No Helium, No Fun – WIF Science

Leave a comment

 If We

Ran Out

of Helium

Helium Balloons GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Helium was first discovered in 1895. It is the second most abundant element in the universe and it makes up 0.0005 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is lighter than air and it is the coldest liquid on Earth.

 While it’s abundant in the universe, on Earth, we might be running out of it. You may not know it, but helium is an important part of modern life and possible shortages have been such a big worry that the United States government has been stockpiling helium since the 1960s.

The problem is that once helium hits the atmosphere, it is pretty much useless, so it needs to be mined or pull from natural gas. This makes helium a finite element on Earth.

So what would a post-helium world look like?

10. No More Party and Parade Balloons

When the American government first announced a possible shortage of helium in April 2012, one of the first things suggested to conserve helium is to stop using it to fill up party balloons and balloons used in parades. This is pretty hard to argue against because it’s a completely frivolous use of the a finite element, even if you can get a good laugh out of listening to people’s voices change after inhaling the gas and parades won’t be as exciting. However, as you’ll see, helium has a lot more important uses.

Unfortunately, eliminating helium filled balloons isn’t going to solve the problem of helium running out, because only a minuscule amount of helium is used to fill up balloons. It would be like a pack a day smoker trying to avoid cancer by taking one last puff every year.

9. Airships

The Goodyear Blimp over Dodger Stadium. (Courtesy photo)

One reason that helium is so useful in many different fields is that it is safe to use because it isn’t flammable or combustible. This makes it great for flying machines like blimps. When blimps are filled with a different lighter-than-air gas, such as hydrogen, which is both combustible and flammable, things can go horribly wrong. A notable example is the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, when the German blimp LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames while trying to dock at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. In total, 36 people were killed. While the cause is debated, the fact that the airship was full of flammable and combustible gas wouldn’t have exactly slowed down the fire.

Granted, blimps aren’t common and most people have probably only seen one at an air show or a football game, but amazingly they are still used by different segments of the United States government. One example is the Tethered Aerostat Radar System(TARS). They are unmanned blimps that are used to detect low and slow flying aircraft and marine craft. It’s currently being used along the American-Mexican border and in a portion of the Caribbean.

Another blimp used by the United States is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, which is used to track things like cruise missiles or even trucks full of explosives. The project has been in development for over two decades and the Pentagon has spent at least $2.7 billion on the project.

A whole other field of flight that wouldn’t work without helium is balloon space tourism. Currently, there are two companies that plan on sending people into space using helium filled balloons. For $75,000 to $125,000, travelers can get into pressurized pods and the balloons will lift them out of the atmosphere. This is similar to the way Felix Baumgartner got to space to do his famous jump.

However, without helium, attempting to reach space in a balloon would be much more dangerous.

8. A Leak Checking Tool

When the Manhattan Project started in 1942, it was important that when they enriched the uranium needed for a nuclear bomb, there couldn’t be any leaks in the pipes or tanks during the process. Even a tiny leak could have been disastrous.

To ensure everything was sealed, the scientists sprayed the welding seams with helium. If there was a leak, the helium would get into it, because out of all the elements, helium has the second smallest atom (hydrogen is smaller, but it is inert, which means it doesn’t move). So helium can find really small leaks, which helps ensure that the tanks and pipes are sealed.

Besides just having a small atom, helium is also non-toxic, non-condensable, and non-flammable, so spraying it won’t leave a trace behind.

Since the Manhattan Project, helium has gone on to be a common way to detect leaks in more than just tanks and pipes. It is used in such industries as food canning, refrigeration, air conditioning, furnace repair, fire extinguishers, aerosol cans, and car parts, just to name a few. Essentially, any industry that relies on sealed cans use helium to look for leaks. That means without helium, we may have products that be will more dangerous because they are leaking, and/or products will be more expensive because some other method will need to be implemented to detect leaks in all those different fields.

7. Some Welding Will be Impossible

One of the most common applications for helium is welding; about 23 percent of the world’s helium supply is used for welding purposes.

Certain arc welding jobs, which is the process of joining two metals using electricity, depends on helium because it is used to keep the molten metal from oxidizing. One type of metal that couldn’t be welded without helium is aluminum. That means things like shipbuilding and building space shuttles will be much more difficult to do.

However, arc welding isn’t the only type of welding that utilizes helium. CO2 laser welding, which is used in car manufacturing, uses helium as a shielding gas. Shielding gas is used to keep the molten metal away from other elements in the air, like oxygen, water, and nitrogen. Without helium, this could cause an increase in vehicle prices while alternative methods are implemented.

6. Barcodes

One of the most common ways that we interact with helium is at the supermarket. Barcodes scanners use helium-neon lasers, also known as HeNe lasers and they use a gas ratio of 10:1 helium to neon. HeNe lasers are used because they are inexpensive, have a low energy consumption, and they are efficient. Besides just barcode scanning, HeNe lasers are also used in other fields, like microscopy, spectroscopy, optical disc reading, biomedical engineering, metrology, and holography.

Of course, the good news in this example is that, as many of you with smart phones already know, there are other ways to scan codes. It will just be a matter of changing over to the new forms of scanning.

5. Space Travel Would Become More Dangerous

A field that would be incredibly hard hit by a lack of helium is the aerospace industry. NASA reportedly uses about 90 to 100 million cubic feet of helium a year in a whole variety of ways.

One way is that when a rocket burns fuel, the fuel that was in the tank is replaced with helium. This ensures that the tank doesn’t collapse under structural pressure. This also reduces the risk of fire or an explosion in the fuel tank. Helium is also useful during space travel because it keeps hot gases away from ultra-cold liquids.

A third way that NASA uses helium is to clean liquid oxygen out of tanks. Finally, there are other minor uses, like it’s needed for pneumatic control systems and it cools fueling handling systems.

Without helium, space travel will still be possible, but it will be a lot more dangerous than it already is.

4. The Large Hadron Collider will be Useless

It’s believed the Large Hadron Collider at CERN can help unlock many of the universe’s mysteries. It’s the biggest, most powerful machine on earth, and it smashes subatomic particles together almost as fast as the speed of light. And in order for the whole thing to work, liquid helium is needed.

Shooting those particles around the 16.7 mile loop are magnets that steer the particle beams. However, they can quickly overheat and they need to be cooled with liquid helium to -452.47 degrees. Also, the niobium-titanium wires that make up the magnets that shoot the particle beams around the loop are housed in a closed liquid-helium circuit that is -456.25 degrees. Liquid helium also cools the entire system down to -456.34 degrees. 

Without liquid helium, the Large Hadron Collider would literally become, and we’re gonna use a technical term here, a hot mess.

