Everything you need to know about the space travel.

Everything you need to know about the space travel.


Have you ever wondered when we will be able to travel to distant stars as easily as in science fiction stories? NASA Glenn’sMarc Millis, who has taken a break from Project Management for NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project to return to conducting research, offers this assessment of the prospects for achieving the propulsion breakthroughs that would enable such far-future visions of interstellar travel.

This web site focuses on the propulsion related issues, explaining the challenges of interstellar travel, existing propulsion ideas, and the possibilities emerging from scientific literature that may one day provide the desired breakthroughs. To simplify the presentation for the general public, analogies to familiar science fiction are used. This site is intended for public audiences, whereas researchers might want to check out the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project web site.

A Look at the Scaling

The ideal interstellar propulsion system would be one that could get you to other stars as quickly and comfortably as envisioned in science fiction. Before this can become a reality, three scientific breakthroughs are needed: discovery of a means to exceed light speed, discovery of a means to propel a vehicle without propellant, and discovery of a means to power such devices. Why? – Because space is big, really, really, really big.

Space takes up a lot of space!

Interstellar distances are so astronomical (pun intended) that it is difficult to convey this expanse. Consider the following analogy: If the sun were the size of a typical, 1/2 inch diameter marble, the distance from the sun to the Earth, called an “Astronomical Unit (AU)” would be about 4 feet, the Earth would be barely thicker than a sheet of paper, and the orbit of the Moon would be about a 1/4 inch in diameter. On this scale, the closest neighboring star is about 210 miles away. That’s about the distance from Cleveland to Cincinnati.


To help put this in perspective, consider that it takes light over 8 minutes to cover that 4 ft “Astronomical Unit” mentioned before. Light is the fastest thing that we know to exist! Just imagine… How long will take you to travel 210 miles if it takes you over 8 minutes to travel just 4 feet? Actually, the answer is 4.2 years. Our nearest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 Light Years away.


The Voyager spacecraft left the solar system at 37,000 miles per hour. At that speed, it would take Voyager 80,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri.

Speed: Getting there in a reasonable time – an obvious challenge


The most obvious challenge to practical interstellar travel is speed. Our nearest neighboring star is 4.2 Light Years away. Trip times to reach our nearest neighboring star at conventional speeds would be prohibitively long. At 55 miles-per-hour for example, it would take over 50 million years to get there! I don’t think even the twinkies in the glove box would survive that long. At a more typical spacecraft speed, for example the 3-day trip time that it took the Apollo spacecraft to reach the moon, it would still take over 900 thousand years. I still don’t think the twinkies will make it. And even if we consider the staggering speed of 37-thousand miles-per-hour, which was the speed of the NASA Voyager spacecraft as it left our solar system years ago, the trip would still take 80,000 years. Maybe the twinkies would make it, but there would be nothing left on board to eat them. In conclusion, if we want to cruise to other stars within comfortable and fundable time spans (say, less than a term in Congress), we have to figure out a way to go faster than light.

Mass: Rockets use too much propellant – a less obvious challenge

A less obvious challenge is overcoming the limitations of rockets. The problem is fuel, or more specifically, rocket propellant. Unlike a car that has the road to push against, or an airplane that has the air to push against, rockets don’t have roads or air in space. Today’s spacecraft use rockets and rockets use large quantities of propellant. As propellant blasts out of the rocket in one direction, it pushes the spacecraft in the other — Newton’s third law. The farther or faster we wish to travel, the more propellant we’ll need. For long journeys to neighboring stars, the amount of propellant we would need would be enormous and prohibitively expensive.


This chart highlights two critical features of a rocket, Thrust and Specific Impulse. Thrust is how much push a rocket can give. The higher up on the chart, the greater the push.

Specific Impulse can be thought of as a kind of fuel efficiency for rocket engines, analogous to the miles-per-gallon for cars. The farther right on the chart, the less propellant you’ll need. It really has to do with how fast the fuel blasts out of the rocket.

What you should notice is the red region. This is the range of rocket performance we can conceivably create with what we know today. And what we need for interstellar travel is in that desired region or even more fuel efficient.


Here are four examples of what it would take to send a canister about the size of a Shuttle payload (or a school bus) past our nearest neighboring star…and allowing 900 years for it to make this journey.

Well….If you use chemical engines like those that are on the Shuttle, well…, sorry, there isn’t enough mass in the universe to supply the rocket propellant you’d need.

So let’s step up to next possibilities, nuclear rockets with a predicted performance that’s 10 to 20 times better!

Well…it’s still not looking all that good. For a fission rocket you would need a BILLION SUPERTANKER size propellant tanks to get you there, and even with fusion rockets you would still need a THOUSAND SUPERTANKERS!

Even if we look at the best conceivable performance that we could engineer based on today’s knowledge, say an Ion engine or an antimatter rocket whose performance was 100 times better that the shuttle engines, we would need about ten railway tanker sized propellant tanks.

That doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider that we didn’t bring along any propellant to let us stop when we get to the other star system…or if we want to get there quicker than 9 centuries.

Once you add the desire to actually stop at your destination, or if you want to get there sooner, you’re back at the incredible supertanker situation again, even for our best conceivable rockets.

In conclusion, we’d really like to have a form of propulsion that doesn’t need any propellant! This implies the need to find some way to modify gravitational or inertial forces or to find some means to push against the very structure of spacetime itself.

Energy: – yet another challenge

Our third big challenge is energy. Even if we had a nonrocket space drive that could convert energy directly into motion without propellant, it would still require a lot of energy. Sending a Shuttle-sized vehicle on a 50 year one-way trip to visit our nearest neighboring star (subrelativistic speed) would take over 7 x 10^19 Joules of energy. This is roughly the same amount of energy that the Space Shuttle’s engines would use if they ran continuously for the same duration of 50 years. To overcome this difficulty, we need either a breakthrough where we can take advantage of the energy in the space vacuum, a breakthrough in energy production physics, or a breakthrough where the laws of kinetic energy don’t apply.

