was just a sick prank, she ignored the note. But then, a short time later she received two more letters, but again she kept them secret. It was only after her husband Ron received a similar letter that she confided in him that she had previously received the three letters. She said that she wasn’t having an affair and didn’t know who was sending the letters.

Unsure what to do, Ron and Mary decided to discuss the matter with Ron’s sister, her husband, Paul Freshour, and Paul’s sister. They discussed who could have possibly sent the letters and came up with one suspect. They wrote a few of their own letters, telling him to stop. It seemed to work, because for a while the letters stopped.

On the night of August 19, 1977, at about 11:30 p.m., Ron Gillispie got a mysterious phone call that seemed to confirm the identity of the writer. Ron grabbed his handgun and drove off in the family’s pickup truck to confront the writer. Sadly, a short distance away from his house, Ron’s truck was found after it had driven off the road and collided with a tree. Ron was killed in the accident.

The investigation of the scene revealed some unusual details; notably that Ron’s gun had been fired once. Also, his blood alcohol level was found to be one-and-a-half times the legal limit. Due to his blood alcohol level, his death was ruled a drunk driving accident. But this didn’t sit well with people who knew Ron, because it wasn’t like him to drink excessively. The police also interviewed the man the Gillispies thought was sending the letters and ruled him out as a suspect. So who was Ron going to meet on the night that he died?

As the 1980s rolled around, more letters with the unique block letters continued to be mailed out. These new letters were sent to different residents, politicians, and community leaders in and around Circleville. The letters were always malicious and threatening. While the anonymous letter writer was threatening many other people in the county, the letter writer had not given up his vendetta against Mary Gillispie. After her husband’s death, Mary admitted that she was in a relationship with the school superintendent, but claimed that they only started seeing each other after the letters had started.

In 1983, Mary was still a school bus driver and instead of only sending her letters, the writer had taken to leaving large signs along her bus route. One of the signs was a threat towards her daughter so she got off her bus and tore the sign down. When she did, she noticed that there was a string attached to the sign that led to a box sitting on a post. Inside the box was a small pistol. She realized that it was actually a booby trap; the gun was supposed to fire when she tore the sign down.

The police retrieved the gun and found that the serial number had been filed off. They were able to recover the number and traced the gun back to none other than Paul Freshour, Mary’s former brother-in-law. Freshour, who was married to Ron Gillespie’s sister, was brought in for questioning. He said that he did own a small pistol, but it had been lost, or someone had stolen it.

The police asked Freshour to do a handwriting analysis test and he agreed. He was given a sample of the writer’s unique block lettering and told to emulate it. After performing the test, a forensic handwriting professional said that Freshour’s writing matched the block lettering of the malicious Circleville letters. This was troubling because handwriting analysis was not a reliable form of evidence because they can be inaccurate. Yet, using the handwriting analysis and the gun as evidence, Freshour was charged with the attempted murder of Mary Gillispie.

At his trial in 1984, the prosecutor presented the evidence and Freshour’s boss testified that the day the booby trap was set up, Freshour was not at work. Freshour apparently had an alibi for the morning in question, but he never explained that because he never took the stand in his own defense. After deliberating for a few hours, the jury found him guilty and he received the maximum sentence of seven-to-25 years in prison.

When Freshour was imprisoned, the letters, with similar block letters, were still being sent out at an alarming rate. Due to complaints from residents, Freshour was placed in solitary confinement, and all his mail was closely monitored. Yet, people continued to receive the threatening letters. All of them had a postmark of Columbus and Freshour was in prison in Lima, Ohio.

After seven years in prison, Freshour applied for parole. Although he was a well-behaved inmate, his parole application was denied because of how many letters were still being mailed out. After being denied parole, Freshour himself received a taunting letter that said, “Now when are you going to believe you aren’t going to get out of there? I told you 2 years ago. When we set ’em up, they stay set up. Don’t you listen at all?” Freshour spent 10 years in prison and always denied that he had anything to do with the letters.

As the decade came to an end, the letters didn’t stop. Whoever was writing and mailing the disturbing letters carried on their bizarre campaign of terror into the 1990s, albeit with less frequency. In 1993, Unsolved Mysteries did a story about the strange events in Circleville and they too received a note from the writer that said: “Forget Circleville, Ohio… If you come to Ohio, you el sickos will pay.” It was signed, “The Circleville Writer.” As the years went by, the letters stopped as mysteriously as they had started.

