Tag Archive: exploration

Antimatter: The Real Giant Leap

One Small Step for Man, one Giant Leap For Mankind

When Armstrong said those words (except I missed out the ‘a’), it looked like men & women would be walking tall on all sorts of astronomical bodies in a continuation of the Apollo programme.  As we no know, things didn’t quite work out like that though, and the Moon is still the only place we’ve been except our dear Earth – although unmanned and earth-based exploration continues in great leaps and bounds.

CERN Makes Antimatter Last

But although announced with a small fanfare, the news that CERN has made antimatter atoms in the form of anti-hydrogen last for getting on for half a second made me blink twice.  See BBC News item here.

It’s my guess that this is the real “small leap for mankind” that will eventually lead to the real “giant leap”.

We are now talking the Star Trek language that everyone understands;  antimatter, containment fields, annihilation.  Soon we’ll have dilithium crystals and the stock market to sell them in!

Consequences of Antimatter Creation

But seriously, it’s one hell of a leap.  The big puzzle is why matter (and thus ourselves because we are made of it), is here.

Why is there any of it, anyway?

… …  because in every experiment that we’ve done, matter and antimatter cancel each other out!    Exactly!

So the physical laws that we’ve invented or discovered, right back to the Big Bang, all say that we should not be here.  Any of us.

Current physics says that our universe  should only contain the energy from the mutual annihilation of matter & antimatter.  But there is also matter, which is tightly rolled up bits of energy….

Self-evidently, we are here, which means that matter had a slight excess over anti-matter just after the Big Bang.

So I think that somewhere within the physics of our creation of antimatter, lies the answer to the matter/antimatter conundrum, of that I’m sure.

We’ve made a few atoms so far and watched them annihilate with matter on contact.  The next steps will be to make and keep zillions indefinitely until they are needed.  What for?

Starships perhaps?


Now suppose we make these starships.  Our current selves are very destructive, both towards our environment and ourselves.

  • We live on our Earth, us in the West consuming like locusts while those less well off try a rapid catch-up.
  • We have never had a year without a major loss of life through conflict, disease or other disaster.

In short, though we may well have the technology and explorative urge for interstellar travel in the future, our present state of intense animality leaves us unsuited to such endeavours.  It’s unlikely that any expedition would arrive at its destination intact.  They’d self-destruct.  It’s what people do.

We must change ourselves before we can aspire change our location in the universe, or else our present location (the Earth), will be a blackened desert.  Un-departable.

Soka Gakkai

Today is exactly  the 80th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai.

It’s a Buddhist organisation with its philosophy wrapped up in its name of  “Value Creation Society“.

Let us all use three words as tenets, a true mantra for a civilised survival on Earth for generations to come.

When the time arrives for the Earth’s ultimate destruction, if we haven’t made a “Value Creation Society” that would allow our escape, then we are quite simply, stuffed.

So join the millions of Soka Gakkai Buddhists today as they celebrate their inheritance from one man, then another and another.

Makiguchi was his name and he died for his principles in a Japanese gaol in 1944.  He and his disciple Toda were hounded by the animality of the times and only Toda was left at the end of WW2.

From him, and then Ikeda, the Soka Gakkai  owes its existence, and we all need such principles if the magic of antimatter creation and containment is to mean anything in the future.  It’s a truly wonderful thing.

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Technical Xenophobic BBC Air Crash Reports


You may not have noticed the co-incidence yesterday, but an Iranian aircraft crashed and the US Space Shuttle took off.  the co-incidence was in  the strange reporting that envelops such events.

Iranian Crash

Fly home, AF447

Fly home, AF447

This, as air crashes go, was pretty ordinary – something went wrong, it crashed, everyone died.  You’d expect some reasoned discussion, bearing in mind that one of the most modern and newest planes in the sky plummeted into the South Atlantic little over a month ago.

This is what the BBC said about it near the end of the piece:

The plane was built in Russia in 1987.

