Friday, 14 October 2011

More on the party

All right, so I left the posting mid-thought last week, but I was so excited to get something posted, and didn't want to leave you with nothing, that I figured some now is better than more later. Well, here's the 'more later' part. (Again, I must apologise for the lack of real pictures, but not having had the presence of mind, nor the time, to bring the camera, I have nothing to show for it.)

So, I was trapped on the other side with Tom and a bunch of natives. We walked for what seemed like a dozen miles down to a river where we were met by a large wagon being pulled by some kind of local beast of burden. We all piled in and headed south (or at least that's what Tom said; at that point I hadn't a clue which way was up, much less south) following along the river. We were passing through a forest when we turned suddenly east, taking a much longer route. Tom explained that we had to circle around a large cliff. Apparently the wagon path and the foot path separate near a tall waterfall. (Tom said that he'd bring me back to the base of the waterfall later.)

We pulled into the town and stopped in front of a huge building. Turns out that it was the general meeting house for the town and where they entertained guests (usually folks from nearby towns, not from so far out of town as Tom and me). Ushered into the hall, we sat at long tables where the local kids served us the best meal I've ever eaten. I'm still not quite certain what all we ate, but Tom said that it was mostly fresh vegetables and fish from the river (same river as the waterfall, just much farther downstream). He says that usually they would have some kind of red meat, but we hadn't given them time to prepare for this visit. As unexpected as this trip was for me, Tom hadn't given them any warning either.

After a long, drawn out meal, Tom took me for a walk around the small village, pointing out various landmarks, such as the local school. As is typical for tourists, we were followed by a crowd of kids, all wanting to see the stranger: me! They had worked with Tom for a while and almost considered him one of them, but I was a serious newbie for them.

Augh! Out of space again for the posting. More on my trip next time.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A veiw from the other side

Well, they talked me into it: I visited the other side of the Door! I didn't spend much time there, only one week, but it was fantastic! Right after last week's posting (about all the things that happened on Sep 30th), Tom grabbed me and practically dragged me to the room where the Door actually opens. Oh, of course, I've seen it open a couple times, but I usually find something else to do when they're opening it...something far away. This time, though, Tom said he had something really interesting to show me: a native artefact that he claimed he couldn't bring through to this side. Well, he was right, sorta. What he wanted to show me was how they throw a party, a real party, but I didn't know that, not at first.

When we got to the room, and closed it off, sealing out the real world, he pulled me right over to the dais, so I was practically sitting right on top of the platform as the Door opened. I've never been anywhere near that close, and the wind rushing through as the atmospheric pressures balanced almost knocked me off my feet. Anyway, the Door opened, Tom headed through, and I just stood there waiting for him to show me whatever it was he was all excited about.

I could see him there on the other side waiting. There were a few natives standing around with him. (I must say, they look pretty fierce even though Tom says they look scarier when they're dressed for battle. Nothing like the picture, but I've got nothing better to show. I need to bring the camera next time.) As the charge on the capacitors started draining, and the connection to the other side was weakening, I made a decision: Go for it! I leapt up to the Door itself, feeling all the hairs on my arms stand up, paused a moment (it might have looked like I stumbled, but I didn't!), then almost fell through the Door. I only had a moment to glance back over my shoulder to see the whole thing collapse, and I was trapped! Stuck on the other side for at least a week, or at least until they could build up another charge to get the Door open again. At that point, my only hope was that Tom could get me back to reality. Later, that changed.

I could go on and on about my experiences over there, but I'm running out of space to get this posted. More next week!

Friday, 30 September 2011

From the Discovery of Electrons to a Nuclear Meltdown

Frank decided to look up the path from simple electronics to nuclear power, and he found that a few things happened on today's date. Here they are:

In 1895, Jean Baptiste Perrin (born today in 1870) showed that what had been called Cathode Rays weren't actually rays, but physical particles that had mass and travelled from one end of a vacuume tube (the cathode end) to the other (the plate). He had found electrons.

In 1882, the first hydro-electric generator, designed by Edison, began operation today at the Appleton Edison Electric Light Company.

(On a side note, in 1913 on today's date, Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, died under mysterious circumstances. He was on board the Dresden, bound from Antwerp to London for a meeting, and after dinner, he headed for bed at 10pm requesting to be woken shortly after 6am, but he was never seen alive again. Over a week later, a decomposing body was found adrift with items that belonged to him, but due to the advanced state of decay, the body itself was never verified to be his.)

In 1935, the Hoover Dam was dedicated, and its hydro-electric generators now supply enough power to run public and private consumers in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

(Interesting and possibly useful, but also irrelevant, in 1953, on Sep 30, the International Federation of Translators was set up, and ever since, they have used today, the feast day of St Jerome (accepted as the patron saint of translators), as International Translation Day (also St Jerome's death date, 420). St Jerome was well known for translating the Bible from older Latin, with extensive reference to Greek and Hebrew texts. His version is known as the versio vulgata, or commonly used translation. The world 'vuglar' meaning having to do with ordinary or common folk.)

In 1954,  the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was commissioned.

In 1977, Sir Nevill Francis Mott (born today in 1905) received the Nobel Prize for Physics due to his work in electronics and magnetism.

Sep 30, 1980, is a date that is probably not as well known as it should be, considering the medium we are using now. That was the date that the Ethernet specification was published by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Intel, and Xerox.

