Friday, July 31, 2015

Israeli Physician Talks About Meeting Aliens: What's in it for us? What's in it for them?

(This is the English translation of Part II of the two-part series "Meeting Aliens," authored by Israeli physician, inventor and creative human, Dr. Yuval Rabinovich. The website that published the original Hebrew version is HaYadan, which may be accessed by clicking here. The English translation of Part I of the series, 'Why we have never met aliens" was published by .)

It could have been very nice if an intelligent species would have contacted us. We could cooperate in outer space research, with deeper understanding of the forces that mold our joint world. They might help us use nuclear power in a non-harmful way. We may contribute advanced metallurgy. Who knows?    

If an intelligent creature would ever want to contact us, it is likely to be wise enough to find out how we treat our surrounding beings. On this point we not only have a questionable past, but also a present. In his book "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" (2014), Yuval Harari explains how Man has wiped out all large animals which could not be directly exploited. After this, he turns against his own kind.

The built-in racism in Man was used to justify cultural and physical genocide of groups of people. The attackers and the victims were not genetically far apart from each other. The Spanish conquistadors easily massacred native Central Americans and South Americans. The Europeans easily enslaved Africans. They did not feel close to each other. Nor did the Hutu and Tutsi people in Africa feel close to each other, a factor that may have been significant when violence erupted again in Africa. But the deadly hostility of Christians toward Jews cannot be a function of genetic distance; it is rather one of cultural diversity only. Even less understandable is the joy of violence between Catholic and Protestant Christians. Nowadays the world is astonished by the sight of Sunni Muslims massacring everybody, including Shiite Muslims, and at least one incident of Sunnis killing other Sunnis in the name of Sunni Islam.

For further reading about the history of racism in pseudo-scientific literature I highly recommend Stephen Jay Gould's 1981 book, "The Mismeasure of Man".

We like nothing more than grading: who is the wealthiest person on earth? Who is the fastest runner? Who jumps the highest? The record holders are highly appreciated, although I am not sure we can explain why. We also cooperate: we have sports teams who engage in ceremonial fighting in which no one is supposed to die, although on some rare occasions sports team fans do kill each other. Anyway, nothing is more important to us than competing, even if it does not achieve anything useful.

We know of only one case of two intelligent species co-existing on Earth. One of them did not survive the encounter although we do not know exactly why. We do not know why Neanderthals perished, and there is not even a consensus as to when exactly it happened. Estimates range from 40,000 to 24,000 years ago. One thing we do know: the Neanderthals – who were not our ancestors but rather a side branch of the human family tree – became completely extinct. We also know they preceded our ancestors, the Cro-Magnons in Europe. This is the only case we know of an encounter between two intelligent species. The weaker did not survive.

Bearing this in mind, we went out looking for aliens. In 1960 astrophysicist Frank Drake started the Ozma project. This is the same Frank Drake whose equation for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations in outer space was discussed in my previous article. In this project, a radio telescope was used to try and detect intelligent radio signals from nearby stars for four months.

In 1972 and 1973, two small spacecrafts were launched, each carrying messages to aliens. These were Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space ships and the messages carried were designed by Frank Drake and Carl Sagan (the late Carl Sagan was an American astronomer who had a great role in popularising astronomy, through means such as his TV series "Cosmos"). At the same time, project "Ozma 2" was launched; alien radio transmission were searched for four years. Nowadays a few projects to search for radio messages from space are ongoing; millions of radio channels are scanned non-stop and analyzed by universities and by people in a joint effort called SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) -- so far, to no avail.

Each Pioneer spacecraft carried with it a gold-plated aluminum plaque with messages carved on it. Let us examine a few of these messages. We will ignore the fact that the drawn images correspond to the ideal American beauty and not of average people. We will also ignore the question of whether aliens can understand that two dimensional carving represents three dimensional bodies and creatures. We will focus on the messages themselves.   

The man raises his hand in what seems to be a universal gesture of peace. We consider it as a message of peace because he does not carry any weapon. This message can only be understood by another violent creature. At the bottom of the plaque we see a schematic drawing of the sun and planets as was perceived by people in the seventies of the twentieth century. Pluto was still regarded a planet and only Saturn had rings. But we will ignore these inaccuracies for the following item: from the third planet, Earth, an arrow points to the Pioneer spacecraft that was launched from it. Excuse me. An arrow? What is an arrow? It is our intuitive way to mark a direction. For this we use a symbol of an aerodynamic weapon. We grew up. We no longer use arrows but rather missiles with the same structure.

To summarize, we are a very successful species. We wiped out almost all large animals, except those we found useful as a food source or as working beasts. The only intelligent creature we ever met did not survive. After that we started killing our own, justifying it in the ways in which they differ from us. We are also eager to meet aliens. We are still the masters in using aerodynamic weapons but our intentions are peaceful.

Why don't you come over?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Terrorists Attack Main Turkey-Iran Gas Pipeline

Gas deliveries from Russia & Azerbaijan, and to Greece & Europe are not affected.

Terrorists have stopped the flow of natural gas between Turkey and Iran, at least temporarily. The pipeline which carried the gas was struck by an explosion overnight Monday (July 27) in the eastern Turkish province of Agri, according to Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. 

“The explosion caused a fire, but we managed to put it out quickly,” Yildiz told the state-run news agency Anatolia, adding the line was expected to be back in service within three days.

