Element 115

Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg
Periodic chart by User:Double sharp CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

My high school chemistry teacher made us memorize the periodic chart and would periodically give students an oral quiz. “Kenneth, tell us family 1A.” Then, I was supposed to recite 1A, the alkali metals – hydrogen, lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, cesium, and francium. I thought this was such a stupid exercise. We had a large chart of the periodic table on the wall but he had turned it to the wall. I had read that a reporter once pop-quizzed Albert Einstein at a press conference asking something like “What is the atomic number of rubidium?” Einstein supposedly replied, “Why would I memorize something I could easily look up?” I wanted to tell my teacher that anecdote. I never did. I memorized – and have since forgotten all of it.

The periodic chart changes. I read that elements with the atomic numbers of 113, 115, 117, and 118 were added to the periodic table by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The one that interested me is Element 115. It has an interesting history.

Back in  1989, Bob Lazar was known as an Area 51 whistleblower. He claimed that he examined an alien craft that ran on an antimatter reactor powered by element 115, which at the time had not yet been synthesized. He said that the UFOs possessed by the government in Area 51 were powered by Element 115. His claims were not taken seriously by the scientific community.

In 2003, his claim gained more attention when a group of Russian and American scientists managed to create the elusive element. In 2016, it was confirmed after numerous tests which verified its existence. It was named Moscovium and is an extremely radioactive element. Its most stable known isotope, moscovium-290, has a half-life of only 0.65 seconds. That means the element decays in less than a second and so it cannot be utilized for anything.

The scientific version doesn’t match Lazar’s version. In 1979, IUPAC recommended that the placeholder systematic element name ununpentium (Uup) be used until the discovery of the element is confirmed and a permanent name is decided. The name was used in the chemical community on all levels, from chemistry classrooms to advanced textbooks, but the recommendations were mostly ignored among scientists in the field. They called it “element 115” (symbol E115 or just 115).

Lazar dismissed the early findings surrounding Element 115, stating that he was confident that eventually an isotope from the element would be found that matched his initial description. He was subjected to a polygraph and maintained that UFOs that the government possessed were built and piloted by extraterrestrial beings. His claim was that they were made out of one single piece (no welding points) and were made from a material unknown on Earth and powered by Element 115.

Since I do want to believe that we are not alone in this universe, I’d like to find out that spacecraft exist at Area 51 or at some facility and that they are made of some unknown material and powered by some incredible technology. So far, no proof.

Area 51 sign
A warning sign at the Area 51 border stating that “photography is prohibited” and that “use of deadly force is authorized.” image via Wikimedia


Before We Destroyed Earth, We Destroyed Venus

hot planet Venus

I try to avoid conspiracy theories and fringe science, but every once and a while a story catches my attention and I read on past the crazy headline. Such was the case with a story that says “Humans Could Be From Venus: A theory about the destructive nature of humanity”

Even if your only knowledge of Venus comes from an elementary school science class, you would know that the planet is not for humans. These days we hear about Mars expeditions, not ones to Venus.

The atmospheric pressure on Venus is high enough to crush humans. The air is a toxic mix of sulfur and carbon dioxide. The temperatures on the surface is hundreds of degrees. So why would anyone think that human life might have been there at one time?

It is actually connected to the idea (and supported with money by people like billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk) of a future for the human race off this planet on Mars or beyond. Might the human race have done this move before?

NASA, in looking at our own climate data and worst-case scenarios for the future of Earth, has pondered whether Venus might have once been habitable and that its ecosystem was destroyed. Those scenarios about Earth’s future has a planet more like Venus.

The standard theory on Venus is that natural planetary causes or an event from space created the planet we know. Is it at all possible that humans or some form of ancient human ancestor millions of years ago destroyed the planet? It’s the greenhouse effect unchecked. More CO2 goes into the air and heat gets trapped, temperatures rise which causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and that loop eventually destroys all life.

I doubt that is what happened. This is where the speculation gets pretty crazy in a way that is good for science-fiction plots but not for science non-fiction. Where is the evidence for this Venus theory? I don’t see any – but others do.

Following this Venus line of speculation leads us to ask how and why did humanity make a quite sudden evolutionary appearance on Earth relatively few thousands of years ago? The whole primate to primitive humans to fully homo sapiens has had scientists theorizing for centuries. Having us land here from Venus is an easy (too easy) explanation.

And then we get to all the ideas about things like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and agriculture which all arrive at roughly 3000BCE. The theory that has produced lots of books and movies has been that aliens visited Earth and helped humans leap into the future. But what if those “aliens” were us come from Venus?

Venus dayside
A more habitable looking Venus dayside in false color via PLANET-C Project Team/ EuroPlanet

Venus now is completely uninhabitable. It has a cloud cover so thick as to prevent us from getting a closer look at even the surface. That ambiguity allows the Venus-was-our-home theorists to wonder if under the clouds and surface there might be the remnants of an old civilization. We start out on one planet, flourish for a few thousand years, and eventually ruin the place and then move on to the next one.