3. MRI Scans Will Be Less Common

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a common tool in the medical field and it is used to non-invasively look inside the human body at things like ligaments, spinal cords, and organs, including the brain. A lot of times, ailments like torn ligaments and tumors are diagnosed using MRI machines. However, without helium it will be impossible to run these machines.

How an MRI works is that a magnet is powered and it creates a magnetic field. This field causes the protons of hydrogen atoms in your body to align and then they are exposed to a beam of radio waves. This creates a signal that is picked up by a receiver, which converts the information to a detailed image. However, maintaining that large magnetic field requires a lot of energy. To get that much power and sustain it without overheating, helium is used and that is done by reducing the resistance in the wires to almost zero. This is accomplished by constantly bathing the wires in liquid helium that is -452.38 degrees. On average, one machine uses 1,700 liters of liquid helium.

While there are MRI magnet cooling systems that do not use helium, the problem is that they are not designed for full body MRI machines, like the ones that are in hospitals.

2. Computer Chips and Fiber Optics

As we’ve mentioned a few times, helium is commonly used for cooling. In fact, nearly a third of it is used for cryogenics. One notable feat is that it can be cooled to temperatures near absolute zero, which is -459.67 degrees. This makes it the coldest liquid on Earth.

Another field where cold helium is vital in computers and telecommunications. One of the main uses is with fiber optics, which are cables that are used to connect the internet and telecommunications. Fiber optics can transfer more data over longer distances than wire cables. However, they are much more fragile than wire cables and they need to be housed an in all-helium environment or it can cause air bubbles, which would make them useless.

Another way helium is used when it comes to computers is that computer chips are made using superconductors. Superconductors are basically magnets that are supercharged and don’t overheat thanks to liquid helium.

Without helium, computer chips will be incredibly hard to make. This is going to have big ripple effects on everything that uses computer chips. This includes cars, smart phones, appliances, and of course computers.

1. Scientific Progress Will Be Slowed

The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest experiment that uses helium, but it is also necessary for use in all different types of experiments and machines that are used in universities and laboratories around the world. The reason it’s used is because it’s safe because it isn’t flammable or combustible, which is great for researchers, especially students who are still learning.

So other elements, much more dangerous ones, will have to be used to cool the machines. This will clearly slow down progress and make experiments and machines more dangerous. Even if there was a way to run the machines, that means they will have to be retrofitted or purchased new, which isn’t cheap. For example, Western Michigan University’s chemistry department has a $250,000 machine that needs helium and they have a tank of helium delivered monthly. That is just one department at one university.

Without helium, all fields of scientific study that rely on machines that use helium will be slowed down this includes physics, medical science, chemistry, and computer science, just to name a few. In turn, scientific study will be severely handicapped.


No Helium, No Fun

WIF Science

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 37

Leave a comment

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 37

…As improbable as it may seem, I think they are reaching out – or back – or forward to us, like we are going to run into something we currently can’t deal with…

Gus McKinney has reported for duty and gets in on the Space Technologies Expo.

F-squared acts like he has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “What have you been hiding from us Fletch?”

“Easy Gus, this download just started a minute or two ago,” Roy confirms in defense.

Like kids in a candy store, they “Ooo” and “Ahh” and “of course” their way through the Image result for star trek transporter gifmaterial, which has the feel of techy wisdom – sent from the future.

“Why didn’t we think of that,” the astronaut of the group comments on the section most applicable to him. “This molecular stabilizer is just a stepping stone to a Star Trek transporter, I’m telling you!”

The ramifications of these technologies pale in comparison to their implementation or rather when or if they are implemented.

“This has my Mom’s fingerprints all over it. I don’t mean that this her techno stuff, but it dovetails with the visions I’ve been seeing of her and Deke. As improbable as it may seem, I think they are reaching out – or back – or forward to us, like we are going to run into something we currently can’t deal with.”

“You may be onto something Gus. I think we better start working our way through the engineering, Fletcher. If he’s right, we will need this stuff sooner than we think.”

“But what about Lorgan, shouldn’t we be worried about it?”

“So far all we know is it doesn’t like Koreans… just like you Fletch.”

“I see your point.” Back in the day, he was on the Korean dime. “I’ll get on it right away.”

“Just a word of warning, if you need help with integrating and me or Gus aren’t available, do not share details with anyone else. If word gets out about what we’re up to… I don’t want to think about it!”


THE NUL SOLUTION

Episode 37


page 41

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 36

Leave a comment

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 36

A straw that stirs the drink would be an apt depiction of Lorgan…

Known to Earth as Lorgan, that “shiny meddler” seems to have an agenda and the ability to navigate space with impunity. Its effects appear to vary widely, as it applies to any unique affected party.

  • Wipe out an Eridanian scouting mission & drive them into isolation and ultimately, hibernation?
  • Spy on what “it” considers a primitive world by hiding behind Earth’s star & singling out the planet’s most dangerous society?
  • Disable the outposts of the paranoid Seljuk, while stirring their suspicions as to who is responsible?
  • Expose the Ÿ€Ð to the harshness of their proximity of their star & provoking them into an offensive position?

A straw that stirs the drink would be an apt depiction of Lorgan, but you best keep a safe distance.  The drink itself is the Great Expanse. But what exactly are the purposes of the straw? Where does the straw come from? You will likely get four different answers from the 4 affected parties.

“Take a look at this Crip,” Fletcher Fitch has been digging in the recesses of the NASA mainframe, searching for something, anything that will give him a leg-up on that whippersnapper Gus McKinney. Understanding Stellar Explorer’s unexplainable improvements, as well as defining the undefinable Lorgan, has turned into an earnest competition. He points at a complicated schematic that has appeared out of nowhere into the NASA mainframe.

“Is that what I think it is?”

“Some sort of energy field?”

Before the engineer can expand on his thoughts, another diagram piggybacks on the first.

“Now hold your horses. This one looks like a molecular disruptor! I’m not sure where this stuff is coming from, but I can tell you it’s not from any of us.” Fitch would know.

“Somebody must think we may need these improvements in the future.” None of this technology would make sense for an organization in the business of mere exploration, with only fractional knowledge of extraterrestrial entities.

A third program spills into the supercomputer.

“These are the schemes for the molecular stabilizers.”

Davinci 2 by chillara on DeviantArt

“And the answers to how SEx went from warp1 to warp3.”

They are accidental inventors, each one.

This is like discovering every single one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notes or Edison’s drawings of his numerous world-changing inventions. Technology, barely comprehensible by current science, is falling into their laps.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 36


page 40

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 243

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 243

CHAPTER TEN

Where Were We?

…the Stellar Explorer, piloted by the McKinney brothers, is losing control…

“SLAV, we are losing contact with the chrono-link. The ship is breaching the threshold, but it’s like we are watching it via remote hookup…,” Deke tries to explain what is happening.Stellar Explorer

“We have you on our screens, engage the emergency decelerator immediately…” encourages the SLAV.

