Lt. Christine Hirsch, who teaches navigation at the Naval Academy, explains methods of celestial navigation taught to midshipmen this year {Tim Prudente}

Seeing stars, again: Naval Academy reinstates celestial navigation
by Tim Prudente / October 12, 2015

“The same techniques guided ancient Polynesians in the open Pacific and led Sir Ernest Shackleton to remote Antarctica, then oriented astronauts when the Apollo 12 was disabled by lightning, the techniques of celestial navigation. A glimmer of the old lore has returned to the Naval Academy. Officials reinstated brief lessons in celestial navigation this year, nearly two decades after the full class was determined outdated and cut from the curriculum. That decision, in the late 1990s, made national news and caused a stir among the old guard of navigators. Maritime nostalgia, however, isn’t behind the return. Rather, it’s the escalating threat of cyber attacks that has led the Navy to dust off its tools to measure the angles of stars. After all, you can’t hack a sextant.

“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. “The problem is,” he added, “there’s no backup.” Among the fleet, the Navy ended all training in celestial navigation in 2006, said Lt. Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a Navy spokeswoman. Then officers’ training returned in 2011 for ship navigators, she said. And officials are now rebuilding the program for enlisted ranks; it’s expected to begin next fall. “There’s about 10 years when the Navy didn’t teach to celestial,” said Rogers, the Naval Academy instructor. “New lieutenants, they don’t have that instruction.”

The Navy also began pilot programs this fall in celestial navigation for ROTC students at colleges in Philadelphia, Rochester and Auburn. In Annapolis, midshipmen studied celestial navigation more than a century, until 1998. So what happened? The Air Force. In the 1990s, airmen launched two dozen satellites nearly 13,000 miles above Earth. By 1995, this network, the Global Positioning System, could pinpoint your location within feet. Since then, GPS has never been shut off, according to the government’s website gps.gov. Today, 31 satellites circle the Earth, each twice a day, costing taxpayers about $1 billion a year. “The perceived need for sextants was taken away,” said Peter Trogdon, president of Weems & Plath in Eastport.

This 1940s sextant is among the supply stored at the Naval Academy {Tim Prudente}

The company has sold sextants, and other nautical instruments, since it was founded in 1928 by Naval Academy navigation instructor Capt. Phillip Van Horn Weems. He taught Charles Lindbergh navigation during the pioneer days of aviation. The current president, Trogdon, said sales of sextants plunged after GPS. “There’s only a few thousand sold a year,” he said. A lightning strike to a ships’ mast could disable GPS receivers. “Most of those are sold to yachtsmen that want to have a backup.” Still, GPS has transformed humanitarian and rescue efforts around the world. Celestial navigation, by comparison, isn’t exact. A skilled celestial navigator may calculate locations to within 1.5 miles, Rogers said. Using GPS “you’re within feet. You’re not even in the same ballpark. If you can use GPS, it’s just so much more accurate,” Rogers said, adding, “we know there are cyber vulnerabilities.”

In 2004, he spent two weeks at Naval Station Norfolk studying stars — Betelgeuse, Capella, Pollux — before navigating aboard the cruiser Thomas S. Gates. He didn’t once need a sextant. Still, a world without GPS isn’t too remote a possibility for retired Navy Capt. Terry Carraway, of Silver Spring. He formed the nonprofit Navigation Foundation in the early 1980s to sustain proficiencies in celestial navigation. That organization peaked with more than 500 navigators, he said.

“In the event that we had to go into a national emergency, we would probably have to shut the GPS down because it can be used by potential enemies,” he said. “It would be pretty hard to train a lot of people in celestial navigation, so we wanted to keep contact with all the people who taught it.” The foundation disbanded in 2002. “The old celestial navigators all passed away,” said Carraway, 88.

Cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, used to have a course devoted entirely to celestial navigation. It ended about 10 years ago, said David Santos, the academy spokesman. Some classroom instruction remains in theories of celestial navigation, Santos said. Also, cadets use a sextant aboard the tall ship Eagle. Instructors at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York, have continuously taught celestial navigation, said Benjamin Benson, the academy spokesman. In fact, instructor Capt. Timothy Tisch shared materials to help the Naval Academy rebuild its program. Benson provided a statement from Tisch: “Knowledge of celestial navigation in the GPS era provides a solid back-up form of navigation in the event GPS becomes unreliable for whatever reason,” Tisch said in the statement. “It is also good professional practice to use one navigational system to verify the accuracy of another.”

“Quartermaster Seaman Pasquale V. Verrastro uses a sextant to find the range of a foreign vessel on the bridge wing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jared King/Released)”

In Annapolis, celestial navigation instruction ended loudly. The Capital reported in June 1998: “First came the old salts, who fear the military school will no longer produce ‘real’ sailors. Knowing how to navigate by the stars, they say, is the mark of a mariner. Then came the profit-seekers, who asked if they could inherit the academy’s $1,500 sextants. Such devices, inquirers said, would be a nice addition to their museum, a nice mantle piece, or of some use out on the yacht.” (The academy still has its sextants, Rogers said.) The decision to cut the academy’s long-standing class on celestial navigation was even raised in a New York Times editorial calling the move “a melancholy surprise.” Still, that decision came after months of discussion that began with a 1996 curriculum review. That review came partly in response to a cheating scandal in the early 1990s that ended with 24 midshipmen expelled. The review committee decided the required sophomore course on navigating by stars was outdated. Then-Superintendent Adm. Charles Larson, after consulting with commanders of Navy ships, cut the course and added extra lessons on computer navigation.