Finally, in 1999, an accident at a uranium processing plant in the village of Tōkai killed three technicians and caused dozens of people to be hospitalised. In that incident, due entirely to human error, workers added a critical seventh bucket of uranyl nitrate solution into a precipitation tank, exceeding the limits set for the tank and starting a self-sustaining fission reaction.

So, just on today's date, we have found everything from the initial discovery that electrons must be particles all the way up to a nuclear meltdown. We have certainly come a long way, haven't we?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox and other important dates in history

Frank is in a party mood today, what with all the things he has to celebrate today. First off, today at 9:04 this morning, the Autumnal Equinox occurred. That's when the Earth's axis is exactly parallel to its orbit around the sun. From our view down here, we see the sun rising and setting right over the equator.

Other things that Frank likes to celebrate today include these folks born on this date, going from the oldest to the most recent:
But the biggest event that Frank celebrates today is that back in 1889 (yes, that does say prior to the 1900s!) the Nintendo company was formed. Of course, back then it only dealt with playing cards, but still it was the beginning of a vast empire that has influenced many. In fact Frank carries his Wii U controller around with him at work, so he can keep up on his games when he's not sitting in front of the tele at home.

Have fun, and I hope you don't get Nintendinitis!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Not Magnetic Monopoles? Possibly Reimann manifolds

We know from the last post that phones are a pain, but there's no need to elaborate on that. I think we've all recovered from that experience.

Anyway, Frank has been working on that magnetic monopole theory again, and he says that it's probably not relevant. On a macro level, we all know that if you break a magnet, you don't end up with a North piece and a South piece; what you get are two smaller magnets, each with their own pair of poles. In spite of the fact that Joseph Polchinski, a prominent string-theorist, claimed that the existence of monopoles was "one of the safest bets that one can make about physics not yet seen", Frank doubts that the Door is based on that theory. He says that it's just not logical (and if Frank is anything, he's logical).

Frank's latest theory has to do with Reimann surfaces. Those surfaces appear to be fairly normal if you only look at a small section, "but the global topology can be quite different", depending on the calculations involved. The overall impression of the shapes can be a sphere or a torus or even just a couple of sheets glued together. Frank thinks that the way the Door works is to fold our normal 3-space into a shape like those through some kind of 4-space, making two points normally distant very close together. The typical example is a folded piece of paper. (Quite a few examples of this appear all over.)

We might have more about the theory behind the Door next time, as long Frank doesn't get distracted by any other bright, shiny objects.

Friday, 9 September 2011

POTS? No way! VOIP instead

When we moved into this new building, Frank insisted on upgrading the phones in our office. The previous tenants had been on POTS, but now we have swapped everything over to VOIP, and let me tell you, it's been a learning experience!

With POTS, the local phone company brings in a separate pair of wires for each line, and each one has a different phone number associated with it. Then someone (us!) has to physically connect them to each desk. Keeping track of all those interconnects is just plain ugly.

With a VOIP system, each phone number is encoded into the phone set itself, so all the wires going to all the desks are identical. There is no need to swap any wires. If we had someone move to a new desk, all we have to do is pick up the phone, unplug it, move it to the new desk, and plug it back in. That's it. All the number changes are done on a computer, assigning the phone number to a specific MAC address.

All I can say, after pulling an all nighter helping to update an old POTS system, I'm glad that Frank convinced us to install VOIP when we moved in here.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Tom's data untrustworthy? Electronics still don't work; Halbach Spheres?

Well, Tom collected quite a bit of data for Frank to analyse, but at first glance, Frank doesn't trust some of the numbers. Tom suggested that Frank go collect his own data, but Frank says that he's not going through the Door until someone he trusts is at the controls to make certain he can get back. Of course, Frank doesn't trust anyone, so he's likely only going to see the part of the other planet visible through the Door as it's opened. (Sometimes dealing with these two is like herding cats, I swear!)

Anyway, the initial guess that the planet is larger than Earth makes sense (even though we haven't actually measured it), but it must be far less dense (as Frank claimed), which explains why the gravity is still so close to 'normal'. So, what we've got is a larger planet that spins slower, doesn't have an iron core, and no magnetic field to speak of. All that still doesn't explain why electronic things don't work. We really need to get Frank working on that.

Instead, Frank is still trying to figure out how the Door itself works. He's made a supposition that the way it works is probably similar to a Halbach sphere. The only difference is that a typical Halbach sphere is made of permanent magnets, whereas the Door is basically a huge electromagnet, just with a twist to it. (Twist, get it? Frank opens the Door by spinning the magnetic field.)

Frank may have more for us soon, but Tom certainly will. He's been really excited about taking some folks out for an adventure, a 'walkabout' he calls it. We'll see what he has to say next week.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Measuring gravity with Kater's Pendulum

First off, let me describe how this Kater's Pendulum (shown in the adjacent picture) is supposed to work. There are two pivot points (a), one at each end. At one end there is a major weight (d) and at the other end a minor weight (b & c). The minor one is adjustable, and by moving it in or out, the period (the rate at which the pendulum swings) can be changed. So, what you do with this thing is hang it from one pivot and time the swing, then flip it over and time it again, moving the minor weight in and out until the two times are the same. Moving the minor weight counter-balances the major one and makes the whole thing effectively an 'ideal' pendulum.

Knowing the distance between the pivot points and the time of the swing, we can use this formula to get the value of gravity at that point. Of course Tom isn't going to be using a calculator over there, so all he's going to do is collect the numbers at various points and bring them back to Frank to do all the number crunching.

