The NULL Solution = Episode 138

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The NULL Solution = Episode 138

…Our military is to blame, got the bright idea to attach bombs to a remote-control plane…

The sound of tablas, tamburs, ghichaks, and rubabs echo throughout the Crippen family room. Not one soul can belly-dance a lick, though Mindy and Marscie join in regardless of skill level. Before long, everyone is in the spirit.

The decibel level is just loud enough to drown out the sound of a passing drone, not that patrol drones are unheard of here, just not in the evening.

During her heyday, Fatima Afridi had avoided death threats on her harrowing overland trip to Istanbul. She endured Florida Panhandle culture shock in her efforts to blend in. She has successfully in raised 2 beautiful and smart daughters, all the while supporting her Aldona.

Her sweet loving and important husband has made it to 75, when he had cheated death 30 years earlier… Back then he swam to safety amid a hail of gunfire and rode The New Orient  Express to Paris.

Today he dances.

The dancing stops when a ground shaking thud staggers the party, rocking the knick-knacks and trophies off their perches. Many a strange noise can be heard around these parts these days, but none like this.

“You take the four-wheeler Fitch, I’ll bring the Hummer,” Roy leaps to action.

They arrive to find a smoldering crater where the Fitch house used to be.

 Gus McKinney has finished his book collection, moving on to streaming 1 of the 120 old-time movies he brought along for the trip when Roy interrupts him with news from Texas Earth.

“I was just watching Murder on the Orient Express, a classic 1974 British mystery film. Spoiler alert: everyone on the train is guilty.”

“How ironic is that? Afridi took that train to meet his wife in ’29 or ’30,” reflects Roy with depressed undertones.

“Yeah, I can’t wait to see the old bugger… less than a month now you know.”

It is time for cold hard facts. “Fatima is dead.”

As if prolonged space travel doesn’t make you pale enough. The loss of a family friend leaves Gus speechless.

“The bastards must have found out where he was living, bombed his house… the rest of the family was at our house celebrating his birthday.”

“Did you catch ‘em?”

“It was a damned drone, snuck in under the no-fly defenses!”

“The inventor of the remote control should be losing sleep right about now.”

“I have a feeling that Nikola Tesla died with a clear conscience. Our military is to blame, got the bright idea to attach bombs to a remote-control plane.”

“How is Fletcher taking it?”

“His life is a pile of smoldering rubble. He will be staying in your room until you get back, that’s if he ever leaves GLF. He’s working on that global defense stuff, which by the way is hush-hush. I had to quash an amateur stargazer pic of that alien ship the other day. The planet would be up for grabs if that leaks out, for all the chicken littles to see.”

“We’ve been watching it in our rearview mirror. That ain’t no ordinary spacecraft.”

“Damn straight! You better have Stanley step on the gas,” even though they are already maxed out.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 138


page 136

Great Minds Think Alike – WIF Genius Handbook

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Great Minds

From

Throughout History

Since the first modern homo sapiens emerged some 50,000 years ago, it’s estimated that 107 billion human beings have at one time or another lived on planet Earth. The overwhelmingly vast majority of these people have been forgotten by history, but there are a very few individuals whose names and achievements will echo through the ages.

From ancient Greece through to the modern world, these are 10 of history’s greatest minds.

10. Plato (Circa 428 BC – 348 BC)

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote that European philosophy is best characterized as a series of footnotes to Plato. While this might perhaps be something of a stretch, it gives an indication of the esteem in which the ancient Greek philosopher is held even to this day.

Plato’s efforts to understand the world around him covered metaphysics, ethics, politics, aesthetics, perception, and the nature of knowledge itself. Despite having been written more than two-thousand years ago, his work remains eminently readable today. Plato didn’t deal in dry, tedious treatise. He preferred to bring his work to life, teasing out thoughts and ideas in the form of a dialogue between characters. This in itself was a remarkably innovative approach. Plato blurred the lines between philosophy and entertainment and challenged the reader to scrutinize their own beliefs.

