Category Archives: General

Life on Mars…?

It’s one of David Bowie’s all time best songs (and he made many great ones)…

…and its also something scientists, academics, novelists, musicans (yes), and the general public have grappled with for a very long time: The question of whether there is/was life on the planet Mars.

Over at scientificamerican.com, author Gilbert V. Levin offers this intriguing article, wherein he states…

I’m convinced we found evidence of life on Mars in the 1970’s

The article is presented on Scientific American, so don’t be terribly surprised by the dry analysis presented.

If you can work through it, you’ve got yourself a very fascinating article that posits the Viking craft that landed on Mars back in the 1970’s actually detected possible life, in the form of microbes, on the planet… but the results were considered tarnished for various reasons and not accepted.

Mr. Levin feels this is not the case, that the results are solid and prove we did discover “life on Mars” back then.

Give it a look. It’s fascinating stuff!

Lidar and Archaeology…

Absolutely fascinating article presented on nytimes.com and written by Zack Zorich concerning how…

Online map leads Archaeologist to Maya Discovery

One of the most interesting things about modern technology is that we’re able to discover things previously hidden thanks to satellite imagery and, as the article notes, lidar.

At the risk of giving away the entire article, it concerns how lidar images, some posted free online, allowed an archeologist to “see” buried structures. In this case, Mayan buried structures.

From the article:

These structures, which have been buried for hundreds of years, likely would never have been seen had it not been for the lidar photographs.

With photographs such as these, the buried structures, some under foliage or trees, are suddenly crystal clear and allow archeologists a clear guide to where to search for such structures.

Fascinating, fascinating stuff, and one wonders how many more buried ancient cities/towns/structures will be uncovered in the years to come all over the world!

Maddening…

Heard about Greta Thunberg? She’s the 16 year old environmental activist who has managed to push the issue of Global Warming and its negative effects to a, well, global audience.

Which has made her a target of many in power and especially those who operate in businesses which ultimately negatively affect the environment and which she vocally criticizes.

One of them would be Donald Trump. Now, Vladimir Putin has weighed in on her activities.

They like to put her down as young and uninformed or, barring that, an agent of her “wacky” parents.

Maybe I’m naive, but I see a girl who is more informed about the globe and the strange and very worrisome things happening within it and is, if nothing else, sounding an alarm we should all be listening to.

And at the very least, what’s so damn bad about wanting cleaner air and water and less destruction of natural habitats and animals?

Anyway, so Putin makes a snide comment about her and, in this article by Josephine Harvey, she took the comment and made it her own…

Greta Thunberg Just Sassed Putin With Her Classic Clapback Style

Tesla batteries…

Over at Forbes.com there’s an interesting article by Bill Roberson concerning the life of their cars’ batteries:

The clock is ticking on electric car batteries – and how long they will last

The article is quite timely: Some of the first production Tesla vehicles were released in 2012, ie 7 years ago, and the company’s warranty period is for 8 years meaning that some of the oldest Teslas out there are about to go out of warranty.

At the risk of giving most of the article away, the author discovered the batteries in those older Teslas appear to still be in remarkably good condition, degrading in some cases only some 10% at most in terms of their distance/range.

A nice thing to realize!

One thing I would note regarding this article and electric cars in general: We’re still in the very early days of the electric car “revolution” (if you want to call it that) and, as noted, some of the older Tesla vehicles are only 7 or so years old.

The battery life has already improved. My Model 3 is a “long range” vehicle that, in theory and when charged to 100%, is supposed to have a range of 310 miles. Now, to be clear, the range depends on several factors, including how fast/slow you’re driving, using AC or the heater, etc. etc. The new Model S cars, however, have a range of 377 miles, an astonishing increase compared to previous models.

Again, we’re at the beginning of the electric car revolution and I strongly suspect in time we will see better and better batteries and better and better battery life.

