Tag: state (page 23 of 73)

NASA Wants to Send a Submarine to Titan’s Seas ~ Video



Titan


Excerpt from news.discovery.com

In a sneak peek of a possible future mission to Saturn’s moon Titan, NASA has showcased their vision of a robotic submersible that could explore the moon’s vast lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

Studying Titan is thought to be looking back in time at an embryonic Earth, only a lot colder. Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have a significant atmosphere and this atmosphere is known to possess its own methane cycle, like Earth’s water cycle. Methane exists in a liquid state, raining down on a landscape laced with hydrocarbons, forming rivers, valleys and seas.

Several seas have been extensively studied by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during multiple flybys, some of which average a few meters deep, whereas others have depths of over 200 meters (660 feet) — the maximum depth at which Cassini’s radar instrument can penetrate.


So, if scientists are to properly explore Titan, they must find a way to dive into these seas to reveal their secrets.

At this year’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium, a Titan submarine concept was showcased by NASA Glenn’s COMPASS Team and researchers from Applied Research Lab.

Envisaged as a possible mission to Titan’s largest sea, Kracken Mare, the autonomous submersible would be designed to make a 90 day, 2,000 kilometer (1,250 mile) voyage exploring the depths of this vast and very alien marine environment. As it would spend long periods under the methane sea’s surface, it would have to be powered by a radioisotope generator; a source that converts the heat produced by radioactive pellets into electricity, much like missions that are currently exploring space, like Cassini and Mars rover Curiosity.

Communicating with Earth would not be possible when the vehicle is submerged, so it would need to make regular ascents to the surface to transmit science data.

But Kracken Mare is not a tranquil lake fit for gentle sailing — it is known to have choppy waves and there is evidence of tides, all contributing to the challenge. Many of the engineering challenges have already been encountered when designing terrestrial submarines — robotic and crewed — but as these seas will be extremely cold (estimated to be close to the freezing point of methane, 90 Kelvin or -298 degrees Fahrenheit), a special piston-driven propulsion system will need to be developed and a nitrogen will be needed as ballast, for example.

This study is just that, a study, but the possibility of sending a submersible robot to another world would be as unprecedented as it is awesome.

Although it’s not clear at this early stage what the mission science would focus on, it would be interesting to sample the chemicals at different depths of Kracken Mare.

“Measurement of the trace organic components of the sea, which perhaps may exhibit prebiotic chemical evolution, will be an important objective, and a benthic sampler (a robotic grabber to sample sediment) would acquire and analyze sediment from the seabed,” the authors write (PDF). “These measurements, and seafloor morphology via sidescan sonar, may shed light on the historical cycles of filling and drying of Titan’s seas. Models suggest Titan’s active hydrological cycle may cause the north part of Kraken to be ‘fresher’ (more methane-rich) than the south, and the submarine’s long traverse will explore these composition variations.”

A decade after the European Huygens probe landed on the surface of Titan imaging the moon’s eerily foggy atmosphere, there have been few plans to go back to this tantalizing world. It would be incredible if, in the next few decades, we could send a mission back to Titan to directly sample what is at the bottom of its seas, exploring a region where the molecules for life’s chemistry may be found in abundance.



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Yes, that 3D-printed mansion is safe to live in


WinSun claims that their new 3D printed five-story building is the tallest of its kind in the world. Credit: 3ders.org
WinSun claims that their new 3D printed five-story building is the tallest of its kind in the world. 


Excerpt from

Back in April, a team of Chinese construction workers used a 3D printer to construct houses. By day’s end, there were 10 standing. They were compact and fairly bare bones — nothing much to look at besides the “wow!” factor of there being as many as — count them — 10. But this time around, those same builders have taken the wraps off an achievement that’s roundly more impressive.
In Suzhou Industrial Park, adjacent to Shanghai, stands a five-story structure that the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering firm claims is “the world’s tallest 3D-printed building.” Next to it is the equally massive 3D-printed mansion, which measures 11,840 square feet. Like the previous buildings, the walls are comprised of a mix of concrete and recycled waste materials, such as glass and steel, and formed layer by printed layer. The company stated that the total cost for the mansion was roughly $161,000. 
In a broader sense, this latest feat is yet another indication of how rapidly additive manufacturing techniques are advancing. Once used primarily as a means to quickly render miniature model versions of products, the technology has reached a point where large-scale printers are now capable of making life-sized working creations, such as automobiles, in mere days. For instance, it took less than 48 hours for start-up Local Motors to print a two-seater called the Strati into existence and drive it off the showroom.
Many of these designs, however, typically don’t amount to much beyond being passion projects meant to push 3D printing into new frontiers and drum up some publicity along the way. One example of this is the massive 3D Print Canal House that’s being constructed entirely on-site along a canal in Amsterdam, a process that’s slated to take longer and is less feasible than standard construction, Phil Reeves of UK-based 3D printing research firm Econolyst recently told CNN.
More promising, though, is a system developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis, a University of Southern California engineering professor. His concept machine, called Contour Crafting, involves a clever combination of mechanical cranes and 3D layering to print and assemble entire homes simultaneously — complete with insulation and indoor plumbing — in less than a day. 

