Sunday, July 31, 2005

It was only a matter of time until some armchair archaeologist took it upon himself to "discover" bogus artificial structures in the celebrated Martian ice crater. Guys like this make my job really difficult . . .

Speaking of which, I'll be returning to Arizona in a few weeks for the filming of a Discovery Channel documentary. I'll be in Flagstaff, home of the Lowell Observatory. (I recently shaved my head, but I think my hair will have grown back to acceptable standards by then.)
Spitzer Finds Life Components in Young Universe

"Using Spitzer, scientists have detected organic molecules in galaxies when our universe was one-fourth of its current age of about 14 billion years. These large molecules, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are comprised of carbon and hydrogen. The molecules are considered to be among the building blocks of life."
More Exeter sighting coverage:

'Odds are there’s intelligent life outside of Earth'

"David said the object was as large as two aircraft carriers. It was long and silver, with windows equally spaced around its center. After what felt like several minutes, he said the object started changing colors to an orange-ish red and similar-colored flames billowed from underneath. But there was no smoke or noise. The object eventually stretched to double its size and disappeared."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

This time Paul Kimball's counting down his 10 favorite science fiction films. Here are mine, if you're interested.
Thank the gods of postmodernism: a blog devoted to J.G. Ballard!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Whitley Strieber has written his most expansive, bizarre online journal entry yet. As usual, it poses far more questions than it answers. And, for a metaphysical rallying cry, it's peculiarly insistent that readers who truly support his website send him money so they can access some superfluous "subscriber" material.

I like this paragraph:

"The implant also enables me to travel almost anywhere in space and time, or even outside of space time. It acts as a sort of accellerator [sic] of being, intensifying my ability to move out of my body and into many remarkable realms. It also causes me, at times, to hear the inner workings of the minds of other people, something that is so extremely different from what one might imagine that it is really hard to describe in words. It's not a common experience and has not entered language, which is why I can only talk about it indirectly."

Unfortunately, virtually all of Strieber's recollections and pronouncements are colored by this "indirect" quality. I'm not claiming Strieber is a fraud; I think he's experienced episodes of high strangeness. But I also think his mind tends to inflate the significance and meaning of his experiences, effectively "editing" them into a symbolic grammar amenable to intellectual analysis. In this sense, Strieber's bold declarations are probably about as valid as those of infamous "contactee" George Adamski, albeit rather more literary and in keeping with contemporary cosmological thought.

Strieber isn't the mild-mannered sage one might expect. I once emailed him to question an omission in a self-published book and was told to "quit nitpicking and absorb the philosophy." This is the kind of quip expected from an L. Ron Hubbard, not a man in touch with the universe's most elusive secrets. And as a writer with grand online pretensions, Strieber is curiously selective about the "news" items that grace his site's front-page. For example, I find it difficult to believe he's unaware of the very promising Roswell leads documented in Nick Redfern's powerfully argued new book "Body Snatchers In the Desert." Revealingly, Strieber has made a psychological investment in an alien explanation for Roswell -- a scenario that Redfern's research threatens to obliterate. Strieber's commitment to certain hoaxes is further evidenced in his new essay, which cites the late Col. Philip Corso, alleged government whistleblower whose book "The Day After Roswell" has been dismissed as make-believe by UFO researchers.

Strieber inhabits a universe of boundless subjectivity built upon a substrate of engaging memes. But his relevance to the disciplined UFO research he champions is increasingly tenuous. Which is too bad. For if he knows what he claims to know, his "subscribers only" approach to disseminating his revelations is at best manipulative and at worst harmful.
Just in case you missed it:

Astronomers claim discovery of 10th planet

"The planet -- the farthest-known object in the solar system -- is currently 9 billion miles away from the sun, or about three times Pluto's current distance from the sun."

Remember Sedna? I don't think this will be the last planet we find lurking beyond Neptune.

What's playing:

1.) Green (R.E.M.)
2.) Chelsea Girl (Nico)
3.) Fear of Music (Talking Heads)
4.) Your Arsenal (Morrissey)
5.) Black Celebration (Depeche Mode)
UFO saga continues

"Yann Marchandin, the French 'Ufologist' who contacted the News-Letter via e-mail, said there was a similar UFO sighting in Poland in 1997 and another in 1999. In both incidents, witnesses claimed to have seen large 'military ship-sized' tubes, or cigar-shaped objects in the sky."
The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations (by Michio Kaku)

"Soon, humanity may face an existential shock as the current list of a dozen Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets swells to hundreds of earth-sized planets, almost identical twins of our celestial homeland. This may usher in a new era in our relationship with the universe: we will never see the night sky in the same way ever again, realizing that scientists may eventually compile an encyclopedia identifying the precise co-ordinates of perhaps hundreds of earth-like planets."

Kaku goes on to casually juggle concepts that would send media-darling Seth Shostak packing to the nearest mental institution.
True story: I found this billiard ball pretty much where it is in this photo, tucked in the crotch of a tree. (I'm thinking there's got to be another one around here somewhere.)

That's my apartment in the upper left-hand corner, partially obscured by leaves.

Corporate garden with koi pond:

No cellphone? This senorita is definitely in the wrong century.

Ring of water ice on Mars raises hopes of finding life on red planet

"One image shows faint traces of water ice also visible along the rim and walls of the crater. ESA scientists know it cannot be frozen carbon dioxide because the images were taken during the late Martian summer by which time all CO2 ice has evaporated. The unnamed crater is 24 miles in diameter and 1.3 miles deep." (Via The Anomalist.)
Coral as 'genetically complex' as humans

And I always thought "brain coral" was just what we called it . . .
Today's dose of consumer-friendly sadism:

Anti-rape device must be banned, say women

"The device, which Sonette Ehlers, its inventor, has patented, is worn like a tampon but is hollow. In the event of a rape, she said that it would fold around the rapist's penis and attach itself with microscopic hooks. It is impossible to remove the clamped device without medical intervention."