From Inspirations to Inventions

Fun Retrospectives & The Future

Right now we don’t even know if practical interstellar travel is possible. Just because we don’t know how to do something today, however, doesn’t mean that it is impossible. There is a historical pattern that has emerged where the grand visions of yesterday’s science fiction inspired today’s reality. Maybe the same will happen with today’s science fiction.

Here are examples:


To the Moon – A long time ago, Jules Verne wrote a story about sending people to the moon by blasting them out of a giant cannon. That story inspired a whole host of rocketry pioneers who pondered how to make such a journey a reality. Based on the science of their day, they were eventually able to create visions of how to achieve such a feat — using rockets instead of cannons. And, when all the conditions were right, these visions evolved into reality.

Now, we look back over 25 years to our landing people on the moon and bringing them back safely.


Access to space – This next example is about routine access to space. In this case the inspirations were from Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon stories with their rockets gallivanting across space as routinely as that era’s aircraft flew in the air. Again, such stories inspired rocketry pioneers who created visions, and reality followed. In this case the Space Shuttle.


To the stars – And now the inspirations behind this web page – Journeys to the stars. The idea of “Warp Drives” and “Hyper Space” date back to the 1930’s and are attributed to John Campbell. Another appropriate example is the 1956 movie “Forbidden Planet.” Its opening sequence has a prediction of how humanity conquers gravity and then goes on to discover how to exceed light speed. And a very well known example is, of course, Star Trek.

But today, we don’t even have the scientific principles from which to create the visions. First we need to develop such science and then we can engineer the visions and shape them into reality.

Contemplating an Inspiration


Because of its widespread familiarity, Let’s examine the Star Trek inspirations.

We would like to point out that although such science fiction vehicles and ones from other stories like Star Wars are inspirational, they are science fiction, not research guides for real science. By that we mean that there is not enough substance behind these vehicles and the techno-speak that is used to describe them that you could begin a research program. They are however, inspirational, and they do provide mental pictures that make it easier to contemplate how you might achieve such feats.

This inspiration shows some of the features we would need for our interstellar craft.

Faster than light propulsion,sometimes called “warp drive”, “hyperspace drive”, etc. The point is that we would like some form of propulsion that can get us there in comfortable timeframes. Also note that this propulsion does not use propellant — a crucial feature.

Control over gravity. The Trek vehicle has a variety of features that all imply that we have mastered the control of gravity or inertia: These things called “Inertial Dampers” on Star Trek are what help keep the crew from flying out of their seats when the ship maneuvers. The “deflectors” help move objects out of the way so that the ship doesn’t smash into them at damaging speeds. And “synthetic gravity” is so the crew can walk about normally. And in movies this makes their special effects budget much, much smaller.The control over gravitational forces could also be used to propel the vehicle without the need for rockets. It is in this propulsion role where the feat of gravity control would bring the most benefit. If we ever, or should I say more optimistically, when we conquer gravity, it will be an enormous breakthrough for space travel and for scientific and technological advances in general. That would usher in an exciting age for humanity.

Power generation. And to power the vehicle and its propulsion, some form of power generation is needed. In Trek, they talk a lot about Antimatter, so we have provided a status on that topic.

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Ideas Based On What We Know

The following section has a brief description of some ideas that have been suggested over the years for interstellar travel, ideas based on the sciences that do exist today.


Project Orion

The first example is from the 1950’s-60’s, Project Orion – which offered to use nuclear bombs for a constructive purpose — space travel.

About 5 bombs per second are dropped out the back and detonated to propel the craft along. A huge shock plate with shock absorbers make up the base of the craft. Experiments using conventional explosives were conducted to demonstrate the viability of this scheme. Although this vehicle was conceived to take a crew to Mars, it can also be considered for sending smaller probes to the stars. This project ended with the nuclear test ban treaty in the 60’s.


Project Daedalus, British Interplanetary Society

In the late 1970’s the British Interplanetary Society revisited the Orion propulsion concept, but at a more reasonable scale and for in-space use only. Project Daedalus was a design study for sending a probe past Barnard’s star with a 50 year trip time. (Barnard’s star is about 6 Light Years away.) In this case it used micro fusion explosions which relied on obtaining the appropriate fuel isotope from Jupiter that it scooped up on its way out of the solar system — tricky.


Bussard Interstellar Ramjet

Well, rather than bring your fuel along, why not get it as you go. This Bussard Interstellar Ramjet concept, from the 1960’s, relies on scooping up the lonely protons that drift in interstellar space, and then somehow getting them to fuse to make a nuclear rocket. There are a variety of limitations to this concept, such as how many protons can be scooped up, the drag created from scooping them, and, not to mention, the feat of getting these protons to engage in nuclear fusion for a rocket.


Robert Forward’s interstellar laser sails

Light sails are another possibility. Rather than use rockets, why not use light. When light strikes an object, it pushes on it ever so slightly. Use lots of light over a very large area, and the forces get noticeable. That is the idea here. Robert Forward proposed using a 10-million-gigawatt laser to shine through a thousand kilometer Fresnel lens onto a thousand kilometer sail. With these numbers, it is claimed that one could send a thousand-ton vehicle with crew to our nearest star in 10 years!

What’s the catch? That 10-million-gigawatt laser. That power level is ten thousand times more than the power used on all the Earth today.

So, Forward revised the concept to more reasonable power levels. This time it only has a 10-gigawatt microwave laser (still a feat unto itself), and this time the vehicle is a frail 16 grams of fine wires spread over just one kilometer. The sail has all its sensors and stuff built right into its array of wires.

This and similar concepts are still under investigation. Significant advances are still required, however, before we can create such systems and before we have a sufficiently robust space program that could put them in space.

