History professor William R. Forstchen provided an update on his work studying the dangers of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) event, as well as his research into the benefits of developing a space elevator. While he stressed that, by virtue of the sun's cyclical nature, a major solar flare striking the Earth will definitely happen in the future, he warned that a military-based EMP attack on the United States is also highly probable. To that end, Forstchen observed that a nuclear bomb detonated in Manhattan could kill 200,000 people, but exploding it 200 miles above the city would "take down the power grid" and cause exponentially greater chaos. Although a few states have begun to develop EMP preparedness plans, he lamented that, on a national level, such initiatives continue to stall in Congress.
Forstchen also discussed his latest work, Pillar to the Sky, which examines how the creation of a space elevator would revolutionize life on Earth. He explained that it could be built by launching a satellite into space which would then unfurl a 23,000 mile-long reel of cable down to the equator. Once this cable gets anchored to the planet, it would remain rigid via the Earth's centrifugal force. Simply attaching a device to climb the cable would then allow the 'space elevator' to begin operation. Forstchen said that the elevator would drastically reduce the cost of sending supplies or craft into space and open up the cosmos to the average citizen. "The cost for you and I to go up into space would be about the same as a flight across the Atlantic," he marveled.
Beyond transforming space travel, Forstchen suggested that the sheer length of the elevator would also allow for the harnessing of vast amounts of solar power for the planet. "America could become the global exporter of energy for the entire world by building pillars like this," he suggested. He surmised that once the initial development of the first space elevator is accomplished, building additional devices would become much easier over time. Ultimately, Forstchen envisions the planet looking like a wagon wheel with these 'spokes' going out into space. Should private industry embrace the concept of a space elevator, Forstchen surmised that, at a cost of around 100 billions dollars, one could actually be operational in about 10 to 15 years.
In the first hour, Dr. Joel Wallach reacted to the recent study which claims that vitamins provide no memory or heart benefits. He decried the lack of specific details on the study which dismiss vitamins and declared that the articles about the research "don't even rise to the level of comic books." He also noted that the study is particularly suspicious because it was funded by the drug company Pfizer. "Every function in your body has vitamins and minerals that are required to make them happen," he said, "and so for doctors to say that vitamins and minerals have no positive effects on these things is absolutely deceitful."
Just in time for the holiday season, NASA has released a new photo, from the Hubble telescope, of a distant star shining brightly amongst rings of dust and bearing an uncanny resemblance to a festive wreath. The star, known as RS Puppis, is a whopping 200 times the size of Earth's sun and belongs to a category of stars which are known for their cyclical pattern of growing brighter and then dimmer over time. More on the story at Space.com.