It was a September day in 1992 when me and some close friends were camping in Rock Castle Gorge near Floyd, Virginia.
Whenever I go camping I tote along a decent sized pair of binoculars for stargazing. I am not looking at anything particular, just looking. When it comes to stargazing, I am more of a casual tourist.
This Saturday night in September I saw something I had never seen before, something that should not and could not be there.
I first noticed a blinking light, to the north, about 330 degrees. It was high up. Very high up, well above normal commercial aircraft flight levels maybe 100,000 feet AGL. The blinking was maybe less the a one second cycle. The light was stationary relative to my position for about an hour, continuously blinking. At the end of the viewing, the blinking stopped, the object increased luminosity and then moved away astonishingly quick, up from its current position until it faded completely from view. If it had any tint to the color of the light it may have been blue, but I am unsure.
At first I thought maybe a quasar. “Do quasars give off radiation in the visible light band?” I thought to myself. But the star field moved BEHIND it. The blinking light was holding steady.
There was no evidence of it being an aircraft. There were no navigation lights and there wasn’t any evidence of a red rotating beacon. If it was a strobe, why were there no other lights? And why was it stationary? And I doubt there was some chucklehead pilot aboard flipping the landing light on and off for over an hour with perfect timing.
It wasn’t a helicopter. They can’t fly that high up. There isn’t enough air for rotor blades to maintain lift that high up. Besides, the object was about 4 times higher than the highest altitude helicopters currently available.
It wasn’t a meteor as it stayed stationary for over an hour.
It wasn’t a satellite. They move unless it is a geosynchronous satellite, those might blink to the observer and would remain in the same position in the sky, but they would only be visible to the south, behind me. I was looking the other direction.
So what was it? Here is what is wasn’t:
This clearly puts it as a UFO and in my opinion an extraterrestrial craft.
I am a big fan of Carl Sagan and he shaped my scientific view tremendously. He was often found to be advocating, “tremendous claims require tremendous evidence.” I totally agree. I am just one guy with one observation. But still, if you apply Occam’s Razor that stipulates all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the right one, you end up with an extraterrestrial craft.
If you apply Occam’s Razor to this observation, here are the competing ideas.
Quasar – if a quasar was rotating near Earth, within the orbit of the Moon, none of us would be alive right now.
Aircraft – if it was an airplane, the hovering and subsequent acceleration would have killed all aboard and resulted in a fiery crash.
Meteor – if it was a meteor that could stop and go, it would mean the meteor was under controlled navigation and meteors are just hunks of rock… that don’t blink.
Satellite – these objects move in a predetermined path, they do not hover, nor accelerate in other directions.
That leaves us with something from another world. They could have been scientists, observing mankind, or listening to Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper on WROV 96.3 FM, Roanoke’s source for classic rock – The Rock Of Virginia!
But maybe they were just out and about. Maybe they were a lot like me, casual tourists in a very large universe.
I was born in 1963 and grew up on large doses of Apollo. Anything and everything that revolved around NASA, I consumed it with a hunger only a geek could produce. During the 70s my family lived in West Virginia and we would take these trips to various places in the state; Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods, Pipestem – just about anyplace where we could hike, do a bit of fishing and pitch a tent.
On one such trip we took a wrong turn and happened upon the Green Bank Radio Observatory. My head exploded. I had no clue such a facility was in my home state.
There was a tour offered so we stopped in and took a short bus tour of the facility – the guide pointing out the frolicking deer, the softball field and the radio dishes as we went.
The last stop on the tour was in a little meeting room where we watched a short film and heard a presentation. The presenter, with a very distinctive voice, introduced a brand new film titled “The Power Of 10.” After the film, he gave us a short introduction to a program called SETI. If my young kid brain wasn’t blown by then it was blown now. I had never even considered that other civilizations could be using radio. At that period in my life I was an avid ham radio nerd and knew it was possible to pick up on interstellar signals. Only in ham radio, we called such signals “noise.” Whoever that guy was on the last stop of the tour gave me a lot to ponder.
A couple years later a new TV show about space titled “Cosmos” was announced and I was thrilled! Like the geek that I was, I actually had a notebook so I could take notes as the show went along. As the narration started I instantly knew the voice. Lo’ and behold, here was that same guy from Green Bank now on television telling us how Earth was the shore of the cosmic ocean.
So, I met Carl Sagan before he was “Carl Sagan.” I remember at the presentation he was enthusiastic and actually engaged with the tourists. Even then, his passion for teaching was memorable.
I really lucked out. I know this was not his day job. I am sure he was just at the observatory and couldn’t pass up a chance to give a new group of people a new insight to the stars.
On January 4, 1995, the following death-notice appeared in the Winston Salem Journal
ELDERLY SCIENTIST ORDERED EVICTED FROM REYNOLDS ESTATE DIES IN FALL
One of the three scientists ordered to leave the Surry County estate of Richard Joshua Reynolds died last night after suffering a heart attack and falling down a flight of steps.
Dr. Andrija Puharich, aged 76, fell about 7:15 p.m. Puharich was extremely frail and his health had been failing, said Susan Mandell, who took care of Puharich. Mandell said earlier that Puharich would not fight the magistrate’s eviction order, and that he was waiting for his social security check because he couldn’t afford to move.
The other scientists, Elizabeth Rauscher and William Van Bise, are fighting the eviction order, and said that Puharich had changed his mind and had filed to fight the eviction order.
The executor of the estate said that he had recently talked to Surry County Social Services to get Puharich involuntarily committed so he would get some medical help. “I knew he could not continue in that environment without first class medical attention.”
To the people who had known Andrija Puharich, the news of his death came as a shock. Many knew that his health had been failing, but few were aware that, in spite of his frail condition, he was fighting an eviction order. It had all started in June 1994 when Richard Joshua Reynolds died.