Assembling 3D printed buildings is quite similar to erecting prefab homes. Credit: 3ders.org
Assembling 3D printed buildings is quite similar to erecting prefab homes. 


The approach employed by WinSun isn’t anywhere near that level of sophistication, but it may well prove to be the most practical – at least thus far. There is some labor and equipment costs that comes from trucking in and piecing together the various sections on-site, though the manner in which it all comes together is comparable to the ease of prefab assembly. It’s also reportedly greener thanks to the addition of recycled materials. 
To pitch the advantages of their technology, the company held a news conference to announce that they had taken on orders for 20,000 smaller units as well as highlight some significant cost-cutting figures. According toindustry news site 3Der:
The sheer size of the printer allows for a 10x increase in production efficiency. WinSun estimates that 3D printing technology can save between 30 and 60 percent of building materials and shortens production times by 50 to even 70 percent, while decreasing labor costs by 50 up to even 80 percent. Future applications include 3D printed bridges or tall office buildings that can be built right on site.
WinSun did not respond to a request to disclose how they arrived at those numbers, but Enrico Dini, an Italian civil engineer and chairman of competing start-up Monolite, says that he suspects the calculations may be a tad bit inflated. Still, he emphasized that his own data does back up the claim that, compared to conventional methods, layering may boost overall efficiency. 
“It would be very difficult to fabricate such large sections with traditional concrete casting,” he says. “With 3D printing, you have a lot less waste because you’re only printing out as much material as you need and you can custom shape whole sections on the spot, which can be a big challenge.”

WinSuns 3D printed villa has several rooms and has been deemed to be up to Chinas national safety standards. Credit: 3ders.org
WinSun’s 3D-printed villa has several rooms and has been deemed to be up to China’s national safety standards.

One major concern is whether these large-scale dwellings can hold up over time against the elements. According to 3Der, Ma Rongquan, chief engineer of China Construction Bureau, inspected the building’s structural integrity and found them to be up to code, but was careful to note that state officials have yet to establish specific criteria for assessing the long-term safety of 3D printed architecture.   
And as Dini, who supports the technology, points out, there is the possibility that the use of additive manufacturing may pose some degree of risk. “The only issue is that as the layers of concrete are bonded together, they’re drying at slightly different rates and that’s not very ideal,” he explains. “So there’s maybe a higher chance of it fracturing at the contact point if there’s a strong enough force at play.” 
Regardless, Dini says he’d feel completely safe going inside any floor of either building since construction materials used today are likely to contain special additives to enhance strength and resistance. One such formulation, fiber-reinforced Ductal, has been shown in some tests to be 10 times stronger and last twice as long as regular concrete. He stressed that walls should also be tested to ensure that other properties, such as acoustics, ventilation and thermal insulations are on par with existing buildings.
“In Italy, building standards are extremely strict,” he noted. “But I can’t say I can say the same about China.”

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Every Black Hole Contains a New Universe


At the center of spiral galaxy M81 is a supermassive black hole about 70 million times more massive than our sun.



Excerpt from insidescience.org
A physicist presents a solution to present-day cosmic mysteries.



