Monday, April 30, 2012

Did a UFO Cause the Pakistan Air Crash?

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the cause of the Bhoja Air Boeing 737 crash in Pakistan last Friday may have been a UFO sighting by the pilot.

A Russian news report on the crash posted on YouTube incorporates footage of three mysterious lights moving in formation, leading to speculation in the UFO community that blame for the tragic accident may lie with an extra-terrestrial craft.

There are rumours that the pilot may have been buzzed by the object and complained to the control tower at Islamabad airport as he made his approach, according to Gather News.The official line, however, is that the passenger jet’s fuel tanks exploded mid-air during a heavy thunderstorm, killing all 127 people on board.

Indiana University Students Hold Anti-Zombie Protest

About 30 students participated in what associate instructor and organizer Tristan Tager called a “protest for the greater good of humans” at 5 p.m. Friday at the Sample Gates.

The anti-zombie protest addressed a growing problem in America, Tager said.

Participants held signs that read “Just die. Again” and “More guns, less bites.”

“There’s a permeating theme of zombies being increasingly relevant to American life — zombies running around eating people’s brains, taking American jobs, zombies teaching in the math department and infusing the youth of today with an utter lack of vigor and energy,” he said.

In reality, the protest was an opportunity for finite math instructor Tager’s students to blow off steam prior to finals week.

Tager, who teaches a class of about 80 students, said the protest was partially meant to poke fun at the recent influx of protests on and around campus.
(Full story here).

Did the SOHO Space Probe Spot a UFO?

So, this last week someone spotted an anomaly in the photograph shown above from a NASA solar observatory. The Daily Mail reports:
SOHO, the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, is a satellite built to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind.

SOHO was launched on December 2, 1995.

The twelve instruments on board SOHO communicate with large radio dishes around the world which form NASA's Deep Space Network are used for data downlink and commanding.

‘The video shows what looks like a metallic, jointed spaceship with a gigantic extension, perhaps a boom arm, anchored off its lower end.

'An enlargement of the object makes the enormously large UFO look like a ship straight out of a Hollywood movie.'
However, engineers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory say that the image was caused by cosmic rays striking the camera:
According to Nathan Rich, lead ground systems engineer in the NRL's solar physics branch, the "spaceship" is merely a collection of streaks left by cosmic rays, charged particles from space, which whizzed through the camera's sensor, or CCD, as the image was taken.

"The streaks in question are consistent with energetic particle (proton) impacts on the CCD, something which is apparent in just about every image," Rich told Life's Little Mysteries.

"Notably," he added, "these artifacts do not persist from image to image," — proving they are momentary blips in the camera sensor rather than an actual object in the field of view. Some images taken by the Lasco 2 camera are swarming with artifacts, caused by particles zipping across the CCD in every direction.

As a cosmic ray passes through a camera's image sensor, it deposits a large amount of its electric charge in the pixels that it penetrates. If the particle passes through at a shallow angle to the plane of the camera, it affects several pixels along its path. The result is a bright streak on the image.

In the image in question, a burst of cosmic rays happen to hit the camera lens at just the right angles to create the form of a hinged spaceship. The "boom arm," angled at a slant across the rows and columns of pixels, was formed by a cosmic ray streaking through the camera sensor diagonally and at a shallow angle, depositing charge in several pixels along a diagonal line.
Read the stories, look at the pictures, and see what you think.

Walking Dead Boardgame

For those of you that are fans of "The Walking Dead," there is a board game just for you! (Barnes and Noble link here).

The description reads:
In The Walking Dead Board Game, only the strong survive. The weak turn into walkers and then turn against their former friends! Fight your way through zombie-infested Atlanta with your fellow survivors. Grab some weapond to clear a path. Visit destinations like the department store, old folk's home and the CDC. Find the tools you'll need... to live another day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some Articles on Camouflage

I don't know whether you will need camouflage in a zombie apocalypse, but I suppose that since zombies can still use their eyes (at least until they rot away) and you might have to hide from other survivors, it might be handy to know a bit about personal camouflage. Here are some articles that may prove useful:

(1)  The Wilderness Survival blog has a good introductory article on personal camouflage, including not only visual camouflage, but some discussion of noise and smell as well.