Having been born into one of the wealthiest families in Athens, Plato would have been well-schooled by the city’s finest philosophers. There’s no question it was his mentor Socrates who made the greatest impression, appearing again and again as chief protagonist in Plato’s dialogues. Socrates’ resurrection in immortal literary form would no doubt have been particularly galling to certain influential Athenians who had only recently killed him off. Ancient Greece was similar to the modern world in at least one respect: not everybody reacted kindly to having their beliefs challenged.

9. Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

Born out of wedlock, and with no formal education, the young da Vinci seemed destined for a life of anonymous drudgery. In Renaissance Italy there was little social mobility. The right family name and connections were invaluable. Da Vinci had neither, but he was not a man who would blend into the background to be forgotten by history.

Flamboyantly dressed, a strict vegetarian, enormously physically strong, and rumored to be gay in an age when homosexuality could be punished by death, it was nonetheless the workings of da Vinci’s remarkable mind that truly set him apart.

In an age renowned for producing an abundance of great artists, da Vinci is regarded as one of the greatest of them all. Yet painting was by no means his only talent, nor perhaps even his greatest talent. He studied geometry, mathematics, anatomy, botany, architecture, sculpture, and designed weapons of war for the kings, princes, and barons who struggled for wealth and power in Italy’s warring city states.

It was as a visionary that da Vinci was arguably at his most brilliant. In an age when Europe lacked basics such as indoor plumbing, he sketched out designs for magnificent flying machines and armored vehicles powered by hand-turned crankshafts, ideas that were centuries ahead of their time.

In 2002, almost 500 years after his death, one of Leonardo’s visions was lifted from the pages of his notebooks to become a reality. A recreation of a glider based on his sketches, albeit with a few modifications deemed necessary to reduce the risk of killing the pilot, was successfully flown by World Hang Gliding and Paragliding Champion Robbie Whittall.

8. William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

The famous bard has become such an integral part of Western culture that it’s tempting to assume we must know a great deal about his life, but the reality is quite the opposite. He was certainly born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, but the exact date is a matter of some conjecture. There are huge swathes of time where he disappears from the records; we have no idea where he was or what he was doing. It’s not even entirely certain what he looked like. The popular image of Shakespeare is based on three main portraits. Two of these were produced years after his death and the other probably isn’t a depiction of Shakespeare at all.

While history leaves us largely in the dark as to Shakespeare the man, almost his entire body of work (so far as we know) has been preserved. The best of his offerings are widely regarded to be amongst the finest, if not the finest, works of literature in the English language. He was equally adept at comedy or tragedy, had a gift for writing strong female characters, and possessed an intimate understanding of the human condition that imbued his work with a timeless, eminently quotable quality.

Shakespeare was by no means the only famous playwright of his era, but his work has stood the test of time in a way that others have not. Few people are now familiar with the plays of Ben Johnson or Christopher Marlowe; fewer still have seen them performed. While his rivals are now little more than historical footnotes, Shakespeare is even more famous and celebrated in death than he was in life. With an estimated 4 billion copies of his work having been sold, he ranks as the best-selling fiction author of all time.

7. Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727)

In December 2016, a first edition copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica sold at auction for $3.7 million. This was an extraordinary amount of money, but then Principia was an extraordinary book.

First published in 1687, Principia laid out the mathematical principles underpinning motion and gravity. It revolutionized science and was hailed as a work of near unparalleled genius, at least by the very few individuals capable of understanding it. Newton didn’t enjoy being questioned by lesser minds (which included just about everybody), so he wilfully set out to make Principiaas difficult to follow as possible. To make it less accessible still, he wrote it in Latin.

If Principia had been Newton’s only achievement, then that would have been more than enough to earn him the title of scientific genius. But Newton did a great deal else besides. With a ferocious work ethic that drove him to at least two nervous breakdowns, he scarcely slept, never married, and often became so absorbed in his work that he simply forgot to eat or teach his classes.

In an astonishingly productive 30-year period Newton invented calculus (but didn’t bother to tell anybody), conducted groundbreaking work on optics, invented the most effective telescope the world had ever seen, and discovered generalized binomial theorem.