It was the third deadly crash of a Tupolev Tu-154 in Iran since 2002.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne says Iran’s civil and military air fleets are made up of elderly aircraft, in poor condition due to their age and lack of maintenance.

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, trade embargoes by Western nations have forced Iran to buy mainly Russian-built planes to supplement an existing fleet of Boeings and other American and European models.

West v East technology

This is all well and good, but the deadly tone with an emphasis on old and/or Russian aircraft makes a bad taste in the mouth, does it not?…  Why?

A.  Because there’s very little technical difference between the Russian and Western aircraft.



Indeed, on the very day that the Shuttle takes off, I’m reminded of the technical superiority of Russian astronautics and space exploration.  While not putting a man on the moon,  they pragmatically put a robot there instead, paving the way for the robots we now have placed on Mars & Venus, etc.

They have a long and distinguished history of space “firsts”…  But the ultimate irony is that the much vaunted Space Shuttle has had very public catastrophic failures in the past and is soon to be retired.  And until the US gets a new launch vehicle, for the next 4-6 years they will be relying on the Russians to put men in space!

Actual Crashes

So much for balance!  The BBC article then continues in a box-out,


Feb 2006: Tupolev crashes in Tehran, kills 29 people – E
Dec 2005: C-130 military transport plane crashes near Tehran, kills 110 – W
Feb 2003: Iranian military transport plane crashes in south of country, kills all 276 on board – E
Dec 2002: Antonov 140 commuter plane crashes in central Iran, kills all 46 people on board – E
Feb 2002: Tupolev crashes in west Iran, kills all 199 on board – E

Looks bad doesn’t it?

A Russian airliner that crashed near a city in the Urals, killing all 88 people on board, caught fire in mid-air, reports say.  The Boeing-737-500, belonging to a branch of the national airline Aeroflot, was on a flight from Moscow to Perm, near the Ural mountains.   One witness said the blaze lit up the whole sky

A Russian airliner that crashed near a city in the Urals, killing all 88 people on board, caught fire in mid-air, reports say. The Boeing-737-500, belonging to a branch of the national airline Aeroflot, was on a flight from Moscow to Perm, near the Ural mountains. One witness said the blaze lit up the whole sky

Compare and contrast this to this little list of large plane crashes (from the BBC article, but as a link), and count the relative abundance of Eastern versus Western manufactured planes…..


15 July: A Caspian Airlines Tupolev plane crashes in the north of Iran en route to Armenia. All 168 passengers and crew are reported dead. – E

30 June: A Yemeni passenger plane, an Airbus 310, crashes in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros archipelago. Only one of the 153 people on board survives. – W

1 June: An Air France Airbus 330 travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashes into the Atlantic with 228 people on board. Search teams later recover some 50 bodies in the ocean. – W

20 May: An Indonesian army C-130 Hercules transport plane crashes into a village on eastern Java, killing at least 97 people. – W

6 April: An Indonesian army Fokker-27 crashes on landing near Bandung, West Java, killing 24 people. – W

25 February: A flight from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashes short of the runway at Schiphol international airport. Of the 135 people on board, nine are killed and at least 50 injured. – W

Forty-nine people were killed when a flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo, in New York state. One person was also killed on the ground.

Forty-nine people were killed when a flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo, in New York state. One person was also killed on the ground.

12 February: A passenger plane crashes into a house in Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. – W

8 February: A passenger plane crashes into a river in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, killing 24 people, most of whom were from the same family. – W


14 September: A Boeing-737 crashes on landing near the central Russian city of Perm, killing all 88 passengers and crew members on board. – W

24 August: A passenger plane crashes shortly after take-off from Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, killing 68 people.- W

20 August: A Spanair plane veers off the runway on take-off at Madrid’s Barajas airport, killing 154 people and injuring 18.- W

Wreckage of the Spanair MD82, 21 August 2008 [Pic: EFE]

Three days of mourning was declared after the Madrid air disaster

2 May: South Sudan’s defence minister is among 22 people killed after engine trouble causes a plane carrying a military delegation to crash about 400km (250 miles) west of Juba. -N/A

15 April: Some 40 people die when a DC-9 skids off the runway while attempting to take off in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma during heavy rain, smashing through a wall and into a busy residential area.- W

24 January: Nineteen people die when a Polish Casa C-295M military transport plane crashes in the country’s north-west, carrying officials who had attended an air safety conference.- W


For 2008 to 2009, I make the totals, as reported by the BBC, 1 unknown, 12 (W)estern manufacture, 1 (E)astern manufacture.