(2)  Ever wondered how different camouflage stacked up against each other? Here is a link to a 2009 U.S Army report of a test of various camouflage patterns under different conditions.

(3)  Here is a guest post at Survival Blog on camouflage, including how to make a ghillie suit.

(4)  Finally, what if you don't have camouflage on? The Survival Topics blog discusses how to hide in plain site with fairly typical street cloths, including photographs.

How to Make a Survival Bracelet

Backpacker Magazine has a slideshow on how to make a paracord survival bracelet.

Review of the Book "Reanimated Americans"

What if the dead rose – and didn't bother anyone? What if they didn't attack, kill, and eat the living? What if they just kind of…stumbled around?

If you think that sounds like the premise of the world's most boring zombie novel, then Martin Mundt has a truckload of surprises for you. In Reanimated Americans he's taken that very idea – a zombie apocalypse minus the apocalypse part – and turned in a savage (and savagely funny) commentary on the world we live in today.

In Mundt's novel, the world has largely learned to live with the living dead. The living have gone on with their lives, concentrating on families and careers and what's on the HD TV that night, leaving the problem of what to do with the dead as something else for the government to deal with. The government, never one to do anything that might upset a potential voter (even one that has died) has granted the corpses milling about American streets full rights. If they were American when they died, then by God they're still American, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Now, 19 years after the uprising, it's illegal to do much of anything to a zombie, including bury them, cremate them or shoot them in the head. Oh, and if you're a government employee, particularly of the new division of the Census Bureau charged with identifying and tagging the hundreds of thousands of dead bodies shambling through the streets, it's frowned upon to call them "zombies," or "deaders" or "Romeros" or "Free Range Soylent Green," or anything other than "Reanimated Americans." And yes, there's a memo that says so.

How to Get Unstuck

I recently read an article on how to get unstuck, in a psychological way. I had followed the link to the article because I thought it was about how to get a car unstuck. Since it got my mind thinking of the latter subject, I decided to track down a couple articles on the subject getting your vehicle unstuck.

Here is one from e-How on how to get unstuck from mud. It recommends:
1. Don't panic. Often a person's instinct is to do the same thing harder, if the initial efforts aren't working. It won't help your predicament to push harder on the accelerator, spinning your wheels--it will just get the car even more deeply stuck. So stop, get out of the car, and look at the situation.
2. Gently push on the accelerator to try to ease out of the mud pit. For cars with an automatic transmission, put the car in its lowest gear and give it just a bit of gas to see if the tires will get traction. For cars with a manual transmission, use a higher gear and very gently let out the clutch, moving the tires inch by inch. If this does not work, try the next step. 
3.  Rock the car back and forth. Turn the steering wheel so the wheels are straight, and quickly switch back and forth from reverse to drive about 8 to 10 times--but no more, or you could damage your car. If your car is still stuck, move on to the next step.
4. Let a little air out of the tires. A slightly flat tire will allow more surface area to come in contact with the ground, perhaps providing that extra amount of traction you need to get unstuck. Just remember to refill your tires as soon as you get to safety.
5. Find something to place under the tires to provide traction. You can use tree branches, sand, boards (check for nails), an old coat or blanket, or even your floor mats. Place these items under your front tires, and drive slowly over them. This step will almost always get a car unstuck from the mud, but if it doesn't work, you might need help.
6. Get help. Call a tow truck or a friend that has a wench to come and rescue you.
The tips given above are also useful if you get stuck in snow or sand. Some other tips on getting out of mud, sand, or snow here:
Plan ahead. Keep your tires in good shape, properly inflated and not too worn. If you live in an area where it snows a lot, consider investing in winter tires. Also, carry a cell phone and sign up with a roadside-assistance program, such as AAA or Better World Club. Some car insurance companies also offer programs; check to see if yours is one of them. Another option becoming increasingly available are telematics systems such as GM's OnStar.

If you're stuck, rock out. Keep the wheels straight, and using a very light touch on the gas pedal, rock the car forward and back by switching between drive and reverse. If the tires start to spin, stop and change direction. In deep snow, and especially in soft sand and mud, spinning the tires just digs you in deeper. If your transmission has a winter mode, use that. If you have a manual transmission, use second gear. Once you get going, don't stop until you reach solid ground. But if you get nowhere after eight or 10 attempts, try the next tip.