To this day, some people are unsure if Freshour was the Circleville Writer or if he was an innocent man who spent 10 years in prison. Paul Freshour died June 28, 2012, proclaiming his innocence to the end.

8. Christene Skubish

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On June 29, 1990, a couple was driving along Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada foothills. On the side of the road, they saw the naked body of a woman. They didn’t stop, instead driving on. As soon as they could, they contacted the police. The couple led the police to the spot where they saw the woman, but she was nowhere to be found. Instead, the police found evidence that a car had been driven off the side of the road. That’s when they saw a car 40 feet below the embankment that had collided with the tree.

When they got down to the car, they found 24-year-old Christene Skubish and her three-year-old son Nick. They had gone missing five days before, and sadly, Christene had died on impact. After she had hit the tree, it collapsed on her and pinned her. Amazingly, Nick was alive in the passenger seat. He was naked, and he was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

If Christene died on impact five days prior, she couldn’t have been the naked woman that the couple saw. While it could have been Nick, the couple was positive that they saw the body of a woman with her bent legs together and an arm over her head, and not a young boy. Also, it would have been difficult for the boy to climb up the 40 foot embankment after five days with no food and water, and then climb back down and get back into the passenger seat.

Without any other explanation, some people believe that it was the spirit of Christene trying to save her son.

7. The Midwest College Students

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Around 1:00 a.m. on October 30, 2002, 21-year Erika Marie Dalquist was waiting with her friends for a taxi after a night of drinking in Brainerd, Minnesota. She saw a man she knew, and left with him. That was the last time anyone saw her.

24 hours later, 127 miles away in Minneapolis, after a night of partying to celebrate Halloween, 21-year-old student Christopher Jenkins seemingly vanished into thin air. The next weekend, on November 6, another student disappeared. This time it was Michael Noll, who disappeared from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, after celebrating his 22nd birthday. Finally, on November 9, 11 days after Erika Dalquist disappeared, 20-year-old Josh Guimond went missing from Collegeville, Minnesota. Like the three others before him, Guimond disappeared after a night of drinking.

For months, the whereabouts of the four young people was unknown and four anxious families awaited news. Come the new year, some light would be shed on the disappearances. In some of the cases, it only deepened the mystery.

First, in January 2003, 27-year-old William Myears was charged with the murder of Erika Dalquist. He admitted he was drinking with Erika, they got into a fight, he killed her, and buried her in a shallow grave on his grandparents’ farm. Then in February 2003, Christopher Jenkins’ body was found sticking out of thin frozen ice in the Mississippi River. A month later, Noll’s body was found in a lake. No trace of Josh Guimond has ever been found.

Police are not sure what happened to the three young men who died and disappeared from college towns in the Midwest after a night of drinking within 10 days of each other. One obvious answer is that they all had tragic accidents because they drank too much. However, the chances of three men, similar in age, that looked alike, had similar builds, all dying and disappearing from the same area over the span of two weekends are pretty low.

The police have not said if the deaths and disappearances are connected. In the case of Michael Noll, police have not ruled out foul play. Christopher Jenkins’ death is considered a homicide, and police are still looking for clues as to what happened to Josh Guimond.

6. The Mysterious Death of Dan Casolaro

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In August 1991, 44-year-old freelance writer Daniel Casolaro told family and friends that he was going to meet a source in Martinsburg, West Virginia. On August 10, he was found dead in his hotel room in Martinsburg. His wrists had been slashed a dozen times, leaving a gory scene for the maid to find. Police declared the death a suicide.

Casolaro’s family immediately disagreed with the ruling. They did admit that Casolaro was having some anxiety over his story’s progress and over his mortgage payments, but they do not believe he would have slashed his wrists in such a gruesome manner, simply because he was terrified of blood. Also, Casolaro’s brother said that Casolaro was getting death threats in the months leading up to his death. Casolaro told his brother that if he were to die in an accident, he should not to believe it. Finally, all Casolaro’s notes on the mysterious story he was working on, called “The Octopus,” went missing at the time of his death. They’ve never been found.