It makes for an interesting story. It’s a cautionary tale about what we are doing – and maybe have already done before – to a planet’s environment.

I just wonder why those Venusians who were advanced enough to make it to Earth ended up being so primitive when they got here that they needed to start over. Didn’t they bring any of their advanced tools and records? And why did they look so primitive?

I think I’m seeing more credibility in the old aliens-helped-us theory from the 1950s. If that one is true, they should be arriving again pretty soon to move us off Earth to the next place.

Read the original article that started me thinking about all this at medium.com and read about a new study about the idea of human colonization on Mars.

Feeling the Sun

We finally got a true spring day today and I sat with my cup of tea outside and it felt great to have the Sun shining on me. Would you be surprised to learn that solar storms can affect your emotional health and consciousness?

Many people feel that the Moon affects them, but a lot of research has pretty much shown that madness during Full Moons, increased suicide rates and other effects are more myth than fact. Still, I have read some of the same claims and research into the Sun’s effect on us.

But there are scientific studies that confirm links between solar activity and our bodies and minds.

When I was working and teaching full-time at New Jersey Institute of Technology, I learned some things about solar flares because the university has the Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research for ground- and space-based solar and terrestrial physics. They particularly have an interest in understanding the effects of the Sun on the geospace environment. That Center operates the Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) and Owens Valley Solar Array (OVSA) in California.

A solar storm or eruption is a massive explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere. It releases a tremendous amount of energy and affects all layers of the solar atmosphere. The numbers are incomprehensible to most of us. Plasma heating to tens of millions of Celsius degrees and accelerating electrons, protons shooting at close to the speed of light are not concepts we can really understand.

Animals and humans have a magnetic field that surrounds them. Earth’s magnetic field protects the planet. Geomagnetic activity seems to have three seasonal peaks and these periods are said to correspond to a higher incidence of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and other emotional disorders.

The more obvious effects to point at are how electromagnetic activity of the sun affects our electronic devices. Their effects on the human electromagnetic field and the idea that our body can experience various emotions and changes is a newer theory and more controversial.

Here are some of the physiological effects of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)(which are quite brief) are said to have on us: headaches, palpitations, mood swings, fatigue and general malaise. The pineal gland in our brain is also influenced by the electromagnetic activity, which causes a production of excess melatonin, a hormone that can cause drowsiness.

Might CMEs cause physical sensations because of distortions of energy flow inside the body? Hot and cold sensations, sensations of “electricity” and extreme environmental sensitivity have all been “reported” by people.

But our bodies are said to also have an emotional response to these hidden waves of energy. Some of the claims I have read seem rather extreme, pointing to increases in addiction, health problems, depression, unhealthy relationships, repressed emotions and desires.

I have read a number of articles the past week from “Scientific Evidence that Geomagnetic Storms Are Making You Sick“(much of that research coming from Russia) to more New Age pieces that see solar storms as changing human consciousness.

At this point, I would say these connections are somewhere between science and belief, but are interesting enough to continue researching. Will they cause a shift in our consciousness? The Sun has been shining on Earth for a long time and I haven’t seen it happen yet.

I haven’t found a good guide to when to expect these solar storms, but I did find lots of suggestions for how to cope with their effects on us, including ​salt baths, magnesium supplements, ​drink a lot of pure water, ​meditate more or do stillness, relaxation & breathing exercise, ​gentle exercise, and staying away from negative people. I would recommend all but the first two in that list anyway!




A Time Traveler’s Tale

I wrote last week about the legendary Bigfoot and I hesitated to write this weekend about more fringe science, but I have a longtime fascination with time travel and a story about a time traveler caught my attention this past week.

Let’s start out by saying this tale is very likely a hoax, but it captivated fans of time travel, the supernatural and the paranormal.

It started with an online post in November 2000 by someone who called himself Timetravel_0 but would come to be known as John Titor.

John Titor said he was a man from the future, who had been sent to the past (our present) to retrieve a portable computer in order to correct something that had happened in his future world.

John said he traveled back from 2036. He posted on the Art Bell BBS Forums. Art Bell is an American broadcaster and author who was the founder/host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM and a companion show Dreamland.

John Titor’s posts ended in late March 2001 but a number of websites reproduced Titor’s posts and sometimes arranged them to create a kind of narrative.

Titor posted right off pictures of his time machine and its operations manual. As you would expect, Bell’s listeners hit him with lots of questions about why he was here and the physics of time travel. He did engage with others on the Bell forum and also on several other online sites.

IBM 5100

Titor claimed to be an American soldier based in Tampa, Florida in 2036. He had earlier been assigned to time-travel back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. He said the 5100 was needed in order to debug various legacy computer programs in 2036. I haven’t dug deeper into this computer – which seems like an odd old technology that would be needed in the future – but others have commented that it may be a reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. So, Titor was sent back two years before the problem would occur to get the old technology. The IBM 5100 was not a powerful computer and it ran the not very sophisticated APL and BASIC programming languages.

Now in 2000, Titor said he was visiting again for “personal reasons” which included collecting pictures lost in a future civil war and to visit his family.

