Sunday, December 30, 2007
Civic Lighting Idea Grows To Bear Solar Fruit
Plant an idea and watch the green grow through technology and design.
This last fall in Milan, Italy and Vienna, Austria, a new design in street and plaza lighting was installed with great success. A grouping of arching beams that look a little like futuristic tree branches are topped with solar cells and LED lights and use storage batteries to hold power are designed by Ross Lovegrove, a British designer, who said that they are not only efficient but also attractive and bring a sense of "nature into a gray city environment".
Solar cell "tree" tops that grab power from the sun. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
Artemide, an Italian lighting design systems company, and Sharp Solar, a German company known for being the world's largest producer of photovoltaic (PV) cells, joined forces to turn the design into reality.
Someday soon, these “solar trees” could well be the main form of street lighting in Europe … and maybe, the rest of the civic/commons use spaces on this Oblate Spheroid.
Close up of branches on a solar tree in Vienna. Image Credit: Gerhard Koller (MAK)
This excerpted from RenewableEnergyAccess.com website -
Introducing the Solar Tree
by Jane Burgermeister, European Correspondent, RenewableEnergyAccess.com - December 21, 2007
The streets of Europe could soon be lit by solar energy due to the fact that a solar tree prototype recently passed a key test phase.
The solar trees went on display for four weeks in October on a busy street — the Ringstrasse — in Vienna, Austria. They were able to provide enough light during the night-time even when the sun did not show for as much as four days in a row.
"The solar cells on the tree were able to store enough electricity in spite of receiving no direct solar light for days at a time because of the clouds. They showed that solar trees really are a practical form of street lighting," Christina Werner from Cultural Project Management (Kulturelles Projektmanagement, Vienna) told RenewableEnergyAccess.com.
She said that the City of Vienna was now in the process of deciding whether to install more solar trees.
Putting solar powered LED light systems on trees would cut down on the carbon emissions and also slash the bills of local authorities, she said.
Street lighting consumed 10 percent of all the electricity used in Europe in 2006 or 2,000 billion KWh, and resulted in carbon emissions of 2,900 million ton.
The use of more energy-efficient lighting in the Austrian city of Graz, with a population of almost 300,000 saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and 67,200 euros [US $96,800] in 2005.
"Not just trees but other objects could be decorated with solar cells and so keep streets well lit at night time," she said.
The branches of the solar tree were decorated with 10 solar lamps, each one comprising 36 solar cells; they also had rechargeable batteries and electronic systems.
A sensor was used to measure the amount of light in the atmosphere and trigger the solar lamps to go on automatically at sunset and off at sunrise.
The tree's lights went on for the first time in Vienna on October 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm. They are now on display outside the La Scala opera house in Milan.
The idea came from Peter Noever, the Director of the Austrian Museum for Applied Arts in Vienna (Österreichisches Museum fuer angewandte Kunst).
Ross Lovegrove and Sharp are now working on the design study for a car that is powered by solar energy.
Sharp solar had a production volume of 434 megawatts in 2006 and a world market share of 17 percent. It produces PV cells in a factory in Katsuragi, Japan.
Most of Sharp's modules are used for solar energy systems on roofs, but the company believes that solar cells could soon be used in all areas of everyday life from clothes to satellites.
A suggestion to Artemide, the Italian lighting design systems company ... use PowerSheet by Nanosolar instead of standard manufactured silicon solar cells. The PowerSheet was the Popular Science - 2007 Innovation Of The Year!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Pyramid Find In Central Mexico City Changes Site Date
Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.
This find was uncovered just last month and additional skeletal evidence on the site will give clues to the society and culture of the Aztec civilization.
The Aztecs who are credited with inventing chocolate, ruled an empire stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico.
This excerpted from Reuters via the Courier Mail (Austrailia)
Ancient Aztec pyramid found in heart of Mexico City
By Miguel Angel Gutierrez in Mexico - December 28, 2007 12:46pm
Mexican archaeologists found the ruins, which are about 11 metres high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite.