“The Octopus” was a sprawling conspiracy story that reached the upper echelons of American politics and it all revolved around a lawsuit called the Inslaw Case.

Inslaw was a small Washington-based tech company that designed a computer program called Prosecutor’s Management Information System (Promis) for the Justice Department in the mid-1970s. Promis was designed to track criminal cases across the world and the Justice Department vowed to buy the updated version when it was released, but never followed through with the purchase. This led to Inslaw suing the United States government, charging them with software piracy. By the time Casolaro started working on the story, the case had been in the court system for 10 years.

Casolaro’s story was about what the U.S. government was doing with Promis and much of the information he had gathered from the story came from a man named Michael Riconosciuto. Riconosciuto said that the U.S. Government hired him to modify some code in Promis that would allow the U.S. government to spy on anyone they sold the program to. Also, Riconoscuito claimed that in 1980, Reagan’s campaign team paid Iran $40 million to delay the release of the hostages at the U.S. Embassy during the Iran Hostage Crisis.

The delay would reflect poorly on Jimmy Carter, who was seeking re-election. But it would help Ronald Reagan, who had taken a strong stance against Iran. Evidence that Riconosciuto pointed to was that the hostages were released just 20 minutes after Reagan made his inaugural address on January 20, 1981.

Of course, nothing in “The Octopus” has ever been fully substantiated and Casolaro’s death is still considered a suicide.



5. The Witchcraft Murder

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Charles Walton lived all 74 years of his life in Lower Quinton, in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. That life would come to an end on Valentine’s Day, 1945, in a strange and unusual murder that is still unsolved over 70 years later.

Walton was well liked in the community and worked on local farms all the way up until that fateful day. Despite being liked, odd rumors about him circulated around the small town. For example, he could tame wild dogs with his voice and birds ate from his hand. There was also speculation that he was even involved in witchcraft and/or black magic.

On the day he was murdered, Walton was working in an area called Meon Hill, a place steeped in strange stories of bizarre happenings. There are many tales of the Devil visiting the area, and there have been sightings of phantom hounds who people believe belong to the Celtic king of the underworld, Arawn. According to Celtic beliefs, Arawn would roam on a white horse with a pack of white hounds with red ears looking for souls to take to the underworld.

On the day Walton was murdered, his body was found by locals. It was gruesome, to say the least. There was a trouncing hook through his throat and a pitchfork driven through his body and into the ground, pinning him. On his back, an inverted cross had been carved into his skin.

The police thought that witchcraft may have been involved. Someone may have believed Walton was an actual wish and killed him to break, what they thought, was a curse.

There is one final strange thing to note. When the police were searching Walton’s home, they found a book published in 1929 called Folklore, Old Customs and Superstitions in Shakespeare Land. In the book, there is a passage about a man named Charles Walton, who died after seeing a ghost, 60 years before Walton’s murder. While farfetched, there are some people who believe that Walton was involved with witchcraft and that the Walton who died in 1885 was the same one who was murdered in 1945.

There has never been a suspect named in the Witchcraft Murder and the killing of the 74-year-old man will probably remain unsolved.

4. The Murder of Betsy Aardsma

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At about 4:00 p.m. on November 28, 1969, Betsy Aardsma, 22, went to the library at Penn State University to do some research for a paper she was writing. She was dressed up, which has led to speculation that she was going to meet someone.

Sometime between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m., Betsy walked down a narrow row in the library stacks. They were so narrow that the only way two people would be able to pass one another would be if they both turned to their sides. Also, the book cases extended all the way to the end of the wall, so the only way back out of the row would be to turn around and walk back out the way you came.

When Betsy walked down the aisle, someone snuck up behind her. Using his or her right hand, he or she plunged a single edged hunting knife once into Betsy’s heart. There were no screams or defense wounds. Doctors said that it would have taken considerable force to get through the breastbone in one stab. After stabbing Betsy, the assailant pulled the knife out and took it with him or her. Betsy fell to the ground and died within five minutes.

The crime baffled the police and terrified the campus. There have been several suspects in the 45 years since the crime, but no one has ever been convicted of the brutal murder of the innocent young college student.