When Newton died in 1727, his collection of notes amounted to some 10 million words. This window to the mind of one of history’s greatest geniuses proved less useful than might be imagined. Newton was obsessed with alchemy, and the latter part of his career was consumed in a futile attempt to transmute base metals into gold.

6. Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

At the age of 12, Benjamin Franklin was made apprentice to his elder brother James at his printing business in Boston. What he lacked in formal education, the younger Franklin more than made up for in curiosity and intelligence. He soon surpassed his brother as both a writer and a printer, a fact that didn’t escape James, who regularly expressed his displeasure with his fists.

The terms of Franklin’s apprenticeship meant that he couldn’t expect to receive wages until he turned 21. Backing himself to do rather better on his own, at 17 he ran away to find his own fortune. He succeeded in spectacular fashion and would go on to become one of the wealthiest men in America.

While Franklin’s genius for business earned him a huge amount of money, this was never his overriding goal. Convinced that an individual’s entrance to heaven would depend on what they had done rather than what they believed, he was passionate about improving the lot of his fellow man. Amongst his many achievements he set up America’s first lending library, founded a college that would go on to become the University of Pennsylvania, and created a volunteer fire fighting organization.

Franklin’s talents as a businessman were matched by his brilliance as a writer, a mathematician, an inventor, a scientist, and a good deal else besides. Perhaps his most significant discovery was that lightning bolts could be understood as a natural phenomenon rather than as an expression of the wrath of an angry God. By understanding lightning Franklin was able to tame it. The principles of the lightning rod he developed to protect buildings, ships, and other structures from lightning strikes are largely unchanged to this day. In true Franklin form he preferred to freely share his invention rather than apply for a patent that would have been worth an untold fortune.

5. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Johan Van Beethoven was a man with a singular mission in life: to transform his son from a talented amateur into a musical genius to rival even the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He would pursue this goal with ruthless, single-minded determination.

As a result, the young Ludwig van Beethoven’s childhood was rather a miserable affair. Forced to practice for hours on end, his father would loom over him ready to administer a beating for the slightest mistake. This punishing regime left no time to spare for fun or playing with friends. Witnesses reported seeing Beethoven perched on a piano stool at all hours of day and night. Even his education was cut short; at the age of 11 he was withdrawn from school to concentrate on music to the exclusion of all else.

It’s sometimes said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft, and Beethoven would have exceeded this total from a very young age. His lopsided education meant that he struggled with simple mathematical principles throughout his life, but he became a truly phenomenal musician.

Beethoven ranks as arguably the greatest composer who ever lived, a feat which is all-the-more impressive since by the age of 26 he had developed a ringing in his ears. Over the next 20 years his hearing deteriorated to the point where he was totally deaf. Despite this considerable handicap, Beethoven’s intricate knowledge of music allowed him to produce some of his greatest works at a time when he couldn’t hear the notes he hit on his piano.

4. Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943)

In 1884 a Serb by the name of Nikola Tesla set foot on American soil for the first time. He arrived in New York with little more than the clothes on his back, the design for an electric motor, and a letter of introduction addressed to Thomas Edison.

Tesla and Edison were both geniuses, both brilliant inventors, and between them they knew more about electricity than anyone else alive. However, there was one major problem. Tesla’s electrical motor was designed to run on alternating current. Meanwhile, a good deal of Edison’s income was derived from the Edison Electric Light Company, which relied on direct current.

In an attempt to protect his investments, Edison set out to discredit Tesla and convince the public of the dangers of alternating current. One particularly gruesome film, shot by the Edison Manufacturing Company, shows an unfortunate elephant by the name of Topsy being enveloped by smoke and keeling over after being blasted with 6,600 volts of electricity.

Despite these dirty tricks, Tesla’s system had one very significant advantage: alternating current could be transmitted over long distances, while direct current could not. Tesla won the war of the currents.