Oh, and this knife rack is most illustrative.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Another interesting UFO sighting . . .

More people sight mysterious craft in the skies

"It didn't move at all. It just hovered there for ages and then it disappeared. It was just as if the lights went out." (Via The Anomalist.)
Night of the Crusher

"In the past 10 years, psychologist J. Allan Cheyne of the University of Waterloo in Canada has collected more than 28,000 tales of sleep paralysis. According to one of the chroniclers, 'The first time I experienced this, I saw a shadow of a moving figure, arms outstretched, and I was absolutely sure it was supernatural and evil.' Another person recalled awakening 'to find a half-snake/half-human thing shouting gibberish in my ear.' Yet another person reported periodically waking with a start just after falling asleep, sensing an ominous presence nearby. The tale continues: 'Then, something comes over me and smothers me, as if with a pillow. I fight but I can't move. I try to scream. I wake up gasping for air.'"

Having experienced sleep paralysis, there is no doubt in my mind that it constitutes a significant percentage of "abduction" accounts. The last time I experienced a "sense of presence" was late at night and I had the intuitive certainty that my bedroom had become a hive of unseen activity. I never suspected aliens or folkloric monsters, but it was distressing enough while it was happening.

As an episodic sleep paralysis "victim," I welcome scientific research into this bizarre phenomenon. I think dream-states have much to tell us. At the same time, I'm exasperated by the conventional debunking tactic that uses "sleep paralysis" to "explain" all alleged encounters with mysterious entities, many of which take place in full daylight and some in the presence of witnesses.

Sleep paralysis is undoubtedly part of the alien abduction puzzle. But the willful misidentification of the phenomenon at the hands of over-eager pseudoskeptics is a hindrance to both sleep psychology and close encounter research.
The Shock (and Horror) of Reality

"The shock of reality is that life is so unreal, resembling nothing ever learned in high school Civics class or from fictional bestsellers. Pulp fiction and children's fantasy books have no relation to real life but instead resemble a six pack, or double dose of Prozac: diversion to dull the pain. Happily swallow the fiction so you don't gag on the reality."

Actually, I disagree with the specific point made above; I think honest escapism is a necessary -- even commendable -- tool for living. What's truly disturbing is our supposedly impartial news media with its ceaseless lies and distortions: a deadly form of misdirected escapism that, for many, has become increasingly difficult to differentiate from reality.
Glacier National Park, Montana: 9th Stop on the March!

"Glaciers move slowly, but Global Warming is ambling right along: by 2030, all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone! When President William Taft dedicated the park in 1910, 150 Glaciers graced the northern Montana mountainsides. Over the last century, rising temperatures have devastated the landscape. Today, just 37 glaciers remain, but they too are rapidly melting."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

If you're into limp, bikini-clad mannequins falling from great heights (and who isn't?), this is definitely worth a go.

(Thanks to Blake Dinsdale.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I turn 30 in August and it's kind of getting me down. I feel like I've been cheated out of at least 10 years of my life, propelled forward as if mounted on intangible rails. I've done a few things right, and things I'm proud of, but my overall perception is one of waste. On the cusp of my fourth decade, I feel automized, preoccupied with trivialities, burdened with fossil resentment and fear for the future. William Burroughs summed up similar anxieties with the term "stasis horror": the dark, underlying fear that nothing is changing, that the patterns of oneself and one's surroundings are thoroughly interlocked, like jammed clockwork.

Help Solve the Mystery of the Pioneer Anomaly

"Very soon, NASA will be dismantling and scrapping its only computer left which is able to access and process the data on its ancient 7- and 9-track magnetic tapes. 'Who cares', you say? Well, the Planetary Society for one and they're hoping you might care as well. The data held on these (few hundred) tapes is no ordinary forgettable data, it is the complete archive of the first 15 years of all the data returned to Earth by the Pioneer spacecraft which were sent into interstellar space."

If we're not pleading with NASA to fix things then we're begging them not to destroy things. First the Hubble; now this. If only the Pentagon had to put up with bullshit like this.
Physicists Entangle Photon and Atom in Atomic Cloud

"Photonic qubits are great carriers and can travel for long distances before being absorbed into the conduit, but they’re not so great at storing the information for a long time. Atomic qubits, on the other hand, can store information for much longer. So an entangled system of atoms and photons offers the best of both worlds. The trick is how to get them entangled in a simple way that requires the least amount of hardware."
UFO sighting in Exeter - again

"The object began changing colors from a bright silver to an orange-ish red. A strange cloud of red and orange flames began surrounding the object, and before he knew it the object stretched out like a rubber band. It grew to about twice its original size, and then it was gone.

"The entire incident lasted about 10 minutes, he recalled Monday morning, but he is unaware of the specific time because, 'it felt like time stopped.'" (Via The Anomalist.)

Classic "Oz Factor." The weird lengthening of the "craft," along with the shift from silver to orange-red, are suspiciously similar to Einstein's depictions of vehicles approaching the speed of light. Could this guy have witnessed an alien vessel making a light-speed "jump"?
They're lens flares, people! Lens flares!
Two hot items found at

Computer scientists to copy brain of a mammal

"Most theoretical neuroscientists have tried to simulate the brain using artificial neural networks. 'That is not our goal,' says Henry Markram, the professor leading the project. Markram wants to simulate the brain at every level of detail, even going down to molecular and gene expression levels of processing. At EPFL's Brain and Mind Institute, every facet of the brain is being examined and modelled."

Japan Plans World's Fastest Computer

"Japan wants to develop a supercomputer that can operate at 10 petaflops, or 10 quadrillion calculations per second, which is 73 times faster than the Blue Gene, an official of the ministry said on condition of anonymity."

Better computers mean better simulations. And better simulations increase the odds that we're inhabiting one.

