Home' Greymouth Star : October 25th 2014 Contents I
n a bleak, treeless landscape high
in the southern Peruvian Andes,
bands of intrepid ice age people
hunkered down in rudimentary
dwellings and withstood frigid
weather, thin air and other hard-
Scientists yesterday described
the world’s highest known ice age
settlements, two archaeological sites
about 4.5km above sea level and about
12,000 years old packed with artefacts
including a rock shelter, stone tools,
animal bones, food remnants and
“ What this tells us is that hunter-
gatherers were capable of colonising
a very extreme environment, the high
Andes, despite the challenges at the
end of the ice age,” archaeologist Kurt
Rademaker of Germany ’s University of
Tebingen, who led the study published in
the journal Science, said.
“And they did so quite successfully. It
pushes back the date of initial entry of
humans to this kind of elevation.”
The sites in an Andean locale called the
Pucuncho Basin were occupied by small
numbers of people, probably only in the
“Bands of hunter-gatherers are small
and not many could fit into the rock
shelter, perhaps just a few families,”
University of Maine archaeologist Dan
Sandweiss, another of the researchers,
The researchers said the sites show
high-altitude human habitation was
occurring nearly a millennium earlier
than previously known.
“ We look at the challenges and we say,
‘ Why would you do that when you could
just live somewhere else?’” Rademaker
said. “ Whatever reason they initially
went up there, there were reasons to stay
despite the challenges.”
At that altitude, temperatures averaged
3degC, solar radiation was high and
oxygen was low. But there also were
animals like vicuna and guanaco — llama
relatives — and taruca deer to hunt, the
rock shelter, water in streams, bogs and
wetlands, and stone like obsidian to make
The tools included spear points, scrapers
for working animal hides and implements
for cutting and butchering. “A lot of the
stone tools seem to be all about hunting
and processing of animals,” Rademaker
The ceilings of the natural rock shelters
were blackened with soot from fires. The
researchers found an abundance of animal
bones as well as potato-like starchy tubers
that apparently were gathered from lower
There also was art on the walls of
the rock shelters including red ochre
pictographs of animals, with some entire
wall sections painted red.
“ We don’t know whether they date back
to the earliest occupation of the site,”
An open-air site called Pucuncho
4355m above sea level yielded hundreds
of tools. The Cuncaicha rock shelter
featured two alcoves and likely ser ved as a
base camp at 4480m.
Some experts think people need to
acquire genetic adaptations over many
thousands of years to withstand such
altitudes. But the fact that people
colonised these sites only about 2000
years after humans first entered South
America may suggest other wise.
“ We have to re-examine that idea,”
Rademaker said. — Reuters
Christmas is eight weeks away.
You may be thinking, “Shaun why are
you writing about Christmas at the end of
October?”. Good question.
Well, if you are like my family, the
Christmas countdown has started already.
Things like, “Are we still going to buy
presents for our adult siblings and their
children?” and, “ Where are we going to be,
who will we be with, and how much are
we going to spend?” will be asked.
You may have started to buy things
already in the hope that the credit card
may sur vive December.
Christmas is a fantastic celebration. But
many of us dread it, even hate it.
I mean, “whose family are we spending
Mine, yours, your mum’s place, your dad’s
place, away from everyone, morning here,
evening there and lunch?
In the days of family ‘gardens’ rather than
‘trees’, the pressure to do multiple visits
on Christmas day is immense. Then there
are all the gifts to buy and send — more
family, more presents.
The food, which none of us need, but the
vast majority feast upon.
Travel expenses, lodging expenses, more
food; more, more, more.
The story of a child born in a cattle pen,
and laid in a trough. Born to poor parents
in a poor town. A child wrapped in rags,
an exhausted mother sleeping on straw,
and a step-father trying to explain this to
This story has become the centrepiece of
our materialistic culture.
I took a photo two years ago of our
Christmas tree before the presents were
opened. Not because I was happy, but
because I felt ashamed.
I had two kids and there was an obscene
amount of presents. How could I defend
my tree to the baby in a stable?
Jesus was born to save us from tyranny,
so this year I pray he saves us from
Greymouth Baptist Church
“ We would like to get to a prototype
(of a nuclear fusion reactor) in five
generations,” Dr Thomas McGuire, the
director of the Revolutionary Technology
division at Lockheed Martin’s famed
Skunk Works, said.
“If we can meet our plan of doing a
design-build-test generation every year,
that will put us at about five years, and
we’ve already shown we can do that in the
Dr McGuire was talking to Aviation
Week, the oldest and most widely read
magazine covering defence industry,
and he was promising a working nuclear
fusion reactor that puts out more energy
than it consumes in five years.
“It wouldn’t be at full power ... but
basically just showing that all the physics
works,” he added — but he did predict a
fully operational machine in another five
Lockheed Martin is not a fringe player
hyping some technological fantasy in the
hope of raising enough capital to build a
prototype. It is the biggest player in US
defence-related technology, and it has a
reputation to protect. It would not have
been invited to Aviation Week over the
past week unless it was pretty confident
that the project will succeed.
So suppose there really is a full-scale
prototype of a 100-megawatt nuclear
fusion reactor, ready to go into volume
production, in just 10 years. Nuclear
fusion is clean energy — no radioactive
waste, no risk of meltdown, and of course
no carbon dioxide emissions — so if it is
competitive in cost, it could easily sweep
Fusion power would not replace the
“renewables” (wind, solar, and “bio”
power), whose cost would probably fall
fast enough to stay competitive. But it
would rapidly replace the fossil fuels,
mainly coal and gas, that are used to
generate “base load” power — power
that is always available even if the sun is
down and the wind drops — especially
because the compact reactors would easily
plug into the existing gas turbine power
Lockheed Martin’s T4 project reduces
the size of the reactor tenfold for the
same output, so nuclear fusion could also
replace oil directly in a great many uses,
like powering large ships.
