HAMNET Report 6th September 2020

Since Sunday the 30th of August, there have been warnings out for Tropical Cyclone MAYSAK, and subsequently Tropical Cyclone HAISHEN, following it into the seas between Taiwan and Mainland China to the West, South and then North Korea to the North, and Japan to the East. Twenty million people in these densely populated areas were in the path of the 120km/h storm winds by last Sunday, predicted to increase to 220km/h in the two Korean nations as the cyclones advanced.

Aljazeera said on Monday that the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that Typhoon MAYSAK could bring with it storm surge, heavy rains, high waves and violent winds, potentially causing a “major disaster” in the Okinawa region.

The agency also called on residents to “evacuate to sturdy buildings before winds get stronger”.

MAYSAK was expected to gain further strength, with maximum winds of 252km/h as it closed in on the island from late at night, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said in a statement on Sunday.

A total of 180 flights to and from the Okinawa region had already been cancelled and many schools and public offices were closed from last Monday afternoon, the Okinawa Times newspaper reported.

By this Saturday it was Typhoon HAISHEN causing the trouble, following in the tracks of MAYSAK, and threatening 15 million people in its path.

Fraser Cain, writing in his weekly UniverseToday Blog, notes that it was in 1950, that Italian-American physicist  Enrico Fermi sat down to lunch with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he had worked five years prior, as part of the Manhattan Project. According to various accounts, the conversation turned to aliens and the recent spate of UFOs. Into this, Fermi issued a statement that would go down in the annals of history: “Where is everybody?

This became the basis of the Fermi Paradox, which refers to the disparity between high probability estimates for the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) and the apparent lack of evidence for it. Since Fermi’s time, there have been several proposed resolutions to his question, which includes the Berserker Hypothesis. This theory suggests we haven’t heard from any alien civilizations because they’ve been wiped out by killer robots!

Also known as the “deadly probes scenario,” this hypothesis may sound like something out of science fiction (the name itself is actually taken from an SF franchise, in fact), but it’s actually rooted in scientific research. It also touches on other proposed resolutions to the Fermi Paradox, such as the Hart-Tipler Conjecture (i.e. aliens don’t exist) and that it’s the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself or others.

Central to Fermi’s famous question was a discrepancy between the assumed likelihood of that extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) and the lack of evidence to support this assumption. But given the number of stars in our galaxy (200 to 400 billion), the number of Earth-like planets in our galaxy (an estimated 6 billion), the number of galaxies in the Universe (as many as 2 trillion), it’s not farfetched to assume intelligent life must exist elsewhere.

In 1961, American physicist and SETI researcher Dr. Frank Drake illustrated this conundrum during a meeting at the Green Bank Observatory. In preparation for the meeting, Drake created an equation that summed up the probability of finding ETIs in our galaxy, thereafter known as the Drake Equation

And yet, after an additional 70 years of searching, Fermi’s Paradox and the “Great Silence” persist, as no compelling evidence has been found. This has led to multiple proposed resolutions from astrophysicists, astrobiologists, and other scientists and researchers.

As the saying goes, the show ain’t over until the fat lady sings, so watch this space!

Byron Spice, writing in ScienceDaily notes that it wasn’t long after Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf Coast 2 Thursdays ago, that people began flying drones to record the damage and posting videos on social media. Those videos are a precious resource, say researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who are working on ways to use them for rapid damage assessment.

By using artificial intelligence, the researchers are developing a system that can automatically identify buildings and make an initial determination of whether they are damaged and how serious that damage might be.

“Current damage assessments are mostly based on individuals detecting and documenting damage to a building,” said Junwei Liang, a Ph.D. student in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI). “That can be slow, expensive and labour-intensive work.”

Satellite imagery doesn’t provide enough detail and shows damage from only a single viewpoint — vertical. Drones, however, can gather close-up information from a number of angles and viewpoints. It’s possible, of course, for first responders to fly drones for damage assessment, but drones are now widely available among residents and routinely flown after natural disasters.

“The number of drone videos available on social media soon after a disaster means they can be a valuable resource for doing timely damage assessments,” Liang said.

Xiaoyu Zhu, a master’s student in AI and Innovation in the LTI, said the initial system can overlay masks on parts of the buildings in the video that appear damaged and determine if the damage is slight or serious, or if the building has been destroyed.

Now, a nice story to end off with. Fred Hall M3CTW, celebrated his 100th birthday last Tuesday. The retired clock and watchmaker from Wilshaw in Yorkshire says he loves driving and still does drive, having easily passed an extra driving test at age 94. He has been a widower for 11 months, and is known the world over for his amateur radio activity, being on the air on a daily basis. He continues to show an iron will and a carefree determination to enjoy life.

This was evidenced in his mid-90’s, when he was still climbing on his roof installing aerials, although a few years prior to that he had fallen out of a tree and broken a limb!

“I have a very loving family who are in regular touch, and it was lovely on Tuesday night when I came back from York, and everyone in the courtyard where I live came out to greet me and wish me well”, says Fred.

As for the secret to his long life, he says he is teetotal and makes sure he eats well. I note he omitted to add that the actual reason for his longevity is Amateur Radio!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.