Monday, July 25, 2005

North Atlantic right whale facing extinction

"'Recent increases in calving rates, an average of 23 annually over the last five years, are inadequate to overcome this level of mortality,' the paper states. 'Without changes in the management of shipping and fisheries, right whales face extinction within the next 100 years.'"

Death is everywhere
The more I look
The more I see
The more I feel
A sense of urgency

--Depeche Mode, "Fly on the Windscreen"

Missing dog and flowers:

This is the way the world ends . . .

Ice ages linked to galactic position

"Theorists have proposed that when our solar system passes through a spiral arm, the cosmic rays fall to Earth and knock electrons off atoms in the atmosphere, making them electrically charged, or ionized. Since opposite electrical charges attract each other, the positively charged ionized particles attract the negatively charged portion of water vapor, thus forming large droplets in the form of low-lying clouds."
Is there anyone out there . . .Yes, 15,000 times, yes

"The most common sightings included reports of orange-coloured discs, spheres, triangles and balls of fire which could change formation. An undisclosed but 'considerable' number were seen over RAF and US air force bases in England."
Trees... from the Moon

"Stuart Roosa's love of the outdoors prompted him to choose tree seeds as one ingredient of his Personal Preference Kit, the sock-sized pouch Apollo astronauts were allowed to fill with their prize possessions. The seeds were provided by the US Forestry Service - in particular, by its then Staff Director for Forest Genetics Research, Stan Krugman."

This scenario seems like the backstory for some arboreal holocaust a la "The Day of the Triffids."
Brutal Heat Stalks Planet

"Twenty-one people died in Arizona from the heat, and it reached 117 F in Las Vegas, tying a record set in 1942. Now the brutal heat has moved east, and triple digit temperatures are expected across the midwest, with heat advisories in most states east of the Mississippi."

Triple-Digit Temperatures Scorch Midwest

"Sunday was the 71st anniversary of the highest temperature ever recorded in Chicago. The mercury hit 105 at the University of Chicago on July 24, 1934, said Bob Somrek, a weather service meteorologist."

I consider it an educational foretaste of the all-too-near future.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

NASA to Launch Even if Problem Recurs

My first reaction to this headline: "WTF!?"

"NASA said Sunday it will launch the first space shuttle flight in 2 1/2 years, even if the fuel gauge problem that halted the previous countdown two weeks ago resurfaces."

Yes, you read that correctly.

"Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said the fuel gauge problem has been a vexing one -- engineers still don't know exactly what caused it -- and he's asked himself, 'Are we taking care enough to do it right.'"

Well, Wayne, I'm not a rocket scientist, but it would certainly seem to me that you're clearly not "taking care to do it right" because the fuel gauge is still fucking broken.

Hale continues: "Based on the last 10 days' worth of effort, the huge number of people and the tremendous number of hours that have been spent in testing and analysis, I think that we're coming to the right place."

Ignoring a potentially catastrophic threat is "coming to the right place"? Wayne, could you elaborate on that one? Because I think I'm missing your point. It seems like you're proposing to launch a manned spacecraft knowing full well it's not up to launch standards. Surely I misheard.

Later in the article we learn that "NASA's own launch rule -- in place since the 1986 Challenger disaster -- requires that all four hydrogen fuel gauges in the external tank be working properly."

I suspect that rule is there for a reason.

Then we get this W-esque "explanation" from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin:

"These are rather arcane matters, I would admit. They're rather difficult and sometimes they don't always present well. But in the long run, I think if it's the right thing, we can explain it to you and you want us doing what's right, not what necessarily is obvious or popular."

And if you read the rest of the article it just gets worse. Someone, call off the launch.
Some perspective:

Nerves stretched to breaking point as Baghdad clings to normal life

"The people of Baghdad do not need statistics to tell them that they are living through terror unimaginable in the West.

"Every two days for the past two years more civilians have died in Iraq than in the July 7 London bombings." (Via American Samizdat.)

A Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq 2003–2005

"Speaking today at the launch of the report in London, Professor John Sloboda, FBA, one of the report's authors said: 'The ever-mounting Iraqi death toll is the forgotten cost of the decision to go to war in Iraq. On average, 34 ordinary Iraqis have met violent deaths every day since the invasion of March 2003. Our data show that no sector of Iraqi society has escaped. We sincerely hope that this research will help to inform decision-makers around the world about the real needs of the Iraqi people as they struggle to rebuild their country. It remains a matter of the gravest concern that, nearly two and half years on, neither the US nor the UK governments have begun to systematically measure the impact of their actions in terms of human lives destroyed.'"
Butterfly unlocks evolution secret

"Now, researchers studying a family of butterflies think they have witnessed a subtle process, which could be forcing a wedge between newly formed species.

"The team, from Harvard University, US, discovered that closely related species living in the same geographical space displayed unusually distinct wing markings."

Anyone read Greg Egan's "Teranesia"?
Ashes and Snow: sublime, eco-utopian visions of intelligent species existing in transcendent union.

(Thanks to Chapel Perilous.)

BBC: "Is it worth sending a manned mission to Mars?"

Poll: Americans Say World War III Likely

"Americans are far more likely than the Japanese to expect another world war in their lifetime, according to AP-Kyodo polling 60 years after World War II ended. Most people in both countries believe the first use of a nuclear weapon is never justified."

I think some of America's perception that a third world war is likely is due to the popular fascination with a Fundamentalist Armageddon -- an event that many have been trained not only to expect but, frighteningly, to hope for.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Heatwave in Kansas City; my car thermometer was reading 104 degrees. Damn, it's miserable . . .
Ruling upheld nixing redress over Unit 731 germ warfare

"In August 2002, the Tokyo District Court recognized for the first time that Imperial army units, including 731, engaged in germ warfare, and that the state was responsible. However, the court dismissed the compensation demands, ruling that individuals have no right to sue for war damages."