Ideas Based On What We’d Like To Achieve

The following section has a brief description of some ideas that have been suggested over the years for interstellar travel, ideas based on the sciences that do exist today.


Worm Hole transportation

Just when you thought it was confusing enough, those physicist had to come up with wormholes. Here’s the premise behind a “wormhole.”


Although Special Relativity forbids objects to move faster than light within spacetime, it is known that spacetime itself can be warped and distorted. It takes an enormous amount of matter or energy to create such distortions, but distortions are possible, theoretically. To use an analogy: even if there were a speed limit to how fast a pencil could move across a piece of paper, the motion or changes to the paper is a separate issue. In the case of the wormhole, a shortcut is made by warping space (folding the paper) to connect two points that used to be separated. These theories are too new to have either been discounted or proven viable. And, yes, wormholes do invite the old time travel paradox problems again.

Here’s one way to build one:

First, collect a whole bunch of super-dense matter, such as matter from a neutron star. How much?– well enough to construct a ring the size of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Then build another ring where you want the other end of your wormhole. Next, just charge ‘em up to some incredible voltage, and spin them up to near the speed of light — both of them.

No problem? Well if you could do all that, and notice you already had to be where you wanted to go to, I’m sure you could think of more clever ways to travel. Don’t expect any wormhole engineering any time soon. There are other ideas out there too – ideas that use “negative energy” to create and to keep the wormhole open.

Alcubierre’s “Warp Drive”

Here’s the premise behind the Alcubierre “warp drive”: Although Special Relativity forbids objects to move faster than light within spacetime, it is unknown how fast spacetime itself can move. To use an analogy, imagine you are on one of those moving sidewalks that can be found in some airports. The Alcubierre warp drive is like one of those moving sidewalks. Although there may be a limit to how fast one can walk across the floor (analogous to the light speed limit), what about if you are on a moving section of floor that moves faster than you can walk (analogous to a moving section of spacetime)? In the case of the Alcubierre warp drive, this moving section of spacetime is created by expanding spacetime behind the ship (analogous to where the sidewalk emerges from underneath the floor), and by contracting spacetime in front of the ship (analogous to where the sidewalk goes back into the floor). The idea of expanding spacetime is not new. Using the “Inflationary Universe” perspective, for example, it is thought that spacetime expanded faster than the speed of light during the early moments of the Big Bang. So if spacetime can expand faster than the speed of light during the Big Bang, why not for our warp drive? These theories are too new to have either been discounted or proven viable.

Any other sticky issues?

Yes… First, to create this effect, you’ll need a ring of negative energy wrapped around the ship, and lots of it too. It is still debated in physics whether negative energy can exist. Classical physics tends toward a “no,” while quantum physics leans to a “maybe, yes.” Second, you’ll need a way to control this effect to turn it on and off at will. This will be especially tricky since this warp effect is a separate effect from the ship. Third, all this assumes that this whole “warp” would indeed move faster than the speed of light. This is a big unknown. And fourth, if all the previous issues weren’t tough enough, these concepts evoke the same time-travel paradoxes as the wormhole concepts.

Negative mass propulsion

It has been shown that is theoretically possible to create a continuously propulsive effect by the juxtaposition of negative and positive mass and that such a scheme does not violate conservation of momentum or energy. A crucial assumption to the success of this concept is that negative mass has negative inertia. Their combined interactions result in a sustained acceleration of both masses in the same direction. This concept dates back to at least 1957 with an analysis of the properties of hypothetical negative mass by Bondi, and has been revisited in the context of propulsion by Winterberg and Forward in the 1980’s.

Regarding the physics of negative mass, it is not known whether negative mass exists or if it is even theoretically allowed, but methods have been suggested to search for evidence of negative mass in the context of searching for astronomical evidence of wormholes.

Millis’s hypothetical “Space Drives”

A “space drive” can be defined as an idealized form of propulsion where the fundamental properties of matter and spacetime are used to create propulsive forces anywhere in space without having to carry and expel a reaction mass. Such an achievement would revolutionize space travel as it would circumvent the need for propellant. A variety of hypothetical space drives were created and analyzed by Millis to identify the specific problems that have to be solved to make such schemes plausible. These hypothetical drives are just briefly introduced here. Please note that these concepts are purely hypothetical constructs aimed to illustrate the remaining challenges. Before any of these space drives can become reality, a method must be discovered where a vehicle can create and control an external asymmetric force on itself without expelling a reaction mass and the method must satisfy conservation laws in the process.

[Note: This section is excerpted from Millis’ “Challenge to Create the Space Drive,” in the AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power, Vol.13, No.5, pp. 577-582, Sept.-Oct. 1997. This 6 page report uses 7 hypothetical space drive concepts to highlight the unsolved physics and candidate next steps toward creating a propellantless space drive. It also contains figures for each concept which are not currently available electronically.]

Hypothetical Differential Sail: Analogous to the principles of an ideal radiometer vane, a net difference in radiation pressure exists across the reflecting and absorbing sides. It is assumed that space contains a background of some form of isotropic medium (like the vacuum fluctuations or Cosmic Background Radiation) that is constantly impinging on all sides of the sail.

Hypothetical Diode Sail: Analogous to a diode or one-way mirror, space radiation passes through one direction and reflects from the other creating a net difference in radiation pressure.

Hypothetical Induction Sail: Analogous to creating a pressure gradient in a fluid, the energy density of the impinging space radiation is raised behind the sail and lowered in front to create a net difference in radiation pressure across the sail.

Hypothetical Diametric Drive: This concept considers the possibility of creating a local gradient in a background scalar property of space (such as gravitational potential) by the juxtaposition of diametrically opposed field sources across the vehicle. This is directly analogous to negative mass propulsion. The diametric drive can also be considered analogous to creating a pressure source/sink in a space medium as suggested with the Induction Sail.