Within the article there is talk of newer battery modules which may give these cars a range of 1000 miles and charging which will be as quick as getting gas in your car is now.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

But it is encouraging to see that the Tesla vehicles are showing such durability regarding their batteries.

It can only get better with time!

Ancient Statues…

We go to museums and, often, get to see some beautiful statues which have survived hundreds, sometimes thousands of years.

But very often, the statues we see aren’t presented the way they were originally presented in ancient times.

Why?

Sometimes its because the statues are broken here and there (the famous Venus De Milo, which I wrote about a while back concerning what she was doing with her lost arms, is a perfect example).

Other statutes were originally painted, often with very vibrant colors, and over time these colors have been lost or fallen off.

Over on CNN.com writer Jacopo Prisco offers a fascinating article concerning…

The true colors of ancient statues

I won’t give much away here, but its a fascinating look at how some are trying to figure out how some statues were originally presented when they were first created, and offers some intriguing examples of the same.

Good stuff!

Politics… Beware…!

What a week it’s been, no?

After so many months of the Mueller investigation which, once released, was kneecapped by Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr -who issues a self-serving memorandum that while incredibly dishonest about what Mueller uncovered admittedly helped push the Trump narrative positively- this whole Ukraine phone call seems to have really hit its target.

I suppose that’s the way things go.

I mean, when you get a professional investigator of high repute in Mueller to investigate a matter as serious as the Russian interference in the 2016 election yet he proves too deferential to stonewalling witnesses -including the President, who refused to be interviewed and instead only provided written (lawyered up) answers to question- it seems in retrospect one can not be surprised the report fizzled to some degree in Joe Average Citizen’s mind.

Too complicated. Too much information. Not enough of a snappy, quick answer to the question.

Joe Average Citizen can be forgiven in thinking Trump’s gotten away with it, whatever “it” was, because the report was too damn long and who in their right mind is going to read -much less make sense of- all that stuff…?

And then, out of nowhere, clarity.

Thanks to someone within the Trump White House, a whistleblower’s concern, plus an oblivious White House releasing transcripts of what turns out to be a pretty damn incriminating phone call (in what world did these people think releasing that transcript would somehow prove Trump did nothing wrong?!), we suddenly have that clarity.

First, the whistleblower’s complaint was that Trump was holding up Congressional approved monies to be sent to Ukraine to help them defend against Russian provocations so that they would help him find “dirt” on Joe Biden and his son, whom they think did some underhanded stuff there.

The accusation was shocking but Trump’s team of Einsteins felt that they had the perfect proof he did no such thing and released their summation of the phone call between Trump and the Ukranian President Zelenskyy. The following part of the transcript and Trump’s statements to President Zelenskyy clearly shows us what the whistleblower feared Trump was up to:

I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they s_say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your weal thy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There- are a lot. of things that went on, the whole situation ..

Understand, THIS IS WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE ITSELF RELEASED TO PROVE TRUMP DID NOTHING WRONG…! (You can read the full transcripts here, if you’re so inclined).

We’re not talking about some Democratic operative’s leak or some underhanded theft of private property skewed to make “President” Trump look bad, we’re talking the actual material they themselves chose to release.

“I would like you to do us a favor” Trump states, while he is holding back aid to Ukraine. The favor involves getting help from the Ukraine which Trump can use against Joe Biden in next year’s Presidential Elections.

Suddenly, the wrongdoing is incredibly obvious and -better yet for Joe Average Citizen- easy to see.

So easy to see, and so easy to show, that over the weekend those who tried to defend Trump found themselves having a very hard time doing so. I won’t go over all of them, but suffice to say this White House, which has been (I hate to admit it) pretty good at hitting back against outrageous actions they’ve been involved in, were suddenly having a great deal of trouble putting this particular fire out.

Now we have a full blown Impeachment inquiry in the House. I suspect things will go fairly quickly. Hell, they don’t have to do much but show the White House’s own transcripts as exhibit “A” of why Trump needs to be impeached.

How will the Senate subsequently react? The Senate has a Republican majority and a Majority Leader who is loathe to do anything against this administration.