This is something of an atrocity in itself. I sincerely hope Unit 731 enters public discourse when its post-war role in the Roswell incident is finally brought to light.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I received a copy of "The Cydonia Codex" in the mail today. Profusely illustrated with "mirrored" images of the Martian surface, "Codex" is a lavish, near-coffee-table-quality tome -- and it boasts dual forewords by Richard Hoagland and Dr. Mark Carlotto (both of whom give the book a cautious nod of approval for sheer epistemological daring).

I have a blurb on the back cover:

"I applaud the authors' cross-cultural approach to investigating possible Martian archaeological sites. By suggesting that a prior technological civilization might have been driven by aesthetic agenda, 'The Cydonia Codex' offers a new arena for speculation -- which is precisely what's needed to further the investigative process."

--Mac Tonnies, author of "After the Martian Apocalypse: Extraterrestrial Artifacts and the Case for Mars Exploration"

If you only buy one book on extraterrestrial artifacts this year . . . buy mine. But feel free to buy "The Cydonia Codex" too.

New Mars Orbiter Will Sharpen Vision of Exploration

"The spacecraft carries six instruments for probing the atmosphere, surface and subsurface to characterize the planet and how it changed over time. One of the science payload's three cameras will be the largest-diameter telescopic camera ever sent to another planet. It will reveal rocks and layers as small as the width of an office desk."

What might this reveal about some of the anomalies in the Cydonia region . . . ? For years, I've considered it effectively impossible to test the Artificiality Hypothesis without actually sending humans to the sites in question, but resolution this exquisite presents some fascinating possibilities.
Autism, mercury, and politics (by Robert Kennedy, Jr.)

"Numerous animal, DNA, epidemiological, and other studies point to Thimerosal as a culprit in America's epidemic of neurological disorders. Autistic children have been shown to have higher mercury loads than nonautistics, and there have been reports of significant improvements in some brain-injured children by removing mercury from their brains. Most of the symptoms of autism are similar to the symptoms of mercury poisoning. Scientists have been able to induce autism-like symptoms in mice by exposing them to Thimerosal. A recent study by an FDA scientist, Dr. Jill James, found that many autistic children are genetically deficient in their capacity to produce glutathione, an antioxidant generated in the brain that helps remove mercury from the body."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

NASA on Martian Dust Devils -- 'They're Electrified!'

"Scientists exploring Martian dust devils are forced to locate the 'cause' of the electrical discharges in solar heating and the resulting mechanical energy of air convection. But in the Electric Universe, rotating columns of air are a natural consequence of atmospheric electric discharge. Rotating columns are the prevalent forms taken by electric currents in plasma. A researcher unaware of the global circuitry involved will be limited to mere discussions of localized charge separation. Effect will be confused with cause. Charge separation will be attributed merely to the physics of dusty air circulation within the vortex."

In a gist, the "Electric Universe" model proposes that the solar system owes its formation to an era of catastrophic interplanetary electrical discharges. To my mind, it simply replaces some planetary anomalies, such as the genesis of the Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars, with a much larger one. After all, nonscientists, and especially New Agers, are known to be greatly impressed with talk of ill-defined "energies" and "currents" that allegedly underlie the boring materialist world of rocks and atoms.

Especially troubling are the supposed mythological links one finds associated with the "Electric Universe." Clearly Velikovskian, they help make the Cosmos less distant by suggesting the Sun's retinue of worlds took shape within our species' short existence. The Electric Universe model tells us that we're not "mere" galactic citizens, but front-row participants to forces that resolutely defy mainstream comprehension. And even though I'm very aware of the limitations of staunchly mainstream consensus science, this implicit anthropocentricism is what concerns me the most about theories of cosmic thunderbolts.
Spongy-looking Hyperion tumbles into Cassini's view

"The moon's spongy-looking exterior is an interesting coincidence, as much of Hyperion's interior appears to consist of voids. Hyperion is close to the size limit where, like a child compacting a snowball, internal pressure due to the moon's own gravity will begin to crush weak materials like ice, closing pore spaces and eventually creating a more nearly spherical shape."

An alert reader sent me the above article. Of course, there are those (I won't name any names) who might suggest that the spongy-looking exterior is anything but an "interesting coincidence" and that Hyperion is in fact artificial.
David Lynch: "I am starting this foundation to ensure that every child in America who wants to meditate can learn. Our schools are under enormous pressure to cram as much information as quickly as possible into a student's brain. But the sheer amount of information is exploding so fast that students are physically incapable of absorbing all that information and putting it to use. And that is why the problem of stress has become so all-pervasive in our schools. Transcendental meditation makes it much easier for students [to] learn and teachers to teach."

I found this great 1993 magazine cover at Rudy Rucker's blog today. I started seriously getting into cyberpunk in the early- to mid-90s. I remember finding Richard Kadrey's "Covert Culture Sourcebook" a particularly useful resource. I was (and still am) instinctively enamored of nanotechnology, mind-uploading, genetic engineering, and such futurist philosophies as Extropianism.

Now, of course, you're hard-pressed to pick up a science fiction title that isn't cyberpunk in some critical fashion, even if it has "Golden Age" genre pretensions.

Speaking of Rucker, I've posted my review of "Master of Space and Time" here.
Small Matters

"One of Peterson's primary concerns is nanotechnology development that is going on outside the United States. In 50 years, nuclear weapons may no longer be the most important issue; however, arms control will be, and the problem is the weapons will be invisible to satellites or to the human eye and will be undetectable chemically."

'Alien' worm descends on Earth PCs

"'The good news is that you're more likely to be abducted by an alien than infected by this virus,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"'Sundor-A has so far been remarkably unsuccessful at spreading its message to the inhabitants of planet Earth.'"

If we keep spamming outer space with telephone monologues and blog transmissions, maybe real aliens will return the favor with a debilitating computer virus . . .