But instead of slowing, it has more than doubled its maximum velocity. The SLAV crew struggles with what they are seeing and the data that defies description, considering known parameters.

“We were talking with them one minute… they were having problems… we cannot regain contact.”

At SOL Mission Control they are desperate for answers. “How can that be Fletcher Fitch? You never hinted that they could travel that fast!” Roy Crippen’s comprehension cannot possibly keep up with the pace Stellar Explorer was setting.

“No sir. We don’t know if the speed-of-light can be exceeded… and the crew blacked-out just after they lit the fuse.” After reviewing the data, the former Talibanistani-national posits, “But then after reaching SOL 1 and maintain it for a minute, it immediately jumped to SOL 2 and they are now approaching SOL 3. The heliopause {rim of the Solar System} will be breached in five minutes.”

There is only disbelief from Mission leadership.

“What do we do President Crippen?”

“Didn’t that thing have a velocity governor, Afridi — I mean Fitch, can they make the turn going that fast?”

“We are running the numbers now Mr. President. The unmanned test went nothing like this. We are only scratching the surface of exo-WARP conditions.”

“Tell me about it!” President Roy is at a loss for action. The fate of Space Colony 1 haunts him still. “Holy crap! This cannot be happening!”

There are no concrete answers let alone solutions, in this speculative world of SOL technology. How could this be… having tested three unmanned cruisers (the same one 3 times) at these exact speeds completing the mission without a hitch… and now this?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 243


page 218

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 238

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 238

…Before they lapse into whatever fate awaits them, they reach across and bump their fists; someone had to do it and this is what we signed up for…

— As Deke & Gus prepare for SOL, all phases are not aligned.warp core

“SLAV, we are losing contact with the chrono-link. The ship is breaching the threshold, but it’s like we are watching it via remote hookup…,” Deke tries to explain what is happening.

“Gus,” he urges, “wake up. There is something wrong here!”

Gus snaps out of his funk to check his instruments, “Everything is fine. We have passed Warp One !!!”

Stellar Explorer2

“No, look at the chrono-link, it’s reversing itself, like we are being heading back in time.”

Gus’s image, or Deke’s perspective of his brother’s appearance looks like something their generation never had to put up with; the fading signal from an analog receiver. In the digital realm, when you are losing the frequency, things pixelate, stop and start and rearrange. In the cabin of the Stellar Explorer, everything is wavy, like seeing things through the delirium of desert animated air.

“Yeah, I’m not feeling all here, how about you?”

“… like our molecular structures our breaking down? Try engaging the emergency decelerator.”

“I can’t, my hand gets within an inch, they stop short,” Gus is straining against an unknown barrier. “It’s no use. Our bodies cannot maintain structure at these speeds.”

Atlas 9

“The 3 unmanned went off without a hitch! I absolutely do not get this?”

“That may be the key… unmanned… they didn’t know how the human body would respond when they broke the sound barrier either.”

“Or if man could stand the G-Forces of a Redstone rocket or Atlas 9  liftoff in the Mercury Program,” Deke recounts.

“Or what is was like to experience prolonged weightlessness.”

All of those barriers had been crossed without major incident.

But there is a theme developing at SOL: You can only make your best guess as to what happens, if you have not done it before.

“Well, if we cannot slow this thing down and our bodies cannot keep up, something has to give.” Deke’s assessment of the situation is simplistic, but consistent with the philosophy of the test-pilots that had blazed trails before, which means that they can only deal with what is directly in front of them.

But the faster SEx goes the behind-er they get. It is like there are two versions of the same movie playing at once. But which one is the correct reality and can both test-pilots survive the ordeal?

Before a waiting and wondering while, the McKinneys lose all control contact with the SLAV ship and as well as each other. Before they lapse into whatever fate awaits them, they reach across and bump their fists; someone had to do it and this is what we signed up for.


THE RETURN TRIP

Time distortion

Episode 238


page 280

Where Pollution Got Its Start – WIF Industry

Leave a comment

Facts About

the Industrial Age

The Industrial Age saw the formation of many new technologies that would change the face of Great Britain and the world. From deeper coal mines, dirty factories, to the advent of the steam engine and canals, here are 10 fascinating facts about the Industrial Age.

10. It Began in Britain

It’s widely thought that the Industrial Revolution began in Britain, thanks to its status as a global trading power. By the mid-18th century, inventions like the flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, and the power loom increased the production speed of England’s textiles, requiring less manpower and time.

This explosion of new manufacturing capabilities also helped to further Britain’s imperialist goals, while their new textile production capabilities helped supply British colonies, where clothing and other goods were in high demand.

Among these new advances was the smelting of iron ore with coke (not that coke!)(or that one either), a material which was made from the heating of coal. This was a major step up from the old way of smelting, which utilized charcoal during the process, proving to be a much more efficient and cheaper means of production that also yielded stronger materials.

9. Coal

The importance of coal to the Industrial Revolution can be debated; the fact remains, however, that coal was in high demand during the 1700s and the early 1800s thanks to the needs of factories across the industrialized world. While Historians like EA Wrigley and Arnold Toynbee (the latter being the man who popularized the term Industrial Revolution) made the argument that coal was essential to the success of the Industrial Revolution, others suggest that this was purely due to increased demand, rather than the advancement of mining technologies.

As a result of this increased demand, mines had to get deeper, and consequently more dangerous to the miners who braved their depths. Miners had to worry about gas flooding, which would cause an entire mine to explode just from a single strike of a pickaxe, as well as poison gases, and collapses.

Coal, however, was extremely expensive and difficult to move, forcing entire towns to set up around mining operations. This created issues with how mining towns developed further, as no planning or forethought was given to what facilities miners and their families might need.

8. The First Modern Factory

The first true factory was built by Richard Arkwright in Cromford, Derby, and its construction would help launch the Industrial Revolution and change Great Britain forever. Not long after its construction, it ended up employing more than 300 people, something which had been unheard of as the domestic system only required a few people to work from home. Arkwright’s patented spinning frame sped up the production of textiles by leaps and bounds.

The factory employed mostly unskilled workers, except for a few engineers. In the domestic system, workers could set their own hours and enjoyed a great deal of flexibility, but in this new factory, workers were governed by the clock and strict factory rules.

But despite the strict working conditions in factories which sprang up after Arkwright’s, weavers were well paid, and by 1850, more than 250,000 unskilled laborers would be employed.

But, for all the benefits factories offered, they were run for profit, and safety precautions were hardly a concern for owners. Clothing in the mid-1800s was fairly loose, and an obvious danger while working Arkwright’s spinning frame.