Hypothetical Pitch Drive: This concept entertains the possibility that somehow a localized slope in scalar potential is induced across the vehicle which causes forces on the vehicle. In contrast to the diametric drive presented earlier, it is assumed that such a slope can be created without the presence of a pair of point sources. It is not yet known if and how such an effect can be created.

Hypothetical Bias Drive: This concept entertains the possibility that the vehicle alters the properties of space itself, such as the gravitational constant, G, to create a local propulsive gradient. By modifying Newton’s constant to have a localized asymmetric bias, a local gradient similar to the Pitch Drive mechanism results.

Hypothetical Disjunction Drive: This concept entertains the possibility that the source of a field and that which reacts to a field can be separated. By displacing them in space, the reactant is shifted to a point where the field has a slope, thus producing reaction forces between the source and the reactant. Although existing evidence strongly suggests that the source, reactant, and inertial mass properties are inseparable, any future evidence to the contrary would have revolutionary implication to this propulsion application.

So, can we do it?


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Source: NASA

A collection of intriguing and quite useless maps (20 pictures)

A collection of intriguing and quite useless maps (20 pictures)

1. The world during the last ice age


Source: landofmaps

2. If Great Lakes were in Europe


Source: greatlakesguru.com


3. Light pollution in USA


Source: survivalblog.com


4. All countries with only one neighbour


Source: reddit.com


5. Antarctica time zones


Source: io9.com


6. All the landlocked countries


Source: imgur.com


7. If the Earth was flat


Source: en.wikipedia.org


8. A different perspective


Source: mlkshk.com


9. Population density in the USA by decade


Source: thefullwiki.org


10. Land and water switched


Source: ircimg.net


11. Mario Brothers Earth


Source: jaymug.com


12. Total milk consumption


Source: foodbeast.com


13. The use of electrical sockets


Source: lesvamosachorrear.com


14. Popularity if Internet browsers


Source: althistory.wikia.com


15. Writing systems in the world


Source: globa-lingua.org


16. America from 1814


Source: antiquemaps4u.com


17. All the countries that England has ever invaded (and that is all but 22 countries!)


Source: wtf.nl


18. Popularity of sports in the world



19. Countries with McDonalds


Source: landofmaps


20. What is on the exact opposite side of the planet


Source: uselessfactoftheday.blogspot.com



Top 10 Disgusting Ingredients You’ve Probably Eaten Today

Top 10 Disgusting Ingredients You’ve Probably Eaten Today

The “natural flavors” label is quite intriguing.  It is considered a way of protecting the secret formula/recipe, a way of preserving the product’s uniqueness.  Would you expect regurgitated secretions produced in an animal’s digestive system to be approved by the FDA as food additives?  The secretion produced by the beaver’s sacs and civet absolute (derived from the unctuous secretions from the receptacles between the anus and genitalia of both the male and female civet cat”, according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives; delish) are other gross ingredients found in food. Watch out for those natural flavorings & flavors!

Lanolin is secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals.  Believe it or not, it is used to soften chewing gum.

Sugar itself doesn’t contain animal ingredients, but most companies use bone char (animal charcoal) in filters to decolorize sugar.  According to regulatory bodies, the bones are required to come from cattle that have died of natural causes.  Countries like Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, India and Morocco are main suppliers.

What you are actually consuming and paying for, may be surprising.

10.  Silicon Dioxide


Oxygen (46.6%), silicon (27.7%) and aluminum (8%) are the first three most abundant elements in the earth’s crust.  Crystalline forms of silica include quartz, cristobalite and tridymite.  Silicon dioxide is the main chemical compound of sand.

This element raises concern when it is used as an additive.  Amorphous silicon dioxide (E551 in Europe) is one of the most important anti-caking agents.  The FDA allows the use of SiO2 and considers it safe, as long as it doesn’t exceed 2% of the food’s weight. You can find it in everything from processed meat, spice powders, instant soups & sauces, snack bars, supplements, pharmaceutical drug tablets and more.

Silica, short for silicon dioxide, is beneficial to our body in several ways, but the body needs a very small amount of it to stay healthy.  Is it dangerous to add silicon dioxide to food? Probably not, since its toxicity level is often very low.  Is it disgusting and unusual?  Yes, it’s down-right disgusting if you’re asking me.

9.  Borax


Discovered over 4,000 years ago, borax is also known as birax, sodium borate, or sodium tetra-borate, and is usually found deep underground.

Sodium borate is a crystalline compound that is the sodium salt of boric acid.  The term borax is widely used to refer both to a miracle mineral, and to a refined compound with countless applications.  Borax is king indeed, just like the above ad states.  The mineral keeps mice, bugs, ants and mold away.  It is used as a multipurpose cleaner, fire retardant, fungicide, herbicide and…food preservative.  Borax is banned as a food additive (E285) in the United States, but it is allowed in imported caviar.  E285 is legal in the European Union and Asia.  Borax is also used in the textiles, glass and leather industry for tanning and dyeing.  Is there anything borax can’t do?

8.  Gelatin


The flavorless and translucent substance may be used as a stabilizer, texture enhancer, or thickening agent in foods.  The active element of gelatin is the collagen obtained from various animal parts.  According to Professor M.C. Gomez-Guillén, “the most abundant sources of gelatin are pig skin (46%), bovine hide (29.4%) and pork and cattle bones (23.1%).”

7.  Shellac


Shellac is obtained by refining the secretions of the Kerria lacca insects.  Native to South-East Asia, the insects reside in colonies of thousands on trees such as Kusum, Ficus, Palas, and Ber.  It takes approximately 300,000 lac bugs to produce a one-kilogram sack of shellac.

Shellac is unrivalled when it comes to furniture polishing and wood finishing.  It is used in almost every industry, including food and pharmaceutical processing.  The same product that is utilized for coating furniture is used also for coating fruits, vegetables (shellac replaces the natural wax that is lost), candies, snacks, and pastries, to make them look fresher and more appealing.

