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glimpse into the future of Roblox

Our vision to bring the world together through play has never been more relevant than it is now. As our founder and CEO, David Baszucki (a.k.a. Builderman), mentioned in his keynote, more and more people are using Roblox to stay connected with their friends and loved ones. He hinted at a future where, with our automatic machine translation technology, Roblox will one day act as a universal translator, enabling people from different cultures and backgrounds to connect and learn from each other.
During his keynote, Builderman also elaborated upon our vision to build the Metaverse; the future of avatar creation on the platform (infinitely customizable avatars that allow any body, any clothing, and any animation to come together seamlessly); more personalized game discovery; and simulating large social gatherings (like concerts, graduations, conferences, etc.) with tens of thousands of participants all in one server. We’re still very early on in this journey, but if these past five months have shown us anything, it’s clear that there is a growing need for human co-experience platforms like Roblox that allow people to play, create, learn, work, and share experiences together in a safe, civil 3D immersive space.
Up next, our VP of Developer Relations, Matt Curtis (a.k.a. m4rrh3w), shared an update on all the things we’re doing to continue empowering developers to create innovative and exciting content through collaboration, support, and expertise. He also highlighted some of the impressive milestones our creator community has achieved since last year’s RDC. Here are a few key takeaways:
And lastly, our VP of Engineering, Technology, Adam Miller (a.k.a. rbadam), unveiled a myriad of cool and upcoming features developers will someday be able to sink their teeth into. We saw a glimpse of procedural skies, skinned meshes, more high-quality materials, new terrain types, more fonts in Studio, a new asset type for in-game videos, haptic feedback on mobile, real-time CSG operations, and many more awesome tools that will unlock the potential for even bigger, more immersive experiences on Roblox.

Vibin’

Despite the virtual setting, RDC just wouldn’t have been the same without any fun party activities and networking opportunities. So, we invited special guests DJ Hyper Potions and cyber mentalist Colin Cloud for some truly awesome, truly mind-bending entertainment. Yoga instructor Erin Gilmore also swung by to inspire attendees to get out of their chair and get their body moving. And of course, we even had virtual rooms dedicated to karaoke and head-to-head social games, like trivia and Pictionary.
Over on the networking side, Team Adopt Me, Red Manta, StyLiS Studios, and Summit Studios hosted a virtual booth for attendees to ask questions, submit resumes, and more. We also had a networking session where three participants would be randomly grouped together to get to know each other.

What does Roblox mean to you?

We all know how talented the Roblox community is from your creations. We’ve heard plenty of stories over the years about how Roblox has touched your lives, how you’ve made friendships, learned new skills, or simply found a place where you can be yourself. We wanted to hear more. So, we asked attendees: What does Roblox mean to you? How has Roblox connected you? How has Roblox changed your life? Then, over the course of RDC, we incorporated your responses into this awesome mural.
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Created by Alece Birnbach at Graphic Recording Studio

Knowledge is power

This year’s breakout sessions included presentations from Roblox developers and staff members on the latest game development strategies, a deep dive into the Roblox engine, learning how to animate with Blender, tools for working together in teams, building performant game worlds, and the new Creator Dashboard. Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, also led attendees through a discussion on mental health and how to best take care of you and your friends’ emotional well-being, especially now during these challenging times.
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Making the Dream Work with Teamwork (presented by Roblox developer Myzta)
In addition to our traditional Q&A panel with top product and engineering leaders at Roblox, we also held a special session with Builderman himself to answer the community’s biggest questions.
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Roblox Product and Engineering Q&A Panel

2020 Game Jam

The Game Jam is always one of our favorite events of RDC. It’s a chance for folks to come together, flex their development skills, and come up with wildly inventive game ideas that really push the boundaries of what’s possible on Roblox. We had over 60 submissions this year—a new RDC record.
Once again, teams of up to six people from around the world had less than 24 hours to conceptualize, design, and publish a game based on the theme “2020 Vision,” all while working remotely no less! To achieve such a feat is nothing short of awe-inspiring, but as always, our dev community was more than up for the challenge. I’ve got to say, these were some of the finest creations we’ve seen.
WINNERS
Best in Show: Shapescape Created By: GhettoMilkMan, dayzeedog, maplestick, theloudscream, Brick_man, ilyannna You awaken in a strange laboratory, seemingly with no way out. Using a pair of special glasses, players must solve a series of anamorphic puzzles and optical illusions to make their escape.
Excellence in Visual Art: agn●sia Created By: boatbomber, thisfall, Elttob An obby experience unlike any other, this game is all about seeing the world through a different lens. Reveal platforms by switching between different colored lenses and make your way to the end.
Most Creative Gameplay: Visions of a perspective reality Created By: Noble_Draconian and Spathi Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective to solve challenges. By switching between 2D and 3D perspectives, players can maneuver around obstacles or find new ways to reach the end of each level.
Outstanding Use of Tech: The Eyes of Providence Created By: Quenty, Arch_Mage, AlgyLacey, xJennyBeanx, Zomebody, Crykee This action/strategy game comes with a unique VR twist. While teams fight to construct the superior monument, two VR players can support their minions by collecting resources and manipulating the map.
Best Use of Theme: Sticker Situation Created By: dragonfrosting and Yozoh Set in a mysterious art gallery, players must solve puzzles by manipulating the environment using a magic camera and stickers. Snap a photograph, place down a sticker, and see how it changes the world.
OTHER TOP PICKS
HONORABLE MENTIONS
For the rest of the 2020 Game Jam submissions, check out the list below:
20-20 Vision | 20/20 Vision | 2020 Vision, A Crazy Perspective | 2020 Vision: Nyon | A Wild Trip! | Acuity | Best Year Ever | Better Half | Bloxlabs | Climb Stairs to 2021 | Double Vision (Team hey apple) | Eyebrawl | Eyeworm Exam | FIRE 2020 | HACKED | Hyperspective | Lucid Scream | Mystery Mansion | New Years at the Museum | New Year’s Bash | Poor Vision | Predict 2020 | RBC News | Retrovertigo | Second Wave | see no evil | Sight Fight | Sight Stealers | Spectacles Struggle | Specter Spectrum | Survive 2020 | The Lost Chicken Leg | The Outbreak | The Spyglass | Time Heist | Tunnel Vision | Virtual RDC – The Story | Vision (Team Freepunk) | Vision (Team VIP People ####) | Vision Developers Conference 2020 | Vision Is Key | Vision Perspective | Vision Racer | Visions | Zepto
And last but not least, we wanted to give a special shout out to Starboard Studios. Though they didn’t quite make it on time for our judges, we just had to include Dave’s Vision for good measure. 📷
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Game Jam, and congrats to all those who took home the dub in each of our categories this year. As the winners of Best in Show, the developers of Shapescape will have their names forever engraved on the RDC Game Jam trophy back at Roblox HQ. Great work!

‘Til next year

And that about wraps up our coverage of the first-ever digital RDC. Thanks to all who attended! Before we go, we wanted to share a special “behind the scenes” video from the 2020 RDC photoshoot.
Check it out:
It was absolutely bonkers. Getting 350 of us all in one server was so much fun and really brought back the feeling of being together with everyone again. That being said, we can’t wait to see you all—for real this time—at RDC next year. It’s going to be well worth the wait. ‘Til we meet again, my friends.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Improving Simulation and Performance with an Advanced Physics Solver

August

05, 2020

by chefdeletat
PRODUCT & TECH
📷In mid-2015, Roblox unveiled a major upgrade to its physics engine: the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS) physics solver. For the first year, the new solver was optional and provided improved fidelity and greater performance compared to the previously used spring solver.
In 2016, we added support for a diverse set of new physics constraints, incentivizing developers to migrate to the new solver and extending the creative capabilities of the physics engine. Any new places used the PGS solver by default, with the option of reverting back to the classic solver.
We ironed out some stability issues associated with high mass differences and complex mechanisms by the introduction of the hybrid LDL-PGS solver in mid-2018. This made the old solver obsolete, and it was completely disabled in 2019, automatically migrating all places to the PGS.
In 2019, the performance was further improved using multi-threading that splits the simulation into jobs consisting of connected islands of simulating parts. We still had performance issues related to the LDL that we finally resolved in early 2020.
The physics engine is still being improved and optimized for performance, and we plan on adding new features for the foreseeable future.

Implementing the Laws of Physics

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The main objective of a physics engine is to simulate the motion of bodies in a virtual environment. In our physics engine, we care about bodies that are rigid, that collide and have constraints with each other.
A physics engine is organized into two phases: collision detection and solving. Collision detection finds intersections between geometries associated with the rigid bodies, generating appropriate collision information such as collision points, normals and penetration depths. Then a solver updates the motion of rigid bodies under the influence of the collisions that were detected and constraints that were provided by the user.
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The motion is the result of the solver interpreting the laws of physics, such as conservation of energy and momentum. But doing this 100% accurately is prohibitively expensive, and the trick to simulating it in real-time is to approximate to increase performance, as long as the result is physically realistic. As long as the basic laws of motion are maintained within a reasonable tolerance, this tradeoff is completely acceptable for a computer game simulation.

Taking Small Steps

The main idea of the physics engine is to discretize the motion using time-stepping. The equations of motion of constrained and unconstrained rigid bodies are very difficult to integrate directly and accurately. The discretization subdivides the motion into small time increments, where the equations are simplified and linearized making it possible to solve them approximately. This means that during each time step the motion of the relevant parts of rigid bodies that are involved in a constraint is linearly approximated.
📷📷
Although a linearized problem is easier to solve, it produces drift in a simulation containing non-linear behaviors, like rotational motion. Later we’ll see mitigation methods that help reduce the drift and make the simulation more plausible.

Solving

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Having linearized the equations of motion for a time step, we end up needing to solve a linear system or linear complementarity problem (LCP). These systems can be arbitrarily large and can still be quite expensive to solve exactly. Again the trick is to find an approximate solution using a faster method. A modern method to approximately solve an LCP with good convergence properties is the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS). It is an iterative method, meaning that with each iteration the approximate solution is brought closer to the true solution, and its final accuracy depends on the number of iterations.
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This animation shows how a PGS solver changes the positions of the bodies at each step of the iteration process, the objective being to find the positions that respect the ball and socket constraints while preserving the center of mass at each step (this is a type of positional solver used by the IK dragger). Although this example has a simple analytical solution, it’s a good demonstration of the idea behind the PGS. At each step, the solver fixes one of the constraints and lets the other be violated. After a few iterations, the bodies are very close to their correct positions. A characteristic of this method is how some rigid bodies seem to vibrate around their final position, especially when coupling interactions with heavier bodies. If we don’t do enough iterations, the yellow part might be left in a visibly invalid state where one of its two constraints is dramatically violated. This is called the high mass ratio problem, and it has been the bane of physics engines as it causes instabilities and explosions. If we do too many iterations, the solver becomes too slow, if we don’t it becomes unstable. Balancing the two sides has been a painful and long process.

Mitigation Strategies

📷A solver has two major sources of inaccuracies: time-stepping and iterative solving (there is also floating point drift but it’s minor compared to the first two). These inaccuracies introduce errors in the simulation causing it to drift from the correct path. Some of this drift is tolerable like slightly different velocities or energy loss, but some are not like instabilities, large energy gains or dislocated constraints.
Therefore a lot of the complexity in the solver comes from the implementation of methods to minimize the impact of computational inaccuracies. Our final implementation uses some traditional and some novel mitigation strategies:
  1. Warm starting: starting with the solution from a previous time-step to increase the convergence rate of the iterative solver
  2. Post-stabilization: reprojecting the system back to the constraint manifold to prevent constraint drift
  3. Regularization: adding compliance to the constraints ensuring a solution exists and is unique
  4. Pre-conditioning: using an exact solution to a linear subsystem, improving the stability of complex mechanisms
Strategies 1, 2 and 3 are pretty traditional, but 3 has been improved and perfected by us. Also, although 4 is not unheard of, we haven’t seen any practical implementation of it. We use an original factorization method for large sparse constraint matrices and a new efficient way of combining it with the PGS. The resulting implementation is only slightly slower compared to pure PGS but ensures that the linear system coming from equality constraints is solved exactly. Consequently, the equality constraints suffer only from drift coming from the time discretization. Details on our methods are contained in my GDC 2020 presentation. Currently, we are investigating direct methods applied to inequality constraints and collisions.

Getting More Details

Traditionally there are two mathematical models for articulated mechanisms: there are reduced coordinate methods spearheaded by Featherstone, that parametrize the degrees of freedom at each joint, and there are full coordinate methods that use a Lagrangian formulation.
We use the second formulation as it is less restrictive and requires much simpler mathematics and implementation.
The Roblox engine uses analytical methods to compute the dynamic response of constraints, as opposed to penalty methods that were used before. Analytics methods were initially introduced in Baraff 1989, where they are used to treat both equality and non-equality constraints in a consistent manner. Baraff observed that the contact model can be formulated using quadratic programming, and he provided a heuristic solution method (which is not the method we use in our solver).
Instead of using force-based formulation, we use an impulse-based formulation in velocity space, originally introduced by Mirtich-Canny 1995 and further improved by Stewart-Trinkle 1996, which unifies the treatment of different contact types and guarantees the existence of a solution for contacts with friction. At each timestep, the constraints and collisions are maintained by applying instantaneous changes in velocities due to constraint impulses. An excellent explanation of why impulse-based simulation is superior is contained in the GDC presentation of Catto 2014.
The frictionless contacts are modeled using a linear complementarity problem (LCP) as described in Baraff 1994. Friction is added as a non-linear projection onto the friction cone, interleaved with the iterations of the Projected Gauss-Seidel.
The numerical drift that introduces positional errors in the constraints is resolved using a post-stabilization technique using pseudo-velocities introduced by Cline-Pai 2003. It involves solving a second LCP in the position space, which projects the system back to the constraint manifold.
The LCPs are solved using a PGS / Impulse Solver popularized by Catto 2005 (also see Catto 2009). This method is iterative and considers each individual constraints in sequence and resolves it independently. Over many iterations, and in ideal conditions, the system converges to a global solution.
Additionally, high mass ratio issues in equality constraints are ironed out by preconditioning the PGS using the sparse LDL decomposition of the constraint matrix of equality constraints. Dense submatrices of the constraint matrix are sparsified using a method we call Body Splitting. This is similar to the LDL decomposition used in Baraff 1996, but allows more general mechanical systems, and solves the system in constraint space. For more information, you can see my GDC 2020 presentation.
The architecture of our solver follows the idea of Guendelman-Bridson-Fedkiw, where the velocity and position stepping are separated by the constraint resolution. Our time sequencing is:
  1. Advance velocities
  2. Constraint resolution in velocity space and position space
  3. Advance positions
This scheme has the advantage of integrating only valid velocities, and limiting latency in external force application but allowing a small amount of perceived constraint violation due to numerical drift.
An excellent reference for rigid body simulation is the book Erleben 2005 that was recently made freely available. You can find online lectures about physics-based animation, a blog by Nilson Souto on building a physics engine, a very good GDC presentation by Erin Catto on modern solver methods, and forums like the Bullet Physics Forum and GameDev which are excellent places to ask questions.