By: 
Nikodem Poplawski, Inside Science Minds Guest Columnist



(ISM) -- Our universe may exist inside a black hole. This may sound strange, but it could actually be the best explanation of how the universe began, and what we observe today. It's a theory that has been explored over the past few decades by a small group of physicists including myself. 
Successful as it is, there are notable unsolved questions with the standard big bang theory, which suggests that the universe began as a seemingly impossible "singularity," an infinitely small point containing an infinitely high concentration of matter, expanding in size to what we observe today. The theory of inflation, a super-fast expansion of space proposed in recent decades, fills in many important details, such as why slight lumps in the concentration of matter in the early universe coalesced into large celestial bodies such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
But these theories leave major questions unresolved. For example: What started the big bang? What caused inflation to end? What is the source of the mysterious dark energy that is apparently causing the universe to speed up its expansion?
The idea that our universe is entirely contained within a black hole provides answers to these problems and many more. It eliminates the notion of physically impossible singularities in our universe. And it draws upon two central theories in physics.
Nikodem Poplawski displays a "tornado in a tube." The top bottle symbolizes a black hole, the connected necks represent a wormhole and the lower bottle symbolizes the growing universe on the just-formed other side of the wormhole. Credit: Indiana University
In this picture, spins in particles interact with spacetime and endow it with a property called "torsion." To understand torsion, imagine spacetime not as a two-dimensional canvas, but as a flexible, one-dimensional rod. Bending the rod corresponds to curving spacetime, and twisting the rod corresponds to spacetime torsion. If a rod is thin, you can bend it, but it's hard to see if it's twisted or not.

The first is general relativity, the modern theory of gravity. It describes the universe at the largest scales. Any event in the universe occurs as a point in space and time, or spacetime. A massive object such as the Sun distorts or "curves" spacetime, like a bowling ball sitting on a canvas. The Sun's gravitational dent alters the motion of Earth and the other planets orbiting it. The sun's pull of the planets appears to us as the force of gravity.

The second is quantum mechanics, which describes the universe at the smallest scales, such as the level of the atom. However, quantum mechanics and general relativity are currently separate theories; physicists have been striving to combine the two successfully into a single theory of "quantum gravity" to adequately describe important phenomena, including the behavior of subatomic particles in black holes.
A 1960s adaptation of general relativity, called the Einstein-Cartan-Sciama-Kibble theory of gravity, takes into account effects from quantum mechanics. It not only provides a step towards quantum gravity but also leads to an alternative picture of the universe. This variation of general relativity incorporates an important quantum property known as spin. Particles such as atoms and electrons possess spin, or the internal angular momentum that is analogous to a skater spinning on ice.

Spacetime torsion would only be significant, let alone noticeable, in the early universe or in black holes. In these extreme environments, spacetime torsion would manifest itself as a repulsive force that counters the attractive gravitational force coming from spacetime curvature. As in the standard version of general relativity, very massive stars end up collapsing into black holes: regions of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape.
Here is how torsion would play out in the beginning moments of our universe. Initially, the gravitational attraction from curved space would overcome torsion's repulsive forces, serving to collapse matter into smaller regions of space. But eventually torsion would become very strong and prevent matter from compressing into a point of infinite density; matter would reach a state of extremely large but finite density. As energy can be converted into mass, the immensely high gravitational energy in this extremely dense state would cause an intense production of particles, greatly increasing the mass inside the black hole.
The increasing numbers of particles with spin would result in higher levels of spacetime torsion. The repulsive torsion would stop the collapse and would create a "big bounce" like a compressed beach ball that snaps outward. The rapid recoil after such a big bounce could be what has led to our expanding universe. The result of this recoil matches observations of the universe's shape, geometry, and distribution of mass.
In turn, the torsion mechanism suggests an astonishing scenario: every black hole would produce a new, baby universe inside. If that is true, then the first matter in our universe came from somewhere else. So our own universe could be the interior of a black hole existing in another universe. Just as we cannot see what is going on inside black holes in the cosmos, any observers in the parent universe could not see what is going on in ours.
The motion of matter through the black hole's boundary, called an "event horizon," would only happen in one direction, providing a direction of time that we perceive as moving forward. The arrow of time in our universe would therefore be inherited, through torsion, from the parent universe.
Torsion could also explain the observed imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Because of torsion, matter would decay into familiar electrons and quarks, and antimatter would decay into "dark matter," a mysterious invisible form of matter that appears to account for a majority of matter in the universe.
Finally, torsion could be the source of "dark energy," a mysterious form of energy that permeates all of space and increases the rate of expansion of the universe. Geometry with torsion naturally produces a "cosmological constant," a sort of added-on outward force which is the simplest way to explain dark energy. Thus, the observed accelerating expansion of the universe may end up being the strongest evidence for torsion.
Torsion therefore provides a theoretical foundation for a scenario in which the interior of every black hole becomes a new universe. It also appears as a remedy to several major problems of current theory of gravity and cosmology. Physicists still need to combine the Einstein-Cartan-Sciama-Kibble theory fully with quantum mechanics into a quantum theory of gravity. While resolving some major questions, it raises new ones of its own. For example, what do we know about the parent universe and the black hole inside which our own universe resides? How many layers of parent universes would we have? How can we test that our universe lives in a black hole?
The last question can potentially be investigated: since all stars and thus black holes rotate, our universe would have inherited the parent black hole’s axis of rotation as a "preferred direction." There is some recently reported evidence from surveys of over 15,000 galaxies that in one hemisphere of the universe more spiral galaxies are "left-handed", or rotating clockwise, while in the other hemisphere more are "right-handed", or rotating counterclockwise. In any case, I believe that including torsion in geometry of spacetime is a right step towards a successful theory of cosmology.