It turns out that Frank just happens to have a museum-quality piece that he's going to let Tom take through the Door to do some testing. It wasn't designed to be portable at all, so Frank has to make some modifications to the frame where Tom will be hanging the thing. Frank also has a set of hourglasses (though they really should be called minute-glasses) that Tom will be using as timers. I'm not certain if Tom (or ANYone for that matter) will have enough patience to do all this stuff. Those physicists must have been really dedicated to their field of study to invent stuff like this.

We'll see what we have to report next week. Until then, keep swinging!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Photos examined by astromers, and the core of the planet isn't iron

Well, the photos have been developed and most of them were quite good. Turns out Tom is fairly handy with a camera. Frank has sent the pictures off to an astronomer friend of his, and we hope to have some kind of estimate of the planet's location soon. Most of the pictures looked very much as we expected (see the adjacent picture from an amateur photo site). The only thing Frank has been able to determine from them so far is the rotation of the planet. Doing a calculation using the length of the star streaks and knowing the shutter speed, Frank says that a 'day' on the planet is a bit less than 32 hours. Much longer than here on Earth, but Tom says that it doesn't feel longer; he just has more time to get things done.

The fact that a 'day' is longer there can be the result of a couple different things. Either the planet actually rotates slower, or it has a much larger diameter. A larger planet should have a stronger gravitational field, but only if the composition is similar to Earth's. From the lack of magnetism over there, Frank has hypothesised that the planet is lacking the iron core that forms the basis of Earth's magnetic field, so although it might be larger, it has less mass. In other words, it is less dense.

So, based on his guess about the core, Frank's next experiment is going to test the exact gravity there, using a Kater's Pendulum. I suggested that he also measure the size of the planet the same way Eratosthenes did, but he just laughed. Apparently we'd have to explore a bit more of the planet to be able to get measurements like that.

BTW we can't just keep calling it 'the planet', so Frank thinks we should name it, but I'm certain that the natives already have a name for it. We just need to ask them. What do you think? Let us know in the survey.

I'll report on it next week.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Happy Birthday to the IBM PC (and what about Apple?)

Well, Frank has yet another anniversary to celebrate today. It's been 30 years since the IBM PC was released, and THAT was a step in the right direction. Of course, he's quick to point out that Apple beat IBM by four years when they released the Apple ][ in 1977. (I think Frank still has an old Apple ][ in the back of his closet, though he'd never admit it in public. In fact if he does have one, I know he'd never sell it.)

Back in those days, IBM kept most of the technical details close to the chest, if not outright proprietary, and Apple's reference manual not only had a schematic that folded out, but it also had the source code of the Monitor ROM (what is now known as the BIOS). Times have certainly changed since then, what with Apple keeping all the secrets and IBM being so open that just about anyone can build an ISA compatible board to expand the capabilities of a PC.

Well, enough reminiscing, we've got work to do. Next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Developing REAL film: a REAL task ahead of us

We had a bit of a difficulty getting the pictures Tom took of the stars developed. Do you know how few places are available that can take real film and make pictures? Yes, I know that may local stores can make prints, but almost all of them only handle digital pictures, which obviously won't work for us. In our case the decision was made easier by the fact that Frank is a bit paranoid about keeping the details of the Door secret (he's right to be concerned about industrial espionage). The decision was easier, but the results of that decision just made more work for us: Frank decided that it would be better to process the film in house.

Frank gave me a list of the chemicals needed, and whilst I was procuring them, he built a light-tight tank that would do the trick. BTW, this is not a procedure that I'd recommend to anyone who isn't seriously into doing things on your own.

Well, I've clearly got my work cut out for me, so I'll call it quits for now. See ya in a week.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Trojan asteroid in the news, and Tunnels go both ways

First off, Frank wants everyone to be aware that an asteroid  (2010 TK7) has been found to be stable in the L4 point in the Sol/Earth two-body system. (Of course, anyone paying attention to the science news would already know that.)

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, back to the normal stuff. So, Frank is really stuck on trying to locate the other end of the Door. Now he's even gone so far as to give Tom an old-style film camera and tripod, which Tom is supposed to set up, point 'north' (see discussions of 'east' and 'west' in previous postings), and take a few time-exposures of the stars. Frank will then use that information to plot out the relative position of the stars as well as establish the speed of the planet's rotation. From all that, Frank is very hopeful that he'll be able to identify the other end.

A recent concern that came up in random talk in the lunch room is that the other end of this obviously-alien device may connect with the home world of its creators. The worry here is that we might not be opening up a tunnel through space so we can go out and explore, rather we're opening up a hole that will let others come 'visit' us.

What do you think?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Not PI day, just almost PI day, but no invisibility cloaks

Welcome to PI approximation day. Today is the 22nd day of the 7th month, so if we write it in day/month format, it looks like 22/7, which is a close approximation to the value π (only off by 0.04%). 
  • As an aside, a closer approximation that is easy to remember is 355/113, the first three odd numbers each used twice. It is only off by 0.000008%! 
Back to dates, March 14th, is often celebrated as PI day, with PI minute being one minute until 2:00 in the afternoon. At that moment, the date/time (in month/day format) would be 3/14 1:59. (Yes, it would really be 13:59, but only the most staunch nerds are willing to be up at 2:00 am to celebrate the right time, which they do.)

So what does all this have to do with the Door? Probably not much, but when we spin up the magnetic fields to open the Door, it does make a sphere, which has pi in the calculation of both volume and surface (just like calculating the area and circumference of a circle).

