Update: Nasa’s Plan: How never to get to Mars

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As a follow up on my blog suggesting that NASA’s so called plan for a human expedition to Mars in the 2030’s is absurd and will never happen since it is primarily a jobs program, the NASA advisory committee has indicated huge doubts that such a Nasa sponsored Mars expedition is realizable and has suggested concentration on the even more absurd, politically motivated and essentially pointless (except as a way to justify huge funding in the districts of certain  powerful Congressmen) “Asteroid Redirect Project.” Absent a major technological breakthough or a major political shift NASA will never (yes NEVER!) achieve the goal of a manned expedition to Mars. Las Vegas oddsmakers rate SpaceX as the most likely to accomplish such a mission, with Russia (despite an economy that is near collapse), the somewhat crazy Mars One proposals, and China as being far more likely to achieve such a goal.Personally, my money is on the Chinese.  Sad.

NASA’s Plan: How never to get to Mars

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NASA’s recently released (or hacked) plan for placing a human on Mars sometime in the 2030s is a complete joke. At an estimated cost of $400 billion (multiply this by ten and you might be close to the real cost), it simply will never happen. Emphasis: IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN and NASA knows it.
It won’t happen in the 2030s. It won’t happen in the 2050s. NEVER!

So what is really going on?

Answer: Politics as usual. This is not a space program. It is a jobs and corporation welfare program. It has more to do with where the hardware is being developed (i.e. which Congressional district) than any desire or intention to reach Mars. With the expendisure of vast funds, NASA reaching lunar orbit by 2025 is possible but forget Mars.

The problem is the use of expendible rockets. This is simply not sustainable or even rational. Nasa’s plan forsees launching their big booster at a rate of one every two or three years because that is what is affordable under the current and reasonably forseeable NASA budgets. The absurdity of this “plan” is mind boggling.

The hope for a viable Mars progam if there is one ( I have become rather pestimistic that it will happen in this century at all) lies in three areas:

1) Private companies such as Space X who have rational plans but limited financial resources,
2) China,
3) technological breakthrough (i.e fusion, Q Thruster or some other unanticipated development that is a game changer).

Congressional moves for an “Independent” investigation of Space Xs recent booster failure make it clear that the politicians will never permit a private program to succeed. I am sad to say that Musk needs to consider relocating his efforts to a more hospitable environment if he is serious about his Mars program).

Technological breakthoughs will happen at some point but anticipating them within such a brief window is probably unrealistic.

I’m putting my money on China even though their technology currently is largely derivitive of Russia’s. ( estimated Mars arrival date for Chinese program: sometime in 2040s if we are lucky although the 2050s is probably more realistic).

Question: What are the single most important items Americans will need to return to the Moon or to reach Mars?

Answer: A passport and a Chinese visa.

EmDrive (Q Thruster) and Warp bubble research update 8-13–2016

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NASA Eagleworks reports that further experiments in a vacuum  of the “Impossible Drive”  showed  significant thrust, increasing the likelihood that the EmDrive (electromagnetic Drive) or its closely related cousin the Cannae Drive or Quantum thruster (Q Drive or Thruster) may soon open the solar system to relatively easy and very fast access for both robotic and perhaps manned spacecraft. These recent experiments address objections of some skeptics who postulated that the previous experimental obsevations might be explained by external thermal effects. While it remains possible that an “artifact” of the testing procedure is an explanation for these results, Eagleworks believes that the level of the observed effect makes this very unlikely. (in July 2015 Martin Tajmar, a professor at the Space Institute at  the Desden University Institute of Technology who is widely known for finding experimental artifacts which explained erroneous findings of allegedly breakthrough technologies such as antigravity experiments performed by NASA, presented a scientific paper which confirms the finding of thrust from an EmDrive at similar levels reported by other researchers; however, he continues experiments searching for experimental artifacts which may offer mudane explanations for the observations. A Romainian researcher also has reported thrust in similar experiments.  There are also reports that experiments related to q thrusters are underway at dozens of research centers including at a number of major universities who prefer to remain unidentified until  their research has progressed and peer reveiwed scientific papers can be filed explaining the results of their research ).

