Saturday, December 31, 2005

I've added some new blogs to the sidebar. In alphabetical order:

Capital of Nasty

Cute Overload

Gravity Lens

Red Colony

The Ruminations on America Project


In addition, I've added two blogs that happen to be local, Digital Doorway and A Voyage to Arcturus.
Living forever

Kurzweil writes that "as we reverse engineer our bodies and brains, we will be in a position to create comparable systems that are far more durable and that operate thousands to millions of times faster than our naturally evolved systems." The computational capacity needed to emulate human intelligence, he says, "will be available in less than two decades." Once a computer achieves a human level of intelligence, "it will necessarily soar past it."

I have many items on my 2006 to-read list. The second (after Rudy Rucker's "The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul") is "The Singularity Is Near."

Related: Douglas Rushkoff's 1994 book "Cyberia" is now available online. When this book hit stores, I had yet to send an email.

Paranormal visitation getting you down? Now there's hope!
Tropical Storm Zeta Forms in Atlantic

Tropical Storm Zeta formed Friday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, another installment in a record-breaking hurricane season that officially ended last month.

What? Climatological phenomena dare to defy our arbitrary temporal conventions?

Happy New Year, by the way. I think 2006 is going to be exceptionally weird.

Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm apartment-shopping today. We've got our eyes on a nice place in a no-kidding historical landmark with a solarium that looks over a picturesque fountain court. I think it's ours if we want it, but we're looking at another with hardwood floors to see if that wins us over.

Of course, the management might become suddenly anal-retentive and deny us, but I'm determined to get out of my current place. (I love the view, but five years is a long time. Especially when no one fixes your walls.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Clifford Pickover never stops!
Aberrant, yet weirdly alluring . . .

(Found at Boing Boing.)
No self-respecting anomalist's New Year's festivities are complete without perusing UFO Casebook's Best UFO Photographs of 2005.

(Tip of the hat to PAG E-News.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Look what else I got for Christmas!

I'm not Catholic. I've never been Catholic. But I like setting Nunzilla loose on the floor and watching the fireworks.

I wonder if she'll hit it off with Katita . . .

One of those days. (Art credit: Franz Kafka.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Look what I got for Christmas!

"Katita" bounces, shuffles, jitters, shivers, and rambles like there's no tomorrow.

And who knows? Maybe there isn't.
It's post-Christmas, but some of this stuff is still funny.
Oooh!'s top ten "musts" of 2005!
2005 warmest on record in north

"It's simple physics; more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, emissions growing on a global basis, and consequently increasing temperatures."

Warm weather not going anywhere

Extreme drought, grass fires and warm afternoons at the park: It's a Central Texas winter wonderland.

Austin temperatures hit 81 degrees Monday afternoon, surpassing by 2 degrees the previous record for the date at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that was set in 1988.

Whitley Strieber returns with another essay on the "visitors":

Twenty years ago tonight, at approximately three thirty in the morning on December 26, 1985, I heard odd noises and felt as if I had fallen out of bed. I opened my eyes to a scene of such extraordinary horror that I am still suffering from the effects of that moment, two decades later.

What I saw before me was a small room like the interior of a tent, populated by enormous insects. These insects were at once strange, distant-seeming creatures, totally unlike me and not communicating any sense of the human at all, and yet at the same time aware of me in a way that eloquently and terrifyingly signaled intelligence.

I'm inclined to accept Strieber's account as basically factual, albeit embellished by subjective impressions, buried desires and the understandable longing for meaning when confronted with the bizarre.

Throughout the years I've followed his tale I've experienced incredulity and not a little confusion -- but I've never laughed. (And I can't wait for his new novel, "The Grays.")
Partial Ingredients for DNA and Protein Found Around Star

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered some of life's most basic ingredients in the dust swirling around a young star. The ingredients - gaseous precursors to DNA and protein - were detected in the star's terrestrial planet zone, a region where rocky planets such as Earth are thought to be born.

The findings represent the first time that these gases, called acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, have been found in a terrestrial planet zone outside of our own.

All that raw material -- just waiting to be intelligently designed!

Monday, December 26, 2005


For a few hours, the world reported the crop circle mystery as solved - but operation leader Colin Andrews soon realised he had been hoaxed and the figures on night-vision cameras were not aliens but local mischief-makers.

