From Luxembourg to the asteroids

An odd duo of concepts in the same sentence caught my attention a couple of days ago.

The small country of Luxembourg (sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany) has announced it intends to partner with just about anyone in the fledgling field of asteroid mining.

Now you can be forgiven if you are really ancient for remembering Luxembourg as nothing more than a radio station people in the UK used to listen to before BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 1,000,000 came along.

Delving a little deeper we find Luxembourg entered history under my old mates the Romans. What did the Romans ever do for them? Well, built some nice baths for a start.

After much to-ing and fro-ing it somehow emerged from the Middle Ages as a small and independent Grand Duchy. Now isn’t that a splendid title?

The Nazis wiped it from the map for a few years in World War 2. Now its greatest claim to fame is being home to various European Union organisations and who knows if that’s going to last?  I hope it does.

On a personal note I spent one day in Luxembourg on business in about 1978 so I feel a deep spiritual connection there.

And now the Luxembourgers want to mine the asteroids.

Well good on them! We are running out of precious minerals needed in all kinds of technologies. These being heavy metals mostly sunk down onto the molten core of the Earth over four billion years ago and are beyond our reach. It’s only the tiniest fraction in the top few kilometres of the crust we can ever mine. On the millions of asteroids they are much closer to the surface. Over the next fifty years the cost of utilising these resources will drop while the dwindling amounts left on earth will make the price rise. There’s also lots of ice out there that could make hydrogen for fuel and oxygen as well. There are a couple of American companies already making plans to get out there and do it with robotic spacecraft.

Of course the venture is highly speculative but full marks to Luxembourg for its long-sighted vision.

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Mowing down the enemy – arms race

My adversaries the Bull Ants (Myrmecia) certainly have an advantage that is enviable. As well as being ridiculously strong for their size they have six legs.

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Now I don’t really need six legs. That would make me into some kind of octo-centaur and I suspect I would spend a lot of time tripping over my own feet. Just controlling two is as much multi-tasking as I can usually handle. But on the other hand six limbs would be ok if the additional pair came as arms.

This flash of inspiration came to me last weekend when I was scrambling over boulders at the top of Hanging Rock. Four arms (and still the two legs if you please) would have been very handy in some of the awkward spots.

Think of the boon to society if we all had four arms. The glove industry would double overnight and hopefully the deodorant industry would not be too far behind. The extra rings and nail polish required could bring whole economies out of recession.

Imagine what jugglers could achieve once they had mastered the hand-eye coordination! On the other hand we might see a lot more drab 0-0 draws at football as goalkeepers dominated. Boxing might have to invent new rules. Doubles at tennis would take on a whole new meaning.

All silly ideas but pretty armless.

Please feel free to add any equally daft proposals.

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Mowing down the Enemy – Mercenaries

I swaggered across the battlefield gloating in the thrill of victory.

They might come again but I would be ready for them. I had cut them down to within an inch of their lives (or a couple of centimeters if you are metrically inclined).

Alas, what a fool! My guard had dropped. They had mercenaries lying in ambush ready to strike back when I least expected it.

As I approached the sacred fruit tree with a view to netting it and warding off aerial attacks (birds, but it could be worse) they struck a low blow such as their kind is capable of. The first wound was to the ankle. Then the thigh. How fast these mercenaries can move! As I brushed off the first wave of attackers more swarmed around and one struck at my hand.  I knew it was time to retreat and lick my wounds (or perhaps seek a more hygienic treatment).

These warriors were big, fast and fearsome. Their weaponry delivered a very painful wound.

You don’t want to mess with Bull Ants (Myrmecia) if you can avoid it.

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Mowing down the enemy – Special Forces

I swaggered across the battlefield gloating in the thrill of victory.

They might come again but I would be ready for them. I had cut them down to within an inch of their lives (or a couple of centimeters if you are metrically inclined).

Alas, what a fool! My guard had dropped. They had Special Forces lying in ambush ready to strike back when I least expected it.

As I approached the sacred fruit tree with a view to netting it and warding off aerial attacks they struck a low blow such as their kind is capable of. The first wound was to the ankle. Then the thigh. How fast these mercenary Special Forces can move! As I brushed off the first wave of attackers more swarmed around and one struck at my hand.  I knew it was time to retreat and lick my wounds (or perhaps try a more hygienic treatment).

These warriors were big, black and fearsome. Their weaponry delivered a very painful sting.

You don’t want to mess with Bull Ants (Myrmecia) if you can avoid it.

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Inspiration from Nature

If ever you’re feeling down (and who doesn’t from time to time) there is no better cure I know of than getting out in Mother Nature, Gaia or whatever you care to call it. It is a great way to recharge the mental batteries.

At the weekend I visited Wilsons Promontory National Park which is 500 sq. km. of untouched Australian mountainous wilderness sticking out into the Southern Ocean. The weather was warm and sunny but not too warm for long walks as it will get in summer.

The place has a pristine, primordial feel about it. If we humans had never come along with our cars and campsites it would have been even more so but thankfully development is kept minimal there.

The wildlife is abundant but mostly keeps out of the way during the day.

If you get the chance to visit this part of Australia and like the fresh air it is one of the many splendours on offer.

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On top of Mt. Bishop after a long slog uphill.

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Crocodile Rock.

Fire

The first bushfires of the season have hit Victoria in the last few days.

It’s only the middle of Spring and they get worse as it gets hotter and drier in Summer.

The word ‘bushfire’ makes it sound like something small (a bush on fire) but they are infernos that travel faster than you can run and are kilometers wide. Maybe the American word ‘wildfire’ conjures up the reality better. They jump across roads as if there was nothing there. They destroy property and kill livestock, wild animals and anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path who has not evacuated the area. Sadly sometimes some maniac will have started the fires deliberately.

Our firefighters risk their lives trying to put them out. Most of them are unpaid volunteers. They and everyone else in the emergency services deserve our unstinting thanks.

Then and now

I just joined a Facebook group of people who attended my old school. It’s 45 years since I walked out that door for the last time. I was delighted to see there were still people out there with memories of the teachers, etc. They did a great job for the most part even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time. We live in an age of instant global communication that only science fiction writers talked about back then. We should be very happy about that. But what happened to flying cars, a base on Mars in the 1980’s and the 2 day working week?