Eagleworks maintains that their theory of how the drive works does not violate basic well established scientific principals such as the conservation of momentum but others, such as Elon Musk, remain skeptical as to whether the observed effect is real, suspecting a flaw in the testing procedures. While a healthy level of skepticism is justitfied until the effect is independently confirmed, it should also be realized that those who have made large investments of time, emotional commitment, and finances in more conventional space efforts have a vested interest in disregarding  and even ridiculing breakthrough technologies. More neutral observers should curtail their enthusiasm while encouraging further research.  Further tests are planned on the EmDrive and Q Thruster at higher power levels in the coming months. (Early reports suggested that It is also possible the military is currently testing some variation of this drive in its top secret X-37B space plane which was recently launched into low earth orbit. Leaks confirmed the testing of a potentially revolutionary space drive although the reported nature of those experiments have been contradictory with the current official story being that an advanced Hall effect electromagnetic Drive is being tested which may promise  significant if unspectacular improvements over existing Hall effect thrusters. It is somewhat odd that the military would be conducting parallel research on Hall effect thrusters when NASA has a similar and vigorous program in connection with its “Asteroid Redirect” program, however, with so many conspiracy theorists and other crackpots about it is difficult to determine whether or not the reports of military testing of the EmDrive can be taken seriously).

Roger Shawyer, the inventor of the EmDrive, claims that research and development is currently underway on a phase 2 version of the EmDrive utilizing superconductive materials and that this updated version promises to increase the thrust considerably. He suggests that the improvement in thrust is so significant that a revolution in air travel and the development of flying cars (and hoverboards perhaps?) become a distinct future possibility (Such extravagant claims should make anyone interested in these devices cautious to say the least).  He also claims that NASA is far behind his efforts to develope the EmDrive and to be working with certain undisclosed nations, presumably not the United States or in  Europe (China perhaps?). Recently, some level of cooperation with German researchers has been disclosed. It should be noted that although Eagleworks tested both the EmDrive and its cousin the Cannae Drive (Q Drive) invented by Guido Fetta, Harold White habitually refers to NASA experiments with Q thrusters (Quantum thrusters), which he apparently considers the generic term for the devices and more consistent with his theory of the operational mechanism which produces thrust, perhaps in part to distance NASA and himself from the scientifically implausible initial theories published by the inventor of the EmDrive.

Based on Chinese experiments, it appears that, if the basic observed effect is not an illusion,  a device may quickly be developed which would permit station keeping by the International Space Station (or spy satellites) without the expendisure of fuel (except for a small power source required to generate microwaves). Since the EM Drive  and the Q Thruster operate without fuel, possibly relying on quantum effects of zero point energy, the long term implications for human space flight may also be profound (or the effect may be found to be real but with limited applications), however, the experimental observations still await replication at independent labs with scientists at Harvard and Johns Hopkins having expressed an interest in this process but with a number of independent researchers already well advanced in attempts to confirm the effect ) as well as the publishing of widely accepted and peer reviewed explanations of the experimental results. Until this occurs only a restrained level of enthusiasm is justified.The next year should be very interesting as new experimental results are reported. (As noted above  the recent experiments by Professor Tajmar of Dresden University noted measurable thrust during their testing of an EmDrive in line with that seen by other researchers but, contrary to some media reports, stopped short of actually confirming the effect while indicating that additional experiments would follow in an attempt to reveal artifacts that may explain the measurable thrust. Criticisms of the Geman’s methodology and indeed of all tests performed to date,however, suggests that the only confirmation that will be  accepted by skeptics is an actual Q thruster spacecraft operating in space.)

Potentially even  more astonishing and far reaching is the research being conducted by NASA Eagleworks to see if a warp bubble may be created which ultimately might permit effective Faster than Light travel, perhaps before the end of this century. Harold White and his Eagleworks team have created an interferometer for the purpose of testing whether small, even microscopic warp bubbles are created in an electromagnetic field as a proof of concept experiment. Until recently the results of these experiments have been interesting but inconclusive.