6.  Carmine


You may have recently heard that Starbucks decided to stop using carmine as colorant. No more insect-derived coloring in the Strawberry Banana Smoothie, Strawberries & Cream Frappuccino, or Red Velvet Whoopie Pie!

Carmine is obtained from female cochineal insects.  After the bugs are killed by immersion in hot water, or exposure to heat, and then dried, their abdomen is extracted and cooked at high temperatures (it contains the most carmine).

If one of the following terms – carmine, cochineal extract, natural red 4, E120, C.I. 75470, E120 or hydrated aluminium chelate of carminic acid – appears in the ingredients list, the red bug dye is in your food.

The cochineal extract is added to everything from meat to marinades, juices, jams, gelatins and candies, baked goods, toppings, icings, and dairy products.

5.  Human Hair And Duck Feathers


L-cysteine is a common flavor enhancer and dough conditioner used in bakery products (pizza, crackers, bagels, bread, croissants and donuts, to name a few).  While some L-cysteine is chemically synthesized in labs, most of this non-essential amino acid is extracted from human hair or duck feathers.


Industry experts claim most human-derived L-cysteine comes from Chinese women, who sell it to chemical plants to support their families.

Many L-cysteine manufacturers seem to have moved away from the disgusting hair-derived substance, and on to the far-more-appetizing duck feathers.

McDonald’s confirmed some months ago that, as of last August, it has stopped using ammonia-basedpink slime in the production of its burgers.  What about the duck feather-derived L-cysteine used in its pies and rolls?  McDonald’s confirmed that it uses L-cysteine made only from duck feathers, so there’s no human hair to worry about.  Gee, what a relief…

4.  Cellulose


Cellulose comes in a variety of forms – powdered cellulose (E460ii), microcrystalline cellulose (MCC or E460i) or cellulose gum – each with a specific use.  The odorless and tasteless powdered cellulose is sourced from either bamboo or cotton-based plant material.  Often labeled as high-fiber or reduced fat, the “miracle” ingredient may be used in the following foods: cheese, yogurt, ice cream, processed fruits, vegetables, cereals, pre-cooked pasta, and bakery wares.  See here for more details.

Dan Inman, director of R&D at J. Rettenmaier USA, said that manufacturers add cellulose to their products because it acts as an extender, reducing breakage and providing structure.  Food producers from all over the world save almost 30% in ingredient costs by going for cellulose as a filler or thickener.  Powdered cellulose can replace as much as 50% of the fat in some biscuits, cakes and cookies.

Sara Lee, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Dole, KFC, Nestle and Kraft Foods are some of the many brands that put wood in our food.  Safe or not, it’s disturbingly unnatural to have cellulose in aliments. No wonder food doesn’t taste anymore as it used to.

3.  Castoreum, Civet


The same substance that beavers naturally secrete to mark their territories, gives flavor (?!) to certain foods.  Castoreum is a bitter, strongly odoriferous secretion, produced by the animal’s sacs.  These sacs are located by the anal glands.

According to an article published in the International Journal of Toxicology, castoreum has been used extensively in cosmetics, especially in perfumes, and has been added to food and beverages as a natural flavoring agent for at least 70 years.  Castoreum is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, FEMA and other regulatory bodies, and is especially useful as an ingredient in raspberry & vanilla flavored foods.  You may find it in ice creams, candies, syrups, pastries, and cigarettes.

The gross part is that castoreum doesn’t have to be listed on the label by its name because it is considered a natural flavor.  Apparently, beaver-butt tastes like vanilla and raspberry.  Eat up!


A Beaver’s Anal Glands…yummy!

Ambergris, civet and musk are other disgusting animal-derived ingredients.

Civet (zibetum, zibet) is secreted by the civet cat’s perianal scent glands and is a common ingredient of frozen dairy desserts, baked goods, candies, puddings or gelatins.

2.  Insect Filth, Mold, Rodent Filth, Maggots


The US Food and Drug Administration condones a certain percentage of natural contaminants in the food supply chain.  Here’s how many of these yummy-nummies to expect in your food:

All spice, ground: average of 30 or more insect fragments / 10g; 1 or more rodent hairs / 10g

Berries: average mold count is 60% or more; average of 4 or more larvae per 500 g; 10 or more whole insects or equivalent per 500 g.

Frozen broccoli: 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 g.

Chocolate: 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams; 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams; (when six 100-gram subsamples are examined)

Macaroni and noodle products: 225 insect fragments or more / 225g

Canned and dried mushrooms: 20 or more maggots of any size / 100g; 75 mites / 100g

Peanut butter: 30 or more insect fragments / 100g; 1 or more rodent hairs / 100g

Tomato juice: 10 or more fly eggs / 100g; 5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots / 100g; average mold count in 6 subsamples is 24%.

Tomato paste: 30 or more fly eggs / 100g; 15 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots / 100g; 2 or more maggots /100g in a minimum of 12 subsamples.


Some products may have natural contaminants, others not.  Unfortunately, the European Union does not regulate the amount of filth or mold in food; it has explicitly exempted the above listed “ingredients” from regulation.

Don’t misunderstand me, entomophagy is not gross.  The benefits of eating insects are overwhelming, but there’s a very big difference between eating processed remnants of bugs and rats, and consuming healthy & edible insects that are rich in proteins, minerals and vitamins.

1.  The First Approval Of Viruses As A Food Additive


The Food and Drug Administration approved, six years ago, a cocktail of bacteria-killing viruses to prevent listeriosis.  There are about 1600 cases of listeriosis, with 410 deaths per year in the United States.

The special viruses (bacteriophages) are sprayed on poultry products and ready-to-eat meat just before they are packaged.  What will happen when listeria develops resistance to the bacteriophages over time?  These viral additives are used to fight potential infections from poor quality meat.  Why expose millions of individuals to unnecessary risk for the benefit of so few?