In Conclusion

The field of game physics simulation presents many interesting problems that are both exciting and challenging. There are opportunities to learn a substantial amount of cool mathematics and physics and to use modern optimizations techniques. It’s an area of game development that tightly marries mathematics, physics and software engineering.
Even if Roblox has a good rigid body physics engine, there are areas where it can be improved and optimized. Also, we are working on exciting new projects like fracturing, deformation, softbody, cloth, aerodynamics and water simulation.
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
This blog post was originally published on the Roblox Tech Blog.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Using Clang to Minimize Global Variable Use

July

23, 2020

by RandomTruffle
PRODUCT & TECH
Every non-trivial program has at least some amount of global state, but too much can be a bad thing. In C++ (which constitutes close to 100% of Roblox’s engine code) this global state is initialized before main() and destroyed after returning from main(), and this happens in a mostly non-deterministic order. In addition to leading to confusing startup and shutdown semantics that are difficult to reason about (or change), it can also lead to severe instability.
Roblox code also creates a lot of long-running detached threads (threads which are never joined and just run until they decide to stop, which might be never). These two things together have a very serious negative interaction on shutdown, because long-running threads continue accessing the global state that is being destroyed. This can lead to elevated crash rates, test suite flakiness, and just general instability.
The first step to digging yourself out of a mess like this is to understand the extent of the problem, so in this post I’m going to talk about one technique you can use to gain visibility into your global startup flow. I’m also going to discuss how we are using this to improve stability across the entire Roblox game engine platform by decreasing our use of global variables.

Introducing -finstrument-functions

Nothing excites me more than learning about a new obscure compiler option that I’ve never had a use for before, so I was pretty happy when a colleague pointed me to this option in the Clang Command Line Reference. I’d never used it before, but it sounded very cool. The idea being that if we could get the compiler to tell us every time it entered and exited a function, we could filter this information through a symbolizer of some kind and generate a report of functions that a) occur before main(), and b) are the very first function in the call-stack (indicating it’s a global).
Unfortunately, the documentation basically just tells you that the option exists with no mention of how to use it or if it even actually does what it sounds like it does. There’s also two different options that sound similar to each other (-finstrument-functions and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining), and I still wasn’t entirely sure what the difference was. So I decided to throw up a quick sample on godbolt to see what happened, which you can see here. Note there are two assembly outputs for the same source listing. One uses the first option and the other uses the second option, and we can compare the assembly output to understand the differences. We can gather a few takeaways from this sample:
  1. The compiler is injecting calls to __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit inside of every function, inline or not.
  2. The only difference between the two options occurs at the call-site of an inline function.
  3. With -finstrument-functions, the instrumentation for the inlined function is inserted at the call-site, whereas with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining we only have instrumentation for the outer function. This means that when using-finstrument-functions-after-inlining you won’t be able to determine which functions are inlined and where.
Of course, this sounds exactly like what the documentation said it did, but sometimes you just need to look under the hood to convince yourself.
To put all of this another way, if we want to know about calls to inline functions in this trace we need to use -finstrument-functions because otherwise their instrumentation is silently removed by the compiler. Sadly, I was never able to get -finstrument-functions to work on a real example. I would always end up with linker errors deep in the Standard C++ Library which I was unable to figure out. My best guess is that inlining is often a heuristic, and this can somehow lead to subtle ODR (one-definition rule) violations when the optimizer makes different inlining decisions from different translation units. Luckily global constructors (which is what we care about) cannot possibly be inlined anyway, so this wasn’t a problem.
I suppose I should also mention that I still got tons of linker errors with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining as well, but I did figure those out. As best as I can tell, this option seems to imply –whole-archive linker semantics. Discussion of –whole-archive is outside the scope of this blog post, but suffice it to say that I fixed it by using linker groups (e.g. -Wl,–start-group and -Wl,–end-group) on the compiler command line. I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get these same linker errors without this option and still don’t totally understand why. If you happen to know why this option would change linker semantics, please let me know in the comments!

Implementing the Callback Hooks

If you’re astute, you may be wondering what in the world __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit are and why the program is even successfully linking in the first without giving undefined symbol reference errors, since the compiler is apparently trying to call some function we’ve never defined. Luckily, there are some options that allow us to see inside the linker’s algorithm so we can find out where it’s getting this symbol from to begin with. Specifically, -y should tell us how the linker is resolving . We’ll try it with a dummy program first and a symbol that we’ve defined ourselves, then we’ll try it with __cyg_profile_func_enter .
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ cat instr.cpp int main() {} [email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -Wl,-y -Wl,main instr.cpp /usbin/../lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/crt1.o: reference to main /tmp/instr-5b6c60.o: definition of main
No surprises here. The C Runtime Library references main(), and our object file defines it. Now let’s see what happens with __cyg_profile_func_enter and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining.
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -finstrument-functions-after-inlining -Wl,-y -Wl,__cyg_profile_func_enter instr.cpp /tmp/instr-8157b3.o: reference to __cyg_profile_func_enter /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6: shared definition of __cyg_profile_func_enter
Now, we see that libc provides the definition, and our object file references it. Linking works a bit differently on Unix-y platforms than it does on Windows, but basically this means that if we define this function ourselves in our cpp file, the linker will just automatically prefer it over the shared library version. Working godbolt link without runtime output is here. So now you can kind of see where this is going, however there are still a couple of problems left to solve.
  1. We don’t want to do this for a full run of the program. We want to stop as soon as we reach main.
  2. We need a way to symbolize this trace.
The first problem is easy to solve. All we need to do is compare the address of the function being called to the address of main, and set a flag indicating we should stop tracing henceforth. (Note that taking the address of main is undefined behavior[1], but for our purposes it gets the job done, and we aren’t shipping this code, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). The second problem probably deserves a little more discussion though.

Symbolizing the Traces

In order to symbolize these traces, we need two things. First, we need to store the trace somewhere on persistent storage. We can’t expect to symbolize in real time with any kind of reasonable performance. You can write some C code to save the trace to some magic filename, or you can do what I did and just write it to stderr (this way you can pipe stderr to some file when you run it).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, for every address we need to write out the full path to the module the address belongs to. Your program loads many shared libraries, and in order to translate an address into a symbol, we have to know which shared library or executable the address actually belongs to. In addition, we have to be careful to write out the address of the symbol in the file on disk. When your program is running, the operating system could have loaded it anywhere in memory. And if we’re going to symbolize it after the fact we need to make sure we can still reference it after the information about where it was loaded in memory is lost. The linux function dladdr() gives us both pieces of information we need. A working godbolt sample with the exact implementation of our instrumentation hooks as they appear in our codebase can be found here.

Putting it All Together

Now that we have a file in this format saved on disk, all we need to do is symbolize the addresses. addr2line is one option, but I went with llvm-symbolizer as I find it more robust. I wrote a Python script to parse the file and symbolize each address, then print it in the same “visual” hierarchical format that the original output file is in. There are various options for filtering the resulting symbol list so that you can clean up the output to include only things that are interesting for your case. For example, I filtered out any globals that have boost:: in their name, because I can’t exactly go rewrite boost to not use global variables.
The script isn’t as simple as you would think, because simply crawling each line and symbolizing it would be unacceptably slow (when I tried this, it took over 2 hours before I finally killed the process). This is because the same address might appear thousands of times, and there’s no reason to run llvm-symbolizer against the same address multiple times. So there’s a lot of smarts in there to pre-process the address list and eliminate duplicates. I won’t discuss the implementation in more detail because it isn’t super interesting. But I’ll do even better and provide the source!
So after all of this, we can run any one of our internal targets to get the call tree, run it through the script, and then get output like this (actual output from a Roblox process, source file information removed):
excluded_symbols = [‘.\boost.*’]* excluded_modules = [‘/usr.\’]* /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libLLVM-9.so.1: 140 unique addresses InterestingRobloxProcess: 38928 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libstdc++.so.6: 1 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc++.so.1: 3 unique addresses Printing call tree with depth 2 for 29276 global variables. __cxx_global_var_init.5 (InterestingFile1.cpp:418:22) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp.:415:0) __cxx_global_var_init.19 (InterestingFile2.cpp:183:34) (anonymous namespace)::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp:171:0) __cxx_global_var_init.274 (InterestingFile3.cpp:2364:33) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass3::InterestingRobloxClass3()
So there you have it: the first half of the battle is over. I can run this script on every platform, compare results to understand what order our globals are actually initialized in in practice, then slowly migrate this code out of global initializers and into main where it can be deterministic and explicit.

Future Work

It occurred to me sometime after implementing this that we could make a general purpose profiling hook that exposed some public symbols (dllexport’ed if you speak Windows), and allowed a plugin module to hook into this dynamically. This plugin module could filter addresses using whatever arbitrary logic that it was interested in. One interesting use case I came up for this is that it could look up the debug information, check if the current address maps to the constructor of a function local static, and write out the address if so. This effectively allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the order in which our lazy statics are initialized. The possibilities are endless here.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’ve collected a couple of my favorite references for this kind of topic.
  1. Various: The C++ Language Standard
  2. Matt Godbolt: The Bits Between the Bits: How We Get to main()
  3. Ryan O’Neill: Learning Linux Binary Analysis
  4. Linkers and Loaders: John R. Levine
  5. https://eel.is/c++draft/basic.exec#basic.start.main-3
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
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Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers
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[Table] Asteroid Day AMA – We’re engineers and scientists working on a mission that could, one day, help save humankind from asteroid extinction. Ask us anything!