Dig deep. Create a path several feet long for each wheel. It's a good idea to make a folding shovel part of your winter emergency kit, along with a blanket, safety flares, reflective triangles, and rock salt or other snow melter. If you don't have a shovel, use what you can—a hubcap, a piece of wood, the base of the car jack, or the spare-tire cover.

Add traction. Spread sand in your tracks, especially near the drive wheels. Cat litter might work, too, but some clay-base litters are useless when wet. You can try the car's floor mats (laid nap-side down), a trunk liner, or a commercial traction aid. Traction mats or grids might also help in snow, sand, or mud. If you need to jack up the car to position a traction aid, consult the owner's manual. The jack has to be on firm ground. If it isn't, place something flat and solid beneath it.

Let out some air. If you're stuck in sand, first try digging out paths for your tires and lining them with small stones, twigs, planks, clothing or carpet scraps. Also try letting air out of the tires. Use a tire pressure gauge to reduce pressure to no less than 10 pounds, then reinflate the tires when you get back on solid ground.

Fill in the ruts. Mud can be a special challenge because it's easy to spin the wheels and sink axle-deep in it. If a tow truck isn't available, you might have to jack up the car and fill the depressions made by the tires with planks, plywood, rocks, or gravel.
Here is another article on the subject from 4X4 Now, discussing the use of tow straps, and a high-lift (bumper) jack. And another from Truck Trend.
Someone reminded me that the old standby of "kitty litter" doesn't work in ice. The litter will dissolve into a slippery slime. So, if you are going to carry something like that in your car or truck, carry sand.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Load Carriage in Military Operations"

A PDF (link here--approximately 8.9 Mb) discussing the use of load bearing equipment (backpacks, MOLLE, etc.) during military operations. The monograph first addresses historical studies and estimates of how much soldiers typically carry, different methods and problems with carrying, and then addresses health issues (i.e., injuries) that can result when slogging around with a lot of weight on your back.

I haven't had time to review the material in detail, but in skimming through it, I think this would be of interest to anyone that hikes or backpacks, hunts while carrying a pack, or anyone that thinks they might need to evacuate a disaster zone on foot while carrying a 72-hour kit or something similar. The section on health issues alone is worth perusing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Glowing Whale Size Object Falls Into Conn. Lake

A state trooper and a motorist reported a large object falling out of the sky in Litchfield, Conn. -- a green, glowing, whale-sized object that plunged into Litchfield Lake. State authorities said no go; they failed to locate anything mysterious.

The Republican-American of Waterbury reports that a person driving in Litchfield at about 2 a.m. Tuesday reported that an object the size of a whale fell from the sky and crashed into Bantam Lake. Officials say that at about the same time, a state trooper 10 miles away in Warren called dispatchers to report that something fell out of the sky and landed near Bantam or Morris.

Morris fighters made several passes up and down the lake in a boat looking for a possible plane crash, but didn't find any debris.

Authorities called off the search, leaving the mystery unsolved.

But science may have the answer: According to the National Weather Service, there was a meteor shower that morning, reported.

Perhaps the whale-sized object was simply a meteor?
Nice theory except for one very large problem. A meteor that big striking the earth would do a little more than simply disappear into a lake. Ergo:

Meteor Crater lies at an elevation of about 1,740 m (5,709 ft) above sea level. It is about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft), and is surrounded by a rim that rises 45 m (150 ft) above the surrounding plains. The center of the crater is filled with 210–240 m (700–800 ft) of rubble lying above crater bedrock.

* * *

The object that excavated the crater was a nickel-iron meteorite about 50 meters (54 yards) across, which impacted the plain at a speed of several kilometers per second. Impact energy has been estimated at about 10 megatons. The speed of the impact has been a subject of some debate. Modeling initially suggested that the meteorite struck at a speed of up to 20 kilometers per second (45,000 mph), but more recent research suggests the impact was substantially slower, at 12.8 kilometers per second (28,600 mph). It is believed that about half of the impactor's 300,000 metric tons (330,000 short tons) bulk was vaporized during its descent, before it hit the ground.

Map of the Dead

Fox News is ever helpful with another zombie apocalypse item--this time, a story about the "Map of the Dead":
Survive long enough however, and eventually you need to restock. Zombie apocalypses generally don't end any time soon.