According to Mr Andrews, however, across Wiltshire a more mysterious and sinister event was happening, which has remained top secret ever since.

Oh, please. And he's just now decided to talk about it? This "revelation" has all the earmarks of a last-ditch effort to breathe life into a dying mystery.

By the way, I've read Andrews' book on the subject, "Crop Circles: Signs of Contact." While he recounts the high-tech vigil mentioned above, I don't remember any allusions to military conspiracy.
I just realized there's an interesting similarity between this "octacube" sculpture . . .

. . . and the wormhole transport machine in "Contact" (below).

Since both are literally "dimensional portals" -- one based on hard mathematics, the other speculative -- I rather doubt the resemblance is fortuitous.

"Wanna take a ride?"
The land of elves: Hidden creatures make their home in this Icelandic town

Mischief befalls Icelandic road builders who can’t recognize good elf domain, including breakdowns of heavy equipment and even worker mishaps and injuries. It is said to have happened on more than one job site, enough to take the mythology seriously. Consequently, road planners here consult with an elf expert before routing a road or highway through rock piles that may be elf habitat.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Breakdowns of heavy equipment"? This sounds suspiciously like the oft-reported failures of car ignition systems and electronic equipment that occur during close encounters with UFOs.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Psychopathic Hymn: J.G. Ballard's 'Crashed Cars' Exhibition of 1970


Each of these sculptures is a memorial to a unique collision between man and his technology. However tragic they are, automobile crashes play very different roles from the ones we assign them. Behind our horror lie an undeniable fascination and excitement, most clearly revealed by the deaths of the famous: Jayne Mansfield and James Dean, Albert Camus and John F. Kennedy. The 20th century has given birth to a vast range of machines -- computers, pilotless planes, thermonuclear weapons -- where the latent identity of the machine is ambiguous. An understanding of this identity can be found in a study of the automobile, which dominates the vectors of speed, aggression, violence and desire.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Better than people

Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favour and make better use of cheap imported labour. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively in Japan are pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.
Researchers develop new method for studying 'mental time travel'

The researchers showed nine participants a series of pictures and then asked them to recall what they had seen. By applying a computerized pattern-recognition program to brain scanning data, the researchers were able to show that the participants' brain state gradually aligned with their brain state from when they first studied the pictures. This supports the theory that memory retrieval is a form of mental time travel.

This kind of technology could be used to study the neurological basis of false memories. Since the portion of the brain that records visual stimuli is distinct from the portion that produces confabulated or imagined experiences, researchers could use medical imaging to determine whether or not "abduction" accounts are based on actual memories of nonhuman encounters. (To his credit, Whitley Strieber has been advocating just such a research effort for several years.)

If you don't have it already, I highly recommend downloading Google Earth. It's like being at the controls of your own flying saucer.
Evolution named 2005's top scientific breakthrough

"I think what arouses the ire of scientists (about intelligent design) is . . . the notion that it belongs in the same universe as scientific analysis," Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

"It's a hypothesis that's not testable, and one of the important recognition factors for science and scientific ideas is the notion of testability, that you can go out and do an experiment and learn from it and change your idea," said Kennedy. "That's just not possible with a notion that's as much a belief in spirituality as intelligent design is."

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

Just to clarify my position on the "intelligent design" thing: I concede that the observation that our universe is hospitable to complex life is a potentially interesting philosophical issue. On the other hand, I don't think it's nearly as interesting as some, who contend the universe must have been crafted with terrestrial biology in mind.

After all, we observe the universe as it is because if it were any different we simply wouldn't be here. I'm perpetually surprised by how many otherwise accomplished cosmological thinkers balk when faced with this simple -- if elliptical -- proposition.

And although the prospect is tarred by its many "fringe" associations, I see no reason why our species couldn't have been the recipient of at least one genetic "upgrade" on behalf of extraterrestrial visitors. But ET intervention doesn't refute evolution. Rather, it helps refine our appreciation for evolution by forcing us to consider the process ultimately responsible for our hypothetical benefactors.

Does this validate "intelligent design"? Emphatically, no.

