Friday, July 10, 2009

What didn't happen at all: Ancient Egyptian Maser Technology

I trust most people out there are at least somewhat familiar with the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, or Cheops if you want to be all Greek about it). It's a big sort of triangular hunk of stone, not far from this river that runs backward. Been around a while. Appears with an eye stuck on it on the reverse of the dollar bill.

Now I am not a trained Egyptologist, but I am at least aware that the reason these things were built has been the topic of considerable discussion and frothing academic vitriol for at least a thousand years. Tomb or cenotaph? Tomb, cenotaph, or monument? Most people who have not had their brains surgically removed and replaced with live novelty goldfish will probably agree that the pyramids had at least something to do with the memorialization of dead god-kings, whether the dead god-kings were actually laid to rest for all time inside them or not. Most people do not spend good money, time and effort trying to reverse-engineer the pyramids into giant hydrogen masers.

I will digress here into a brief explanation of the maser qua the maser, for the benefit of those of you who never took Pyramidiocy 101.

It may surprise you to know that the thing you call a laser was originally known as an optical maser. The term stands for “microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Masers work on the principle that excited atoms (Eee! Eeee!) can amplify radiation at a certain frequency; that is, you get a bunch of atoms of something, say hydrogen, and you excite them, and then you pass a microwave beam through them, and the bouncy atoms amplify those microwaves. This does you no actual good unless you’ve confined the bouncy hydrogen inside a resonant cavity, that is to say an enclosed space in which waves bounce around with low loss; if you do this, and beam the microwaves into this cavity, you will get repeated and functional amplification. So what? So you can then use this microwave energy to do stuff like, I don’t know, cook Stouffer’s frozen French bread pizzas.

Now, the ancient Egyptians did not record their use of microwave energy to cook Stouffer’s frozen French bread pizzas, but a gentleman by the name of Christopher Dunn is of the opinion that they did use this energy to run ancient Egyptian power tools. Oddly enough none of the temple carvings or tomb paintings thus far discovered by archaeology have shown the black-and-yellow god Deh’Wawat drilling holes in people’s heads to let out demons, nor yet his consort Bak-An-Dekar using the Circular Saw of Ma’at to frighten away Apophis from trying to swallow the Sun, but Christopher Dunn proceeds dauntless.

His argument is based on the fact that a great many of the relics of antiquity found in Egypt show a precision which he considers impossible without the use of modern power tools. The black sarcophagi at the Serapeum, for example, he contends could not have been made without the use of precision tools. Therefore, the ancient Egyptians must have had some kind of power plant to provide the motive force to turn their drills and cut their stone into perfect right angles: and, since the Great Pyramid was just sitting there, without even a dead king in it to justify its existence, Dunn focused on that as his power plant candidate.

How did it work, you ask? In order to understand Dunn’s theory you will need to become familiar with the internal architecture of the Great Pyramid.

See figure 1.

I confess I do not own The Giza Power Plant, Dunn's seminal work, but I've read the bits of it and his other theories that appear on various woo-related sites around the internet, and I believe I have grasped the main thrust of his point.

Apparently the Pyramid was designed to focus "energy" on a resonant chamber at its heart (the King's Chamber). The Pyramid is supposed to resonate at exactly the same frequency as the Earth, and the internal architecture is designed, according to Dunn, to maximize that resonation and produce piezoelectric energy out of quartz crystals in the granite slabs that line the King’s Chamber. It is not clear whether somebody had to stand outside hitting the Pyramid with a tuning fork while they were building it so that they could be sure to match resonant frequencies, but we can assume this was done with the appropriate ritual and ceremony. He's terribly excited about the levels of granite beams above the King's Chamber and how they were "tuned" whilst being cut:

Each granite beam was shaped and gouged on the topside as it was tuned! Thousands of tons of granite were actually tuned to resonate in harmony with the fundamental frequency of the earth and the pyramid!

And I am the Seriph of Klatch. Dunn does admit that he hasn't actually got any proof of any of this, but forges merrily ahead anyway:

Without confirmation that the granite beams were carefully tuned to respond to a precise frequency, I will infer that such a condition exists in light of what is found in the area. While I have not found any specific record of anyone striking the beams above the King's Chamber and measuring their resonant frequencies, there has been quite a lot written about the resonating qualities of the coffer inside the chamber itself. The coffer is said to resonate at 438 hertz and is at resonance with the resonant frequency of the chamber. This is easily tested and has been noted by numerous visitors to the Great Pyramid, including myself.

"I can't prove this but I think other people said things that mean it might possibly be true, so I'm going to use it to base my theory on."

Dunn's idea centers on the Grand Gallery, in which he posits that twenty-seven racks of Helmholtz resonators were installed. As the earth's vibration flowed through the Great Pyramid, the resonators converted the energy to airborne sound, which then was reflected into the King's Chamber, where it bounced around sufficiently to cause the granite beams to vibrate like a bunch of enormous silicaceous bass strings. "Thus," he concludes, "[with] the input of sound and the maximization of resonance, the entire granite complex, in effect, became a vibrating mass of energy."

So we have a vibrating mass of energy. What do we do with it in order to get our mystic ancient drill-presses to work?

Let’s take this step by step.

Dunn believes that the Queen’s Chamber was used to produce hydrogen via a chemical reaction between hydrated zinc chloride and dilute hydrochloric acid. Where did these chemicals come from, you ask? Why, they were pumped up vertical shafts inside the Pyramid to the tops of the two shafts opening into the Queen’s Chamber, whereupon they filled up the shafts and seeped at a controlled rate through the blocks in the walls of the Chamber itself. When Rudolf Gantenbrink’s robotic exploration of these shafts ended at a limestone "door" with two copper spikes driven through it, Dunn was ecstatic—never mind the lack of vertical shafts for his chemicals, these bits of copper were clearly electrodes which would signal that more chemicals were needed when a circuit between them was cut by the electrolyte level falling.