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US Issuing Licenses for Mineral Mining on Moon

Excerpt from space-travel.comWashington DC (Sputnik) Feb 09, 2015Bigelow Aerospace plans to test a space habitat at the International Space Station this year, and then operate free-flying orbital outposts for customers, including government agencies...

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The Mystery of the Blonde-haired Tarim Mummies of China



Excerpt from 
historicmysteries.com
By Shelly Barclay

The Tarim Mummies or the Mummies of Xinjiang are mysterious mummies that were discovered in the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains in China. What is so mysterious about them is that some of them date back to roughly 4,000 years ago, a time when it was thought that there were no westerners in that area. However, there must have been, because the Tarim mummies are Caucasian. Not only that, but they wear similar garments and share similar burial practices of some European countries.



The first of the Tarim mummies was discovered by Wang Binghua in 1978. Wang had been searching for ancient settlements along in the northeast of Xinjiang when a local man directed him to Quizilchoqa. It was there that Wang uncovered the first mysterious Tarim mummy. Over time, these mummies were discovered in four different sites in the Tarim Basin area.  More than one hundred of them have been uncovered so far.


The Tarim mummies are unusually well preserved. This is interesting because the people who buried them did not practice mummification. The sites where these mummies have been found, lie on the edges of the Taklamakan Desert. When these ancient people buried their dead, the hot climate and rocky soil helped to keep the deceased’s body preserved, though it should have decomposed hundreds of years ago. Some of these corpses rival the Ancient Egyptian mummies in their extraordinary preserved state.
Another very strange thing about the Tarim mummies is the attire in which they were buried. If the fact that some of them had blond hair and blue eyes hadn’t given away the fact that they were westerners that had settled in what is now Xinjiang, the clothing they wore when they were buried would have. 


One of the mummies, the Yingpan Man, was six feet six inches tall and wore a red tunic with gold embroidery. He also wore a gold foil burial mask. This burial clothing is far more indicative of western influence than of Eastern. Other Tarim mummies have also been found wearing decidedly western clothing. One of the oddest bits of clothing found any of these mummies are the flat-brimmed pointy “witch hats” that were discovered on the “Witches of Subeshi.”

Researchers have been able to decipher a number of things about the people who buried these mummies since their discovery. This is largely due to the work of Dr. Victor Mair, the man who brought the Tarim mummies into the public eye. It is known that the ancient people rode horses, used chariots and had at least some medical knowledge. One of the Tarim mummies was found with evidence of a surgical wound on its neck, which had been sutured at some point.

Since the discovery of the caucasian-featured Tarim mummies in Xinjiang, scientists have been trying to uncover links between the ancient people who buried these mummies and modern citizens of the area. Thus far, several links have been discovered and hypothesized, but it is difficult to make them public or credible because of political unrest in the area. Nonetheless, there are many people who are certain that the Tarim mummies represent the first Caucasians to settle in the area. If this is fact, then it will mean that western man settled in the area roughly one thousand years before scientists had previously thought they did.

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How Obama wants to spend Americans’ money next year: an agency-by-agency look


PHOTO: President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan is distributed by the Senate Budget Committee as it arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan is distributed by the Senate Budget Committee as it arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Excerpt from therepublic.com 

WASHINGTON — Sure, $4 trillion sounds like a lot. But it goes fast when your budget stretches from aging highways to medical care to space travel and more.