Although these experiments initially were not  connected to the EmDrive or Q Drive research, the investigations are conducted in the same lab at the NASA Houston Spaceflight Center. The White-Jaday interferometer which is being used to detect a warp bubble essentially splits a light (laser) beam into two pathways  shining one though the experimental location to see if the two beams emerge with a wave shift, change in path length of the emitted photons  or at different effective “speeds.”  Repeated experiments in which beams were passed though an operating Q Drive resonate cavity reportedly demonstrated statistically significant differences suggesting the possible existence of a very small or microscopic warp bubble; i.e.  the photons which transversed the Q thruster resonate cavity appeared to do so at effective FTL speeds. Since the constraints of Relativity Theory and the resulting 11th Commandment (“Thou shall not exceed the speed of light”) prohibit superluminal velocities, this suggests the creation of a warp bubble shortening the distance the photons actually traveled. The actual observations were somewhat more complex than this suggests with trials indicating both the shortening and expansion of the distance traveled by the emitted photons. (the obervation that emitted photons seemed to travel at speeds less than the speed of light in a constant enviornment is as astonishing as the observation of apparent superluminal speeds.) The key fact is that photons seemed to travel at different effective speeds, a shocking observation assuming identical environments.which is postulated to be based on both the shortening and lengthening of the distance traveled by the emitted photons i.e. multiple warp bubbles. Announcement of the findings of apparent superluminal “speeds” have been downplayed by Eagleworks, presumably because of the expected skepticism, even ridicule, it would certainly engender in the scientific community..

If confirmed, this finding would be a remarkable confluence of the Eagleworks two main areas of research. Indeed,  White recently asserted that the physics models they are examining suggests that the design of a Q thruster (EmDrive) is the same as would be needed to create the negative energy required to produce a warp bubble and that if this model is correct as many as 10,000 of the simple devices might be used to create the warp bubble required for a “FTL” drive .

The next step is to repeat the experiment in a vacuum to ensure the observed effects are real and not caused by extraneous factors. If the results of testing in a vacuum prove to be positive, tests by an independent laboratory hopefully utilizing a different experimental methodology should quickly follow.

If the existence of a warp bubble is confirmed, this alone does not address reservations by many (most) scientists including Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre who developed warp theory after watching an episode of “Star Trek”.  Albcubierre believes that the energy required to create a usable “FTL” warp would equate to the mass of Jupiter rendering the idea impractical. Harold White, on the other hand, theorizes that through a redesign of the hypothetical spacecraft and fluxuating the energy level required to create and maintain the warp bubble, the energy requirement for a spacecraft capable of generating a warp capable of producing effective 10c “velocities” could be reduced to approximately equal to that of the mass of the Voyager space probe.  It should be noted, however, that many scientists reject the very concept of a warp bubble as relying solely on Relativity Theory rather than Quantum Mechanics with the further concern that an effective FTL drive raises casuality (i.e. time travel) issues with all the paradoxes that implies. White and others reject this as a necessary result of the theory.

Even should Dr. Alcubierre’s thesis that a workable “FTL” warp drive would require immense and impractical energy levels or objections based on causality concerns for “FTL” speeds prove correct, warp theory may still be a game changer for human interplanetary and “slow” (i.e. subluminal) interstellar voyages. The creation of a warp for subluminal “speeds”  should require energy levels orders magnitude lower than that required for superluminal flight and no causality issues would apply. Subluminal warp flight to Mars using a warp bubble at say the equivalent of .1c or more would seem possible at least in theory. This would suggest an Earth to Mars flight time of less than two hours.  In addition to immense effective speeds, such travel would have the advantage of almost instantaneous “acceleration” without any negative affects on the human occupants of the spacecraft since it would be space that is moving (or being shortened in the direction of travel), not the craft itself (much as a surfboard riding on a giant wave). Accordingly, we can imagine humans residing on Earth commuting for Martian jobs and returning home for a late supper.