What food safety authorities should really do is raise the standards and improve the quality of our food supply. What’s your opinion on the latest food additive?


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Top 10 Countries That Disappeared In The 20th Century

Top 10 Countries That Disappeared In The 20th Century

New nations seem to pop up with alarming regularity. At the start of the 20th century, there were only a few dozen independent sovereign states on the planet; today, there are nearly 200! Once a nation is established, they tend to stick around for awhile, so a nation disappearing is quite uncommon. It’s only occurred a handful of times in the last century. But when they do, they completely vanish off the face of the globe: government, flag, and all. Here then, in no particular order, are the top ten countries that had their moment in the sun but are, alas, no more.

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10. East Germany, 1949-1990


Created from the Soviet controlled sector of Germany after the Second World War, East Germany was probably best known for its Wall and its tendency to shoot people who attempted to cross over it. Now, it’s one (over-reactionary) thing to shoot foreigners who are trying to enter your country illegally, but these were its own people!

Basically little more than a Soviet satellite state, the collapse of the notorious Wall and, with it, the demise of the old Soviet Union brought an end to this failed experiment in Communism, and it was integrated back into the rest of Germany in 1990. Because East Germany was so far behind the rest of Germany economically, however, its reintegration with the west almost bankrupted Germany. Today, however, things are swimming along nicely, thank you.

9. Czechoslovakia, 1918-1992


Forged from the remnants of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, during its brief existence it was one of the few bright spots in Europe, managing to maintain one of the continent’s few working democracies prior to the Second World War. Betrayed by England and France in 1938 at Munich, by March of 1939 it had been completely occupied by Germany, and vanished off the map. Later it was occupied by the Soviets, who turned it into another vassal state of the old Soviet Union until that nation’s collapse in 1991. At that time, it finally reestablished itself as a vibrant democracy.

That should have been the end of the story, and probably would have been, had not the ethnic Slavs in the eastern half of the country demanded their own independent state, breaking Czechoslovakia in two in 1992. Today, it exists as the Czech Republic in the west, and the nation of Slovakia in the east, making Czechoslovakia no more. Though considering that the Czech Republic maintains one of the more vibrant economies in Europe, the far-less-well-off Slovakia maybe should have reconsidered.

8. Yugoslavia, 1918-1992


Like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia was a by-product of the breakup of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire in the aftermath of WWI. Basically made up of parts of Hungary and the original state of Serbia, it unfortunately did not follow Czechoslovakia’s more enlightened example. Instead, it maintained a somewhat-autocratic monarchy until the Nazis invaded the country in 1941, after which it became a German possession. With the collapse of the Nazis in 1945, Yugoslavia somehow managed to avoid Soviet occupation but not Communism, coming under the socialist dictatorship of Marshal Josip Tito, the leader of the partisan Army during WWII. It remained a nonaligned authoritarian socialist republic until 1992, when internal tensions and rival nationalism resulted in civil war. The country then split into six smaller nations (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro,) making it a textbookexample of what happens when cultural, ethnic, and religious assimilation fails.

7. Austro-Hungary, 1867-1918


While all of the countries that found themselves on the losing side after the First World War suffered economically, and geographically to some degree, none lost more than the once-powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, which found itself carved up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey in a homeless shelter. Out of the dissolution of the once-massive empire came the modern countries of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, with parts of it going to Italy, Poland, and Romania.

So why did it break apart when its neighbor, Germany did not? Because it lacked a common identity and language, and was instead home to various ethnic and religious groups, most of whom had little to do with each other…to put it mildly. In effect, it suffered a large-scale version of what Yugoslavia suffered, when it saw itself similarly torn apart by nationalistic fervor. The difference was that Austro-Hungary was carved up by the victors in WWI, whereas Yugoslavia’s dissolution was internal and spontaneous.

6. Tibet, 1913-1951


While the land known as Tibet has been around for over a thousand years, it wasn’t until 1913 that it managed become an independent country. Under the peaceful tutelage of a chain of Dalai Lamas, it finally ran afoul of Communist China in 1951 and was occupied by Mao’s forces, thus ending its brief foray as a sovereign nation. China occupied an increasingly-tense Tibet throughout the ’50s until the country finally rebelled in 1959, which resulted in China’s annexation of the region and the dissolution of the Tibetan government. This finished the nation for good and turned it into a “region,” rather than a country. Today it remains a big tourist attraction for the Chinese government, though it still has issues with Beijing, by insisting it be granted its independence once again.

5. South Vietnam, 1955-1975


Created from the forceful expulsion of the French from Indo-China in 1954, someone decided it would be a good idea to split Vietnam in two, roughly at the 17th parallel, leaving a Communist north and a pseudo-democratic south. As with Korea before, it didn’t work any better in Vietnam, resulting in intermittent warfare between the two halves that ultimately dragged the United States into a conflict (again with the Korea comparisons,) that was to result in one of the most draining and costly wars in American history. Finally hounded out of the country by dissent at home, America left South Vietnam to fend for itself in 1973, which it did for only two more years, before the Soviet-backed North finally rolled over the country, bringing an end to South Vietnam and renaming Saigon—its capitol—Ho Chi Minh City. It’s been a socialist utopia ever since.

4. United Arab Republic, 1958-1971


In yet another ill-fated attempt to bring unity to the Arab world, Egypt’s fiery socialist president, Gamel Abdel Nasser, thought it would be a splendid idea to unite with his distant neighbor, Syria, in an alliance that would effectively surround their sworn enemy, Israel, and make them a regional superpower. Thus was created the short-lived U.A.R., an experiment that was doomed to failure almost from the start. Being several hundred miles apart made creating a central government almost impossible, while Syria and Egypt never could quite agree on what constituted national priorities.