Tesla’s inventions, from hydroelectric power plants to remote control vehicles, helped to usher in the modern age, but he had no spark for business. In 1916, with his mental health deteriorating alarmingly, he was declared bankrupt. Afraid of human hair, round objects, and preferring the company of pigeons over people, he seemed to have become the embodiment of the idea of a mad scientist. This impression was only strengthened by Tesla’s obsession with developing a “death ray” capable of shooting bolts of lightning. Tesla believed his death ray would bring about an end to warfare, but he never succeeded in completing it. He died alone in a hotel room at the age of 86.

3. Marie Curie (1867 – 1934)

In 1896 the physicist Henri Becquerel made the serendipitous discovery that uranium salts emitted rays of some kind. While this struck him as rather curious, he wasn’t convinced that further research into the phenomenon represented the best use of his time. He instead tasked his most talented student, Marie Curie, with discovering just what was going on.

It wasn’t often that such opportunities fell so easily into Curie’s lap. In her native Poland there had been no official higher education available for females, so Curie had enrolled in a clandestine “Flying University.” On emigrating to France she had graduated at the top of her class, despite having arrived armed with only a rudimentary grasp of the French language.

Curie, working alongside her husband Pierre, identified two new elements, polonium and radium, and proved that certain types of rocks gave off vast quantities of energy without changing in any discernible way. This remarkable discovery earned Curie the first of her two Nobel Prizes, and it could have made her very rich indeed had she chosen to patent her work rather than make the fruits of her research freely available. It was widely assumed that something as seemingly miraculous as radiation must be hugely beneficial to human health, and radium found its way into all manner of consumer products from toothpaste to paint.

Even Curie had no idea that radiation might be dangerous, and years of handling radium very likely led to the leukemia that claimed her life in 1934. Her notebooks are still so infused with radiation that they will remain potentially deadly for another 1,500 years; anybody willing to run the risk of reading them is required to don protective gear and sign a liability waiver.

2. Hugh Everett (1930 – 1982)

By the age of just 12, Hugh Everett was already brilliant enough to be regularly exchanging letters with Albert Einstein. The American excelled at chemistry and mathematics, but it was in physics, and more specifically quantum mechanics, that he made his mark with one of the strangest scientific theories of the Twentieth Century.

Nils Bohr once famously wrote that anybody who isn’t shocked by quantum mechanics hasn’t understood it. The behavior of protons and electrons on a quantum level is downright weird, but Everett suggested it all made sense if there were an infinite number of universes.

Everett’s multiverse theory proved popular amongst science fiction writers, but it was derided by the scientific community. Disappointed, Everett largely gave up on quantum mechanics. He instead undertook research for the US military, attempting to minimize American casualties in the event of a nuclear war.

A heavy-drinker and a chain-smoker, Everett died in 1982 at the age of 51. Since then his ideas have begun to edge towards the scientific mainstream, and they do resolve a number of thorny problems. The universe operates to the laws of a set of numbers known as fundamental constants, and every one of these has to be precisely tuned in order for the universe to function as it does.

It seems that either humanity has been fantastically lucky, on the level of one individual winning the lottery every week for several months, or the universe has been intelligently designed. Everett’s multiverse theory suggests another possibility. If there are an infinite number of universes, then an infinite number of possibilities are played out. In such circumstances it comes as no surprise that we find ourselves in a universe that appears to be tuned to perfection.

1. Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

Contrary to popular belief Einstein didn’t fail math at school. He excelled at the subject, having mastered differential and integral calculus by the age of 15. However, while the spark of genius was already present, it would be quite some time until anybody recognized it. It’s fair to say that the academic world wasn’t beating a path to Einstein’s door. Having been rejected for a university teaching position, and then having been turned down by a high school, in 1902 the German-born physicist began work in the Patents Office in Bern, Switzerland.

The idea that a lowly patents clerk would go on to become arguably the most influential scientist of all-time would have appeared absurd, but in 1905, in what must rank as the most extraordinarily productive 12 months of individual intellectual endeavor in history, he produced four papers that would revolutionize the way the universe is understood.

