Get Your Ticket To Ride To The Stars


NASA is not the only power player in US space exploration. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are all making a name for themselves. The difference is that NASA is concerned with public service and pure science. The private sector space agencies are more interested in the almighty dollar. That means they will be staging projects geared toward profitable exploration, like mining interstellar bodies for lucrative minerals and space tourism. And whenever there is a buck to be made competition is sure to arise. Americans only need to look East to find competitor nations joining the profitable space race. Who will the gringa be rooting for? Read on and find out. Here are the Asian contenders who have certainly got game:

JAPAN: PD Aerospace acknowledges that the company is lagging behind their US counterparts. However, Shuji Ogawa, the company’s CEO, doesn’t seem at all disheartened by this. He believes there is enough consumer and investor interest to go around. Pretty much every single Earthling would love to realize the dream of a trip into space. Even if PD Aerospace is dead last in the race to launch cosmic tourists, there will still be plenty of money to be made.

PD is looking to use a re-usable spacecraft that resembles a plane. It will have an alternating propulsion system using jet and rocket technologies. Passenger capacity of 8, crew capacity of 2, will make for a very personalized tour. Flight limitation is 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. That is where outer space and Earth’s atmosphere meet.

So when will this bird get off the ground? First flight is expected to launch in just 3 more years. Trials are scheduled for another 3 years. So, in less than a decade the non-average Joe, with an extra quarter million of disposable income, can take to the highest heavens.

It will take some time for revenue to affect the company’s bottom line and lower the cost of a ticket. Eventually, a space flight will become affordable enough for even the regular average Joe. PD hopes to eventually bring ticket cost down to the $3,600 range. That’s a relief to the gringa!

CHINA: Kuang-Chi Science has a bit more swagger to their space travel chatter. They believe Asia is a better market for space tourism than the US. This means that even though they got a slower start than private American space firms, they are confident they will become more profitable much quicker.

The gringa loves their space flight plan to use a giant helium balloon to lift a capsule to the same dizzying heights as PD. With the same passenger capacity the main difference between the two trips will be that PD’s flight will have the fireworks and noise of rocket propulsion while Kuang-Chi will deliver a steady, peaceful glide. A quiet ride is very appealing to the gringa.

The chairman of the company, Liu Ruopeng, points out that passengers have no need of skills training or to be physically fit. The Kuang-Chi balloon trip to the edge of the cosmos is open to everyone. The gringa appreciates this sense of inclusiveness.

Another cool aspect to China’s space tourism model is that it will double as a scientific data gathering mission. On board is a platform that collects meteorological and agricultural information that is transmitted to networks on the ground. Being a tourist means also being a passive citizen-scientist. Your ticket to ride funds research and environmental monitoring that can help make the world a better place.

Kuang-Chi is also determined to be competitive. Although they haven’t announced how much a ticket will be, they have made it clear that it will be significantly less than what their competitors will offer. So start saving up your money. They have already begun test flights with their spacecraft “Traveler” and a turtle was the first passenger! Tourism is scheduled to begin in 3 years.

MALAYSIA: Although one might not equate this southeast Asia nation with innovative technology, with the creation of Independence-X, it is changing people’s minds about the who’s who in space travel. Look for this company to have a robotic spacecraft on the Moon’s surface sometime this year. If successful, it will certainly catch the eye of investors. A successful lunar landing will hopefully spur funding for space tourism technology development. So, although they are not yet in the race, they are definitely warming up in the batter’s box.

So who is the gringa rooting for? Kuang-Chi Science. I must admit my soft spot for positive business modeling that features inclusiveness, consumer affordability, environmental activism and… is pet friendly! I would like to join that turtle in space flight that will not just be a thrilling vacation of a lifetime but will also perform a service to my fellow Earthlings!

Sources:

Kuang Chi Science

PDAS

Independence-X

Image Credit: Cosmos TV

Video Credits:

PD AeroSpace

Bloomberg

Digi Telecommunications

We’re All Just Microbe Poop


The gringa gets so excited about the search for life in outer space that I often forget about the overlooked frontier right here on earth… the deepest, darkest depths of our oceans. And some interesting discoveries have been taking place about 12 miles below the surface of the deep.

A beautiful, sparkly mineral has rendered up traces of microbial life. This is the deepest place carbon based life has ever been found on Earth. So far.  It is suspected that underwater oceanic volcanoes spit out the pretty minerals. But what does it mean? Is there any value to this information other than a cool topic of party conversation that makes a person look brilliant?