Source
There are several people answering: Paolo Martino is PM, Marco Micheli is MM, Heli Greus is HG, Detlef Koschny is DVK, and Aidan Cowley is AC.
Questions Answers
Can we really detect any asteroids in space with accuracy and do we have any real means of destroying it? Yes, we can detect new asteroids when they are still in space. Every night dozens of new asteroids are found, including a few that can come close to the Earth.
Regarding the second part of the question, the goal would be to deflect them more than destroy them, and it is technologically possible. The Hera/DART mission currently being developed by ESA and NASA will demonstrate exactly this capability.
MM
I always wanted to ask: what is worse for life on Earth - to be hit by a single coalesced asteroid chunk, or to be hit by a multiple smaller pieces of exploded asteroid, aka disrupted rubble pile scenario? DVK: This is difficult to answer. If the rubble is small (centimetres to meters) it is better to have lots of small ones – they’d create nice bright meteors. If the rubble pieces are tens of meters it doesn’t help.
Let’s say that hypothetically, an asteroid the size of Rhode Island is coming at us, it will be a direct hit - you’ve had the resources and funding you need, your plan is fully in place, everything you’ve wanted you got. The asteroid will hit in 10 years, what do you do? DVK: I had to look up how big Rhode Island is – a bit larger than the German Bundesland ‘Saarland’. Ok – this would correspond to an object about 60 km in diameter, right? That’s quite big – we would need a lot of rocket launches, this would be extremely difficult. I would pray. The good news is that we are quite convinced that we know all objects larger than just a few kilometers which come close to our planet. None of them is on a collision course, so we are safe.
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Why are you quite convinced that you know all object of that size? And what is your approach in finding new celestial bodies? DVK: There was a scientific study done over a few years (published in Icarus 2018, search for Granvik) where they modelled how many objects there are out there. They compared this to the observations we have with the telescopic surveys. This gives us the expected numbers shown here on our infographic: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
There are additional studies to estimate the ‘completeness’ – and we think that we know everything above roughly a few km in size.
To find new objects, we use survey telescopes that scan the night sky every night. The two major ones are Catalina and Pan-STARRS, funded by NASA. ESA is developing the so-called Flyeye telescope to add to this effort https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2017/02/Flyeye_telescope.
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Thanks for the answer, that's really interesting! It's also funny that the fist Flyeye deployed is in Sicily, at less than 100km from me, I really had no idea DVK: Indeed, that's cool. Maybe you can go and visit it one day.
the below is a reply to the original answer
What about Interstellar objects however, like Oumuamua? DVK: The two that we have seen - 'Oumuamua and comet Borisov - were much smaller than the Saarland (or Rhode Island ;-) - not sure about Borisov, but 'Oumuamua was a few hundred meters in size. So while they could indeed come as a complete surprise, they are so rare that I wouldn't worry.
Would the public be informed if an impending asteroid event were to happen? And, how would the extinction play out? Bunch of people crushed to death, knocked off our orbit, dust clouds forever? DVK: We do not keep things secret – all our info is at the web page http://neo.ssa.esa.int. The ‘risky’ objects are in the ‘risk page’. We also put info on really close approaches there. It would also be very difficult to keep things ‘under cover’ – there are many high-quality amateur astronomers out there that would notice.
In 2029 asteroid Apophis will fly really close to Earth, even closer than geostationary satellites. Can we use some of those satellites to observe the asteroid? Is it possible to launch very cheap cube sats to flyby Apophis in 2029? DVK: Yes an Apophis mission during the flyby in 2029 would be really nice. We even had a special session on that topic at the last Planetary Defense Conference in 2019, and indeed CubeSats were mentioned. This would be a nice university project – get me a close-up of the asteroid with the Earth in the background!
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So you’re saying it was discussed and shelved? In the conference we just presented ideas. To make them happen needs funding - in the case of ESA the support of our member countries. But having something presented at a conference is the first step. One of the results of the conference was a statement to space agencies to consider embarking on such a mission. See here: https://www.cosmos.esa.int/documents/336356/336472/PDC_2019_Summary_Report_FINAL_FINAL.pdf/341b9451-0ce8-f338-5d68-714a0aada29b?t=1569333739470
Go to the section 'resolutions'. This is now a statement that scientists can use to present to their funding agencies, demonstrating that it's not just their own idea.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Did we know the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 (the one which had some great videos on social media) was coming? Ig not, how comes? Also, as a little side one, have there been any fatalities from impact events in the past 20 years? Unfortunately, the Chelyabinsk object was not seen in advance, because it came from the direction of the Sun where ground-based telescopes cannot look.
No known fatalities from impacts have happened in the past 20 years, although the Chelyabinsk event did cause many injuries, fortunately mostly minor.
MM
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How often do impacts from that direction happen, compared to impacts from visible trajectories? In terms of fraction of the sky, the area that cannot be easily scanned from the ground is roughly a circle with a radius of 40°-50° around the current position of the Sun, corresponding to ~15% of the total sky. However, there is a slight enhancement of objects coming from that direction, therefore the fraction of objects that may be missed when heading towards us is a bit higher.
However, this applies only when detecting an asteroid in its "final plunge" towards the Earth. Larger asteroids can be spotted many orbits earlier, when they are farther away and visible in the night side of the sky. Their orbits can then be determined and their possible impacts predicted even years or decades in advance.
MM
There must be a trade-off when targeting asteroids as they get closer to Earth, is there a rule of thumb at what the best time is to reach them, in terms of launch time versus time to reach the asteroid and then distance from Earth? DVK: Take e.g. a ‘kinetic impactor’ mission, like what DART and Hera are testing. Since we only change the velocity of the asteroid slightly, we need to hit the object early enough so that the object has time to move away from it’s collision course. Finding out when it is possible to launch requires simulations done by our mission analysis team. They take the strength of the launcher into account, also the available fuel for course corrections, and other things. Normally each asteroid has its own best scenario.
Do you also look at protecting the moon from asteroids? Would an impact of a large enough scale potentially have major impacts on the earth? DVK: There are programmes that monitor the Moon and look for flashes from impacting small asteroids (or meteoroids) - https://neliota.astro.noa.g or the Spanish MIDAS project. We use the data to improve our knowledge about these objects. These programmes just look at what is happening now.
For now we would not do anything if we predicted a lunar impact. I guess this will change once we have a lunar base in place.
Why aren't there an international organisation comprised of countries focused on the asteroid defence? Imagine like the organisation with multi-billion $ budget and program of action on funding new telescopes, asteroid exploration mission, plans for detection of potentially dangerous NEA, protocols on action after the detection - all international, with heads of states discussing these problems? DVK: There are international entities in place, mandated by the UN: The International Asteroid Warning Network (http://www.iawn.net) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (http://www.smpag.net). These groups advise the United Nations. That is exactly where we come up with plans and protocols on action. But: They don’t have budget – that needs to come from elsewhere. I am expecting that if we have a real threat, we would get the budget. Right now, we don’t have a multi-billion budget.
the below is a reply to someone else's answer
There is no actual risk of any sizable asteroids hitting earth in the foreseeable future. Any preparation for it would just be a waste of money. DVK: Indeed, as mentioned earlier, we do not expect a large object to hit is in the near future. We are mainly worried about those in the size range of 20 m to 40 m, which happen on average every few tens of years to hundreds of years. And where we only know a percent of them or even less.
President Obama wanted to send a crewed spacecraft to an asteroid - in your opinion is this something that should still be done in the future, would there be any usefulness in having a human being walk/float on an asteroid's surface? DVK: It would definitely be cool. I would maybe even volunteer to go. Our current missions to asteroids are all robotic, the main reason is that it is much cheaper (but still expensive) to get the same science. But humans will expand further into space, I am sure. If we want to test human exploration activities, doing this at an asteroid would be easier than landing on a planet.
this is another reply Yes, but I am slightly biased by the fact that I work at the European astronaut centre ;) There exist many similarities to what we currently do for EVA (extra vehicular activities) operations on the International Space Station versus how we would 'float' around an asteroid. Slightly biased again, but using such a mission to test exploration technologies would definitely still have value. Thanks Obama! - AC
I've heard that some asteroids contains large amounts of iron. Is there a possibility that we might have "space mines" in the far away future, if our own supply if iron runs out? Yes, this is a topic in the field known as space mining, part of what we call Space Resources. In fact, learning how we can process material we might find on asteroids or other planetary bodies is increasingly important, as it opens up the opportunities for sustainable exploration and commercialization. Its a technology we need to master, and asteroids can be a great target for testing how we can create space mines :) - AC
By how much is DART expected to deflect Didymos? Do we have any indication of the largest size of an asteroid we could potentially deflect? PM: Didymos is a binary asteroid, consisting of a main asteroid Didymos A (~700m) and a smaller asteroid Didymos B (~150m) orbiting around A with a ~12 hours period. DART is expected to impact Didymos B and change its orbital period w.r.t. Didymos A of ~1%. (8 mins)
The size of Didymos B is the most representative of a potential threat to Earth (the highest combination of probability and consequence of impacts), meaning smaller asteroids hit the Earth more often but have less severe consequences, larger asteroids can have catastrophic consequences but their probability of hitting the earth is very very low.
the below is a reply to the above
Why is there less probability of larger asteroids hitting earth? DVK: There are less large objects out there. The smaller they are, the more there are.
the below is a reply to the original answer
Is there any chance that your experiment will backfire and send the asteroid towards earth? PM: Not at all, or we would not do that :) Actually Dimorphos (the Didymos "moon") will not even leave its orbit around Didymos. It will just slightly change its speed.
I'm sure you've been asked this many times but how realistic is the plot of Armageddon? How likely is it that our fate as a species will rely on (either) Bruce Willis / deep sea oil drillers? Taking into consideration that Bruce Willis is now 65 and by the time HERA is launched he will be 69, I do not think that we can rely on him this time (although I liked the movie).
HERA will investigate what method we could use to deflect asteroid and maybe the results will show that we indeed need to call the deep sea oil drillers.
HG
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So then would it be easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts, or to train astronauts to be oil drillers? I do not know which one would be easier since I have no training/experience of deep see oil drilling nor becoming an astronaut, but as long as the ones that would go to asteroid have the sufficient skills and training (even Bruce Willis), I would be happy.
HG
If budget was no object, which asteroid would you most like to send a mission to? Nice question! For me, I'd be looking at an asteroid we know something about, since I would be interested in using it for testing how we could extract resources from it. So for me, I would choose Itokawa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25143_Itokawa), which was visited by Hayabusa spacecraft. So we already have some solid prospecting carried out for this 'roid! - AC
this is another reply Not sure if it counts as an asteroid, but Detlef and myself would probably choose ʻOumuamua, the first discovered interstellar object.
MM
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Do we even have the capability to catch up to something like that screaming through our solar system? That thing has to have a heck of a velocity to just barrel almost straight through like that. DVK: Correct, that would be a real challenge. We are preparing for a mission called 'Comet Interceptor' that is meant to fly to an interstellar object or at least a fresh comet - but it will not catch up with it, it will only perform a short flyby.
https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/ESA_s_new_mission_to_intercept_a_comet
After proving to be able to land on one, could an asteroid serve as a viable means to transport goods and or humans throughout the solar system when the orbit of said asteroid proves beneficial. While it is probably quite problematic to land the payload, it could save fuel or am I mistaken? Neat idea! Wonder if anyone has done the maths on the amount of fuel you would need/save vs certain targets. - AC
PM: To further complement, the saving is quite marginal indeed because in order to land (softly) on the asteroid you actually need to get into the very same orbit of that asteroid . At that point your orbit remains the same whether you are on the asteroid or not..
can the current anti-ballistic missiles systems intercept a terminal phase earth strike asteroid? or it is better to know beforehand and launch an impacting vehicle into space? DVK: While I do see presentations on nuclear explosions to deflect asteroids at our professional meetings, I have not seen anybody yet studying how we could use existing missile systems. So it's hard to judge whether existing missiles would do the job. But in general, it is better to know as early as possible about a possible impact and deflect it as early as possible. This will minimize the needed effort.
How much are we prepared against asteroid impacts at this moment? DVK: 42… :-) Seriously – I am not sure how to quantify ‘preparedness’. We have international working groups in place, mentioned earlier (search for IAWN, SMPAG). We have a Planetary Defence Office at ESA, a Planetary Defense Office at NASA (who spots the difference?), search the sky for asteroids, build space missions… Still we could be doing more. More telescopes to find the object, a space-based telescope to discover those that come from the direction of the Sun. Different test missions would be useful, … So there is always more we could do.
Have you got any data on the NEO coverage? Is there estimations on the percentage of NEOs we have detected and are tracking? How can we improve the coverage? How many times have asteroids been able to enter earths atmosphere without being detected beforehand? Here’s our recently updated infographics with the fraction of undiscovered NEOs for each size range: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
As expected, we are now nearly complete for the large ones, while many of the smaller ones are still unknown.