Since the discovery of another pyramid 15 years ago, historians have thought Tlatelolco was founded by the Aztecs in 1325, the same year as the nearby twin city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. The Spanish razed Tenochtitlan in 1521 to found Mexico City, conquering the Aztecs.
"We have found the stairs of this, much older, pyramid. The (Aztec) timeline is going to need to be revised," archaeologist Patricia Ledesma said at the site on today.
Tlatelolco, visited by thousands of tourists for its pre-Hispanic ruins and colonial-era Spanish church and convent, is also infamous for the 1968 massacre of leftist students by state security forces there, days before Mexico hosted the Olympic Games.
Ms Ledesma and the archaeological group's coordinator, Salvador Guilliem, said they will continue to dig and study the area next year to get a better idea of the pyramid's size and age.
The archaeologists also have detected a sculpture that could be of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, or of the god of the sky and earth Tezcatlipoca.
Some of the five skulls discovered are seen in the "Plaza de las Tres Culturas", or the plaza of the three cultures, in the central Tlatelolco area of Mexico City December 27, 2007. A team of researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered an 800 year-old pyramid in the main temple of the religious and political centre of Tlatelolco, known to have been inhabited by the Mexicas, the Aztec's most powerful group. They also found, a few metres from the pyramid, a living complex in the city and the five skulls dating back to the year 1431. Image Credit: REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO)
In addition, the dig has turned up five skulls and a series of rooms near the pyramid that could date from 1431.
"What we hope to find soon should tell us much more about the society of Tlatelolco," said Ms Ledesma.
Mexico City is littered with pre-Hispanic ruins. In August, archaeologists in the city's crime-ridden Iztapalapa district unearthed what they believe may be the main pyramid of Tenochtitlan.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Tracking Santa The NORAD Way Christmas 2007
Christmas is a time we come together to celebrate forces that are beyond our own experience. On December 25, the birth of the son of God is the source of the excuse for additional forces we know are beyond our own experience to come to life.
The one force that creates the most wonder and awe is the force of Santa Claus and his amazing journey around the world as he drives his Reindeer powered Sleigh. The Sleigh, loaded with gifts, stops at every home throughout the world where Santa knows people believe in giving and the amazing grace of God and his power.
Santa is even known to stop and leave a gift where some people are not even aware they actually believe in him and/or God’s power because he knows what resides deep in all people who wish for a better world but have not found a conscious way to its understanding.
Technology and the internet were made for times like these.
This from the How Stuff Works website -
How Santa's Sleigh Works
by John Fuller – How Stuff Works
On Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world will settle uneasily into bed, hardly able to contain themselves. What vision could possibly dance through their heads, turning them into twitchy, restless insomniacs for just one night? Is it the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" or the sugarplums from Clement Clarke Moore's poem "The Night Before Christmas"? Can sugarplums really do such a thing?
Chances are the children are thinking about toys, Santa Claus and his team of reindeer -- if the children have been nice this year, jolly old St. Nick should be landing his sleigh on their roofs sometime late in the night.
science and technology.
Everyone has their own traditional image of Santa's sleigh, but could there be more to it than just a sled and a team of reindeer? Although no one may ever know for sure just how Santa operates, we at HowStuffWorks have what we think are the most logical explanations for how the big guy accomplishes all that he does:
Sure, demystifying Santa's modus operandi puts us at risk of getting nothing but coal in our stockings this year, but it's all for the noble pursuit of yuletide knowledge. After all, have you ever wondered how Santa's sleigh flies? What about the reindeer? And how does Santa fit all of those presents into one bag? In the next section, we'll look at the possible technology behind Santa's sleigh.
Rustic on the outside and state-of-the-art on the inside, Santa's sleigh would have to be a marvel in engineering. These are the main parts of the sleigh that would be needed to get Santa across the world in one night.