Of course, all of this is assuming, for argument's sake, that the personalities responsible for the carnivalesque ID "debate" are motivated out of desire for scientific truth. They aren't. ID is an uppity euphemism for "Creationism" -- and as those of us who have been watching know, "Creationism" is a religious ploy that seeks to deride empirical reality in favor of politically expedient superstition.
Galaxies Grow Up in Dark Matter Nurseries

The two teams together have found the first concrete evidence that young galaxies in the early universe are nestled within clumps of dark matter, and that a single clump of dark matter nurses several young galaxies. Both teams took advantage of the Subaru telescope's unique ability to take deep sensitive images over a large area of sky.

Dark matter -- the stuff's everywhere, but what is it?
Creating the First Synthetic Life Form

Several groups are trying to make synthetic genes in hopes of constructing microbes that perform useful tasks, such as producing industrial chemicals, clean energy or drugs. The Columbia team is pushing the technology to its limits by trying to put together an entirely synthetic genome.

ASIMO -- faster than ever!

(Found at Betterhumans.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

THE WINTER SOLSTICE OF 2012 - A LEAP OF FAITH is Peter A. Gersten's personal mission statement for the next seven years.

Be warned: It's weird. But to anyone who's experienced sustained episodes of synchronicity, it's remarkably easy to sympathize with Gersten's sense of incipience.

I can't say I agree with Gersten's predictions, but neither can I dispute my gnawing sense that reality is, in fact, a "cosmic computer program" and that the next few years promise much upheaval.

Happy holidays -- and don't forget to add yourself to the PB Geographical Matrix!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From Budd Hopkins' article about Susan Clancy:

Equally damning of Clancy's religious explanation is the fact that the UFO reports of many abductees in more primitive cultures describe exactly the same details as do abductees in more advanced cultures, and yet these more primitive people work assiduously to make their UFO experiences fit into the schema of their traditional religions. Thus, in a well-known Zimbabwe incident, the natives who described small, white-skinned aliens in shiny one-piece jumpsuits insisted that they were the ghosts of their ancestors, who can now, apparently, fly around in wingless metal discs.

I'd argue that Hopkins' insistence that the small, white-skinned entities are literal "aliens" is as lamentably simple-minded as Clancy's own wholesale ignorance of the abduction enigma. "Aliens in jumpsuits" may simply be how the modern Western mind reacts to a "reality-transforming" stimulus.

In a similar manner, explaining the beings as ancestral ghosts could be equally valid. In each case, the mind accesses a comprehensible psychic vocabulary to describe an event that may defy empirical analysis.

This isn't to say Hopkins is wrong; perhaps we really are dealing with more-or-less comprehensible biped aliens with white skin and a penchant for shiny jumpsuits. Maybe the witnesses in Zimbabwe simply weren't versed enough to make an accurate identification.

But the UFO encounter evidence has roots that go far deeper than the contemporary infatuation with "abductions." When the phenomenon is examined historically, it seems more likely that the "aliens" insinuate themselves into a given cultural matrix by appealing to ready-made mythological constructs -- thus the near-endless procession of elves, dwarves, fairies, and saucer-pilots that haunt our attempts to discern the "other."

I think someone is here. But to ascribe nonhuman visitation to Hopkins' meddling intruders is to play into a long-standing perceptual trap . . . and the toll might not be merely intellectual.

Jacques Vallee:

"There is a strange urge in my mind: I would like to stop behaving as a rat pressing levers -- even if I have to go hungry for a while. I would like to step outside the conditioning maze and see what makes it tick. I wonder what I would find. Perhaps a superhuman monstrosity the very contemplation of which would make a man insane? Perhaps a solemn gathering of wise men? Or the maddening simplicity of unattended clockwork?"
Robot Demonstrates Self Awareness

Imitation, said Takeno, is an act that requires both seeing a behavior in another and instantly transferring it to oneself and is the best evidence of consciousness.

In one experiment, a robot representing the "self" was paired with an identical robot representing the "other."

When the self robot moved forward, stopped or backed up, the other robot did the same. The pattern of neurons firing and the subsequent flashes of blue light indicated that the self robot understood that the other robot was imitating its behavior.

Have the Constants of Physics Remained Unchanged?

The physical constants of the Universe are thought to have remained unchanged since the Big Bang; many predictions made by cosmologists depend on it. An international team of researchers are using the National Science Foundation's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to see if things really have gone on unchanged for billions of years. They're looking to measure two universal constants: the ratio of mass between protons and electrons, and something called the fine structure constant.