Midshipmen were relieved. Celestial calculations were painfully difficult, requiring a nautical almanac and volumes of tables. Still, the news caused more than a dozen letters to the editor in Proceedings, the magazine devoted to naval service. “It fired people up,” Fred Rainbow, the magazine’s editor then, told The Capital. Some lessons continued, but instruction in celestial navigation ended entirely within years. The 2010 curriculum manual didn’t even mention celestial navigation. Five years later, the Navy reinstated the subject in the manual issued two months ago. The first midshipmen to receive training were juniors during this past summer school. Future classes will learn theories of celestial navigation during an advanced navigation course. And the Class of 2017 will be the first to graduate with the reinstated instruction. But it’s only three hours of celestial navigation — so students won’t be skilled with sextants.

“This is the first semester we added it in, so we’re just baby-stepping it,” said Lt. Christine Hirsch, who teaches navigation at the academy. “We just added the theory, but we really do have the capabilities to expand.” Still, it’s welcome news to maritime enthusiasts. “Fantastic,” said Trogdon, the president of Weems & Plath. “How cool is it to go back to the ancestral technique?” Rogers at the Naval Academy said, “That’s a victory. I agree with them. I think, if you’re out at sea, you should be able to navigate without GPS — things happen.” In the 1990s, midshipmen were tested on the sextant. They took celestial measurements, then entered data, sometimes 20 figures, for each star, time, distance, angle. This year, Midshipman Phillip Lowry, of North Ogden City, Utah, learned the general theory of celestial navigation. He considered those past mids. “I don’t envy them.”


Long-Distance Jammer Is Taking Down Drones
by Matt Terndrup  /  October 16th, 2015

“The battle for control of the skies continues. As the amount of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) increases each year, contracting parties are stepping up their efforts to keep the devices out of the air. Battelle, a large nonprofit research and development organization headquartered in Ohio, has now developed a portable, shoulder-mounted rifle, dubbed the DroneDefender, that attacks UAVs with radio waves. In a press release from Battelle, the gun is stated to use “radio control frequency disruption technologies to safely stop drones in the air, before they can pose a threat to military or civilian safety.” A video accompanying the post describes that it operates on standard GPS and ISM radio bands, allowing for it to interference with commercial UAV signals. Reportedly, the DroneDefender can hit objects up to 400 meters with an effective cone diameter of 30°. This is about as far as Battelle goes with the technical details, so the actual frequency ranges of the rifle still remain unknown. However, it is easy to determine which ISM radio bands they most likely run on by looking at the consumer UAV market. The DJI Phantom series, for example, as seen in video above, shows that the DroneDefender is likely targeting the 2.4 GHz range (if it is attacking the Phantom 1 or Phantom 2). This puts them on the same range as standard Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth connections, microwave ovens, car alarms, baby monitors, and ZigBee devices. To disrupt the GPS signal, the rifle needs to broadcast at 1575.42 MHz or 1227.60 MHz, depending on the UAV.


When a remote control signal is interfered with, drones will often enter into their safety protocols, which usually includes one of three options. It will either hover in place until the pilot can regain a control link, attempt to land so the pilot can recover it physically, or try to return to its point of origin. Since the DroneDefender is mentioned to be attacking the GPS signal as well, the likely scenario is that the device will hover for a while or try to land. On a legal standpoint, the DroneDefender seems to be in a grey area. According to FCC regulations, federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi). Operation of a jammer in the United States may result in substantial monetary penalties, seizure of the unlawful equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment. The main reason for outlawing radio jamming equipment has to do with ensuring that emergency signals are not interfered with. If an accident occurs and a signal gets disrupted, lives could be at risk. However, some states are proposing legislation, like in California, that would allow firefighters and authorities to take down drones if they are interfering with an emergency situation like a wildfire. Blocking approach paths to airports, hovering over fires, and flying over freeways could be considered instances where those drones can be shot down.”

Louis DeChiaro of US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) on Replicating Pons and Fleischmann
by Frank Acland /  October 6, 2015

“Thanks to Adrian Ashfield for sharing this information with me who tells me this information comes from the research notes of Louis F. DeChiaro, Ph.D, a physicist with the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Dahlgren Warfare Center. I am told this text has been cleared for public dissemination.”