In 1980, Josh, as his friends called him, had invited Andrija to the estate to study the effects of electromagnetic field on brain waves.
However, when he died, he had not provided for Andrija in his will. The executor handling the sale of the estate had no alternative than to ask Andrija to vacate the premises. The date was set for September 15, 1994. Andrija was resolved to leave, sadly, but nevertheless with all intent. However, in July 1994, he collapsed and was hospitaised. Examination showed severe diabetes; kidney failure, related to the diabetes; anemia, secondary to the kidney function; high blood pressure; progressive dementia, due to the anemia and lack of blood supply to the brain.
He had sudden violent outbursts, pulled out IV’s and pulled off the telemetry patches. He also had a rash on his leg, a possible onset of gangrene.
The doctors advised Andrija to look for placement in a rest home, but he refused to even consider it. It was then decided to return him to the care of Susan Mandell, but to keep placement in a rest home in mind. On the day of his discharge Andrija was stable, talkative and in good spirits, but on the way home he suddenly developed generaised weakness and was re-hospitaised. A few days later he insisted again on leaving, and Susan signed him out.
If only he had not been so bull-headed he might still be alive.
Andrija Puharich was my former husband, and father of my two children, Yvonne and Andy. We knew that he was seriously ill, and that he had to leave the estate. We had therefore come from Holland – where we have lived since 1965 – for a possible last visit, and to help with the packing and moving. This had been four months ago, in September 1994.
Unfortunately at the last minute Andrija refused to go with Andy to upstate New York, where Andy had rented and furnished a small apartment for his father and Susan, not too far from Maritza, Andrija’s daughter.
It was a sad ending of a difficult, but also wonderful visit. It was a time of lovingness. Danica, also a daughter from Andrija’s first marriage had joined us, and in the evening we would all sit on the porch, enjoying the sound of the rushing stream some yards out in front, and the racket of the crickets. Andrija was like a child, loving every minute of our company. With a happy smile on his face he would look at each of us and say over and over again that we should do this more often. He thought it was Christmas, and he thanked me for getting the whole gang together. “You were always such a great organizer,” he said.
It was wonderful to see how, because of this happiness, his periods of lucidity became longer each day. We acted like the lovebirds we once were, holding hands and chatting away, to the delight of the children. They had never seen their parents that way.
And now, only four months later we are back in North Carolina for the interment.
We sit together quietly as we drive through the rugged countryside in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains towards ‘Devotion’, the Reynold’s estate.
Glancing over my shoulder, I see Yvonne’s hand on the black plastic box that contains her father’s ashes. Her face is pale, her eyes large and dark. The same beautiful blue as her father’s used to be. What is she thinking?
So much has happened since we left the Netherlands three days ago. After the call that Andrija had fallen down the stairs and died, we had taken the next possible flight from Amsterdam to North Carolina. Because none of the other children could come we had taken it upon us to fulfill Andrija’s wish to be cremated.
I shudder as I remember the conversation with the gentleman from the funeral home. To perform an inexpensive cremation – there was no insurance, and no money – he would pick up Andrija’s body at Mt. Airy hospital in Dobson, bring it to Greensboro – the only crematorium for Surry County – and execute the cremation as soon as possible. Thinking of the way it is done in the Netherlands. I had asked if we could be anywhere close by to sit in prayer, and if we could see the body.
“I’m sorry,” he answered, “that’s not customary. Besides, we might do the cremation at night.”
“With nobody present, nobody to say goodbye to him?” I asked.
“I thought you wanted it as inexpensive as possible. If you want another kind of cremation…”
“No, but it sounds so cold and heartless. How will you bring Dr. Puharich to Greensboro?”
“In a body-bag, ma’am.”
I couldn’t believe what I heard.
Andy had handed me a tissue and put his arm around me, “papa taught us that the body is only a place where the soul lives temporarily”, he said, “it is not him in that bag, mama.”
I could tell by his voice that he too was shocked and in the eyes of Yvonne I saw the same.
“He also told us that the body is a temple for the soul. Even in the poorest part of India, they cremate their dead with respect,” I had whispered.
Seeing our distress, the gentleman promised to deliver Andrija’s ashes to the motel, so we could have a private ceremony.
Next to me, handsome in his dark suit, my son looks solemn. I know that he is thinking of how to conduct the ceremony, what to say. I would like to voice my feelings also, but I know that I won’t be able to. Instead I’ll read a last farewell that Phyllis Schlemmer, a long-time friend of Andrija, has given me. It is from Judith Skutch, another friend, and supporter of his work. Unable to come herself, she had faxed the message to Phyllis:
“Beloved teacher… it is with tremendous gratitude that I celebrate your life today. You will never know how profoundly you influenced my life. There must be thousands of others who can say the same thing. Go in peace and watch over us. With love. ”
Judith’ words reflect my own feelings. Andrija had been my teacher also, and he certainly influenced my life profoundly. Although we were together for only seven years, we had known each other for nearly forty.
I had just turned 26 when I met Andrija. I was a happy girl, very much in love with a wonderful boy, with whom I was to go to Holland to visit my parents, and afterwards to India. How differently everything had turned out.
Meeting him after he had just taken his mentally ill wife to a hospital, Andrija -then Dr. Puharich, to me – begged me to take care ‘temporarily’ of his three daughters. When we were “young and foolish” and fell in love, my life changed drastically. Instead of going with my friend to Holland, I became a full-time mother of three little girls, and later of a daughter and son of my own.