In order to improve coverage, we need both to continue the current approach, centered on ground-based telescopes, and probably also launch dedicated telescopes to space, to look at the fraction of the sky that cannot be easily observed from the ground (e.g., towards the Sun).
Regarding the last part of your question, small asteroids enter the Earth atmosphere very often (the infographics above gives you some numbers), while larger ones are much rarer.
In the recent past, the largest one to enter our atmosphere was about 20 meters in diameter, and it caused the Chelyabinsk event in 2013. It could not be detected in advance because it came from the direction of the Sun.
We have however detected a few small ones before impact. The first happened in 2008, when a ~4-meter asteroid was found to be on a collision course less than a day before impact, it was predicted to fall in Northern Sudan, and then actually observed falling precisely where (and when) expected.
MM
this is another reply >After
DVK: And to add what MM said - Check out http://neo.ssa.esa.int. There is a ‘discovery statistics’ section which provides some of the info you asked about. NASA is providing similar information here https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/. To see the sky which is currently covered by the survey telescopes, you need to service of the Minor Planet Center which we all work together with: http://www.minorplanetcenter.org, ‘observers’, ‘sky coverage’. That is a tool we use to plan where we look with our telescopes, so it is a more technical page.
Are there any automatic systems for checking large numbers of asteroids orbits, to see if the asteroid's orbit is coming dangerously close to Earth, or is it done by people individually for every asteroid? I ask it because LSST Rubin is coming online soon and you know it will discover a lot of new asteroids. Yes, such systems exist, and monitor all known and newly discovered asteroids in order to predict possible future impacts.
The end result of the process is what we call "risk list": http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It is automatically updated every day once new observational data is processed.
MM
What are your favourite sci-fi series? DVK: My favorites are ‘The Expanse’, I also liked watching ‘Salvation’. For the first one I even got my family to give me a new subscription to a known internet streaming service so that I can see the latest episodes. I also loved ‘The Jetsons’ and ‘The Flintstones’ as a kid. Not sure the last one counts as sci-fi though. My long-time favorite was ‘Dark Star’.
this is another reply Big fan of The Expanse at the moment. Nice, hard sci-fi that has a good impression of being grounded in reality - AC
this is another reply When I was a kid I liked The Jetsons, when growing up Star Trek, Star wars and I also used to watch with my sister the 'V'.
HG
When determining the potential threat of a NEA, is the mass of an object a bigger factor or size? I'm asking because I'm curious if a small but massive object (say, with the density of Psyche) could survive atmospheric entry better than a comparatively larger but less massive object. The mass is indeed what really matters, since it’s directly related with the impact energy.
And as you said composition also matters, a metal object would survive atmospheric entry better, not just because it’s heavier, but also because of its internal strength.
MM
What are your thoughts on asteroid mining as portrayed in sci-fi movies? Is it feasible? If so would governments or private space programs be the first to do so?What type of minerals can be found on asteroids that would merit the costs of extraction? Certainly there is valuable stuff you can find on asteroids. For example, the likely easiest material you can harvest from an asteroid would be volatiles such as H2O. Then you have industrial metals, things like Iron, Nickel, and Platinum group metals. Going further, you can break apart many of the oxide minerals you would find to get oxygen (getting you closer to producing rocket fuel in-situ!). Its feasible, but still needs alot of testing both here on Earth and eventually needs to be tested on a target. It may be that governments, via agencies like ESA or NASA, may do it first, to prove the principles somewhat, but I know many commercial entities are also aggresively working towards space mining. To show you that its definitely possible, I'd like to plug the work of colleagues who have processed lunar regolith (which is similar to what you may find on asteroids) to extract both oxygen and metals. Check it out here: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/10/Oxygen_and_metal_from_lunar_regolith
AC
Will 2020's climax be a really big rock? DVK: Let's hope not...
Considering NASA, ESA, IAU etc. is working hard to track Earth-grazing asteroids, how come the Chelyabinsk object that airburst over Russia in 2013 came as a total surprise? The Chelyabinsk object came from the direction of the Sun, where unfortunately ground-based telescopes cannot look at. Therefore, it would not have been possible to discover it in advance with current telescopes. Dedicated space telescopes are needed to detect objects coming from this direction in advance.
MM
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Is this to say that it was within specific solid angles for the entire time that we could have observed it given its size and speed? Yes, precisely that. We got unlucky in this case.
MM
Have any of you read Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven? In your opinion, how realistic is his depiction of an asteroid strike on Earth? DVK: I have – but really long ago, so I don’t remember the details. But I do remember that I really liked the book, and I remember I always wanted to have a Hot Fudge Sundae when reading it.
I was thinking about the asteroid threat as a teen and came up with this ideas (Hint: they are not equally serious, the level of craziness goes up real quick). Could you please comment on their feasibility? 1. Attaching a rocket engine to an asteroid to make it gradually change trajectory, do that long in advance and it will miss Earth by thousands of km 2. Transporting acid onto asteroid (which are mainly metal), attaching a dome-shaped reaction chamber to it, using heat and pressure to then carry out the chemical reaction to disintegrate asteroids 3. This one is even more terrible than a previous one and totally Dan Brown inspired — transporting antimatter on asteroid, impacting and causing annihilation. Thank you for this AMA and your time! DVK: Well the first one is not so crazy, I have seen it presented... the difficulty is that all asteroids are rotating in one way or another. So if you continuously fire the engine it would not really help. You'd need to switch the engine on and off. Very complex. And landing on an asteroid is challenging too. Just using the 'kinetic impactor' which we will test with DART/Hera (described elsewhere in this chat) is simpler. Another seriously proposed concept is to put a spacecraft next to an asteroid and use an ion engine (like we have on our Mercury mission BepiColombo) to 'push' the asteroid away.
As for 2 and 3 I think I will not live to see that happening ;-)
What is the process to determine the orbit of a newly discovered asteroid? The process is mathematically quite complex, but here's a short summary.
Everything starts with observations, in particular with measurements of the position of an asteroid in the sky, what we call "astrometry". Discovery telescopes extract this information from their discovery images, and make it available to everybody.
These datapoints are then used to calculate possible trajectories ("orbits") that pass through them. At first, with very few points, many orbits will be possible.
Using these orbits we can extrapolate where the asteroid will be located during the following nights, use a telescope to observe that part of the sky, and locate the object again.
From these new observations we can extract new "astrometry", add it to the orbit determination, and see that now only some of the possible orbits will be compatible with the new data. As a result, we now know the trajectory better than before, because a few of the possible orbits are not confirmed by the new data.
The cycle can then continue, with new predictions, new observations, and a more accurate determination of the object's orbit, until it can be determined with an extremely high level of accuracy.
MM
What are some asteroids that are on your "watchlist"? We have exactly that list on our web portal: http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page
It's called "risk list", and it includes all known asteroids for which we cannot exclude a possible impact over the next century. It is updated every day to include newly discovered asteroids, and remove those that have been excluded as possible impactors thanks to new observations.
MM
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That's quite a list!! Do you guys ever feel stressed or afraid when you have to add another dangerous candidate (and by dangerous I mean those above 200m) is added to this Risk List? Yes, when new dangerous ones are added it's important that we immediately do our best to gather more data on them, observing them with telescopes in order to get the information we need to improve our knowledge of their orbit.
And then the satisfaction of getting the data needed to remove one from the list is even greater!
MM
What inspired you to go into this field of study? I was fascinated by astronomy in general since I was a kid, but the actual "trigger" that sparked my interest in NEOs was a wonderful summer course on asteroids organized by a local amateur astronomers association. I immediately decided that I would do my best to turn this passion into my job, and I'm so happy to have been able to make that dream come true.
MM
this is another reply DVK: I started observing meteors when I was 14, just by going outside and looking at the night sky. Since then, small bodies in the solar system were always my passion.
As a layperson, I still think using nuclear weapons against asteroids is the coolest method despite better methods generally being available. Do you still consider the nuclear option the cool option, or has your expertise in the field combined with the real-life impracticalities made it into a laughable/silly/cliche option? DVK: We indeed still study the nuclear option. There are legal aspects though, the ‘outer space treaty’ forbids nuclear explosions in space. But for a large object or one we discover very late it could be useful. That’s why we have to focus on discovering all the objects out there as early as possible – then we have time enough to use more conventional deflection methods, like the kinetic impactor (the DART/Hera scenario).
It seems like doing this well would require international cooperation, particularly with Russia. Have you ever reached out to Russia in your work? Do you have a counterpart organization there that has a similar mission? DVK: Indeed international cooperation is important - asteroids don't know about our borders! We work with a Russian team to perform follow-up observations of recently discovered NEOs. Russia is also involved in the UN-endorsed working groups that we have, IAWN and SMPAG (explained in another answer).
how much can experts tell from a video of a fireball or meteor? Can you work out what it's made of and where it came from? https://www.reddit.com/space/comments/hdf3xe/footage_of_a_meteor_at_barrow_island_australia/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x If multiple videos or pictures, taken from different locations, are available, then it's possible to reconstruct the trajectory, and extrapolate where the object came from.
Regarding the composition, it's a bit more difficult if nothing survives to the ground, but some information can be obtained indirectly from the fireball's color, or its fragmentation behavior. If a spectral analysis of the light can be made, it's then possible to infer the chemical composition in much greater detail.
MM
I've always wanted to know what the best meteorite buying site is and what their average price is?? DVK: Serious dealers will be registered with the 'International Meteorite Collectors Association (IMCA)' - https://www.imca.cc/. They should provide a 'certificate of authenticity' where it says that they are member there. If you are in doubt, you can contact the association and check. Normally there are rough prices for different meteorite types per gram. Rare meteorites will of course be much more expensive than more common ones. Check the IMCA web page to find a dealer close to you.
Just read through Aidans link to the basaltic rock being used as a printing material for lunar habitation. There is a company called Roxul that does stone woven insulation that may be able to shed some light on the research they have done to minimize their similarity to asbestos as potentially carcinogenic materials deemed safe for use in commercial and residential applications. As the interior surfaces will essentially be 3D printed lunar regolith what are the current plans to coat or dampen the affinity for the structure to essentially be death traps for respiratory illness? At least initially, many of these 3d printed regolith structures would not be facing into pressurised sections, but would rather be elements placed outside and around our pressure vessels. Such structures would be things like radiation shields, landing pads or roadways, etc. In the future, if we move towards forming hermetically sealed structures, then your point is a good one. Looking into terrestrial solutions to this problem would be a great start! - AC
What kind of career path does it take to work in the asteroid hunting field? It's probably different for each of us, but here's a short summary of my own path.
I became interested in asteroids, and near-Earth objects in particular, thanks to a wonderful summer course organized by a local amateur astronomers association. Amateur astronomers play a great role in introducing people, and young kids in particular, to these topics.
Then I took physics as my undergrad degree (in Italy), followed by a Ph.D. in astronomy in the US (Hawaii in particular, a great place for astronomers thanks to the exceptional telescopes hosted there).
After finishing the Ph.D. I started my current job at ESA's NEO Coordination Centre, which allowed me to realize my dream of working in this field.
MM
this is another reply DVK: Almost all of us have a Master's degree either in aerospace engineering, mathematics, physics/astronomy/planetary science, or computer science. Some of us - as MM - have a Ph.D. too. But that's not really a requirement. This is true for our team at ESA, but also for other teams in other countries.
What is the likelihood of an asteroid hitting the Earth In the next 200 years? It depends on the size, large ones are rare, while small ones are much more common. You can check this infographics to get the numbers for each size class: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/06/Asteroid_danger_explained
MM
Have you played the Earth Defence Force games and if you have, which one is your favourite? No I have not played the Earth Defence Force games, but I just looked it up and I think I would liked it. Which one would you recommend?
HG
How close is too close to earth? Space is a SUPER vast void so is 1,000,000 miles close, 10,000,000? And if an asteroid is big enough can it throw earth off its orbit? DVK: Too close for my taste is when we compute an impact probability > 0 for the object. That means the flyby distance is zero :-) Those are the objects on our risk page http://neo.ssa.esa.int/risk-page.
If an object can alter the orbit of another one, we would call it planet. So unless we have a rogue planet coming from another solar system (verrry unlikely) we are safe from that.
How can I join you when I'm older? DVK: Somebody was asking about our career paths... Study aerospace engineering or math or physics or computer science, get a Masters. Possibly a Ph.D. Then apply for my position when I retire. Check here for how to apply at ESA: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA/Frequently_asked_questions2#HR1
How much is too much? DVK: 42 again
Are you aware of any asteroids that are theoretically within our reach, or will be within our reach at some point, that are carrying a large quantity of shungite? If you're not aware, shungite is like a 2 billion year old like, rock stone that protects against frequencies and unwanted frequencies that may be traveling in the air. I bought a whole bunch of the stuff. Put them around the la casa. Little pyramids, stuff like that. DVK: If I remember my geology properly, Shungite forms in water sedimental deposits. This requires liquid water, i.e. a larger planet. So I don't think there is a high chance to see that on asteroids.
submitted by 500scnds to tabled [link] [comments]