3. The Two Mary Morrises

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On October 12, 2000, 48-year-old Mary Henderson Morris left her Houston home to go to work. Her husband began to worry when he couldn’t reach her all day, and called 9-1-1 when he found out that she never got to work. Sadly, her burnt out car was found later that night with her charred remains inside. Her remains were so badly destroyed that she had to be identified using her teeth. There was no apparent motive and Henderson Morris’ family didn’t think she had any enemies.

Then, four days later, in a remote area, Mary Morris of Houston was found murdered in her car. This time it was Mary McGuiness Morris, a 39-year-old nurse. She had been shot once in the head and the killer tried to make it look like a suicide. However, it was clear that McGuiness Morris put up a serious fight before she was killed. Like Henderson Morris, there was no apparent motive, but McGuiness Morris did have people who might have wanted to harm her. Her marriage was in trouble and she was having problems with a disgruntled co-worker who had threatened her.

On the day that McGuiness Morris was killed, she was doing some errands and called her friend from her car. She said that a man who “gave her the creeps” was following her in another car. Less than 15 minutes later, McGuiness Morris called 9-1-1. However, the police have never released the details of the call.

There remain a lot of questions regarding the murders of the two Mary Morrises, who didn’t know each other. The only similarities they shared were they were both white, professional women who lived in Houston and had the same name. Were the murders connected? Was Henderson Morris killed in a case of mistaken identity when Mary McGuiness Morris was the real target? Or are they unconnected and it just happened that two women with the same name were murdered in the same city within four days of each other?

Unless someone comes forward, these questions may never be answered.

2. The Annecy Shooting
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In September 2012, 50-year-old Saad al-Hilli and his wife, 47-year-old Iqbal al-Hilli, his 74-year-old mother-in- law, and his two daughters that were 4 and 7, were on vacation from their home in Britain. First, they had visited Geneva, Switzerland. On September 5, they were in France, near Annecy Lake in the French Alps.

Around 3:45 p.m. on that day, Saad and his eldest daughter were standing outside of their car in an isolated area, when a gunman approached them. They got back in the car and were trying to escape by doing a U-turn. In the process of trying to escape, they might have struck 45-year-old cyclist Sylvain Mollier, who appeared to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The gunmen started firing and all the adults, including Mollier, were shot and killed. Amazingly, the two girls survived.

After the murders, many theories emerged as to what the motive was. One thing that was unclear was why the al-Hilli family would go on vacation in September, just as school was starting for the girls. This hinted that their trip was something much more than a leisurely family getaway.

 As police began to investigate, they learned that that Saad al-Hilli had come from Iraq as a child. There were some theories that his father had a bank accountwith connections to Saddam Hussein. This could have been the reason for the trip to Geneva, because Saad could have been checking on those Swiss bank accounts. There is also a theory that al-Hilli, who worked for a satellite technology company, was meeting with Mollier, who worked in the nuclear industry, and they were planning on exchanging information. Others have questioned if Mollier was actually the target and the al-Hillis were collateral damage.

Another strange twist in the case, that may be completely coincidental, was that Iqbal al-Hilli had been in the United States between 1999 and 2000. While there, she had been married to a dentist. Oddly enough, Iqbal’s former husband died of a heart attack on the same day as the al-Hillis were murdered in France. This has only led to more speculation of some type of conspiracy.

With so many different theories and no real evidence pointing them in a definitive direction, police think it will take a “stroke of luck” to solve the case.

1. The Southern Pacific Ax Man

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In January 1911, in Rayne, Louisiana, a mother and her three children were found murdered in their beds. Two weeks later, just a few towns over, a family of five was killed as they slept. Next, a family in San Antonio fell victim to the murderer. The killer ventured back into Louisiana and continued to break into the homes of families to kill everyone in the house. Between January 1911 and April 1912, there were six families killed; 49 men, women, and children in all.

Besides just wiping out entire families, there were a few other things that tied the murders together. Notably, all the families were of mixed race people. Secondly, while the murders happened over a range of 400 miles, they all happened along the Southern Pacific Railroad. Third, all the murders were committed with an ax.