After we had signed the papers necessary for the release of Andrija’s body from the hospital the next day, we were surprised when asked if we wanted to see the deceased. Andy and I had said yes. but Yvonne did not feel up to it. The room we were taken to was nothing more than a storage room, a large closet where they, kept mops. pails, and other cleaning paraphernalia. The nursing supervisor, a nice lady, with a kind face and a soft compassionate voice, warned us that the body had not had any cosmetic treatment and was still as it was at the time of death. We nodded our understanding; glad that at least we were able to say goodbye. After she had put on surgical gloves, the supervisor opened a metal door in the corner of the room and pulled back the plastic shield that covered the body. Yvonne was right not to have come with us.
I wonder if I’ll ever be able to erase this last memory of Andrija. His forehead was bruised from the fall down the stairs and under the hairline a wound was visible. His lower denture was gone, receding his lower jar grotesquely. Yet he had a peaceful expression as if he were merely asleep. I kissed his forehead, whispered my thanks for the love we had shared and the children he gave me, and wished him God speed. We were numb with grieve.
Crossing the last of six wooden bridges that span the Mitchell River, we are on the driveway that leads to the big old house. Such sadness, the whole place.
Inside the same filth and stench as in September, with zillion cats scurrying away. I can still hear Andrija’s slippered feet shuffling towards the stairs. We had wondered how he still managed to get up and down, unaided and we had been afraid that one day he would slip.
Quickly I go outside to the porch where he used to sit by the hour, enjoying the sound of the rushing stream. I watch the people assembled talking to the reporter from The Charlotte Observer.
Phyllis, and Henry Belk, a businessman from North Carolina, are the only people I know. Israel Carmel is there too. He is a healer and Phyllis’ husband. Another medium, like Phyllis, is Mary Myer. She has brought a portable cassette player and a bouquet of red roses. Joseph, her husband is an engineer and a psychical researcher. Also Elizabeth Rauscher, the other scientist who faces eviction, is present. We are waiting for Susan.
Off to the side I spot Kenneth, the caretaker of the estate. He is a big, burly, bearded man with the kindest eyes I have ever seen. When I had first met him in September, he wore a cowboy hat and, what looked like a shark-tooth necklace on his hairy chest. He carried a knife and a gun, “to protect me from snakes,” he said. He was at the time with his little daughter, and his tenderness towards her, belied his stern exterior. He and his wife had come to love and respect Andrija.
I touch the small gold wedding band on my right hand ring finger. Not wanting it any longer, I had given it to Yvonne many years ago. “Maybe you want to wear it today,” my thoughtful daughter had said.
When Susan appears, Andy asks us to follow him to the bridge for the scattering of the ashes ceremony. He is hugging a white porcelain urn close to his heart.
“I welcome you all on this sad day to say goodbye to a man who has meant a great deal to each and everyone of us at one point or other during his life on planet Earth. I thank you for coming. Some of my dad’s friends couldn’t be here today, but they have faxed their good-byes. May I ask you to read them, and your own farewells, out loud, please.”
While in the background the music softly plays, I listen to the words of love, admiration, and gratitude for Andrija’s “pioneering spirit; his courage to tread new paths and open new doors through which he guided others with kindness, generosity and humor.”
Although my voice quivers and tears make my vision blurry, I manage to read Judith’ message, adding a few words of love of my own.
When all the good-byes are spoken, we stand in a circle and hold hands. Only the sound of flowing water overruns the silence. My daughter’s hand feels icy, as must mine feel in hers, and we tighten our grip.
After Andy has given us a chance to touch the urn, or the ashes, as most of us do, he tips the urn over the railing of the bridge. “Goodbye daddy,” he whispers, “have a save journey to the other side.”
One by one we drop a red rose into the churning water of the Mitchell River and watch them float away. When everybody leaves, we remain behind for a last farewell of our own. A white patch in the river marks the end of an era,” as Elizabeth Rauscher had poignantly stated.
Back at the motel the topic of conversation is of course Andrija.
“Such a remarkable man.“’ I hear Phyllis say. “It was a joy working with him. I have just rewritten my, book The Only Planet Of Choice. I feel that Andrija as the founder of the original group that worked with the Council of Nine should be in it too.”
Many years ago I had beard about “The Nine” from Andy, who or what they were I had no idea.
With mischievous eyes and his typical southern drawl, Henry Belk remembers the “fun” he had with Andrija. “All those wonderful things we did together forty years ago. Do you remember Peter Hurkos?” he asks me. ‘I brought him to the United States to be studied by André.”
“Sure, I remember!’ ” I wonder if he ever knew how angry I used to be with him when Andrija, on more than one occasion had stayed away most of the night giving demonstrations with the psychic Hurkos in order to get financial support for his research from Henry’s friends.
Listening to the people talk about Andrija, I reaise that I hardly know anything about the work he did for the past twenty years. For a long time after I had left I maintained an interest in his work, but in 1974, I got fed up with him. This was undoubtedly also the reason why his three daughters were not present today. Asked about this by the reporter, who had read somewhere that Dr. Puharich had six children, I had excused their absence as being due to out of state residence, work and family commitments. Besides, I told her, they knew that their father was seriously ill and said goodbye when they visited him in July and September of 1994.
All, except one, I reflect, and I wonder how old Athena now is. Is she fifteen or sixteen? She is Andrija’s youngest daughter from his fourth marriage. Maybe she doesn’t even know that her father died. I hope that one day she’ll believe that he did love her very much, as he did all his children.
Although I too had felt unloved often enough, I always tried to convince them that they were wrong. Socrates, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and many other great minds weren’t the best of husbands and fathers either. Were they incapable of love?
I remember Andrija telling somebody that the happiest time of his life with me had been when we were together in his study, both reading and studying while his three little girls were safe and snug in their beds. Another time, we had five children by then, he said that when he was away he missed us achingly, but while at home he took us for granted. Many years later he asked me why I had always been so angry with him and why I had left him? He really didn’t know.
To my surprise I hear somebody say: “Andrija was such a spiritual man.