Scientists at Utrecht University, who made the discovery 6 miles below the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, consider the microbes to be something like a “message in a bottle”. Studying them will reveal information about mud volcanoes that are otherwise unknown.  Through chemical analysis they hope to find out things like what they “eat” which will tell scientists more about the microbe’s surrounding environment.  But microbes can spin quite a yarn. They are the smallest building blocks of our world’s biology.

Microbial communities basically eat different types of carbon. As these communities feast, grow and produce by-products (microbial “poop” I suppose), all sorts of things are happening. This, in essence, is how the carbon based world we live was constructed.

There are different kinds of microbe classifications. The type of microbe found 12 miles under the sea is considered an anaerobic respirator. That means it releases energy as a by-product of the carbon based food it eats. That means that anaerobic microbe poop is really energy!

This energy then turns around and changes the minerals in the microbe’s environment. And depending on what kind of carbon it eats determines the kind of energy-poop related change that takes place. For example, when microbes eat lactates, the same kind of changes repeat themselves in the surrounding environment. But when researchers feed them glucose, all kinds of different things happen.

The gringa can relate. Glucose is really just sugar. When the gringa’s oldest son was a little boy, if he avoided sugar his behavior was rather predictable. However, offer him a soda and as soon as the sugar high kicked in, he went bananas. So, I guess we really did all originate from microbes! Next time I stare at a microbe under a microscope I will ask myself if that is one of my long lost ancestors.

So, I guess in answer to my question about the value of learning about microbes is that in doing so, we learn more about ourselves!

Sources:

Graphiq

Science Daily

Image Credit:  UK News Yahoo

Video Credit:  Newsy Science

There REALLY IS Life On Mars (And The Moon)


What if the gringa told you that there was, without a doubt, life on the Moon and life on Mars? You might not believe me if you are a strict science enthusiast. You might believe me without hesitation if you’re a UFOlogist. You might hope that I’m telling the truth if you are a science-fiction fan.

Well, the gringa’s got exciting news for all of you. It IS true and there is proof and NASA testimony to back it up. But there’s a curious twist. The life discovered in both locations is not alien. It is very Earth in origin. What does this mean?

The strict science-evidence buff will say this of course means that NASA scientists have contaminated the regions they have explored. UFOlogists will claim it is trace evidence of mankind’s ancient extra-terrestrial ancestry. Science-fiction fans will simply shrug, nothing coming as a surprise to them.

The first thing to do is examine the decontamination procedures of NASA. Is it possible to launch space exploration vehicles that are not contaminated with even microscopic traces of Earth sourced materials? Nope. If complete decontamination is not possible, are there Earthly micro-organisms that can survive the harsh conditions of space travel, be delivered to an alien landscape and, ultimately, thrive only to be discovered later by exploration equipment? Yep.

NASA does not fly solo, determining unilaterally decontamination procedures before or after a space flight. About 50 years ago the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), comprised of UN members from the International Council of Science (ICSU), created the Treaty of 1967 which outlined certain protocols related to outer space travel and research. Contained within the document are guidelines for 5 categories of space missions, rated according to the risk of contamination posed.

  • Category 1: Any mission to celestial body that does not involve study of biological systems (like launching of an orbiting satellite).
  • Category 2: Any mission to any cosmic body within our Solar System where documentation of biological or chemical systems involves a remote chance of contamination (like when a satellite takes a sample of a vent plume to see what kind of gas it is without entering a cosmic body’s atmosphere).
  • Category 3: Any mission with a specific purpose of studying chemical or biological systems that may contain living organisms that poses a risk of introducing contamination to other cosmic bodies (as in taking a satellite sample that could involve an orbit or fly-by into a cosmic body’s atmosphere, elevating risk of picking up atmospheric particles that could cross-contaminate another planet, moon, etc.)
  • Category 4: Any mission that lands equipment on the surface of a cosmic body for the purpose of interacting with the natural processes of the extra-terrestrial body which will certainly create the possibility of introducing contaminates from Earth to a celestial body (this is what occurred with the Lunar Apollo and Mars Rover missions, the equipment at risk of contaminating the Moon and Mars with Earth organisms).
  • Category 5: Any mission that has equipment set down on an extra-terrestrial body and returns physical samples from an extra-terrestrial body to Earth. This creates 2 subcategories of Restricted and Unrestricted. If the host for the sample is rated a Class III stringent, in other words, not a host for possible life, the returning sample is considered Unrestricted. Any specimen returning from a cosmic body where life is possible, must go through severe decontamination and quarantine protocols.