In just one year he proved the existence of atoms, described the photoelectric effect, demonstrated that an object’s mass is an expression of the energy it contains (E = mc2), and published his Special Theory of Relativity. He would eventually expand the latter into his famous General Theory of Relativity, which suggested that space and time were one and the same thing.

Einstein’s theory of relativity was still just a theory, and one that was considered little short of heresy by a significant portion of the scientific community (Nikola Tesla included). It wasn’t until 1919, when his predictions on the behavior of starlight during a solar eclipse were demonstrated to be accurate, thereby proving his theory to be correct, that he was catapulted to international fame.


Great Minds Think Alike

– WIF Genius Handbook

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

damascus

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

incas

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

iron pillar

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.”


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Theories on Alien Life

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Science and Technology

One of the biggest mysteries humans face is: are we alone in the universe? Some of the greatest scientific minds in the world have thought about this question, and at more length than the scientific layman. So what do they think? Are we alone in the vast universe? Or will we one day meet intelligent life?

10. Julian Assange

assange

We know what you’re probably thinking. These guys are idiots. Julian Assange is not a technologist or a scientist. To that we counter: maybe we are. But Assangewas a computer programmer and hacker. However, we mostly want to include him because if there’s anyone who knows about government secrets, such as classified information on UFOs and alien contact, he may be the best person to go to.

Assange, of course, is the editor of WikiLeaks. He’s responsible for the biggest leak of military information in history. Assange has been asked numerous times if the government was hiding UFO or alien information. And, according to him, the answer is no. The only reference to UFOs ever found on WikiLeaks is a Canadian UFO cult called the Raelians.

Assange gets very annoyed with crazy conspiracy theories, like UFOs and people involved with the 9/11 “Truth” movement. He says that there are conspiracies everywhere that lead to war and mass fraud, and people don’t need to make up new ones.

9. Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb during World War II. He also helped popularize physics through books and TV shows that were known for being informative and funny.

Feynman was definitely open to the possibility of life other than our own in the universe. He saw there was no definitive proof that it didn’t exist. But one thing he highly doubted was that flying saucers visited Earth. At a lecture in 1965 at Cornell University, Feynman said, “I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.”

8. Edward Snowden

snowden

 A lot of times, Edward Snowden is associated with Assange and WikiLeaks. The truth is, they are completely unrelated. However, they do share similarities because both are responsible for massive information leaks. In the case of Snowden, he was a computer technician working for the CIA, and then he became a subcontractor with the NSA. While working there, he uncovered that the NSA wasspying on its own citizens. They were also watching major technology corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. He also exposed that the NSA wasn’t the only one doing it. Britain’s version of the NSA, Government Communications Headquarters, was also spying on their own citizens. Snowden took the information to the press, and was immediately labeled a traitor. He’s been in Russia ever since.

Even though he had access to amazing amounts of confidential government information, he did not find a single shred of evidence that supports that aliens have made contact. However, where they differ is that Snowden thinks alien life could be out there. We just haven’t been able to communicate with them because of encryption.

While talking with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Snowden said that, like us, other advanced beings may encrypt their information. That will make finding them much more difficult. He pointed out that only the beginning of our communication technology wasn’t encrypted. For example, before encryption, information was transmitted through waves, and picked up by antennas for television and radio. However, some of these signals would have also been sent out into space. Once encryption started, fewer signals would have been sent out, making it harder for alien life to find us because there is less “noise” coming from Earth. On our end, aliens couldbe sending us messages. Perhaps our satellites just aren’t recognizing them because our tech is too heavily encrypted.

7. Ellen Stofan

Ellen Stofan is a scientist you may not have heard of, but she’s been NASA’s Chief Scientist since 2013. She is quite optimistic when it comes to finding other life in the universe. While speaking on a panel in 2015 about water in the universe, Stofan said that she believes by 2025, we’ll find strong indications of life outside of Earth. Then, within the next two or three decades, we will have definitive proof.

So, why is she so optimistic? Stofan says that NASA is implementing new technology that will help in the search. Plus, researchers have a much better idea where to look. They also know how to look for life other than our own. Amazingly, the other panelists agree with her and think that finding extraterrestrial life is a matter of when, not if.

