Friday, September 1, 2017

The Antikthyera Mechanism

This story begins as the many great stories do, with a ship, captain and crew in the year 1900 who were simply going about their business as sponge divers. Returning to Greece from an expedition around Africa - the ship had cautiously avoided an approaching storm in the north of Crete and set sail to an outlying island for safety called Antikythera. Being a resourceful man, captain Kondos sent down a diver to see about collecting a few more sponges while they waited for the storm to pass. But something far more astounding awaited Kondos and his crew that day. Beneath the waves and depths of the seas destiny and the powers of time had been ordered to a single purpose and place.

Within minutes, a diver named Stadiatos resurfaced shouting frantically that he had seen hundreds of corpses and horses strewn below. Confounded, Kondo's thought maybe Stadiatos had lost his mind. Kondos quickly pulled on a canvas diving suit and a copper bell helmet and went down to take a look.

It turns out what Stadiatos thought were bodies were actually bronze sculptures from an ancient ship wreck. It seems they had crossed the oceans many times, and now they had crossed the oceans of time. Kondos and his crew took action and retrieved what they could bringing the treasure. For what mysterious circumstances had brought them there but an experienced diving crew, a ship, and specialized equipment to bring up treasure from the sea? But then again there are random things that happen in this universe for which we may never truly understand...

Soon after, the Hellenic Navy explored the wreck and collected more of the valuable marble, coins, and other precious artifacts along with a few curious lumps of stone that that looked like intricate metallic gears. Although interesting, these pieces were largely ignored for almost fifty years until an English physicist named Derek Price took notice. 

Price discovered that they were part of an ancient device, but not just any device - it was something more like an analogue computer. There was an instructive script carved into it that placed it around 200 B.C. period - about 2000 years ago. The device functioned by turning a single input knob, where you could select a date, and the machine would predict with incredible accuracy the positions of the sun, the moon and five planets and the phases of the moon.Dials on the back predicted solar eclipses and the Calyppic cycle.

I wonder if Price yelled out "Eureka" because as it turns out famed Archimedes - the Eureka man himself and the greatest mathematician of all time, was the inventor of this incredible machine. The story goes that Archimedes yelled out "Eureka!" as he ran naked in a street after he watched his own tub water overflow. He calculated that the water that overflowed could be measured equating his mass in the tub. Therefor being able to solve the problem of mass. Eureka!

Archimedes came up with other amazing inventions too, including a mind blowing weapon known as the death ray, where he used gigantic mirrors to aim beams of sunlight at Roman ships to set them on fire.

It's tragic to know, after all of his accomplishments that Archimedes was brutally murdered by a Roman soldier. According to Plutarch, Archimedes was researching a mathematical diagram, when a Roman soldier ordered him to meet General Marcus who was engaged in the siege of Syracuse. But Archimedes declined saying that he had to finish his diagram. Furious, the Roman soldier killed Archimedes.

Despite a his brutal murder,  his inventions and his life were marvelous. Archimedes benevolent influenced rippled, growing from small rings to the rolling waves just beyond our sight.  His life persevered over his death and sent us this serendipity.

Although I am slightly obsessed with this story other people have been too. Hublot's master watchmakers made a replica of the Antikythera mechanism a few years ago scaled down to wristwatch size. The piece was nearly impossible to create and the designers built nonlinear gearings to simulate elliptical patterns in the solar system. It sells online for $233,100.00. Just a little pocket change.

Quite a treasure but the harnessing of time and the original idea was created long ago by a brilliant mathematician, and a brave hero.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Dark Side Of Space

Things sometimes come in threes. The Atlantis space shuttle had 85 seconds before insulation hit their shuttle and caused damage. The Columbia had 83 seconds with the same exact problem. The Challenger's went a lot worse, with just 73 seconds during ascent - but all three shuttles had problems within seconds of launch, and all three incidents had to do with the giant external tank system that lifted them into space. But only ONE shuttle survived - The Atlantis. That third thing with space shuttles was narrowly avoided.

The STS-27 was the number given to the Atlantis for a substantially dangerous mission that remains a mystery - because they survived. Upon landing, the magnitude of the damage to the shuttle was severe, with seven hundred damaged tiles on the craft. One tile was completely torn off and the ship avoided burning up thanks to a steel and aluminum section underneath. So thanks to a steel plate, they survived. But should we really count on steel? I'm a little more interested in a rumor about a secret (Extravehicular Activity) E.V.A. space walk that isn't fully revealed.