The Sleigh's Interior
The front of the sleigh's dashboard would be dominated by Santa's own GPS navigator -- the elves would map out millions of destinations before Christmas Eve, just to make sure Santa doesn't miss anyone. The device would also have a built-in Naughty-or-Nice sensor that keeps Santa updated on children's activities. This is important, as even the most minor of naughty deeds committed within the last few hours of Dec. 24 can determine whether or not a child receives a shiny lump of coal.
A speedometer on the far left of the dashboard would allow Santa to monitor his flying speeds. On the far right would be a radio communicator -- Mrs. Claus sends broadcasts, and the elves update Santa with weather reports and toy inventory.
For in-flight entertainment, we'd like to the think that the elves would have installed an iPod dock -- perhaps even a red-and-green iPod, which would come with enough memory to play Christmas songs for the entire year through. There would also be a hot cocoa dispenser in the middle of the console, and fuel for the reindeer (in the form of carrots) in a compartment located on the left side of the sleigh.
Transdimensional Present Compartment (The Bag)
Ever wonder how Santa fits all of those presents into one bag? Think of a transdimensional present compartment in the form of a traditional gift sack, which would act as a portal between the sleigh and the North Pole. However, we'd also like to think that Santa may have harnessed the power of nanotechnology and found a way to miniaturize millions of presents into one large bag. But this information remains unconfirmed.
The Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit
What is antimatter? Is it some kind of magical substance Santa uses to power his sleigh?
Antimatter is the opposite of regular matter -- the mirror image of normal particles that make up everything we can see or touch. The big draw to antimatter is the amount of energy it helps create. When antimatter and matter come into contact, they annihilate each other -- breaking apart into tons of smaller particles -- and 100 percent of their masses convert into energy.
Although antimatter propulsion rockets are mainly used in science-fiction shows to allow spaceships to travel at warp speed, the possibility of designing one is very real -- NASA is currently developing one that would get us to Mars within a matter of weeks. [source: NASA]
Santa's would have to be way ahead of the game, however, and we'd like to imagine that he has his own custom Stardust Antimatter Rocket. It would be small enough to install in the back of his sleigh and fast enough to deliver every present to all good children across the globe. Of course, if the rocket ever malfunctions, the reindeer would be there to back Santa up.
Track Santa Claus across the globe as he performs his amazing task and journey -
Santa maintains a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. The list even includes addresses, ZIP codes and postal codes. The list, of course, gets bigger each year by virtue of the world's increasing population. This year's population right now is 6,634,570,959!
Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys. If one were to assume he works in the realm of standard time, as we know it, clearly he would have perhaps two to three ten-thousandths of a second to deliver his toys to each child's home he visits!
The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it. His Christmas Eve trip may seem to take around 24 hours, but to Santa it could be that it lasts days, weeks or months in standard time. Santa would not want to rush the important job of bringing Christmas happiness to a child, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions on a different time and space continuum.
We believe, based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.
Santa Claus is known by many names, but his first recorded name was Saint Nicholas. Historians claim that the history of Santa starts with the tradition of Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Christian priest who lived in the Middle East in an area of present day Turkey.
Saint Nicholas became famous throughout the world for his kindness in giving gifts to others who were less fortunate. Typically, he placed gifts of gold down people's chimneys - sometimes into stockings. It may be that the Santa we know and love emerged from the legacy of Saint Nicholas. Clearly, Santa's basic approach to gift giving is strikingly similar to that of Saint Nicholas. What we know from history is that the tradition of Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas merged.
Could they be the same person? Only Santa Claus can tell us for sure.
Long before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane or the Montgolfier brothers flew the first hot air balloon, Santa knew he had to find a way to travel quickly from house to house at great speed. We know from our Santa Cam images that Santa's choice for quick transportation was a herd of flying reindeer. Of course, to this day, detailed information on these reindeer remains a mystery. We do know, however, that Santa somehow found a way to get the reindeer to help him with his worldwide mission of gift giving. A veil of sweet mystery hides the rest.