Terrorists sabotaged the pipeline about nine and a half miles (15 kilometers) inside the Turkish border, he added.  Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is believed the outlawed (PKK) Kurdistan Workers’ Party terror group was responsible. The separatist Kurdish group often targeted the pipeline in the years before the 2013 cease-fire was established.

Iran holds the largest proven gas reserves in the world – about 18.2 percent of the world total – and the fourth largest proven oil reserves – about 9.3 percent – after Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada.  However, due to the international sanctions, Iranian oil production declined in 2013.

Turkey, a Rising Star in Energy Delivery
Despite the security risks, a U.S. energy agency has named Turkey as the region’s newest rising star in the world of natural gas.

Turkey is “well placed and an increasingly significant hub for oil and natural gas transit from the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia to Europe and th Atlantic,” according to the country analysis published this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

Turkey’s straits, the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, are considered the gateways for transit of Russian and Caspian crude oil to international markets.

The two waterways are the sixth largest transit way in the world, seeing some 2.9 million barrels of crude per day passing through in 2013, the EIA reported last November in its World Oil Transit Chokepoints report.

Turkey currently has two oil pipelines and one for natural gas.

Turkey’s Iraqi Oil Connection
One oil pipeline runs from Iraq, with two branches: one from the oil-rich Kirkuk province, and the other from the Taq Taq field near Irbil. Both are in northern Iraq. 

The former, running 620 miles (990 kilometers) from Kirkuk, has a capacity to carry 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil, but is seldom used due to the presence of Da’esh (ISIS) in the area. 

The latter branch, running 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Taq Taq near Irbil, has a capacity of 600,000 barrels per day of crude oil. It is this line that has been used most often, with about 550,000 barrels per day on average being sent to Ceyhan in southern Turkey in May of this year. 

Turkey’s Oil From Azerbaijan & Russia
The (second) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which began operating in 2006, runs 1,100 miles (1,760 kilometers) from Azerbaijan and has the capacity to carry 1.2 million barrels per day of crude oil.

The two pipelines merge near the Turkish border with Iraq. There the crude oil is piped – or sometimes trucked – to the port at Ceyhan in the south, where it is then shipped to international markets.

In 2014, more than 130,000 barrels per day of Iraqi crude oil and more than 650,000 barrels per day of Caspian crude oil exports were handled at Ceyhan – most of it destined for Europe, according to the EIA.

A third “South Caucuses Pipeline” – the Baku-Tibilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (BTE) – carries 6.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year from Azerbaijan to Turkey. 

Ankara also imports a total of 16 bcm of gas annually from Russia via the Blue Stream pipeline under the waters of the Black Sea, and 14 bcm of gas through the West Line pipeline.

Iran Also Sending Gas to Turkey  
In addition, the Iranian Tabriz-Ankara pipeline – which runs 1,601 miles (2,577 kilometers) from Tabriz in northwest Iran to Ankara – also provides 10 bcm of gas per year to Turkey, according to the Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, BOTAS.

However, the Iranian pipeline is periodically shut down due to sabotage by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) separatist terror organization. 

And there is more business to come.

Future Joint Turkey-Russia, Azeri Projects
One project slated for completion by 2018 – the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) – would see 16 bcm of Azeri natural gas being carried through a Turkish pipeline to Greece and into Europe.

Another is the Turkish Stream Project just approved by Russia this week. The Russian Energy Ministry sent a draft intergovernmental agreement on Tuesday (July 28) on the “Turkish stream” project to Ankara, a ministry source told the Russian news agency TASS.  The draft outlines “an intergovernmental agreement on the project’s first line with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters (bcm),” TASS reported. The decision was made at the “head of state” level in both countries and Russia is “ready for a phased implementation of the project,” according to the Russian Energy Ministry source.

If the deal goes through, the Russian gas pipeline will be created instead of the previously planned South Stream gas pipeline project, which is being abandoned by Russia. The new Turkish stream will instead run under the waters of the Black Sea, in a similar route, and allegedly supply gas exclusively for Turkey’s needs. Lines two to four of the Turkish stream are expected to transfer gas to EU countries, via Greece.

Israel, Cyprus Quietly Cut Deal
While the rest of the region is engaged in tying up their loose ends along the northeastern shores of the Mediterranean, Israel and Cyprus have been quietly discussing ways to expand their own cooperation on energy, even as Israel's neighbors do the same.

On Tuesday (July 28) Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades agreed to join forces to tap the natural gas potentials in the sea beds beneath both their nations. Cyprus discovered gas offshore in 2011; Israel has discovered several lucrative natural gas fields off its Mediterranean shore within the past several years as well, including one of the largest global natural gas discoveries in the past decade. 

At present, Israel and Cyprus are mulling a private project to transport electricity to Europe, powered by natural gas, via an east Mediterranean pipeline and the Eurasia interconnector. The two countries are also looking at ways to tighten security cooperation, since without security there can be no peace.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Israel on High Alert

July 2, 3015 - The Israel Defense Forces have been placed on high alert along the Israel-Sinai border following two days of clashes between the Egyptian security forces and Waliyat Sinai, the Da’esh (ISIS)-linked "Sinai Province" terrorists once known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot also ordered the closure of a major Negev highway due to the security concerns along Israel’s southern border. The road, which crosses the desert towards Eilat at the southernmost tip of the country, will be closed to civilian traffic beginning at 5 am tomorrow morning.

“We have our eyes open and are in full coordination with the Egyptian security forces,” said an Israeli army spokesperson. Thus far, Israel has allowed Egypt to deploy more troops in the Sinai Peninsula than is permitted under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between the two nations.