Recently I appeared on "Larry King Live," along with Clancy and several others, when one of the guests showed a blow-up of the world-famous Trent UFO photographs from McMinnville, Oregon, arguably the best-known UFO photos in existence. They were prominently featured in "Life" magazine in 1950, and have been reproduced hundreds of times since in many publications. What's more, in 1969, after careful analysis, an investigator for the skeptical Condon Committee described the McMinnville photo case this way: "This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical, appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disc-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses." Optical physicist Dr. Bruce Maccabee has investigated this case thoroughly, flying to McMinneville, interviewing the Trents, their family and neighbors, taking his own test photos from the same location, and carrying out literally months of optical analysis of the original pictures. Maccabee's work has been published widely, but the photos themselves should be familiar to anyone with even a cursory involvement in UFO study and research. Yet, during the Larry King program, abduction authority Susan Clancy glanced at the photos on the monitor and said something like this: "that could be anything...someone who threw up a hubcap or a Frisbee or something." Her evident ignorance of this case, and, by extension, of the literature and history of the UFO phenomenon, was aptly illustrated by this glib, contemptuous wisecrack, a remark one might expect to hear late at night in a Texas barroom, but not from someone holding a Ph.D. degree from Harvard. Earlier, when King asked her how she became interested in the subject of UFO abductions, she began her answer this way: "I've been studying aliens for..." Studying aliens? Again, this peculiar description of her work in the laboratory is not what one would expect to hear from an experimental psychologist on an ostensibly serious TV program.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bruce Sterling introduces two engaging Web-toys. (The one with the falling balls is flat-out fascinating.)
Now this is weird . . .

Stalin's half-man, half-ape super-warriors

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

Sometimes I wonder if some rogue transgenic experiment is responsible for the beings seen piloting UFOs. It's a weird and troubling concept, even more disconcerting than the prospect of sharing our planet with elusive indigenous humanoids.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It certainly looks to me like the Beagle 2 has been found.
'Intelligent Design' Barred from Dover, Pa. Schools

"Intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

This comes as a very pleasant surprise. And to think I was actually beginning to enjoy the US' descent into an utter theocratic malaise . . .

Prediction: The next time we get hammered by a super-hurricane, Falwell and his ilk will blame it on the hell-bound secular types who dared to dispute divine truth. So let's enjoy this while it lasts.
Alaskan volcano showing signs of erupting

A sulfurous steam plume, hundreds of miniature earthquakes and a new swath of ash on snowy Augustine Volcano have scientists looking for a possible eruption in the next few months.

The 4,134-foot volcano hasn't shown such signs since it last erupted in 1986, when ash from a 7-mile-high column drifted over Anchorage, the state's most populous city, and kept flights out of the skies over Cook Inlet.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

I updated my Mars site -- finally. See page 48 for more on the photo above.
I've just been informed that this blog has been selected for the coveted "Zorgy" Award.

I'm not sure what "Zorgy" recipientship entails, but I'm assuming I at least get a nice grant. You know, for research.
Last year I made a half-assed New Year's resolution to devote more time to writing. I'm making it again, but this time with a better sense of perspective.

The thing is, maintaining a daily blog is addictive . . . and, of course, fun, or I wouldn't be doing it. But it also takes up a surprisingly large amount of time and I feel I'm needed elsewhere -- if not necessarily in "meatspace," then at least poring over my word processor or reading an actual tree-based book (I haven't read as much as I would have liked over the last few months).

I think it would be premature and silly to stop posting here, so I'm not about to. But I'm going to change the flavor of the posts to expand upon the work I really should be doing -- namely, splicing/massaging my new nonfiction effort into intelligible form, cranking out more (finished) short-stories and getting serious about the commercial potential of a science fiction novel manuscript. (It occurred to me this evening that one of my favorite author/bloggers, Rudy Rucker, manages a rather remarkable fiction output while maintaining a well-wrought weblog, so I don't think writing and online publishing are mutually exclusive. In fact, I foresee the two genres becoming increasingly entangled and symbiotic.)

Quite honestly, I've got a lot on my plate right now, which is the way it should be. So in 2006 Posthuman Blues' emphasis will probably shift from coolhunting and fringe commentary to more personal, creative concerns. The change might be radical or it may be subtle; I don't know. Hopefully it will be for the best. If not, then at least it will be a diversion.