Virginia's letter, written in December 1897, is the most famous example of a child wanting to know about Santa.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
THEMIS Mission’s Three Discoveries On Earth’s Light Display
NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission is the official name given our government’s effort to better understand space weather around our Oblate Spheroid.
Aurora Borealis, named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas, have long been the curiosity of people who have witnessed the magnificent sky light display either from the ground or pressed against the glass of an airline window as they fly over the (northern) polar route on their way to Europe.
On Tuesday, at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco, THEMIS reported on their observations of the more bizarre and fascinating visual phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.
This visualization shows the 20 THEMIS ground station locations. These ground stations will assist the THEMIS satellite constellation in measuring the Aurora Borealis over North America. Each ground station has an all-sky imaging white-light auroral camera and a magnetometer. The ground stations' radial coverage (blue circles) is rendered at 540km (335 miles). An artist's conception of an aurora is added to the visualization for context (red and green stripes). Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
A fleet of NASA spacecraft, launched less than eight months ago, has made three important discoveries about spectacular eruptions of Northern Lights called "substorms" and the source of their power.
This excerpted from CNN -
Northern Lights energy source discovered
By CNN.com via Associated Press - updated 10:22 a.m. EST, Thu December 13, 2007
Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of auroras borealis, the spectacular color displays seen in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun.
The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights, said principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California at Los Angeles.
To scientists' surprise, the geomagnetic storm powering the auroras raced 400 miles in a minute across the sky. Angelopoulos estimated the storm's power was equal to the energy released by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake.
"Nature was very kind to us," Angelopoulos said.
Although researchers have suspected the existence of wound-up bundles of magnetic fields that provide energy for the auroras, the phenomenon was not confirmed until May, when the satellites became the first to map their structure some 40,000 miles above the Earth's surface.
Scientists hope the satellites will record a geomagnetic storm next year and end the debate about when the storms are triggered.
Northern Lights as seen in Finland. The Finnish name for the lights (revontulet) comes from a Sami, or Lapp, legend whereby the tail of a fox running along snow-covered fells strikes the snow drifts, sending a trail of sparks into the sky. Revontulet literally means "foxfire". Image Credit: Emagine UK Ltd
This excerpted from the THEMIS Mission website –
The discoveries began on March 23, when a substorm erupted over Alaska and Canada, producing vivid auroras for more than two hours. A network of ground cameras organized to support THEMIS photographed the display from below while the satellites measured particles and fields from above.
“The substorm behaved quite unexpectedly," says Vassilis Angelopoulos, the mission's principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The auroras surged westward twice as fast as anyone thought possible, crossing 15 degrees of longitude in less than one minute. The storm traversed an entire polar time zone, or 400 miles, in 60 seconds flat.”
Photographs taken by ground cameras and NASA's Polar satellite (also supporting the THEMIS mission) revealed a series of staccato outbursts each lasting about 10 minutes. Angelopoulos said that some of the bursts died out while others reinforced each other and went on to become major onsets.
Where does all that energy come from? THEMIS may have found the answer.
"The satellites have found evidence of magnetic ropes connecting Earth's upper atmosphere directly to the sun," said David Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras."
A magnetic rope is a twisted bundle of magnetic fields organized much like the twisted hemp of a mariner's rope. Spacecraft have detected hints of these ropes before, but a single spacecraft was insufficient to map their 3D structure. THEMIS' five identical micro-satellites were able to perform the feat.
"THEMIS encountered its first magnetic rope on May 20," said Sibeck. "It was very large, about as wide as Earth, and located approximately 40,000 miles (70,000 km) above Earth's surface in a region called the magnetopause." The magnetopause is where the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field meet and push against one another like sumo wrestlers locked in combat. There, the rope formed and unraveled in just a few minutes, providing a brief but significant conduit for solar wind energy.