Once into space and in orbit,  is it known Commander Robert Gibson suspected outer wing damage, and he was right. Just eighty-five seconds into flight, ablative insulating material from the right hand solid rocket booster had damaged the ship. But due to a complication involving security, mission control wasn't able to see the images clear enough to agree. Because of this disagreement Gibson became infuriated. Although the supposed space walk remains a question, it's well known that Gibson planned to tell mission control exactly what he thought of thier dubious analysis in the remaining seconds before his death if he didn't make it through re-entry. Maybe at that point he would have revealed exactly what he did know but it never became a necessity. The commander and crew grabbed a hold of destiny, and shook their space gloved fists to the cosmos that they weren't about to become a fatality. 

I've read about the shuttles for many years but never really understood the connections between these missions. The information about the Atlantis struck me as important so I saved the file as a PDF to return to later.  Once I poured through the details, I finally understood the Columbia's tragedy. The heart of the investigation centered on the the fact that the Columbia crew might have been saved. The Atlantis had been on a launching pad ready to go at the time the Columbia was in peril. But the Atlantis never went up to help and no effort was made on behalf of the Columbia before they made their fatal re-entry. Just incase you aren't familiar with re-entry its dangerous business because a wave of extreme heat engulfs the ship for a time upon return.  Investigators found out the Atlantis could have been launched just five days early and gotten the crew off the Columbia —or repaired the wing maybe, just like Gibson did for the Atlantis in 1988. This was the reason the shuttle program was halted and investigated. Why didn't the Columbia realize? If only they had taken heed like Gibson. Soon afterwards improvements were made to help the safety of the program. 

Looking back to the much luckier mission - the STS-27, it's documented that even though the crew faced death in the eye, they also managed to keep a sense of humor during their mishap and played a song on the fourth crucial day of their mission - "Do you want to know a secret." Its a weird parody of a Beatles song by - Mike Cahill. I tried to find the lyrics. Well, they aren't available and remain part of a classified file. 

Theres been a few clues however about how many EVA's have been performed giving us a hint about a space walk during the mission, but my take on the whole incident is, its just good to know this crew managed to survive. I don't like dig it up, but the fact is theres been a large number of accidents and close calls in space. Some have been as bizarre as a small fire to carbon dioxide poisoning and worse. But space is a dangerous place to be, and at times deadly. 

There are ancient definitions of bravery that describe men who are best prepared for life and for whom their welfare alone depends upon themselves, or nearly so, instead of hanging their hopes on other people. If this is true, then this was one of those times when astronauts swayed their future and exemplified courage in the purist sense against the dark side of space. 

Coincidentally three (three comes up again) of our biggest losses in space happened on the same calendar week - The Apollo 1, the Challenger and the Columbia. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Space Drama! From Phobos To Mars....

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Science fiction author K. Van Kramer invited to a Barnes & Noble Spring Author Signing, May 27, 2017

Van Kramer joins local authors in St. Petersburg, Florida, to help promote the second book of her series "From Phobos To Mars",  as part of Silver Leaf Books Publishing's science fiction line.

Book Two "From Phobos To Mars" follows the story a quiet agricultural scientist who winds up center stage in a mission to help a small Martian colony sustain crops for survival. Aided by her boyfriend Xanders, and her prodigy son, it's not easy to survive on Mars or explain the stolen genetic mutant crop seeds that she brought with her - much less handle the politics. Complete with a bar fight on Mars, there's a bit more than punches flying around in this low gravity brawl.

Van Kramer says: 'This is a classic space opera, the good old stuff that includes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, chivalric romance and risk-taking. Set in a technologically advanced underground city on Mars, emotional conflicts and personal interests arise amid state-of-the-art technology, and the small beginnings of this fledgling colony become a classic stage for space piracy, military laws and planetary romance. I have a fondness for courageous, misunderstood risk takers like my main protagonist — Dr. Lirren Lamaar, who finds a way to contribute to the colony through her work, amid the chaos and rigorous uncertainties that surround her.'


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Weather Wars

Chapter 1
Washington D.C. - Year 2072

Due to continued global warming, Canada’s northwest passages had begun opening up a new territorial coup with shipping routes that involved the Russians in a region known as the EEZ. The Russians had sometimes jokingly referred to this area as EEZY because they believed a conflict with the Canadians over a few new shipping lanes in their arctic regions had been “easy.” EEZY was a play on an anagram from the exclusive economic zone known as the EEZ where international law states no one owns the North Pole. The United States President soon attended the usual round of urgent meetings asking Canada for a united front in response to Russia who had aggressively reopening military bases in the Arctic. Not long afterwards sanctions were imposed on the Russians. Global warming took on a new meaning when other things besides carbon emissions began to heat up the global atmosphere. After the U.S. continued with simulated attacks on Russian submarines they knew had entered international waters outside of Canada’s arctic regions. Canada claimed this region was theirs but the Russians had been using this route for decades with the help of ice breaker ships. Since twenty-five percent of the worlds untapped oil and gas reserves were located in the Arctic region, the Canadians clashed with U.S. as nations scrambled to lay claim to the riches that lay beneath the ice. 

