Hybrid Air VehiclesPosted by John Timbers Wed, April 22, 2015 15:14:59
is flying and has a few orders under its belt (or a clutch of wealthy backers with faith in its future potential) the developers have expressed the hope that they will be able to turn their attention to the R&D necessary to produce an all-electric version for the future, powered by solar panels.
While even its current prototype will be many times cleaner than any aircraft now flying (like-for-like) there is huge scope for improvement. Solar panel technology is becoming more and more efficient by the day and no doubt, given the opportunity and incentive to develop it, the industry could easily weave the photo-voltaic cells into the ultra-strong kevlar-based material used in the 'skin' of the fuselage/helium tanks giving it its lighter-than-air flight capacity.
The weight of batteries (or whatever future storage technology demands) able to store excess electric power from the solar panel arrays (that excess could be potentially very large – not being earthbound, the Airlander has almost constant access to sunlight for the duration of any flight) would be chickenfeed compared to the cargo capacity of such an aircraft.
To keep it clean, back up drives will use hydrogen fuel cells, which – by the time such an aircraft gets off the ground – will be in routine use for power drive units in light aircraft, having survived (one hopes) all the attempts of vested interests in conventional carbon-based fuel drives to knock them off course.
If I can make it to a hundred, I hope to see such beautiful LTA craft sailing silently and gracefully through our bllue skies
Hybrid Air VehiclesPosted by John Timbers Wed, April 22, 2015 12:14:11
I've just joined the HAV Club for the princely sum of £25, for which I gain several privileged concessions, including access to the huge hangars at Cardington where the Airlander
is being developed for civil transport purposes. I wish I had a few thou' to invest but it's the wrong time of life for me. In any case, they need the Bransons of the UK industry to get behind them. The little guys can all help nevertheless.
For those who've never heard of this fascinating machine, all the details can be found on the internet. It's an exciting advanced aero-engineering project with huge potential for further development towards sustainable, clean, quiet flight, which might just entice the travelling population of the world back to a more comfortable and enjoyable mode of getting around the world – safe, luxurious (potentially more so than in modern luxury liners), slow (but not as slow as travelling by sea and not limited to seaport access).
It is, of course, a use of advanced technology that challenges the prerogatives of the world's 'conventional' aircraft designers, with their predilection for speed and their consequent 'attachment' to large airports with long runways and their consequent need for the infrastructure of land communication/transport links. There will no doubt be a battle for future funding, with powerful vested interests playing a destructive part in this small company's future.
It already has some (fairly paltry) UK Government and EU funding support but nothing like the money behind the aircraft industry giants, whose knowledge of their market competition and the dirty tricks of the financial world will challenge the highly motivated and enthusiastic men and women behind the Airlander project.
I would urge you, people, to get behind this imaginative and innovative project. It is definitely not a backward step towards the R101 and Hindenberg days of clumsy and potentially dangerous dirigibles. It's a project that should appeal to everyone interested in a future of clear blue skies (fewer con trails), less obsession with speed, less noise, less consumption of carbon-based fuels, cleaner air (fewer giant airliners dumping unwanted, unburnt fuel into the upper atmosphere, to say nothing of their exhaust fumes).
Better still, it's a British project in origin (despite it's brief love affair with the US Airforce development program). It has advantages over its competition but needs backing to stay ahead in what could well be the new way ahead for modern aviation.
I wish them luck.
ConsciousnessPosted by John Timbers Wed, April 15, 2015 08:50:31
Consciousness – The Dawn of a New Religion?
DISCOVERING FOR myself the weirdness of quantum mechanics and the
increasing difficulty physicists are having in explaining their evermore ‘weird’
theories of everything without descending into semi religious themes, I begin
to wonder just how much longer it will be before one or other of them really
does go nuts.
It would seem there is a strong move away from the
conventional ‘mechanistic materialism’ behind the physics of the universe.
Particle physicists cannot agree on what happens at the quantum level of
particle behaviour. Are the quarks, muons, bosons and all the other quantum
level particles there or aren’t they? If you observe them they behave as
particles. If you don’t they behave as electromagnetic waves. Is ‘entanglement’
a far more common feature of these particles than previously thought? Do more
‘twinned’ particles exist that can communicate with each other across the
universe instantaneously? Is it possible that information can be transmitted
faster than the speed of light? Can what
I know be exactly the same as what you – my telepathic twin – know without some
electromagnetic speed limit getting in the way? Do dark matter and its
counterpart dark energy exist? If so, what are they? Do they really compose
some threequarters of the substance of the universe?
What started out for me as a mild curiosity about a theory
that called itself ‘biocentrism’ that has been around for three or four years
has morphed into a romp through a whole ‘new’ way of looking at consciousness
that has adopted the name of non-dualism. This philosophy links its definition
of consciousness to the theory of everything in a very different metaphysical
way via Buddhist and/or Hindu meditational beliefs and practices, quoting the Mahayana/Vedanta
and the great Yogis/Maharishis that have expounded on their beliefs over
hundreds of years.