Stofan also clarified that the alien life may not be intelligent, and will probably be microbes.

6. Albert Einstein

einstein

Albert Einstein is synonymous with genius. But did he think it was possible that aliens existed? In 1920, a reporter from the Daily Mail asked Einstein about life elsewhere in the universe. He replied, “Why should the Earth be the only planet supporting human life? It is not singular in any other respect.” So while it was fairly clear to Einstein that there’s a good chance life does exist somewhere in the universe, he thought that people trying to contact aliens were doing it all wrong. From the late 19th century up to the present day with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programs, most people have tried to make contact with life on other planets with radio waves. Einstein thought that, if alien life were out there, they would contact us using light rays. Light rays are easier to control.

The question then, is: was Einstein correct? Have we been trying to contact aliens incorrectly for over a century and wasted billions upon billions of dollars and man hours? Well, yes and no. When Einstein gave his answer, he didn’t have enough information about outer space. Specifically, in space there is something called interstellar, or cosmic, dust. This dust blocks shorter-wavelength light, but radio waves can easily pass through it. In 1920, when Einstein made his prediction, scientists didn’t know that.

With that being said, there are teams trying Einstein’s method, which is called Optical SETI. A notable program using light beams to contact aliens is at Harvard. The problem is that when using light beams, the light has to be directed. Radio waves, however, spread across space like ripples in a pond.

5. Nikola Tesla

tesla

Nikola Tesla, one of the more notable madmen of science, definitely believed that there was alien life. Specifically, he thought Mars housed intelligent beings. Tesla also believed there was a way to communicate with these beings on other planets. In 1901, he promised that he would make it possible. This was an incredibly ambitious goal, considering this was the early 20th century and home telephoneswere just becoming common.

Tesla’s big plans of phoning another planet started in 1899, when he moved to Colorado Springs. There, he set up his most ambitious plan: a power station that would provide inexpensive energy to thousands of people without the use of wires. For some reason, he also thought that it would be possible to use similar technology to contact other planets. How Tesla planned to communicate with Mars was not exactly clear. He tried to explain it in an article in Collier’s Weekly, but unfortunately, he was short on specific details. Tesla was ahead of his time, but working without a lot of knowledge that we now know. So what he did say was incorrect. For example, his plan uses electrical conduction and induction, which couldn’t travel across space in the same way radio waves would.

However, Tesla was apparently aware that radio waves may be helpful in inter-planet communication. In 1901, Tesla received an unusual radio signal. He thought it might be from Mars. Although it’s unclear what the radio signal was, it’s obvious that Tesla thought alien life is out there.

4. Bill Nye

Based on the sheer number of stars and planets outside of our own solar system, Bill Nye believes that there has to be life out there somewhere. However, Nye’s reason for this assertion brings up one of the biggest problems when it comes to searching for extraterrestrial life. If the universe is so vast, where do we even begin to search?

Nye believes that the likeliest candidate for finding life is Europa, which is one of the many moons of Jupiter. It was one of the first four moons discovered by  Galileo Galilei in 1610. The four moons are called the Galilean satellites, and Europa is the smallest. The reason that Europa is so promising is because it has twice the amount of seawater as Earth. That’s a good indicator of the possibility life. The problem is that since Europa is so far away from the sun, the surface is ice. That ice is about 10-30 miles deep. Below all that ice is water that remains liquid, thanks to the tidal actions of Europa.

Nye believes that a vessel could be sent to Europa with a specialized drill. It would cost about $2 billion and would take 10 years. While that may sound like a lot, Nye says it’s about the same price as everyone in America buying just one cup of coffee. He then points out: isn’t the price of one cup of coffee a good investment to find life on another planet?

3. Neil deGrasse Tyson

The host of the new Cosmos and NOVA, Neil deGrasse Tyson hopes that we will find out if there is alien life within the next 50 years. He thinks the discovery will advance the field of biology by leaps and bounds, because it will help us explain what exactly makes something “alive.” For the first time we will be able to compare and contrast with a non-Earth life form. This will open up the spectrum on what exactly life is.