Titor made a number of predictions – some vague and some specific – about coming events. he described life after a nuclear war, the breakup of the United States into five smaller sovereignties, and the assertion that CERN would discover the basis for time travel sometime around 2001, with the creation of miniature black holes.

Because some of his predictions have already passed and not occurred, people say it was all a hoax. Of course, there are believers that say that Titor or other time travelers have returned to correct things so that these tragedies did not occur.

One of Titor’s “predictions” (not really a prediction since he claimed to be telling us a future history) was of an upcoming civil war in the United States having to do with “order and rights.” He claimed it would begin in 2004 with civil unrest surrounding the presidential election of that year.

He didn’t seem to know that it would be the John Kerry vs. George W.Bush election. This civil conflict build and fully erupt by 2008. Of course, there was unrest during that period and foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush’s War on Terrorism and the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Titor was also big on alerting the public about the threat of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease spread through beef products, which might remind people of “Mad Cow” disease.

Titor said that UFOs were still a mystery in his time, but he thought that extraterrestrials might be travelers from much further into the future.

As a student of time travel, I wondered about all these interactions Titor was having in the past. Wasn’t he afraid he would change something disastrously? Had he seen Back to the Future? Didn’t he know what would happen to Marty McFly if he met himself in the past or stopped his parents from dating and getting married? hadn’t he heard of the Grandfather Paradox in which a person travels to the past and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their father or mother, which prevents the time traveler’s existence.

Titor was unconcerned. He claimed that the “Everett–Wheeler model of quantum physics,” better known as the many-worlds interpretation, is correct. In that model, every possible outcome of a quantum decision occurs in a separate “universe.” No worries about any grandfather paradox. You would be  killing a different grandfather in a different timeline.

By that model, the chances of everything happening someplace at sometime in the superverse are 100%. And so, maybe John Titor did travel back to 1975 and 2000.

On March 21, 2001, John Titor wrote that he would be returning to 2036, and he was never heard from again.

A book titled John Titor A Time Traveler’s Tale was compiled by John’s mother in our time using John’s posts and published as a 164 page paperback. It includes the black and white photos he posted of his time machine and its operations manual. It is now something of a rarity and it sells online for $130-$600. Not bad for a hoax.

John, if you read this, post a comment and give us an update.


My Bigfoot Birthday

Back in 1967 on my birthday, probably the most famous film sighting of Bigfoot was made. I’m not a hardcore Bigfoot believer, but it is such a long-running rumor that I can’t help but wonder. Is it a big hoax perpetuated by multiple generations of people, or is something out there?

That October 20, 1967 film clip was made by Robert Patterson, an amateur Bigfoot hunter, along with Bob Gimlin, a guide for Patterson.

They set out on horseback to try to capture a sasquatch on film. They followed sets of tracks and at Bluff Creek, California their horses spooked and they spotted a kneeling bigfoot. Whatever it was got up, walked across a sandbar and disappeared into the tree line.

Patterson was thrown from his horse, but when he got up he ran after the creature and shot about a minute of film before the reel ran out.

Gimlin watched and had a rifle but didn’t shoot.

The  footage is known as the Patterson–Gimlin film. Patterson thought he had proof, but the shaky footage just caused more controversy and questions about the film’s authenticity.

He died a little over 5 years later. He wondered if they should have shot and tried to disable or kill the bigfoot as the only way to convince doubters.

I have read that the only film footage more analyzed in recent history is the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. Some people have claimed that the footage actually shows two bigfoots.

Watch the film. What do you see?

Say what you will about Bigfoot, but there is a lot of interest in the topic. A search on Amazon turns up 10,230 results, and a Google search turns up 28,900,000 results.

If this topic has your interest, two episodes about Bigfoot from In Search Of and Mysterious Monsters are online.

I’m Not a Star Seed

I’m not a star seed. I didn’t even know there was the possibility that I could be until this week. I’m still not so sure that anyone might be one.

I am sure that we are made of stardust, just as Joni Mitchell sang in “Woodstock.”

Science bears this idea out – “Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.”

But Star Seeds are way beyond that. Star Seeds are defined as beings that have experienced life elsewhere in the Universe on other planets and in non-physical dimensions other than on Earth. They may also have had previous life times on earth.

Also known as Star People, this New Age belief seems to have been introduced by Brad Steiger, a very prolific writer of oddities, in his book Gods of Aquarius. He posited that people originated as extraterrestrials and arrived on Earth through birth or as a walk-in to an existing human body.

Alien-human hybrids sends my mind right to some X-Files episodes and more than a few science-fiction tales. Going back further, there are “star people” in some Native American spiritual mythologies.

Steiger said that one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Philip K. Dick, had written to him in the late 1970s to say he thought he might be one of the star people, and that his novel VALIS contained related themes.

There are several websites listing characteristics of a Star Seed – and I definitely have a few of them – but I don’t think I am one of them.

But humans are made of stardust, in that humans and their galaxy have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms. The building blocks of life are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur and fairly recently astronomers have cataloged the abundance of these elements in a huge sample of stars.