 One clue as to the motive was a note that was left at one of the murders that said, “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble—human five.” Besides “human five,” the note was taken from Psalms 9:12. The human five referred to how many people he had killed in that house. This led police to believe that the murderer was a member of the African American community who was killing people he thought had “tainted” blood. The only suspects were members of a congregation called “Sacrifice Church,” which had voodoo connections, but no one was ever charged.

The only person who may have witnessed the murder was a woman in San Antonio.

On August 6, 1912, a woman awoke when she was hit in the arm with an ax. She screamed and the attacker, who was a lone man, ran off into the night. His identity, and if he was the Southern Pacific Ax Man, remains a mystery.


Little Known Unsolved Mysteries

WIF Mysteries-001

– WIF Style

Unavailable Technologies – WIF Science

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Incredible Technologies

You Can’t Use

Technology sets us apart from all other living things. It’s true that, compared to other animals, we have larger brains and opposable thumbs, but these are what made technology available to us in the first place. And with the use of this technology, we became the dominant species on Earth.

But unfortunately, not all of this technology is available to us now. Some of it got lost in the mists of time, while others are deemed as classified by various governments, and we’ll probably never hear about them anyway. And there are still other pieces of technology which have been created, but considered as not economically viable by some influential people. Whatever the case, we’ll take a look at 10 such pieces of technology we’ll probably never have the chance to use.

10. Damascus Steel

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During the Middle Ages, swords made out of a metal known as Damascus Steel were produced in the Middle East, by using a raw material known as “wootz,” brought there from India and Sri Lanka. This Damascus Steel was so strong that it was said it could cut through any other type of sword. By examining the steel, scientists could deduce that it had a high concentration of carbon in its mixture, making it much stronger than regular steel, but at the same time, flexible enough to not shatter on impact.

Even though people now know the composition of Damascus Steel, they don’t know the exact process through which the medieval Arabs were able to make it. According to Dr. Helmut Nickel, curator of the Arms and Armor Division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, legend says that the best blades were quenched in “dragon blood.” What this “dragon blood” really was is a matter of debate and possibly the key to making Damascus steel. Some stories say that such blades were quenched in donkey urine, or that of a redheaded boy (gingers are the work of the devil, after all), or even plunging the still red hot blade into the body of a muscular slave so that “his strength would be transferred to the sword.” While all these processes were based on superstition, Dr. Nickel believes that all of them contributed to the process by adding nitrogen to the alloy.

Whatever the case, the exact recipe was lost, due in part to the secrecy with which the blacksmiths were making the alloy, as well as the emergence of gunpowder. Other theories say that the wootz ore ran low, and they could no longer make Damascus Steel. The period in which this super steel disappeared was around 1750 AD.

9. Vitrum Flexile (Flexible Glass)

flexible glass

The story behind flexible glass is more of a legend than anything else. The “tale” takes place in Ancient Rome during Emperor Tiberius’ rule (14-37 AD). It is said that one day, a glassmaker requested an audience at the imperial court in order to present a glass vial to the Emperor. After Tiberius examined it and saw nothing out of the ordinary, the glassmaker took the vial and threw it to the ground. Instead of shattering like any other ordinary glass vial should, it just bent slightly at the point of impact. With the use of a small hammer he was even able to restore the bottle to its original shape.

Seeing this, the Emperor, truly amazed, asked the glassmaker if he revealed his invention to anyone else. After saying no, Tiberius had the glassmaker killed and his workshop burned, fearing that the new invention would undermine the value of gold and silver in the imperial treasury and collapse the economy. While it is quite possible this would had been the economic outcome, had the glassmaker begun producing the vitrum flexile, it also made sure nobody would ever see or use this technological marvel for the next 2,000 years.

Normal glass is based on silicon dioxide (sand) with sodium and calcium as the metal oxides. But scientists nowadays believe that in order to make vitrum flexile, boric acid or borax should also be added to the mix. Our glassmaker might have had access to this element, either brought to Rome via the Silk Road, all the way from a remote region in Tibet, or he found some lying around near the steam vents of the Tuscan Maremma, north of Rome. In 2012, the American glass and ceramics company Corning introduced a new product called “Willow Glass,” which is very flexible and used in the construction of solar energy collectors. The only difference is that this glass can’t be returned to its original state.