DEMOLITION DAYS, PART 90

Continuing
We had three groups of demo wire: mine adit, ANFO on the mine floor, and just because, some black powder placed into the old, but unused, drill holes in the mine face. The party room was going to be detonated remotely. We decided to blow the face first, then the ANFO, then the adit. After the applause died down, I’d trigger the party room. Then, the final drinking light for this mine site would be lit. Tomorrow, we pack up and travel south.
But first!
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to your first abandoned mine demolition. This hole in the ground has become a menace, alas, through no fault of its own. But steps must be taken to remove it as a threat to society; to protect society from itself. I’ll let you cogitate over the irony of that statement at your leisure. Please, folks. This once was the provider of many a family’s daily bread, butter, and beer. A moment of silence. A moment of reverence. A moment of reflection. This is the place where you cut your subsurface teeth, where you lost your mining virginity, and now…we’re really gonna pop yer cherry!”
They laughed! They actually laughed loud and long. I was amazed. This was just my B-list material.
Dr. D and I alternated countdowns, Lucas was manning the detonators. Everybody, even the cooks, dish machine operators, and custodians joined in on the Safety Protocol song.
First went the face/black powder. A loud, rolling BOOM followed by the mine blowing a huge white smoke ring skyward. Not bad for a first shot.
Then the ANFO. Lucas needed to use the recently acquired replacement for Ol’ Reliable, my personal plunger-actuated blasting machine, as we needed the voltage and amperage. The ANFO shook everyone in camp, even set those in suspended hammocks rocking.
“We’re over a half-mile from the mine and you can actually here see the effects of low-explosives.”, I said, regarding the swinging hammocks. “Did the Earth move for you, too?”
Even that got a laugh.
Next came the mine adit itself. The sharp cracks of the dynamite were so distinctly different than the rolling thrump of the ANFO. People were getting a good physical demonstration of the differences in different types of explosives.
Everyone was about to clap, hoot, or holler, and head for the bar or leave when I shouted them down.
“What are you doing? Where are you going? We’re not done here yet, folks. We have a little bonus. Relax, sit back, and enjoy the death of the cess-pit. The end of the fetid party room. The cessation of the sewer some people around here went to have fun. Want fun? What could possibly be more fun than over 100 pounds of Torpex, PETN, RDX, Dynamite and Kinestik binary high explosives…and a remote detonator?”
All eyes one me grew three sizes that day.
“And I’m prepared to offer the honor of pressing the big, shiny red button to…the highest bidder!”
Consternation and grumbling.
“Actually, I kid. Before this, I had given a slip of paper to Dr. D. On that paper is a number, between 1 and 100. Here are some official guessing paper and pencils. The paper was recently outsourced from the DOI, so no fair trying to use any other. Now, write your guess down, a single number, between 1 and 100, one guess per participant. The closest gets the remote detonator and the honor of destroying the den of filth. In the case of prizes, duplicate ties will be awarded. You have 2 minutes before my number will be revealed. GO!”
Five minutes later, Dr. D announces the winner. There were no duplicates and my number was 86. Dr. I from Berkeley was the winner. She was a petite little hydrogeologist with a mean streak a mile wide. She grinned like a maniac when I handed her the remote detonator. She wanted to go immediately, but I restrained her for a 5 count.
“5...4…3…2…1…HIT IT!”
Whoa. Even though the mine was strictly closed, when that Torpex torpedo went off, the whole state probably felt it. It was very much like an earthquake. A very noisy, even that far underground in a closed-off mine, shatteringly brilliant earthquake.
Dr. I was ecstatic. “I did that?”
“Yes, you did. You’ll be receiving the bill in the mail.” I joshed.
It didn’t matter. Nothing could dampen the mood at that point.
Before lighting the drinking lamp, I recited a bit of doggerel for the crowd to close and commemorate our first victorious mine closing.
 “The Earth shakes, the ground cracks,
 And out steps fmax.
 Pleased as punch, fresh as a daisy,
 He watches while the world goes crazy.
 Strata shakes, structures tumble,
 Seismographs jump, formations crumble.
 When he’s finished, spent with sin,
 He returns as fmin.”
(fmax refers to the high-frequency band-limitation of the radiated field of earthquakes.)
It’s a geology thing…
They seemed to appreciate the effort. They loved that immediately afterward I lit the evening drinking lamp.
Dr. D, Lucas, and my own self had our cigars, drink, and maps. We were looking for our next contestant. Given the reaction of the crowd, I figured they’d be ready for something a little more ‘aggressive’. We had 11 days left, so it couldn’t be too far afield, as I didn’t want to waste time in transit, but here in Nevada, that wasn’t going to present a problem.
Lucas pointed out the Gobbler’s Knob mining area. It was studded with mines marked with the red ‘X’ of the Bureau indicating these mines had been vetted for critter populations and were slated for demolition, and there was quite the assortment. Sure, it was a good three and a half hours distant as a direct shot, or a full day for this crowd. However, we could just camp there for the last part of the trip; it would make a fine base camp. There were more than enough mines, in close proximity, of all types.
So, it was decided and announced. We’d all rendezvous at the titular Gobbler’s Knob gold mine area. I’d scout the area with Lucas and Dr. D, who would follow in his field car. We’d find a place to set up base camp. Sure, it was a diversion from the planned itinerary of the project, but that was at my discretion anyways. Given the shakedown at the Sharp Curve mine, we figure the less over-the-road travel for this crowd, the better.
I chatted with the concessionaires and explained our new plans. They were relieved, as once settled, they wouldn’t have to tear down and set up again every few days. We would be relatively closer to some larger cities, so they could assure us to continue the high quality of food and drink.
So, we were set. Lucas asked to ride with me and since he didn’t mind my cigars, so long as I shared. So Dr. D, in his rental field vehicle, and Lucas and I in the Hummer, hit the trail first. We’d be there in three or so hours. Real geologists don’t get lost out in the field, they just become slightly temporarily dislocated.
Not to waste any time, I had Lucas get on the radio and relate our plans to the Bureau. After this, he called the Nevada State Troopers and let them know what we were up to as well; just in case, as insurance. He called the local police in the town of Goonhaven, NV to warn them that we were on the way. They were most appreciative. They liked geologists and miners. They even gave us the address and phone number of the town’s single liquor store.
We had a radiotelephone lash up through the Bureau HF radio, so I had Lucas call the Boozerama and advise them we’ll need a lot of clear ice for the catering guys. Plus they might just want to go ahead and lay in a double, ok, triple supply of beer as there’s a gaggle of thirsty pseudogeologists on the way that are going to hang around for a week or more.
I asked them if they had any Russian Imperial Export vodka. They said they had some, but a good variety and supply of other brands. I thanked them and warned them again, that the geologists were coming. I also requested that they source some Bitter Lemon and a few cases of assorted Nehi flavors. They said they would try.
Always nice to phone ahead and give ample warning. Elicits discounts.
Lucas was a natural as a navigator.
“OK, Rock. Stay on the goat path until you hit Big Barn rock. Take a left and head up to Copperhead Canyon. Once past the canyon, go right on past Nellie’s Nipple and follow the arroyo. Once you pass Sniggler’s Gulch, hang a right and another right and we’ll be on the road to Gobbler’s Knob.”
I lowered my polychromic safety squints in place and said: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.
I dropped the Hummer into low, stomped the gas, and leaped out across the desert; the trailer with nearly a ton of high explosives bouncing jauntily behind us.
Lucas started to protest, thought better of it, got us both a cold drink out of the back seat, just sat, white-knuckled it as he watched the desert fly by.
We made great time as we averaged some 60 miles per hour over the flat, rocky desert.
Well, maybe not average, but we did hit 60 mph until Lucas got too alarmed and worried feverishly over the trailer full of boom that was fast on our tails.
We pulled into the ghost town of the main Gobbler’s Knob camp. It was a large, open area up in the mountains. We got out and began our photoreconnaissance.
There was a lot of antique mining equipment and paraphernalia up here. Looks like we were either too high up in the middle of nowhere or perhaps the locals didn’t care enough to brave the route up to the camp area. It was as close to pristine as one could get in the region. It really looked like with a little spit and polish, one could fire up the mines once again.
The Gobbler’s Knob mining district covers an area of approximately 30 square miles in the Grunion Range in Nevada. Gold was discovered in the Gobbler’s Knob district in 1905, although quartz veins in the vicinity of the ‘Knob’ had been worked as early as 1866. The district immediately became one of the bigger "boom camps" of Nevada. The greatest production was reached in 1931, and since that time mining has declined until it was abandoned in the early 1940s. Placer gold, post-1945, from the deep gravels of the adjacent gulches have added to the total output. Total gold revenues from the area topped $550 million dollars.
The geology is extremely complex. The southern part of the district is underlain by closely folded Paleozoic rocks. These formations have been divided into five units, to four of which local names have been given. The oldest of these units, probably of Cambrian age, consists dominantly of siliceous mica-schist but contains beds and lenses of quartzite and dark sandstone and five beds of crystalline limestone. The total thickness exposed is estimated to be about 5,000 feet. Above this, and provisionally assigned to the Ordovician, is about 800 feet of chloritic schist, altered by thermal metamorphism to a "knotted" schist. This unit, in turn, is followed by 800 feet of gray limestone, partly altered to black jasper, which near the top grades into black slates. The lowest fossiliferous stratum is a thin bed of black slate' containing graptolites, which is separated from the underlying limestone by a thin layer of quartzite. The graptolites are of No-Kill-I (Ordovician) age. Above the graptolite bed is limestone similar in character to that below, followed by a great thickness of chloritic schist, with here and there thin beds of cherty slate and crystalline limestone. The total thickness of this group of beds probably exceeds 4,000 feet in the area mapped.
The Gobbler’s Knob mining district has produced an additional $350 million worth of copper, lead, silver, and rare earth elements. Productive rocks include the Pogostik Group, Euyankinme Quartzite, and Awfully Good Formation of Ordovician age, Lonesome Goose Dolomite of Silurian age, the Nowheyinhell Formation and Devil’s Dingus Limestone of Devonian age, and unnamed clastic units of Mississippian age, notably Bob’s Lime, the Coonskin Quartzite, and the Frammish metaconglomerates.
These rocks were folded into an overturned anticline and then broken by high-angle normal and reverse faults. Paleozoic rocks were intruded by a granitic stock having a rhyolite porphyry core and by rhyolite porphyry dikes. Primary pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, and sphalerite and tetrahedrite in host rocks of marble and diopside and garnet skarn have been altered by weathering to oxide, carbonate, sulfate and silicate minerals. Some mineralized rock contains remarkably high concentrations of rare earth elements and beryllium.
We had carte blanche out here. We were the only bipedal mammals, as far as we could see, for hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles. Lucas tried to raise any local folks on the HF, VHF, ULF, and CB radios. Nothing. We were isolated, but we had our traveling funnel-cake trailers bringing up the rear. It was as nice a field area as one could ask.
Lucas and I scouted the area looking for an area to erect Camp Central. I had almost decided in occupying one of the larger old miner’s shacks. That is until Lucas pointed out the local indigenous population of packrats, coyotes, possums, and probably fleas, ticks, mites, no-see-um’s, and snakes.
“Good idea, Lucas”, I replied after reflection, “Let’s find us a new spot to camp out.”
Dr. D can slaloming into the ‘Knob in a flurry of dust and flying alluvium.
“Sorry I’m late, Guys, “he apologized, “But I found an outcrop of jaspalite out in the desert. I just had to stop and take samples.”
He showed us the jaspalized lahar, or quartzified ancient volcanic mudflow, samples. They were a riot of colors. Blood red jasper, green jadeite, yellow topaz, bluish-quartz knots, and purplish purpurite, a purply-purple mineral species.
It was very purple.
Esme would have loved some samples to play with if all her lapidary equipment wasn’t already in storage.
Dr. D got out the Gobbler’s Knob topographic map and stood on the roof of his rental, another reason rental car companies hate geologists, peering through his binoculars.
Lucas and I were exploring around the old campsite when Dr. D called us over.
A short distance away, there was a prominent wavy outcrop of thickly bedded sandstone. It has some nice re-entrants, like little rocky bays in an ancient geological harbor. This was fairly close to the flat highlands of the main camp but would be a prime dwelling for trailers, with some degree of privacy and the off-site storage of nearly a ton of high explosives.
In front of the outcrop, was a flat, wind-swept sandy blowout area that would be prime for the catering trailers.
If we parked the Porta Johns behind the outcrop, they’d still be close enough to be of facility. But they’d be distant enough that we wouldn’t be gassed in our sleep if the winds shifted during the night.
Plenty of parking off-site a piece once the trailers were set. The general area showed no signs of being anything of a hydrological nature, so it didn’t act as a wadi boundary, nor were we camping in a dry wash. We should be protected from the worst of the winds and rain if the inevitable summer high-desert thunderstorm rolled through.
“Boom!”, I said, “Gentlemen, we have a camp! First come, first served. Let’s go claim our spots.”
We all smiled, piled into our respective vehicles and drove the 350 meters or so over a small rise to our new home for the next week plus.
I found a very secure dead-end slot-canyon for the trailer. I backed it in, disconnected it from the Hummer, and secured it to some rock bolts Lucas and I pounded into the very living rock walls of the canyon.
Lucas and I chose the next re-entrant to the left. It was one of the larger ones, plenty of space to park the Hummer and for Lucas and my tents. Dr. D selected the one immediately to the right of Trailer Canyon. His rental fit in parallel to the rock face, and he pitched his tent between the rock wall and his vehicle. He had a flat area to pitch his tent, drag out his work table, and sling his hammock between the car and the outcrop. He’d be protected from the wind and rain, and any onslaught other than directly vertical.
Clever dude.
He even erected a sun-shade he devised from a thick sheet of tarpaulin and some support pipes he scrounged from the surrounding area. We helped him fabricate this bit of brilliance with guy lines attached to rock bolts we pounded into the outcrop and extra tent pegs anchored deep into the desert floor.
Very clever. He was secure as houses now.
We were set and ready to go. All we needed now was the rest of the retinue to arrive.
Lucas went walkabout once we had dragged out my worktable and one of the coolers I carried. I was working away on my field notebooks when Lucas ran up with a 2x2 foot square sheet of what appeared to be weathered white Masonite.
“What you got there, Luc?”, Dr. D asked.
“There’s tons of this shit lying around”, Lucas explained, “All the same size and thickness. I figure we’re going to be here a while, so we gather some posts, and we have a supply of ready-made signs for the crowd when they arrive.”
So, Lucas, Dr. D and I spend the next couple of hours devising road signs for the new arrivals.
“Slot 1 =>. Slot 2 =>.” And so one for the basic trailer parking/tenting slots.
“Food =>”, which needed to wait until the caterers' arrival.
“Shitters =>”, again, had to wait until the Porta-San farm arrived.
And so on and so forth.
All in bright day-glow orange.
Lucas and I did a rattlesnake sweep through the entire camp area and found not even a shed skin. We did find a slot canyon cut clear through the outcrop that would provide great access to the Porta Johns behind the outcrop. It was like this place was designed for us.
The food trailers and Porta Sans arrived at virtually the same time. We directed each to the area we thought would be best for each. The Porta San driver agreed this was a good place for the loos, especially since they’d be out of the elements and still close enough to be a convenience.
The caterers hemmed and hawed a while, but over a cold beer or two, decided the areas we already designated would prove to be acceptable, with a few minor alterations. A little C-4 remade those minor alterations and relocated some errant boulders. Before you knew it, we were back in business.
We figured the day would be a wash as it would take these hydroheads most of the day to find their shoes, much less a distant campsite. So, Lucas and Dr. D went out in his vehicle and posted sings to help direct these hopeless folks to the campsite.
I stayed back at camp and pored over the maps, literature, and write-ups regarding the area and the mines it contained.
There were literally hundreds of mines out there. Some no more than small prospect drifts that chased a vein of precious metals until it petered out in a few hundred yards. Others were full-fledged scary-ass deep, hard rock mines with vertical transit shafts whose depths were measured in thousands of feet.
I discounted those the Bureau hadn’t vetted as to animal worthiness and those that were deemed animal sanctuaries. A quick count left me with 104 mines to choose from. Some I could close “Old School” with a bundle of dynamite and a quick tug on a set-pull-forget and toss fuse.
Others were so extensive, it would take me and a trained crew at least a week to explore, devise, set, prime, and charge the thing.