Considering the recent hoopla with the Potter movie, I was hoping to discuss bending light around objects and invisibility cloaks, but there's still more research to do on it. Maybe next time.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Time Travel still isn't possible, but Where does the Door put us?

All right, so there are plenty of folks out there who do think time travel is possible in spite of Frank's 'proof' (see last week's posting). Frank points out that even plausible Time Travel using an infinite Tipler cylinder would still require a spaceship accelerating along its length. May I point out, yet again, for those who haven't noticed, the Door not only isn't a spaceship but it also doesn't leave the general area where it's been set up.

The other end of it, though, is a different matter. Where it leads we still haven't figured out. From the few sighting of stars that Tom has been able to copy down and bring back, Frank hasn't been able to place it in mapped space, but once Frank has enough stars identified, he'll be able to pin down the location of the other side on a 3-D map of the stars, and then we'll know where we're going. (Although, Frank is the only one who even cares enough to worry about it; to the rest of us, it doesn't really matter as long as we get to charge folks to visit.)

 Keep up the comments. See ya!

Friday, 8 July 2011

42 and Is Time Travel Possible?

In honour of this being our forty-second posting, Frank insists on mentioning HHG2G and how it influenced his education. All right, so I mentioned it. Now we can continue, right?

Some folks investigating how the Door works have suggested that the wormhole effect isn't so much a connection between different points in space, but rather they say that it connects the same point in space, but in a different time. In other words, it's connecting two points in four-space that just happen to have the same x, y, and z values. Frank is convinced that it couldn't possibly happen that way, and his biggest argument is the one espoused by Steven Hawking: We don't see tourists from the future time travelling back for a quick jaunt. Of course Carl Sagan has an alternative viewpoint on that argument: The tourists from the future are very careful to blend in so that no one notices them.

Either way, bringing in big names like those is just Frank's way of name-dropping, so don't pay any attention to him and his head won't swell too much.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Space-Time curvature and Guinea Pigs

According to Frank, the Door causes a curve in space-time. I don't know exactly what that means, but he tried to explain it by drawing a picture of a mattress with different weights on it. A marble hardly affects the surface at all, but a bowling ball bends it quite a bit. He says that the Door goes so far that the hole comes out somewhere else (in the basement?). With the info we have now, there's no way to predict where the other end of the tunnel created ends up. Of course there's the opinion that it doesn't go least not in the standard three dimensions, rather in the fourth: time.

Where ever the Door connects to, it's certainly keeping Tom busy.

I think I've found some guinea pigs to send out to explore. If they get back to me soon enough, I'll have info to post next week. See you then.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Lost Energy Chart and Language Issues

All right, so Frank seems to be excessively focused on energy conversion and efficiency. Now he's trying to find some chart he used to have. Apparently, it shows six or seven different types of energy and arrows linking them showing how each can be converted to another form. The problem is that he can't find it. If anyone out there can find such a chart, he'd really appreciate it.

In other news, Tom is still working with the natives to work out language issues. It seems the natives pick up English easier than Tom has been able to get a grip on their language, so in our next big foray into the unknown, we'll need to bring along some kind of expert linguist or at least a logophile. If there were some military use, I'm certain we could get the government involved.

Looking forward to some excitement next week.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Types of energy and conversions

So, in discussing the different ways to generate electricity, Frank diverged onto the topic of energy itself. I already knew about most of the energy types, but in spite of that, Frank insisted on defining each type of energy as he listed them off: thermal is heat, chemical is...well...chemistry, electrical is what we were talking about trying to generate last week, radiant energy he says is EM radiation, nuclear is known as atomic power, magnetic is obvious, right? Elastic is like a rubber band stretched out, sound is energy that you can hear, mechanical is something moving, and luminous energy is visible (in other words you can see it).

If you'll remember, we can convert almost all of those different types directly into electrical energy, but some require an intermediate step, such as converting sound into mechanical energy first, then using that to move a conductor through a magnetic field to make electricity. If we go the other way around, we can make electricity go through a wire, which will make a magnetic field that can move a speaker cone and make sound. Most of the conversions from one form of energy can be reversed fairly easily with little loss. Of course, some loss is to be expected. After all we can't fight the constant loss of energy: entropy.

Most of what Frank says certainly sounds true, but some of it I just accept without comment. I guess it's a case of credo quia absurdum est. (If you don't know what that means, go look it up!)

Keep studying until we talk next week. See ya!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Power supplies, AC or DC?

I mentioned a problem with the power supply last week, and ever since then Frank has been pontificating on the various methods of electrical generation. According to Frank, there are seven different ways to do it. The problem is, the only one that's practical creates AC power, but we really need DC.

The typical method of creating electrical power involves moving a conductor through a magnetic field, called electromagnetic induction. That's how we get all our power for household use.

The other methods all make DC power and involve converting other forms of energy to electrical. Physically pulling electrons from atoms creates static electricity (like a Van de Graaff generator). Using chemicals is called electrochemistry (as in a battery). When light is changed to electricity it's known as photoelectric power (think solar power). Using heat is thermoelectric (used in electronic thermometers). Putting certain solids under stress is makes piezoelectric power (used in a scale). But the best one of all uses a radioactive source to produce loose electrons: betavoltaic power (but promethium can produce x-rays!)