However, Tyson also says that there is the potential that alien life is out there and they might be too advanced to bother communicating with us. Tyson suggests, because there are plenty of habitable planets other than our own, someone could be sending us what they think are simple messages. However, the messages are way beyond our comprehension. To illustrate his point, Tyson compared our interactions with chimpanzees. Chimps and humans share 98.8 percent of the same DNA. Yet, we are so intellectually different. Chimps can do some basic math, but humans are doing quantum mechanics.

What if the intelligent life is more than 1.2 percent different in DNA than us? Say 2%, or even 10%. It would mean that alien life trying to communicate with us, would be like us trying to open up a line of dialogue with the chimp population. Tyson says that this very thought sometimes keeps him up at night.

2. Carl Sagan

The late Carl Sagan was an astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and astrobiologist. He only published one fiction book in his life, Contact, which was made into a movie of the same name in 1998. The book focuses on the very question of what first contact with extraterrestrial life would be like. Instead of monsters or an invasion, the aliens send Earthlings plans for a machine, which we are supposed to build, but for unknown reasons. So did Sagan believe in UFOs and Aliens? Well, it was a rather complicated question for the man. When asked directly, he said:

“I’m frequently asked, ‘Do you believe there’s extraterrestrial intelligence?’ I give the standard arguments- there are a lot of places out there, the molecules of life are everywhere, I use the word billions, and so on. Then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren’t extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it.

 Often, I’m asked next, ‘What do you really think?’

I say, ‘I just told you what I really think.’

‘Yes, but what’s your gut feeling?’

But I try not to think with my gut. If I’m serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble. Really, it’s okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.”

 Even though there was no evidence to prove or disapprove aliens exist, Sagan was fascinated by the possibility of intelligent alien life forms since he was a child. He thought there was a good chance that other life forms existed somewhere in the universe. Notably, while hosting Cosmos, Sagan said that there should be millions of other technological civilizations just in the Milky Way. He also co-wrote a book that was published in 1966 called Intelligent Life in the Universe in which he theorized life on other planets was possible. However, he was very doubtful of alien abductions, and this could have come from his work with the government.

Supposedly, Sagan worked for Project Blue Book, which was a study of the possiblity UFOs by the United States Air Force that ran from 1952 to 1969. The goal of the project was to determine if UFOs were an actual threat to national security, and to scientifically analyze UFO-related data. The official statement from the Air Force is that Project Blue Book did not find any evidence of UFOs or alien life.

After working with the Air Force, Sagan continued to work with the government. He became an advisor to NASA. Later in his life, Sagan worked with SETI projects and in the last year of his life, he was a member of the SETI Institute’s Board of Trustees.

1. Stephen Hawking

Fear of Aliens

 

Since about 2010, world renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has been very clear in his thoughts on alien life. Mainly, there’s a good chance that they will be hostile and crush us, no different than a human wiping out an ant colony. Hawking’s reasoning stems from humanity’s history. Humans have a tendency to kill off species and even other civilizations of humans with lower technology. Why would an advanced alien species be any different from our own?

Hawking said that the reason aliens might come to Earth isn’t too different from the original Independence Day. He said, “I imagine they might exist in massive ships… having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

However, despite the danger, Hawking believes we should keep looking for alien life. Still, he thinks that the probability of finding life on another planet soon is pretty low. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We just may have a hard time finding it.

As for what Hawking thinks alien life might look like in our solar system, he said that most of it would be microbial or, at most, small animals. He also said that on ocean planets and moons there might be life underwater.

Another theory from Hawking regarding extraterrestrial life is that there may have been advanced civilizations throughout the universe that have already come and gone. They could have wiped themselves out before mastering interstellar travel. Hawking uses this example as a warning to humankind about scientific advancement. In the past, we’ve been on the brink of destruction with things like the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is possible we will do so again in the future before we master interstellar travel.


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