Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, July 20, 2019

MVNews this week:  Page 8



Mountain Views-News Saturday, July 20, 2019 


TABLE FOR TWO by Peter Dills

Raising crops on Mars is far easier in 
science fiction than it will be in real life: The 
Red Planet is an inhospitable world. Among 
other challenges, subzero temperatures 
mean water can persist on the surface only 
as ice, and the planet’s atmosphere offers 
little protection to plants (or people) from 
the Sun’s radiation.

 Of course, NASA has plans to eventually 
put humans on Mars, using lessons it will 
learn from its Artemis lunar explorations. 
And those humans will need to eat. Being 
able to produce food on Mars would help 
reduce the quantity of supplies consuming 
valuable space and fuel on crewed missions 
to the Red Planet. But figuring out how — 
and where — to produce that food, while also being exceedingly careful not to contaminate 
Mars with Earth-borne bacteria, are some of the challenges scientists and engineers face.

 In a new paper in Nature Astronomy, researchers propose that a material called aerogel might 
help humans one day build greenhouses and other habitats at Mars’ mid-latitudes, where near-
surface water ice has been identified. The study was funded by Harvard University’s Faculty 
of Arts and Sciences.

 Aerogel is a Styrofoam-like solid that is 99% air, making it extremely light. It’s adept at 
preventing the transfer of heat as well, making it an excellent insulator; in fact, it’s been used 
for that purpose on all of NASA’s Mars rovers. Moreover, aerogel is translucent, allowing 
visible light to pass through while blocking ultraviolet light’s harmful radiation. Most aerogel 
is made from silica, the same material found in glass.

 In an experiment conducted by lead author Robin Wordsworth of Harvard, 2-3 centimeters 
of silica aerogel allowed light from a lamp tuned to simulate Martian sunlight to heat the 
surface beneath it by up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) — enough to raise 
temperatures on the Martian surface and melt water ice.

 “The study was meant as an initial test of aerogel’s potential as a Martian building material,” 
said second author Laura Kerber, a geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, 

 Kerber participated in a 2015 NASA workshop to identify the best places on Mars to send 
astronauts. “The ideal place for a Martian outpost would have plentiful water and moderate 
temperatures,” she said. “Mars is warmer around the equator, but most of the water ice is 
located at higher latitudes. Building with silica aerogel would allow us to artificially create 
warm environments where there is already water ice available.”

 Broadening the regions on Mars where humans could grow things also opens up new areas 
where they could conduct valuable scientific research, Kerber added.

‘Dark Spots’ on Mars

 The aerogel experiment was inspired by the heating process that creates so-called dark spots 
that dot Mars’ carbon dioxide ice caps during the spring. This kind of ice is better known on 
Earth as dry ice. Like aerogel, carbon dioxide ice is translucent, allowing sunlight to heat the 
surface below. As the soil warms, carbon dioxide gas accumulates between the ice and the 
warm surface, eventually causing the ice to rupture. That, in turn, creates a puff of gas that 
tosses soil beneath the ice onto its surface.

 The experiment explored a similar process with aerogel. The paper details how both a solid 
piece of aerogel as well as chunks of crushed aerogel can be used to heat the surface below. The 
researchers used varying levels illumination produced by Martian seasons. The results suggest 
aerogel could even provide a heating effect in the bitter Martian winter. In the mid-latitudes, 
winter nighttime temperatures can be as cold as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 
degrees Celsius).

 The next step, Wordsworth said, is taking the experiment out of the lab and into Martian 
analogues like Chile’s Atacama Desert or Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. Like Mars, these 
environments reach subzero temperatures and are exceptionally dry.

 “Our prediction is that aerogel shielding should provide more efficient heating as it scales in 
size,” Wordsworth said. “That would be important to see under field conditions.”

Challenges to Be Overcome

 While the experiment was an encouraging proof of concept, Wordsworth acknowledged there 
are still significant engineering challenges to overcome. Based on a climate model produced 
along with the experiment, it would take lots of aerogel and at least two Mars years (or four 
Earth years) of warming to produce a permanent region of liquid water underneath. Although 
aerogel is several times lighter than air, building structures with roofs made out of the material 
would require shipping large quantities of it to Mars or somehow manufacturing it there.

 Silica aerogel is very fragile and porous; layering it within another translucent material, or 
combining them with flexible materials, could prevent fracturing. Doing so could increase air 
pressure under a structure made with an aerogel roof or shield as well, allowing liquid water to 
pool more easily on the surface instead of vaporizing in the thin Martian atmosphere.

 But the study’s authors noted that developing small habitability zones on Mars is more 
plausible than attempting to “terraform” the planet, as science-fiction writers have proposed 
doing in the past. A NASA study last year dashed the hopes of thickening the Martian 
atmosphere enough to create an Earth-like greenhouse effect.