The big problem is that all the DC power generators create such low voltages or currents that they aren't practical. We're still working on it.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Power supply issues and Technology that isn't available

We are still having a few problems with the Door. Apparently, the traditional power supplied on the grid isn't quite right. In spite of the fact that Frank has been filtering it through his bank of capacitors, the AC signal really isn't working very well, and it's causing degradation in the electrolyte (at least that what Frank said). It seems that the best power for the equipment would be flat DC (see the top graph in the picture), but that would take a whole pile of batteries. AC power is much easier to produce and transmit, so despite Edison's efforts to promote DC, we are a nation, no a world, of Alternating Currents.

Yes, there are methods to convert AC to DC, but both half-wave (see middle graph in the picture) and full-wave (bottom graph) have bumps. In other words, they still aren't flat. Even adding a few filter caps to the output only gets close. It still has wigglies. The best bet would still be to run the equipment directly from a full DCsource such as a battery, but as that's not feasible, we're just going to keep on with what we have.

There was this rather useful circuit that Frank came across when he was trying to reverse engineer the equipment, but he's been unable to reproduce it (mostly due to the language barrier). He says that it must have been a Unimolecular Rectifier. Unfortunately, the technology available to folks these days isn't fully functional, so all we can do is work with what we have. (He has been pretty good at re-building stuff just by analysing the equipment, in spite of the objections, and this stumbling block really irks him.)

If anyone knows of a better DC source, please let us know, and I'll report on it next week.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Area 51 covered elsewhere and curved surfaces

Last week I spent quite a bit of time talking about Area 51, but apparently someone else covered it quite completely, so I guess I don't need to mention it anymore.  :-)

So, Frank tried again to explain to me how the Door works. He wrote some equations on the chalkboard as he talked, but it just looked to me like a bunch of squigglies. Then he showed me a picture in a book he had, and it looked neat, and I said that I'd seen a similar hole at a minature golf course. (He didn't like it when I said that.) He explained the picture as showing a hole representing the Door, curved space in a flat area, except that our Door is a curved thingy in a flat space.

It's difficult for me to explain (especially as I don't understand it myself), but at least he did give me some kind of approach to getting my head wrapped around it: Picture a flat world where all the people living there are two-dimensional. Then try to explain to them how you can bend their world and connect two distant points. It's the same thing with the Door, except it's a three-dimensional world being bent through the fourth dimension.

It seems that the topic has been covered quite well, too. You just have to know where to look for the info. I'll see if I can get a hold of some of those reference books and let you know what I find by next week.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Area 51 is in the news, and Frank's in a book

Recently Area 51 has made the news. In fact it's there because of a new book, and the good news is that Frank was interviewed for the book. He may be famous! I just hope she quotes him properly. Anyway, consider reading it; we all need to support authors, right?

So, Area 51 is back in the public view again, but what do we really know about it? Many folks have heard about it, and many go to check it out, but the government denies it exists. Take my word for it, Area 51 really does exist. After all, where do you think Frank came across the equipment needed to make the Door function? If you want to read more about it, check out the Area 51 blog listed down in our Blog List (bottom of the left column).

And do you think that's the only one? Not likely. Consider Znamensk in Russia or Woomera in Austrailia, both secret locations, they lie just outside Kapustin Yar and the WPA, respectively. Neither one as famous as Roswell, NM and the incident that happened there, but to the locals, they are just as mysterious.

Lots of info to read, so I'll leave you to get to it. See you in a week.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Wormhole blog and Beta trip

Well, it appears that someone was took note of some of Frank's wormhole theories, but he was apparently too embarrassed to use his real name. Anyway, thanks to Mr. Anonymous, we found a blog from Universe Today (with some neat pictures) that had a comment referencing a FAQ posted by Enrico Rodrigo, who had been a professor at UC, Irvine, so if any of you are interested, go ahead and read it...just make certain you're in a comfortable place, because it'll take a while. Maybe we can get a good discussion going. (Enrico also does research into Brane Worlds, whatever they are.)

Last week I mentioned a possible beta-trip, just as a test of the idea of sending folks out on weekly trips. Well, Frank thinks we need to keep it in house before we get the general public involved. What do you think? Should we open things up to people who haven't been with us since the beginning?

Let us know on the poll. Thanks!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Geeks and guinea pigs

All right, so the tree huggers aren't too bad, just a bit of a pain to get through on our way into and out of work. At least they are generally nice folks. Fortunately, the Star Wars geeks have yet to find us. It would have been worse a couple days ago (May the 4th).

Anyway, Frank wanted to discuss more physics, but I vetoed that idea. I think we've had enough of those lessons for now. (If you disagree, let me know, and I'll tell Frank that he was right.) So, last week when I mentioned volunteers, it got Frank's attention. He thinks that if we were to get more guinea pigs volunteers to help us out, it would help him with the design. If anyone knows of a group of about a dozen or so folks interested in making a trial run, let us know. We'd be willing to send them out on a trip for long as they give us some feedback on how things went. Any takers??

Gotta keep things short this week as Frank has plans...I'll tell you more next week.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Putting up with tree huggers...We have work to do

Now, I've got nothing bad to say about tree huggers in general, but when they interfere with things they don't understand, there are bound to be unintended consequences. I mean, there are tree huggers, then there are TREE HUGGERS. Yes, operating the Door does cause some interference with some electronic things, like tellys and radios, but really, can't you just twiddle your antennae. Better yet, just go with a digital signal as most interference only affects analog signals.