“As for duplicating the Pons and Fleischmann results, we now have a much better understanding of the phenomenon, and the list of prerequisite conditions is rather lengthy. Failure to meet even one of those conditions results in zero excess energy output. The data suggest that there may be more than one initiation mechanism, so I’m most qualified to comment upon what is known as the atomic vibrational LENR initiation mechanism (because my formal background is in Condensed Matter Physics). If one had to summarize the list in a fairly brief manner, I would write it as follows:

1. It is necessary to set up conditions favoring the formation of molecular hydrogen (H2 or D2) inside the solid lattice for a certain range of possible values of lattice constant and for some fraction of the allowed values for electron momentum. This condition alone rules out almost ALL the elemental , because the electron density is just too large to permit molecules to form, except near vacancies in the lattice where a metal atom is absent.

2. The overall hydrogen loading fraction (ratio of hydrogen to palladium atoms, for example) must exceed the minimum threshold of about 0.88, otherwise the “party” never even gets started. Achieving this level of loading in Pd is not trivial.

3. Conditions must be set up (by appropriate choice of materials parameters and achieved by the right kind of alloying) so that these hydrogen molecules can be caused to break up and then re-assemble very rapidly in a periodic time sequence when an appropriate physical quantity such as background electric charge, magnetic field, etc. is made to oscillate periodically over a small range.

4. The critical value of lattice constant at which this break up and reassembly occurs must lie very close to the nominal value of lattice constant for which the ground state energy of the lattice is minimal. This requirement alone rules out essentially all of the elemental lattices and about 99% of the binary and ternary alloys.

5. A departure from equilibrium must be established that will permit an external energy source (eg. the DC power supply in an electrolysis experiment and/or a pair of low power lasers as in the Letts/Hagelstein two laser experiment) to feed energy into the H-H or D-D stretching mode vibrations. The difference in chemical potential that is established in gas loading experiments can also serve very nicely; in this case the flux feeds energy into the stretching mode vibrations.

6. The nature of the lattice must permit these stretching mode vibrations to grow so large (over a period of perhaps many nanoseconds) that their amplitude becomes comparable to the lattice constant. When this occurs, the H atoms oscillate so violently that at the instants of closest approach, the curvature of the parabolic energy wells in which the atomic nuclei vibrate will become perturbed. Thus the curvature of the well oscillates as a periodic function of time. These very large amplitude vibrations are known as superoscillations in the Western literature and as “discrete breathers” in the Ukrainian literature. Under the right conditions, these oscillations can grow without impacting the atoms, which are much more massive than the hydrogens. We explored this computationally via Density Functional Molecular Dynamics runs.

7. When the curvatures of the parabolic energy wells of the nuclei are modulated at a frequency very near the natural resonant frequency, the quantum expectation value of the nuclear wave function spatial spread will oscillate with time in such a way that the positive-going peaks grow exponentially with time. Originally, I found this idea in the Ukrainian literature and was skeptical. So, we verified it by doing a direct numerical solution of the time-dependent Schrodinger Equation for a single nuclear particle in a parabolic energy well. These oscillations in spatial spread will periodically delocalize the nucleus and facilitate the tunneling of adjacent nuclei into the Strong Force attractive nuclear potential well, giving rise to nuclear fusion at rates that are several tens of orders of magnitude larger than what one calculates via the usual Gamow Factor integral relationship.

Almost none of this material was obvious back in 1989. Without knowing what one is doing and why it works, the probability of achieving successful results via the so-called Edisonian method of trial and error is disappointingly low. Reasonable scientists and engineers can be forgiven for their difficulty in believing that there might exist ANY circumstances under which such things could be possible. And to be blunt, it was only in the last few months that the causal chain finally became clear.

An old saying holds that it is easy to appear tall when standing on the shoulders of giants. My colleagues and I are most humbly grateful to have been given the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of such giants, however briefly. I would also suggest that some praise might be due to people like Andrea Rossi, who (by and large) had little alternative but to employ the Edisonian method and nevertheless appear to have obtained positive results. We have run materials simulations (also known as Density Functional Theory simulations) on our best guess of Rossi’s alloy material. It satisfies all the conditions given above, while pure Nickel does not.

In like manner, the Naval Research Labs (NRL) ran over 300 experiments using pure Pd cathodes, all of them yielding negative results. Then somebody suggested that NRL should try an alloy of 90% Pd and 10% Rh. The very first such alloy cathode they tried yielded over 10,000 Joules of excess thermal energy – all from less than 1 gram of cathode material. I ran Density Functional Theory simulations on that alloy, and it, too, satisfies all the conditions given above, while pure Pd and pure Rh do not.

NRL christened this cathode with the name Eve, after the obvious Biblical analogy. I’m pleased to share the news that Eve had a number of “sisters” who produced equal and even greater excess thermal energy, among a number of other more interesting effects. Finally, I can observe that the materials simulations now make it fairly easy to evaluate any given solid lattice material and estimate its level of LENR activity. We have good correlations between the simulation results and the known levels of experimentally-determined LENR activity in a number of different alloys whose dominant elements come from the Transition Metal Group of the Periodic Table. Hopefully, we will be able to get all the details of this material released for publication to the general public over the next few weeks.”



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