(This reminds me of the old science fiction story in which a group of scientists, fearing a global nuclear war, convince the world that the planet is about to be invaded by hostile aliens from the Moon. Earth's nations work together to build a ray to fire at the Moon to exterminate the manufactured threat. Unfortunately, it turns out there really are aliens on the Moon, and the Earthlings' well-meaning if duplicitous attempt at world peace precipitates an extraterrestrial conflict.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

This one is worth quoting at some length.

Sex on the brain

"Under the auspices of Utah's Lighted Candle Society (LCS), Reisman and Victor Cline, a clinical psychologist at the University of Utah, began raising money from American conservative and religious organisations. They hope to raise at least $3m to conduct MRI scans on victims under the influence of porn and so prove their theories correct. They foresee two possible outcomes: if they can demonstrate that porn physically 'damages' the brain, that might open the floodgates for 'big tobacco'-style lawsuits against porn publishers and distributors; second, and more insidiously, if porn can be shown to 'subvert cognition' and affect the parts of the brain involved in reasoning and speech, then 'these toxic media should be legally outlawed, as is all other toxic waste, and eliminated from our societal structure'."

First of all, as Mind Hacks notes, everything has a physical effect on the brain; if it didn't, we'd all be vegetables. So who gets to define "damage"? More importantly, who gets to define "pornography"? (That's a rhetorical question, of course; the above reference to "conservative and religious organisations" lets you know exactly who.)

Mind Hacks raises another prickly issue: If merely looking at erotic images turns one into an effective zombie, what must actual sex do?

I'm not sure, but I'm betting Satan is involved.

(Learned of at Technorgasmic, a site which frequently features pictures of unclothed carbon-based bipeds.)
Blogs in space target aliens

"'I have always believed that other intelligent life forms are out there and for the first time they will be able to peer into the life of average Homo Sapiens,' explained Ted Murphy, president and chief executive at MindComet." (Via The Anomalist.)

Reality check: Bloggers are not "average Homo Sapiens." Bloggers comprise the relative handful of humans with the socioeconomic status to afford luxuries such as personal computers. You won't find too many bloggers starving in Africa, or dying of AIDS in Thailand, or avoiding the landmines in Afghanistan.
White House Memo Calls For Slashing Remaining Space Shuttle Flights

"According to a White House staffer, a memo representing official Bush administration space policy calls for no more than 15 space shuttle flights before the fleet is retired in 2010."

We are gearing up for a bleak new space age in which the only space endeavors financed by the government are those designed to kill large numbers of people.
Google the Moon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

To Icelanders, power of elves is inescapable

"Despite having seen the elf only once in 15 years -- enough time to determine that she was 'bigger than life and dressed like my grandmother, in a 1930s national costume' -- Hakonardottir, 67, has no doubt of her existence." (Via Technoccult.)

Intriguingly, a recurring motif among "abductees" is seeing dead relatives -- sometimes in an otherworldly context. Either "they" have the ability to adapt to our prevailing assumptions -- magical or technological -- or our minds readily create a contextual "reality" for nonhuman encounters based on available memes. Either way, we're not seeing behind the curtain.
I saw this white kitten in the park on the way to the museum. One brown eye, one blue. He (?) looked pretty frazzled and wouldn't come near me; instead, he/she started an ominous trajectory into the street.

I dashed out and grabbed the cat. Fortunately, a woman in a minivan was watching me and volunteered to take the kitten to the Plaza Animal Clinic. I handed her the exhausted, squirming cat and continued my hike to the Kemper.

Good luck, kitty.
I was about two inches away from this Jackson Pollock, intending to get a close-up of a bit of squashed metal, when the woman standing guard politely warned me to back off. (I've found that while my cheap camera takes awful distance shots it does OK with close-ups, and I was determined to get a picture of a canvas that actually showed some depth.)

I took this close-up of brushstrokes in another room and nobody seemed concerned.

Take that, Kemper art mavens!
I encountered a few sculptures that resembled far-flung transcended posthuman intelligences.

I took these pictures in Cafe Sebastian, a restaurant that adjoins the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Presumably the people in this picture don't know they're being photographed.

Part of the eating area is an airy, glassed-in courtyard that reminds me vaguely of the Mars base in "Total Recall."

Mind May Affect Machines

"Radin, who is not affiliated with Pear, dismisses critics who say the group isn't practicing solid science.

"'This field has received far more scrutiny and criticism than many other ordinary fields,' Radin said. 'The people who do this kind of research are well aware that their research has to be done better. The Pear lab has taken the best principles of rigorous science and applied it to extremely difficult questions and come up with some pretty interesting answers.'

"Jahn thinks that critics err in expecting the phenomena to follow the usual rules of cause and effect. Instead, he thinks they belong in the category of what Carl Jung called 'acausal phenomena,' which include things like synchronicity.

"'They play by more complicated, almost whimsical, elusive rules,' Jahn said, 'but they play.'" (Via The Anomalist.)
A future full of hopes and fears

"One certainty in an uncertain world is clear to Professor Rees: 'Whatever happens in this uniquely crucial century will resonate in the remote future and perhaps far beyond the Earth.'"

Monday, July 18, 2005

Demand for Their Data on Climate Chills Scientists

"In a move that many climate scientists find chilling, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating three professors whose work suggests that the earth is warmer now than at any time in many centuries, and that greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are largely to blame.

"In highly unusual letters sent to the scientists late last month, Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, demanded detailed documentation of the hundreds of studies on which they have been authors or co-authors.

"Mr. Barton also sent a letter to the director of the National Science Foundation on the same day that requests information about the work of the three professors, as well as a list of all grants and awards the agency has made in the area of climate and paleoclimate science, which in the past 10 years number 2,700.

"Several climate scientists reached by The Chronicle expressed dismay at the investigation and described it as harassment."