The problem might have been rectified had Syria and Egypt managed to link their halves together by destroying Israel, but that nasty Six Days War came along in 1967, dashing their plans for a common border, and handing both halves of the U.A.R. a defeat of biblical proportions. After that the merger’s days were numbered, and finally came to an anti-climactic end with the death of Nasser in 1970. Without the charismatic Egyptian President around to hold the fragile alliance together, the U.A.R. quickly dissolved, restoring the nations of Egypt and Syria once again.

3. Ottoman Empire, 1299-1922


One of the great empires in history, the Ottoman Empire finally came to an end in November of 1922, after a pretty respectable run of over six hundred years. Once extending from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, and from Sudan to as far north as Hungary, its demise was a slow process of dissolution over many centuries until, by the dawn of the 20th century, it was but a shadow of its former self.

But even then, it was still the main power broker in the Middle East and North Africa, and might still be that way today had it not chosen to ally itself with the losing side in World War I. It saw itself dismantled in the aftermath, with the biggest chunk of it (Egypt, Sudan, and Palestine) going to England. By 1922 it had outlived its usefulness, and finally died when the Turks won their war of independence in 1922 and abolished the Sultanate, creating the modern-day nation of Turkey in the process. Still, you’ve got to give it credit for making such an impressive run before giving up the ghost.

2. Sikkim, 8th century CE-1975


What? You’ve never heard of the place? What rock have you been hiding under? Seriously, it’s not likely you would have heard of tiny, land-locked Sikkim, nestled securely in the Himalayan Mountains between India and Tibet…er, China. About the size of a hot dog stand, it was basically one of those little-known, and largely forgotten, little monarchies that managed to hold on into the twentieth century before it finally realized it had no particularly good reason for being independent, and decided to merge with modern India in 1975.

Its coolest claim to fame? Though just a little bigger than Rhode Island, it has no fewer than eleven official languages, which must play havoc with traffic signs—assuming, that is, that they have any roads.

1. Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (Soviet Union), 1922-1991


What would the 20th century have been without the good ‘ol USSR to stir things up? One of the truly scary counties on the planet until its anticlimactic collapse in 1991, for seven decades it stood as the bulwark of Marxist Stalinism, with all the misfortune that brought with it. It was created in the chaotic aftermath of the breakup of Imperial Russia after WWI, and both survived and thrived despite inept economic policies and brutal leadership. The USSR actually managed to beat the Nazis when no one thought that Hitlercould be stopped, enslaved eastern Europe for over forty years, instigated the Korean War in 1950, and very nearly got into a shooting war with the United States over Cuba in 1962, making its tenor on the world stage nothing if not eventful.

Finally coming apart in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, and the subsequent collapse of Communism in eastern Europe, it broke into no fewer than fifteen sovereign countries, creating the largest new block of countries since the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. What followed was the pseudo-democratic Republic of Russia, though it still retains much of the autocratic air it has always been famous for.

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5 Psychological experiments that show our dark side

5 Psychological experiments that show our dark side

We present you the most notorious and most popular experiments of all-time. Some of the most fascinating and deplorable experiments ever conducted that proove that we do have a dark side…

1. Conformity – Asch Experiments (1953)

asch conformity

An example of Asch’s experimental procedure in 1955. There are six confederates and one real participant (second to last person sitting to the right of the table).

During the 1950s, Solomon Asch conducted and published a series of laboratory experiments that demonstrated the degree to which an individual’s own opinions are influenced by those of a majority group.

Male college students participated in a simple “perceptual” task. In reality, all but one of the participants were “confederates” (i.e., actors), and the true focus of the study was about how the remaining student (i.e., the real participant) would react to the confederates’ behavior.

Only one participant was actually a genuine subject for the experiment, the rest being confederates, carefully tutored to give certain pre-selected responses. Careful experimental construction placed a varying amount of peer pressure on the individual test subject.

Asch Experiment - Figure 1The experiment was simple in its construction; each participant, in turn, was asked to answer a series of questions, such as which line was longest or which matched the reference line. (Fig 1)

The participants gave a variety of answers, at first correct, to avoid arousing suspicion in the subject, but then with some incorrect responses added.

The Asch Experiment results were interesting and showed that peer pressure could have a measurable influence on the answers given.

The control group, those not exposed to peer pressure where everybody gave correct answers, threw up only one incorrect response out of 35; this could probably be explained by experimental error.

The results for the other groups were interesting; when surrounded by people giving an incorrect answer, over one third of the subjects also voiced an incorrect opinion.

At least 75% of the subjects gave the wrong answer to at least one question, although experimental error may have had some influence on this figure. There was no doubt, however, that peer pressure can cause conformity.

It was debated whether this is because people disbelieve the evidence of their own eyes or if it was just compliance, that people hide their opinions.


2. Helping – The Good Samaritan Experiment (1973)


The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, if you hadn’t heard, is about a passing Samaritan helping an injured man in need, while other, self-righteous types walk right on by. Psychologists John Darley and C. Daniel Batson wanted to test if religion has any effect on helpful behavior.

The researchers had three hypotheses:
1. People thinking religious, “helping” thoughts would still be no more likely than others to offer assistance.
2. People in a hurry will be less likely to offer aid than others.
3. People who are religions in a Samaritan fashion will be more likely to help than those of a priest or Levite fashion. In other words, people who are religious for what it will gain them will be less likely than those who value religion for it’s own value or are searching for meaning in life.

The recruited seminary students for a study on religious education. First they completed personality questionnaires about their religion (to help evaluate hypothesis #3). Later they began experimental procedures in one building and then told to go to another building to continue. On the way they encountered a man slumped in an alleyway (the victims condition is unknown — hurt, or drunk?).