THEMIS also has observed a number of small explosions in Earth's magnetic bow shock. "The bow shock is like the bow wave in front of a boat," explained Sibeck. "It is where the solar wind first feels the effects of Earth's magnetic field. Sometimes a burst of electrical current within the solar wind will hit the bow shock and—Bang! We get an explosion."
The THEMIS satellites are equipped with instruments that measure ions, electrons and electromagnetic radiation in space. The satellites will line up along the sun-Earth line next February to perform their key measurements.
Researchers expect to observe, for the first time, the origin of substorm onsets in space and learn more about their evolution. Scientists from the US, Canada, Western Europe, Russia and Japan are contributing to the scientific investigation over the next two years.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Gaps In Saturn’s Rings Formed By Flying Saucer Moons
When one looks at Saturn, one is struck at how incredibly different it is to our Oblate Spheroid. It is truly spherical and it has a plate of material circling around it at it's equator. The plate, called rings, contains two very unique moons that are shaped like flying saucers.
The exploring satellite, Cassini, recently has given us clues as to how these moons were formed through its cameras.
The fact that the moons, Pan and Atlas are found in the gaps of the rings may give a clue to their unusual “flying saucer” shape.
This excerpted from the New Scientist -
Saturn's 'flying saucer' moons built of ring material
19:00 06 December 2007 - NewScientist.com news service, Maggie McKee
Saturn's moons Pan and Atlas may have formed in two stages - their cores may be remnants of the breakup of a large icy body early in the solar system's history and their ridges may have formed later, as the cores swept up material from Saturn's rings. The scenario might explain why the ridges appear smooth and the polar regions rough.
Two of Saturn's small moons look eerily like flying saucers, new observations by the Cassini spacecraft reveal. The moons, which lie within the giant planet's rings, may have come by their strange shape by gradually accumulating ring particles in a ridge around their equators.
Both moons have a flattened shape, being wider than they are tall. But their uncanny resemblance to UFOs only became clear recently, when Cassini viewed them with its powerful cameras.
The images revealed that the smooth ridges girdling the moons' equators lie in the same plane as Saturn's rings and are also as thick as the vertical distance that the moons appear to travel as they move through the rings.
An animation shows how Saturn's moons Pan and Atlas grew by sweeping up particles from Saturn's rings. Animation Video Credit: Courtesy of CEA/ANIMEA
Now, scientists led by Sébastien Charnoz of the University of Paris in France have run computer simulations suggesting that these ridges are made of material swept up from Saturn's rings.
The origin of the planet's famous rings is still a mystery. But one theory suggests that early in the solar system, one or more large, icy bodies broke up near the planet, creating detritus that then settled into flat rings.
If that is so, Pan and Atlas's cores may have been fragments of this breakup. After the rings flattened into a plane, ring particles may have fallen onto the moons, building up equatorial ridges. The ridges "could be considered as 'fossilised' accretion discs that once may have surrounded Pan and Atlas", the researchers write in the journal Science.
The process probably stopped long ago, since the moons' current orbits are thought to prevent the tenuous material still remaining around them to settle onto their surfaces.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Remote Alaska Town Named Cabbie Capital Of America
Judged to have the most active cab drivers per capita, Bethel, Alaska, is the largest community in western Alaska and the 9th largest in the state. With a population estimated to be 5,800, Bethel currently has 93 active cab drivers to move the population around for their daily errands.
The Great Circle Route – For the taxi drivers of Bethel Alaska, which has the greatest concentration of cab drivers in the United States, life is just one big loop (10 miles) that connects their most frequent stops. Image Credit: LAT – Digital image from Google Earth
This Excerpted from the Los Angeles Times, Column One -
America's taxi capital: Bethel, Alaska
By Tomas Alex Tizon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer - November 30, 2007
A tiny, round-faced woman stands in a field of ice, a solitary figure in the tundra, waiting for a ride. From one hand dangles several plastic grocery bags. With her free hand, she flicks a finger as if inscribing a single scratch in the air, an almost imperceptible gesture.