Bizarre weather signals threat of monster typhoons

"It remains to be seen if the record-breaking number of typhoons that made direct landings on the Japanese archipelago in 2004 -- 10 of them -- will be exceeded. But just about everyone agrees that the seasonal weather patterns aren't what they used to be.

"'This is just the beginning of real changes in weather patterns on a worldwide scale due to global warming,' says Koji Murayama, a meteorologist who works for the Japan Meteorological Business Support Center. 'Once it begins, the common wisdom in our field is that the frequency of irregular phenomena will increase and their scale will become increasingly greater.'"
A Time of Doubt for Atheists

"It's been years, decades even, since the Almighty was so hot."

Religious devotion should be properly viewed as an historical early warning system: When religious fervor peaks, authentic hope for a sustainable human future plummets.

When the nut-cases go mainstream, it's time to be afraid.
Google Maps reveals a vague but interesting face in Peru. Looks natural to me. Then again, given the Nazca designs . . .
Simulated society may generate virtual culture

"Every character in the simulated world will need to eat to survive, and will be able to learn from their environment through trial and error - learning, for example, how to cultivate edible plants with water and sunlight. In addition, characters will be able to reproduce by mating with members the opposite sex and their offspring will inherited [sic] a random collection of their parents [sic] 'genetic' traits." (Via

Here's a thought: The experiment forecasted above succeeds. So well, in fact, that more and more computational resources are put at its disposal. Flash forward 100 years -- a functional society, unaware that it's a simulation, has matured exponentiatingly from the first steps taken in 2005. While some scientists ponder shutting down the simulation, ethicists argue that the simulation's inhabitants are evidently self-aware and should be left alone. Meanwhile, a subculture of voyeuristic enthusiasts buoys interest in the simulated world by occasionally "hacking" it and disturbing the rules for reasons that seem downright Fortean to the indigenous population. Some devotees even scan their brains and migrate into the simulation, retaining some of the elevated status they wielded in "meatspace."

The result? Pretty much the world we have now. Maybe it's no accident we seem on the cusp of both technological transcendence and ecological holocaust; if we're being simulated, we might be an attempt by beings only slightly more advanced than ourselves to identify emergent threats to human existence.

But the real fun begins when the simulated society amasses the computational power to create its own simulations; this hierarchical model, taken to its logical extreme, argues that the chances of our being the "original" civilization are staggeringly low.
They're calling this one the "Confounding Formation."
It's one small step for a bug, a giant red face for Nasa

"The craft, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars last year. One key task was to look for signs of life -- now it seems that if there are any organisms, it is man who has put them there. If proved, the contamination would raise concerns at possible breaches of a United Nations treaty to stop other planets being polluted from Earth."

Has it occurred to anyone that Mars and Earth exchange literally tons of each other's mass every year? So the overwhelming odds are that terrestrial microbes are already a part of the Martian biosphere -- and vice versa. If Earth life is shuttling to Mars, it certainly doesn't need our robots to do it.
Fujitsu Debuts Bendable Electronic Paper

"Electronic paper offers all of the same characteristics of paper such as being thin, flexible, and lightweight. It also boasts low power consumption in that it does not require electricity except during screen image changes, making electronic paper especially suited for advertisements or information bulletins in public places for which paper is currently used. Electronic paper is especially convenient for use on curved surfaces, such as columns. In addition, electronic paper can be conveniently used in conjunction with mobile devices as an easy-to-read and portable display device." (Via

Maybe I'll download "Accelerando" after all . . .
I Cannot Yet Skin A Deer

"This all comes to mind as I realize, with increasing sense of dread and alarm and a weird sense of fatalistic ennui, that if any of the dire prognostications for the world soon comes to pass, if the oil crisis strikes as violently as predicted and/or if the eviscerated U.S. economy spirals us into a new and violent Great Depression 2.0 and/or if BushCo does indeed succeed in bringing the wrath of an angry spiteful homophobic God down upon the swarming gay-lovin' tofu-sucking heathen masses, I might not be as well prepared as I'd like."
I've been browsing Charles Stross' Singularity! A Tough Guide to the Rapture of the Nerds, a nice refresher for us meme-drenched postcyberpunk types.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Doctorow and Stross Release Latest Novels for Free

"Two prominent science fiction authors have recently released their newest novels as free downloads to coincide with their in-store releases."

The thing is, for all of my technophile bluster, I won't be happy until I have an actual book in my hands.
You've read it before. Now -- read it again!

An Interview with Dr. Yvan Dutil

"The only other serious attempts was the transmission from Arecibo in 1974. Many companies claim to send interstellar messages but essentially they are no better than using cell phones or CB for this job. Even the 2000 edition of the Cosmic Call from Encounter 2001 using the Mir space station is worthless.

"The main drawback of the Arecibo message is its lack of resistance to the noise. Even at the time of the transmission it was known for a long time since Carl Sagan as pointed this out in the sixties. Also, the message is much too short and do not contain any redundant information. Therefore, it is impossible for the reader to cross-check his deductions.

"Finally, the target chosen was very bad. The globular cluster M13 is a very unlikely place to find planets and life."

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Here's a gallery of paintings by author Rudy Rucker; I like them because they have a playful "claymation" quality. And the ubiquitous 1950s-style flying saucer is a nice touch.
Would some altruistic Posthuman Blues reader please buy me this car?

Friday, July 15, 2005

I can relate.
Sound waves produce nuclear fusion

"An inexpensive 'tabletop' device that uses sound waves to produce nuclear fusion reactions could lead to a new source of clean energy and a host of portable detectors and other applications."
Distant Prayer Doesn't Improve Clinical Outcome For Patients Undergoing Coronary Procedures

"Praying for patients undergoing heart procedures off-site or giving them bedside therapy involving music, imagery, and touch (MIT) does not measurably improve their clinical outcome, suggests a study published in this week's issue of The Lancet."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

This exquisitely disturbing gallery (representing a cross between the Brothers Quay and Helmut Newton) puts me in mind of Margot Knight's recent stuff.
US wombs polluted, study reveals

"Unborn US babies are soaking in a stew of chemicals, including mercury, petrol by-products and pesticides, according to a new report."