8. Mithridatium: An Antidote to All Poisons

mithridate

An antidote to all poisons, as well as a cure to many ailments, is said to have been developed by king Mithridates VI of Pontus, and then later refined by the personal physician of Emperor Nero of Rome. According to historians, the original formula was lost, but did manage to survive as late as the Renaissance, with some mentions in the German, French, and Spanish pharmacopoeias of the 19th century. It is almost certain that by this point, the original recipe would have been lost already.

Nevertheless, some say that among the 36 ingredients found in this universal antidote were opium, small quantities of various poisons and their antidotes, and even chopped vipers. According to Adrienne Mayor, an historian at Stanford University, Sergei Popov, a USSR biological weapon specialist, tried to recreate it before defecting to the US, but to no avail.

7. Greek Fire

greek fire

Among all of the technologies on this list, we’re glad that this particular item has been lost to us. Back in 673 AD, Kallinikos from Heliopolis, a citizen of the Byzantine Empire, came up with a weapon of such great devastation, it’s still frightening just thinking about it. This is Greek Fire, or as its inventors called it, “Liquid Fire.” With this weapon, the Byzantines managed to save their Empire from being conquered by the Arabs in two attacks on Constantinople, in a number of wars against the Rus and Bulgarians, as well as a series of internal revolts. All of these battles ended in success.

Most likely made of a petroleum based mixture, Greek Fire was extremely flammable, burning at high temperatures and sticking to any surface it came in contact with. It even continued burning on water, making it ideal for naval warfare. It was sprayed out of a cannon type mechanism, and powered by a pump, acting quite similar to a present-day flamethrower firing napalm. It was also used in the form of a hand grenade. Besides the obvious damage it inflicted on ships and soldiers, it had an immensely terrifying effect on enemy morale, being a perfect terror weapon. Its impression on people back then is similar to the introduction of nuclear weapons in the 20th century.

Not wanting it to fall into the wrong hands, the recipe for this Byzantine super-weapon was a closely guarded secret. It was handed down from one Emperor to the next, and together with a handful of trusted craftsmen, they were the only ones who knew this recipe. This is also the reason why it was forgotten, as the Byzantine Empire entered a period of instability and the chain of passing down the formula was eventually broken.

6. Inca Stonemasonry

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Of all the things that made the Incas great, their wall building is among the most interesting and a mystery in its own right – so much so that some people have gone so far as to credit these techniques to demons, aliens, or any other higher power one could think of. While we do know that the Incas were the ones who made those walls, it’s fairly uncertain as to how they did it.

The first mystery here is how they were able to bring a 140 ton stone slab from the quarry, to the construction site, some 35 kilometers away. Because the Incas hadn’t yet discovered the wheel, and based on the stone’s polished surface, it is possible that they simply dragged them there on gravel roads, using at least 2,500 men to do it. The problem is not this, but rather how so many men fit on an 8-meter wide ramp, while pulling this immense stone uphill. Furthermore, the stones used at Saqsaywaman were fine-dressed at the Rumiqolqa quarry and show no signs of dragging.

The next bit of mystery is the precise positioning of these stones, as they fit perfectly with one another and without the use of any mortars or adhesives. We’re talking about being unable to even fit a single sheet of paper between any two stones. Located in an earthquake prone area of the world, it is a true feat of engineering that these walls are still standing, centuries after their construction. Archaeologists believe that it required a lot of measuring and planning beforehand, rather than a trial and error process, but whatever the case, nobody knows how the Incas were able to achieve it.

5. Roman Concrete

roman concrete

While we’re on the topic of ancient construction, we can talk about Roman concrete. Even though the Romans were heavily influenced by the Greeks in their architecture, they were able to take those constructions to a whole new level. While the concrete we use today is made to last about 120 years, the one the Romans were using made their buildings last for millennia.

Some of these Roman buildings are so spectacular in their construction and beauty, that modern builders would never attempt something similar, not even with today’s technology. It’s been known for a while now that the volcanic sand used in Roman concrete and mortar made their buildings last for this long. Moreover, while Portland cement (the one we use today) needs temperatures of about 1,450 degrees Celsius to be produced, Roman concrete only needed roughly 900 degrees, or even less. And given the fact that we use more than 19 billion tons of concrete per year, a reduction in production cost can go a long way. Not to mention that the production for Portland cement accounts for 7% of all CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, the planet would thank us for emulating the Romans.