Far be it from someone as ignorant of eastern religions as me
to pour scorn on the beliefs of highly educated men and women – some holding
university chairs in complex scientific subjects such as particle physics,
neuropsychology and advanced stem cell development – but their claims that the
mathematicians and particle physicists have gone as far as they can go in
slicing up (or down) matter into its smallest parts are way beyond the
boundaries of my simple comprehension.
They posit the theory that the materialist scientists with
their blind faith in quantum mechanical mathematics can go no further in their
search for a theory of everything without recognising that the only true definitions
will be found in acceptance of the existence of an all-pervading, infinite
consciousness beyond mankind’s comprehension, a level of consciousness that can
only be approached by resorting to extreme meditational exercises as practised
by yoga adepts. The non-dualists believe (and it is very much a belief of the
religious kind) that the origin of the universe (and, indeed, the infinite
multiplicity of universes that follows from their belief) lies in a ‘fizz’ (in
the actual words of a prominent microphysicist) of particles like that which
produced the ‘Big Bang’ (if, indeed such an event ever occurred).
Personally, I am not prepared to delve into the mysteries of
oriental religions, much as I respect their advanced humanity by comparison
with the Abrahamic religions evolved in the Middle East. I am no atheist, nor
am I a devout theist. However, I do believe that fanatical adhesion to any one
religious belief is a recipe for human conflict, with words like ‘blasphemy’
being bandied around to denigrate others who cannot or will not accept a particular
interpretation of dogma.
Like one school of oriental religious thought I do believe in
the soul or spirit, the ultimate me (Atman?). I do believe that it is something
like – not necessarily the same as – the energy that Einstein proved is
indestructible with his general theory of relativity, with the beautiful simplicity
of its defining expression, e=mc2. While I do not accept that I will
be reincarnated as a being deserving of a new life reflecting my behaviour in
this one, I do believe that there will always be a consciousness – a soul
– that will essentially be a continuation of me. (Here my belief parts
company with anything I was taught in Sunday school.) I may not have any
recollection of what this life is all about. I don’t know whether I will come
back as a poisonous microbe or a brain surgeon. Will I even come back to an
awareness of self in this universe or some other parallel one with dimensions I
cannot experience in this one? Who knows?
There is evidence – refuted by most neuroscientists and
advanced psychology practitioners – that human beings can and do reincarnate
with memories of their former existence. Rare cases have been investigated using
modern research techniques and documented where children barely out of nappies
and only just able to talk can recollect facts from a previous lifetime that
cannot possibly be explained in any other way. It is said that such memories
tend not to last beyond early childhood, which is probably why more cases have
not been recorded. Certainly, this gels with Buddhist beliefs in reincarnation.
Whether or not reincarnation can be proven, belief in an
afterlife seems to be fundamental to the mental well-being of most human beings
no matter what their cultural background. It takes a peculiar form of
bloody-mindedness to be an atheist, someone who believes that death is the end
of all things – when your brain dies that’s it, there’s nothing else – nix,
zilch. You will never see another sunrise; you will never smell another flower,
taste another sweet; you will never perceive of beauty; you will never
dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?”
It will be interesting to see what comes of this debate
between the materialists and the dualists or non-dualists. As one protagonist
of the latter said in a recent gathering of like-minded people (Rupert Spira in
a U-Tube lecture on non-duality), we stand on the threshold of a major change
in scientific knowledge, a change as profound as that in the mid 16th
century, when Copernicus expounded his (then) heretical theory that the Earth
was not the centre of the universe, that it circled round the Sun and not vice
We know from history what changes that brought about in the
world, slowly at first, then accelerating to where we are now, where
technological and scientific development in all disciplines has reached
exponential levels. What will that change be? Will it be something wholly
revolutionary or are we on the verge of a return to a belief in a force (The
Force?) that cannot be comprehended by ordinary man? Is this new acceptance of
a Consciousness that is beyond comprehension, beyond even the most erudite
scientists to define, because it is unknowable, going to become the new age
religion, with its own ‘priesthood’ with all that portends?
Those of us who are not into philosophy will need some sort of
moral guidance from those who are. I do not have the time or inclination to go
back to school and learn a new religion and a new code of living. I am
perfectly happy with my own interpretation of the teachings of Jesus Christ
unfettered by the religious dogma imposed by any branch of Catholicism or
Protestantism. I do not ‘know’ the bible backwards and have no ambition to do
so. I know the bits I like and what I have taken away with me as I’ve
progressed through life. I like the familiarity of some church services, the
hymns I grew up with. I don’t like the changes that have been introduced in the
general dumbing down of teaching to accommodate every relaxation in moral standards.
