Asteroid Mining & Space Invaders?

We’re fond of space exploration here at Guerrilla Explorer. From where we stand, NASA’s space ventures have proved exceedingly disappointing in the four decades since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon. The overall focus has shifted from manned missions and space colonization to unmanned missions and hyper-specialized research projects. But now, something new appears to be on the horizon. Are we nearing the dawn of asteroid mining?

The Asteroid Mining Industry?

On Tuesday, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page of Google fame are expected to announce a new partnership with director James Cameron to create Planetary Resources, a company devoted to “space exploration and natural resources.”

“The company will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’.” ~ Planetary Resources Press Release

Space exploration? Natural resources? I don’t know about you, but that sounds like asteroid mining to me. An additional clue in that regard is that Tuesday’s presentation will be hosted in part by Peter Diamandis, a vocal proponent of private space flight as well as asteroid mining. Which makes Cameron’s presence especially intriguing, given that his movie Avatar wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for space-based resource extraction.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, how would this work? Well, it’s long been known that asteroids contain high concentrations of minerals such as nickel and titanium. However, mining it was always considered unfeasible, due to heavy costs and lack of suitable technology. But this was largely because space mining was usually viewed through a government-only prism. As commercial interest picks up, this could change rapidly.

“However, if people were allowed to own space-based property and enjoy commercial benefits from it, whether they be tourism, mining, or something else, there would be far greater interest in colonization. Markets would form, inventors would create new technologies. The cost of space colonization would decline.” ~ David Meyer, Buying Real Estate…on Another Planet?

As for the mining itself, there are several different possibilities. Perhaps the most interesting one is known as in-situ resource utilization. In other words, astronauts would land on the asteroid and uses its resources to sustain themselves. Metals and minerals could be used to construct facilities. Mined quantities of hydrogen and oxygen could be used for fuel. The miners could extract water to drink and oxygen to breathe.

We’ll find out more details on Tuesday. However, if Planetary Resources announces what I think it will announce, April 24 could go down as one of the most important days in the history of space exploration…the day mankind sets forth to conquer the universe.

Buying Real Estate…on another Planet?

Over four decades have passed since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon. But since then, NASA’s space ventures have proved disappointing. No one has walked on the moon since 1971. And the overall focus has shifted from manned missions and space colonization to unmanned missions and hyper-specialized research projects. So, when will mankind begin space colonization?

When will Mankind begin Space Colonization?

A few days ago, Rand Simberg from the Competitive Enterprise Institute issued an interesting white paper on the matter, entitled Homesteading the Final Frontier. In it, he suggests there is a rather simple way to encourage space exploration and ultimately, settlement…property rights.

“At the heart of the prosperity of the West lie clear and recognized freely transferrable property rights, protected under the rule of law. Absent legally recognized rights to buy, own, and sell titled property, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a loan to purchase said property, improve it, mine it, drill for minerals on it, or sell the proceeds from any of those activities. Property rights are a sine qua non of wealth creation and a reason why America and other Western nations are rich and others are poor. Moreover, they lie at the heart of liberty. Their current absence off planet partially explains why we have not developed the next and, in a sense, last frontier—space.” ~ Rand Simberg

Simberg has a point. Space colonization would be ultra-expensive. And without property rights, there’s no benefit to doing so. However, if people were allowed to own space-based property and enjoy commercial benefits from it, whether they be tourism, mining, or something else, there would be far greater interest in space colonization. Markets would form, inventors would create new technologies. The cost of space colonization would decline.

The Current Status of Space Colonization?

Currently, the 1979 Moon Treaty outlaws private property claims in space. The U.S. never signed that treaty. However, it is a signatory to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. That particular treaty, while it appears to outlaw space-based private property, is open to interpretation. According to Simberg, the U.S. government could use it to auction off land in space.

That’s the legal argument. There’s also a preservation vs. development argument that needs to be made. One of the most common arguments against space colonization is that space should be completely preserved from human interference.