“He must be kidding! Andrija was fascinating and exciting. “Never a dull moment with Puharich,” as a friend of us used to say, but spiritual? To me a spiritual person has overcome the desire for worldly goods or acclaim. The Andrija I knew certainly did not fit that bill. He must have spirituaised later.
“Are you all right, Bep? You’re so quiet”
“I’m sorry, Phyllis. I was thinking of the past.”
“The death of a loved one usually brings that on. I hope you’ll also remember the good things you shared. Andrija was not an easy person to live with. Especially for the women in his life he was difficult. How are his daughters taking the death of their father?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to them about it.”
‘When are you flying back home?”
“On the twenty-second of January. I’ll spend some time with Maritza and my grandchildren first. Andy, Yvonne and I are driving to New York tomorrow.”
“Please say hello to Maritza.”
‘Well, I’m afraid we have to leave. It was wonderful of you and your beautiful children to have come.”
“Nice seeing you again, Phyllis. Thank you for contacting Andrija’s old friends.”
“You’re welcome, dear. It was the least I could do.”
Later that evening I asked Andy to enlighten me on the “Council of Nine.”
“It’s a long story,” he answered, “but to put it in a nutshell, it’s a circle of universal beings living outside time and space.”
“Oh!” And Phyllis is the medium through which these beings speak` “Don’t sound so skeptical, mama. Phyllis has convinced many scientists that she is a genuine medium.”
“I’m sure she is, but I’m a bit confused. I didn’t reaise that the Nine also have to do with outer-space stuff. Uri Geller was also a medium, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, sort of. An extra-terrestrial, called Hoova spoke through him. They all work towards the same goal.”
“To warn us that the earth is in deep shit and about to destroy itself. Have you ever read Uri?”
“I tried to, but it was too much hocus pocus for me. Maybe I’ll try again.”
“You should. By the way, you still have ‘Briefing For the Landing on Planet Earth’ I lent you. Read that too. It’s a very good book, written by an objective observer of the channeling sessions.”
“The sessions when Phyllis is in trance.”
“There’s so much I don’t know! Are you familiar with the Nine, Yvon?”
“Not really, but I hope to be soon. Phyllis has asked me to translate her book. Apparently a Dutch publisher has shown an interest.”
“How wonderful! Just the thing you said you’d like to do, being involved with daddy’s work. Maybe…”
“Hey you guys!” Andy interrupted, “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a beer, and some television.”
“One more question and then I’ll leave you two. When you were fourteen, Andy, you told me that you were a space-kid. What did you mean by that?”
“That any minute now my eyes will turn green. Next my antenna will pop out of my head, and I’ll beam you to your room. I’ll tell you another time, mama. Goodnight!”
That night I lay awake long. Could it be true that Andrija had been in contact with space intelligence? Who was this “Maverick,” as he used to call himself?
Was he, to quote Aldous Huxley: “One of the most brilliant minds in parapsychology”? Or had he been a man who was easily misguided by so-called psychics, a man who told tales, or had he been crazy? During my short marriage to him I had often accused him of being too gullible, too naive. I had admired his brilliant mind, and begged him to use it for research that would benefit mankind. For a while he did, when he and a friend worked on a hearing aid that would give sound a new route to the brain – through the teeth and facial nerves. The device, for which a patent was granted, would eventually consist of a miniature microphone and transmitter, to be worn on the wrist, or carried in a pocket, and a miniature receiver to be installed in a hollow false tooth. Through contact with nerve ends in a live tooth next to the false one, electric signals would be transmitted via the dental and facial nerves to the brain. How proud I had been when Andrija told me jubilantly that they had made a deaf person hear. All they had to do from there on was to bring the complex equipment down to portable size.
He had stumbled upon the possibility of nerve conduction as a means of helping the deaf, by accident. When he and his friend Joe Lawrence were both captains at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Md., (Andrija in the Medical Corps and Joe in the Dental Corps) Andrija treated a boy who suffered from hearing voices in his head. When he learned that the boy was a cutter, and that he worked with carborundum stones, he had Joe replace the fillings in his teeth.
His assumption, that if carborundum dust came into contact with amalgam fillings the tooth would operate as a radio receiver, had been correct. The voices in the boy’s head stopped.
Too bad Andrija had not pursued the research. It may have given him the recognition he later on in life felt was withheld from him.
After we had returned to the Netherlands, we received the obituary that a friend of Andrija’s had sent to the N.Y. Times Newspaper and Time Magazine.
She had also faxed it to newspapers in London. Reykjavik. Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Los Angels: DIED, ANDRIJA PUHARICH, M.D. LLD. 76 – internationally acclaimed American scientist, inventor, researcher, physicist, theorist, and author – of heart failure, in North Carolina. Editor of “THE ICELAND PAPERS” (Select Papers on Experimental and Theoretical Research on the Physics of Consciousness) 1979.
Dr. Puharich was a leader in the field of psychical research, merging quantum mechanics and relativity into a new scientific world-view to examine the way in which brain/mind function gives rise to a focused consciousness.
Member of many scientific societies and recipient of numerous awards and honors, Dr. Puharich’s many friends and colleagues knew him as a true Renaissance Man. Six children and three grandchildren survive him.
To write an obituary about Andrija must have been difficult. What to put in? He had done so many things. In addition to The Iceland Papers and Uri he wrote The Sacred Mushroom, 1959,and Beyond Telepathy, 1962, both published by Double day & Company, and both reissued in 1974 by Doubleday in paperback editions. He also collaborated on a book by John G. Fuller, Arigo, Surgeon of the Rusty Knife, and published over fifty papers and articles in scientific and professional journals.
City planners have been pushing back on the idea of VTOL, air taxies and urban air mobility in general. There is a general feeling of fear when this new, and destined technology is discussed.