But how effective are these guidelines? Well, considering what happened with the lunar missions in the 1970s, none of these protocols may even matter. Even though there were procedures for quarantines and decontamination, there was simply no baseline to compare against any data.

Astronauts, equipment and geological samples were quarantined in isolation units for 3 weeks after a “bath” in a super-bleach solution or a betadine wipe-down. An examination for biological, bacterial and chemical anomalies would determine whether or not there was any risk posed by releasing from quarantine. And what about alien contaminants that had dormancy periods longer than 21 days?

Not all returning Apollo mission “stuff” was scrupulously cleaned and monitored. You know the raft the astronaut crews rode in from the module that splashed down to the ship that picked them up? Yeah. It just got a wipe down with betadine and was then sunk in the ocean. And guess where Earthly biological life as humans know it is theorized to all begin? Yeah. In the oceans. Hm. That might not have been such a good idea. That raft may have just been converted to a lunar life nursery.

And you know the geological samples the astronauts returned? Those “Moon Rocks”? Yeah. They didn’t even get quarantined or a splash of Lysol. They were whisked away in a helicopter and taken to NASA laboratories in Houston. So that means a couple of pilots, their crew and an entire helicopter were not just contaminated but blazed a trail of contamination across the sky of half of the United States. The helicopter and crew were quarantined but what about all of that airspace? Yeah. There’s that.

So, basically, humans have already cross-contaminated the Moon and Earth. That means any samples that pop-up on either locale that indicate alien life from one or the other are suspect.

The same is also probably true for Mars. Chances are Earth-origin micro-organisms have probably already survived the trip,arrived and set up shop for the next millennia or two. And, if climate change continues on course, Earthlings may not be around to explain human life on Mars for the ETs that eventually discover them. They will be on their own to figure out that little conundrum.

Which poses the question. Is that how life on Earth originated? Are humans the ancestors of alien contaminates? Could be.

And what is NASA’s solution if samples are determined to be contaminated with biological matter that is a threat to humans? If a danger is discovered en-route back to researchers on Earth, their fall back plan is to fly the stuff into the Sun. Hmm. Yes, by all means. Let’s continue our practice of pollution and let the chips fall where they may.

Sources:

Gizmodo

NASA

Johnson Space Center

Image Source: Gizmodo

Video Source: Licensable

Slingshot Time Travel With Cosmic Strings


If you have read sci-fi novels or watched sci-fi flicks, then you have heard about cosmic strings. If you have dabbled in physics and astronomy you have probably heard about string theory. But, really, what the heck is a cosmic string? What do they do? Do they really exist? Are they space garbage that can be recycled for another purpose?

You know how Enterprise always seems to encounter some kind of space “anomaly” that causes all sorts of mayhem and the crew doesn’t know what the heck it is? That’s pretty much what life is like for space explorers now. We really have no idea what kind of stuff is out there in outer space. Cosmic strings are just one such anomaly.

Cosmic strings exist. They’re weird. They have different textures. They have walls that define their domains. They’re powerful, possibly containing the energy-mass of our Sun within a tube about one billion of a billionth the size of an atom.  And scientists don’t know much more about them.

The gringa supposes that it’s a good thing that there are not very many of them, as far as we know. Running into such a weird anomaly could be disastrous for astronauts that don’t know what they are dealing with. But some scientists are not above guessing, er, um, theorizing about cosmic strings.

Physicist J. Richard Gott introduced the novel idea of using cosmic strings for time travel. Scientists suspect that these stringlike objects had something to do with how the early universe formed. They are left-over tidbits whose job is all done. Or not. Perhaps they could be upcycled to warp space-time near a black hole making time-travel possible. Is Gott for real?

Cosmic strings are skinnier than an atom. And they are taut, like a rubber band, because they are under immense pressure. So, just like when you launch a spitball by pulling back a rubber band, Gott thinks the same concept could be applied to cosmic strings. But we wouldn’t actually strap a spaceship to a cosmic string and slingshot it across the Universe.