Anyway, if you notice a drop-off in the number of posts in the near future, don't be alarmed. And by all means please keep me bookmarked.
You know, I might take up regular television viewing if I had one of these.

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Sharpen your pencils, kids!

NASA Seeks Innovative Ideas for Revolutionary Concepts

Previous winning proposals include systems or concepts for a spacecraft propelled by a magnetized beam of electrified gas for rapid interplanetary transportation; an electrostatic radiation shield for a lunar base; and the redesign of living organisms to survive on Mars.

Lt. Walter Haut, spokesman who announced wreckage of flying saucer in Roswell, died at 83

Army Lt. Walter Haut, a former spokesman for the Roswell Army Air Field, died Thursday in Roswell, his daughter, Julie Shuster, said. He was 83.

Haut listened closely on July 8, 1947 as base commander Col. William Blanchard dictated a news release about a recovered flying saucer and ordered Haut to issue it.

The Roswell Daily Record newspaper ran a bold headline July 9, 1947: "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region."
Arctic orcas highly contaminated

Norwegian scientists have found that killer whales - or orcas, as they are sometimes known - have overtaken polar bears at the head of the toxic table.

No other arctic mammals have ingested such a high concentration of hazardous man-made chemicals.

(Via PAG E-News.)

This is a fellow intelligent species we're slowly exterminating. And we have the nerve to expect cordial greetings from ETs.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What the Left Behind Series Really Means

Fetishizing of the End Times as a spectacular gore-fest visited upon on the unbelievers is nothing new. But the sheer number of people gleefully enjoying the spectacle of their own blackest magical thinking made manifest by mass media is new. Or at least the media aspect is new. It reinforces the major appeal of these beliefs, the appeal being (to restate the obvious) that they get to pass judgment on everyone who disagrees with them, and then watch God kick the living snot out of them. It doesn't get any better than that.

(Via Post-atomic.)
Our elves, our selves

"The real world is messy," says Donna Casella, a professor of film, fantasy and pop culture at Minnesota State University (Mankato). "Crime often pays, and some people die for no reason. In the alternative reality of elves, things can be fixed."

Elves and their otherworldly cousins -- fairies, dwarves, gnomes and other creatures of the fairy kingdom -- have endured for centuries in folklore, literature, movies and pop culture. Elves steal our hearts with their magic, mischief and mystery and help us understand ourselves.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Regardless of the empirical reality of so-called "aliens," ufonauts have become the elves of the technological age. Their ultimate aim seems to be some sort of melding of worlds, a reconciliation. In the folklore of the "Grays" and their kin (recently reiterated in the SERPO claims) we encounter a recurring theme of interstellar comradeship and the "miraculous" acquisition of out-of-this-world technology.

What's playing: Johnny Cash

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Late last night I made the switch to Yahoo! Mail's new beta. It's not bad -- just different. So far as I can tell, the most significant changes include a preview pane and the ability to drag and drop messages to and from folders instead of selecting a destination folder from a drop-down menu.

I'm not committed to the new interface, but I'd feel like I was chickening out if I didn't give it a chance. At least I can categorically claim that it's better than Gmail.

A Solution to the Fermi Paradox: The Solar System, part of a Galactic Hypercivilization? (Beatriz Gato-Rivera)

I introduce the Fermi Paradox and some of its solutions. Then I present my own solution which includes two proposals called the Subanthropic Principle and the Undetectability Conjecture. After discussing some consequences of this solution, I make some comments about brane world scenarios and their potential to strengthen the Fermi Paradox. Finally, in the appendix I have included some questions and answers that came up during this Forum.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Counter-Surveillance Headdress

The laser tikka (forehead ornament) is attached to a hooded vest and reflective shawl. The laser is activated by pressing a button on the left shoulder of the vest. When pointed directly into a camera lens, the laser creates a burst of light masking the wearer's face. The wearer can also use the reflective cloth to cover the face and head. The aluminized material protects her/him by reflecting any infrared radiation and also disguises the wearer by visually reflecting the surroundings, rendering the wearer's identity anonymous.

Wait a second -- this is a prop from "Aeon Flux," right?
And while I'm waxing iconoclastic . . .