Here's an agency-by-agency look at how President Barack Obama would spend Americans' money in the 2016 budget year beginning Oct. 1:


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Up or down? Up 4.3 percent
What's new? Medicare could negotiate prices for cutting-edge drugs.
Highlights:
— The president's proposed health care budget asks Congress to authorize Medicare to negotiate what it pays for high-cost prescription drugs and for biologics, including advanced medications for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, private insurers bargain on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Drug makers have beaten back prior proposals to give Medicare direct pricing power. But the introduction of a $1,000-a-pill hepatitis-C drug last year may have shifted the debate.
— Tobacco taxes would nearly double, to extend health insurance for low-income children. The federal cigarette tax would rise from just under $1.01 per pack to about $1.95 per pack. Taxes on other tobacco products also would go up. That would provide financing to pay for the Children's Health Insurance Program through 2019. The federal-state program serves about 8 million children, and funding technically expires Sept. 30. The tobacco tax hike would take effect in 2016.
— Starting in 2019, the proposal increases Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and adds charges for new enrollees. The charges for new enrollees include a home health copayment, changes to the Part B deductible, and a premium surcharge for seniors who've also purchased a kind of supplemental insurance whose generous benefits are seen as encouraging overuse of Medicare services.
— There's full funding for ongoing implementation of Obama's health care law.
—The plan would end the budget sequester's 2 percent cut in Medicare payments to service providers and repeal another budget formula that otherwise will result in sharply lower payments for doctors. But what one hand gives, the other hand takes away. The budget also calls for Medicare cuts to hospitals, insurers, drug companies and other service providers.
The numbers:
Total spending: $1.1 trillion, including about $1 trillion on benefit programs including Medicare and Medicaid, already required by law.
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $80 billion.

NASA
Up or down? Up 2.9 percent
What's new? Not much. Just more money for planned missions.
Highlights:
—The exploration budget — which includes NASA's plans to grab either an asteroid or a chunk of an asteroid and haul it closer to Earth for exploration by astronauts — gets a slight bump in funding. But the details within the overall exploration proposal are key. The Obama plan would put more money into cutting-edge non-rocket space technology; give a 54 percent spending jump to money sent to private firms to develop ships to taxi astronauts to the International Space Station; and cut by nearly 12 percent spending to build the next government big rocket and capsule to carry astronauts. Congress in the past has cut the president's proposed spending on the private firms and technology and boosted the spending on the government big rocket and capsule.
—The president's 0.8 percent proposed increase in NASA science spending is his first proposed jump in that category in four years. It's also the first proposed jump in years in exploring other planets. It includes extra money for a 2020 unmanned Martian rover and continued funding for an eventual robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. But the biggest extra science spending goes to study Earth.
— Obama's budget would cut aeronautics research 12 percent from current spending and slash NASA's educational spending by 25 percent. It also slightly trims the annual spending to build the over-budget multi-billion dollar James Webb Space Telescope, which will eventually replace the Hubble Space Telescope and is scheduled to launch in 2018.
The numbers:
Total spending: $18.5 billion
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $18.5 billion

TRANSPORTATION
Up or down? Up 31 percent
What's new? A plan to tackle an estimated $2 trillion in deferred maintenance for the nation's aging infrastructure by boosting highway and transit spending to $478 billion over six years.
Highlights:
— The six-year highway and transit plan would get a one-time $238 billion infusion from the general treasury. Some of the money would be offset by taxing the profits of U.S. companies that haven't been paying taxes on income made overseas. That infusion comes on top of the $35 billion a year that normally comes from gasoline and diesel taxes and other transportation fees.
— The proposal also includes tax incentives to encourage private investment in infrastructure, and an infrastructure investment bank to help finance major transportation projects.
— The new infrastructure investment would be front-loaded. The budget proposes to spend the money over six years and pay for the programs over 10 years.
— The proposal also includes a new Interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center to coordinate efforts across nearly 20 federal agencies and bureaus to speed up the permitting process. For example, the Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers and Transportation Department are trying to synchronize their reviews of projects such as bridges that cross navigation channels.
The numbers:
Total spending: $94.5 billion, including more than $80 billion already required by law, mostly for highway and transit aid to states and improvement grants to airports.
Spending that needs Congress' annual approval: $14.3 billion.

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Seth Borenstein, Joan Lowy and Connie Cass contributed to this report.

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10 Mysterious Biblical Figures No One Can Explain






listverse.com

The canonical Bible is filled with mysterious characters, many of whom drop in for a cameo, do their thing, and then slide out, never to be heard from again. Some are merely extras, but some have a contextual presence that begs further examination. And some are, well, just weird.