7. Migration of People to Cities

Rural communities saw mass migration of people looking for wage-based jobs in big cities like London. In fact, by 1850, over 50% of Great Britain’s population lived in cities, rather than rural communities like the mining towns that fed their coal demand. Part of this is due to a dramatic reduction in the death rate. The bubonic plague all but vanished during this period, and the hunger which left so many people vulnerable to disease was also alleviated, allowing for a population explosion in Great Britain, Germany, and many other countries.

The politics of the time had changed drastically from previous eras. It’s strange to think that there was a time when people weren’t free to move where they liked, but in the feudal system and to some degree the domestic system, this was often the case. Additionally, the tolerance of religions not connected to Christianity and the Catholic church was growing.

In the United States, an increase in demand for workers since the abolishment of slavery saw people from countries who feared social unrest from their proletariat migrating as well, and indeed, even in the US city populations grew.

But as a consequence of this explosion of population, other countries feared that socialism would rise, and from that fear came the nationalist ideology which would lead to the start of World War I.

6. Canal Mania

The advent of the market demands of the 19th century forced factories and mining communities to devise a method of shipping massive quantities of goods and food in a way that was both quick and efficient. Roads at the time were little more than tracks and could not support the forty-ton loads that most barges could support utilizing the canal system.

Canals were dug by men and filled with water capable of supporting barges. Perishables needed to be shipped quickly, and the growing canal systems allowed for this to be accomplished.

By the end of the 19th century, Britain would construct the largest ship canal in the world, known as the Manchester ship canal.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the rich were often born rich, and the poor rarely rose in station. The introduction of the canal system completely changed that, providing jobs and creating entire industries.

Shipping goods via canals did have its problems, though, and these problems would see their popularity and demand fall. For one, they would often freeze during winter, and during the summer a canal could dry up completely. Foods that spoiled easily couldn’t be shipped via barge, too. By the 1850s, railways began to take over as the dominant shipping method in Britain.

5. Lack of Scientific Censorship

Before the Industrial Revolution, some scientific ideas were simply off-limits. Britain had a major advantage during the 1700s and 1800s over other countries in that it did not censor the exchange of scientific ideas.

Though the importance of this attitude on the continued industrialization of Britain is contested, the development of the steam engine and the improvements made to it would not have been possible without the free approach to the sciences in the 1700s and 1800s in Britain. Industry also greatly improved the rate at which science expanded.

It is somewhat remarkable to think that not long ago we once thought our Earth was the center of the universe, and the Milky Way the only galaxy.

It was also during this period that the laws of Thermodynamics were established, as well as the beginnings of what would lead to the atomic age, and it can be argued that these advancements helped pave the way for the second Industrial Revolution which would dominate the early 20th century.

4. Mass Production of Goods

Thanks to the advances in production methods, for the first time in history it became possible to mass-produce goods. In previous eras, clothing and other textile products were typically only produced locally, but during the Industrial Revolutionmass production allowed for entirely new business models to be tested around the world.

However, this also meant that much of the work done was now being governed by a crude level of automation (at least when compared to the automation of today) and workers in factories lost the connection they once had to the consumer buying their products. This also meant that workers would have little idea of what impact their work had on the final product.

Food and other perishables before the Industrial Age could never have been shipped as efficiently or quickly before the development of the steam engine or the creation of canals, a thing which was virtually unheard of in the Domestic System.

3. The Rise of Steam

In 1698, Tomas Savery patented a pump with hand-operated valves which was meant to raise water through suction produced by condensing steam. Around 1712, this design was refined by Thomas Newcomer, into a more efficient steam engine, and in 1765 James Watt improved these designs even further by adding a separate condenser to avoid temperature extremes in the cylinder. Watt would continue to add onto the device, and its final form would essentially be a portable power plant.

It can’t be stressed enough how important the steam engine was during the first Industrial Revolution, and the use of steam engines became widespread throughout the industrialized world, being used in factories, trains, and ships, and allowing for far more automation than was possible before its advent.

In fact, it’s thought that without the steam engine, many of the advances made during the Industrial Age would not have been possible, especially when it comes to automation and improving the speeds at which trains and boats were capable of traveling at.

2. The Cost of Pollution

Despite the advances in technology and automation and the ability to mass produce goods, these advances took a huge toll on the environment. It’s estimated that pollution in the cities of Manchester and Leeds skyrocketed by nearly 40% in just one year. Despite the use of drainage systems in some cities, the disposal of human and animal wastes was extremely primitive, leading to a whole host of public health hazards.

Due to so many factories utilizing coal to power their steam engines, the air quality in many cities took a sharp dive, and water supplies meant for consumption by humans were sometimes used to drain human excrement from beneath buildings, forcing the population of cities like London to drink contaminated water, leading to massive outbreaks of cholera.

Cholera is an extremely fatal disease caused by bacteria in water supplies, and still kills thousands of people every year in undeveloped nations.

But cholera wasn’t the only disease running rampant through crowded cities in the Industrial Age, poor hygiene caused by cramped living conditions and a lack of access to clean water led to outbreaks of Typhus and Tuberculosis, with the latter being one of the most deadly diseases of the time.

1. The Technological Revolution

From the 19th to the 20th centuries, cities exploded in size and population, and new technologies altered people’s lives even further than the advances made in the first Industrial Revolution. The incredible development of steel, ceramics, chemicals, and electricity harnessing devices all served to change how the world worked, and people found their lives being governed by the clock rather than the flow of day and night.

But as with the prior Industrial Revolution, child labor and appalling factory conditions continued to be a problem, and in some cases worsened. This would eventually lead to the formation of unions and the banning of child labor.

Many of the technological advancements made during this time were directed toward warfare, and all kinds of household goods like soap and butter stopped being made by households.

While some historians quarrel over when exactly the second Industrial Revolution started, its impact on the world cannot be understated. Many of the advances made during this time had a profound effect on the world we live in today.


Where Pollution Got Its Start

WIF Industry

Turn On The Lights – WIF Next Gen Power

Leave a comment

The Future of Power:

New  Sources

of Energy

Listen, fossil fuels have been great. They’ve provided such an abundance of cheap energy over the last century and change that we’ve ridden their wave from horses and muskets all the way to rocket ships and the internet. But there are costs to burning them (you know, like how you also burn the planet). As the cons begin to outweigh the pros, it’s abundantly clear the time of oil and coal is rapidly coming to an end.

The debate over which renewable sources could potentially replace them (and therefore deserve more public investment) has been raging for years now. But solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear (fission) are just the beginning. Turns out one thing we don’t have a shortage of is jaw dropping ideas for energy production that can, with the right resources and public investment, be implemented within our lifetimes. Things like…

8. Nuclear Waste

Nuclear fission reactors have been around forever, currently provide roughly 20% of America’s energy, and will likely be a central component to any climate response plan due to the low greenhouse damage they cause. Contrary to popular belief, they’re also quite safe, as accidents like the infamous Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters are preventable and rare. But there is one problem that isn’t being overblown, and that is the nuclear waste issue.