“Some of the problem arises from a false conception of space as scientific preserve, rather than as a new venue for human expansion. Under the former view, the universe is a fragile jewel to be observed and studied, but minimally explored, if at all, by humans.” ~ Rand Simberg

It’s similar to “preservation” arguments made in other fields of study. Some climate scientists and ecologists wish to preserve nature in situ (sometimes ignoring the fact that nature changes itself, often quite drastically). Social scientists want to preserve current population levels by managing growth. Malthusianists want to reduce resource consumption. Archaeologists are increasingly turning to remote sensing, ground penetrating radar, and other tools in order to completely avoid excavations. They want valuable and interesting artifacts left untouched and underground, presumably forever. These are strange, almost anti-human developments led by technocrats and guided by the odd hope that nothing ever changes.

“We have all the physical tools we need to build a better future. But the vision of the future itself is missing. We have returned to the mental condition of the Roman Empire; there is no future, only an unchanging, infinite Present. Hitler had the same static viewpoint; he called it the “Eternal Return” and symbolized it by the Swastika.” ~ Bill Walker, Take Back the Future

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

We here at Guerrilla Explorer love the idea of space colonization. It’s way past time humanity expanded its reach past this little rock we call Earth. But while Simberg’s proposal is interesting, it depends heavily on the whims of politicians and bureaucrats. And that’s problematic. After all, these same people bear much of the responsibility for the rather disappointing state of space exploration. As long as existing governments are perceived to own the rights to everything outside Earth’s atmosphere…indeed, the entire universe…space colonization will likely remain a slow, painful process.

On the other hand, a pure market approach, based on the Homestead Principle, could bear fruit. In other words, no one owns anything in space. However, each of us owns our own labor. So, if a person (or corporation) ventures to the moon or to part of another planet and mixes his or her labor with the land, well, that’s ownership.

The Mystery of the Flying Car?

During the 1970s, Williams International built a one-man vertical take-off and landing machine known as “The Flying Pulpit.” This strange flying car stood four feet high and was capable of flying in any direction for as long as 45 minutes. It could speed up, hover in the air, and rotate as well as reach a top speed of 60 mph.

Flying Pulpit – The Mystery of the Flying Car?

The Flying Pulpit bore more than a passing resemblance to the Magnetic Air Car, which was featured in the Dick Tracy comic strip during the 1960s. That should come as no surprise. Dick Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, was somewhat of a futurist and dotted his famous strip with numerous inventions which have since come to pass, including the 2-way wrist radio and the portable surveillance camera.

So, what happened to these strange flying cars? Well, as best as I can determine, they were constructed for military use. However, the U.S. Army found them wanting in the 1980s. Apparently, the flying cars were consigned to the dustbins of history.

While The Flying Pulpit might’ve made for a poor weapon in the face of other aircraft, I’m a little surprised it was never released for civilian use. Who wouldn’t want a personal flying car? Check out this video to see The Flying Pulpit in action.

An iPad…from 1935?

Back in 1935, Everyday Science and Mechanics published what just might be the world’s first attempt at an electronic reading device geared toward the individual. In other words,  the first iPad.

The First iPad?

The so-called first iPad consisted of a microfilm reader mounted on a pole, complete with readily-accessible controls to adjust the screen and turn the pages. You can see a picture of the first iPad here. Can you imagine having that thing in your living room? Here’s more on the first iPad from PaleoFuture:

The future of the book has quite a few failed predictions in its wake. From Thomas Edison’s belief that books of the future would be printed on leaves of nickel, to a 1959 prediction that the text of a book would be projected on the ceiling of your home, no one knew for sure what was in store for the printed word.

The April, 1935 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics included this nifty invention which was to be the next logical step in the world of publishing. Basically a microfilm reader mounted on a large pole, the media device was supposed to let you sit back in your favorite chair while reading your latest tome of choice…

(See PaleoFuture for more on the first iPad)

Uploading…of the Human Mind?

Mind uploading isn’t exactly a new idea. But technology is improving so quickly now that it’s starting to move out of the realm of science fiction and into reality.

Mind Uploading: Is it Possible?

Until recently, mind uploading was confined to the world of fiction. However, new developments may change that. The other day, Russian media mogul Dmitry Itskov unveiled his “Avatar” project. He hopes to perform mind uploading by putting a human mind into a robot within ten years. In thirty years, he hopes to develop hologram bodies. Here’s more on mind uploading from

The Pentagon’s new Avatar project, unveiled by Danger Room a few weeks back, sounds freaky enough: Soldiers practically inhabiting the bodies of robots, who’d act as “surrogates” for their human overlords in battle.