I guess what I want to say is that hanging around in front of our office, waving signs and stopping traffic doesn't get a lot accomplished. Yes, you do have the right to say what you want, but do you need to exercise it here? What are we doing that annoys you to the point where you have to get in the way of our techies coming and going?

I don't mean to be rude, but we have work to do, and it gets done better if we don't have to keep looking over our shoulders to watch for things being thrown at us. At least the only animals involved in testing are voluntary, mostly just Tom, so after I get done ranting, I'll get back to helping Frank get this thing fully functional. Any volunteers to help? I'm certain we can find something for you to do.

Now, back to work.

Friday, 22 April 2011

More physics about wormholes

All right, so Frank wants to talk more about wormholes. Apparently, it's a still unclear theory. The first kind discovered was a Schwarzschild wormhole, but that kind can't stay open long enough for anyone (or anything, for that matter) to pass through. It's basically an 'eternal black hole' not the kind of thing you'd want to even try to use. They say that the only kind of wormhole that you can actually go through would 'only be possible if exotic matter with negative energy density could be used to stablise them'. Of course that could only be happen in nature if the Casimir effect pans out, so we won't expect any to occur naturally (except very small ones that might appear through the use of quantum foam).

Now that that's been said, let me tell you that I don't have any idea what I'm talking about. I just get to be the middle man, relaying info from Frank. Hopefully somewhere out there are some physicists who will understand some of what I just said.

Well, I'm keeping it short this time, due to all the mumbo jumbo Frank keeps dishing out.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Magnetic monopoles and flux tubes, Frank explains about wormholes

Frank has done some more research into just how the Door works. He says that it appears to be related to flux tubes. Let's see if I can explain what Frank told me. Flux tubes are made by connecting two magnetic monopoles. Now, we all 'know' that monopoles can't exist by themselves (so Frank says), but by agreeing that the two ends of such a tube combined are just a single magnetic dipole, and noting that they move independently, then they can be treated for many purposes as independent quasiparticles.

Anyway, these monopoles only exist in pairs, but, Frank says, if you did manage to separate them, then you'd get this tube thing, and that's what he thinks we have here. It's just that with this equipment he's gotten a hold of, he's managed to create a tube big enough to walk through. In effect he's got himself a wormhole. We don't know how it works or even why, but at least it doesn't terminate in the middle of a sun or the vacuum of space (though we did have that big issue back at the beginning of January before he got it re-aimed).

Well, it turns out that we are very lucky to have hit anything at all. Think of throwing darts at a huge the side of a barn. What are the odds of hitting a fly sitting there looking at you? Even if you were to aim really carefully, the fly might move, so our hitting anything, much less a planet, much lesser a planet we can survive on, is extremely unexpected, yet here we are.

We'll tell more as soon as Frank gets done drawing all the pictures.

Friday, 8 April 2011

What is the Gaussian Count?

All the tweaking Frank has been doing is finally paying off. One of the big things that Frank had noticed was that there were unexplained power drains when certain folks went out but not others, and he hadn't been able to figure out why there was a difference. The drain has gotten so bad a couple times that the voltage on the capacitors dropped below some magic threshold, and the Door slammed shut. And let me tell you, that's not a pretty sight, especially if someone were to be in transit. Fortunately we haven't had any accidents, and all I can say is that we've been extremely lucky.

Well, he's now made the connection. It turns out that when some types of materials pass through the Door, they cause significant changes to the power that the Door draws, and that's what has been causing the capacitors to drain. To find out just which things are the root of the problem, Frank's been opening the Door just a little bit and tossing various things through whilst monitoring the current drawn. The key seems to be metals, especially ferrous substances. Because the Door is created with magnetic fields, it makes sense that anyone carrying any kind of magnet with them would drain the power more, Frank says. (Obvious to him!)

Of couse as soon as he figured it out, Frank had to put a name to it: Gaussian Count. (Named after Gauss who did a bunch of work with magnetics.) That's supposed to be some kind of indicator of how much the item will drain the power. The higher the Gaussian Count, the harder it is to keep the Door open long enough to be of any use. His task now is to test a bunch of different sizes and shapes of different things to see how to predict the drain. He says that if he knows how much drain to expect, we will be able to keep the Door open long enough that no one has to worry about being left half on this side and half on the other side.

I'll see if I can get him to give me a list of the verboten items, and we'll have Tom check over any equipment brought through to avoid accidents.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Back to 'normal' (what ever that may mean)

Welcome to April Fool's day. Can you really believe any posts made today?? Hopefully you can.

Around here, Frank is back to normal and has gone back to tweaking the Door again, but it doesn't seem to be running any least not as far as I can see. Tom says so, too. Either way, Frank is still at work making changes. He claims to be improving the overall safety of the system, and for that Tom is certainly happy, but he's keeping busy, and that makes all of us happy.

Once Frank is happy with the latest changes, we'll be sending Tom back out for another trip, but until then we're trying to keep up with all the documentation for the modifications Frank is making. We won't have anything available in print for a while yet, but at least we'll be able to recreate any useful updates he manages to stumble across.

Keep busy, and we'll see you next week.

Friday, 25 March 2011

ExTerra is off duty...Frank is out celebrating

I don't know what's gotten into Frank, but he shut down the entire operation this week. As soon as Tom returned, Frank declared a holiday and sent everyone home. Apparently there was some kind of award given to some math guy that Frank really likes: John Milnor.

I had to do quite a bit of research for this one. What I found out was that the King of Norway gives out the Abel Prize every year for outstanding mathematicians, and this year John got the MILLION DOLLARS, so I guess it is a pretty big deal.

