"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Did you know Kodak had a nuclear reactor?

Did you know Kodak had a nuclear reactor?
Uranium cache was spirited away more than four years ago


Eastman Kodak Co.'s californium neutron flux multiplier, known as a CFX, which it acquired in 1974, in a photo found among Nuclear Regulatory Commission findings.
Eastman Kodak Co.'s californium neutron flux multiplier, known as a CFX, which it acquired in 1974, in a photo found among Nuclear Regulatory Commission findings. / Nuclear Regulatory Commission
 
Written by STEVE ORR


For more than 30 years, Kodak Park was home to a little-known underground labyrinth containing a small nuclear research reactor, one of the few of its kind in the world.

It wasn’t a power plant, and carried no risk of explosion. Nothing ever leaked. Eastman Kodak Co. officials say the research device was perfectly safe.

Still, the reactor was locked down, remotely surveilled and tightly regulated — mainly because it contained 3½ pounds of highly enriched uranium.

That’s the material that nuclear bombs are made of. Terrorists covet it.

When Kodak decided six years ago to close down the device, still more scrutiny followed. Federal regulators made them submit detailed plans for removing the substance. When the highly enriched uranium was packaged into protective containers and spirited away in November 2007, armed guards were surely on hand.

All of this — construction of a bunker with two-foot-thick concrete walls, decades of research and esoteric quality control work with a neutron beam, the safeguarding and ultimate removal of one of the more feared substances on earth — was done pretty much without anyone in the Rochester community having a clue.

In the annals of local information that was never truly public knowledge, this one deserves its own chapter.

The existence of the device was not, strictly speaking, a secret.

It had been mentioned many years ago in research papers, and was referred to obliquely in a half-dozen public documents on a federal website, though none hinted where it was located.

“It was a known entity, but it was not well-publicized,” said Albert Filo, a former Kodak research scientists who worked with the device for nearly 20 years.

Company spokesman Christopher Veronda said he could find no record that Kodak ever made a public announcement of the facility. He also wasn’t sure whether the company had ever notified local police, fire or hazardous-materials officials.

Current city of Rochester officials, whose personnel might have been summoned to Building 82 had an untoward incident occurred, said they were in the dark. Monroe County officials did not provide comment despite several requests.

The Democrat and Chronicle learned of the facility when an employee happened to mention it to a reporter a few months ago.

The recent silence was by design. Detailed information about nuclear power plants and other entities with radioactive material has been restricted since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Nuclear non-proliferation experts express surprise that an industrial manufacturer like Eastman Kodak had had weapons-grade uranium, especially in a post-9/11 world.

“I’ve never heard of it at Kodak,” said Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington. “It’s such an odd situation because private companies just don’t have this material.”

 

Neutron imaging

 

 

Starting decades ago, Kodak had an interest in neutrons, subatomic particles that can be used to determine the makeup of a given material or to create an image of it without damaging it.

A steady stream of neutrons is needed for these purposes. Kodak used small research reactors, including one at Cornell University, and possessed a dollop of californium-252, a radioactive isotope that endlessly sheds neutrons.

But it wanted a more potent in-house system, so in 1974 it acquired a californium neutron flux multiplier, known as a CFX. Small plates of highly enriched uranium multiplied the neutron flow from a tiny californium core.

Kodak used it to check chemicals and other materials for impurities, Filo said. It also was used for tests related to neutron radiography, an imaging technique.

The device was not much larger than a refrigerator and, in the one available photo, looked vaguely like Robby the Robot from a 1950s science fiction movie. To house it, Kodak dug a cavity below the basement level of Building 82, part of the company’s research complex along Lake Avenue.

The 14- by 24-foot cavity was reached via a corridor with several right-angle turns and a spiral staircase leading to Building 82’s basement, according to a description of the area included in a decommissioning plan Kodak prepared for regulators. The plan and other documents were made public on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website after the uranium was removed.

Only key personnel could go into the CFX chamber, and never when it was running. Samples to be tested were sent to and from the device by pneumatic tube.