But when faced with what is clearly -to anyone with a set of eyes- a deeply illegal action, how will the other Republicans vote?

I suppose like so many other things, time will tell.

Life on Mars? How…?

Let’s consider the idea of humanity heading to and creating a habitat on Mars.

To do so, one needs, obviously, some kind of shelter. A place where humans can both breathe and not freeze. Oh, and not get bombarded by pesky radiation. They’ll also need food.

The fact is that we can’t send these things on a consistent basis from Earth to Mars. In other words, we would need to figure out how to produce a safe living environment along with food to sustain our Mars inhabitants.

Curious about how this is done?

I found a couple of interesting articles regarding this very subject.

First up, Erika K. Carlson offers this intriguing article over at astronomy.com which posits:

We could feed one million people living in colonies on Mars

I don’t want to give the article completely away, but suffice to say this would involve some planting (I suspect many out there already know about some of this via the movie and book The Martian) along with edible insects, algae, etc. It’s an ambitious plan and -again, giving away some of the points of the article- it is theorized we could get this amount of food available in a matter of 100 years.

Sounds like a long time, but I find that an incredibly optimistic timeline!

Fascinating stuff!

Now, how about the habitation itself and the radiation exposure? The folks over at marsone.com offer the following guide to dealing with these issues:

How much radiation will the Mars settlers be exposed to?

There are a bunch of other links on this site and its a fascinating read.

As bad as the internet can be, there’s gold in them thar hills, too!

Tesla some more…

If you’re tired of me talking about my car, please skip this post!

Otherwise…

So last week I did another long -but not quite as long as the trip up the coast- in the Tesla and today I did another long -but not quite as long as the previous two- trip.

Some thoughts: I-95 around these parts has a double line on the left side which is going to be used, very soon I imagine, for the “express lanes”, ie lanes where cars pay to theoretically bypass the worst of rush hour traffic. While we have two lines between the far left lane and the one immediate next to it on the right, eventually that space between the lines -a large space, by the way- will have cones within it separating that lane from the others.

Related image
Here is the express lane with the cones installed. Where I was, the cones weren’t there yet

My Tesla’s Autopilot seems to really get confused with the double lines and, likely, the space between. When in Autopilot, you hit the change lane indicator (right or left), and the car will make sure there are no cars in the lane you want to go into and will make the lane change for you.

However, when I wanted to switch from the second to the last left lane to the furthest left lane and past the double lines, the car seemed to freak out a little. On the screen would appear a note saying “Attempting lane change, prepare to take over” and once the car gave me a red alert (the screen literally went red) and stated something to the effect that Autopilot had disengaged and I had to take over.

Once I was on the far left lane, the Autopilot kept wanting to switch lanes and get back into the second to the last lane from the left, ie beyond those double lines. It was like the Autopilot sensed we were in the wrong place and kept asking to switch lanes. Perhaps it thought I was on the wrong lane, moving toward a head on collision?

Regardless, it was quite aggravating.

Yeah, yeah. First world problems and all that.

Still, using Autopilot remains, with the above exception, a delight. In the trip I took two weeks ago today (the longer of the two trips) we didn’t have to deal with any weird double lines with big spaces between them and the car moved more than well: It did the trip on Autopilot quite well.

The trip was about an hour and a half, give or take a few minutes, to Naples and we did some shopping before heading to the convenient Supercharger the city has in a covered parking lot. We charged the car up and walked around the place as it charged, seeing some restaurants -but truthfully not all that much more around there that day. We did go to some more shops afterwards, had a nice lunch, and saw the beach before heading back home.

I might have been able to make the trip there and back with the full charge but I suppose I’m still a little skittish about the car’s range, even though I had something like 140+ miles left of range when I started up the charge.

Today, the trip lasted one hour there and another hour (of course) to get back. No need for a Supercharger but, as mentioned above, I did have to be careful with the double line/future express lanes.