They varied the amount of urgency they told the subjects before sending them to the other building, and the task they would do when they got there. One task was to prepare a talk about seminary jobs, and the other about the story of the Good Samaritan. In one condition they told the subject they were late for the next task, in the other they said they had a few minutes but they should head on over anyway.

In an alleyway they passed a man sitting slumped in doorway, who moaned and coughed twice as they walked by. They set up a scale of helping:
0=failed to notice victim as in need
1=perceived need but did not offer aid
2=did not stop but helped indirectly (told the aide on their arrival)
3=stopped and asked if victim needed help
4=after stopping, insisted on taking victim inside and then left him.
5=refused to leave victim, or insisted on taking him somewhere

After arrival at the 2nd research site, they had the subject give the talk and then answer a helping behavior questionnaire.

The amount of “hurriness” induced in the subject had a major effect on helping behavior, but the task variable did not (even when the talk was about the Good Samaritan).

Overall 40% offered some help to the victim. In low hurry situations, 63% helped, medium hurry 45% and high hurry 10%. For helping-relevant message 53%, task relevant message 29%. There was no correlation between “religious types” and helping behavior. The only variable that showed some effect was “relgion as a quest”. Of the people who helped, those who saw religion as a quest were less likely to offer substantial help than those who scored low on this statement. But later analysis revealed this may not be caused be real religious differences.

Ironically, a person in a hurry is less likely to help people, even if he is going to speak on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Some literally stepped over the victim on their way to the next building!). The results seem to show that thinking about norms does not imply that one will act on them. Maybe that “ethics become a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases”. Or maybe peoples cognition was narrowed by the hurriedness and they failed to make the immediate connection of an emergency.

Many subjects who did not stop did appear aroused and anxious when the arrived at the second site. They were in a conflict between helping the victim and meeting the needs of the experimenter. Conflict rather than callousness can explain the failure to stop.


3. Diffusion of responsibility – Bystander Apathy Experiment (1968).


The bystander effect was first demonstrated in the laboratory by John Darley and Bibb Latané in 1968 after they became interested in the topic following the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. These researchers launched a series of experiments that resulted in one of the strongest and most replicable effects in social psychology. In a typical experiment, the participant is either alone or among a group of other participants or confederates. An emergency situation is then staged. The researchers then measure how long it takes the participants to act, and whether or not they intervene at all. These experiments have often found that the presence of others inhibits helping, often by a large margin. For example, Bibb Latané and Judith Rodin staged an experiment around a woman in distress in 1969. 70 percent of the people alone called out or went to help the woman after they believed she had fallen and gotten hurt, but when there were other people in the room only 40 percent offered help.

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4. The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971).


The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted at Stanford University from August 14 to August 20 of 1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. It was funded by the US Office of Naval Research and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps as an investigation into the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Twenty-four male students out of 75 were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond Zimbardo’s expectations, as the guards enforced authoritarian measures and ultimately subjected some of the prisoners to psychological torture. Many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, at the request of the guards, readily harassed other prisoners who attempted to prevent it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his role as the superintendent, permitted the abuse to continue. Two of the prisoners quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. Certain portions of the experiment were filmed and excerpts of footage are publicly available.

On August 20, 1971, Zimbardo announced the end of the experiment to the participants. The results of the experiment have been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support. The experiment has also been used to illustrate cognitive dissonance theory and the power of authority.

The results of the experiment favor situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution. In other words, it seemed that the situation, rather than their individualpersonalities, caused the participants’ behavior. Under this interpretation, the results are compatible with the results of the Milgram experiment, in which ordinary people fulfilled orders to administer what appeared to be agonizing and dangerous electric shocks to a confederate of the experimenter.

Shortly after the study had been completed, there were bloody revolts at both the San Quentin and Attica prison facilities, and Zimbardo reported his findings on the experiment to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.


5. Authority – The Milgram Experiment (1961)


The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?” In other words, “Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” Milgram’s testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs. The experiments have been repeated many times, with consistent results within societies, but different percentages across the globe. The experiments were also controversial, and considered by some scientists to be unethical and physically or psychologically abusive. Psychologist Diana Baumrind considered the experiment, “harmful because it may cause permanent psychological damage and cause people to be less trusting in the future.”

The participants in the Milgram experiment were 40 men recruited using newspaper ads. In exchange for their participation, each person was paid $4.50.

Milgram developed an intimidating shock generator, with shock levels starting at 30 volts and increasing in 15-volt increments all the way up to 450 volts. The many switches were labeled with terms including “slight shock,” “moderate shock” and “danger: severe shock.” The final two switches were labeled simply with an ominous “XXX.”

Each participant took the role of a “teacher” who would then deliver a shock to the “student” every time an incorrect answer was produced. While the participant believed that he was delivering real shocks to the student, the student was actually a confederate in the experiment who was simply pretending to be shocked.

As the experiment progressed, the participant would hear the learner plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition. Once the 300-volt level had been reached, the learner banged on the wall and demanded to be released. Beyond this point, the learner became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the participant to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock.

Most participants asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:

  1. “Please continue.”
  2. “The experiment requires that you continue.”
  3. “It is absolutely essential that you continue.”
  4. “You have no other choice, you must go on.”

The level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver was used as the measure of obedience. How far do you think that most participants were willing to go? When Milgram posed this question to a group of Yale University students, it was predicted that no more than 3 out of 100 participants would deliver the maximum shock. In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum shocks.

Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks while 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. It is important to note that many of the subjects became extremely agitated, distraught and angry at the experimenter. Yet they continued to follow orders all the way to the end.

Because of concerns about the amount of anxiety experienced by many of the participants, all subjects were debriefed at the end of the experiment to explain the procedures and the use of deception. However, many critics of the study have argued that many of the participants were still confused about the exact nature of the experiment. Milgram later surveyed the participants and found that 84% were glad to have participated, while only 1% regretted their involvement.


So do you think you would behave differently than people in the experiments?

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Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7