The sheer magnitude of the above statement beggars the imagination.

Try to envision the greenhouse-ravaged world of 2040: a future of widespread genetic damage, crippling heat, a desiccated global ecology, warfare over dwindling resources, mass starvation on a scale never before contemplated, and inundated coastal cities.

I'm not looking forward to it.
NASA Scientist Finds World With Triple Sunsets

"'The sky view from this planet would be spectacular, with an occasional triple sunset,' said Dr. Maciej Konacki (MATCH-ee Konn-ATZ-kee) of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., who found the planet using the Keck I telescope atop Mauna Kea mountain in Hawaii. 'Before now, we had no clues about whether planets could form in such gravitationally complex systems.'"
I've almost finished Charles Stross' "Singularity Sky," a novel that owes a great deal of its ideological source code to Ken MacLeod, particularly his "Engines of Light" trilogy. Stross envisions a post-Singularity future governed by a complex emergent intelligence known as the "Eschaton." The Eschaton is quietly omniscient, and its overarching concern is making sure that humans (who've learned to travel back in time and thus violate causality) don't "edit" it out of existence. So while humans are free to go about their usual puny affairs, the Eschaton makes sure that any civilization that attempts to modify the past gets exterminated in a hurry and that anyone of like mind gets the message.

The idea of a god-like superintelligence aloofly setting rules for humankind isn't a new one in science fiction. In MacLeod's trilogy the "gods" are sentient comets (!) who recruit surface-bound races to do their inscrutable bidding. As in "Singularity Sky," humans are free to do whatever they like -- up to an including developing an advanced interstellar society -- so long as it doesn't infringe on the dreaded "Powers Above."

John Norman -- an author with none of MacLeod or Stross' skill -- anticipated this premise in his Edgar Rice Burroughs-like "Gor" books. In Norman's world, insectile alien "Priest-Kings" engineer an intentionally low-tech civilization on an Earth-like planet, weeding out any attempts to develop sophisticated technology by divine decree and the occasional use of force; consequently Gor is permanently mired in the Middle Ages. Jack Vance used a similar mechanism in his "Dying Earth" books, in which magic and technology are indistinguishable.

But while Vance and Norman's motives are mostly escapist, MacLeod and Stross actually wrestle with the implications of god-like alien intelligences and what it might be like to live in a Cosmos subject to their caprices. Indeed, Stross' Eschaton seems less political metaphor than a sincere technological extrapolation; we may in fact be heading toward a future in which some kind of existential restraining order is needed to keep us from annihilating ourselves in some hedonistic orgy.

Which, given the real possibility of time travel, poses an interesting question: Could something like Stross' Eschaton be in place now? Could we be under quarantine, deftly misdirected so that we don't impose on someone else's turf or else stray from some alien ideal?

I suggest the UFO phenomenon, with its documented psychosocial effects, might be an automatic process emplaced by some long-ago intelligence, a "program" designed to help sculpt -- and possibly even catalyze -- our technical and conscious evolution in ways that promise to remain unclear until we face the phenomenon squarely.
Can you make out Pamela Anderson?

(Thanks to UFO Reflections.)
No, Mars Won't Look as Big as the Moon

"There's a new rumour going around the Internet. Maybe an excited friend has sent an email about a once in a lifetime chance to see Mars. Mars is going to make its closest approach on October 30th, 2005, and look bigger and brighter than it has in two years. Unfortunately, the closest approach actually happened two years ago, in August 2003, when the Earth and Mars were closer than they had been for 50,000 years."

Gravity doughnut promises time machine

"He says that according to Einstein's theories, space can be twisted enough to create a local gravity field that looks like a doughnut of some arbitrary size. The gravitational field lines circle around the outside of this doughnut, so that space and time are both tightly curved back on themselves. Crucially, this does away with the need for any hypothetical exotic matter."

Homer Simpson: "Mmmm . . . A donut of arbitrary size . . ."
The Great UFO Debate (by Seth Shostak)

Here we go with more porous UFO-bashing by everyone's favorite ontologically inflexible SETI guru . . .

"Sure, rather few researchers have themselves gone into the field to sift through the stories, the videos, and the odd photos that comprise the evidence for alien presence. But they don't have to. This complaint is akin to telling movie critics that films would be better if only they would pitch in and get behind the camera. But critics can compose excellent and accurate evaluations of a movie without being participants in the business of making films."

There is simply so much wrong in this essay that it fairly staggers the mind. (I find it particularly comical that Shostak's idea of ufological "research" is primly "sifting" through various "stories" rather than active investigation.) Reading Shostak's shopworn, anal ideas about the UFO inquiry is intellectually equivalent to plunging down Lewis Carroll's magic rabbit hole, where things like deductive thinking and healthy speculation cease to exist, replaced by legions of straw men, gutless pseudo-logic and fervent denial that reality might be other than that dictated by the ruling paradigm.

In this case, Shostak freely shows his absolute unwillingness -- and apparent inability -- to think like one of the aliens he claims to understand so well. Not that that's anything new.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What We Owe What We Eat

"If you value your peace of mind, not to mention your breakfast bacon, you should not read Scully's essay 'Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism -- for Animals.'"

Scully overlooks at least two other reasons to deplore the meat industry: its reckless environmental impact, witnessed by rain forests razed to make room for grazing pasture, and mounting evidence that we're spreading toxins and disease by meat consumption.

Meat is murder -- and it's not just the animals who are dying.
The sad thing is that this fuckwit probably enjoys a far better love life than I. So it goes.
Universe 'too queer' to grasp

"Each species, in fact, has a different 'reality'. They work with different 'software' to make them feel comfortable, [Dawkins] suggested.

"Because different species live in different models of the world, there was a discomfiting variety of real worlds, he suggested.