10  Melchizedek

01
 

Probably the single most mysterious figure in the Bible, Melchizedek was a priest-king of Salem (later known as Jerusalem) in the time of Abram (Abraham), suggesting a religious organization, complete with ritual and hierarchy, that predated the Jewish nation and their priestly lineage from the tribe of Levi. He is only portrayed as active in one passage, although he is alluded to once in Psalms, and several times in the New Testament’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Some Jewish disciplines insist that Melchizedek was Shem, Noah’s son. He is thought of, in Christian circles, as a proto-messiah, embodying certain traits later given to Christ. New Testament writings assert that Christ was “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek,” indicating an older and deeper covenant with God than the Abrahamic-Levite lineage.
Hebrews 7, though presents him in a more unusual light. In verses 3 and 4:
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.”
Not only do these verses grant Melchizedek a hierarchical level above the most important Jewish patriarch, they assign him mystical qualities. Some take this to mean an earlier incarnation of Christ. Others see it as an ancient manifestation of the Holy Spirit. His identity, role, and theological function have long been debated.
The paucity of scriptural references have added to the mystery, making him a somewhat spectral figure. As such, newer spiritual traditions, as well as New Age quacks, have taken liberties with his persona. Gnostics insisted he became Jesus, and he is cited as a high-level priest in Masonic and Rosicrucian lore. Joseph Smith wrote that he was the greatest of all prophets, and Mormons still trace their priesthood back to him. The Urantia, a 20th-century pseudo-Bible that claims to merge religion, philosophy, and science, insists he’s the first in an evolutionary succession of deification manifestations, with Abraham being his first convert.
There is even a school of thought that Melchizedek is a title or assumed character name, sort of a theological 007, played by a series of Judeo-Christian James Bonds. 

The lore of Melchizedek is confusing but deep and fascinating. Apocryphal books give us more details, some cryptic, some relatively mundane. The Second Book of Enoch is particularly informative, insisting Melchizedek was born of a Virgin. When his mother Sophonim (the wife of Noah’s brother Nir) died in childbirth, he sat up, clothed himself, and sat beside her corpse, praying and preaching. After 40 days, he was taken by an archangel to the Garden of Eden, protected by angels and avoiding the Great Flood without passage on Uncle Noah’s ark.

9  Cain’s Wife

02
 

Cain was, according to Genesis, the first human ever born. He later killed his younger brother Abel in a hissy fit over his sacrifice of meat being more favored than Cain’s sacrificial fruit basket. God put a mark on Cain and cursed the ground he farmed, forcing him into a life as a wandering fugitive. 

That part of the story is fairly well known. Later, though, we read that he settled in the Land of Nod, and, all of a sudden, he has a wife. Absolutely nothing else is mentioned about her. We don’t even know where she came from. In fact, the question of where Cain got his wife, when his immediate family were apparently the only people in the world, has sent many a perceptive young Sunday schooler down the road of skepticism. 

Some have posited a mysterious other tribe of people, maybe created after Adam and Eve, maybe even another race or species. But the standard response is that Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters to populate the Earth. The only way to keep the human race going would be to mate with siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. 

In fact, though the Holy Bible is silent on her identity, the apocryphal Book of Jubilees tells us exactly who was Cain’s wife: his sister Awan, who bore his son Enoch.

8  Joseph Barsabbas

03
 

After Judas Iscariot turned in his resignation by selling out his boss, Jesus’s disciples rushed to fill the open position and bring the number back up to a more theologically apt 12. The remaining disciples, including the newly convinced Thomas, looked over the candidates from the 120 or so adherents who followed Jesus. Then they cast lots to pick who would fill the position. 

It went to Matthias, a fairly mysterious character himself. We don’t know where he came from or his previous occupation. Some think he was actually the diminutive Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to get a better glimpse of Jesus’s ride on the donkey.
The man who lost out was Joseph Barsabbas, also known as Joseph Justus. We know nothing solid about him, even less than we know about Matthias.
There is, however, one bit of interesting speculation. A list of names presented in Mark 6:3 includes some of Christ’s earliest and most loyal adherents. One of these is a man named Joses, and another is James the Just. Biblical scholar Robert Eisenman suggests that James carried on Jesus’s work, and the writer of the Book of Acts assigned him an alias to minimize his importance.