“This device presented no radiation risk to the public or employees. Radiation from the operation was not detectable outside of the facility,” Veronda said.

The chamber was cleaned and deemed fit for reuse, but remains empty, Veronda said.

Kodak’s CFX was the first such device ever built for industrial research, according to a 1978 article by company scientists published in a scholarly journal. NRC records indicate that at the time it was dismantled, no other American industrial firm had anything like it.

“This particular device was unique,” said Filo, who left Kodak in 2010.

Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., said he was aware of fewer than 50 devices worldwide, mostly in the Russian Federation, that were analogous to Kodak’s CFX.

“I have no idea why they would need a reactor for R&D,” he said of the Rochester company.

 

http://files.petapixel.com/assets/uploads/2012/05/kodakreactor1_mini.jpg

 

Security issues

 

 

For many years, the United States has worked to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium and secure as much of it as possible to keep it from the hands of terrorists or rogue nations.

Caches of the material in old reactors and military sites in parts of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have been scooped up, and research reactors in this country and elsewhere have been closed or converted to eliminate the use of highly enriched uranium fuel.

Reactors at Cornell and the University at Buffalo are among those that were closed. The one remaining research reactor in New York, at Rensselaer Polytechnic University, no longer uses highly enriched uranium.

“All but a few stocks of civilian highly enriched uranium have been eliminated in the United States,” said Matthew Bunn, an associate professor at Harvard University and a former White House adviser on nuclear-materials security.

The worry is that as little as 100 pounds of highly enriched uranium and some rudimentary knowledge is sufficient to make a crude but effective nuclear explosive, Pomper said. Terrorists might try to acquire the needed amount by stealing smaller qualities, like Kodak’s 3½ pounds.

“We spend lots of money around the world getting equivalent amounts out,” he said.

Veronda said federal officials didn’t pressure Kodak to get rid of its unique device. “We decided it was no longer required, as there were alternative and less expensive means to obtain the analytical results,” he said.

Uranium ensconced in a reactor, even a small one like Kodak’s, would be very difficult to remove and to steal. Such material is considered more vulnerable during transport — which is why, as a matter of policy, shipment dates and routes are kept under wraps and involve what Bunn called “some pretty serious security measures.”

He mentioned a recent instance when spent fuel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s research reactor moved through Cambridge. A colleague told Bunn the shipment was accompanied by two armored vehicles and a helicopter, all carrying armed guards.

Documents made public on the NRC website after the Kodak shipment took place indicate it went to a federal facility in South Carolina. A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which watchdogs nuclear materials at home and abroad, said it cooperated with other federal and New York state officials in transporting the Kodak uranium but provided no details.

That’s the way Washington likes it. “The federal authorities oversaw the process and we deferred to them on all matters related to it,” Veronda said. “Clearly the decision was that it was best not to publicize it.”

SORR@DemocratandChronicle.com







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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Next Yellowstone Supereruption Is Closer Than You Think

The Next Yellowstone Supereruption Is Closer Than You Think




By Jesus Diaz

 

The good news: scientists have discovered that "the Yellowstone super-volcano is a little less super than previously thought." The bad news: the Yellowstone super-volcano is "more active than previously thought." That means eruptions are more frequent. So the next one is likely closer than previously predicted. Gulp.

According to the the researchers from Washington State University and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, the next eruption may not wipe out half of the United States, covering the rest in 3 feet of ash and pushing the world into hundreds of years of nuclear winter, challenging human civilization to a game of death and survival. That's what a previous study from the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters posited. Again, very good news.

But on the other hand, as Ben Ellis—a post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University's School of the Environment and co-author of this most recent study—says: "the Yellowstone volcano's previous behavior is the best guide of what it will do in the future. This research suggests explosive volcanism from Yellowstone is more frequent than previously thought."


Multiple eruptions

 

 

 

Their new research shows that what scientists thought was Yellowstone's biggest eruption, the origin of the the 2 million year old Huckleberry Ridge deposit, was actually two eruptions 6,000 years apart from each other. They used a new high-precision argon isotope dating technique to find this difference. This technology, says co-author Darren Mark, is "like getting a sharper lens on a camera. It allows us to see the world more clearly."