To make Gott’s theory work, he proposes relocating two strings so that they are close together. Because of the great pressure they are under, putting two close together would create a massive gravitational pull on anything that passed near them. The strings would basically suck in a spaceship at such an incredible speed that the crew would experience time dilation.

Time dilation is a fancy way of saying you have changed the passage of time. On Earth, six months may have passed. For astronauts on a cosmic string launched spaceship bound for Mars, the trip might only take one month. They return home to find everyone a couple of years older yet maybe they only experienced the passage of a few months. Yep. Cosmic strings are weird.

The gringa can imagine the rich and the famous exploiting cosmic string travel as the next great fountain of youth treatment. Maybe we could blast across the galaxy our worst criminals on multiple trips. This could essentially leave them for the next generation to sort out. We could find all sorts of crazy uses for time dilation travel.

But Gott’s theory goes further. If the strings were positioned near a black hole, he thinks we could warp time-space and create what he calls a “closed timelike curve”.  This would make true time-travel possible. Currently, time-travel is theorized to only be possible to make trips into the future that are one-way. A person cannot travel back into the past, only forward into the future. But Gott thinks he has found a way to yesterday.

The compounded effects of gravity on a spaceship by two cosmic strings and a black hole could create a loop with the cosmic strings. This powerful loop would propel the spaceship back through time. But there’s a catch. To re-visit a previous birthday just one year prior, a loop of cosmic string powerful enough would need the mass-energy of our entire galaxy. So, basically you sacrifice the life of everyone and everything in the present just to return to life of a year ago. Not so sure it’s worth it. Today doesn’t seem so bad.

Sources:  Astronomy Cafe

Science – How Stuff Works

Science Daily

Image Credit: Pinterest

Video Credits:  FloatingUniversity

National Geographic

 

Cosmic Explosions? What The Heck Is Going ON?


Have you heard the news? There was a big, bang, boom way out in outer space! What the heck was that? Is it the birth of a new universe? A star gone supernova? Has galactic war broken out? What the heck is going ON up there?

What We Know: Astronomers engaged in a bit of stargazing through a powerful X-ray imaging telescope called the Chandra Observatory. It is an orbiting observatory, launched and managed by NASA, and named after Nobel prize-winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Observing astronomers witnessed several cosmic flashes (aka EXPLOSIONS). In order for these flashes to have been visible as they were, they had to have packed a punch with at least one thousand times greater energy than any other star in that neck of the deep space woods. The explosions occurred over a period of hours on a single day.

Although this event was witnessed in 2014, scientists are still scratching their heads over the phenomena. And, considering the scientific law about energy never ceasing to exist, transforming yes, but disappearing no, well, this head scratcher is a deep mystery. There seems to have been no energy trace left behind by these explosions.

Where It Happened: If you happen to have access to a deep space, X-ray telescope, you will want to take aim at an obscure, unnamed galaxy that is nearly 11 billion light years away (but chances are you will have to rely on what Chandra relays back to NASA). This is a region of deep space called “Chandra Deep Field-South”. Although the explosions are over, it may be worth staying tuned. Who knows what might happen next? I mean, after all, we don’t know what the heck actually happened.

The Big Question: How the heck can what seems like a cosmic cataclysm leave no footprint in the Universe?

What Experts Theorize (in other words, scientists’ best guesses):

  • A destructive event like a neutron or white dwarf star that died.
  • Merging of a star with a black hole (which would result in the death of a star)

Death Of A Star: When a neutron or white dwarf star dies it is actually an energy rich collapse of gases, plasma, and all other kinds of energy related “stuff”. This creates a gamma-ray burst which is a fancy way of saying massive explosion of energy. This is what is commonly called a supernova event.

Where’s The Aftermath Evidence? If a star went supernova, or got destroyed in a crushing black hole, where’s all the tidbits that would be left behind? Depending on the size of the star, several things will happen after the explosive excitement:

  • The star’s core shrinks back to form a tiny neutron star if it was about twice the size of our own Sun.
  • A black hole forms where the star used to be if the star was massively larger than our own Sun.
  • In a supernova, the layers surrounding the star’s core are blown out into space.
  • The shockwave of the final, spectacular explosion helps the blown out bits form new stars and, perhaps, a new galaxy.