But according to Dmitry Itskov, a 31-year-old Russian media mogul, the U.S. military’s Avatar initiative doesn’t go nearly far enough. He’s got a massive, sci-fi-esque venture of his own that he hopes will put the Pentagon’s project to shame. Itskov’s plan: Construct robots that’ll (within 10 years, he hopes) actually store a human’s mind and keep that consciousness working. Forever…

(See for more on mind uploading)

The Key to Immortality?

Flatworms have the ability to regenerate seemingly forever. Could they hold the key to human immortality?

Do Flatworms hold the Keys to Immortality?

Here’s more on flatworms and immortality from The Telegraph:

Experts from Nottingham University managed to create a colony of more than 20,000 flatworms from one original by chopping it into pieces and observing each section grow into a new complete worm…

“Our data satisfy one of the predictions about what it would take for an animal to be potentially immortal,” Aziz Aboobaker, who led the research. “The next goals for us are to understand the mechanisms in more detail and to understand more about how you evolve an immortal animal.”…

(See Flatworms could hold key to immortality for the rest)

The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

A group of scientists at the Space Biosciences Division at NASA recently made an astounding discovery using carbon nanotubes. What is it? And could it be “the most significant breakthrough in medical history?”

Carbon Nanotubes & the NASA Biocapsule: The Most Significant Breakthrough in Medical History?

Imagine a bundle of carbon nanotubes implanted under your skin. Now, imagine this bundle could be used to self-regulate insulin levels for diabetes patients, deliver high levels of chemotherapy to very specific areas of the body, or provide epinephrine doses when needed for those with severe allergies.

Well, here’s the kicker…the bundle exists and it’s poised to change the way doctors treat all sorts of ailments. Here’s more on these miraculous carbon nanotubes from Gizmodo:

There are no hospitals in space. The closest E.R. is back on Earth, and astronauts can’t exactly jump in a cab to get there. So what happens if the sun burps out a massive blast of radiation while an astronaut is space-amblin’ by?

The NASA Biocapsule—made of carbon nanotubes—will be able to “diagnose” and instantly treat an astronaut without him or her even knowing there’s something amiss. It would be like having your own personal Dr. McCoy—implanted under your skin. It represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of medicine, and yes, it’ll work on Earth, too…

(See The Miraculous NASA Breakthrough That Could Save Millions of Lives for more on carbon nanotubes and the the NASA Biocapsule)

100-Year Predictions…that Came True?

You’ve probably never heard the name John Elfreth Watkins, Jr before. But in 1900, he made a series of predictions…predictions of the future. Did any of them come true?

John Elfreth Watkins, Jr.: Predictions of the Future

Of course, some of Watkins’ predictions of the future were hilariously wrong (“A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling”). Still, Watkins correctly predicted things like digital color photography, television, prepared meals, and cell phones. Here’s some of Watkins’ correct predictions of the future from The Saturday Evening Post

…Yet each new year, a new batch of predictors offer us their forecasts for the future. Most are promptly forgotten. One who deserves to be remembered, though, is John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., a Post writer in the early 20th Century. Back in December 1900, he wrote his ideas about “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years” for the Post’s sister publication, the Ladies’ Home Journal….

Where Watkins was correct…he was unusually far-sighted.

  • Americans will be taller by from one to two inches.
  • Photographs will reproduce all of nature’s colors… [They will be transmitted] from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.
  • Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn.
  • Man will see around the world. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span.
  • Rising early to build the furnace fire will be a task of the olden times. Homes will have no chimneys, because no smoke will be created within their walls.
  • Refrigerators will keep great quantities of food fresh for long intervals.
  • Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America… whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods which cannot be grown here.

A Virus…that Hacks the Human Mind?

Last year, Craig Venter created a form of artificial life, which he called “Synthia.” Now, the field of Synthetic Biology is racing ahead and experts are beginning to wonder what sort of hell this new science might unleash upon the world. Are scientists close to developing a virus that can hack the human mind? In other words, will mind-reading soon be a reality?

Is Mind-Reading a Reality?