The result is that the first eruption that created Huckleberry Ridge was "only" 2,200 cubic kilometers, roughly 12 percent less than what geologists thought. Then a second eruption happened 6,000 years later, adding the remaining 290 cubic kilometers.

For comparison, Mount St. Helens produced 1 cubic kilometer of ash in its 1980 eruption. And the latest comparable eruption registered in the United States were the 116 cubic kilometers of ash produced by Mount Mazama in Oregon, 6,850 years ago.

Somehow, the idea of the Yellowstone super-volcano eruption being 12-percent less powerful than previously thought but more frequent doesn't make me feel much better.



From Gizmodo @ http://gizmodo.com/5906622/the-yellowstone-supereruption-is-closer-than-you-think


Is the world's largest super-volcano set to erupt for the first time in 600,000 years, wiping out two-thirds of the U.S.?

 



  • The super-volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming has been rising at a record rate since 2004.
  • It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980.

Spewing lava far into the sky, a cloud of plant-killing ash would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.

Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.


On the verge of a catastrophe? Yellowstone National Park's caldera has erupted three times in the last 2.1million years and scientists monitoring it say we could be in for another eruption (file picture)
On the verge of a catastrophe? Yellowstone National Park's caldera has erupted three times in the last 2.1million years and scientists monitoring it say we could be in for another eruption (file picture)


This is the nightmare that scientists are predicting could happen if the world’s largest super-volcano erupts for the first time in 600,000 years, as it could do in the near future.

Yellowstone National Park’s caldera has erupted three times in the last 2.1million years and researchers monitoring it say we could be in for another eruption.

They said that the super-volcano underneath the Wyoming park has been rising at a record rate since 2004 - its floor has gone up three inches per year for the last three years alone, the fastest rate since records began in 1923.

But hampered by a lack of data they have stopped short of an all-out warning and they are unable to put a date on when the next disaster might take place.

When the eruption finally happens it will dwarf the effect of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which erupted in April 2010, causing travel chaos around the world.

The University of Utah's Bob Smith, an expert in Yellowstone's volcanism told National Geographic: ‘It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high.

‘At the beginning we were concerned it could be leading up to an eruption.’


Area of outstanding natural beauty: The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world's largest super-volcano
Area of outstanding natural beauty: The Yellowstone caldera (circled in red) in Wyoming is the world's largest super-volcano

Scorched earth: An artist's interpretation of how the Midway Basin in the park might look after an eruption
Scorched earth: An artist's interpretation of how the Midway Basin in the park might look after an eruption


But he added: ‘Once we saw the magma was at a depth of ten kilometres, we weren't so concerned.

‘If it had been at depths of two or three kilometre we'd have been a lot more concerned.’

Robert B. Smith, professor of geophysics at the University of Utah, who has led a recent study into the volcano, added: ‘Our best evidence is that the crustal magma chamber is filling with molten rock.

‘But we have no idea how long this process goes on before there either is an eruption or the inflow of molten rock stops and the caldera deflates again’.

The Yellowstone Caldera is one of nature’s most awesome creations and sits atop North America’s largest volcanic field.

Its name means ‘cooking pot’ or ‘cauldron’ and it is formed when land collapses following a volcanic explosion.

In Yellowstone, some 400 miles beneath the Earth’s surface is a magma ‘hotspot’ which rises to 30 miles underground before spreading out over an area of 300 miles across.

Atop this, but still beneath the surface, sits the slumbering volcano.


July 22, 1980: Mount St Helens in Washington erupts. A Yellowstone caldera eruption would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful
July 22, 1980: Mount St Helens in Washington erupts. A Yellowstone caldera eruption would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful


Scientists monitoring it believe that a swelling magma reservoir six miles underground may be causing the recent uplifts.

They have also been keeping an eye on a ‘pancake-shaped blob’ of molten rock he size of Los Angeles which was pressed into the volcano some time ago.

But due the extreme conditions it has been hard to work out what exactly is going on down below, leading researchers unable to say with certainty what will happen - or when.