However, if the theories of some physicists are correct, the release of energy upon arriving at the destination would be of considerable concern. It would be rather disconcerting to arrive in the orbit of Mars only to discover that the planet had been rendered into a cinder by side effects of the warp drive (This possibility raises weaponization concerns and the likelihood of suppression of warp technology by the military). We can hope that the reduced energy levels of a subluminal warp drive may substantially reduce this concern or that methods to avoid such an inconvenient outcome will be developed.

Utilizing a hypothetical warp drive for subluminal interstellar missions might result in an effective velocity of .9c or better without requiring the immense energies theorized by Dr. Albcubierre and without casuality issues. Since “acceleration” would occur essentially instantaneously, a one way voyage to the Alpha Centauri system would take less than five years, however without the time dialation effects of normal travel at near light speed since the spacecraft is not actually moving; only the space bubble that contains it has attained a substantial fraction of the speed of light (or more accurately, space has been shortened in the direction of travel). Accordingly, manned space craft would need to be huge in order to be self contained for such extensive periods. Only arificial intelligence crews would “man” smaller craft unless biological crews were able to utilize some form of hibernation or temperal stasis technology. Probably over the next few millenia if subluminal warp missions become practical all of these alternatives would be attempted.

The above commentary is, of course, highly speculative.  Many observers might assert with some justification that such speculation is premature and at least should await independent comfirmation of the reported effects of the Q Thruster and/or the existence of a warp bubble. Criticism of Dr. White for “grandstanding” by publishing fanciful depictions of a warp space craft are widespread in the scientific community and have had the unintended effect of deminishing Eagleworks’ scientific credibility (but seeing the drawing of the hypothetical craft certainly was exciting for the lay public and perhaps has motivated others to become interested in the research being explored by the  Eagleworks team). It should also be noted that the depiction of the hypothetical warp spacecraft was in response to and in furtherance of mathamatical analysis of methods to significantly reduce energy requirements.

We will await further research results with a fair measure of skepticism but the long term implications of this research are too profound to ignore altogether. It will be interesting to see, perhaps a decade or so from now, whether this all is determined to be no more than fantasy and the product of wishful thinking or whether we then will truly stand on the cusp of becoming an interplanetary and perhaps even interstellar species.

We are living in fascinating times.  Stay tuned.

 

Addendum 8-1-2016: It has been reported that in March of this year Paul March, an engineer at NASA Eagleworks,  revealed that a scientific paper on the EmDrive is under peer review and that verification experiments will be conducted at three independent labs including at John Hopkins Applied Physics  Laboratory. A significant delay can be expected since a well considered peer review will await the results at the independent labs.  It may be fairly assumed that no paper would have been submitted without positive experimental results but whether these results will or can be duplicated remains to be seen. Stay tuned!

Random thoughts: Perpetual motion, Dean Drive, cold fusion, the em (Q)drive and warp drive

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Over the years various inventors have proffered devices that in some way allegedly defied all known science. Perpetual motion machines, for example, have been offered and rejected for patents since the early days of the 20th century (and perhaps before). Often these devices were publically demonstrated  and casual examination seemed to confirm that somehow they operated as advertised.  Further investigation of these complicated contrivances (usually consisting of a complex array of multiple flywheels, pulleys, pendulums, counter weights, hundreds of springs and well concealed power sources) eventually revealed them as frauds although quite a few scientists and engineers were deceived for awhile into accepting the inventor’s claims. (It has been noted that an examining scientist is no better equipped to detect outright fraud than a layman. Indeed, their eagerness to understand a new and intriguing phenomenom may make them particularly susceptible to unscupulous charlatans).

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In the 1950s an enigmatic and secretive (even paranoid some said) man named Norman Dean announced a “reactionless space drive.”  It was soon dubbed  the “Dean Drive” by John Campbell, noted speculative science and science fiction writer, publisher and editor. If valid, it was believed that  the Dean Drive would open the solar system to rapid human exploration and colonization.  Although Dean applied for and  received several patents related to his invention, he always claimed that certain essential elements were not included to prevent intellectual theft.