What The Heck Is It? So, if there is not a new, tiny, neutron star or black hole in that particular part of space, scientists may eventually rule these likeliest theories out. But there’s more to consider, making a supernova/black hole theory unlikely:

  • Time: A Supernova event usually takes a few years of explosive activity to build up to the final KABOOM when the star finally collapses and explodes. This recent event occurred in a single day within a span of a few hours.
  • Experience: Scientists have a lot of experience identifying supernovas. In a galaxy the size of our Milky Way, supernovas occur about twice in a century. Throughout our Universe, scientists estimate, from their observations, that a supernova happens every single second. So, if this event wasn’t immediately recognized as a supernova by scientists familiar with what to expect, chances are it wasn’t one.

Now What? We have to continue to follow the logic. Which brings us full circle to the original question:

“What the heck just happened? What the heck is it?”

What is it that Sherlock Holmes or Spock would say?

“When you rule out what is most likely, whatever is left, however unlikely, must be the answer.”

What The Heck Are We Left With?  UFOlogists will be quick to conclude it must be evidence of alien life. Perhaps they are tinkering with catastrophic weapons. Maybe a devastating planetary conflict took place. It could have been an alien science experiment gone bad. Maybe it’s the deep space version of a telephone call or SOS. Perhaps a mega-asteroid impact with a star or planet occurred. You see, it could be a natural cosmic event. But it may be of a unique nature. One never observed by humans before. The simple explanation could be that scientists are flummoxed because no suggestion of such a thing exists “on the books” today. They may have to figure this one out from scratch, on their own.
In the unlikely event it does turn out to be a cosmic conflict between alien species or alien planetary natural disaster apocalypse, should Earth expect an influx of ET refugees? Well, if they do begin to show up, the gringa’s got a bit of advice for them. Don’t come to the US. Trump yanked up the refugee welcome mat a few months ago.
If you really want to live in the good ol’ U.S. of A, here’s a better plan for a space alien refugee. You see, since Trump is bent on building that stupid border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he’s trying to come up with the dough to pay for it. Turns out he’s not the great business negotiator he made himself out to be. Mexico ain’t paying for it.
One clever plan he has for some quick cash is to slash the budget of the U.S. Coast Guard. All an ET refugee need do is camp out in a Mexican coastal town, buy a kayak and wait for construction to begin. Then, chances are there won’t be anyone on duty patrolling our coastal waters because their paychecks have been invested in that dumb wall. All a space alien refugee has gotta do is paddle north along the coastline!

Trump, what a dope! As if people can’t go under, over or around a stupid wall! And if brown-skinned “aliens” from other countries drive him loco, wait til they start showing up from other PLANETS, perhaps in shades of blue or green or gray! He’ll have a stroke for sure.
Sources: NASA

Nobel Prize Org.

Independent UK

Photo Credits: PodBean

Nobel Prize Org.

Video Credits:  Chandra X-ray Observatory

 

Ghostly Cats & Spectral Zookeepers


How many of the gringa’s dear readers believe in the existence of ghosts? According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of all Americans claimed to have seen a ghost, 29% claim to have felt a touch by a ghost, and more than 30% believe in the existence of ghosts. So, no need to feel embarrassed or alone if you are pro-ghost.

The gringa used to believe in the existence of ghosts until I became familiar with dark matter and learned that the human consciousness can exist outside the human body.

I even have two ghost stories of my own!

#1. When the gringa was in middle school, I spent a week at a lake cabin with a friend’s family. I got to have my very own room. The first night sleeping alone in this new space, I was awakened by the feeling of something jumping onto the foot of the bed. I then felt the sensation of what I assumed to be cat paws gently walking alongside my body then settling down to sleep beside me. It even felt warm. Since I was an animal lover and it was dark, I didn’t even bother to rouse myself enough to peek at the cat. I wanted to be a good bed partner and not disturb its desire to rest. This happened all week. I don’t remember what day during the week I mentioned my nightly visitor to my hosts. But I do remember their response and how tense my nights were after I found out that they had no cat. The gringa believed she was sharing her bed with a ghost cat, or, at least the consciousness of a cat. A friendly sort, though.

#2. My other ghost story is not really a ghost story at all, but a tale of how ornery the gringa can be. One of my sisters was a bit of a drama-mama. When we moved into a new house she was a bit freaked out by the news that the previous owner’s husband had died in the house. She was further convinced this was terrible news because, apparently, it had been his dream home, constructed according to his own design, and where he retreated for a pleasant retirement. Until he dropped dead just a few months into said retirement. She was convinced that an attachment like that could only mean that ol’ Mr. Walker would be haunting the place. The gringa was happy to oblige her imagination.