7  The Beloved Disciple

04
 

In the Gospel of John, several references are made to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This particular favorite is present at the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and after the resurrection. The writer of the Gospel of John even states that the testimony of this disciple is the basis for the text. But there is considerable debate over the identity of this mystery figure.
The most obvious nominee is John the Apostle, one of Christ’s inner circle of 12 and the namesake of the Gospel. But none of the 12 apostles were present at the crucifixion, so that crosses him off the list. Lazarus, resurrected by Christ, is also considered. He seems to have been present at the cited events and is referred to specifically, in the story of His death and resurrection, as “he whom Thou lovest.”
Mary Magdalene, Judas, Jesus’s brother James, or an unnamed disciple, possibly even a Roman or governmental official, have all been considered. There is even a school of thought that John is an interactive gospel, with the reader being the beloved disciple.

6  Simon Magus

05
 

“Simony” is the selling of church position or privilege. It is named for Simon Magus, or Simon the Magician, who makes only a brief appearance in the Bible, in Acts 8:9–24. Simon has since become synonymous with heretical thought, and religious exploitation.
He is presented as a powerful magician with a large following of in Samaria, who converts to Christianity and wishes to learn from apostles Peter and Phillip. When he sees the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues and an ecstatic spiritual state, he offers the men money if they will give him the secret to passing these gifts to others. They are not amused.
Apocryphal texts reveal quite a bit more, like his alleged ability to levitate and even fly, emphasizing that he was something akin to a cult leader in his hometown. It is suggested that his conversion is more for economic purposes than spiritual, and he set himself up as a messianic figure himself, competing for the Jesus dollar with his own homespun theology.
He is thought by some to be a founder of Gnosticism, a patchwork of various religious systems that relied heavily on Judaic and Christian symbolism.

5  Onan

06
 

Not unlike Simon Magus, Onan’s brief appearance inspired a name for a particular action.
He was the second son of Abraham’s grandson Judah, the patriarch and namesake of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. His older brother, Er (yes, just “Er”) was “wicked in the sight of the Lord,” so God killed him. What he did to deserve such an execution remains a mystery.
Tradition at the time dictated that Er’s widow, Tamar, become Onan’s wife. Onan had to impregnate her to keep the lineage alive, but he was not as wild about the idea. Maybe it was the thought of impending fatherhood, or Tamar just wasn’t his type. So, taking matters into his own hands, he committed the first recorded act of coitus interruptus. Or, as Genesis 38:9 so poetically put it: “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.” God was displeased and slew Onan.
The whole tale gets even more sordid. Onan had a younger brother, Shelah. Customarily, he would have been next in line to impregnate Tamar, but Judah forbade it. Tamar, rather than graciously accepting forced spinsterhood, seduced Judah and (became pregnant) by the old man. Judah fathered twins Zerah and Perez, the latter of whom was listed by Matthew as an ancestor of Jesus’s earthly father Joseph...
Some have even suggested that Onan’s death warns that sex is meant only for purposes of reproduction, and not for pleasure.

4  Nicodemus

07
 

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, a council of men who ruled on Jewish law and governance. He became a friend, follower, and intellectual foil for Jesus, whose egalitarian teachings often ran counter to the Sanhedrin’s rigid decrees. He was also a Pharisee, a leader within the Jewish community who toadied up to the Roman government at the time of Christ’s arrest and subsequent crucifixion.
He is mentioned three times in the New Testament, all in the Gospel of John. He subtly defends Jesus as the Pharisees discuss His impending arrest. Later, he helps prepare Jesus’s body for burial, indicating he had become an adherent to Christ and His teachings.
The first time he is mentioned, however, is in dialogue with Jesus, and these conversations reveal some of the most important aspects of Christian theology, such as the notion of being “born again” and the most famous reference to the divinity of Christ, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This detailed conversation explores the divide between the Old Covenant’s dogmatic and exclusive Jewish Law and the New Covenant’s spiritually inclusive concepts. But for a vital contributor to such an important passage of the New Testament, Nicodemus remains a mysterious figure. Some scholars have suggested he may be Nicodemus ben Gurion, a Talmudic figure of wealth and mystical power. Christian tradition suggest he was martyred, and he is venerated as a saint. His name has come to be synonymous with seekers of the truth and is used as a character in many works of biblically inspired fiction.