Several demonstrations of the Dean Drive were given but such demos were always under Dean’s direction and control. Campbell claimed to observe one of Dean’s devices on a scale with its weight substantially reduced as he watched when it was energized. At one point several scientists including Harry Stine also observed his demonstration of the device. Although not entirely convinced, Stine has stated that one of his most vivid memories is that of an unknown and unseen force pushing firmly against his hand when he placed it into the field allegedly created by the Dean Drive. This led to further research by Stine without Dean’s cooperation or consent and without a sample of his Drive. The investigations were hampered by Dean’s resistance as well as his claims they involved patent infringments and amid threats of law suits. Dean died without leaving a working model of his device or a detailed description of the secret aspects of its design. Funding for Stine’s investigations evaporated.

The Dean Drive became the subject of several articles in popular science magazines and was featured in countless science fiction stories but it soon faded from serious attention. Dean’s secretiveness and unwillingness to provide a working model of his invention as well as the fact that it seemed to violate universally accepted scientific laws such as the conservation of momentum and Newton’s Third Law of Motion left virtually all scientists convinced it was a fraud and not worthy of further examination. Various explantions were given for the observed motion of the device that did not violate accepted scientific principles (and which would render it useless as a space drive) but there has been no direct explanation of Stine’s claims of experiencing a strong force on his hand or of Campbell’s claim of observing reduced weight of the device when energized. (Some theorize that they were both bamboozled by a man who was no more than a con artist.  Others suggested possible self deception: many of us really want it to be true despite its inherent implausibility.)

There have been numerous claims by other inventors that they have developed a reactionless space drive, much as in a previous era seemingly endless variations of perpetual motion machines were proposed. Until recently, none of these claims of a reactionless device have ever been supported by independent testing. The pendulum test is key to such examinations. Place the alleged reactionless space drive on a pendulum. Turn the device on. If it moves without occilating and maintains the movement distance until it is turned off, then just maybe you have something. Over a period of half a century no such device is known to have passed the pendulum test (perhaps until tests were performed on new versions of “reactionless” drives within the past few years by the Chinese and NASA: see discussion below).

The Dean Drive and all similar devices have been considered by most reputable scientists  to be elaborate hoaxes, useless as a space drive. Indeed, if they did work as advertised it would be rather simple to create a perpetual motion machine by attaching the devices to a flywheel. (This may offer one reason most  scientists. are skeptical). Despite a half century since its “invention,” without progress or duplication of the claims of its inventor, the Dean Drive to this day has a cult following which insists that if only further tests were performed and development was pursued, a revolution in space exploration would result.

 

The simularities of the historical experience with perpetual motion machines and the Dean drive (and similar contraptions) to the cold fusion (LENR) controversy are difficult to ignore (see my previous blog for a more detailed discusion of cold fusion). All have or had a considerable cadre of true believers who are or were dismissive of any who express doubts. All have or had inventors with few visible qualifications as the progenator of an allegedly  world changing technology.

Particularly the experience with Andreas Rossi’s cold fusion device which he calls the E-Cat  (energy catalyzer) seems oddly analogous in its presentation to the early history of the Dean Drive. According to Rossi (an inventor who has been convicted of tax fraud and environmental dumping in his home country), a one megawatt version of the E-Cat is in the process of installation or early operative testing now  at an unnamed industrial company site presumably in the United States  and household versions will become widely available as soon as they are “certified” although there seems to have been little progress since these claims were first made three years ago. Rossi maintains as a company secret the fuel which energizes his E-Cat thereby preventing true independent testing (Rossi was present and participated in the recently reported “independent” test so it cannot be taken seriously. The absence of proponents or anyone connected to them is critical during independent testing to ensure the absense of fraud or even subtle attempts to influence the test results). Whether the announced commercializtion of the E-Cat has any truth or is merely the product of a clever advertising scheme (perhaps with the intent of obtaining investors?) soon will become evident. Many suspect it is a total scam that is now falling apart. If unexpected problems arise in the commercialization resulting in substantial and unexplained delays or if silence ensues as to the progress in bringing the E-Cat to the public,  we will be able to draw the unescapable conclussion. On the other hand, if the details of the industrial application are revealed, truly independent observation is allowed and E-Cats begin appearing in households everywhere, we will be compelled to admit to Rossi’s genius and cheer as he receives the Nobel Prize as we welcome a new Millennium.