"'Middle world is like the narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum that we see,' he said."

Dawkins is right, of course. But I can't help recoiling at the irony of a mainstream skeptic basically reciting ufologist/occultist John Keel . . .
Paul Kimball's rundown of sci-fi babes continues, and so far I don't see "Nova" from "Planet of the Apes" anywhere.

For Christ's sake, Paul, at least give Estella Warren her due for the remake.

"It's a madhouse! A madhouse!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Weird, wild weather a new norm

"It's official: According to Environment Canada, there's no such thing as normal weather any more.

"From one end of the country to the other, Canadians have been facing extreme weather, from unusual cloudiness on the West Coast to heavy rain across the Prairies and oppressive heat in Southern Ontario and parts of Quebec.

"Fog has created chaos for the Nova Scotia tourism industry, forcing the airport to close several times this month.

"'We're out of superlatives to talk about this summer,' said David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada."
Paul Kimball is counting down the top ten sexiest women in sci-fi history. This should be good.
Fascinating . . .

Capgras (Delusion) Syndrome:

"Capgras Syndrome, named for its discoverer, the French psychiatrist Jean Marie Joseph Capgras. The person's primary delusion is that a close relative or friend has been replaced by an impostor, an exact double, despite recognition of familiarity in appearance and behavior. The patient may also see himself as his own double. Also know as Delusional misidentification, illusion of doubles, illusion of negative doubles, misidentification syndrome, nonrecognition syndrome, phantom double syndrome, subjective doubles syndrome."

Monday, July 11, 2005

'Human-brained' monkeys (includes must-see photo)

"The committee will also examine how detectable differences in the monkey's brains, for example emotional or behavioural changes, or if the monkeys developed 'self awareness', could be measured - and dealt with." (Via The Anomalist.)

I have a creeping suspicion that "dealt with" is an expedient euphemism for "killed." After all, we don't want animals getting too smart, do we? I mean, hasn't everyone seen "Planet of the Apes"?
Another (very) brief teaser from the story I'm working on. Or, more precisely, should be working on:

Something was wriggling determinedly from the recesses of her scalp, swelling as it emerged. It drooped pendulously until resting on her shoulder, a single thread of flesh linking it to mutant tangle of her brain.
Deep Impact's Top Ten Comet Crash Images

"Comets will never look the same now that NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft has successfully slammed into one of the icy wanderers in full view of orbital observatories, ground-based telescopes and skywatchers around the world."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but technically didn't the comet slam into Deep Impact and not the other way around? (Sorry -- I'm spoiling the hubristic fun, aren't I?)
Could Mad Cow Disease Already be Killing Thousands of Americans Every Year?

"The recent exclusion of most cow brains, eyes, spinal cords, and intestines from the human food supply may make beef safer, but where are those tissues going? These potentially infectious tissues continue to go into animal feed for chickens, other poultry, pigs, and pets (as well as being rendered into products like tallow for use in cosmetics, the safety of which is currently under review). Until the federal government stops the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, manure, and blood to all farm animals, the safety of meat in America cannot be guaranteed."

I'm half-convinced there's a link between spongiform encephalopathy and cattle mutililations . . .
Reassessing 'what if' factor at state's nuclear power plants

"PG&E is planning to spend $500,000 in a new effort to assess how two worst-case scenarios for tsunamis -- the 'apocalyptic model' and the 'decades-of-terror model,' as the utility's top geoscientist, Lloyd Cluff, calls them -- would affect the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo and the decommissioned Humboldt Bay nuclear plant near Eureka."

They're even calling it the "apocalyptic" model . . .

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I've got this senseless crush on Jessica Alba, despite having never seen her on TV. And, paradoxically, I don't want to see her on TV; judging from the preview for "Fantastic Four," I'm guessing she's a lame actress, and the last thing I need is the cruel scalpel of cinematic "reality" marring my mental image of her (such as it is).

I went through this same star-struck routine with Natalie Portman a while back -- again, an actress I'd never seen (nor particularly wanted to see) in a movie. I suppose my subconscious latches hold of perfectly inaccessible women like Alba and Portman because I intuitively realize it's hopeless.

In a sense, being "rejected" by Jessica Alba is an affirming experience, because it implies that I can successfully predict the outcome of a "relationship." And, warped as it may seem, part of me relishes this certainty, which is all-too-lacking in real life. Invisible Woman, indeed.
Rodent Social Behavior Encoded in Junk DNA

"A discovery that may someday help to explain human social behavior and disorders such as autism has been made in a species of pudgy rodents by researchers funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

"The researchers traced social behavior traits, such as monogamy, to seeming glitches in DNA that determines when and where a gene turns on. The length of these repeating sequences -- once dismissed as mere junk DNA -- in the gene that codes for a key hormone receptor determined male-female relations and parenting behaviors in a species of voles. Drs. Larry Young and Elizabeth Hammock, Emory University, report on their findings in the mouse-like animals native to the American Midwest in the June 10, 2005 Science."

The domain of so-called "junk" DNA is also a good place to look for messages encoded by extraterrestrials. I think the chances of finding a biomolecular signal within our own genome are at least as good as detecting an intelligible radio transmission from an ET civilization.
I started a new short-story tonight. Assuming I can refrain from making it top-heavy, it might even be a good one.


By now the entire top portion of the woman's skull had been lifted away, prized apart like a grisly clamshell. The ropy black thing I thought I had glimpsed now basked in the dining room's muted sunlight, extending delicate hinged limbs that sprouted tiny silver instruments. In the space of ten seconds, the woman's exposed cranium had become a riot of metal and flesh and occasional jets of aerosolized blood. Eyes calm, she began eating her meal.
North Atlantic reaches all-time temperature high

"Ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic hit an all-time high last year, raising concerns about the effects of global warming on one of the most sensitive and productive ecosystems in the world."