I'll let you think about that one for a minute.

When the National Geographic robot drilled a hole through Gantenbrink’s Door and the expected vertical shaft/copper cables were not, in fact, there, did this deter Dunn? Not a bit of it. He promptly fired up Photoshop and decided he’d do a bit of off-the-cuff theorization and massive overuse of filters that would allow the vertical shaft to exist after all, even though it appears to be nothing more than a shadow. One must have faith in the Giza Power Plant theory, because faith is a vital part of any scientific investigation.

Dunn also (and more egregiously, in my view) ignores the fact that the shafts through which these chemicals are supposed to have run are made of limestone. Anyone who’s ever done any work on karst topography--or lived in south Florida or the Ozarks or the Dales or the Peak District--knows just how easy it is to wear away limestone with plain old water, never mind hydrochloric acid. Why didn’t the builders line the shafts with granite, if they were going to be running corrosive liquid down them? How come the Queen’s Chamber isn’t a big amorphous cave in the rock dissolved away by the chemical reactions supposedly going on inside? Where did the ancients get the ingredients to mix these chemicals in the first place/isolate them from naturally occurring substances? How were these technologies made possible before the construction of the Pyramid? Dunn does not relate.

Having made his hydrogen through this wildly improbable reaction, Dunn then takes us along the horizontal passage that links the Queen’s Chamber with the Descending Passage. The spent chemicals would trickle away down the shaft known as the “well,” which is something like 28” by 28” at the top. Why it needed to be that big, Dunn does not explain. The hydrogen, then, was wafted up through the Grand Gallery to the King’s Chamber.

As mentioned, the Grand Gallery supposedly contained stacks of Helmholtz resonators. During its journey up to the King's Chamber, the hydrogen would have been excited by all the good vibrations, and when it got to the resonant King's Chamber, it would have been seriously excited to the point where it could do some stimulating of radiation emission.

At this point Dunn leaves interesting fancy behind and goes right the hell over the edge into foaming-at-the-mouth insanity: he posits that at this point, a microwave signal from space came down the northern ventilator shaft ("wave guide") into the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber so that the energized hydrogen atoms could amplify its signal exponentially. This amplified microwave signal then was collected by something in the other airshaft of the King’s Chamber, and beamed up out through the shaft into space where it hit a satellite and was beamed back down to earth to be used in power tools.


Alan Alford, one of the pyramid theorists whom I will not tar with the brush of pyramidiocy, due to his ability to see the massive howling gaps in the logic of most theories, has the following to say on Dunn’s King’s-Chamber flight of fancy:

Firstly, the mouth of the northern airshaft is cut too high in the wall to align with the sarcophagus, so any incoming microwave signal would have passed right over the top of it. It is not clear how it could have interacted with any equipment inside the box.
Secondly, Dunn assumes that the sarcophagus had no lid (pp. 189, 222) and that the signal interacted with hydrogen atoms inside the box. But there is clear evidence that the sarcophagus did originally have a lid and that it was hermetically sealed (see my book Pyramid of Secrets, pp. 73-74). I am not entirely certain how this affects Dunn’s theory, but there could not have been any hydrogen in the box.

Thirdly, the mouth of the southern airshaft is cut too high in the wall to align with the sarcophagus, so it is difficult to see how the output from the box could have been channeled into the shaft.

Fourthly - and worst of all - Dunn insists that the entire lengths of the northern and southern airshafts would have to have been lined with gold- plated iron in order to have an efficient conduit for the electromagnetic radiation (pp. 186, 221-22). This is quite simply at odds with the facts, as Dunn well knows. For both the shafts have been surveyed by robot and not a trace of a metal lining has been found (the iron plate found by Vyse in 1837 was embedded in masonry close to the southern shaft but it is not clear whether it actually formed part of the shaft). So, what happened to the iron? How was it removed from tiny shafts measuring approximately 8 by 8 inches to their entire lengths of 235 feet and 174 feet respectively?

The sum of all this ranting is but this:

If you are crazy enough and have enough disposable income to wander around Egypt and have your picture taken holding sciency-looking objects, you can get a lucrative book deal out of it and people will want to be your friend and write even more ludicrous fanficbooks based on your theory.

Or possibly “the world is full of gullible morons.” I’m no longer sure.

Epilogue: Dunn is almost charming in his excited attempts to reverse-engineer explanations for artifacts other than "we don't know." Here's his thoughts on the putative Helmholtz resonators:

One of the most remarkable feats of machining can be found inside the Cairo Museum. I have stood in awe before the stone jars and bowls that are finely machined and perfectly balanced. The schist bowl with three lobes folded toward the center hub is an incredible piece of work. With the application of ultrasonics and sophisticated machinery, I can understand how they could be made, but the purpose for doing so has long escaped me. It seems like a tremendous amount of work to go to just to create a domestic vessel! Perhaps these stone artifacts, of which there were over a thousand found at Saqqarra, were used in some way to convert vibration into airborne sound. Are these vessels the Helmholtz resonators we are looking for?

Information in this article is from the following:

Dunn's website
The Giza Death Star by Joseph Farrell, available on Google Books
The Giza Death Star Deployed by Joseph Farrell, available on Google Books
Alford's refutation of Dunn

1 comment:

  1. I think you've mentioned most of the things that bothered me about his model. However, I'm not dismissing the idea of a maser just yet. The pyramid just needs a little more "reverse engineering", but it's a good start. Thanks for the scrutiny and sense of humor.