Since the most recent blast 640,000 years ago there have been around 30 smaller eruptions, the most recent of which was 70,000 years ago.

They filled the caldera with ash and lava and made the flat landscape that draws thousands of tourists to Yellowstone National Park every year.

‘Clearly some deep source of magma feeds Yellowstone, and since Yellowstone has erupted in the recent geological past, we know that there is magma at shallower depths too,’ said Dan Dzurisin, a Yellowstone expert with the U.S. Geological Survey at Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington State.

‘There has to be magma in the crust, or we wouldn't have all the hydrothermal activity that we have.

‘There is so much heat coming out of Yellowstone right now that if it wasn't being reheated by magma, the whole system would have gone stone cold since the time of the last eruption 70,000 years ago.’




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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vedic Reinterpretation and UFOs

Vedic Reinterpretation and UFOs


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xirgwHx6vpw/Tw_m5RO_cmI/AAAAAAAAA0g/UsXKqgXq_6k/s1600/pesawat-terbang-india-kuno-vimana.jpg





“This material is copied from Dr Donald Ryle’s newsletter.  It provides us a short discussion on the curious content of the Vedic texts that is now better informed through the advent of modern science than was ever true in earlier attempts to come to grips with the material…

This item makes note of present interpretation which is providing unexpected knowledge on alloys and clearly shows us than we are coming closer to a full understanding of these texts...

We presently live in an age that has still rejected the implications of these texts by the simple expedient of dismissing them as primitive mythology.  That is a blunder that will surely end in the next three decades if not immediately.”



http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ijzT-Goaguc/T3VA-SIbBFI/AAAAAAAAH2k/agbQdcSK638/s1600/vedas2.jpg


India – Vimanas (UFOs) Flew in 4,000 B.C.



In Indian ancient Vedic writings the topmost authority in the material universe are known as Brahma, and he lives in the highest material planetary system, called Brahmaloka. In these writings they describe UFO like craft called Vimanas flown by angelic like alien beings. Numerous temples are topped with UFO like architecture or Vimanas. 

Mukteswar Temple Bhubaneswar, India and many others have Vimana (UFO) shapes sitting at the top of the Temples.

These extraterrestrial angelic visitors are real and not simply myths, but are based on actual visits by angels, visitors, watchers, or ET, or whatever you choose to call them. They are given credit for bringing writing and civilization to Earth.

According to Dr. V. Raghavan, retired head of the Sanskrit department of India's prestigious University of Madras, contends that centuries-old documents in Sanskrit (the classical language of India and Hinduism) prove that aliens from outer space visited his nation. "Fifty years of researching this ancient works convinces me that there are livings beings on other planets, and that they visited earth as far back as 4,000 B.C.,” The scholar says. "There is a just a mass of fascinating information about flying machines, even fantastic science fiction weapons, that can be found in translations of the Vedas (scriptures), Indian epics, and other ancient Sanskrit text. 

"In the Mahabharata (writings), there is notion of divine lighting and ray weapons, even a kind of hypnotic weapon. And in the Ramayana writings, there is a description of Vimanas or flying machines that navigated at great heights. "These were space vehicles similar to the so-called flying saucers reported throughout the world today.

The Ramayana even describes a beautiful chariot which 'arrived shining, a wonderful divine car that sped through the air'. In another passage, there is mention of a chariot being seen 'sailing overhead like a moon.' "The references in the Mahabharata are no less astounding: At Rama's behest, the magnificent chariot rose up to a mountain of cloud with a tremendous din. Another passage reads: "Bhima flew with his Vimana on an enormous ray which was as brilliant as the sun and made a noise like the thunder of a storm." In the ancient Vymanka-Shastra (science of aeronautics), there is a description of a Vimana: "An apparatus which can go by its own force, from one place to place or globe to globe." 

Dr. Raghavan points out, "The text's revelations become even more astounding. Thirty-one parts of which the machine consists are described, including a photographing mirror underneath. The text also enumerates 16 kinds of metal that are needed to construct the flying vehicle: "But only three of them are known to us today. The rest remain untranslatable." Thanks to the India Daily.