The only thing with Roman concrete is that, while we know what it’s made out of, we don’t know precisely how it’s made, even though we know the basic recipe. Scientists were stuck up until a group of archaeologists stumbled upon the recipe, which was written down by the Roman architect Vitruvius. It only remains to be seen if we will attempt to perfect and use it in our constructions anytime soon.

4. The Iron Pillar of Delhi: The Iron That Never Rusts

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There is an iron pillar in the Qutb complex of Delhi, standing 23 feet, eight inches high, and a diameter of 16 inches. This isn’t anything all that out of the ordinary. But the fact that it’s 1,600 years old, out in the open and not completely rusted, is. In fact, with the exception of a thin layer of surface rust, which looks like it’s partially keeping the metal in its current state, the pole and the iron it’s made out of are in pristine condition.

The tower has not always been in Delhi, having been moved there from central India, from a town called Udayagiri, somewhere around 1050 AD. As to why the pillar is still standing, there are several theories to it. One is based on the material it’s made out of, which is 98% wrought iron of pure quality, while the other is based on environmental factors, which somehow make the pillar not form any more rust.

Others believe that there is a strong correlation between the processing, structure, and properties of the pillar’s iron. All of these work together and have formed the outer, thin layer of rust we mentioned before, keeping the iron underneath from oxidizing any further. A fence was built around the tower to protect it from tourists who believe that by touching it, the pillar will bring good fortune. While this is innocent enough, it could peel off the existing layer of rust, exposing the metal underneath.

The pillar at Delhi is not unique in the world, and other such iron pillars exist at Dhar, Mandu, Mount Abu, Kodochadri Hill, as well as several iron cannons (all from India). That means it’s fairly safe to assume that there is something else at work, other than a series of fortunate events that have kept all these objects in such tremendous, almost new condition.

3. Tesla’s Free Wireless Energy

tesla

By most accounts, Nikola Tesla was decades ahead of his time when it came to electricity and wireless technology. He was the one who discovered alternative current and gained a lot of fame for his victory over Thomas Edison in the well-publicized “battle of currents.” Here, he proved that his alternating current was far more practical and safe than Edison’s direct current. And soon enough, the whole world would use Tesla’s discovery, as well as his other great inventions (the Tesla coil, the radio transmitter, and fluorescent lamps). By 1900 he was widely regarded as America’s greatest electrical engineer.

In 1905, Tesla was ready to put into practice his greatest invention yet, by building a 187-foot-tall Wardenclyffe Tower. Atop this tower was a 55 ton dome of conductive metals, which continued down the tower and then 300 feet into the ground itself. His aim was to use both the planet itself and the overhead ionosphere as huge electrical conductors, transporting electricity wirelessly anywhere on the face of the Earth. Famed financier and investor J.P. Morgan saw the potential such distribution could bring and invested $150,000 to relocate Tesla’s lab to Long Island, to construct a pilot plant for this “World Wireless System.”

Not long after construction began, another competing scientist named Guglielmo Marconi executed the world’s first Trans-Atlantic wireless telegraph signal. Though considerably less ambitious, and despite the fact that Marconi’s project borrowed heavily from Tesla, his new device scared Tesla’s investors. The fact that Marconi required less money to put his apparatus into practice, along with the stock market crash in 1901, quickly guaranteed that no further investments would be made to the Wardenclyffe Tower. After Tesla’s death, many other scientists tried to recreate his invention but to no avail. Even though all of them studied his notes, Tesla relied heavily on his photographic memory, and his notes are notorious for being extremely vague and lacking in any real technical detail.

2. Starlite

In the 1980s, an amateur scientist by the name of Maurice Ward came up with an invention that was said to have the ability to revolutionize space travel as we know it. He came up with an indestructible, heat-resistant plastic that could withstand 10,000 degrees Celsius. He was compelled to create it after he witnessed an airplane burst into flames. Besides the incredible heat-resistance, Starlite could also resist the impact of the force equivalent of 75 Hiroshima bombs, could endure temperatures three times the melting point of diamonds, and could be shaped in any form.