OK, I selected 10 easy mines for quick annihilation and set those aside as Class-1, the easiest bundle-of-boom, for later. Sort of a bonus as the project drew to a close.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to go all 1880s and pop the fuse on a bundle of stick dynamite then chuck them down a deep hole?
I know I would.
Then I chose five or six what I considered medium-class, or Class-2, mines. Multi-level, dry, no real obvious nasties like rotten cribbing, loose broke down piles of rock, talc…gad, talc… or noxious gasses. These went into pile number two.
Then I chose two that I considered Class-3 mines. Real bastards. Multi-level, flooded, raises, winzes, stopes, shifts, staves, shafts, tunnels, all sorts of fun shit. I decided that Dr. D, Lucas and I would discuss which of these we’d close. It was a point of vanity, I guess. I needed to nuke just one of these tricky fuckers to show the Bureau what they were going to be missing once I left. As well as prove what I can accomplish out in the field, even saddled with a passel of greenhorns.
With my field notebooks up to date, all my demolition paperwork in order, and piles of mine candidates to choose from, I declared the day a wash and lit the drinking light.
Dr. D looked at our supplies and declared it inadequate. Besides, we didn’t have any Bass Ale, his favorite tipple. He decides that he and Lucas would run into town, only about 75 miles distant, pick up the necessary supplies, and bet me a sawbuck he’d return before the first camper made camp-fall.
“You’re on!”, I said as I handed Lucas the cash for the wager. I also slipped him a few extra bucks if he found any good looking cigars, vodka, bourbon or beer we just couldn’t live without.
The concessions folks got wind of our plans and asked if one of their tribe could accompany Dr. D and Lucas to town with a couple of coolers for ice. They could make ice on-site, but it’d be hours before they had any in abundance. Dr. D had no problem with that as they could bungee the coolers down to the roof rack of the rental.
I asked Dr. D if this extra time to get ice would invalidate our wager.
In a flurry of dust and cigar smoke, he yelled out the window as he, Lucas and the food court guy hauled ass town ward: “No way! I’ll still beat them all back!”
I was essentially alone out in the wilds of Nevada’s high desert. Nothing much to do, I loafed around, wandered over to the boomtown remains and had a look round, and generally just mooched about waiting.
Back at Rock Central, as Dr. D had christened our campsite; as he had created, posted, and signed the signs to prove it, I was called over to one of the cook trailers. They had questions for me.
They wanted to know what the gunfire was all about the other day. They’d heard rumors of everything from armed insurgency to just some late-night target practice.
I regaled them of the story of the ‘Motorcycle Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight’ and they laughed and laughed. They were pleased to know they were well protected out here in the boonies.
After that, with nothing much else to do, I offered them all a beer or whatever else they could find in my depleted larders. They gratefully accepted and we sat around, just shootin’ the shit for a while.
Two or three beers in, one of the head chefs excused himself and returned a bit later with an unlabeled bottle of suspicious-looking clearish fluid.
“We keep some on hand for emergencies”, he told me, “But since they were working for the Bureau and had to conform to their rules, we were asked to run a dry camp.”
“Well,” I said, “As long as it’s kept under control, and as I’m the sole Bureau representative here; I don’t run a dry camp, so if it’s kept low-key, I don’t see a damned thing.”
After the whoops and hollers died down, I was presented an iced glass of very suspicious-looking homemade high-octane hooch. The head chef, who assured me he has CIA credentials, i.e., Culinary Institute of America, and knew how to run a still, promised me I’d find his latest creation most enjoyable. Or unusual, I forget which.
“Slurp!”
Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ on A Soda Cracker! That stuff was smooth.
No, not smooth. What’s the opposite of smooth? Sandpapery? Abrasive? Crenulate? Squamulose? Rock ripping?
He smiled broadly as I choked down that slug. I gasped for breath. My eyes glazed over. My ears were on fire. My teeth vibrated. My nose ran off. My tongue was contemplating filing for divorce.
It was pure loathsomeness. It was fucking horrendous. I hated the fucking stuff.
“Care for another?” he asked.
“Oh yes, please,” I replied.
A while later I heard a car approaching. Given the speed at which it was traveling, I knew without looking who it was.
Yep, five minutes later Dr. D roared into camp, sliding backward to a stop only feet from the lead chow trailer in a cloud of Cretaceous floodplain dust.
“Did I win?” he asked, as he looked the camp over. Lucas and the cook assistant fumbled out of the car as best their rubbery legs would allow.
“Sure as hell.” I replied, “Lucas, please pay the man.”
We helped remove the coolers of the roof of Dr. D’s car. Each was filled with a single crystal-clear block of water ice. Seems this old town still had an ice house and it was simple as squash to take dimensions of the cooler, and chip a chunk of the correct size off the glacier they had in the storerooms. The cook crew were ecstatic.
Dr. D found his Bass Ale and bought the town dry. Lucas had purchased a supply of classic field camp beers: Lucky Lager, Henry Weinhard's, Hamms, Blatz, Falstaff, Walter’s Bock, Grain Belt, and Buckhorn. It was frosty, ice-cold nostalgia.
Plus, Lucas found a bottle of George Dickel, Rebel Yell, and Hoggs Bourbon for me. As well as liters of Monopolowa, Popov, Bowmans’s, Royal Gate, and Ruskaya Vodka. He also admitted to a bottle of Yukon Jack and Captain Morgan for himself since everyone else was getting what they wanted. Plus three cases of really weird flavored Nehi soda. No Bitter Lemon though…he was disconsolate. But still smiling like a loon.
Dr. D had also stopped and filled his trunk with firewood purchased from a farmer on the outskirts of town. We stacked that centrally next to where we’d construct the communal fire pit.
The high desert. Out in the middle of absolute nowhere. Camping. Few creature comforts. A serious geology job laid out in front of us, a couple already behind us. Campfires. Good friends. Good food. Good cigars. Cheap booze.
It really was like coming home again.
Finally, some hours later, just as the sun was getting ready to bounce off the western edge of the desert, the trailers and campers began to arrive. They all caravanned, en masse so they wouldn’t get lost. Their tarmacked travels took them through many tank towns, so they stopped along the way for beer, booze, and other things to make the camp run that much more smoothly.
One after another, the tenters and campers pulled in. Dr. D, Lucas and I decided we had done enough for one day, so we sat at Lucas’ and my campsite, stoked a smallish campfire and decided to sample the wares of Dr. D’s sojourn to the big city.
The trailers all parked, first come, first served. No arguments, no bitching, no sweat. The tenters consolidated the northern end of the camp area, the trailers, the south.
The chow triangle was rung and it was dinner time, all right on schedule.
Deep-fried cod and chips, mushy peas, Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire Pudding, and roast joints of beef rounded out the British-themed meal. There was Spotted Dick, Banoffee pie, and Syllabub for pudding.
You had to eat your meat or you couldn’t have any pudding.
Maybe the chef really was CIA.
After tea, and before the drinking light was lit, I called everyone for a quick meeting to explain what I had intended for the next 10 days. I explained how Class -1, -2, and -3 mines were defined. I noted that we would, at minimum, close at least one of each type in our time remaining. Everyone would be in on Class 1 & 2 mines, but I’d only ask for volunteers for the single Class-3 mine, due to its inherent complexity and danger.
I also noted that since this would be home for the next near score of days, that I have access to VHF, HF, UHF, ELF, SW, and CB radios, with a lash up for telecommunications with the Bureau HF radio, if there was an emergency. I also have a satellite phone if there were any particularly spectacular emergencies. It was available, but not for idle chit chat. Perhaps, later in the week, I noted, I could allow a 10-minute call home for everyone if there was nothing untoward that happened in the interim.
There were general shouts of approval on all points. I asked for questions, and there were none. Either I was that good at covering all the bases of these guys were really thirsty.
“Folks”, I said, “The drinking light is lit. Remember, we muster front and center tomorrow 0630. Please bear that in mind. Naz dirovya!
After a catered breakfast of breakfast pizza, breakfast burritos, and breakfast Egg WacMuffins, I had the whole crowd assembled, most all sipping coffee and a few lamenting some real humdinger headaches.
“OK, gang”, I began, “Class-2 mines today. Class-1 mines are super easy, barely an inconvenience. I’m retaining them as door prizes for the best mine demolishers nearer the end of the week. I won’t say much about these exit prizes, but suffice to say, think 1880s, and bundled sticks of dynamite.”
That got the crowd’s interest.
As usual, I broke the crowd up into groups. Dr. D, being near as up as me on mine construction and dangers, so kindly offered to take one group in the morning so I could handle the second group in the afternoon, or vice versa, just for flavor. After that, we’d compare notes, ask for volunteers, go back in and charge the mines. Then, we’d retire to a safe distance and blow the living shit out of them.
We’d alternate, and when I wasn’t in the mine, he’d radio back what he thought would be appropriate to nuke these mines out of existence. I’d begin work on building the demolition charges. After which, I’d store them, then I’d take a group on a walkthrough. We’d all get together, have a powwow, get people’s impressions and concerns of the mine and formulate a demolition procedure.
That way, in six days we blasted out of existence six Class-2 mines. We were humming along like a well-oiled machine. No bitching, no kvetching, just lots and lots of questions, good food, cheap booze, and cheaper beer with mines closing left and right.
Things were actually humming right along. Until the afternoon of day 8.
Clouds rolled in, covering the skies with their frothy white, billowy cloudiness.
I was looking up to the unfolding aerial montage when Lucas and Dr. D wandered over.
“You saw it as well.”, Dr. D noted., “Best get the word out, it’s going to be a real toad-floater.” He and Lucas were old-time field hands out in the desert. They knew what was coming.
I agreed, this had all the earmarks of a major-league desert thunderstorm. Heavy rain, wicked winds, thundering thunder, dismal darkness, all split by jagged lightning.
I called for an immediate camp meeting.
“Folks,” I said loudly, so the cook crew could hear as well, “Look due up. We’re in for a real humdinger of a summer thunderstorm. As soon as we’re finished here, get back to your camp. Secure everything not nailed down. Check guy ropes and make sure they’re doubled-down. If it’s loose, pack it, or nail it down tight. I don’t know how many of you have experienced Mother Nature at her nastiest out in the field, but make no mistake, she’s got stuff that makes my best explosives look like Tinker Toys. Get sorted and hunker down. There will be wind. There will be rain. There will be wind. They may be hail, so tenters, you might want to call in some favors with the folks who have trailers. Questions?”
There were none, but Dr. D added, “Rock ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie here, gang. It’s got all the earmarks of being a nasty bugger. Prepare to take cover and hunker down solid.”
They saw that when the two most senior field trippers said that this was to be a real event, it’s best to listen and ask questions later.
The camp scattered. Lucas and I flattened our tents, no need getting them ripped to shreds.
I made certain the explosives trailer was nailed down, locked, and well-grounded. What are the odds of a lightning strike? Don’t care. I made double-damn uber-certain.
Dr. D flattened his camp and said he’d ride it out in his rental. I offered him a spot in the Hummer, as it was big enough for us to sack out if the storm lingered.
He declined. He said he’d be fine in his rental.
The cook trailers were stowed and secured, and if the Port-a-San farm took a hit, there wasn’t much now we could do but hope otherwise.
Lucas, Dr. D and I sat out in out camp chairs, with fresh cigars and beers, savoring the ridiculously salubrious pre-storm ozonic fresh air, awaiting the inevitable atmospheric show. The clouds above roiled, rolled, and built to astonishing heights. They grew as dark and foreboding as a volcanic ashfall. Over more beer and cigars, and maybe a tot of bourbon, we watched and waited.
And waited.
“Was this going to be a false alarm?” I wondered.
KA-HOLY SHIT-BOOM! The thunder roared.
Nope. Not this time.
We all sat outside admiring the coming show. It was going to be fun, lots of lightning and peals of thunder. Torrential rains, for certain, with that exciting hint of hail that might come for a visit.
Over beers, we sat, watched, and pointed out some of the amazing structures in a building series of cranky cumulonimbus clouds.
“PLOP!” the first drops of rain appeared. The camp chairs went into the back of the Hummer. Dr. D departed to his sanctuary and Lucas and I sat in the truck, fiddling with the radios to see if we could get any info on the storm.
KRRAACK! Lightning buzzed with a vengeance.
We’re in the high desert out here. Some 9,000’ plus above sea level. Puts us that much closer to the storm.
KABOOM! Thunder rumbled.
“Odd”, I thought, “Not much rain or wind…”
The Hummer rocked like it took a hit from an RPG. The rain and wind I wondered about had arrived.
If you had anything not locked down outside, it was well on its way to California by now.
Rain pummeled. Winds howled. Lightning cracked. Thunder rumbled.
And it got very, very dark.
Dr. D did a great job of picking out our camp location. The rain puddled, ponded, then ran off to the west. The winds, for at least a small part, were funneled around the campsite rather than lay waste to it.
But that’s where all the good things ended.
The hail began. Pea-sized first. Then marble-sized. Then organic, free-range, farm-fresh, egg-sized. Finally, high-velocity ice golf balls. It made a hell of a racket on the reinforced roof of the Hummer. I didn’t even want to think what it was doing to thin-sheet aluminum topped trailers.
It grew in intensity. Winds whipped even stronger. Hail bounced merrily of the outcrops, cook trailer’s roofs and the very ground. In short order, it looked as if it had snowed. The entire campsite’s grounds were covered with whole inches of accumulation of hailstones.
Then, as quickly as it appeared, it was over. The sun cautiously peeked through the waning clouds and lit the devastated tableaux for all to see.
Lucas, Dr. D and I got out of our vehicles to survey the circumstances. We brushed the icy accumulations off our tents and raised them so they’d begin drying. There would have been nothing left if we hadn’t collapsed them first.
Slowly, the rest of the campers showed up. They milled around the snow-like accumulation and just goggled. Many had never seen, much less experienced, such climatic fury firsthand.
Of course, everyone had to pick up and examine the hailstones. Then it happened, one northern wag decided that since it looked like snow, it must act like snow. One West Coaster was the first casualty. He took a hailstone snowball to the back.
That’s all it took, a snowball fight broke out. It was hilarious, even though I was less than amused when I played innocent bystander and took a snowball hit directly to the cocktail in my hand, spilling my drink.
“Of course you realize.”, I mused, “This means war.”
Many campers learned that day, through hard experience, you never start a snowball fight with Baja Canada and Real Canada residents. The carnage was spectacular.
It was a late night before anyone hit the sack. They were having too much fun.
I finally picked the last mine of the tour, the Gobbler’s Knob #33 shaft.
I gave it several days because it was a motherfucker.
Fully 7 levels deep. A central shaft that was 33’ across the diagonal, hence the mine’s name.
The deepest record we had for the mine was the last work face in level 7 was at 2,729 feet below surface level, more than a half a mile in depth.
The last reports were that level 7 might have flooded. Looks like I’m going to need some severely hardy folks to accompany me on this initial trek.
After dinner that night, I called a camp meeting. I explained the need for the initial reconnaissance of this mine, and I was looking for volunteers. This was an entirely optional mine, although I’d like input at the nightly meetings. You don’t have to go, but it’d probably look real good on those final reports I have to write up for everyone.
Yeah, no pressure. No pressure at all.
Of course, Dr. D and Lucas volunteered immediately. Truth be told, if that’s all that wanted to go, it would have been fine with me.
However, Dr. I, the Ms. maniac torpedo detonator from earlier, Dr. F, and Dr. H and his associate made the move forward.
“OK,” I declared, “That’s seven. Just in case, do any of you have technical rope-climbing skills? That might come in handy on this recon trip.”
Dr. H decided that it might be a bit too strenuous for him, but asked if his associate, Gary the Grad Student could accompany us. This guy was supposedly half-gibbon, he was that good of a technical climber. I almost told him to get bent as I didn’t need anyone showing me up.
Of course, I relented. I noted that we’d all meet here, tomorrow, fully kitted out with all our gear, at 0600 for the initial assault. We’d take the Hummer as it had plenty of room. The mine adit itself was less than a mile distant, but we’d get so knackered walking that distance even in the early morning desert heat, that I insisted we drive, even if it took a couple of trips.
There was a pretty good Happy Hour that night, but not for six of the more intrepid adventurers. We held off until after our explorations were complete.
I had copies of the latest mine schematics and handed one out to everyone.
“Carry this with you and mark it as you go”, I said, “Find something not on the map, like an ore chute, drift, stope, raise, or winze, make a note. Also, keep tabs on where you are at all times.”
All agreed as this was serious nut cuttin’ time. This mine could be a real killer. I doubt it’s going to cut any of us any slack.
After checking and re-checking our gear, at the mine adit, we synchronized our watches and rechecked our coordinates. Our ELF radios would work underground as would the mine GPS we had along.
To be continued.
submitted by Rocknocker to Rocknocker [link] [comments]