In India it was, and still is, believed that man descended from gods who flew fiery crafts. The ancient Indian Vedic texts refer to Vimanas or craft that match our descriptions of UFOs. The Mahabharata ancient religious writing claim the gods, in cloud-borne chariots, and bright celestial cars flew in the sky. The Indians built thousands of temples with amazing objects sitting at the top that depict how the gods flew aboard their craft called Vimanas.

The Vedas are sacred scriptures believed by Hindu tradition to be not of human origin, but composed by the gods from a previous age. The Mysore International Academy of Sanskrit Studies says the Mahabharata and Ramayana manuscripts describe automatic ships adapted for travel on land, sea or in the air. 


http://www.thelivingmoon.com/42stargate/04images/Vimana/shakuna_Vimana.jpg


They flew from planet to planet


In India the temples are usually shown with disc shaped objects perched at the top. Here in Bhubaneswar the Temple City of eastern India in a literal sense means the 'God's World.' The city has 600 temples many have with what looks like a typical disc perched at the top. Bhubaneswar is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Orissa that depicts a unique pattern of construction showcasing the way of Hindu architectural splendor. The temple walls are artistically carved out of numerous sculptures depicting the scenes from courtiers, celestial dancers, birds, divine animals or scenes from religious epics and legends. 

The Lingaraj temple - the largest of these is an outstanding specimen of the Orissa style of temple building. 

The temple, dedicated to Tribhuwaneswar or 'Lord of the Three Worlds'(Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva). Lord Brahma is the first member of the Brahmanical triad, Vishnu being the second and Shiva, the third. Brahma is the god of creation and he is traditionally accepted as the Creator of the entire universe. Lord Vishnu holds a discus which always returns by itself after being thrown. He rides a huge flying creature, called Gandara. His home is in a heaven. Many religions throughout the world have beliefs indicating God and his messengers ride in space ships. 

Mr. Prabhu said. Sanskrit epics are the flying chariots employed by various gods in the Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.: such as the Sun chariot and several other Vedic deities are transported by flying wheeled chariots.

India on October 22, 2008, launched its moon rocket called Chandrayaan-1 — which means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit — from the Sriharikota space center for a mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions. A close and careful study of the Vedic literature tells of a collection of primeval poetry but a varied literature of a powerful and dynamic society where the people had the knowledge of meteorological concepts and the strength of the wind blowing at high speed. The spacecraft could become invisible using the lead alloy Thamogarbha loha.

The craft would absorb light around it in a photo chemical reaction that would make it disappear. On testing the metal mentioned in the formula in the laboratory of Birla Institute of Science, Mr. Prabhu found the metal absorbed 78 per cent of laser light… giving ample proof that there existed a technology to make things invisible.

Also the use of an alloy of copper, zinc and lead made the spacecraft's body resist corrosion by 1000 times over that of the current levels. Using Ararakamra material for the axle and wheels it was possible for the craft to make `U' turns and serpentine movements.

As the spacecraft had to be capable of resisting high temperature, on reentering our atmosphere from outer space, the craft was made with a metal called `Raja Loha. Its special feature was that apart from resisting heat, it converted light from lightning into energy…

The Ramayana describes a Vimanas as a double-deck, circular flying cylindrical craft with portholes and a dome. It flew with the speed of the wind and gave forth a melodious sound. 

Mr. Prabhu said he had submitted the model and some more information on the `super metal' to the Indian Metal Society Conference and further claimed that the advisor to the government on scientific affairs. He has proposed a project called `Bharadwaja Institute of Vedic Science and Technology', the objective of which was to derive, decipher and reproduce advanced methodologies and processes from Vedic and post-Vedic Sanskrit texts, for which he sought government's support.

Only a few years ago, the Chinese discovered some Sanskrit documents in Lhasa, Tibet and sent them to the University of Chandigarh to be translated. Dr. Ruth Reyna of the University said recently that the documents contain directions for building interstellar spaceships! Their method of propulsion, she said, was "anti- gravitational" and was based upon a system analogous to that of "laghima," the unknown power of the ego existing in man’s physiological makeup, "a centrifugal force strong enough to counteract all gravitational pull."