NASA was ecstatic about all the improvements Starlite could have on spaceship astronautical and security designs, but Ward was reluctant to part with the recipe, fearing that some companies would profit from his creation. Maurice never revealed the exact composition of Starlite but said that it contained “up to 21 organic polymers and copolymers, and small quantities of ceramics.” In 2011, Maurice died without parting with his secret formula. Since then scientists have tried to replicate this amazing material, but have had no luck.

1. The Sloot Digital Coding System

coding

This is going to sound like the plot of Silicon Valley, but it’s something that actually happened, making us wonder if Mike Judge may have based his HBO series on an inventor named Jan Sloot. In the early 1990s, Sloot came up with a revolutionary data compression technique that claimed to compress a 10 GB movie down to just 8 KB without any loss of quality. A lot of people doubted the possibility of Sloot’s invention, but the technology company Philips saw the potential and arranged to sign a deal with him. The day he was due to sign, however, Sloot died of a heart attack. Nevertheless, Philips was still interested and prepared to utilize Sloot’s technology after his death, but a key floppy disk that contained the actual coding software had gone missing. After months of searching, Sloot’s disk was never found and his technology forgotten.

According to Roel Pieper, an influential Dutch IT entrepreneur who was also involved in Sloot’s project (in keeping with the Silicon Valley similarities, the fictional compression company in that show is called “Pied Piper“…coincidence?), the coding system was not so much about compression, but rather by having some background knowledge, shared by both the sender and the receiver. Pieper said of the algorithm, “It’s not about compression. Everyone is mistaken about that. The principle can be compared with a concept as Adobe-postscript, where sender and receiver know what kind of data recipes can be transferred, without the data itself actually being sent.”


Unavailable Technologies

– WIF Science

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 32

…Four armed guards charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”…

turkish-taxi-001

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune.

The homemade taxi pulls up to the gates of the Ahmet Mosque, tall and unwelcoming. Four armed guards are-you-001charge out of the left-hinged gate, the one in the lead asking, “Are you Aldona Afridi?”

“I didn’t know what he was up to, I swear,” pleads the spineless driver, once an ally.

“Not you Cabbie! We are from the American Consulate, called here by your wife, she told us you would be coming.” Those are Marine uniformed men. “Pulls that hunk of junk into that garage and leave the keys with the Sergeant.”

Naturally they comply, while being led inside, then left alone. The young Turk comments, “Whoever you are or whatever you know, I am impressed Saied.”

“Fatima, my dear Fatima,” Afridi prays aloud.

“Your fat mother?”

He needs to fill in the gaping blanks, “My name is Aldona Afridi and my wife Fatima and my two daughters are probably inside somewhere.”

“And mine is Mehmet Ali Erim,” they embrace like old friends. “I own a taxi, what do you do?”

“I am a scientist not a criminal, and there evil men chasing me!”

“I am intrigued, but not surprised Saied Al. You act like a man with a scorpion in your pants.”

“Do not tell Mr. Erim anything else,” the embassy guards warn.

“They know my name!”Image result for spy

“They may have been listening when you introduced yourself,” Afridi remarks, being the “seasoned spy” that he has become.

 

They are escorted into the catacombs of the 3rd Century structure and shown separate rooms. The two shake hands, not knowing what the future holds.

Mehmet Ali Erim is briefly debriefed as a precaution and released to the streets and his next fare.

Aldona Afridi is grilled on a number of subjects, none of which mention his defection, so it is he who asks, “May I see my family and when can I speak to someone about the Space Colony?”space-colony-banner-001

The team of inquisitors is headed by Elliot Deming, Consulate General of the Turkish delegation based in Ankara. The very tall middle-aged American political appointee paces in front of Aldona, knowing that he has not heard the whole story. “The Ambassador to Turkey is scheduled to arrive in another hour. We cannot move on your wife’s suspicious information until the Ambassador personally speaks with the Secretary of State.”

“What I have to say cannot wait…I would not have risked my family’s lives for anything less!”

“We have to fully vet your story, I hope you understand?”

“No.” This is no time for governmental red tape. He hangs his weary and exasperated head.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 32


 

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