Now do you see the technological xenophobia that I’m talking about?

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Copenhagen Congress on Climate Change

In this stark summary from a meeting of 2.5k scientists from across the globe, we find that not only is anthropomorphic climate change real, not only is it getting worse, but also, within the error margins for the ‘hockey stick‘ predictions of only a few years back, recent measurements put the actual effects at the top of the predicted range!

Kongres Logo

Copenhagen, Denmark: Following a successful International Scientific Congress Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions

Many years ago I read a book (actually in a few volumes) by the late climatologist from East Anglia, H.H.Lamb called Climate Present Past and Future (ISBN 0-06-473881-7).  It’s extremely hard to get hold of now, but I recall that nearly everything Professor Lamb wrote is now coming true.

Many of the scientific concepts he wrote about are being used in the so-called ‘climate debate’ between various vested interests.  Check out the apologists for freedom at The Heartland Institute (you can’t make it up, can you?) or Climate Change Fraud (who change their hyperlinks regularly to avoid comebacks).  Several lone souls tackle these monsters of misleading fact-providers, such as Greenfyre’s and the Ecogeek.

The amount of cloud cover and water vapour is always a good red herring for the deniers.  As Prof. Lamb pointed out 30 years ago and is perfectly obvious to any observer, clouds are both insulators and reflectors of heat.  It just depends where they are, if it’s night or day, and where you, the observer are!  For instance:

  • cold day, -> clouds move in and night falls = cold night as cold trapped at ground level
  • cold day, -> no clouds at night = even colder night as heat radiates out to space
  • cold night, -> cloudy day = cold day as cold trapped under clouds and sun’s heat is reflected back to space
  • cold night, -> sunny day = warm day as sun warms earth’s surface

These temps are all relative, of course.  But throw in a bit of dirt into the clouds or let dirt fall on snow (another good reflector and insulator) and the picture changes because dark clouds and snow absorb more heat.  What is clear is that cloud and snow cover, like continuous volcanic eruptions, and like CO2 and CH4, are critical positive feedback agents.  Like trying to slowly push a light switch to stop in the middle, eventually all the slow forcing you do makes it flip to it’s other stable state.

Any worldary wobbling that the deniers use is also a red herring.  The wobble cycles tie in with ice-ages as Professor Lamb pointed out.  We’ve at least 20k years until the next one.  Bothered?  No.  Thought not.

The fact is that there are many scenarios for cloud behaviour and it’s influence – the climate change deniers just tend to use one (like the wobbles) as the basis of their arguments.  But even back in 1977, Professor Lamb’s models basically predicted the climate forcing we are witnessing now although at the time, a swing in the other direction looked possible.

But now we do know!

A recent exploration to the Arctic has been forced back because there’s no safe ice to walk on!  Coral is dying.  Floral and faunal species are being made extinct at an E.L.E. rate.  Make no mistake, it’s our fault and if we don’t pay now we or our children will pay in the future.  We need land and food to live on, not equities and price to earnings ratios.  A week of reduced fuel supplies in the UK and Europe and the continuing travails of African economic migrants revealed a tiny window on our probable future as billions, globally, seek somewhere to live and breed.  A few street riots will be the least of everyone’s worries.

I just wish that the OCO spacecraft had made it

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A Failure in Priorities for NASA Rocket Launches?

Two rockets have been sent up recently by NASA.

I’m all for expanding human knowledge and can understand the reasons for the missions.  In fact, I’m all for them!  However, I’ve serious doubts about the mindsets of the humans that placed a satellite that really can provide the most benefit to mankind on a cronky test rocket with a 85% success rate, whereas the real ‘pie-in-the-sky’ satellite gets a rocket with a 99.5% success rate to plonk it in space!