Dr. Reyna said that on board these machines, which were called "Astras” by the text, the ancient Indians could have sent a detachment of men onto any planet, according to the document, which is thought to be thousands of years old. The manuscripts were also said to reveal the secret of "antima"; "the cap of invisibility" and "garima"; "how to become as heavy as a mountain of lead." Naturally, Indian scientists did not take the texts very seriously, but then became more positive about the value of them when the Chinese announced that they were including certain parts of the data for study in their space program! This was one of the first instances of a government admitting to be researching anti-gravity.

The hundreds of ancient pyramids in China and Tibet indicate a huge work force was used to build these structures to launch flying vehicles. The Chinese claim they were built by extraterrestrials with white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s logical they flew south to India just over the Himalayan Mountains. The pyramid height helps in collecting electrical and anti-gravity energy for the craft.


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_basraNod1Ms/S-Zx8poG28I/AAAAAAAABb4/bku29qWQJWg/s640/vimana-ufo.jpg 
 

From Terra Forming Terra @ http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/vedic-reinterpretation-and-ufos.html




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Monday, May 28, 2012

Novel Answer to That Perennial Question: "What Can I Do to Help?"

Novel Answer to That Perennial Question: "What Can I Do to Help?"


By Lily Whiteman

Groups of citizen scientists are making pivotal contributions to research on the Earth, its place in the universe and other natural phenomena 



Photo of a student observing patterns of flowering and pollinators.
Student observes patterns of flowering and pollinators.
Credit and Larger Version
 


‘Earth Days’ invariably trigger discussions about the enormously complex state of the planet and begs the equally daunting question, "How can one person make a difference?"

But just one person can indeed chip in as a citizen scientist, who helps the scientific community unravel the mysteries of where Mother Nature is today and where she is headed.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds groups of these concerned volunteers who collect data and share their observations and insights on a scale that full-time scientists simply cannot accomplish.

"Volunteer citizen scientists are helping to generate new knowledge about biodiversity, the weather, stars and galaxies, and even the molecules in cells," says David Hanych, an NSF program manager. "The significance of their contributions is supported by various lines of evidence."

As citizen scientists contribute to science, they also learn about the natural and human-made worlds, as well as the nature and methods of science, adds Hanych. NSF supports citizen science projects because they advance discovery and promote learning.

Groups of citizen scientists provide boots on the ground in all 50 states and internationally. Joining citizen scientist groups usually doesn't require any previous scientific training or background--just curiosity and a willingness to carry out relatively simple tasks, such as monitoring backyard rain gauges, observing the brightness of stars, or taking pictures of local ladybugs, to name just a few examples.

Although citizen science projects have existed since the 1800s, the number of projects has increased dramatically during the past decade. The increase is partly due to the availability of Internet resources that are making it easier to form and to manage citizen groups and transmit data from citizen scientists to the scientific community.

The ranks of citizen scientists include families, retirees, entire school classes--and even prison inmates who want to do their part to make Earth Day more than a holiday. And regardless of the backgrounds of citizen scientists, studies show that the data collected by them has been reliable and valid, Hanych notes.

Photo of a father and son measuring rainfall data in Concord, N.C.The contributions of citizen scientists have also been valuable in terms of the volume of data they provide and the originality of their insights.

For one thing, citizen scientists provide strength in sheer numbers. For example, the USA National Phenology Network, which monitors the timing of seasonal events such as spring blooms, currently engages more than 4,000 volunteers across the United States. Since 2008, these volunteers have contributed 1 million records to the NPN database--far more data than researchers could collect themselves.

Photo of two students recording observations for Project BudBurst.In some cases, citizen scientists are the sole sources of important types of data. Henry Reges, the national coordinator of the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network, which feeds information about precipitation to the National Weather Service and others, says even a single, real-time report of major precipitation from a volunteer in an area that is otherwise not monitored can speed the issuance of potentially life-saving flash flood warnings.