Over the next 30 years, aviation will change in more fundamental ways than it has since Kitty Hawk. That sounds like a radical statement, but it is true when you consider the impact of new aerospace technologies that are currently being worked on.
Cleantech Current aviation transportation technologies are all based on fossil fuels and hasn’t seen movement since the development of the jet engine. There are two basic types of aviation fuels – Jet A and Avgas. Jet A is like a highly filtered form of kerosene with various additives, usually to prevent icing. Avgas is leaded gasoline, 100LL being the most common. Even though the “LL” stands for low-lead” it is still heavily leaded.
The future is electrically-powered aircraft, but until the energy density of batteries compare to that of fossil fuels, that future may be far off. Battery powered cars are a lot easier to engineer because the car is always resting on the ground, an aircraft must pull itself, and it’s passengers, and cargo up to operational altitude, transit the distance to the destination, land and still have a 45 minute safety reserve as required by the FAA. There will need to be a breathtaking breakthrough in battery tech before it becomes feasible for use in general aviation.
For aviation, the answer might not be batteries at all. Capacitors are rapidly increasing their energy density when compared to lithium ion. “Super-capacitors” have a lot of benefits over lithium-ion batteries, chiefly rapid charging. They also feature longer lifecycles, their manufacture is more environmentally friendly and theoretically they would be cheaper. That said, they will be probably be seen in automotive use cases before they would appear in aircraft.
A great stop-gap to electrify the current aircraft fleet is hydrogen fuel cells. The technology already exists for use in aircraft. You only need a hydrogen tank, fuel cell and electric motor. The typical aircraft would shed pounds, gain useful load and have a much more extended range due to hydrogen having more energy density than fossil fuels.
Autonomy Naysayers and Prophets of Doom™ rally against automation in all of its forms. There is no way around the simple logical conclusion that automation will continue to grow until all human toil is eliminated. White collar and blue collar jobs will be changed in ways we cannot currently fathom. Automation will touch every single part of human society and culture; emergency services, transportation and logistics will be the first to feel these effects. Call centers for emergency services can be greatly augmented by the use of AI. Autonomous aviation is an easier problem to solve than automated driving.
With automobiles, the hazards are mind-bendingly numerous – pedestrians, animals, other cars, drunk drivers, drivers that are texting, drivers that are running red lights – essentially other drivers. Aviation has had a set of well-behaved rules and procedures for operation of aircraft in a complex, shared airspace. And on top of that, there is a robust training program and many levels of certifications and endorsements to access that airspace. So it is a no-brainer that aircraft will probably achieve level 5 automation before ground transportation will.
Aviation has been at Level 3 since the 50s with radio navigation and autopilot. I remember a pilot, from the 1970s, that would fly his Beechcraft Bonanza cross country using VOR as a navigation guide. He would tune his radios to fly toward a VOR navigation station and then set the autopilot. He would then SLEEP until he got to the VOR. When the Bonanza would fly over the VOR, the autopilot would rock the wings of the aircraft in an attempt to stay on the VOR radial. The closer to the VOR, the more the wings would rock and at some point he would wake up and reset the autopilot for another VOR and back to sleep he would go. And yes, this was illegal and wholly ill-advised, but yet he had the tools to do it.
The FAA has already issued rules for the certification of drone pilots (FAR Part 107) and I feel logistics will be the first part of the aviation industry to be automated. In 2013, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, declared his intentions to design, build and deploy a drone delivery program for the internet giant. UPS, FedEx and DHL have all shown signs of interest in autonomous logistics but I am sure their interest is on a much larger scale than the home delivery functionality Amazon is focused on.
Autonomous passenger flight is a much more problematic issue. Uber seems to be leading the way in land-based urban mobility for passenger service. They have a program in Pennsylvania experimenting with self-driving cars and just last year Uber announced their “elevate” plans for flying cars. Insuring passenger safety during automated flights is the FAA’s primary function. Will Part 135 be greatly changed or will a new regulation part be published to handle all the facets of autonomous flight? Time and technology will tell.
Civil Engineering As the FAA weighs and ponders autonomous flight and how it will integrate with the current airspace system, municipalities are wondering how all this will fit with their current infrastructure. Some plans I have seen range from building rooftops airports (Roofports? Skyports?) to complex and expensive infrastructure solutions that included purpose-built terminals and waystations. The key to a successful implementation of urban mobility will require inexpensive and non-invasive solutions. With any journey, the last 5% of the journey to the destination can be the most expensive and difficult to implement.
Applying first principles to the problem can yield some pretty simple solutions.
The cheapest and most most easily adaptable idea is to use traffic circles (or roundabouts if you are not in the US) for VTOL landing pads. Traffic circles are already in place all around the country, usually in neighborhoods and where none exist, common intersections can easily converted to a traffic circle with an integrated VTOL landing pad in the middle. (see featured image above).
Autonomous VTOL air taxis and manned VTOL aircraft can utilize these pads placed in neighborhoods. VTOL ambulances can access patients much more quickly than if they have to use trucks trying to navigate road traffic. Trips to and from a local airport for a commercial flight will be much more manageable with a VTOL trip from the airport to within a block or two from your home.
Conclusions Autonomous transportation is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Within 30 years, the use of our national airspace will be unrecognizable when compared to what it is today. But fear shouldn’t win out, we can make these changes inexpensively, improve the quality of life for everyone, clean up the environment and push humanity forwarded. And that is always a good thing.
If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run – and often in the short one – the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.
Arthur C. Clark, The Exploration of Space, 1951
This started out as an extra credit essay I wrote for ECN-150 in the fall of 1987 while studying economics at Wake Forest University. The original title of this essay was “We are four inventions away from the collapse of capitalism.” Since then, one has already come about.