We shared a room so it was easy for the gringa to prank her. I would really step up my game if she annoyed me for any reason. She was a bit of a neat freak and very orderly. I would swipe things like a hairbrush or trinket box then put it in a strange place, like the closet shelf for her shoes or inside our shared stereo’s cabinet for the record player (yes, it’s been that many years ago). The gringa would then feign innocence, absolutely baffled and mystified how such things could happen. Then I would casually say, “Well, I guess it was Mr. Walker. Maybe he didn’t like it that you left your hairbrush out.” or something to that effect. It would get her every single time. And I have never told her different. Even now, as middle-aged adults, she thinks that old house is haunted or else she knows the truth and is humoring the gringa.

But is it possible for an old house to be haunted by a dead person’s consciousness who is so attached that they don’t want to leave? Can animal spirits inhabit the earth after their death? The gringa can only say that, according to what she knows of dark matter and conscious existence outside of our physical body, yeah, it’s possible. But it wouldn’t be a ghost as we traditionally know it. It would actually be that person or animal’s consciousness minus their physical body. Their consciousness existing in the dark matter universe, yet able, from time to time, to exercise whatever it is that allows them to somehow manifest themselves to us in this universe.

Now, the gringa doesn’t think that means that a person would be subjected to 24-hour surveillance by such. To exist in a state where physical form, or matter, doesn’t matter (pardon the pun), that means one could not exist in a world where the laws of physics makes matter, um, matter. What the gringa thinks happens is that hiccups in space or, perhaps, bursts of concentrated energy by a consciousness, allows for a breakthrough between the two worlds. A “ghostly” encounter then occurs.

For ghost-phobic individuals, there is good news if you are getting ready to re-locate. A website, DiedInHouse.com, is a database that links death announcements, certificates and law enforcement records to home addresses. It costs about twelve bucks for the service but you find out more than just if your prospective home might contain a ghost. You will discover if it was ever used as a lab for making methamphetamines, has a history of fire, if a sex offender was ever registered there and if it is in a flood zone. But I digress.

Is haunting a serious problem in homes? The gringa’s research reveals that hauntings are commonly reported. Sometimes they even lead to lawsuits. However, many people live with ghosts just fine. And it’s not just houses that can be haunted. In the gringa’s neck of the woods even the Houston Zoo is reported to be haunted by its first zookeeper who was a bit of a peeping Tom.

Houston media has made the most of this local legend. Just about every area newspaper, radio station or television news syndicate has a story about Nagel in their archives. Considering that he wasn’t just a zookeeper, but also a trainer of big cats, the gringa suspects Nagel had a consciousness bigger than life with that kind of courage and steely nerves. Maybe he really is still inhabiting the space of the Houston Zoo on a dark matter level.

He survived an alligator bite in 1924. The following year he had to take some time off after a raccoon incident and, later, a monkey attack. In 1928 a 5-ton elephant stepped on him. Three years later a leopard took a swipe and laid him open. He was also nearly killed by a 450-pound lion but his trusty assistants came to the rescue. There are numerous accounts of painful encounters between Nagel and badgers, bears, porcupines, tigers and zebras. Once, a python tried to make a meal of Nagel but he got the snake in a headlock and beat him at his own squeeze game.

Locals would also call Nagel out for neighborhood wildlife problems. He captured a bobcat that was eating the poodles of the rich ladies living in River Oaks. He lassoed a wayward bull elk and a lioness that both escaped the zoo and were wandering city streets. A city filled with bayous, he was also a very popular alligator catcher when populations would become problematic.

Nagel was quite a character who also carried a pistol whenever he was on duty. His pistol came in handy when he saved a guest to the zoo from being mauled by a Bengal Tiger. This action earned him a gold medal from the City of Houston. And it may be his feisty character that ultimately led to his controversial demise and dogged refusal to leave the Houston Zoo even after death.

You see, he got himself into a bit of trouble with the law. He was accused of abuses of power by the City Park Commission. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, Houston Mayor, Walter Monteith, rescinded Nagel’s special commission as zoo police officer. But, true to Nagel’s strong-willed character (after all, when military life didn’t agree with him he ignored the rules, jumped ship and went AWOL), Nagel continued with his armed zoo patrol which ended up getting him shot dead by a legitimate law enforcement officer in 1941.