So, anyway, apparently Frank has been following John's work on "7-dimensional spheres with nonstandard differential structure". Just what that means, I have no idea, but Frank calls them exotic spheres. What I can tell you is that whatever Frank means by 'exotic' certainly doesn't match what *I* consider exotic.

As soon as the party's over and Frank returns to his senses, we'll have more to report.
[shrug] What can I say? I've never really understood this engineering attitude.

If any of you understand that math stuff, let me know!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Get some sample writing, put Tom to work

Based on our discussion last week, Tom took a handful of engineering pads and a box of standard wooden No. 2 pencils on his trip this week. When he gets back, we hope he's managed to find someone with the ability to give us a good sampling of the native written language.

Only one problem: when he gets back, I'm certain we'll need a linguist. Although Tom has picked up some of the native tongue (which is only to be expected as he's spent so much time over there), he's only managed to learn some rather basic things (food, water, sleep, etc.) and none of the written form. Besides, he's not up to analysing the language to see how it relates to any we have on this planet, if it even does at all. If anyone knows of a good linguist, let us know.

Hopefully we'll have more interesting stuff to report next week.
(Again, if you have any suggestions for Tom, let us know.)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Books aren't common, but is writing?

Apparently books aren't as common over there as they are here, and Tom says that there's not much chance of 'checking' any books out of their library. Frank suggested that Tom take a picture of some of the books, so we can get a sample of their writing, but Tom just grabbed a pen and notepad (of course, it was an engineering pad because we were standing at Frank's desk having the conversation). Tom waved the pad around and said that he was just going to have the town chief write something down. Frank certainly has an engineering mindset; Tom just gets things done.

Tom says that he's certain that the chief would be willing to write something for him because he is a really friendly guy. Remember that I said his name was Shess? Well that's just the nickname that Tom gave him. His full name is Shessiteros; see why we call him just Shess? Tom tried coming up with a nickname for the school teacher, but Zhahmonichas wouldn't go for it. He's a really uptight kinda guy. I guess that's to be expected of anyone who has to deal with kids all day long.

Well, I guess next time we send Tom out, we'll have to give him a whole stack of pens and paper. If the natives were so interested in how books were made, I'll bet that they've never seen entire pads of paper, already lined and ready for writing. Then again, if books are so rare, I wonder if writing is very common. It might be that only the politically connected or school-teacher-type folks can write. We'll have Tom check into that.

We don't have much for Tom to do on his next trip out, so if you have any more ideas, just let us know in the comments. See ya next week!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Books to share

All right, so Tom got a couple books of star charts from the local library and used them to show the natives what he meant about constellations. Most of them seemed to understand, but he said that more of them were interested in how the book was made. They were impressed with the slick pages, the bright colours, and even the binding.

At the level of technology they have now, books are either a stack of almost leather-like pages stitched together with a thong or a scroll of papyrus-like paper. Apparently the oft used books, like the ones they have in the schools, are leather, whereas the ones used by the government officials are the scroll-like ones.

Tom says that Shess, the chief of the local town, only has a couple of scroll books, but Shess says that farther south there's a larger city where there are lots of books. The local school teacher (his name sounds something like Zhahmonichas) has a pretty big collection of books that he uses to teach from, all of the leather variety. He also claims to have even more that he keeps only for reference, but Tom wasn't allowed to see those.

No books brought back this time, but we're hoping. We'll let you know if we have anything more to share.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Sealing the Door room; Getting official

Apparently the problem of getting cables through a hermetically sealed wall isn't a new one. (If you squint, you can see a reference to hermetic sealing on page 162 in the third column of Electrical World from 1889.) Frank just got out one of his electronic catalogues and found what he needed, so now he's going over all the walls he just finished redoing when he built the Faraday cage. First he sealed the room against magnetic fields, now he's done the same for air pressure.

From the comments we've received, it looks like we won't need to worry about customers...once we get fully up and running. When we sent out those hunters, we thought we would be able to handle any problems. They were responsible adults, or so we thought. Boy, were we wrong. (I guess the super rich really do think the rules don't apply to them. Don't worry, they won't be investors.) The fiasco of getting them all back worried Frank, so he's really against sending out any more folks (other than Tom or any of our other employees) until we get things under control. He's even pulled in some legal help, and the lawyers don't want to do anything until we get registered and incorporated as an official company, so that's the next step. (Of course, you know how I feel about lawyers.)

Paperwork with the state takes forever, but we'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Look for us in the magazine

Well, Frank has been spending quite a bit of time with that guy from the Science magazine. They were impressed with the technology he's managed to get up and running...all without knowing how it really works. (Of course, I'd never say that to his face; he really has managed to do quite a bit without an instruction manual.) The biggest issue he's got to worry about now is the pressure differences. Frank has found that the air pressure here at our new location is sufficiently different from on the other side that there is a serious problem. Before we moved the difference wasn't as great. Frank thinks it has to do with the elevation change. He's working on figuring out how to completely seal the Door room, but we still need to get all the cables in and out.

Tom knows his stars well enough to make it across the Australian outback, but he says the stars on the other side aren't the same. He's talked to the natives about constellations, trying to figure out more about their mythology, but either they aren't saying anything or they really don't think like that. They seemed to think that Tom was confused when he started explaining about people and animals up in the sky. Next trip, he plans on taking a star chart so he can show them what he's talking about.