A taxicab appears from a cloud of mist. It is an old, white Chevy, so splattered with mud there is hardly any white to see. On the roof glows a green sign that reads "Kusko."
“Hello, dear," the driver says.
"I'd like to go home," says Lucy Daniel, folding herself in the back seat among her bags.
Daniel, 65, a Yupik Eskimo who grew up riding dog sleds and paddling seal-skin kayaks along the Bering coast, now takes a cab everywhere she goes:
To work or to church or, like this afternoon, to the general store to pick up supplies, and then back to her house. Or whenever she goes ice-fishing for pike at her favorite spot along the Kuskokwim River east of here. She tells the driver: "I need 45 minutes." At the appointed time, the driver returns to get Daniel and her gear and, typically, one or two pike as long as a small woman's leg. The fish go in the trunk.
It's because of residents like Daniel that this remote village in southwest Alaska has become the unlikely taxicab capital of the United States.
Bethel only has about 10 miles of paved roads, which means there are about nine cabdrivers per paved mile. Dirt roads, branching off the arterials, add another 20 miles. These side streets, pockmarked by pond-sized depressions, are sometimes negotiable, sometimes not.
The taxi drivers spend most of their time on the paved roads, which form a loop connecting the most popular destinations: two general stores, the post office, the hospital and the airport.
FARE VIEW: Alla Tinker is one of the 93 cabbies in Bethel, Alaska, population 5,800. Image Credit: Greg Lincoln / For The Times
"That's what I do: go in circles," says Bilal Selmani, the cabdriver who has picked up Daniel. Everyone calls him Lincoln. "Every hour, every day, every month. Round and round. Thirty years."
The taxis come in all makes and models, all colors and conditions, from brand new to barely legal. By the end of the day, they all end up looking uniformly Alaskan, that is, covered in a film of silt, slightly beat up but more or less functional.
Taxis rumble day and night, through fog and storm and minus-40 degree cold. In the process, cabdrivers weave themselves into the lives of residents to a degree unique in Alaska, or perhaps anywhere. The longtime drivers know everyone in town by face, first name or address. They know most everyone's stories.
The majority of riders are Yupik Eskimos. The taxi drivers -- most of them Albanian or Korean immigrants -- have their own tales, spanning continents and oceans but ending here, in a spot on the American frontier that most Americans have never seen or heard of.
Lincoln stops in front of a small square house in a subdivision of small square houses called Tundra Ridge. Daniel eases out, hands him seven one-dollar bills for the 5-minute drive. The flat rate is $5 per passenger in town, $7 per passenger to the outskirts.
Daniel moved to "the city" in 1971 because, she says, "there was nothing for me in Tuntutuliak."
With her five children grown and her husband gone, Daniel spends her mornings working in a school cafeteria. She never learned to drive because, she says, "big machines scare me."
In any case, she can't afford a car, and even if she could buy a junker, she can't afford to have it transported to Bethel. It would cost $2,000 to $4,000 by barge or plane.
Bethel, 40 miles inland from the Bering Sea and 400 miles west of Anchorage, is the hub for 56 Yupik villages that sprinkle the tundra like flakes of dried seaweed. A traditionally nomadic people, the Yupiks, like Daniel, began living in fixed villages such as Bethel only in the last 50 to 100 years.
They come to Bethel to work. It's also the primary reason outsiders come here. Bethel, the governmental and commercial center of the region, is a no-frills working town, where people draw wages in construction, freight, government administration and air travel. Then there are the taxis.
For Lincoln, the path to the American dream led from a farming town in eastern Albania, where he was born, to Connecticut and finally here. "I ask friend, 'Where can I make money fast?' He tells me, 'Alaska.' I drive eight days to Anchorage." A friend in Anchorage told him he could make a killing driving cab in the bush.