Current light-water technology surrounds uranium fuel rods with enough water to slow the neutrons and generate a sustainable fission reaction, but only an unacceptably inefficient 5% of the uranium atoms inside the rods can be used before they have to be replaced. The remaining 95% kind of just gets dumped into an ever-growing stockpile (90,000 tons and counting) that we don’t really know what to do with. This is where Fast Reactor technology comes in, which submerges the rods in sodium and can therefore switch those numbers: using 95% of the uranium and only dumping the remaining 5% rather than further contributing to the current mess. If we can muscle our way past the political stigma against nuclear power, this technology has real potential.

7. Nuclear Fusion

Of course, we don’t have to stick with fission at all. At least not long term. Nuclear fusion, in which molecules are combined into a new element using immense heat and pressure, is safer, overwhelmingly more powerful, clean and harmless to the environment, and could provide power in enough abundance to launch mankind into the kind of future only dreamed of on The JetsonsSadly, at this moment it’s not easy to sustain net positive (meaning we get more energy out of the reaction than we have to put in to trigger it) fusion reactions long enough to be commercially viable.

There’s an old adage commenting on the long, long road fusion has already traveled and how far it still has before we start rolling it out: “nuclear fusion is the power source of the future, and always will be.” It’s funny and a bit depressing, given the enormous potential that always seems to be just one breakthrough away. But we know fusion, the Holy Grail of clean energy research, works. We need only look up at the stars, which exist because of fusion. So technically, since none of us would exist without the sun, you do too. 

6. Geothermal Energy

As appealing as fusion and wind are, though, there’s certainly something to be said for an energy source that doesn’t depend on expensive reactor facilities or unreliable weather conditions. Enter geothermal energy: heat pulled straight from beneath the surface of the Earth, where there’s always plenty. Now technically, we’ve been harnessing geothermal energy for over a century by just collecting it from water and steam. But modern geothermal harnessing techniques are limited, both in range of use (even when the technology is mature, it’s mainly used for basic heating and cooling functions) and by geography itself (we have to harness the heat where it is, almost always in tectonically active areas).

However, we’re constantly improving at both getting to the heat and spending less money, effort and time doing it. And in the very near future, expect technologies falling under the umbrella of Enhanced Geothermal Systems, which drill and pour water into ‘hot dry rock’ areas in the earth’s crust in order to turn the currently inaccessible energy stores there into several times more usable, clean energy than fossil fuels currently give us access to, to reshape the energy landscape.

5. Space-Based Solar

The first thing anyone thinks of when they hear the term ‘renewable energy’ is probably solar. Why wouldn’t they? The sun is bombarding the earth with more raw power every second than we’ve ever managed to spend in a year. But the problem was never a lack of it; it’s always been harnessing and storing the stuff. Luckily, solar panels are getting cheaper and better at an alarming clip. But what if we could harness the sun’s energy in space? It’s always there, after all, in waves not filtered and diluted by the fickle atmosphere (which reflects 30% of it back into space anyway).

The basic idea would be to construct enormous solar farms which would collect the sun’s high-energy radiation and use mirrors to deposit the energy into smaller collectors, which would then send it to Earth in the form of microwaves or laser beams. As of right now, this technology is prohibitively expensive. But maybe it won’t be for long. After all, companies like SpaceX are constantly engineering ways to drive down the cost of sending cargo into space, so hopefully we’ll be running out of excuses not to build one of these world-changing (and charging) behemoths in our lifetime.

4. Solar Windows

But you know what? Cool as space solar is, we don’t actually have to go into space to revolutionize solar energy generation (which is already revolutionizing energy itself). Down here on the surface, solar panels are already covering rooftops throughout Europe and desert expanses in the American Southwest, not to mention steadily eating away into fossil fuel dominance. With upcoming quantum dot solar cell technology about to burst onto the scene, which essentially replaces standard silicon with artificial, solar-energy collecting molecules, expect the revolution not just to continue, but to accelerate. 

Before we continue, it’s worth noting that lots of cool but ultimately impractical solar-panel-as-something-else designs (where solar panels replace roads, walls, windows, etc) have been floated lately. The problem always comes down to the fact that solar panels just aren’t advanced enough to double in function. But quantum dot tech may change that. Imagine every window in the world filled with solar harnessing technology that you wouldn’t even be able to see with an electron microscope. So say goodbye to those unsightly panels, because without even looking different, your transparent windows might function as mini power stations in just a few short years.

3. Tidal Power

We already have hydroelectric power, generated by massive dams that use rushing river water to turn energy turbines. It’s powerful, clean stuff and certainly worth continuing to use. But it’s nothing compared to the untapped energy of the ocean’s currents, which, if properly harnessed, could power the planet several times over. Sadly, solar and wind cornered the renewable market early on, and as a result, tidal power is only just now getting reconsidered due to its enormous potential.

Oyster, for example, is essentially a giant hinged flap bolstered to the ocean floor, which swings back and forth with the current and pumps enough resulting energy to the surface to power thousands of homes. There’s also the Terminator turbine, designed by Air Force Academy engineers and inspired by aircraft, which ditches drag technology for wing-like lift, in order to (theoretically) harness an astonishing 99% of available tidal power (as opposed to the standard 50%). And the potential isn’t limited to raw energy generation, either. Perth, Australia just started using a tidal-powered desalination plant that can provide drinking water for more than half a million residents.

2. Hydrogen

Advantage number one: burning Hydrogen produces just about no pollution or greenhouse emissions at all, which is why NASA has been using the stuff to send rockets and shuttles into space for years. Sadly, it’s tough to expand this energy source to a global scale since hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant element in the universe (by orders of magnitude) isn’t available in large enough quantities where we can actually get it (unless it’s combined with other elements like Oxygen, as is the case with H2O).

But if we could figure this out, maybe by engineering a way to separate hydrogen from the elements of which it’s a part, we could change the world. Luckily, such hydrogen fuel cells, which may very well be the future of transportation, are already being built. Honda is actually planning to demonstrate the power and efficiency of this technology with a new Clarity Fuel Cell car by plugging the vehicle into a house which it will then power (as opposed to electric vehicles, which would draw power from the house). Like all new technology, of course, this will be expansive and unavailable to the public at large for some time. But the potential is real.

1. Biofuel

Like a lot of entries on this list, biofuel itself has been around for ages. Henry Ford actually envisioned his Model T car running on ethanol before cheap oil was found everywhere and captured the energy market instantly. Ethanol, the first generation of biofuel, is making a comeback too, but the fact that it can only be harnessed using the same land and resources as food is problematic (and driving up the cost of food). Generation 2’s switchgrass was floated as an alternative for a while, due to its hardiness and ability to grow like a weed virtually anywhere. But we’d need an amount of land equivalent to Russia and the US combined to grow it in large enough quantities to overtake fossil fuels as the primary power source for cars, so that won’t work.