Any suggestions? Let us know.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Power? We've got plenty

Frank has managed to up our storage capability, so we can keep the Door open for minutes at a time...and still have enough reserve in the case of an emergency trip.

We've been having some excellent luck with the natives; Tom has made quite a few friends over there, in fact, we think he may be bringing someone back with him on this next return. We'll keep you informed on that.

Short posting this time...I'll see if I can expand on more of it later.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Trade? Explore? We're famous!

Last week Tom was talking about setting up a trade route with the natives. I thought he was joking, but apparently he was serious. The problem is that I don't know what they might have that we'd need. Although going the other direction, we do have plenty of glass beads and trinkets that we can send over. [grin] Seriously, at this point I'd hesitate to start transferring stuff back and forth. I want to keep Tom focused on the short term trips and getting some more exploring done. There's still a lot of territory to cover over there.

On the technical side of things, Frank has been contacted by some folks at the Science magazine who want to interview him! How they found out about what we're doing here I don't know, but it looks like we're going to be famous. (Or infamous, depending on how they slant the article.) Having an article published should really increase the number of folks who find out about us. The only problem is that the only people who read that magazine are science techies, and we already know what they think about going outside, so what would they think about going OUTSIDE to a different world. I can't see that happening. Oh, well, maybe they'll have friends who would be willing to go on a trip.

We'll let you know which issue has us in soon as we find out. Next week, more news on the power source to run the Door.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Door is aimed right! We've reconnected with the natives.

Tom just got back yesterday, and all is well. As we knew, the Door didn't open in quite the same place as before, but Tom hoped that it was at least close. His only complaint when we opened the Door to get him back, was that it not only wasn't at the same place as when we dropped him off, but it also was so far away that he had to run to get over to it. Apparently there are still a few residual magnetic fields interfering with the aiming. Frank says that he'll work on getting those cleaned up at the same time he's upgrading the Faraday cage. And there's still the issue of sealing up the Door room to prevent pressure difference issues.

Anyway, Tom reports that when he arrived last week, he spotted a recognisable mountain and, based on that, he headed toward the river he hoped would be to the west (like 'east' he named that direction 'west' because that's where the sun sets). It was. He got to the river and headed downstream, arriving in the same town he'd visited before. Success! Although he couldn't convince any of the natives to accompany him back this time, at least he's opened up the possibilities. He said that there are a few adventurous ones that might take the challenge later, after some big celebration they were about to have.

We've only been able to visit the other side for a few weeks, but it looks like although days match up just fine, they are celebrating a late summer/early fall harvest while we are in the middle of winter. Of course at this point we don't even know if their year is the same length as ours. I guess we should send over some astronomers to take some readings...if we can find any willing to risk their lives.

All is well, and Tom is really looking forward to his next trip. See you in a week!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tom is on the other side, checking out the location

Well, the Door is stable, and Tom has headed out for an expeditionary trip. As soon as he stepped through, he looked around and yelled back that he recognised some of the landscape. He said that the mountain range to the east (without compasses, he just named it 'east' because that's the where the sun comes up) certainly looks familiar, though he said that the area where he landed is one he hasn't had a chance to explore, yet. We'll know for certain next week when he gets back, but at this point it looks like the move is complete. We're settled in!

As far how things are going on this side of the Door, Frank has almost finished replacing the chain-link fencing that's protecting the room from stray magnetic fields. The first part we changed out was all the stuff on the floor. We now have a smooth sheet-metal floor. Much easier to walk on. Most of the walls have been plated with metal, too. The only part left to convert is the ceiling. Right now we have metal fencing draped across from side to side, and considering the weight, we might just leave it at that for a while.

One new thing that Frank suggested: he wants Tom to bring back some of the natives to visit us on this side. If we do that, we'll have to keep them isolated at first; we gotta keep any potential diseases under control, besides, Tom is the only one that can even come close to translating what they have to say.

We'll let you know what happens as soon as we know.

Friday, 14 January 2011

We've hit dirt, not paydirt, just dirt

I guess Frank knows what he's talking about. He was able to block the external interference once he built his Faraday Cage. I don't know who this Faraday guy is, but I think his cage looks more like a big-time wrestling cage than much of anything else. It's just a big box of chain-link fencing around, over, and even under the entire room. And let me tell you, having to walk across chain-link fencing is a real pain (and I mean that literally), but Frank says that we can put rubber mats over it for a temporary fix. He plans on replacing most of it with sheet metal, but until then he says that we'll just have to deal with it.

So anyway, once he got all the local magnetic fields out of the way, he was able to tweak the settings to get the Door to open where it had before or at least pretty close to there. He says that we're definitely still on the same planet, and probably even the same continent, but he can't guarantee that we're even close to the exact same spot where we were before. He says that that's a task for Tom to find out, and he will as soon as Frank declares the Door stable enough for a trip out.

I've got to hand it to Tom, with his willingness to just step out into the unknown like that. I don't know anyone else who would be eager to put their life in Frank's (otherwise well-trained) hands. I don't even like being in the Door room when they power up the system, especially after that total vacuum incident.

In fact as a result of that sucky episode, Frank suggested that we seal room where the Door is to prevent any pressure changes from this side to the other. Apparently some of the techies have noticed a wind whistling through the Door when it's opened, but no one bothered to mention it. They didn't think that we might be transferring all of our atmosphere away from Earth and out to some distant planet. That wouldn't be a good way to influence friends and win customers.  :-)

Well, it looks like I've talked too much already, so I'll save any more news for next week. See you then!