Looking for porter to help me carry my emotional baggage. (Part r4r, part lonely heart, part life story).

Prologue: Hello reddit! I’ve got issues.
I have never done this before, nor do I have any idea what might come of it, but I can tell you that this is probably just as much (if not moreso) an introspective essay as it will be lonely heart ad. I’m somewhat at the point in my life where I need to scream out into the void, and I hope that my honesty will net me just enough cosmic karma to get me out of this hole which I’ve been so unceremoniously dumped into. So, strap in; you're in for some u/rubyoobieoobie length shit.
I’ll leave you with a TLDR for now (because I’m not so callous as to make you scroll to the bottom for it): I have been to 49 states, flew to France for a date, solved a decade-old problem in microbial biochemistry and astrobiology, and am the dictator of my own country. I also have insurmountable trauma from my past (and only) relationship, but I still have deluded myself into thinking there is a hope, a person, a way in which I might someday move on and be happy again.
For those who want to know now, I am a 24-year-old non-binary, assigned-male-at-birth individual in search of someone whom has the patience necessary to deal with the above. Also, potential trigger warning for sexual trauma in Chapter 2.
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Chapter 1: Who I currently am.
I’m quite an abnormal fellow. Growing up as the autistic homeschooler of some shut-ins will do that to you, but there was always something about me that was especially aberrant. Skipping rapidly over two decades, a few highlights include attending an Online High School run by an Ivy-League university, becoming a high-school dropout, then starting college at 14 and graduating at 19. However, all magic requires a tradeoff, so I report not having a friend until I was 15 and not having more than two simultaneously until literally 2018. In many ways, I almost wish I hadn’t been homeschooled and was held back academically. I’m certain that, were my upbringing different, I would have been a nerd or geek. I could have learned to play D&D or magic the gathering, I could have liked Naruto, I could have become a gamer or learned to code. I am by no means cool or normal, but I have always lacked any sort of peers or social niche. I do not like sports, but, with equal fervor, I do not like fantasy novels. Both cause a lack of associations. I’m not necessarily lonely for friends – I do have them, and quite a blissful plenty, now – but this does show that, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I have always been somewhat of a loner.
My life, as it currently is, started when I fled a certain situation (pin in that). I moved from the west coast to New York City for a biotech job at a coveted research institution in 2017. I was so overwhelmingly hopeful because, in addition to fleeing trauma and making a good career move, I was moving out from my parents and ready to start my life anew in what had been billed to me for years as Millennial heaven. Brooklyn! Williamsburg! Dumbo! Midtown! Astoria! Tribeca! New York City had been built up in my mind as the place to make it as a young, urban-minded professional. Now, I must make a disclaimer: I was not a country boy heading into this. To that point, I had lived in 8 different cities in 4 different states, most of them major places, so I was quite familiar with how cities should be like. Apparently, New York, however, is not.
I hated that place. Trash, everywhere. Stations, crumbling. Inexcusable income disparity, half-assed parks, wretchedroads, and absolutely no scenic beauty whatsoever. I devised a 45-minute lecture on why The City (as it’s called) sucked so much. Suffice it to say that Chicago is the clearly superior American megacity, followed by Toronto, Denver, Seattle, and Austin. My whole life, growing up on the west coast (where cities ascribed to the novel idea of attempting to benefittheir citizens), I had heard of people who claimed that “all governments are bad, bureaucratic, and inefficient.” I had always dismissed them as crackpot old kooks, but, having experienced New York City for what it was, I all of a sudden can understand how someone who had lived their whole life in such places could come to think that way.
But the thing that made it most unlivable were the people. Especially at my job, but also pretty much throughout the whole region (Providence to Wilmington, in my estimation), the people were overly obsessed with “social coding”. Though an irritatingly imprecise phenomenon for me to describe, it is basically that people have a much more stringent set of acceptable social norms and shun you more harshly for being individualistic. The west coast is significantly better at encouraging you to “let your freak flag fly” (otherwise known as being genuine and honest with yourself).
But the situation was significantly worse for me, specifically. You see, for lack of a better term, I am a psychopath. I don’t mean it in a negative context, per se, and, while I do quite frequently play the role of a narcissist for sake of metahumor, I don’t actually mean people ill will, nor do I callously disregard the well-being of others. It’s just that, due to the quirk of my aberrant neurochemistry and antisocial upbringing, I have always been generally inept at empathy. I am very social, outgoing, kind-hearted, and incredibly humorous – don’t get me wrong – but I can just as much be oblivious to social cues or the tacit desires of others. This peculiar mix leads my personality to be best described as the bastard child of a foursome between Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, Psych’s Shawn Spencer, Scrubs’ JD, and Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon. I truly mean well and am pure of heart; to that end, I’ve spent much of my life acquiring coping mechanisms to be a better, kinder, more sympathetic person and friend. But, for one reason or another, I was ill-equipped to deal with that most fetid breed person known to man: the “Lawn Guylander”.
This all culminated in a moment of crisis, but which I have come to look back on as the “Poughkeepsie Epiphany” (because, ever so creatively, I was driving thence at the time I had it): for almost a year, I had been putting an exorbitant amount of effort into playing the part of this overly social person, but was failing catastrophically. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet people or make friends, much less find a partner. My coworkers loathed me, but in a way which they all looked down on me as if I was a defective human whom they didn’t care to humor one bit (one of the most vindicating moments was when a postdoc joined the lab from San Diego and he was similarly abhorred at the social climate). One day, I had a realization that there wasn’t a single person in the world who knew when I woke up, nor a single person that would care if I didn’t. That was a painful day. So, my Poughkeepsie Epiphany was that I could continue struggling to play the social game and end up cripplingly lonely, or I could be exactly as lonely as I would be otherwise, but be genuine to myself – no matter how anomalous that might be – and actually be happy with who I was for so doing.
This is when I started to become crazy, and quite proudly so. If there was an idea that was absurd in scope but was a completionist goal, I did it. I started road-tripping with an epic fervor (I knocked off 8 remaining states from my list, mostly New England, to get me to 49 [pin in that]). Road-tripping and adventuring is now a major aspect of my personality, and I have since accrued over 11,000 saved places on google maps (my poor, poor phone starts to melt whenever I open the app for navigation). Over the remaining months I had in New York, I rode every line of the New York City Subway end to end. I taught myself military time, metric, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and the nations of the world. Whenever I would go to bars, instead of socializing ineptly, I would open my backpack and yank out a massive tome such as (initially) a book on the AOL-Time Warner Merger (“something which one cannot read whilst sober”) or (later) Penn State, an Illustrated History (did you know we had a branch campus in China?). Sometimes, people would look over at me as the shockwave caused by the massive thwack of the volume hitting the bartop rolled by, and I would proudly adopt the facial expression of “Yes, I am that weird, and I don’t give a damn.” To be sure, I was still cripplingly lonely, but I was, for the first time in my life, happy.
I also began devising an escape plan. I decided to rapidly accelerate my life plans and apply for graduate school years ahead of what I had intended. Come January, I got interviews at three Ivys: Penn State, Duke, and Columbia. It was no contest. Duke sux balz and felt like an incompetent department living in the shadow of their medical center while also having the misplaced haughtiness to think they deserved equal recognition (also, I didn’t want to go to a place where the yearly tuition was more money than I had ever earned in my entire life to that point). Unlike Duke, Columbia actually had some quality research going on, but there was only one professor I was interested in and the department felt like it was out more for its own reputation than to actually support its graduate students. Penn State, however, stole my heart. Though painfully rural, the town felt like a very tiny big city. The university was friendly and earnest, the students were fun-loving but not reckless, and it’s one of only two universities in the country to offer a Dual-Title Ph.D. in [Home Field] and Astrobiology, a subject which I had always been enthralled by. As a concrete comparison, Columbia had just acquired three Cryo-Electron microscopes and was showing them off to us, but they were shared with thirteen other research institutions in the New York Metropolitan Area. Penn State, on the other hand, had one Krios, all to itself, which had been installed four years earlier. I have since confirmed that Penn State clearly puts its money where its mouth was and does its damnedest to support its scientists in producing world-class research.
So, slightly over a year after moving to New York, I was ready to start my life over again – but, this time, I had the mindset to do it correctly. At risk of turning this too much into an autobiography, I’ll cut short the narrative. In the two years since the Poughkeepsie Epiphany, though, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Partly out of my passion for storytelling and humor, and partly as a way to stake out my own identity in this world, I’ve latched on to certain oddball stories that most exemplify this newfound sense of self which I’ve acquired. Since they are a significant part of my personality and do an excellent job of portraying my uniquely blusterous metahumor, I'll share a few of the most notable:
  1. I’ve been to 49 states:
When people ask where I grew up, I respond that I’ve lived in 10 different cities in six different states, and have been to 49 (some people also ask if my father was in the military [no], or, once, witness protection [I am not at liberty to disclose whether this is true]). The one remaining state is Oklahoma. I am really debating just buying plane tickets to Oklahoma City for a weekend just so that I can say I’ve been to all 50. To justify my trip, I could go on a tour of why white people are so horrible by visiting the Oklahoma Museum of the Native American, the Oklahoma Museum of the African American, and the Oklahoma Museum of the Gay Cowboy (all of which, to my knowledge, are real places). Woohoo! A trifecta of oppression! However, if I were to actually visit Oklahoma and do this, I would then lose this marvelous and witty conversation topic about which last state I have yet to visit and what I would do while there, so it’s a serious cost-benefit analysis that I must weigh.
  1. I am the Dictator of my own country:
This is probably much less interesting than you’d think. There’s a rather... unique hobby out there of people who (for the most part) tongue-in-cheekily secede from their parent countries to form ultra-small monarchies or banana republics. In my case, I thought that the most reasonable and considered response to the Trump Presidency was to give up on the entire country and secede to form my own. I’m going to build a wall and make America pay for it! This is also actually more legitimate than you’d think, too, as I was invited to and attended the United Micronations, the second-largest meeting of nations in the world (the “largest” organization is in New York, I think. I really don’t pay too much attention to it). As a result, I ended up forming a federation, making several alliances, and maintain regular contact with several other micronationalists. On the domestic front, I made both my roommates sign a 37-page, 42-clause, 17k-word Cohabitation Agreement (á la Sheldon), which, among other things, has reservations for Spots, a flag, a legal system, time travel, and gives me power of attorney over them (you’d be surprised; they both signed it voluntarily, without complaint, and after having read it in its entirety). One might add that they do not pay rent; I levy taxes. Finally, I attempted an infiltration of the local Civil War Reenactors (they have a cannon!) to help me in my ongoing war against the local recycling agency for gross ineptitude, but, for some incomprehensible reason, a bunch of old, white, rurally-inclined men didn't take so kindly to my opinions on conservatism and modern politics. I am convinced that this is merely a marketing issue, and we are workshopping new slogans for our planned invasion of the adjacent curb and sidewalk.
  1. I flew to France for a date:
The story I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for. I met an undergraduate here and went on two dates with her, but then she did a semester abroad in France. It was going somewhat well; we were texting every day, and this was the first meaningful person I had actually gone on a date with since... things (pin in that). I quickly ran the numbers, looked at my schedule, and then came up with a hair-brained scheme. You see, I grew up in Florida, so a significant part of my childhood was consumed by theme parks. Sparring you a lot of details, two of the parks (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios) originally opened under the auspices of special-features theme parks, a de-immersive experience where they show you how the movies are made. In the past decade, however, both parks have been moving towards more immersive experiences, where the only common factor among the attractions is that they are all based on intellectual properties that just happened to be movie franchises. This started to feel like a real loss when I learned that the Backlot Tour and Lights, Motors, Action at Disney were being bulldozed for sake of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge, the former of which was a very important ride to my childhood, and the latter of which was something that I always wanted to see. Lo and behold, a little research revealed that both of these attractions were intact at Disney Studios in Paris. So, a date in the South of France, personally-important theme park attractions in the north, TGV connecting them, and, oh, yeah, duh, it’s Paris, that’s justification in itself.
I planned it out meticulously. For the week leading up to the trip, I would get up, go to work, and go to bed an hour earlier every day (the trip was only going to be three days, so any jet-lag-induced napping would have had an alarmingly high opportunity cost). Then, on the day of the flight, I woke up just before midnight, had breakfast at a favorite bar at closing time, went in to work, and left for JFK by noon. Ten hours of globe-trotting later, I arrived on the Mediterranean coast and proceeded to mispronounce everything.
The date in France was supposed to be our third. What traditionally happens on the third date? Now, let it be known that I would NEVER be the type of person to demand sexuality from anyone, but, you do have to admit, flying 20% of the circumference of a planet is a pretty grand gesture, is it not? I mean, you can’t get a much grander gesture before you literally run out of planet. So, for this third date to take place and for me to not get laid is pretty empirical proof that I am quite irrevocably unfuckable. My next plan is to start looking for dates in Bangladesh (or Oklahoma), because that’s as close as you can get to antipodal (a perfect 50% of the planet's circumference) as you can get from here. Oh, and those two attractions at Disney Studios, not kidding, they were closed ahead of schedule a week before I arrived. Now, I’m not asking for pity at all; don’t get me wrong, I had a blast! It’s Paris, godsdamnit! But I prefer to view this trip in the narrower, funnier, yet sadder context of the two busts above because it helps me to better come to terms with the parts of myself I dislike. As I often say: “I could either laugh or cry at myself. I’d rather one than the other.”
  1. I returned from France with a Motorcycle:
Although France girl never worked out (I don’t think I made a fool of myself or anything, but, remember, I am legitimately inept at this), the trip to France did have a lasting impact on my life in another way. I am an avid bicyclist for a variety of reasons: staying active, helping the environment, and it’s flying like superman at ground level when [safely!] dodging in and out of undergrads. Now, while strolling down the lonely streets of a certain city in the South of France, I encountered one particular bicycle rack with about 25% regular bicycles, about 25% electric bicycles, about 25% mopeds and scooters, and 25% fully-blown motorcycles, all chained up side by side. Having a doctor as a parent, I spent my entire life thinking of motorcycles as hooligan deathtraps, but, here, I was seeing them for the first time in the context of something I had already made an important part of my life.
Upon returning home (by the way, you already know my disdain for New York Shitty [sic] and Wrong Island [sic], so imagine the gutwrenching heartbreak of arriving there after just having spent a weekend in Paris[!]), I arrived at the parking lot, looked at my car, and counted room for four extra people that I didn’t need (because I had no friends). Thus, in my feverish road-tripping, I was hauling around an unnecessary 1.96 tons of extra material – with a dreadful gas mileage to boot! – killing the planet as a result. The next few days were spent obsessively investigating this newfound world which I had heretofore disregarded. Ever since being gifted my car and spittaking at its gas mileage, I always wanted another, more environmentally-conscious vehicle. However, living in the so-called Pennsyltucky, electric vehicle charging stations are fairly sparse in their deployment. Also, I didn’t want to buy a true replacement vehicle, as I am too poor. I was more targeting a hyper-environmentally-conscious vehicle which I could use for my luxury adventures, and then still have the old, reliable gas-guzzler for when I needed to haul around a couch or power through to Virginia. Motorcycles, as I found, have an average of 56mpg, 2.5 times better than my car.
But, now, I was starting to find my way into the culture of motorcycles, something which, on the whole, I find myself violently at odds with. As the joke I tell goes, most motorcycles aren’t actually built for long-distance exploring, like what I already did in my car. Most of them are dirt bikes, with basically bench seats, or sport bikes, which require you to hunch over and lean your stomach on the gas tank. Not very comfortable for long treks. There are only two types of bikes made with comfort in mind: the sport-tourer, which I ended up getting, and the cruiser, which is made entirely out of chrome, handle-bar mustaches, and racism (or homophobia, depending on my audience). Needless to say, I prefer the former.