When Nagel noticed some youngsters going at in their car in the zoo parking lot, he crept into some bushes and watched. A police officer on patrol also noticed the amorous pair (and Nagel, the peeping Tom). Stopping to question the pair, the officer asked if they knew that they had an audience which, indeed, surprised them. As the officer approached Nagel, intending to handcuff him and take him down to the pokey for a firm discussion about where, exactly, his jurisdiction was (within the confines of the zoo’s grounds), Nagel decided he would not be treated in such a way. He resisted arrest. And, he was armed with his pistol. Which the officer claimed he began to reach for. So, said officer blasted him 6 times with his own pistol until Nagel lay dead in the road.

And what of Nagel? Some say he is still around, particularly hanging out in the Commissary, overseeing the food preparation for all the animals. This seems reasonable since the Commissary is the closest building to the area where he died. Staff reports hearing voices early in the morning and seeing a shadowy figure that resembles a man walking about. Zoo officials have even gone so far as to have paranormal investigators get involved. The only thing this produced were a couple of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings that do sound like human voices.

But who would he be talking to? The gringa thinks maybe to the consciousness of animals that have died at the zoo. Maybe death was the most wonderful thing to happen to a zookeeper devoted to all of those animals. Now there will be no nasty misunderstandings leading to getting bit or sliced and diced. Kind of makes dying not seem so scary after all.

Sources:

Pew Research

DiedInHouse

Houston Chronicle

Texas Archival Resources Online

Image Credit:

Mr. Wallpaper

Video Credit:

CrashCourse

New Thinking Allowed

houstonartsandmedia

A Wave Making Waves & Suction Storms


(Originally posted 2/3/17 on Read With The Gringa)

An enormous gravity wave is making waves in space exploration circles. The wave of excitement began when Akatsuki, a space probe that is the handiwork of JAXA, Japan’s space agency, observed a 6,000 mile long gravity wave. That’s the longest gravity wave ever recorded by humans in outer space. But why is this a big deal? What does it mean? I mean, after all, gravity waves have been discovered before. Is this just a big deal because this is the largest one scientists have observed?

What a gravity wave does is affect a planet’s atmosphere. It can cause weather disturbances. What kind of weather does Venus have? With an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide, 3% nigrogen, a tiny speck of water vapor (about .003%), and a density nearly 90 times greater than Earth’s, things could be very interesting on Venus should a storm begin to brew.

Picture peeking out the window of your Venus habitat and seeing golden, yellow clouds billowing that stink of that rotten egg stench of sulfur. Imagine watching as they raced across the sky at more than 200 mph. And consider that you would have to be looking through glass several inches thick to withstand the atmospheric pressure outside. Sounds kind of cool, doesn’t it! But, really, is there more to this excitement than just discovering the longest gravity wave ever?

December, 2015, JAXA’s Akatsuki observed the largest gravity wave ever over one of Venus’ mountain ranges. It looks like a whitish, bow shape in the image below:

akatsuki-venus-jaxa.jpg

When the probe made its journey once again over this region a month later, the wave wasn’t there. The original thought that the wave was stationary had to be discarded. What scientists now theorize is that the gravity wave formed in Venus’ lower atmosphere and was then gradually pulled into the upper atmosphere by the rapid rotation of clouds. Once it reached the upper atmosphere it dissipated. So, on Venus, a storm is really like a great big gravity vacuum rather than wind and rain like Earthlings are accustomed to. Instead of stuff falling down, stuff is sucked up.

For scientists, this gives them more clues to understand what conditions are like on the surface of the planet. Instead of a lower atmosphere that is stable, quiet and boring, scientists are more inclined to believe that life on Venus’ surface could be quite thrilling and dynamic. It also means that any plans for a surface mission would require rovers that could withstand the possibility of a massive gravity suction storm. The gringa envisions the tornado scene that the “Wizard of Oz” opens with. That would be life on Venus if things weren’t “nailed” down really, really well. Or, Venus colonists could all just live in bouncy castles. When a massive gravity suction storm approaches you batten down the hatches, ride out the storm and who knows where you end up! New neighbors and new landscape when it all blows over. How exciting!

Sources: JAXA

CalTech