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China The Military Idle

What Did Google Earth Spot In the Chinese Desert? 257

New submitter snooz_crash writes "An Ex-CIA analyst requests your assistance in IDing a base that he has been observing for quite a while. The base has been in existence for several years, but its shape and location do not lead to an immediate answer to the riddle of 'what the heck is it?'"
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What Did Google Earth Spot In the Chinese Desert?

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  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:23PM (#42551133) Journal
    You'd get a pretty good idea, I think... if you simply went to the area. If it's a secure location, you'd get some idea of what it is based on the type of people who are guarding the entrance.
  • Maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Krojack ( 575051 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:33PM (#42551251)

    It's the new burial grounds for the current ruling party. They always like to go out big don't they?

  • A stargate? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2013 @05:33PM (#42551271)

    For some reason this reminds me of Stargate. No idea why.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:56PM (#42552263)

    With all due respect, you're talking out of your ass. Look at this picture [wired.com]. Notice that the image shown there is from 6/21/2011. What you call the "dilapidated buildings" didn't even have graded land or foundations a year and a half ago. If you have Google Earth installed then you can turn back the clock to see what else changed in 2 years' time. Those buildings are not dilapidated or in a state of disrepair, they are under construction. Try again, comrade.

  • by thorgil ( 455385 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @07:09PM (#42552415) Homepage

    Looks to me to be some kind of agricultural/horticultural research. Some structures are clearly old defunct greenhouses and plastic tunnels.
      Big U-shaped building may house offices. Big blue-roofed building to the right looks like a chicken farm.
    North of complexes is what looks like a dried riverbed, a possible source of water (subsurface). /T

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @07:28PM (#42552563)

    I think you are correct--the geography and topography give it away.

    If you'll look at the image with the least zoom, you'll see that the facility is built at the edge where two different alluvial fans intersect--the "softer", darker soil is the newer alluvial fan that has eroded down into the much older deposits. There is also a natural formation that runs along this boundary that appears to be a dike--a naturally formed wall--that extends down into the earth. It kind of looks like the Great Wall of China if it were to be viewed top down.

    The boundary between these two alluvial fans is essentially a cliff that has exposed the lower layers of of the older deposits at the top of the images. This is an ideal location to find exposed deposits, deposits that otherwise would have been hidden far beneath the ground had erosion not exposed it.

    I suspect this is a "dry mining" facility that is going to be mining some substance from this location. That dike is important--since the flow of that alluvial fan appears to come from the top of the map, that means the dike would act as a sort of "trap", much like the riffles in a miner sluice-box--heavier elements would become trapped behind the dike while lighter material flowed over the top to be washed away by the lower elevation alluvial erosion. Much of the excavation in the images that is not associated with a structure appears to be centered around this dike.

    The long structures, located in several locations, appear to have individual units inside them (some of them are in construction and have not yet had a roof installed, allowing you to see what appear to be shallow pits, one after the other, lined up inside). These could be "shakers", what amount to a crude centrifuge that uses gravity instead of centrifugal force, to perform an initial separation of materials. Normally, heavy metals are separated in centrifuges after being mixed into a slurry, but that would be difficult in this location--I don't see a drop of surface water in any of these images. That being said, processing would be focused on methods that used as little water as possible.

    Another clue is the large "U"-shaped building. This building is located centrally, downhill from the majority of the other operations and has another interesting feature--several small structures that are located a ways away, but have clearly visible tracks (construction or merely vehicle marks) that all lead back to that building. I suspect these are well-heads that tap water located underneath the floodplain that the facility is located on. This water would be used for final separation in centrifuges located inside the main building. The central gate-like feature could be the final distribution point of a two-armed processing facility.

    So, my guess is either barium mine, or a lithium mine. Any heavy metal, really, even gold. Any dry-mining facility would look similar at this stage of development--the tailing piles visible are just the start (sample shafts). The real tailing piles will show up once the facility is active.

    Interesting considering this article:
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/01/09/0449218/worldwide-shortage-of-barium [slashdot.org]

  • Re:Factory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @07:39PM (#42552659)
    If I'm in the top 1% and I have $10,000,000,000 in cash in the bank (silly, but this is just an example), and the government prints $100,000,000,000,000 to pay off the debt, then the flood of money will devalue mine.

    In addition to my money being worth 1/10th what it was yesterday, people will want to sell their dollars because it's "unstable", so the demand on the dollar will fall, so it'll take more of them to buy a Chinese widget. Domestic inflation may stabilize after the initial inflation, but international effects will be huge. At least at the end, the US will be able to manufacture for a profit because of the weak currency. But the effect is not controllable by the US government. What is controllable is to default. The government can pick a patricular security held by a particular person (or country) and select to not pay it off. Poof, debt gone, and no inflation, no drop in dollar. Though I would expect that would create a sell-off of T-bills, so the budget must be in the black before the first default. But the results are much more controllable.

    There's no "need" to default when they can print their way out of trouble, but the effects on the economy are different, so they are both valid options. Why would you devalue your currency to print your way out of debt when you could simply not pay it back?
  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @11:44PM (#42554471)

    "With all due respect, you're talking out of your ass."
    "Try again, comrade."

    You sound a bit snide when speaking. Try to be more polite when correcting others or pointing out their lack of knowledge. Otherwise you sound like a dick. Obviously he had no idea you could roll back the clock. Aside from that he made a very interesting and well informed guess at what the facility could be.

  • Re:Factory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwye ( 1127395 ) on Friday January 11, 2013 @12:57AM (#42554821)

    But the quickest route to Paris is now over land, not water.

    But the cheapest way is still to ship things by ship, not plane or rail. Even if the USA was reduced to trade insignificance, the trading areas in the SE are still better situated to deal with India and East Africa (all those untapped resources, yum) than Western China, which hasn't been close to anywhere since the Silk Road closed down.

    Why are there so many people in Atlanta? It's nowhere. What, all there for the peach plantations?

    Sorry, but it is on a river. Probably the end of the navigable section (or at least once was -- inland cities often grow up at portages), and it grew up as a collection spot for the cotton plantations. Pre-Civil War, cotton was the biggest US export.

    Many large cities started from nothing.

    Barring Persepolis, Berlin, Washington DC, Riyadh, and Brasilia (all sacred capitals rather than pre-existing natural cities), name them.

    The only thing you need is water, and even Phoenix didn't need that.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but my maps show Phoenix on the Salt River, a major tributary of the Gila River, a tributary of the Colorado, so before LA started sucking it all dry they had loads of water, probably even a navigable channel out to the Gulf Of California.

    Cities grow up when people have a reason to stay THERE, rather than a day's journey or more away. They stay around when there is still a reason to stay there when things change (hence the lack of population in most Western ghost towns), or when the change is not big enough to make enough of a difference.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"