Sometimes too, citizen scientists offer new perspectives that can catalyze major breakthroughs.  Last year, for example, scientists who were having difficulty piecing together the structure of an important enzyme from an AIDS-like virus consulted a group of online gamers who were aficionados of the computer game known as Foldit.

Foldit allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. The result: The gamers generated models that helped the researchers refine and determine the enzyme's structure in just a few days; these models helped the researchers advance their work designing anti-AIDS drugs. (This article describes this Foldit success.)



Photo of COASST volunteers tagging a sooty shearwater.Here is a sample of citizen science groups that have received NSF support; they illustrate the wide range of interesting and important activities taking place across the United States--not only on Earth Day, but every day.

  • The USA National Phenology Network brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, nonprofit groups, educators and students to monitor the impact of climate change on plants and animals in the U.S. Many scientific papers on changes in the timing of seasonal events have been based on this group's data.

  • Project Budburst engages the public in collecting data on the timing of the leafing, flowering and fruiting of plants in the United States. Data generated by Project BudBurst was recently used to help validate models of the timing of cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states in the presence of climate change.

  • Projects sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology help researchers better understand birds and their habits via varied programs involving inventories of the abundance and distribution of birds over large distances; analyses of how birds are affected by climate change, urbanization and land use; the development of new methods for identifying birds; and advice for individuals for converting their backyards into bird-friendly habitats.

    • Much of the data included in the Department of Interior's annual State of the Birds report for 2011 originated from Cornell's citizen science programs. The report helps public agencies identify significant conservation opportunities in various habitats.


  • The Lost Ladybug Project recruits residents of geographical areas throughout the United States to submit photographs of ladybugs from their local areas in order to help scientists determine how and why the ranges of various economically and ecologically important species of ladybugs are currently rapidly changing.

  • The Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network measures and maps rain, hail and snow levels throughout the United States. Users of this organization's data include the National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities (water supply, water conservation and storm water), insurance adjusters, the USDA, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, teachers, students and local residents. Learn more about this group from its animated introductory video.

  • Citizen Sky Program solves mysteries involving the cyclic dimming of a particularly bright star known as Epsilon Aurigae, based, in part, on nightly observations of the star's brightness that are recorded by citizen scientists using everything from the naked eye to high-tech equipment.

    • The editor of Sky & Telescope discussed the importance of contributions made by citizen scientists to the development of recent new insights about Epison Aurigae in two video interviews, as well as the particular importance of recruiting citizen scientists into astronomical research during periods of shrinking research budgets. In addition, the March 2012 issue of Sky & Telescope features an article covering this topic.

  • Einstein@Home (Website) uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 countries to help process the enormous amounts of data that are generated in the search for various astronomical phenomena. The program has helped scientists discover about one new pulsar per week throughout 2012. (This press release, which includes a video, describes the discovery of a pulsar by citizen scientists.)

  • Quake-Catcher Network links the computers of volunteers into a network that sifts through seismic signals and helps determine whether detected motions represent earthquakes or cultural noises, such as slamming doors and the motions of large trucks. Recently, the Quake-Catcher Network detected a tremor 10 seconds before the shaking reached Stanford University's campus. Read about it here.

  • Sustainable Prisons Project forges collaborations between scientists, inmates, prison staff and others to enable inmates to conduct ecological research and conserve biodiversity. An NSF press release features the Moss-in-Prisons project at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium security prison in Littlerock, Wash., and an NSF video entitled "Science Behind Bars" is posted here.

"New projects exploring many fields of science are currently on the drawing board," says Hanych. "NSF plans to continue supporting those that actively engage members of the public in timely scientific research and measure the impact of the projects on participants and their contributions to science."


Additional Resources


  • The first large-scale, open conference on public participation in scientific research will be held in Portland, Ore., on August 4 and 5, 2012. (See the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Web page.)


  • The Ecological Society of America will publish a special issue all about citizen science in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment scheduled for August.

-- 
By Lily Whiteman, (703) 292-8070 lwhitema@nsf.gov 

 



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