For those interested, I ended up with the Yamaha Tracer GT. In addition to (proudly!) having only one piece of chrome (the downward-facing exhaust) and being sexy and futuristic as all futhermuck, it is functional, having two panniers (saddle-bags), each capable of holding four half-gallons of Berkey Creamery ice cream (ask me how I know). Skipping over many of the specifics of how I chose this particular model regarding my choice of motorcycle, a big figure in motorcycle news opened his review of the Tracer with “It’s not often I ride a motorcycle and walk away with existential questions for the readers.” For those who have been following along, this quote is the exact thing that I latch on to as part of my newfound identity as a blissful lunatic.
  1. The Semester of Hell and solving a decade-old issue in microbial physiology:
So, come the end of my first year as a graduate student, I started to look towards my second fall semester. The only thing I had to do was my qualifying exam, the really big, month-long exam that determines whether or not you can stay in graduate school. But that was only during November, so, overall, it was going to be an empty semester. Then I learned that a big-name professor in microbiology was retiring, and the last time he was going to teach would be that fall. So, I signed up for his course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I learned of a prestigious grant that I could apply for, so I decided to take a grant-writing course. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then I got an email from the department, saying that they needed more TAs for Freshman Biology lab. I had to TA as a requirement of my program, so I might as well get it out of the way now. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester. Then, in July and August, I made an incredible discovery that solved a problem in microbial physiology that had been around since 2009 (pin in that). I spoke with my PI, and he said we could power through and probably get a paper out in under a year. I told him I wanted to do that. After all, it was supposed to be an empty semester.
Well, as you can now see, it wasn’t a very empty semester, was it now? To great surprise, I survived, but not unscathed. On average, I worked 60-70 hours a week, though some of it was partially my own doing (for example, my term paper for the bacterial physiology course had seventy citations, even though it was only required to have ten). One “highlight” was TAing. Apparently, my students thought my quiz was so hard that they called the university police on me (I’m not exaggerating; we had to pursue academic integrity violations. It was a debacle). I joked that, with each subsequent class period, I became more and more sympathetic to the antagonists of teen dystopian novels; maybe it is time to build a floating elitist city in the sky and leave the rest of the planet to shit, after all?
Now, I’m certain that many of you are curious as to the contents of my discovery. I can’t exactly speak freely, as the manuscript is in review, but, even if I could, it would be waaaaay too complex and jargony to be comprehensible to the lay public (and this is already going on long enough). Suffice it to be the simple version: A particular class of protein had been known in microbes for a very long time and is involved in pretty much everything, from simple feeding to complex infections. In certain bacteria, this category of protein is modified in a certain way, and people always thought (for over 40 years) that this modification was a transport signal. However, a decade ago, a research groups, perplexingly, discovered these modified proteins in a bacterium that didn’t have th modification-making enzyme. This left two major questions: if not for transport, what was this modification for; and, what is the enzyme that makes the modification in all the other bacteria? I solved the latter question by spending four months looking through the entire genome of the original bacterium and finally finding the modification-making protein, and I’ve spent ever since trying to characterize it. The paper should be published sometime within a month or three (the current coronapocalypse is a boon for manuscript-preparation). Additionally, the previous graduate student in the lab to me made an interesting discovery regarding the genetics of the modification-making enzyme, and my next paper will expand on their work to determine the actual function of this modification. These proteins and their modifications are important because (on the applied side) they belong to major pathogens and could be a target for treating infections and (on the basic side) we have indications that they are part of a planetary-wide stress put on bacteria during evolution (hence, my astrobiological machinations).
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Chapter 2: Where I came from.
Now we have to get into how I got to this point. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of sexual trauma. In 2014, when I was still an undergrad, I met whom I called then my soulmate. They were beautiful, fun, perky, and adventurous. They were my first relationship and we took each other’s virginity in a tent after a romantic picnic. But, sadly, less than a year in, things started to go off the rails. I came out as polyamorous. The way I have best found to describe it is when you ask a parent which their favorite child is. All parents worth their salt will say “I love each of my children in their own, unique way.” Such is the same with me. At the time, I had feelings for some of my other friends; but! mind you! they were in no way enough to ever consider ever leaving my soulmate. It was simply such that I had my one, my true, my only, but I didn’t want that to have to mean I tell all other people in my life “Bah! You mean nothing to me because of the ambiguity of my relationship status at the time you met me.” I also had quite a complex from growing up so antisocially and isolated. This was a time in my life when things started to look up. Pieces were finally starting to fall into place, I had some friends and acquaintances, and people actually cared for me. It was thusly then that I realized I was polyamorous, but in mostly a loving way, not necessarily as a swinger or horndog. So, I came out.
In any other situation in the world, this might have not been as catastrophic. However, there were certain things about my soulmate which I knew not at the time that caused not just my relationship, not just my life, but my reality to crumble. You see, they grew up in an incredibly abusive situation, and the only way they knew how to act was to throw away every part of themselves for the people whom they loved. Whelp, that meant “forcing” themselves to be polyamorous for me. They devised a ridiculous plan where they would go out and sleep with lots of people to become okay with the idea of nonmonogamy. Needless to say, this was a batshit crazy idea, but they didn’t tell me their true feelings of how traumatizing this would be for them, and I decided to trust them that this is what they knew would be best for them and that it would all work out in the end. What can I say? What is love if not supporting your partner? I honestly thought it could be okay.
However, as you might guess, it was not. The main issue came from all their mental instability that they had hidden from me for so long. They became quite dissociative and hid it all from me. As such, they tried to compartmentalize their sexual exploration away from our relationship, making me less involved. In short, I was supposed to be their monogamous “safe space” while they did all this terrible shit to themselves. Understandably, this backfired. Rather than it being a collaborative, supportive, gentle, loving exploration, it became dishonest, filled with deceit. They lied to me about doing things with people and about not doing things with people. They made up stories of fuckbuddies and hid some of the real people they were fucking. All the while, I was starting to lose my grip on reality, because, here they were, getting to do all the things I had always wanted, practically rubbing it all in my face, while barring me from having any part of it for myself. It was tortuous. Highlights include them fucking my brother for four uninterrupted hours, and kicking me out of my bed and bedroom to fuck a nine-inch cock while I made them breakfast, then not allowing me to enter until they had finished.
When I learned that they hid that they were flunking all their classes in college, I snapped, and nothing was ever the same again. That’s not how you treat your soulmate. It was supposed to be us against the world, but they weren’t acting like we were a team. In retrospect, I was heartbroken for well more than half of the time we were a couple. The entire last year we were together, I was depressed beyond description. I would come home from work and I would have so little energy that my personality would just melt away. I was devoid of existence. I would sit on a couch, and stare away at nothingness for hours on end. To my credit, my ex would cover me in a blanket, put dinner on my lap, set the iPad in front of me, and put on an anime. I know they truly loved me because they did this for over six months, without complaining.
However, I was simply too broken. Things reached one fever pitch after another. I could always tell that something was wrong, that, as hard as I tried, I was never actually getting through to the person inside. It all felt so superficial. I always knew they were hiding things (not just sexual stuff, but, more simply, their own wants and desires, their simple, everyday preferences). They were there, but not present. So, faced with a soulmate who wasn’t sharing their soul, trauma most insurmountable, and no other options, I did the only thing I could: I accepted a job across the country in New York and fled the width of a continent.
However, as you already know, things didn’t get better. I couldn’t get a date for the life of me; I was – and am – too oddball. That I’ve had only one relationship and that it imploded quite catastrophically does not predispose me to self-worth or experience with dating. I am very intellectual, but a dullard at socialization. Hell, I never even learned how to make out. To boot, I have all this trauma which will take years to move on from. Last christmas, my now ex reached out to me, and we talked pretty much every day for four months. Since I left, they managed to somehow actually succeed in making themselves polyamorous, whereupon they proceeded to date and fuck my now (former) best friend, then leave them to date and move in with their boss from work, whom is over a decade older than them. They were in this relationship for over two and a half years, and we’ve been apart for three. Talking to them again has been rather tortuous, as I’ve been treated to such lovely details about their sex life while being, once again, excluded from it most royally. So… yeah… that’s been fun. And people wonder why I have such a boatload of trauma. After misery peaking once again, I realized that we had come to an impasse: I cannot move forward from the past without them, and they don’t want me back until I’ve moved forward from the past. Such is where things were last left, and I have no indication that they will ever change meaningfully from this.
Now, I want to make clear that I am not at all looking for any sort of statements regarding how I should forget about them and move on. There is so much more nuance than what I can describe here, and I’m not completely without blame either. Although I do not think I fucked up anywhere near as apocalyptically, I did hurt them, too. Nor do I necessarily hate them, either. Though what they did was incredibly, world-endingly hurtful and stupid, it was not done with malice. Time has only made me more sympathetic to their situation, and, thus, their actions. In short, their parent was incredibly abusive, and they also were terrified of losing me, so they were drunk on fear and thought that they needed to act in major ways to keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think that what they did then and have done since has ruined my life, but I understand why things happened the way they did and I don’t love them any less. I mean, I did say they were my soulmate, didn’t I? That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I wish so badly that I hated them for all they did. That would make it so much easier to move on. I still identify as polyamorous, so this has the unpleasant side-effect of freezing my emotional development on the matter in place. In my case, I could be happily married for a decade and still be nowhere nearer to being able to move on from this ex, so it’s not like having any new sexual or romantic conquests will actually help me to move on from them. And, before you suggest, I already have a therapist, and she’s very nice.
So, since I’ve just spent ten pages telling you about three years of failed efforts to move on, comments or messages saying “move on, dude” will not be looked upon kindly.
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Chapter 3: Where I want to go.
So, as you can now see, I am the literal incarnation of damaged goods. I still really don’t know where I am going to post this, but my story is complicated enough that one part is inseparable from the other. If I’m posting this on a subreddit for sexual searches, you’ll need to know why a simple hookup is not on the table at all; conversely, if I’m posting this to a subreddit in search of romantic partners, you’ll need to know about my dreadful sexual brokenness and resulting insecurities up front. Either way, I’ve now managed to waste the time of two groups instead of one; how overachieving of me!
At this juncture of my life, I’ve somewhat come to terms with the fact I won’t ever be getting the tools I need to move on from my ex (something for which I them somewhat resent). However, if it wasn’t made abundantly clear heretofore, the acquisition of another compatriot is the taddest bit flummoxing for me. In short-form, swiping-based dating app formats, it is far too easy to disregard my numerous quirks as simply that, not scars from a lengthy, complicated, demoralizing battle against a society which I am physiologically incapable of understanding. Oh, and the global coronapocalypsemageddonocaust has slightly impacted my ability to partake in social events wherewithin people might be met.
In truth, I am not necessarily the sexiest person in world. I’m a tad bit overweight, but I both wear it well (being absurdly tall helps) and am actively trying to change it (I’ve taken up running [surprisingly enjoyable!] and have lost ~10kg). I definitely don’t think I have an ugly face or anything. But I don’t think that’s actually my problem. In the event that it hasn’t been blindingly obvious up to this point, I am not your average cookie. In stark brief, I attended the Stanford (yes, that one) Online High School, dropped out, started college at 14, graduate at 19 with honors, and am now a Graduate Fellow (one step above student) at an Ivy-League university (expanded definition, fight me). As such, the way in which I go through my life is fairly cerebral. To those whom understand not my eccentricities or the subjects of which I speak, I am perceived as talking down to others. However, it is simply the way in which I approach the world, and I am wholly oblivious in the moment of how I could be perceived as such.
So it is thusly that I here myself find, holding on to the dreadfully unrealistic hope that being honest with the world about myself will earn me the possibility to find another soulmate, but one not programmed to shred what little sanity I have left. Here goes hope:
Regarding my location, if you hadn’t figured out, I live in central Pennsyltucky – 9 miles from the geographic centerpoint of the state, in fact. However, as I tell prospective students, while Penn State is in the middle of nowhere, it is half-way to everywhere! That, combined with my adventurous proclivities, opens up (literal!) horizons, dramatically. I can easily make it in a day trip to anywhere within Pennsylvania (though I love Pittsburgh!) or anywhere in the Megalopolis between Trenton and DC. At a slight stretch, I can also reach NYC, Upstate, Ohio, or, maybe, West Virginia. I am definitely open to meeting people from outside my immediate drive-shed – especially since pretty much all dates in the COVID-19 era start with Zoom, anyway – however, since I’ve been to so many places, front-of-the-line priority will be given to those from places I desire to explore more, including (in order of decreasing preference): Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and Vermont. If things develop, I both have the means and inclination to successfully conduct an LDR until I finish graduate school in 3-4 years.
Regarding the type of partner, while I am genuinely pansexual, I seem to be mostly romantically attracted with feminine-presenting people. Though, were I to have my druthers, I’d prefer you to be busty, at least moderately height-weight-proportional, and similarly tall, I affirmatively believe that it’s more how you use what you have than what you actually have, so I will always choose the average slut over the prudish bombshell. Other than that, I remain open minded to people of pretty much all walks of life.
Speaking of, for reasons that I hope are quite evident, I am a taaaaaaaaaaaad delicate in my sexuality. I used to be slightly dominant, but am definitely not anymore. I am almost in the realm of gentlefemdom. Please do be understanding that it’ll take some time (and, most likely, lots and lots of crying. I just want you to be sexually open yet patient enough that I could slowly grow back into my sexuality. Actually, that’s part of what I’m most hopeful for in a new partner. It would be really nice to have someone that is strong in their sexuality, and acts very openly with it, but is patient and loyal enough to not make me worried or scared. Someone who would, say, impulsively strip for a hike or skinny-dip, but wouldn’t pressure me to do the same if I wasn’t in the right headspace to do so.
Romantically, well, that’s a more complicated issue. I still identify as polyamorous, and I wouldn’t expect total devotion from my partner, but this is assuredly a difficult area. I think I would be benefitted by a period (likely 6-12 months) by monogamy, just so that I can recover enough to a functional level, then we can slowly and safely open up the relationship (with group stuff happening well before metamours).
Just please be careful with my heart. It’s already taken so much of a beating, and I don’t know how much more it can handle.
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Epilogue:
So, yeah, I guess that’s me. If you’ve made it this far, I at least thank you for doing so. I’ve been emotionally isolated for so long that it’s nice to just be acknowledged by other people. I know the likelihood of anything meaningful coming from this is quite, quite low, but this is part of me trying to move forward from the people that hurt me so cripplingly. I definitely come with some baggage, but I hope I’ve shown you who I am and that I at least have the potential to be good again.
I shall leave you with my dating profile. Hopefully this will show you the sonderous story that goes into only but a few words: “I find humor in everything and live for adventures. Highly sarcastic, hot-sauce-addicted, somewhat queer molecular and astrobiologist. Pro: I’m genuine. Con: -ly crazy. Looking for a porter to help me carry my emotional baggage.”
submitted by AstroG4 to Pennsylvaniar4r [link] [comments]

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