The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts

Could it be, however, that conventional science is just as mistaken as the Bible stories? There is a great deal of archeological evidence that the history of life on earth might be far different than what current geological and anthropological texts tell us.

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

And don't miss my own free-form speculation on the connection between "impossible" grooved spheres and Saturn's moon Iapetus.
Look out, Richard Branson . . .
Message in the Sky

We argue that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) provides a stupendous opportunity for the Creator of universe our (assuming one exists) to have sent a message to its occupants, using known physics. Our work does not support the Intelligent Design movement in any way whatsoever, but asks, and attempts to answer, the entirely scientific question of what the medium and message might be IF there was actually a message. The medium for the message is unique. We elaborate on this observation, noting that it requires only careful adjustment of the fundamental Lagrangian, but no direct intervention in the subsequent evolution of the universe.

This one has been making the rounds, and deservedly so. Thrilling concept.
Space 'spiders' could build solar satellites

The engineers behind the project hope the robots will eventually be used to construct colossal solar panels for satellites that will transmit solar energy back to Earth. The satellites could reflect and concentrate the Sun's rays to a receiving station on Earth or perhaps beam energy down in the form of microwaves.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

We live in a nation of insufferable religious fuckwits. The God Who Wasn't There won't do a bit of good -- but the rest of us might enjoy it.
100% authentic!

Graffiti from Pompeii

III.5.1 (House of Pascius Hermes; left of the door); 7716: To the one defecating here. Beware of the curse. If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy.

(Via Capital of Nasty.)
Climate Change Inevitable

"Many people don't realize we are committed right now to a significant amount of global warming and sea level rise because of the greenhouse gases we have already put into the atmosphere," says researcher Gerald Meehl. "Even if we stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, the climate will continue to warm, and there will be proportionately even more sea level rise." But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't act. "The longer we wait, the more climate change we are committed to in the future."
Alleged 'Project SERPO' sent U.S. military team to another planet?

Remember the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind?" Remember when the government teams set up a landing zone for the "visitors" and how Army Special Forces personnel assisted with covert logistics? Remember how 12 people in red jumpsuits were transported to the LZ for boarding? The entries on allege that this is based on fact.

(Via The Anomalist.)

There were 12 of them? Interesting. I should have known that.
Chris Wren: Did I Say the Singularity is Near? Sorry, I Meant Here.
Yet another whacko object at the edge of the Solar System -- go figure.

Strange new object found at edge of Solar System

A large object has been found beyond Pluto travelling in an orbit tilted by 47 degrees to most other bodies in the solar system. Astronomers are at a loss to explain why the object's orbit is so off-kilter while being almost circular.

Some kind of far-flung Bracewell probe awaiting a directed transmission? You never know . . .

And whatever became of "Santa"?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's called Apophis. It's 390m wide. And it could hit Earth in 31 years time

Nasa has estimated that an impact from Apophis, which has an outside chance of hitting the Earth in 2036, would release more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima. Thousands of square kilometres would be directly affected by the blast but the whole of the Earth would see the effects of the dust released into the atmosphere.

And, scientists insist, there is actually very little time left to decide.

Oh, there's nothing to really worry about. I'm sure that if we just keep doing what we're doing we'll be absolutely fine. I mean, think of all the real problems facing us: gay marriage, the Rapture, the intelligent design debate . . . The list is endless.

Besides, these animations clearly show how trivial the asteroid threat is.

No, we need to stick to our business here on Earth and stop scaring ourselves with outer-space horror stories. And don't get me started on "climate change."
Microbes under Greenland Ice may be preview of what scientists find under Mars' surface

"Detecting this concentration of microbes is within the ability of state-of-the-art instruments, if they could be flown to Mars and if the lander could drop down at a place where Mars orbiters have found the methane concentration highest," Price said. "There are oodles of craters on Mars from meteorites and small asteroids colliding with Mars and churning up material from a suitable depth, so if you looked around the rim of a crater and scooped up some dirt, you might find them if you land where the methane oozing out of the interior is highest."

Sorry for the preponderance of Mars stuff on this blog. But I'm absolutely convinced there's life on the Red Planet.

I don't pretend to know what sort of life, although I think we'll find it to have surprising breadth and tenacity. Nor do I know how alien it will be; it could have originated on Earth long ago, just as life on this planet may have been spawned or accelerated by Martian contamination.