The fourth invention was “a low or nil cost method of communicating to anyone on Earth in any medium.” Well, that ship sailed and it hugely disrupted the world economy. When I was 13 (1976), I was already neck deep in HAM radio and by 1980, I was already programming APPLE IIs. By 1984, I had already built an email “service” out of a bank of Commodore 64s. I had a front row seat to the evolution of digital communication. I knew it was a matter of time before things would get really out of hand.
These last three inventions will have even more of a disruptive influence.
What I termed as “auto-abundance” is now called “post-scarcity” and it is a more descriptive term but I left the original language out. 3D printing and additive manufacturing are terms I edited into this version in place for “replicators.” Other items were rewritten to reflect events from the last 30+ years.
“The hard work of the future will be pushing buttons”
Humanity’s quest for energy has been around since we came out of the trees. It began with the catching of fire from the Gods and when fire alone wasn’t enough, we came up with new ways to make our work life easier. Some through clever inventions like nuclear energy and others were horrific blights on humanity like slavery.
Energy touches every single aspect of our lives. Every product we buy has the cost of petrodollars baked into it. The cost of materials, manufacturing, marketing and distribution all have the price of oil built in.
Oil is the biggest economic sector on the planet. For every percent knocked off of their market dominance, the more effort would be put into preventing new technologies from coming to the market. When Ronald Reagan ripped the solar panels off of the White House, it was a song to the oil industry that their market dominance would continue to be secure.
But that dominance cannot last forever. There is too much money on the table to replace oil as our primary energy source for this to continue forever. Despite Reagan’s 1982 FY budget, purposefully stunting the progress of fusion energy research, the research will proceed but at an inefficient pace that doesn’t threaten the oil industry. This may lead to other technologies to arise to augment the lack of fusion research. As I said, there is too much money on the table. Also, if Dr. Carl Sagan’s doctoral thesis on “greenhouse gases” on Venus is correct, Reagan’s lack of vision may lead us on a troubling path of ecological disaster.
My overarching point here is that regardless of the level of political meddling and the opposing forces of free market capitalism, will eventually lead us to many revolutions in energy (both on the supply side and the demand side) where energy will be “too cheap to meter,” meaning the costing of reading the meter will be higher than the cost of the energy to create, transport and deliver.
When that day comes, the third leg of capitalism will be destroyed, only leaving the last two. Democratizing energy, like democratizing media will accelerate the advancement of capitalism’s own demise. The capitalists will not be able to help themselves as that is the nature of the beast.
A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.
Contrary to Karl Marx, labor will not always be the force for manufacturing. Robotics, AI and additive manufacturing (3D printing) will kill off most labor intensive jobs.
Roger Smith, the 1980s era CEO of General Motors declared the closing of American automotive plants “essential for survival.” Whose survival? America’s? The company’s? Mexico’s? Looking back, the move was not an effort to reduce cost but to put off automation. Slave wages in Mexico at the time was about 90% of what average wages were in the United States. But again, workers never mattered, production did and automation was embraced.
Those mythical auto jobs that politicians swear they will bring back to the United States no longer exist. As soon as those jobs left the country, those human jobs were quickly supplanted by automation. Packing up a robotic auto plant in Mexico will have nil economic impact to the working class of America.
In the future, there will be a shift from centralized automated manufacturing to decentralized, or “in home” manufacturing. As 3D printers advance, so will the complexity of the things they can make. Already we make clothing, food, complex alloys and other vital items from our current crop of 3D printers. As their abilities become more vast and consolidate into fewer and fewer types of printers, we will arrive at the Star Trek foreseen technology called the “replicator.” The magic little gizmo that can replicate pan-fried catfish, a trombone or a “cup of Earl Grey – hot” will be everywhere and just another appliance in your 3D printed home.
Once manufacturing is truly localized, technology will be the death knell of the idea of products having “labor hours” associated with their creation. When that point becomes zero or nil, the second leg of capitalism will be gone.
“Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those that live on it.”
Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky, 1950
The single last thing that will keep capitalism alive, albeit on life-support if it survives the energy and replication revolution, will be land. As of this writing, accessible land is finite. There isn’t any more usable land being made. What is slowing creeping out and being added to total land mass due to vulcanism is being negated by land loss due to global warming. As sea levels rise, land disappears under the waves.
When jobs disappear, there will be fewer and fewer people that will be able to invest in land or building which makes the available customer base smaller and smaller. It is a spiral of death that the excesses of capitalism will never be able to tackle. There will still be profit to be made until faster than light travel is a reality thus allowing for mass colonization of other planets. This will dramatically increase the number of available acres on the market for development. But since jobs will not increase, nor will incomes, there is nothing to save capitalism from this final strike to the heart. And for every new “earth friendly” planet is colonized, the glut of available land will grow. The size of the newly accessible land will be so enormous that no market will be able to withstand it. A recent example of this was homesteading in the first century of the United States. All you had to do to own land was go there and claim it. The only difference in this new scenario would be that you would not need to “work” the land. The work has been reduced out of the equation by technology. The land is free to the occupant.
When land is given away for free or at nil cost, capitalism has no where else left to go in this scenario. No more lifeboats. No more bailouts. Citizenship and customers will no longer be a bonding element for society or government.
Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, 1979
I know people in Silicon Valley and all around the world that are working on all three of these inventions. There are many sub-inventions that also need to be tackled, but the quest for free energy, replication technology and FTL travel continue, in multiple locations – some secret and some not-so-secret.
There are plenty of human-induced items that can block, slow or prevent these technologies from coming to light. But if the United States blocks it, you know China or Germany or maybe some kid in a garage in India will have a flash of creativity and solve one of the world’s problems. I guess my point is even if one country bans this technology then another country can pick up the ball and run with it. Eventually, one day, everyone will have access to all of this.