Not being a religious fanatic I would not dream of imposing my beliefs on
anyone else. They are my own distillation of my own experience and I’m
comfortable with them.
Nevertheless, I would like to know where these guys are
expecting to take us.
ConsciousnessPosted by John Timbers Wed, March 25, 2015 17:59:41
An Ode to Consciousness
What makes us think we’re so different?
What makes us think we’re supreme?
Why do we feel that we rule the world?
As God’s creatures, we’re part of
We’re not alone in being aware
Of ourselves and of being alive.
Elephants, apes, they say octopi, too,
All know ‘self’, have the will to
Scientists, chemists, the '-ology' kings,
Search for the secrets of life.
Try as they might, they have no success.
Are we safe from their digital
‘Intelligence’ – that gift we know well.
That deepens and changes with time –
Part of our make-up, the sum of our traits,
A route up that mountain we climb.
“Cogitùr ergo sum,” the philosopher’s words,
Descartes – disputed by Hume.
Behind those fine words lay his christian belief,
Not blind faith. No, death will consume.
“I think, so I am.” When I don’t, am I not?
But machines just don’t think, they process
Info, facts, data – you know, all that stuff –
Bytes of binary – M-G-T back to nano- or less.
No one likes in these times to talk about ‘soul’.
Even ‘spirit’ ‘s anathema to most.
Consciousness dwells in the mind – don’t ask where –
Does it matter? You’re its transient host.
Consciousness, soul – I know what they mean.
I know I am I, me, moi, ich – never you.
The energy source that drives my ‘self’ on.
Life’s spark that survives – passing through.
‘mc-squared’ equals E, the indestructible ‘me’.
My spark grows to flame and then dims.
Bodies die – my spark must migrate,
Re-kindle its fire – mine – that I know.
'Reincarnation' is the wrong word to use.
This me I’ve passed on to my young.
My new me won’t recall what I was, what I did.
Won’t remember the flings that I've flung.
Man-made life is way out of reach.
Machine is machine is machine.
Talk of transhumans – the Borg is so close –
“Resistance is futile!” they mean.
Implants, prosthetics, add this, renew that.
Evolution’s too slow for us now.
Expectation is all – satisfaction’s the word.
Today’s ‘must-have’. Go do! Don’t ask ‘How?’
Bean, 25 March 2015
AncestryPosted by John Timbers Tue, March 17, 2015 17:01:24
Finding The Family Links
IT SEEMS AS if
the world is into the fascinating business of finding out where they come from.
I’m forever getting advertising material
for ‘Ancestry.com’ and being offered links to this that and the other website
on family research. It’s become a national obsession. I love watching
programmes on TV like ‘Who do you think you are?’. It’s
always fascinating to watch someone become obsessed with one particular link.
Not uncommonly it’s to a family black sheep that no one in the past wanted to
know or even acknowledge.
Is it true that every Englishman alive can trace himself back
eventually to King Edward III (or was it I – NO, not me)? My USA-based 1st
cousin once removed has traced her mother’s family – mine – back to the
1600s and done a very thorough job of producing relevant family trees and even
photographs of forbears in the mid 1800s not so very long after the art of
photography was first discovered. Our family all seem to have taken to the
camera like ducks to water.
It’s an obsession that is certainly not confined to this side
of the pond. That most classless of societies (or so they tell us) in the
States desperately seeks out links to the Pilgrim Fathers. I simply don’t know
if the French and Germans or Scandinavians are as keen to link themselves to
their respective aristocracies as we seem to be. Do the Aussies look for links
to the original convicts? I suspect they do with great pride – and why
not, since most of the transported convicts had done little to be ashamed of.
There is another BBC TV programme on at the moment
immediately after the weekday Breakfast news – Heir Hunters. Now there’s a
programme for dreamers. People who die intestate in the UK, whose heirs are
unaware of their existence let alone their deaths, have their estates placed
in limbo as ‘bona vacantia’ or
There are now licensed companies (sometimes but not always
solicitors) who specialise in hunting for the missing heirs. They, of course,
take a reasonable cut of any of the estate that is then properly distributed
and thus kept out of the ever hungry mits of the Treasury. The family trees these heir
hunters dig up are sometimes quite extraordinary, making the shares for long
lists of heirs that come out of the woodwork quite pathetically small. There
was a case the other day where the deceased proved to be one of twelve
siblings, all of whom had no idea of what had happened to him. Other cases have
to go back to grandparents to find uncles and aunts, who often prove to have
been more fecund than the deceased’s own parents.
The initial excitement caused by the unexpected heir hunters’
call seldom leads to much disappointment. Heirs seem often to be saddened by
the departure of a relative they may never have known but then gladdened by
learning more about the missing links to stories that they haven’t heard
perhaps since childhood, if at all.
At the end of the day, we all seem to be fascinated by the
heir hunters’ skill and the thrill of the chase.