Even if Rossi’s E-Cat proves to be less than advertised, this does not mean that LENR research should stop. Reputable researchers apparantly have established that the widely scorned cold fusion, ie. LENR, is a phenonmenom that deserves further examination . Hopefully, the research will continue even if the E-Cat does not prove to be viable.

 

Another example of new technologies which some claim will change our civilization has significant simularities to the Dean Drive. The Em drive (RF resonate cavity thruster) invented by an areospace engineer named Rodger Shayers, and the Cannae Drive (formerly known as quantum thrusters or “Q Drive”) invented by Guido Fetta seemingly refer to the same phenomena although the observed effects have been given varying explanations. The Em Drive uses microwaves (generated by an external low power  source) to create a fuelless drive (i.e. no reaction mass) although whether it is reactionless is in dispute. A Chinese researcher, Juan Yang at the Northwest Ploytechnical Institute reports a higher energy thrust than even the inventor claimed. More recently, Harold White, a physicist at the NASA  Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory also known as the Eagleworks confirmed a thrust was observed both from an Em Drive tested and the  similar Cannae Drive with more tests expected. Dr. White rejects the concept that the device is reactionless in a technical sense (although no reaction mass is required) and postulates that the drive results from certain quantum effects. i.e zero point energy believed to be found even in space devoid of both mass and observable energy. All this is strangely reminincent of the Dean Drive although probably unrelated.

What to make of all of this? A space drive not requiring reaction mass would be an unprecedented development, instantly opening the solar system to both robotic and manned space craft. A journey to Mars might be accomplished in two or three days; a voyage to Jupiter in less than a week, a flight to the nearest stars in less than a lifetime. The possible energy implications for use on earth also would be staggering, rivaling the most optimistic predictions of cold fusion advocates. That there has been independent confirmation from two different sources, one of them NASA, is staggering. Dr. White in a recent statement suggested his lab was moving from the research stage to engineering. China, on the other hand, has been silent on the subject since their initial confirmation of the effect. On the surface, it looks cautiously promising.

 

Dr. White and his  Eagleworks team are also reseaching whether a warp in spacetime can be formed, opening the possibility that “faster than light” travel to the stars may become possible before the end of the century. Based on the initial theories of Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican Physicist, who, after watching an episode of Star Trek, decided he would investigate whether an artificial  space time warp was possiible in the real universe. This possibility was based in part on the currently widely accepted inflation theory that the Big Bang resulted in ( or more correctly was) the rapid expansion of space  in the first nano seconds of this universe. While no physical object can exceed the speed of light, space itself can and (at least the inflation theory postulates)  has expanded at rates perhaps millions of times the speed of light during the brief period of inflation. Creating a bubble of warped spacetime around a spacecraft in theory would permit a duplication of this effect. The effect might allow a craft to travel to Alpha Centauri in weeks instead of centuries although technically not exceeding light speed,  i.e. the warped spacetime bubble surrounding and containing the craft would move, not the spacecraft itself.

The catch: creating such a space warp requires incredible amounts of negative energy, something that has been observed in only miniscule amounts (see Casimir effect). Many physicists believe that negative energy is self constrained since the ability to produce or contain useful amounts might not only permit warp space drives but also the ability to open and maintain wormholes to other space, times, or universes and also permit time travel with all the paradoxes that would imply. Dr. Alcubierre himself doubts that a practical warp drive or perhaps the creation of a warp at all is possible because of the vast amounts of negative enegy that would be required to produce a useful warp. Dr. White, however, through the redesign of the hypothetical spacecraft, asserts that the amount of such negative enegy would be greatly reduced from Alcubierre’s projections, significantly increasing the possibility that a warp drive might be practical (assuming a warp can be created at all).