But what about algae? Its natural oil content is over 50%, it’s not food, and doesn’t require fields or fresh water to grow. Instead, the remaining parts of the plant can be converted into gas and electricity and fertilizer to grow more algae in small labs. This one’s no brainer, folks.


Turn On The Lights

WIF Next Gen Power

Fly Me to the Moon – WIF Aviation

1 Comment

Incredible Commercial

Aircraft We Might

See in the Future

Obviously any article dealing with ‘future’ anything is largely speculation. This is doubly true in an industry that, despite seeing plenty of technological breakthroughs over the years, hasn’t really changed much in all that time because major overhauls are rarely worth the cost to implement. Regardless of what type of engine or propulsion system the aircraft has, you check your bags, get screened, stand in line, sit in crowded coach seats with a TV, round window, fold out tray and peanuts, or you get a little more legroom and champagne in first class. Airlines are airlines, is the point, and they have been for decades.

But that hasn’t stopped people from dreaming bigger, developing better and faster ways to travel via air. And with the age of fossil fuels coming to an end, who’s to say some of these ideas won’t finally see the light of day when aircraft designs are overhauled? We’ve collected a handful of the coolest ever commercial airline trends of the future. So lock your tray in the upright position and let’s take off.

7. Electric Air

It’s probably not too surprising that very few of the ideas that’ll grace this list, or any similar one, will revolve around burning fossil fuels. Why would they? Burning gas and coal is effective but dirty and archaic, and the world is sprinting towards renewable, clean energy sources. And if electric cars are making a splash, there’s no reason to expect we won’t be seeing electric planes in the hopefully not too distant future.

Small electric motors, like those featured on NASA’s X-57 prototype, will allow even a large aircraft’s propulsion to be distributed across the structure of the plane. Not only does this minimize the impact of a potential engine failure, but reduced operational costs and noise levels will greatly expand the ability of aircraft to travel near places of business and residence. That might sound like a nice enough, but ultimately small, improvement over the airline status quo. But in reality, it could transform commercial air travel from what are essentially flying passenger ships to modest air taxis, transporting goods and people nearly to the doorstep of their destination.

6. Biofuel Planes

As is the case with cars, ships, trains, or any transportation, really, electric aircraft propulsion isn’t the only option we’ve got to combat greenhouse-emitting fossil fuel dependency. Furthermore, given the decades-long service life of most passenger jets and various other frustrating factors, it’ll be two to three decades before we’re able to fully transition away from gas powered planes and onto something more environmentally sustainable, even if we started building electric ones exclusively starting tomorrow.

While we wait for that change, though, and get our ducks in a row, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels (special combustible crops, or algae) would reduce airline carbon emissions by 35-85%. It’s still important to keep in mind that biofuel cost parity with current fossil fuel sources is still a decade or more out. But like we said, that’s roughly half the time it’ll take (at least) to transition fully to electric power, and you can’t hammer away at prohibitive costs while sitting around complaining about them. The planet can’t wait forever for us to take its health seriously, so more green airplane tech is a noble goal to aim for.

5. Automation

Here’s another trend we’re seeing everywhere: the replacement of humans with machines. The military realized a while back that sending robots to the battlefield is infinitely better than putting boots on the ground, and now we have missile-launching, remote piloted drones doing the work of jet fighter pilots. Commercial airline pilots aren’t exactly in much danger, but then again, neither are cashiers, lawyers, truck drivers, delivery men, shelf stockers or even hospital orderlies, all of whom are in danger of losing their jobs to an algorithm that doesn’t even know it exists but can still perform better, cheaper and longer than even the best human for the same job.

There’s no reason to think that if automated cars are rapidly approaching, we won’t see equivalent when it comes to air travel. As travel increases, so too will the demand for pilots (the current global 200,000 is roughly about a third of what experts predict we’ll need in the next two decades). Facing such looming personnel shortages, a new system that requires no training, sick days or paychecks looks appealing indeed.

4. Tailless “Flying Wings”

This basic design is hardly new (think the SR-71 Blackbird), but it never got off the ground as far as commercial useable when it was first introduced, largely because it featured amphitheater-style seating in which passengers would sit in long rows rather than columns which allowed for easier movement. Imagine having to use the bathroom when you’ve got 25 people on either side of you… “Excuse me. Pardon me. I’m so sorry. Don’t go back to sleep, I’ll be back in a minute. Pardon me, sorry.” But that’s fixable if you put your mind to it.

Now imagine the vast majority of aircraft passengers having no windows in such a design. Now that could be an issue, because the lack of visual references would result in dizziness and sickness. As if most commercial jets aren’t unpleasant enough. But with new electric engineering, the possibilities to replace the drab interior of an airliner with advanced screens are endless. You could project just about anything onto them. The easiest thing would be to simply let folks see what’s just outside. Imagine being surrounded by clouds during a flight, rather than having to observe them through a tiny window. That might seem unnecessary and pointlessly expensive, but tailless planes would eliminate the need for currently required elevators, rudders and, well, tails, all of which strangle maneuverability and add significant, fuel-burning drag.

3. Supersonic Travel

Speed. It’s the one, seemingly basic arena of commercial flight that’s gone backwards in recent decades, rather than forwards. The hook-nosed Concorde aircraft allowed for supersonic passenger jet travel as far back as the 1970s (its maiden flight was 1969), after all. But ballooning costs, frequent malfunctions and the unacceptability of sonic booms over metro areas forced airlines to mothball these and similar craft indefinitely. But not everyone gave up the dream.

Recognizing that costs are as much to blame for the lack of Jetsons-level society as inadequate technology, Silicon Valley startup Boom Supersonic has been working tirelessly to reintroduce faster-than-sound commercial air travel at lower costs. Other projects with similar ambitions are popping up, too, such as the still under development Aerion AS2. But even those quite literally deafeningly fast planes would be snacking on the dust of DLR’s suborbital hypersonic SpaceLiner, which could take you (at speeds in excess of Mach 25) from London to Sydney in an hour and a half. The availability of such rapid travel would revolutionize the planet in ways that are difficult to imagine.

2. Revolutionized Interiors

Not all airline-changing ideas have to do with aerodynamics, fuel efficiency or propulsion systems. One area that’s been in desperate need of overhaul for decades is the cramped, groan-inducing interiors of nearly every commercial passenger jet. There’s som variation in accommodations, but not much. Most are riffs on the same one or two lane design that stuffs miserable commuters shoulder to shoulder with about a half-inch of legroom and a bag of dry peanuts.