But whatever its origin, it's there. And it's waiting.
Perhaps I should post this on my soon-to-be-resurrected Cydonian Imperative site, but for now it's going here:

Link deleted by the editor. --Mac

Avian geoglyph or natural formation? I'm going with the latter, but maybe a closer look is in order.
Gallup: Poll Finds Americans' Belief in God Remains Strong

A new Gallup survey released today finds that four decades after the "God Is Dead" controversy was first noted, Americans retain a strong belief in a higher power. Some 94% think God exists.

Only 5% feel God "does not exist" -- and even most of them "are not sure" of that. Exactly 1% are certain there is no God.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Study pinpoints epicenters of Earth's imminent extinctions

Conducted by scientists working with the 52 member organizations of the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE --, the study identifies 794 species threatened with imminent extinction, each of which is in need of urgent conservation action at a single remaining site on Earth.
Communicating With Christians

One of the biggest obstacles to communication with xtians [. . .] is the fact that xtians say one thing, but mean another.

Amen! Read on!
Yet more good news on the space front!

Plasma Engine Could Open Up Space Exploration

ESA has confirmed the principle of a new space thruster that may ultimately give much more thrust than today's electric propulsion techniques. The concept is an ingenious one, inspired by the northern and southern aurorae, the glows in the sky that signal increased solar activity.

We might get off this mudball yet . . .
DNA pyramids make their debut

"Tetrahedra are used extensively in architecture and engineering because their structure is simple but very strong, making them ideal for use in DNA nanostructures," says Turberfield. "These atomically precise nanostructures are ideal building blocks for nanofabrication and can be produced cheaply in large quantities -- all you have to do is mix the components together."


Cosmic, man! Notify Richard Hoagland immediately!
Holiday miracles do come true!

U.S. Satellites Outnumber Rest of World

The United States has 413 satellites in space snooping for the government, checking on the weather and relaying the latest pop music, a new database says. That's more than the 382 the rest of the world has spinning above the Earth. The inventory, developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists and released Wednesday, provides details on some of the Pentagon's most secret satellites, which may gather images in the dark or take high- resolution pictures from 12,000 miles away.

I can't help wondering what else is up there that we don't know about.

This is the best news I've heard in a while:

Virgin Galactic to build $225 million spaceport in New Mexico

Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space, and New Mexico announced an agreement Tuesday for the state to build a $225 million spaceport.

Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.

(Via Mondolithic Sketchbook.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Take a look at this purported UFO video from Bulgaria. While it looks real enough (which means increasingly little), I was immediately troubled by the way the person holding the camera zooms out from the spinning object shortly before it streaks out of the picture, as if he/she knew what to expect.

As noted at Unknown Country, the Bulgarian video is similar to the Mexico City footage hyped in the mid 1990s.
Exploring Caves with Hopping Microbots

They behave as a swarm. They relate to each other using very simple rules, but that produces a great deal of flexibility in their collective behavior that enables them to meet the demands of unpredictable and hazardous terrain. The ultimate product that we're envisioning is a fleet of these little guys being sent to some promising landing site, exiting from the lander and then making their way over to some subsurface or other hazardous terrain, where they deploy themselves as a network. They create a cellular communication network, on a node-to-node basis.

Whoa. I think I went into more stores today than I have in the last five or six years combined.

I dropped off a copy of my book at a Aquarius, a New Age* store with a healthy selection of UFO/fringe titles. The owner's interested in having me speak when the Discovery show finally airs, which -- as far as I know -- could be virtually anytime now.

*Strictly speaking, my Mars book isn't "New Age," and I usually roll my eyes when I see it on the shelves with books by self-proclaimed mediums and tomes on astrology. But there comes a point when I'm forced to acknowledge the memetic common ground between "New Age" and the nascent discipline of planetary SETI. And, truthfully, I think it's huge fun to browse stores filled with "weird" stuff.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

You are Schroeder!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
State's UFO story is still incomplete

People at the scene on that December night in 1965 didn't need much prompting to be curious. A detachment from the U.S. military didn't often show up at a woods fire in rural Kecksburg, or rural anywhere for that matter.