Lincoln, 53, has been a taxi driver in Bethel since 1977. He is short and stocky, with deep-set eyes and a prominent Roman nose. When he first arrived on the tundra, he had a long, black beard. One of his earliest customers, a native, marveled: "You look like Abraham Lincoln."
From then on, Bilal Selmani went by the name of the nation's 16th president. Most villagers don't know his real name.
During his first 25 years of driving taxi, Lincoln worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, nine months of the year. He would spend three months with family in Albania. Although his earnings might seem meager to many Americans, they represented a bounty for farmers in Albania. Word spread of his good fortune, and soon other Albanians trekked to Bethel to drive in circles for cash.
Between the late 1970s and early '90s, Albanians dominated the taxi business. Today, more than 100 townspeople claim Albanian ancestry.
Toward the end of his shift, Lincoln parks in front of the AC (Alaska Commercial) store, the same one where he picked up Daniel earlier in the day. It was quiet when he picked her up. Now the parking lot buzzes with people and cars. Most of the cars are taxis, and most of the drivers are Korean.
He gestures toward a couple of Koreans sharing a smoke between their cabs.
"Sixteen, 17 years ago, one or two Koreans," Lincoln says. "Now. Look. They take over."
"Mos-quito," the man says.
Yun Lee, 58, is describing what he hates most about Bethel. "Snow, not bad. Cold, OK. Mos-quito, big problem."
Lee has been driving cab here for about 1 1/2 years. Before that, he lived in Torrance for six months, and before that he had spent his entire life near Seoul. In Torrance he saw an ad in one of the Korean-language newspapers. The ad said something to the effect of Big Money, Big Adventure -- Come to Alaska!
Lee answered the ad and he has been driving loops on the tundra ever since. He has since learned that the first Korean cabdriver in Bethel started in the early 1990s.
Now Korean immigrants, who number between 100 and 130, own four of the five cab companies and all but three of Bethel's 12 restaurants. They're also buying up hotels and small businesses. The only video-rental store is Korean-owned.
Lee lives in a small apartment with other Korean cabbies. He works seven days a week. Work and sleep make up the totality of his existence.
Getting stiffed is part of the job. It happens once or twice a month, Lee says. Fortunately the village is small enough that sooner or later Lee will run into the two again, and he will ask for his fare. It's not like he can afford to give rides away.
After paying his overhead -- gas, dispatcher fees, insurance -- he is lucky to make $200 a day. In a place like Bethel, where consumer goods can cost double what they are worth in the Lower 48, a couple of hundred dollars doesn't go very far.
But the Koreans here are famous for scrimping and saving, and after a few years of driving, many take their cash and go home, though a few stay and invest in a business.
There are 16 female cabdrivers in town, most of them Koreans with limited English skills.
CABBIE: Alla Tinker, a lifelong Bethel, Alaska, area resident, is one of the few Yupik taxi drivers in town. The mother of two wants nothing more than to get out: “One more year of this. Then I’m gone.” Image Credit: Greg Lincoln / For The Times
Which is just as well, says Alla Tinker, because they don't want to understand much of what their male customers say.
"I've had guys pay me to drive them around town all night just so they could hang out with me.
"What can I say? They're men."
The Koreans and Albanians tolerate each other. Still, the Albanians envy the Koreans for their success and their seeming aloofness. The Koreans tend to stay among themselves. The Albanians can be clannish too.
The Yupiks, who have publicly welcomed each group, privately grumble about both: the Koreans for being curt, the Albanians blustery.
Tinker hears it from all sides. She is one of the few Yupik taxi drivers in the village. She is friends with all the Albanian drivers, but the company she drives for is owned by a Korean.
"One more year of this," she says. "Then I'm gone."
Her plan is to drive as many hours as she can, save as much money as possible, and then move to Anchorage, a real city, with tall buildings and universities and restaurants and movie theaters.
But more than anything else, she says, she is looking forward to getting in a car, stepping hard on the gas and driving, for once not in an endless loop, but straight, past the city limits, past everything familiar, to wherever the road leads.