If Congress had the mental capacity and scientific education to understand what exactly was going on in Silicon Valley, they would have ordered a nuclear strike years ago.
But they can’t… because it would be bad for business.
An Official Document of the He-Man Mystical Lodge of Male Mysteries.
The Bubba Sudsa is a holy text and should be revered as so. It was created by our worthy Grand Holy Teacher Whose Name Can Never Be Spoken Except By His Most Trusted Apostles (GHTWNCNBSEBHMTA) so that we may evolve to a lower level of our vibrational selves. HMMLMM is only open to men due to the delicacies of manly understanding, thought, and awareness. Other guides are available from HMMLMM to help females understand and nurture the He-Man to be his most mediocre Akashic self.
I: LIBER A vel EXERCITORUM
It is Absolutely necessary that all experiments should be recorded in detail during, or immediately after, their performance.
It is highly important to note the physical and mental condition of the experimenter or experimenters.
The time and place of all experiments must be noted; also the state of the weather, the lighting in the bar, and generally all conditions which might conceivably have any result upon the experiment either as adjuvants to or causes of the result, or as inhibiting it, or as sources of error.
The HM2LM2 will not take official notice of any experiments which are not thus properly recorded.
It is not necessary at this stage for us to declare fully the ultimate end to our researches; nor indeed would weak willed men like you be able to understand them at this time.
The experimenter is encouraged to use his own intelligence, and not rely upon any other person or persons, aside of course, from ourselves.
The written record should be legibly prepared so that others may read it.
The Book of Paul St. Paulie published in the first number of the “Brewers Guide” is an example of this kind of record by a very advanced student. It is not as simply written as we our selves use, but will show the method.
The more scientific the record is, the better, yet the emotions should be noted, when sober. Let the record be written with sincerity and sobriety; thus with practice it will be found more and more to approximate the ideal.
Take eleven six-packs (72) of mixed beers. Mix them up. Chill them. Pick one up. Without looking at it, taste it, try to name it. Write down the beer you named, and the actual beer. Repeat and tabulate the results.
This experiment is probably easier with old, genuine bottles of beer, preferably bottles used for divination by someone who really understood the matter.
Remember that one should expect to name the right beer once in 72 times. Also be careful to exclude all possibilities of obtaining the knowledge through the ordinary senses of sight and touch, or even smell.
There was once a man from Nantucket, whose fingertips were so sensitive that he could gauge the shape and position of the malt and so judge the beer correctly.
It is better to try first the easier form of the experiment, by guessing only the kind of beer.
Remember in the 72 experiments you should obtain 16 beers, and 14 of each other type (ale, stout, lights, and malt liquors); so that without any beervoyance at all, you can guess right twice in seven times (roughly) by calling out Beers each time.
Note that some beers are harmonious. Thus it would not be a bad error to call Budweiser (King of Beers) instead of Bud Dry (Contemplation). But, to call a Guinness (Triple of stouts) for Schlitz Malt Liquor (The Bull) would show you were getting nothing right. Similarly, a Beer ruled by Anheiser Bushe would be harmonious with other Mid Western Beers.
These harmonies must be thoroughly learnt, according to the book 777 Beers On The Wall.
As you progress you will find that you are able to distinguish the type of beer three times in four and that very few indeed inharmonious errors occur, while in 72 experiments you are able to name the right beer as many as 15 to 20 times.
When you have reached this stage, you may be admitted for examination; and in the event of your passing will be given more complex and difficult exercises.
III: SLOUCHANA – POSTURE
You must learn to lie perfectly still with every muscle relaxed for long periods of time.
You must wear no garments, save boxer shorts and V-neck T-shirts. Any more would interfere with the posture in any of these experiments.
The first position: (Home King). Sit in a cushioned chair, preferably a recliner; head back, spine slumped, legs open, right hand resting partially in boxer shorts, eyes closed.
The second position: (The Throne). Sit on chair; legs apart, back slouched forward, elbows on knees, fists tightly against chin.
The third position: (The Whale). Lie on your stomach; arms out to side, feet bowed, roll from side to side.
The fourth position: (The Potato Warrior). Lie on couch, on side; legs together, knees bent, left hand resting on buttock, right hand dangling to ground.
Various things will happen to you while you are practicing these positions; they must be carefully analyzed and described.
Note down the duration of practice; the severity of the pain (if any) which accompanies it, the degree of relaxation attained, and any other pertinent matters.
When you have progressed up to a point that a tallboy glass, filled to the brim with water, and drunk quickly, does not force you to pass water during a whole hour, and when you can no longer sense the difference between your muscles; when, in short, you are a perfect slug, you will be admitted for examination; and should you pass, you will be instructed in more complex and difficult practices.
IV. GUZZELAYAMA – REGULARISM OF THE DRINKING OF BEER
At rest in one of your positions, close the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand and drink slowly and carefully from a mug of beer, while your watch marks 20 seconds. Exhale through the left nostril for 10 seconds. Changing hands, repeat with the other nostril. Let this be continuous for one hour.
When this is quite easy to you, increase the periods to 30 and 15 seconds.
When this is quite easy to you, but not before, breathe in for 15 seconds, drink for 15 seconds, and hold the breath for 15 seconds.
When you can do this with perfect ease and comfort for a whole hour, drinking for 40 seconds and breathing in for 20 seconds.
This being attained, practice drinking for 20, breathing for 10, and holding the breath for 30 seconds. When this has become perfectly easy to you, you may be admitted for examination, and should you pass, you will be instructed in more complex and difficult beer drinking practices.
You will find that the presence of food in the stomach, even in small quantities, makes the practices very difficult.
Be very careful never to over strain your beer drinking powers; especially never get so short of breath that you are compelled to drink jerkily or rapidly.