Out of curiosity, I went on Tesla’s webpage and did a dry run order for their upcoming Model Y. I’m thinking that will be our next vehicle but I was curious to see what the specs on it are.

Incredibly, I found the car in the configuration I wanted would cost around $55,000, or about four thousand more than my Model 3 was (though with the trade in, I wound up getting it for considerably less).

Still, the fact that Tesla is offering an SUV that has a range of 300 miles with full charge (mine, at full charge, has a range of 310, only a 10 mile difference!), and offer it at a price that isn’t that much higher than a Model 3 when I bought it is something.

Yeah, the price is still a little high and I’m hoping it will continue to come down in time.

The big question: When will the Model Y be available? According to the Tesla website:

Model Y production is expected to begin in late 2020 for North America, and in early 2021 for Europe and China. Standard Range production is expected to begin in early 2021 for North America, and in early 2022 for Europe and China.

So I suppose you can theoretically get the long range version of the Model Y (the more expensive one) by late 2020.

Don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to it!

Ah… Friday… and Corrosive Knights #8 Update…!

It feels like I haven’t stopped moving these past few months… maybe years… and when the weekend is in view, as it is this Friday morning, I can’t help but feel relief and look forward to unwinding.

I suspect I’m not alone in this!

I haven’t offered much information of what I’m doing, writing-wise of late, but suffice to say I’m neck deep into what will be the 8th book in the Corrosive Knights series.

A while back I was offering the following image to give a hint as to what this 8th book was going to be…

Note the “Epilogue” statement.

Welp… it no longer applies.

There is indeed an 8th book in the works and I’d say I’m a little more than halfway -roughly- through writing it and it most certainly will not be the promised Epilogue to the series.

Why?

Because the Epilogue, which as I’ve stated before is pretty much written already (and has been for a while) kinda ends the whole Corrosive Knights series and I’m not feeling like the series should end just yet.

In fact, the ideas I’ve come up with in Book #8 are fascinating to me, a sure sign that the book is “working”. If I didn’t feel excited about what I was writing, I’d have given it up a while ago.

Yet the same things always rear their head when writing: I try my best to deliver a story that will zig when readers think it will zag. A story that will hopefully surprise them with the many turns and, likewise, give them compelling characters along with a compelling story with a strong beginning, middle, and end.

Any hints as to when the story takes place?

Here’s the thing: With the Corrosive Knights series, I have this broad timeline where I can fit in stories. The story could theoretically take place in pre-historic times. It could take place in the 20th Century and from there, five thousand plus years into the future.

So it could take place the very day after the final events of Legacy of the Argus or before the events of Chameleon (those who have read the books know what I’m talking about).

I’ll offer more updates soon enough…!

Suffice to say I’ve found a good subject/plot and am pushing forward as quickly as I can. Once that first good rough draft is done, things will start coming together more quickly, even if I do require considerable polishing before I feel a book of mine is ready to be released.

I’m working really hard on this one and I want it to be ready perhaps by the middle of next year, if I can manage this.

I’ll give it my all!

In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Absolutely fascinating…

Back in November of 1997, William Moldt of Palm Beach County, Florida, disappeared without a trace and, for the years since, no one knows what happened to him.

Now, thanks to Google Earth, they do.

Amanda Watts, Natalie Johnson, and Amanda Jackson provide this absolutely fascinating article for CNN.com which reports on how…

The remains of a man missing for 22 years have been found – thanks to Google Earth

As always, and at the risk of giving it away, Google Earth provided the following picture of a neighborhood in Palm Beach County (I’ve taken this image from the article above):

The submererged car is on the top left side of the pond. See inset.

As you can see in the close up image in the square on the upper left side, what appears to be a car on its side is visible along the bank of this pond.

The vehicle turned out to be Mr. Moldt’s Saturn. The vehicle was lifted from the pond and his remains were found inside.

A tragic situation, certainly, but at least now the family/friends of Mr. Moldt will have closure and now know what became of him.