3  James The Just

08
 

He is considered, next to Paul and Peter, the most important apostolic figure in the Church’s history. The Book of Acts specifically names him the head of the Christian church in Jerusalem, and he is frequently cited, both scripturally and apocryphally, as being consulted by both Paul and Peter. So who is he?
Traditionally, he is thought of as Jesus’s brother (or, more precisely, His half-brother). Jesus is listed, in the Gospels, as having siblings, some younger than Him. One was named James.
But James was a common name, and there are several mentioned in the Bible. Two of the 12 disciples were named James, but both are listed as having different fathers than Jesus, and neither went on to become James the Just. James the son of Zebedee went on to be known as James the Great, and James the son of Alphaeus was called James the Less.
It is known that he was a contemporary of Jesus, although he seems to have had no real inner-circle status during Christ’s ministry. The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas says Christ Himself designated James to lead the movement upon His death. The Apostle Paul initially seems respectful, even subservient, to “James the Lord’s brother,” calling him a “pillar” of the movement, even though he was later to disagree with him on matters of doctrine.
Some, though, have suggested the “brother” designation was spiritual, rather than physical. St. Jerome, among others, suggested that the doctrine of perpetual virginity indicated James could be a cousin, which, given the tribal associations and clannishness of the Jewish community of the time, seems valid. Such a relationship would indicate a certain social proximity without necessarily being a true sibling.

2  Simon The Zealot

09
 

Of Christ’s 12 disciples, none are more mysterious than Simon the Zealot. His name was meant to differentiate him from Simon Peter and has come to symbolize, for some, that he was a member of a similarly named political movement that advocated Jewish defiance to Roman law. Some have speculated that he acted, within Christ’s inner circle, as a political adviser. His presence then indicated that Jesus had a revolutionary political agenda.
The truth is much less exciting. The “Zealot” movement did not take place until long after the time that Christ would have given Simon his sobriquet, and there has never been any serious evidence that Simon, despite the designation, was a political radical. The name, and the word upon which it is based, did not take on those aggressive undertones until the movement itself was in full swing. More than likely, Simon was given his name because of intense spiritual devotion, rather than any radical political stance.
Nothing else is known of him, at least not with any surety. The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions him as possibly being a brother or cousin of Jesus, with no real evidence. The Eastern Orthodox tradition says he developed his zeal when Jesus attended his wedding and changed water into wine. Some legends say he was martyred; the philosopher Justus Lipsius somehow got it into his head that he was sawed in half.

1  Og

10
 

Cited twice specifically, but alluded to frequently in general terms, the Nephilim were a race of violent giants that lived in the pre-Flood world at the same time as humanity. Were they, as some suggest, the offspring of demons and human women? Fallen angels themselves? Or simply the descendants of Seth mentioned in the Dead Sea scrolls, a tribe of cranky cases cursed by God for their rebelliousness? Regardless, they evolved and became known by other names, like the Raphaim, and frequently battled humans for land and power.
The most storied of them was Og, the King of Bashan. He was killed, along with his entire army, and his kingdom was ransacked. All of the survivors—men, women, and children—were put to death, and the strongest and most powerful line of Nephilim descendants was eliminated. Some Nephilim bloodlines continued to do battle with the Israelites, though they were becoming less powerful and dying out. One tribe, the Anakim, allied themselves with the human tribes in Philistia. Goliath was thought to have been one of the last few descendants of the Nephilim.
Goliath’s height is given in the earliest manuscripts as 275 centimeters (9′). That’s hardly as awe-inspiring as the creature laying in Og’s bed, which measured, according to Deuteronomy, 400 centimeters (13′ 6″). That’s basically Yao Ming sitting on Shaquille O’Neal’s shoulders.
Biblically, descendants of the Nephilim could not have survived the Flood, even though Og and other giants are post-Flood figures. Some biblical literalists have attributed their later existence to the descendants of Noah’s family hooking up, once again, with demons. Or, being fallen angels and not human, they did survive the flood.
Jewish tradition gets deeper into information about the Nephilim and their descendants, going against the grain of the biblical account. It tells of Og booking passage on the Ark by promising to act as a slave to Noah and his family. Other accounts have him hanging on to the side of the Ark and riding the flood out rodeo-style.

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STATE OF MISSION REPORT JANUARY 2015

Pandora in progress, STRANGE EGG complete. MOSS modulation initialized. PB breach continuation, drastic Isidic security breach deflected, HVBN stable, HF testing in progress. M=29, Midas package. 

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