Using a interferometer designed by White and his team for measuring whether a minute warp has been created, it is hoped that soon the Eagleworks will be able to confirm that a warp is at least possible.

So, is all of this merely a repeat of our experience with perpetual motion machines and the Dean Drive, i.e. fraud, self deception or fantasy?  In a few years will we all be embarrased by our infatuation with cold fusion, reactionless drives and warp theory? (Even if all are found to be fantasies, it seems certain that each will continue to have fanatical supporters no matter how convincing the evidence may be that discourages the rest of us). The fact that NASA has confirmed the “Impossible Drive” may give some confidence that there is more to it this time, however,  evaluating Dr. White and his team and therefore the validity of their research is difficult without more information. Key question is whether Dr. White is well respected by his collegues outside Eagleworks. Some of his theories and even nomenclature have been criticized by other physicists. It may be that areas of research no one else cares to investigate are relagated to his Eagleworks team with no expectation of results on the mere remote possibility that unexpected discoveries from time to time may result from the exploration of fringe ideas.

Time will tell. If cold fusion experiments or Em Drive or warp research prove to be fruitful, the future may be almost as exciting as the one depicted in Star Trek.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday’s Harley adventure

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Took the Harley into dealer for routine maintainance in small town over 60 miles away. Servicing took somewhat longer than expected (of course). As I waited, I realized a significant storm was approaching. When finally got bike back, promptly took off but realized that although there was blue sky above, I was heading right into the storm rather than away from it and it looked like the worst of it was right where I would climb over mountain. Got lucky as road curved away from storm. Although road going up and down mountain was very wet with rivulets of water streaming across, somehow I avoided the rain.
Stopped in Christiansburg (still over 20 miles from home) to meet wife for dinner. Again blue sky was above but while we were eating, the storm gathered. As we left resturaunt, I was a few minutes behind wife on highway 460 and could see raging storm ahead right where I would cross two mountain ranges to get home. It was my first experience on a bike in really heavy rain. Cars put on emergency flashers and many pulled over to wait out the storm. I was soaked in seconds. No overpasses to stop under so I continued over the mountain ranges on to convenience store still about 4 miles from home. Lightening and thunder were all around me and very close. Unnerving to put it mildly.
Finally stopped under shelter for gas pumps at the convenience store to put on rain gear and to consider my next move when lightening flashed right on top of me. Decided being by gas pumps during lightening storm was less than wise but storm was too heavy to continue ride.
More luck (I thought) when rain slowed to drizzle so decided to make a dash for home while I had the chance. Big mistake! Downpour resumed with lightening and thunder all around. Visibility poor. Cars started pulling over again but a near accident occurred right in front of me as one almost slid into another as he was pulling onto gravel shoulder. Realized that it would be rather inconvenient if I stopped behind the last vehicle and another slid into me so decided it was best to continue on another half mile where I could get off 460 onto road that winds up our mountain.
Huge lightening strike immediately behind me made hair on arms stand up as I made the turn onto our mountain. Rain then slowed somewhat and no more lightening strikes nearby so I was able to make the two miles up the mountain without serious difficulty but when I turned onto the gravel road that leads down to our driveway saw that three fast moving rivulets were roaring down the road forcing me to ride in center where the gravel is thickest, the very area I usually avoid. Made it to gravel driveway only to realize that the storm had basically turned it into a creek. Fortunately wife had left garage door open so I was able to make it down the 200 yard driveway to safety without mishap, totally soaked and stressed but otherwise unharmed.
Lesson learned: No motorcycle belongs on road in such weather conditions but sometimes you are caught in situations where you just have to make your best judgments as you go and hope for the best. (Yes, if I had it to do again I would have hunkered down in the convenience store even though probably would have been there for hours).