 “Anything that would help make long-term habitability possible is exciting to consider,” 
Wordsworth said.

 More information about NASA’s Mars program is at: and


Sad to see the Central Park on Fair Oaks has closed, 
owner David Yost said that his lease expired and 
the owner wants to change the block to a one shop 
retail space. Yost plans to spend his time and 
energy at his new location in La Canada called “The 
Proper”. Best of luck !!

From a 16-acre cabernet vineyard on a knoll in 
northern Yountville, this wine might be the first 
Single Vineyard I’ve written about. (Meaning no outside grapes were used in the production of wine from 
this vineyard) Ghost Block Cabernet wine is dark in its prime fruit quality but not pushed toward frenzied 
extraction. Instead, it comes across as intense, with smoky scents of black tea in its oak tannins and a bright, 
plumy fruit. I recommend you decant this one to enjoy with a great steak. That is exactly how I discovered 
this superior wine, at Houston’s in Pasadena for a respectable . After the decant it was enjoyable, although 
I’d rather have something that we can open and drink a little faster.

I found the 2016 Cabernet at Vons and other wines stores for around $60. The $85 price at Houston’s 
does offer white linen table clothes though!! This reviewer has fallen in love with this 24-month-aged-in-
French-Oak-barrel wine.

Alcohol Content 14.5 and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes

Dills Score: 

Each week I will give you my Dills Score. I have added points for value. I’m starting with a base of 50 points; 
I added 9 points for color, 9 points for aroma or “nose”, 9 points for taste, 8 points for finish, and 8 points 
for my overall impression, which includes my value rating.

I can’t wait until the new release comes out. All indications tell me it’s getting better and better. My highest 
score to date! I did subtract 1 point for the finish. 

Total Score 93 

Retail $
75. On Sale, around $60 at most area high-end supermarkets

Tune into Dining w/Dills Sunday at 8 AM on Go Country 105

Email Peter at and you can subscribe to my podcast Peter Dills 

early Mars



[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and other 
books. He can be reached at]

 Some centuries ago during an outbreak of bubonic plague in France, four thieves 
managed to loot the empty plague-ridden homes without contracting the dreaded 
plague. Some Middle Ages accounts tell us that during some of the worst plague 
outbreaks, the dead outnumbered the living, and the dead could not be buried fast 

Anyway, these four thieves were arrested by policemen, and were brought before the French judge in 
Marseilles. Wondering aloud, the judge asked how it was that these four thieves managed to resist the 
plague, especially since they had been in and out of so many plague-infested homes.

“We drink and wash with this vinegar preparation every few hours,” they answered. The judge made a 
shrewd bargain. The thieves would be given their freedom in exchange for their ”anti-plague recipe.”

This recipe is recorded in Dian Buchman’s Herbal Medicine book. Buchman writes, “this recipe has been 
used for centuries, but legend has it that it was discovered during a devastating bubonic plague.” 


Here’s the recipe:


2 quarts (half gallon) apple cider vinegar

2 T lavendar 

2 T rosemary

2 T sage 

2 T wormwood

2 T rue 

2 T mint


Combine the herbs and steep in vinegar in the sun for two weeks. Strain. Add 2 T. of garlic buds and steep 
for several days. Remove. To preserve, add 4 oz. of glycerin.

Karin James, the editor of the Forest Voice, adds that the vinegar recipe can be used for wash-ing floors, 
walls, windows, and will offset smells in the home. It helps to deter bugs if you rinse your hiking gear in 
it. She also saves the herbs when she strains them out of the vinegar, and places them where ants come 
into the kitchen. “It works,” she states. “No more ants!” 

We posted this recipe on our web site and got many responses from readers. One suggested that it is the 
vinegar which is the primary reason that this recipe worked. We have used raw apple cider vinegar (in 
our drinking water, in ratio of about 2 teaspoons per quart) and have found that it keeps the mosquitoes 
from biting us, and helps reduce heat stress when working out in the sun. Whole books have been written 
about the health benefits of vinegar. We strongly suggest you always use only the raw apple cider vinegar.


While we certainly hope that we’re never going to have to worry about outbreaks of bubonic plague, health 
authorities point out that the plague has never entirely disappeared. In fact, it is still found in the fleas 
of squirrels living in the nearby mountains. Conditions of poor hygiene are the breeding ground for rats, 
and plague. Ubiquitous homeless camps, with no running water, toilets, or hygiene conditions, provide a 
conducive condition for plague to spread again. While we certainly hope that efforts to assist homeless are 
more and more successful, it’s nevertheless valuable to look to the past for one solution to this problem.

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