The short answer is “No.” Mind-jacking and mind-reading have no basis in reality…at least for the moment. The longer answer is more complicated. Scientists believe that our expertise in the field of genetic engineering is “out-accelerating natural evolution by a factor of millions of years.” And since the human brain is similar in some ways to a computer, it stands to reason that a virus could be created that would allow one person to essentially hack another person’s brain. In other words, mind-reading.

“I advocate that cells are living computers and DNA is a programming language. This is one of the most powerful technologies in the world. I want to see life programmed and used to solve global challenges so that humanity can achieve a sustainable relationship within the biosphere. It’s growing fast. It will grow faster than computer technologies.” ~ Andrew Hessel, Singularity University

How long until Mind-Reading becomes a Reality?

And that day might be closer than you think. According to IBM’s “5 in 5” predictions, mind-reading will be possible within five years. This will be done by linking the human brain to electronic devices. Some early applications include gaming as well as developing a better understanding of brain disorders like autism.

“While much of the brain remains a mystery, progress has been made in understanding and reading electrical brain activity were we can use computers to see how the brain responds to facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and the thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions. So the idea is to use these electrical synapses to also do everyday activities such as placing a phone call, turning on the lights or even in the healthcare space for rehabilitation.” ~ Kevin Brown, IBM Software Group’s Emerging Technologies

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Once mind-reading becomes a reality, it’s not a far jump to mind control. Of course, there are many potential benefits to these new technologies. But the risks remain profound. Will we someday be uploading the equivalent of security software to our brains to protect them from attack? Only time will tell…

Secrets of the Amazonian Witch Doctors

During the 1500s, a group of European missionaries traveled to South America hoping to convert the locals to Christianity. To their horror, they discovered that Amazonian witch doctors actively used a strange potion…a potion which they considered “the work of the devil.” But modern analysis indicates that this mixture, known as Ayahuasca, is far from evil. Could this secret of the ancient witch doctors improve millions of lives today?

Ayahuasca: A Secret of the Amazonian Witch Doctors?

Last month, we explored Kalata-Kalata, a strange medicinal tea prepared by African witch doctors that could eventually help researchers save millions of lives. We also got a visit from the very interesting Sean McLachlan who interviewed an African healer earlier this year (and who, incidentally, has a new Civil War horror novel coming out shortly). Our latest foray into the world of witch doctors comes via a new documentary from Nick Polizzi entitled The Sacred Science.

In his film, Polizzi observes “eight people from all different walks of life, with varying physical and psychological ailments, as they embark on a one-month healing journey into the heart of the Amazon jungle.” One of the treatments highlighted by the documentary is Ayahuasca, “a hallucinogenic drink used in the Amazon region to cure everything from depression to cancer.”

What is Ayahuasca?

Although many recipes exist, the best known version of Ayahuasca is made by boiling two separate plants. This creates a mixture containing a powerful hallucinogenic known as DMT (which is a Schedule I drug in the United States) along with a secondary substance which acts to orally activate the DMT.

Ayahuasca has several notable effects on the human body. It speeds up the heart rate and blood pressure. It creates psychedelic effects. Most importantly, Ayahuasca kills worms and tropical parasites while also inducing vomiting and diarrhea that allows the human body to expel other parasites.

Ayahuasca is viewed with great interest from many people, due in part to its seemingly magical healing abilities. According to a newly-produced miniseries entitled, The Witch Doctor Will See You Now, “it seemed to have a powerful curative effect on the chronic pain and asthma sufferers who drank it for the show.”In addition, a 1993 scientific investigation indicated that “the medicine was not harmful, and that people who took it were actually healthier than people in the control group.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The legal status of Ayahuasca remains questionable in many places throughout the world due to its dependence on DMT. However, efforts are underway to legalize it, both for religious purposes as well as for medicinal ones.

It seems to me that Ayahuasca and DMT deserve a closer look from modern science. But the medicinal properties are not the only things that need examination. The origin of the mixture itself remains shrouded in mystery. The two plants used in its creation are located hundreds of miles away from each other and are surrounded by over 80,000 plant species known to exist in the Amazon. Separately, these plants have no effect. But when combined, they create a powerful synergistic potion. So, who discovered Ayahuasca?

And how in the world did they unravel its mysterious secrets?