Soldiers cordoned off the site and not only refused to answer questions but, according to witnesses, threatened those who were persistent in seeking an answer. Sometime later, the military declared the object to be a meteor.

Today, spokesmen for NASA describe the fallen object as a failed Russian satellite that fell back into the atmosphere and began burning up before it landed.

(Via The Anomalist.)
I want a Wicked Laser for Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I'm suffering from a recurring dream. Although the precise scenery may vary, the dilemma is the same: I must escape from glad-handing corporate zombies who will stop at nothing to keep me confined to their offices: ill-lit hives populated by drone-like employees. All seem to understand their jobs but me.

I rebel, but quitting isn't easy. There is no door -- just endless fluorescently lit corridors and occasional windows that gaze out onto unfamiliar suburban landscapes. And even though I'm entirely unproductive, my omniscient employers go to extremes to detain me, up to and including chemical restraint.

These dreams persist through the morning as I fade in and out of sleep; part of me doesn't want to succumb to wakefulness until I've managed to escape. But sometimes escape never comes, and if it does it has a disappointing contrived texture, like the tacked-on "happy" ending that mars the theatrical version of "Blade Runner."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Two worthwhile blogs to add to your "weird" folder:

The Galactic Question Center

Here I am in a Crayola store busily sketching an extraterrestrial biological entity. (I have a decided weakness for blank paper, and will happily forego normal human conversation if someone loans me a pen.)

The thing about drawing in public: You get occasional weird looks. In this case, though, I think the kid watching was actually interested.

Here's the finished product. I'm not exactly sure why I enjoy drawing variations of the archetypal "Gray" alien, but it probably has to do with their iconic simplicity and anthropomorphosized sense of otherness.

I'm thinking of preparing an online sketch diary to help take the place of my old doodle gallery. Watch this space.
Moon Storms

Now a new scientific explanation is gaining traction. "It may be that LTPs are caused by sunlight reflecting off rising plumes of electrostatically lofted lunar dust," Olhoeft suggests.

All this matters to NASA because, by 2018 or so, astronauts are returning to the Moon. Unlike Apollo astronauts, who never experienced lunar sunrise, the next explorers are going to establish a permanent outpost. They'll be there in the morning when the storm sweeps by.

This offers a plausible explanation for some, but by no means all, lunar transient phenomena.
Colloquium on the Law of Transhuman Persons Marks International Human Rights Day

The public is invited to listen and participate in a discussion by legal and artificial intelligence experts on the rights of "transhumans" -- defined by the Terasem Movement as "conscious entities who have or who aspire to have human rights, regardless of being of flesh, electronics or a bioelectronic combination."

Now that sounds like fun!
A couple older items that I missed:

Not finding life? Dig deeper.

A place so barren that NASA uses it as a model for the Martian environment, Chile’s Atacama desert gets rain maybe once a decade. In 2003, scientists reported that the driest Atacama soils were sterile.

Not so, reports a team of Arizona scientists. Bleak though it may be, microbial life lurks beneath the arid surface of the Atacama’s absolute desert. "We found life, we can culture it, and we can extract and look at its DNA," said Raina Maier, a professor of soil, water and environmental science at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The work from her team contradicts last year’s widely reported study that asserted the "Mars-like soils" of the Atacama’s core were the equivalent of the "dry limit of microbial life."

Ex-pollies to look out for ET

Philosophers and former politicians will soon join an elite group of scientists whose job it is to work out how to respond to signals from extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Professor Paul Davies, of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, who heads the group, says a call from ET would raise profound issues that require consideration from more than "a bunch of gung ho scientists".

Thursday, December 08, 2005

You want one too, don't you? I got it here.

(Thanks to Exploding Aardvark.)
I hadn't been to a mall in a long time, so I was overwhelmed by the sheer profusion of merchandise. Fortunately, I made some new friends.

On the other hand, I found myself helpless in the face of sensual temptation . . .

A rush of holiday fever struck today. I hit the mall, where I promptly did a Lynndie next to a rather horrifying animatronic Santa.

"Santa" was surrounded by wheezing pneumatic minions like this one:

Justifiably horrified, I sated myself with pizza and proceeded to hallucinate an alien encounter which, amazingly, the ubiquitous "Elizabeth" managed to capture with her digital camera.

I'm only grateful the saucer-pilot wasn't the notorious Zorgrot . . .