In the mean time Russian bombers regularly ranged deep into the disputed area. Involving warships and aircraft from Canada, an unfortunate conflict occurred and a few hundred Canadians were killed during their NATO mission in a show down with the USA after the USA decided to lay claim to the region to stop the Russians. Soon after the incident, during a series of investigations, the Canadians uncovered top secret files from a group of Russian scientists who reported something unusual while on a routine oil expedition. Inside the report there was evidence of something that was buried under the ice up there …something…not from Earth. 

The Canadians quickly washed their hands of the file, and turned it over to the U.S. The DoD soon got a hold of it but the Joint Chief of Staff - a man of little patience for such an unlikely ill-defined scenario. After a brief meeting where he was met with a certain lack of enthusiasm with his colleagues in the intelligence community and military, he realized that an investigation could not be put down on paper. Any potential evidence of aliens under the ice triggered a whole set of thorny questions but the Chief still believed it was prudent to have a plan. With an overflowing plate on his hands he quickly handed it off to an experienced colleague by the name of Chris Kyle. A former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, Chris had muddled through other reports in the past on "issues related to UFO's or extraterrestrials" and worked inside an unofficial department with the DoD. 

Kyle soon began to make phone calls to collect his usual handful of top specialists. Scanning over the report knew he would have to track down a petroluem engineer from Moscow by the name of Mikhailo Kiev, and graduate of the Russian Academy Of Sciences, who originally lead the Russian team and signed the report. He had disappeared soon after the report was made. Complicating matters more for Chris was a "Beach-Comber" German spy who claimed he worked for the Canadian Meteorologist Service but who really informed the allies of the Russian whereabouts. Apparently this Beach-Comber also had information concerning a Nazi U-581 wreck listed in the very same area of question...could the two strange incidences be linked somehow?

to be improved edited, and continued at a later time...!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Art Matters

I recently ran across a great article published by a scientist who argued that the arts are far more important than the sciences. His catch phrase that was titled  "We need science to live, but the humanities make life livable." As I studied his story further he demanded that such famous physics equations like E=mc2 could have been discovered by someone else had not Einstein lived, but no one else could have ever created Beethoven's 9th Symphony had not Beethoven lived. This struck me as a profound argument and grabbed my attention.

There is no universal agreement on this question but its not a new debate. It's a long standing one, that stems back to Aristotle, and  most likely before him too. Plato stood by math naming it once as the "God geometries." He believed only math would discover the "numbers and forms" of the divinely ordered cosmos.

Bu let us also consider the artists and lets not forget Socrates, who was his teacher -  differed from Plato and stated that enshrining math hampered the imagination telling only what should be rather than what is... I politely also consider that it was the writers (however the difference of opinion) who record these important doctrines. We as artists cannot forget this argument as we stand in awe at the Parthenon, or look at a marble sculpture in Athens. Is it not the arts that engages us, and gives us a breath of life?

In the defense of science, great art is not so "frilly -nilly". Good art depends on skill, concentration, focus, experience and knowledge- including numbers. Drawing a human figure is all about biology, and what makes a good composition has everything to do with math - in a sense. Knowing and understanding proportions like that the head is exactly 1/16 the height of a body, vanishing points, distance, composition, planes of distance, perspective and foreshortening is all about equations. These equations brought us out of the baroque, into the renaissance. Some of these secrets are very basic - for instance - that you should never divide a landscape exactly in half as it will bore the viewer, or that three points in a painting hidden as a triangle will create a significant balance. In addition large frescoes in the past - commonly used mathematical grids for accuracy. These seemingly opposing disciplines are more harmonious than we think. I haven't even gotten into the Golden Ratio...

I do agree that for instance had I not lived that no one else could write my stories which makes my accomplishments unique. I can stamp my name on them as indeed one of a kind. Although my purpose is to make life enjoyable, I can't really help us live. On the other hand, anyone who argues the point against art suggests that love and compassion are not a necessity. Art is not necessary to live, but without it we lose our humanity. In ancient times lived the greatest of philosophers who aligned themselves with the arts as much as the sciences, while they simply ate bread. 

What art simply means is that we have bodies, but we also have minds that yearn to know and go beyond our capacity to simply live. Arts are a sign of a human existence and economy which can afford to go beyond daily necessities. Art is a sign that we have the ability to stop and reflect ourselves which is gravely important.  

Creative forces are a drive inside any disciplines, and the make-up of the human mind.

Science will find the stars and the artists will continue to dream of ways to get there. It can be deeply engaging, innovative and a high velocity experience when these two sides take notice and willfully respect one another.