The carbon dioxide mission was to really get a handle on our human activities vis-a-vis global warming and the anthropomorphic changes.  Greater knowledge would provide fuel for real social changes driven by an informed political will.  Not now though!   We are still exactly where we were 7 years ago when the mission was first planned!  On the knife edge our climate now sits on, this is seven years we can ill afford and really need.

The worlds mission is to look for Earth-like worlds for which we have no possible current means of reaching, probably ever.  In other words, we deduced that some stars had worlds, then we deduced that most stars have worlds, then we saw some big gas ones,  and now we have to prove little ones exist by seeing them!   Really, all it needs is simple logic.  They do exist because we exist on a world, part of a system that orbits a sun.  The fact that we can’t say for 100% certainty that every star has little worlds is irrelevant as we can’t go anyway!  So what’s the big deal?

Saying all that, I’m confident that the Keplar telescope will open up new vistas to new highways of knowledge, so not all is bad.  But the immediate gains from putting the OCO mission on a proper rocket would have been immense.

Don’t forget, we are humans and live our lives on the arrow of time, day by day.  Each day we all must breathe, eat and drink, living on dry land in relative comfort protected from the elements.  Our world provides all of this because we’ve evolved into it over eons of time.  We can’t change our bodies fast.  We are stuck with them.

  • If we stop breathing for a few short minutes, we die.
  • If we stop drinking for a few days, we die.
  • If we stop eating for a few weeks, we die.

So the incredible incongruity of belief that somehow we can find another world to go to and fuck that place up as well when our own Earth is knackered, is staggering.  Currently, and most probably for ever, we do not have a get out of climate jail free card! A much better plan is to look after what we have and part of this care would have been encapsulated in the OCO mission.  It’s not a valid plan to behave like the first white men in America, continuing a process of discovery and exploitation.  It is a valid plan to nurture what we have, because in exploration terms, we’ve reached the metaphorical edge of the universe.  The immense interstellar distances make this so.  Just because we can see further dosen’t mean we can ever, ever touch it.  There are no limits to our imagination, but yes, there are real physical limits to what we can do.

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Prison Population versus Military Personnel Percentages Checked, Okay?

Prisons ‘hold 8,500 ex-soldiers’

I thought I’d check it out to see what it means – bear with me!

The article says that there are 8500 military chaps currently bunged up at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

If one checks the latest prison figures, quoted at 93,574 in the article, this equates to:

8500/93574 = 9.08% of the prison population

Using this prison population against a Google search of UK population we get a figure of 60,776,238 as a July estimate.

So this gives us a general lock-up percentage of:

93574/60776238 = 0.154% of UK people are bunged up at the current time (approx. of course)

But hang on, what’s this mean?  How many people are in the forces?

429,500 in 2006 according to Wikipedia, which is good enough for my exploration.

So the percentage of military people bunged up from the actual military people is:

8500/429500 = 1.98%


It’s a worrying figure…. 0.154% of the general population are locked up c.f. 1.98% of military chaps & chappesses.

That’s an almost thirteen-fold increase and I’ve two suggestions to make on that point.

  1. The UK military has a selection process i.e. it’s NOT conscripted, so the sample is skewed by design.  We will never have a true statistical comparison and to suggest that military people are “normal” is specious.  They are not.  Basically, our military choose the best killers who, by definition, are going to be the best killers and most out of step with normal society.
  2. In the article, they suggest that not enough is being done to integrate, recuperate or stress-counsel the people recently discharged.  This is damage limitation at most given my first point. Percentage-wise, they’re gonna have a large bunch of nutters in the services, who entered in that frame of mind.  It needs more than the stress relieving for past experiences – it needs the whole of their lives sorting out.

Q. Have I personal experience of this?

A. Yes of course.  I’m a Buddhist and have “horse’s mouth” evidence, that I won’t repeat without permission of those people.

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