Good thing Doejo's Map of the Dead includes sporting goods supply stores, along with retail outlets for guns, hardware, liquor and more. The digital developing agency's interactive "zombie survival map" harvests the Google Maps "places" API to pinpoint hospitals, radio towers, military and police locations, along with locations to avoid -– such as cemeteries.

View the map's "Danger Zone" version of the map and you'll see red designations that specify man-made structures. That's important to know because more buildings mean more living people per capita, and that means, ultimately, more dead people walking around.

The jam-packed island of Manhattan, for example, is all red. The so-called "Capital of the World" is also jam-packed with necessary supply outlets, including plenty of so-called sporting goods stores. if you've ever attended a sale at Barney's however, you know competition for supplies isn't one you'll likely win.

Wired noted that Manhattan's island status means cutting outside contagion is easier, but all it takes is a single bite. And if you've lived here during any emergency, you know it's also impossible to evacuate. As for those sporting goods stores, Patagonia doesn't seem to include crossbow supplies, though if lamb's wool cardigans ward off the undead, you're all set.

Your fly-over states are the best bet for survival -- but you don't need a map to know wide open woodsy spaces mean fewer humans to infect, and good hunting means plenty of places to stock up on arrows.
The link is in the story, but for good measure, here is the link to the "Map of the Dead" site.

It looks pretty good, but I noticed that it didn't list a couple gun stores/tactical supply places, or an archery store, that are within a mile or two of where I live (although it had some other gun stores in the town). Also, although it had special icons for certain types of establishments, it didn't have a distinctive icon for a guns stores/outdoor sports stores, which would have been nice.

In short, it is an interesting application, with a lot of potential for someone needing to scavenge after the SHTF. But it is incomplete and you would need to double check it with what you actually know about in your area.

Kansas Missile-Silo Retreats

The Daily Mail reports on yet another developer planning on transforming an old missile silo complex into shelters to survive the apocalypse (whatever form it may take). 
Built to withstand an atomic blast, even the most paranoid can find comfort inside concrete walls that are nine feet thick and stretch 174 feet (53 meters) underground.

Instead of simply setting up shop in the old living quarters provided for missile operators, Hall is building condos right up the missile shaft.

Seven of the 14 underground floors will be condo space selling for $2 million a floor or $1 million a half floor. Three and a half units have been sold, two contracts are pending and only two more full units are available, Hall said.

For now, metal stairs stretch down to connect each floor but an elevator will later replace them. The units are within a steel and concrete core inside the original thick concrete, which makes them better able to withstand earthquakes.

Hall is also installing an indoor farm to grow enough fish and vegetables to feed 70 people for as long as they need to stay inside and also stockpiling enough dry goods to feed them for five years.

The top floor and an outside building above it will be for elaborate security.

Other floors will be for a pool, a movie theater and a library, and when in lockdown mode there will be floors for a medical center and a school.

Complex life support systems provide energy supplies from sources of conventional power, as well as windmill power and generators.

Giant underground water tanks will hold water pre-filtered through carbon and sand. And, of course, an elaborate security system and staff will keep marauding hordes out.

The condo elevator will only operate if a person's fingerprint matches its system, Hall said. Cameras will monitor a barbed-wire topped fence and give plenty of warning of possible intruders. Responses can range from a warning to lethal force.

The article includes graphics showing the proposed layout and design of the different levels. Cost is $1 million for a "half-floor" condo, and $2 million for a full floor. Here is one of the other graphics:

Cool as the concept is, I see three primary problems: (1) how does one propose to get to the shelter when the SHTF? (2) how do you ensure that the first person there doesn't lock out the others arriving later? and (3) what if the zombies get inside?

The last would make an interesting video game scenario--trapped in such a structure, some of the people turning to zombies, the power is out, and there is a zombie mob waiting at the doors....

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chocolate Zombie Easter Bunnies


Joe McKinney Wins 2012 Bram Stocker Award for his Novel "Flesh Eaters"

The third novel in McKinney's four-part “Dead World” series, “Flesh Eaters” chronicles a hurricane-flooded Houston teeming with zombies hungry for trapped survivors. Emergency Ops sergeant Eleanor Norton struggles to bring order to the quarantined chaos, and in the process protect her husband and daughter.
Full story, and interview with the author, here.