Luckily, Hamburg Aviation’s Crystal Cabin Awards aim to award anyone – please, anyone – who can design the next generation of airborne commuter comfort. The link above has no shortage of eye popping ideas. There’s Airbus’s winning submission, featuring spacious seating and an app that lets commuters order food, communicate with the crew and set lighting and temperature for their seats. AerQ also had a game changing idea, to do away with the class barriers that separate first and economy class seating and only serve to increase the claustrophobic conditions of spending several hours in a giant metal tube. Aident went in another direction entirely and straight up added a bed to the economy section. The ideas are out there, airlines. Assuming any of you survive the Covid-19 crisis, think about implementing one or two of them. For the sake of our knees and sanity.

1. Privatized Space Flight

Don’t expect to be on the moon in the next few years unless you’re already working for NASA. But in little but steady increments, private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are beginning to take the reigns of space flight from government funded giants the world over. Cost, of course, is and always has been the main issue. But only by diligently swinging away at those barriers can they ever be reduced. Right now, the cost of lifting cargo into orbit is plummeting. Again, it won’t be at levels where we can expect to head to the star port for a Thursday afternoon business meeting on a space station for quite some time. But it’s on exactly the trajectory we want it to be on.

Other advances have been made towards reusable rockets (as opposed to long-existing and current models where we have to dump the spent boosters into the ocean), and in low cost resupply runs to keep in-orbit craft fully stocked for the long haul. Investor seeding and government co tracts are currently the only way to keep the private space-minded giants funded. But hopefully sooner than we think, rich benefactors will be the first private passengers beyond the planets atmosphere. Their money will make further developments easier to reach, which will in turn drive down costs even more.


Fly Me to the Moon

WIF Aviation

I’ve Got a Secret – WIF Military Bases

Leave a comment

Super “Secret”

Military Bases

World militaries have a strange function in society these days, having to be both present and visible yet secretive and under the radar in many regards. We all know the military exists, but what they do is often so under wraps they’ll deny doing it even when people can see them doing it. Case in point: Area 51. The Nevada base is highly classified and the CIA only admitted the base was a real thing in 2013, despite the fact people could literally go there and see it. So we take it with a grain of salt these days that the military, in the US and abroad, will engage in not just clandestine missions, but build bases that the rest of us aren’t supposed to know about. Here are 10 of the most interesting.

10. Pine Gap

For a secret base, an awful lot of people know about the joint US and Australian base called Pine Gap. That’s mostly thanks to the fact there’s an actual TV show called Pine Gap. Developed in the 1960s as a joint operation between the two countries and given the ambiguously vague name “Joint Defense Space Research Facility,” Pine Gap was built in the Australian Outback away from prying eyes.

In the ‘60s, the base was used to spy on Soviet missiles and these days it still has control over a number of spy satellites. As far as people know that’s what still goes on but it doesn’t get much more clear than that. Even former Australian Prime Ministers weren’t informed about what happens on the base.

Edward Snowden’s data leak in 2013 included information on Pine Gap and how the base and its satellite network helped guide drone strikes in Iraq and elsewhere during the War on Terror. Additionally, it has been a hub of surveillance, spying on targets in Asia.

That’s what we know about Pine Gap today, and odds are there’s plenty that we still don’t know.

9. Porton Down

Across the pond, the British secret base known officially as the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory is located at Porton Down. There are other facilities on the site, even commercial science labs, but it is the DSTL that interested most people. Formed back in 1916 as the War Department Experimental Station, this was where chemical weapons were tested.

In modern times the site still does research into chemical weapons but also diseases. The site researches things like ebola and anthrax as well as deadly nerve agents. Officially, according to the British government, Porton Down does no research into chemical or biological weapons anymore. Those British programs were said to have ended in the 1950s. That said, as a countermeasure to other people developing chemical and biological weapons, the facility does develop them in small quantities for research purposes in an effort to counteract those weapons.

8. Area 6

Everyone knows about Area 51 but not everyone knows that it isn’t just a cool, random number and there are a multitude of other “capital A” Areas in Nevada as well, most of which were nuclear test sites back in the day. You can find a quick breakdown of Areas 1 through 30 on Wikipedia, even. But while this breakdown is fairly limited in scope and just lists every single site as having been the location of nuclear tests back in the day, there’s more to it than all that. For instance, there’s Area 6.

Located just 12 miles from the infamous Area 51, Area 6 is home to a mysterious landing strip visible on Google Earth that indicates there’s obviously more than just nuclear tests from the 1950s going on here.  A spokesman from the National Nuclear Security Administration said that the DOD and DHS use the area to test sensors. That means conducting drone tests, but that’s about the extent of what is publicly known about the facility.

7. Dugway Proving Ground

Spanning 800,000 acres of Utah desert, an area the size of Rhode Island, the Dugway Proving Grounds is as massive as it is mysterious. The facility dates back to 1942 when it was established to test biological and chemical weapons. The stated purpose of the facility is essentially the same as that of Porton Down in the UK. They test chemical and biological weapons to develop countermeasures against them.

The site is also used by the US Army Reserve and National Guard as a training grounds which is part of the reason it’s so enormous, and the US Air Force conducts test flights there as well.

Those who lean more towards the outlandish think there’s a lot more going on at Dugway and it’s been dubbed, at least in some circles, the New Area 51. The base opened its doors to the media for the first time in 2018 to potentially quell some of the rumors and conspiracy theories, but obviously the reveal was very controlled and only a small portion of the massive base was revealed.

6. Kapustin Yar

If Russia has an Area 51, this is it. Both in terms of alien conspiracy theories and in terms of secrecy. This was their most top secret air base and the place that Laika, the dog that became the first living thing ever to orbit the planet, was launched from. On the weirder side, former employees have alleged that there are underground labs where alien’ autopsies occur and alien craft are tested. To get some idea of how serious this alien business is, here’s a New York Times article about an alien crash that occurred near the base. Does that mean an alien ship crashed there? No. But someone sure reported that one did.

The existence of the site wasn’t even confirmed by the Soviet government until 1983, decades after the site had been built. It had been used not just for rocket launches and test flights but  low-yield nuclear tests. Most of the facility is located underground and to this day no one outside of those involved with the base really knows what goes on there or even how much base is located under the ground.

5. South China Sea Bases

Located mostly in the Spratley Islands and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese government engaged in a seriously impressive effort of dredging and island building, constructing 3,200 acres of new land. There are numerous facilities spread across the area used for radar, missile launches, and helicopters. More than that, they announced plans in 2016 to build an underwater base 10,000 feet below the surface. Why announce something like that if it’s a secret base? Why, indeed.

Those who fly too close to the bases are warned to leave immediately by Chinese forces so the precise goings-on at the bases are really just left to speculation and what the government is willing to tell the world since there is no way to get to them as isolated as they are. In fact, the nature of the bases is so mysterious it’s not fully known whether they are strictly military, they’re for controlling trade routes, or even if they’re being used to control natural gas and oil rights. Whatever their ultimate purpose, they are well-armed with surface-to-air missiles and ground-launched missile systems.