Strive after the depth, fullness, and rich taste of the beers.
Various remarkable phenomena will very probably occur during these practices. They must be carefully analyzed and recorded.
V: TOOLARANA – CONTROL OF POWER TOOLS
Constrain yourself first to using just one of the tools, by itself, for simple tasks. The five Mojotools are very useful for this purpose; they are: a dual speed reversible power drill; a Milwalkee Sawz-all; a Makita circular saw; a Black and Decker portable Lathe; and a big blue belt sander.
Proceed to combinations of the prime tools; e.g. a table with legs cut with the sawz-all, and shaped with the lathe and so on.
Proceed to making simple moving objects, such as small toy wagons, hanging closet doors, and so on. Avoid working with electronics at this point.
Proceed to complex objects with moving parts, e.g. fold away beds shaped like race cars (for children) with the drawers underneath. All the pieces should fit perfectly together, needing no glues, just dove tail or beveled joints, dowel rods are acceptable.
During these constructions in the mind must be absolutely confined to the object determined upon; no other thought must be allowed to intrude upon the consciousness. You are one with the tools, they are extensions of your true, karmic self.
Note carefully the length of time it takes to make these objects, the number and nature of intruding thoughts, the tendency of the tools to stray from the course laid out for them, and any other phenomena which may present themselves. Avoid over strain – this is very important. You need at least one beer every 30 minutes.
Proceed to incorporating electronics into the objects you craft; to begin with, start with things which are not difficult to comprehend, such as a lamp.
In the intervals of these constructions, you may try to imagine the objects being crafted from the view of other people. For example try to imagine yourself at a craft show, looking at a lamp shaped like a porcupine painted neon pink, think what a garage sale attender might think, or a man at a flea market.
Endeavor finally to shut out all external sensation, and truly become one with your tools. Experience the tools through all vie senses. When you feel you have attained some success in these practices, apply for examination, and should you pass, more complex and difficult constructions will be prescribed for you.
VI: PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS
It is desirable that you should discover for yourself your physical limitations.
To this end ascertain for how many hours you can subsist without beer or snack foods before your working capacity is seriously interfered with.
Ascertain how much alcohol you can take, and what forms of drunkenness assail you. This is a mandatory requirement for HM2LM2 study.
Ascertain how long you can watch pro sports on the television without stopping. Likewise with amateurs, CNN, soap operas, Geraldo, etc…
Ascertain for how many hours you can sleep with out getting out of bed once.
Test your endurance with various exercises; pool playing, darts, soft ball, and so on.
Ascertain for how long you can listen to other He-Men without bragging.
Investigate any other capacities and aptitudes which may occur to you.
Let all these things be carefully and conscientiously recorded; for according to your powers will it be demanded of you.
VIII: A COURSE OF READING
The object of most of the foregoing practices will not at first be clear to you; but at least (and who will deny it?) they have trained you in determination, drinking, power tools, and many other qualities which are valuable to all men in their ordinary avocations, so that in no case will your time have been wasted.
That you may gain some insight into the nature of the Great Work which lies beyond these elementary tests and trifles, however, we should mention that an intelljynt person may gather more than a hint of its nature from the following books, which are to be taken as serious and learned contributions to the study of Masculine Nature, though not necessarily to be implicitly relied upon.
Carefully study of these books will enable the pupil to speak in the language of his masters, facilitate communications with him, and impress babes at parties.
The pupil should endeavor to discover the fundamental harmony of these very varied works; for this purpose he will find it best to study with a number of brews at his side.
He may at any time that he wishes apply for examination in this course of reading.
During the whole of this elementary study and practice he will do wisely to seek out and attach himself to a master, one competent to correct him, advise him, and supply beer if he is underage (though the Lodge does in no way condone unsupervised consumption of alcohol by minors). Nor should he be discouraged by the difficulty of finding such a person. It is best to hang out at the bars waiting for those who are thrown out at last call.
Let him further remember that he must in no wise rely upon, or believe in, that master. He must rely entirely upon himself, and must have a good credit rating so that he may buy his master many tankards of brewski.
As in the beginning, so at the end. As is the foam, so is the dregs. We here insist upon the vital importance of written record as the only possible check upon error derived from the various qualities of the experimenter.
Thus let the work be accomplished duly; yea let it be drunken fully. (If any really important, neat, or cool results should occur, or if any great difficulty presents itself, the HM2LM2 should at once be informed of the circumstances.)
“The Beer King” (B.&.P. Series, Guinness University Press) “The Extra Stout King” (B.&.P. Series) “Bitterhauser”, by A. Sotley “The Stouteishads” “The Bheeravad-Gita” “The Drinker in the Silence” “Tipsy Yoga”, by Swami Breadnsalami “The Sudza Hopsita” “The Aphorisms of a Really Drunk Guy” “The Tankard of Song” “The Book of Lost Beers” “Ritual et Dogme de la Haute Bayer” “The Book of the Sacred Brewings of Abramelin the Brewer” “The Brewers Guide” “The Hopsayoga Drinkika” “The Spiritual Guide of World Bars” “Burpmann’s The History of Brewing” “The Brewery in the West” (Captain Beefheart) “The Drunkmapada” (B.&P. Series) “The Questions of King Anheiser” (B.&.P Series) “777 Bers on Zee Vall, etc.” “Varieties of Drinking Experience” (Fred) “Kabbala Beeratta” “Debbie Does Dallas”
Final Note: This was written by me and a friend of mine that has since passed away. I went to visit Jason when he lived in Annapolis, MD. That weekend, we played a bit of chess, went to see the impressionist exhibition at the Smithsonian, counted the crackheads in Georgetown and ate a really great Nigerian restaurant. Late that night, after a whole bunch of beers, we came up with The Bubba Sudsa.