Its abundant, cheap electricity from
a compact source could also eventually
drive oil out of most other transportation
uses, including automobiles and aircraft.
Lockheed Martin talks about meeting
global base load energy demand with
fusion power by 2050.
Lockheed Martin is not alone in the
field. EMC2 Fusion Development Corp
is working on a similar concept in New
Mexico, and other significant players
in the field include Helion Energy in
Washington state, Canadian-based
General Fusion, and Tri-Alpha Energy in
After half a century of desultory
tinkering with fusion power, this is an idea
whose time has come. Assuming that it
really happens, what would that do to the
For a start, it would kill off the coal
industry entirely. Gas would be the next to
go, but the demand for oil (and therefore
its price) would also go into a long-term
decline. The existing nuclear power plants,
which depend upon fission for their
energy, would be replaced with fusion
plants on both cost and safety grounds.
The geopolitical impacts would also be
very large, as major countries that live on
oil exports see their cash flow dry up.
Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and other
countries whose precarious prosperity
and stability depend on large oil exports
might face revolution or civil war when
their income collapsed. So might Mexico,
Indonesia, Iran and perhaps some Arab
On the other hand, countries that
currently spend a lot of their income
on energy imports would suddenly find
themselves much richer — the United
States leads the pack in this regard.
But above all, the threat of runaway
global warming would go away.
It is already too late to avoid some very
large impacts, because there is a great deal
of carbon dioxide in the air that has not
yet produced its full warming effect, and
there are a lot more emissions to come
even if fossil fuels are successfully phased
out in a matter of decades. If fusion power
became available soon enough, however,
we would never exceed a 2degC higher
average global temperature and trigger a
So you can fret all you want about
terrorism and the other minor complaints
of our times, but this is major-league good
news. And if you are not happy with those
predictions about hot fusion power, here is
something else to cheer you up.
Cold fusion power, which depends on
low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR),
was dismissed with much ridicule
when it was first mooted in 1989.
Now it is back on the table, and highly
reputable organisations like the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration are
taking it seriously.
As Dennis Bushnell, chief scientist at
Nasa’s Langley Resarch Centre, said in
an inter view last year: “Several labs have
blown up studying LENR and windows
have melted ... When the conditions are
‘right ’, prodigious amounts of energy can
be produced and released.”
The age of wonders is not past.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
4 - Saturday, October 25, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
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uLetters to the editor
1400 - Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet best
known for his unfinished Canterbury Tales,
1586 - Death sentence is pronounced against
Mary Queen of Scots.
1616 - Dutch mariner Dirk Hartog discovers
1874 - Britain annexes Fiji islands.
1936 - Germany and Italy form
1941 - Germany ’s first offensive
against Moscow in World War II
1966 - Indonesia’s former Foreign
Minister Subandrio is sentenced to
1987 - Indian peacekeeping forces wrest
control of most of Jaffna town in northern Sri
Lanka but still face Tamil rebel snipers.
1990 - Evander Holyfield knocks out Buster
Douglas in the third round in Las Vegas to
become the undisputed heavyweight boxing
1999 - US golfer Payne Stewart and five
others are killed when their Learjet flies
uncontrolled for four hours before crashing in
South Dakota; Stewart was 42.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Johann Strauss Jr, Austrian composer
(1825-1899); Georges Bizet, French composer
(1838-1875); Pablo Picasso, Spanish
artist (1881-1973); Marion Ross, US
actress (1928-); Christina Amphlett,
lead vocalist of the Divinyls (1960-
2013); Chad Smith, US rock
musician of Red Hot Chili Peppers
(1961-); Brett Kirk, AFL player
(1976-); Bat for Lashes, British singer (1979-);
Katy Perry, American singer (1984-) .
“ It is an undoubted truth that the less one
has to do, the less time one finds to do it
in.” — Lord Chesterfield, English author and
“ But because of your stubbornness and your
unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath
against yourself for the day of God’s wrath,
when His righteous judgment will be revealed. ”
— Romans 2:5.
woman was seriously
injured when the car
in which she was a
passenger skidded on a bridge and plunged over
a bank at Hukarere, 12 miles south of Reefton,
last night. She is Ellen Mary Beirne, 49, of
Christchurch. She was a passenger in a car
driven by her nephew, Richard Michael Beirne,
a city rubber worker, formerly of Greymouth.
In heavy rain, the Volkswagen skidded on
a bridge and crashed over a seven foot bank,
rolling over. Miss Beirne was flung for ward
through the windscreen, receiving severe
lacerations to her face and head. She was
rushed to Inangahua Hospital for an emergency
operation. Her condition this morning was
Mr Beirne was unhurt. The car was extensively
In every 10 West Coast shooters is one who is
a menace to man and beast. Purely a commercial
huntsman, he shoots indiscriminately, is
irresponsible for his actions and has little regard
for private property. His abuse of privilege has
caused many local farmers to close their land to
Although the situation has eased in recent
years, a number of West Coast farmers are
deeply concerned with the loss of stock on
their property — the result of indiscriminate
shooting. The trouble occurs mainly at night,
with the spotlight instigating the damage.
“Some shooters catch the eyes of an animal
in the beam and fire away without determining
what species it is,” one irate farmer said. “And
sometimes the animal is a sheep or a cow,” he
added. “It ’s the odd one who spoils everything.”
uFood for thought
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WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Fusion power: Goodbye fossil fuels?
A Christmas prayer
Lockheed Martin scientists work on a draft fusion reactor.
Archaeologists examine an ancient hunter-gatherer site in the Andes mountain range in Peru.
Ice age in the clouds
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