Gun Sales Booming

Buyers in record numbers are flooding into gun stores, retailers say. Ammo, too, is flying off the shelves. The reasons for the spike, last seen in 2009, include fears that a second Obama administration might restrict gun ownership and the popularity of TV shows devoted to doomsday preparation and killing zombies.


Other forces besides politics, though, explain the current boom. "There're the 'preppers," explains Parsons, "and then there's this whole Zombie Apocalypse thing."

He refers to two hot trends in popular culture.

The first is a National Geographic TV show called "Doomsday Prepers" that chronicles the preparations being made by people convinced that a doomsday of some kind is coming. A whole industry has sprung up to sell preppers survival and self-dense goods, including guns and ammo.

Then there are zombies--zombie movies, zombie comics, zombie novels, zombie TV shows. Americans' fascination with all things zombie, Parsons says, has grown to such proportions that arms manufactures now have come out with zombie-specific firearms and ammo. Products include a line of Zombie Max ammunition (slogan: "just in case") made by Hornady Manufacturing. "We can't keep it in stock," says Parsons. "It comes in a cool, colorful box with a Zombie on it."

There are more than a dozen manufacturers, says Parsons, making zombie riffles, some with a picture of a zombie on them The two position on a zombie rifle's safety, instead of being marked "safe" and "fire," are labeled "dead" and "undead."

Gun maker DPMS Panther Arms is taking sign-ups now for its fifth annual zombie shoot, "Outbreak: Omega" set for June 23. "DPMS' Outbreak: Omega," says the company's website, "is the Original Zombie Shoot, and the largest. It is a non competitive 3-gun style fun shoot. All are invited to come and try your hand at killing Zombies. Tons of Prizes...followed by a HUGE after party!"

Attendees don't actually shoot Zombies, which, last we heard, don't actually exist. They shoot targets that are zombie stand-ins.

Says Parsons, summing up the reasons for record gun sales, "You got zombies, you got 'preppers, and you got Obama."

Duracoat Comes Out with Zombie Gun Coat Kit

If you are a DIY gunsmith, or looked at refinishing a modern firearm, you probably know about Duracoat, which produces a durable firearms coating that does not require heat treatment for curing. They offer dozens of colors, and even offer "kits" of various colors and templates for applying particular patterns. Their newest offering is a Zombie Coat and templates, so you can add the appropriate splats and biohazard markers to your AR or AK. (Hat tip: The Firearms Blog).

LaserLyte's Zombie Laser Sights

In the official lime-green zombie color. (Story and photo here).

"10 Places to Ride Out the Apocalypse"

A list of 10 places to hold up in to survive the end of the world. In a mostly unrelated note, here is a list of 10 places you can't view on Google Maps. What interests me is the possible link between the two lists. Number 6 in the first list is Mount Yamantau, Mezhgorye, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia. The author states:
While some countries stopped building nuclear shelters at the close of the Cold War, Russia was still putting the finishing touches on at least one of theirs. Most of the Soviet Union's super-secretive closed cities were opened up after the republic's collapse, but a few dozen remain in Russia and Kazakhstan, including Mezhgorye, which services the Mount Yamantau project in the Urals. In the late 1990s, tens of thousands of workers were sent to the area to work on Mount Yamantau, and foreigners were not allowed near the site, prompting fears that the facility housed a missile silo or a nuclear weapons production plant. But US Strategic Air Command has told members of the press that it is actually the wartime relocation facility for Russia's top political leadership. In 2000, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett claimed that the facility was the largest nuclear-secure project in the world, strong enough to resist half a dozen direct nuclear hits. It's also been claimed that it can house 60,000 people, with enough food and water on hand to keep its population alive for months. But if the reports are to be believed, Yamantau does have one small flaw: the mountain's quartz hampers radio transmissions, so the communications systems are outside the facility and could be damaged in an attack. Still, the important thing is, you'll be alive and well fed.
Now, in the second list, Number 5 is a "Mysterious Russian Site. We're not entirely sure why this location in Russia has been blurred out, especially since it's in the Siberian tundra. The closest city is Egvekinot, Russia, which is a neighbor to Alaska across the Bering Strait."

I realize that they are not the same location, but is it the for the same purpose?