4. HAARP

Few military bases have reached the heights of conspiracy theories around them as much as the High Frequency Active Auroral Frequency Program, or HAARP has. In fact, this base may even outdo Area 51 for sheer volume of conspiracies about the nature of what goes on there, and it’s technically not even a military base anymore.

Located in Alaska, HAARP was an ionospheric research facility run jointly by the Air Force, the Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and everyone’s favorite hub of conspiracy fodder, DARPA. It’s that last one that probably made so many people start to question what was happening at HAARP.

The stated goal of HAARP was to research ways to improve communication and surveillance technology by analyzing the ionosphere. One of the main conspiracies about the facility is that it was designed to weaponize the weather. Hugo Chavez once accused the facility of causing the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Other conspiracy theories claim that the facility has the capability to burn the sky, cause floods, hurricanes, and droughts. It’s also been accused of developing mind control technology, chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome, causing plane crashes and power outages. It can flip the Earth’s poles and even trap human souls.

As goofy as these conspiracies may sound, people take them seriously. That last one about trapping souls was a claim made by two men who were arrested on drug charges and found to be plotting a massive terrorist attack on the facility in 2016. The men had numerous weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo they were going to use because God told them to free the trapped souls at HAARP.

3. Dulce Base

The moment people learn about a base that’s secret, the first conspiracy to be floated about it is that it houses aliens. Welcome to New Mexico’s Dulce base, another hub of extraterrestrial involvement.

The town the base is named for, Dulce, has a population of just over 2,700. Word is they don’t even have a traffic light in town, it’s so small. But the base isn’t in the town. It’s under the ground. A New Mexico businessman blew the lid off of the alien conspiracy back in 1979, believing he had been intercepting alien communications around the same time a former state trooper began documenting animal mutilations in the area.

A former explosive engineer with security clearance said he helped in the construction of the facility and while he was there, he witnessed a straight up battle between humans and aliens, so take from that what you will. The town of Dulce has been home to numerous UFO sightings over the years as well.

As for the official word from the US government on Dulce, they don’t have one. Dulce doesn’t exist in any official or even unofficial capacity. No one has ever proven there’s a base anywhere in the area so if it exists, it’s incredibly well hidden.

2. Raven Rock Mountain

Known as Site R, the Raven Rock Mountain Complex is a poorly kept secret located in Pennsylvania and basically where control of the military would head in the event of nuclear war. They call it the Underground Pentagon and it was built to keep the whole machine running below ground if everything above ground was destroyed.

The facility is dug out of a mountain, a half mile in and a half mile down. It has a power plant, water reservoirs, three-story buildings carved into the rock, and room for 2,000. There’s infrastructure for having its own police and fire departments as well as a cafeteria to serve everyone. Essentially it’s a city inside a mountain and it’s still the go to location for high-ranking officials should the world fall into chaos.

The facility runs all day, every day and you have to assume that there’s a lot going on no one knows about since it’s planned to be the center of US power in the event of catastrophe. The existence is far from a secret though and it’s so well known you can even visit the facility in the world of Fallout video games.

1. Mount Yamantau and Mezhgorye

Deep in the Ural Mountains of Russia you’ll find Mount Yamantau which the US government is pretty sure is home to a top secret Russian base, equivalent to Cheyenne Mountain. Surveillance and eyewitnesses in the 1990s attested to a massive undertaking in the mountains that had apparently started during the reign of Brezhnev.

The official explanation from Russia about what goes on at Yamantau is about as unhelpful as it gets. They have at different times claimed it’s just a mining site, a storage facility for food or treasure, or a place for Russian officials to wait out a nuclear apocalypse.

A hop, skip, and a jump from Yamantau is the town of Mezhgorye, which is a closed city. You can’t visit this place unless the government gives you permission. That’s just as well since it doesn’t exist on maps, even though 17,000 people live there according to a census. But why would you take a census of a secret town? Military battalions are stationed there and between it and Yamantau there are supposed to be a whole underground facility and nuclear test sites in the area.


I’ve Got a Secret

WIF Military Bases

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 140

CHAPTER SEVEN

Pick a Pew

AL, the computer generated intelligence  continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next

Personality by Portus Ojomo

The tactical changes to New Mayflower have been craftily made by the three-man crew, as prescribed by Aldona Afridi, the newly branded NASA SOL Engineer. With that task complete, implementation is being robotically transmitted back to Earth by AL. The computer generated intelligence not only does his programmed functions, but continues to develop a personality, like that crazy uncle who gets passed on from one generation of system to the next. In this case it is from deep-space Chronicle and Space Colony 1 to deep-space New Mayflower, with this continuing incarnation furthering the tradition of doing things that were not programmed.

“Thank you for sending that circuit update to Mission Control, AL, although I was going to call it in myself,” Rick Stanley speaks into thin air and magically communicates with the computer.

“YOU WERE BUSY PREPARING FOR HYPER-SLEEP COMMANDER RICK. I AM PROGRAMMED TO ASSIST YOU TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.”

The 2nd in command calls to question, When did AL start calling you by your first name?

“He did call me Commander and maybe he calls his programmer papa.”

“WE CAN HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT US.”

“And now it’s “we” instead of I.”

“We air breathers will be seeing the inside of our eyelids in 15 minutes, forget about AL for now.”

“GOODNIGHT GUYS.” —

— Ten million miles go by, accompanied by the “curse” that sleep brings, the garbage can of the human mind called dreams. Some people don’t remember them, while others not only remember them, but in living color to boot. Advanced dreamers can wake up, remember their colorful dream, fall back asleep and pick the storyline where they left off. Still others have recurring nightmares and purposely stay awake, as to wipe their semiconscious slate clean.

Hyper-sleep has been likened to suspended animation, born out of necessity, the need to pass the time on these “short” interplanetary trips, unlike those intra-galactical excursions of the NEWFOUNDLIANS, as long as Earth-space- travelers are bound to the nagging-ly slow sub-light speeds.

Hyperactive is the best way to describe AL, no need for the male-slanted voice of the shuttle fleet main computer system to slumber. AL was intended to be totally interactive, mildly intuitive, and always at the ready. “His” recent First Person reference of “we” is a leap ahead from “I”, implying that his singular function is morphing into one of feeling like he is part of the team.

“Feeling” is the operative term here. Somewhere along the way, perhaps an evolutionary step brought on by the demise of his “brother” aboard the Chronicle, AL must have decided that independent action is necessary for self-preservation.

10 million miles is the equivalent of 2 weeks of space real estate covered and “they” must be ever vigilant.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 140


page 132

%d bloggers like this: