Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sydney Heat Deaths to Soar Due to Climate Change

"This might sound like a doomsday scenario, but it is one that we must control," said New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma in releasing the report on Wednesday.

Australia is already feeling the brunt of global warming with the worst drought in 100 years eating into economic growth.
No Big Bang? Endless Universe Made Possible by New Model

During expansion, dark energy -- the unknown force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate -- pushes and pushes until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps. Everything from black holes to atoms disintegrates. This point, just a fraction of a second before the end of time, is the turnaround.

At the turnaround, each fragmented patch collapses and contracts individually instead of pulling back together in a reversal of the Big Bang. The patches become an infinite number of independent universes that contract and then bounce outward again, reinflating in a manner similar to the Big Bang. One patch becomes our universe.


This model is appealingly organic. Whether it triumphs over Big Bang cosmology or not, my gut feeling is that the Cosmos is effectively a living entity: the Gaia Hypothesis writ large in a tapestry of supernovae, galactic clusters and hard radiation.
Tweaking the Past

Paul Davies opines that the universe might be able to tweak its essential parameters through a different kind of retrocausality. The thinking goes like this: If the laws of physics reside within the physical universe, they can only be as precise as the information content of the universe itself. But that content was smaller just after the Big Bang, perhaps offering an imprecision that later observers could influence. In other words, the universe is exquisitely shaped to produce life because life made it so.
UFOs in Hawaii

On January 26, a pair of UFOs was seen in Hawaii by several people. Witness Peter Hollingworth, who lives in Honolulu, describes his sighting as "these two little fireballs with a stream behind it." He says they "looked kind of like a shooting star but it just kept going. They changed directions a few times, at first it was coming in then it turned, then it went out then it came back in again."
I could do without the cheesy soundtrack, but this footage of the Challenger exploding after liftoff remains haunting even 20 years later.

(Thanks: Everything Is Pointless.)
Justifying an online fan club for actress Kris Lee McBride, film documentarian and stage director Paul Kimball makes the observation that "Mac Tonnies is still single (I just don't get that. Girls, he's a great catch.")

I'm not, of course. Actually, I'm pretty much orthogonal to everything women seem to go for. My experience is that some women find me interesting, but only for short periods of time. I'm a novelty, relatively easy to discard. The Introverted Aspiring Author thing has damned short market appeal.

It doesn't help that I'm not terribly interested in pursuing women. Sex drive is perhaps the ultimate con. While it can lead to wonderful things (or so I'm told), it's essentially a hormonal undertow, faceless and mechanistic. (Try explaining that to a potential mate; if the abject negation of "love" doesn't stem the requisite exchange of cute gifts and romantic tokens it's likely nothing will.)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've pimped Peter Watts a few times. I'm about to do it again -- because, very simply, he's my favorite contemporary SF writer, and his latest, "Blindsight," has the makings of a genuine full-throttle intellectual odyssey. Watts writes with lethal, knowing precision; I want to read passages from the book out loud to strangers, even if that means grabbing them by the throats and smashing their cellphones on the floor to make them listen.
Computer Program Writes Its Own Fiction

MEXICA, is the first program to generate original stories based on computerized representations of emotions and tensions between characters.

I figure this thing has to be better than Michael Crichton.
U.S. university to build 'soft-bodied' robots

The new field will combine biology, bio-engineering and nanotechnology to create a flexible breed of robots capable of performing tasks requiring greater mobility, such as search and rescue missions or repair and maintenance during space exploration missions.

"Our overall goal is to develop systems and devices -- soft-bodied robots -- based on biological materials and on the adaptive mechanisms found in living cells, tissues and whole organisms," said co-director David Kaplan, a professor of biomedical engineering.


All very reminiscent of the "piezoplastic" and "moldies" from Rudy Rucker's "Ware" novels. The future looks bright for pervo fleshers!

OK, futurists -- time to put your money where your mouth is.

More: Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on It?
Mysterious Floating Disc?

Is this a mysterious floating disc in Egypt?

(Via The Anomalist.)

Whatever it is, it looks quite a bit like the infamous Bob Lazar's "sport model" flying saucer.


I just checked Google Earth, which features a new image of the "saucer." Judging from the previously unseen shadow it looks like a water tower. (I didn't really think it was a UFO. No, seriously!)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Has The Military Space Race Begun? (India)

Although India seeks to have a weapon free zone for the cosmos, such a measure is very unlikely given the history of our human race. With India building up its aerospace program, it is only a matter of time until Pakistan, and other middle eastern countries (like Iran) begin establishing themselves in the cosmos.
The Girlfriend Lap Pillow

A creative pillow design which allows one to sleep on the lap of a lady.

Unfortunately, what I need now is a shoulder to cry on.

Thanks to Greg Bishop for turning me on to the multiplex "orange crate" art of Ben Sakoguchi.
13 Pct of Americans not Heard of Global Warming - Report

Thirteen percent of Americans have never heard of global warming even though their country is the world's top source of greenhouse gases, a 46-country survey showed on Monday.

Jesus. Thirteen percent of Americans are blissfully ignorant of the central problem facing the 21st century.

Once again: Jesus!
The suburbs have brought me to the edge of despair; the least I can do for myself is move downtown, heedless of any potential inconvenience, and quit living according to a poorly researched script.

I finally got my hands on a hardcopy of Peter Watts' "Blindsight." Unfortunately, I don't feel quite up to the task of reading it. I'm tired and irritable. I feel the need to grieve, but I'm not sure what I've lost . . .

Then again, the paralysis will lift. It always does. Then I'll be good for another few months of ersatz functionality.

Please pardon the negativity.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Here's a great portrait of the consumer wasteland America has become: Taco Bell's "Fourthmeal" site. What's a "fouthmeal"? Why, it's the meal you eat between dinner and breakfast -- haven't you heard? Man, thirdmeals are so TwenCen!
H5N1 virus found in dead geese in Hungary

The EU Commission has said the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in dead geese in Hungary.

It is the first outbreak of bird flu in the EU this year. Tests were carried out after an abnormally high mortality rate was reported in a flock of over three-thousand geese. All of the remaining flock were killed.


The 20th century image of the astronaut is quickly being replaced with that of the anonymous haz-mat worker. Not only are we on the brink of massive planetary dieback, we're on the cusp of a new mythology with its own rites and symbols.
The joy of apocalypse

Recent announcements by Exxon-Mobil and George Bush indicate that we are now moving out of the climate change denial phase and into the sabotage-and-delay-by-spurious-solution phase (with a good dash of solutions-that-are-worse-than-the-problem like nuclear power and sunlight blocking). It all means that serious catastrophe looks increasingly likely.

Contrary to what you might think from the paragraph above, "The Joy of Apocalypse" is actually a post about hope and tenacity. We'll be needing both.

Global Warming: The vicious circle

In addition to rising surface temperatures around the world, scientists have now linked man-made emissions of greenhouse gases to significant increases in ocean temperatures, rises in sea levels and the dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice over the past 35 years.

A draft copy of the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that global temperature rises this century of between 2C and 4.5C are almost inevitable. Ominously, however, it also says that much higher increases of 6C "or more" cannot be ruled out.
Blog of the day: Inhabitat
In which Rudy Rucker valiantly searches for his lost eyeglasses. With video!

I've lost one pair of glasses in my life -- within moments of wading into the ocean off Cocoa Beach, FL. I had a hotel room of my own (on NASA's budget, no less) so I could "research" for a high-school essay contest. Fortean that I was (and still am), I wrote about the Face on Mars.
I am:
Olaf Stapledon
Standing outside the science fiction "field", he wrote fictional explorations of the futures of whole species and galaxies.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hints of huge water reservoirs on Mars

Either some other process removed the water and CO2 or they are still present and hidden somewhere on Mars, probably underground, Barabash says. "We are talking about huge amounts of water," he told New Scientist. "To store it somewhere requires a really big, huge reservoir."

Barabash is not sure what form this reservoir -- or reservoirs -- would take, but he points to findings from NASA's now lost Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). This data provided evidence that water had gushed down slopes on Mars in recent years, possibly originating from beneath the surface. "So there might be some possibilities for water existing in liquid form even now," he says.

(Via OddThings.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

I've been going through archived posts and vainly adding labels to make this blog more interactive. It's fun to click on a subject and have the screen fill with nothing but what you're interested in. The problem is that it's damned time-consuming; I might tire of it and only add labels to new posts.

Below are a few of the labels I've come up with so far.


I just read this:

If you use a classic template, the labels pages will only display the last 20 posts for each label, with no link to view older posts. If you switch to a Layouts template, you will automatically get "older posts" links to go back through each set of labels.

Damnit. Looks like I might need to redo my template.
Eureka Dejavu (known in meatspace as journalist Rita J. King) interviews Cliff Nakamura (author Cliff Pickover) in Second Life:

Dejavu: What's the best evidence, if any, that this reality we're in currently might actually be a façade? Do you feel there's a chance that this is actually a simulation?

Nakamura: In our own small pocket of the universe, we've already developed computers with the ability to simulate lifelike behaviors using software and mathematical rules. One day we will create thinking beings that live in rich simulated spaces -- in ecosystems as complex and vibrant as an Amazonian rain forest. We'll be able to simulate reality itself, and perhaps more advanced beings are already doing this elsewhere in the universe. Huge supercomputers would have the capacity to simulate not just a tiny fragment of reality, but a substantial fraction of an entire universe.

What if the number of these simulations is larger than the number of universes? Could we be living in such a simulation? Astronomer and philosopher Martin Rees suggests that if the simulations outnumber the universes, "as they would if one universe contained many computers making many simulations," then it is likely that we are artificial life.

R. Crumb and Bigfoot

As far as the popular cultural significance of R. Crumb, all you have to do, if you were part of the 1960s, is remember his images associated with Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat, Keep On Truckin', and Janis Joplin's Cheap Thrills album cover.

(Via Boing Boing.)
Canada worried by plunging caribou population

The caribou population in Canada's vast Northwest Territories is falling rapidly and the increasingly warm climate could slow the animals' chances of recovery, a wildlife specialist said on Friday.

Herds of barren-ground caribou -- which for centuries have been a crucial source of food and furs for local aboriginals -- have dropped by between 40 and 86 percent over the last 10 years. The largest single herd fell from 472,000 animals in 1986 to 128,000 in 2006 and is still declining.

Fish virus spreading in Great Lakes.

A fast-spreading aquatic virus that threatens the Great Lakes fishing industry has been detected in Lake Huron for the first time, Michigan officials said Thursday.

The Department of Natural Resources said it had confirmed the presence of viral hemorrhagic septicema, or VHS, in fish samples from waters as far north as Cheboygan -- only about 15 miles from where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan.

(Thanks to Nick Redfern, who essentially shares my opinion about the prospects for our biosphere's future.)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

NASA to Slam Rocket into the Moon (on Purpose)!

The EDUS is essentially the size of a large sport utility vehicle (SUV) and will impact the Moon at over 5,600 miles per hour! This event will excavate a new crater on the Moon the size of 1/3 of a football field and 16 feet deep. The impact will cause an explosion of material from the crater's surface to create a plume above the lunar surface (reaching to altitudes of over 30 miles) with enough material to fill the space shuttle cargo bay 10 times!

The Lunarians aren't going to like this one bit!

Only one thing about the new Blogger that promises to be really annoying: it randomly inserts cheesecake photos.
Deadly H5N1 may be brewing in cats

Bird flu hasn't gone away. The discovery, announced last week, that the H5N1 bird flu virus is widespread in cats in locations across Indonesia has refocused attention on the danger that the deadly virus could be mutating into a form that can infect humans far more easily.
Meanwhile . . .

Dangerous Accident in a Bird Flu Lab

Last April, a researcher at a lab at the University of Texas in Austin who was doing experiments mixing human and bird flu viruses, has an accident involving a centrifuge that caused a cap to come off a test tube, which could have spilled a human flu virus which had been modified to carry a gene from H5N1 bird flu.

Posthuman Blues has (finally) been raptured into Blogger's new incarnation. As far as I can tell, everything looks OK (knock virtual wood). Let me know if you encounter any problems.
Monorails crafted from discarded airliners. No kidding.
I've been staring into the Abyss. It's been glaring back at me and talking trash.

Climate Change Seen Fanning Conflict and Terrorism

Global warming could exacerbate the world's rich-poor divide and help to radicalise populations and fan terrorism in the countries worst affected, security and climate experts said on Wednesday.

Well, duh.
Blog of the day: Entheogenic Reformation

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

If you have an hour to spare (and who doesn't?), I heartily recommend spending it listening to Terence McKenna explain the shamanic potential of the UFO phenomenon.

McKenna's take is eloquent and eminently topical: we have outgrown our planet, and we're being ushered into a new stage of evolution that's dependent on a new understanding of and appreciation for the human imagination.

The alternative? Nothing short of pathology and extinction.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder . . .

UFO Zombies

Now, skeptics and debunkers will say that the rising image of the zombie within alien abduction account is merely a reflection of a fear that we really are becoming a form of zombie: one obsessed by TV, food, and not much else. Those same skeptics and debunkers might also say that the introduction of a "virus angle" to the abduction controversy is borne out of a very real fear (conscious and unconscious) of a post-911 bio-attack by terrrorists. And those skeptics and debunkers may be right.

But, this situation is increasing. Are we seeing a new trend in abductions that is directly borne out of fears relating to the way in which our world is changing? Or, are the abductees seeing a glimpse of a dark, strange future that awaits us all? Most might say the former. Some will say the latter. I say: wait and see. Part of me secretly and weirdly hopes it really might be the latter.
China Confirms Test of Anti-Satellite Weapon

The Chinese government confirmed today that it had conducted a successful test of a new anti-satellite weapon, but said it had no intention of participating in a "space race."

The confirmation, made at a regular press briefing of the foreign ministry, came 12 days after China used a medium-range ballistic missile to destroy its own weather satellite 535 miles above the earth. Several nations, including the United States, Japan, Britain and Australia, had pressed Beijing to explain the test, apparently the first successful destruction of a satellite in orbit for more than 20 years.

(Via Variable Gravitas Content.)
Exciting New Global Pandemic Promises Universal Doom

Wait a minute -- a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis that kills people in TWO WEEKS? How can that possibly be true? I can't even get through my blogroll in two weeks! This is sci-fi disaster-catastrophe territory: ninety-eight percent of us will be dead by 2008 and the survivors will be coughing up chunks of lung as we thumb through vintage paperbacks of George Stewart's EARTH ABIDES....
Stay Healthy: Drink Coffee!

Nutritionist Roger A. Clemens says, "Many negative health myths about coffee drinking may now be transformed into validated health benefits. Scientific evidence now suggests that moderate coffee consumption -- 3 to 5 cups a day -- may be associated with reduced risks of certain disease conditions." These include Alzheimer's disease, kidney stones and depression.

Bottoms up!
More dead birds!

Boy's screaming kills chickens, for crying out loud

A court ruled the boy's screaming was "the only unexpected abnormal sound" and that 443 chickens trampled each other to death in fear.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


What is the self? How does the activity of neurons give rise to the sense of being a conscious human being? Even this most ancient of philosophical problems, I believe, will yield to the methods of empirical science. It now seems increasingly likely that the self is not a holistic property of the entire brain; it arises from the activity of specific sets of interlinked brain circuits. But we need to know which circuits are critically involved and what their functions might be. It is the "turning inward" aspect of the self -- its recursiveness -- that gives it its peculiar paradoxical quality.


Martha Stewart Makes Orbital Call to ISS Crew

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) sought a few pointers from domestic diva Martha Stewart Monday on how best to make their orbital laboratory a bit more like home.

Good god -- are they trying to make space exploration seem banal and uninteresting?

And why am I suddenly envisioning Oprah bedecked in a custom-tailored designer spacesuit?
OK, this is starting to creep me out . . .

200 more dead birds found

Another 200 dead birds have been found in WA, taking the total number to die in mysterious circumstances in the state to 4000.

[. . .]

Investigations into the mysterious death of thousands of birds in have been widened, with toxins now considered a possible cause.

Autopsies have ruled out viral and bacteriological causes.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Here are three good songs with cool videos. One of them contains a sample from "Blade Runner." Can you find it?

"Hyperballad" (Bjork):

"Pyramid Song" (Radiohead):

"Aftermath" (Tricky):

I do listen to non-Morrissey music, you know. Some of the time.
E-mail from the grave? Microsoft seeks patent on 'immortal computing'

"Maybe we should start thinking as a civilization about creating our Rosetta stones now, along with lots of information, even going beyond personal memories into civilization memories," said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft principal researcher who also is working on the project.

(Via Reality Carnival.)
If we're dealing with aliens -- regardless whether or not they originate in space or on Earth -- maybe their clumsy, oblique interactions with us can be explained if they're endowed with intelligence but devoid of sentience. They could have taken an evolutionary route that bypassed awareness entirely, or they could have achieved a form of sentience only to lose it, perhaps by recklessly merging with their machines.

"Ufonauts" are often described as behaving in a military or insect-like manner, even moving in lockstep. Maybe they're interested in us because we're aware in a way they aren't, and they're determined to acquire our capacity for self-reflective thought in order to communicate with us. In essence, our interaction with the UFO intelligence could be a dialogue with a complex but myopic machine. Maybe "they" have never encountered a species like us and are genuinely baffled -- insofar as a distributed computer can be "baffled."

Ardent Singularitarians will doubtlessly point out that our brains are effectively distributed computers, in which case the aliens, if they're here, should possess sentience even if mechanical. But a sophisticated intelligence doesn't necessarily need to be aware of itself to perform a task. If we're observing beings created by someone or something else, sentience might have been deliberately excluded from their repertoire for fear of losing control of a useful tool.

Our visitors seem both wildly sophisticated and limitlessly stupid. If they're collectively lacking what we commonly term "spirit," it might be possible to resolve this seeming paradox.
Before going to see the movie, I stopped by the library to pick up an inter-library loan copy of Cliff Pickover's "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves." (When I ordered it, the librarian -- a large woman with what looked like open sores stippling her forearms -- thought I had requested "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elvis" . . .) The bad news is that due to evident demand for the book in the inter-library system, I only get to keep it a few days and have virtually no chance to finish it.

Fortunately I also picked up "Schild's Ladder" by Greg Egan, which I'll begin as soon as I finish Elizabeth Bear's "Hammered."
I just saw "Children of Men," the first movie I've seen on the big screen in a year. It was worth the wait; "Children" (based on a novel by British mystery writer P.D. James, which I read back in college) has the texture of prophecy. It depicts a future that's already upon us in more ways than one, from environmental decay to Orwellian politics -- and it moves with a mesmerizing grace that beckons you into its world in a way unseen since "Blade Runner." Eerie and wrenching, "Children of Men" begs -- and earns -- your attention.
Nick Redfern senses something afoot in the technosocial zeitgeist. Can't say I blame him.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Project Grizzly Armor For Military Use

Canadian inventor Troy Hurtubise has finally revealed his latest suit of full body armor. "After two years and $15,000 in the lab out back of his house in North Bay, designing and building a practical, lightweight and affordable shell to stave off bullets, explosives, knives and clubs. He calls it the Trojan and describes it as the "first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armor."

The "Trojan"? Cute.
Neural 'extension cord' developed for brain implants

A "data cable" made from stretched nerve cells could someday help connect computers to the human nervous system. The modified cells should form better connections with human tissue than the metal electrodes currently used for purposes such as remotely controlling prosthetics.

I won't be happy until my central nervous system is "plug and play."

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Neurobiology of Sensitivity? Sentience as the Foundation for Unusual Conscious Perception

Evidence is steadily accruing across the sciences that certain individuals are, from birth onward, disposed to a number of conditions, illnesses, and perceptions that, in novelty as well as intensity, distinguish them from the general population. If this is indeed the case, anomalous experience may have a bona fide neurobiological basis that (finally) makes it accessible to scientific inquiry.

(Via The Anomalist.)

This article inadvertently poses some disturbing questions about the role of consciousness in a world out of balance. I would argue that some so-called "psychic" abilities are a symptom of the human species adapting to new evolutionary pressures.

I also find it noteworthy that of the eight candidate criteria proposed by the author, I easily fulfill four (being a first-born or only child, being single, appraising oneself as imaginative, and appraising oneself as introverted) and arguably another (maintaining that one affects -- or is affected by -- lights, computers, and other electrical appliances in an unusual way).
A classic scene from Terry Gilliam's "Brazil":

Superstorms, Aliens and the Bomb (Whitley Strieber)

Over the past few months, the number of UFO events in Iran has reached a completely unprecedented level. There have been a few UFO flaps as intense: the Scandinavian "Ghost Rocket" incidents in 1946, the great American UFO wave from the July 1947 Roswell Incident to the July, 1952 Washington overflights, the Belgian events of 1989-1990 are other equally intense flaps.

UFOs began to appear in numbers after the end of World War II, when atomic weapons came into use. It is possible that the danger of nulear war in Iran has attracted them to that area, as well.

Strieber muses that the "visitors" are attempting to preserve the human species so that we may eventually be deemed fit to join the interstellar "club" -- a scenario that neatly precludes the possibility of open contact (a la the infamous "White House lawn" quip). In other words, emerging into the spotlight would destabilize human society and make us less valuable. If true, then Strieber's aliens can hardly be termed altruistic. (Strieber's speculation that the visitors might choose to take sides in the event of a global nuclear war -- for reasons that have nothing to do with political ideology -- also rings strangely plausible.)
I'm snowed in again. Fortunately I had an interview scheduled with Tim Binnall, which was a fun way to kill three hours. I think the show will be good.

Friday, January 19, 2007

My editor at Paraview got the scoop on the missing "After the Martian Apocalypse" enigma from Simon & Schuster. Evidently the book's first (and thus far only) print run has indeed sold out, making it a genuine Collector's Item. However, S&S maintains (quite unconvincingly) that since the book is still widely available in electronic format it isn't technically out of print.

A second printing isn't impossible, but S&S won't even consider committing unless they're aware of a demand. So if you want a tree-based copy, send me an email at If enough readers get in touch, I'll forward a list to Paraview, who will in turn approach S&S . . . and maybe "ATMA" will return, phoenix-like, to bookshelves. (In an ideal universe I could even make some revisions and add a chapter or two to encompass the Mars Exploration Rovers, which had already landed when "ATMA" went to press . . .)
I had my hair cut tonight. The stylist held a mirror behind my head so I could see if I liked the result . . . and that's when I saw it. It's not a bald spot -- yet -- but my hair is beginning to thin out. Of course, I knew perfectly well this was coming; the issue now is what I do about it.

I figure I probably have another five years left, give or take. Nevertheless, I once made a pact with myself that if I started visibly losing hair I'd deal with it sensibly, like Michael Stipe. But now, confronted with irrevocable evidence of incipient hair loss, I'm waffling. After all, maybe I'm being too rash. It's not that bad . . .

Damn it.
Sex-change chemicals in Potomac

You know you want to read this one . . .
Climate Future Results Show Sweltering Britain

Britain will regularly be crippled by heatwaves and floods this century, the first results of the world's biggest climate prediction experiment show.
New Horizons Bearing Down on Jupiter

New Horizons will reach Jupiter on February 28, 2007, passing as close as 2.3 million km away from the planet's centre. Jupiter’s gravity will accelerate New Horizons towards Pluto, giving it an additional 14,500 km/h velocity. The stage will then be set for New Horizons to reach Pluto in 2015.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Concern as revived 1918 flu virus kills monkeys

The 1918 influenza virus, which killed some 50 million people worldwide, has proved fatal to macaques infected in a laboratory, causing the monkeys' immune systems to go into overdrive, causing immune proteins to be expressed at abnormally high levels and attack the body.

The study follows Nature's controversial publication of the virus's sequence in 2005, alongside a paper in Science that described the recreation of the virus from a corpse and its potency in mice.
Stephen Hawking in Space

In the Independent, Steve Connor quotes Hawking as saying that he has "concluded the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons. The effects may be less dramatic in the short term than the destruction that could be wrought by nuclear explosions, but over the next three to four decades climate change could cause drastic harm." The Daily Telegraph quotes Hawking, who is 65 and in a wheelchair, as saying, "This year I'm planning a zero-gravity flight and to go into space in 2009."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

UFO Observed in Western Iran

Witnesses told FNA that the object has been observed for one complete hour while moving southwards.

In a similar incident last Wednesday, an Unidentified Flying Object crashed in Barrez Mounts in the central province of Kerman.

Deputy Governor General of Kerman province Abulghassem Nasrollahi told FNA that the crash, which was followed by an explosion and a thick spiral of smoke, has caused no casualties or damage to properties.

He further denied earlier reports that the explosion has been the result of a plane or chopper crash, reminding that all the passing aircrafts have been reported as sound and safe.

Make of this what you will. My money's on covert military operations.
The case of the missing Mars books continues! Here's an excerpt from an email I received today:

I too noticed the lack of AFTER THE MARTIAN APOCALYPSE copies around. Infact, I had mine STOLEN not too long ago. Seriously. I lent it to my cousin who was heading to atlanta. According to her, after she picked up her bags she noticed one of them had been opened. She later examined her contents and didnt notice anything missing. It took her 2 days to realize my book was gone!

"After the Martian Apocalypse" confiscated by Homeland Security?
New Documentary Examines NESARA Conspiracy Theory

"Waiting For NESARA" - a new documentary about a group of ex-Mormons awaiting the announcement of a secret law which they believe will abolish the IRS, remove George Bush from office, expose him as a reptilian alien, and install a UFO-flying Jesus Christ as America's new leader - was released on DVD today.

Zeb and Elisa Haradon, the filmmakers, found the group holding weekly meetings in the back room of a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Salt Lake City a few months after September 11th, 2001. Like many people, the group was seeking an explanation for what had happened on that day. Calling themselves The Open Mind Forum, the group was claiming that President Bush had staged the attacks himself because a new secret law called "NESARA" was scheduled to be announced that day, and he used the attacks as a diversion to delay its announcement.

(Via UFOMystic.)
These kittens look like they just stepped off a flying saucer . . .

Check out this gorgeous photo of Tokyo. (And yes, that's the music from "Blade Runner" you're hearing in your head.)

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Beluga Whales Faltering in Alaskan Waters

Beluga whales were once so thick in the waters along Alaska's biggest city that boaters had to take care to avoid bumping them.

But now Cook Inlet's population of small white whales, beloved by locals and tourists, may be headed for extinction, according to a report from government biologists last week.
Come on, America! Let's put a Geostationary Banana Over Texas!

(Thanks to Cosmic Variance.)

DMT and Extraterrestrial Communication

It was McKenna who first clued me in about the existence of "self-transforming machine elves", or "tykes" -- the entities that DMT users come into contact with during their trip. This is the central mystery of the DMT experience -- what are these entities and are they, in any sense, real?
Skull suggests human-Neanderthal link

A skull found in a cave in Romania includes features of both modern humans and Neanderthals, possibly suggesting that the two may have interbred thousands of years ago.

Neanderthals were replaced by early modern humans. Researchers have long debated whether the two groups mixed together, though most doubt it. The last evidence for Neanderthals dates from at least 24,000 years ago.

Scientists Prepare to Move Doomsday Clock Forward

The keepers of the "Doomsday Clock" plan to move its hands forward next Wednesday to reflect what they call worsening nuclear and climate threats to the world.

The symbolic clock, maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, currently is set at seven minutes to midnight, with midnight marking global catastrophe.

The group did not say in which direction the hands would move. But in a news release previewing an event next Wednesday, they said the change was based on "worsening nuclear, climate threats" to the world.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where's Linda Moulton-Howe when you need her?
Library Update: Brainsturbator UFOlogy Collection

Humans are wired for pattern recognition -- it's a great skill, but if you can't control it, it becomes a handicap.
Alanis Morissette's Ironic Ironically Made Ironic

In a similar fashion to the way that even most professional writers I know have no idea when to use "whom" over "who" (leaving this matter of grammar entirely to the whim of their drunk editors) I'm pretty sure almost no one has a really good idea of what 'irony' actually is. Which is why it really is ironic (I'm guessing) that Alanis Morissette has defined the word for an entire generation of English speakers by getting the entire concept so completely, self-evidently wrong.
Brain worms in Texas

The infection is caused by tapeworm larvae that form cysts within the body and can eventually move their way into the brain and spinal cord, resulting in neurocysticerosis.

However, there's an even more insidious strain that's managed to infiltrate the vast majority of the United States population. Symptoms include inordinate fascination with television, craving for fast food, chronic cellphone use, the urge to adorn automobiles with patriotic magnets, rampant consumerism, denial of global warming and/or evolution, enchantment with professional athletics, impaired driving ability, interest in "Left Behind" merchandise, and fixation with celebrity gossip.

Centers for Disease Control officials urge calm.

My Mars book is still missing. Copies are selling for outrageous prices. It's tempting to wax conspiratorial and wonder if it was purged by NASA goons -- or perhaps the Martians themselves.

If copies become available for normal prices I'll let you know. In the meantime, Google Books has scanned a copy for free perusal.
Hobbit like humans show Indonesia was "middle earth"

The book details the existence of an ancient group of people, "a previously unsuspected, tiny species of human living on a remote island in east Indonesia, and overlapping considerably in time with us," and explains the modern day politics that have surrounded the breakthrough.

Imagine how shocking it would be to learn that we still coexist with a "tiny species of human." Moreover, imagine that they're every bit as smart as we are and quite determined to pass undetected.

(Tip of the frontal lobe to Reality Carnival.)

What do people think are the reasons why no effective action has been taken to restrain climate change? We are certainly monitoring and calibrating our species extinction with respectable thoroughness. But we are less dedicated in our solutions. Neither the option of keeping fossil fuels in the ground nor the very concept social change are mentioned in polite society, for example.

Is it merely coincidence, for example, that science fiction has long been neglected by the literary establishment for being "juvenile"?
Largest cylindrical aquarium ever built

Placed at the lobby of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Berlin, Germany, the 14 meters high AquaDom is the largest cylindrical aquarium ever built. Filled with about 900,000 liters of seawater, it contains some 2600 fish of 56 species. Guests and visitors are able to travel through the aquarium with a built-in transparent elevator to reach a sightseeing point and restaurant under the glass roof.

Mentally, I'm "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing over this.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Will the Petri dish put Daisy out to grass?

The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.

Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors -- Churchill's "suitable medium". The cells are poured on to a "scaffold" and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.

The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a "meat-sheet" and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Why "stomach-turning"? This sounds much more appetizing to me than eating the corpses of brutalized animals.
State of Existential Risk in 2007

An existential risk is a global catastrophic risk that threatens to exterminate humanity or severely curtail its potential. Existential risks are unique because current institutions have little incentive to mitigate them, except as a side effect of pursuing other goals. There is little to no financial return in mitigating existential risk. Bostrom (2001) argues that because reductions in existential risks are global public goods, they may be undervalued by the market. Also, because we have never confronted a major existential risk before, we have little to learn from, and little impetus to be afraid.
Someone's finally posted an uncut version of Morrissey's "I've Changed My Plea To Guilty" to YouTube. I've always liked this one.

Science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer makes an interesting discovery:

The bottom of Taylor's starship revealed (Planet of the Apes)

I've never seen the image above anywhere else, and so I thought I'd share it here. Where's it from, you ask? Actor Roddy McDowall's home movies of the making of the original Planet of the Apes, from 1967, included on disk number two of the Ultimate Planet of the Apes collection Fox released in an ape-head case earlier this year. Not that the spaceship -- which fans have dubbed Icarus, although that name isn't canonical -- is pointed out in the home movies; it isn't and McDowall doesn't seem to notice it himself.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Indians reach for the Sanskrit to give their own astronaut a name

Russia has its cosmonauts, America its astronauts and China, since 2003, its "taikonauts". Could "gaganauts" be next?

India is searching for a Sanskrit-based word for a spaceman as its top scientists draw up plans for the country's first manned mission into the cosmos.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Worth quoting in its entirety:


If an extraterrestrial civilization's technology is sufficiently advanced, we won't mistake it for magic. Their technology - if it's even meaningful to call it that - will be so far beyond our threshold of comprehension that we won't recognize it at all, anymore than a gorilla notices a 747 jet, or a communications satellite passing overhead. That's one possible answer to the Fermi Paradox that appeals to me because it's the most insulting to our intellectual pride.

Of course, gorillas probably do notice 747s, at least when they're sufficiently noisy. It's possible they assume jet aircraft are some form of natural phenomenon, just as many humans have convinced themselves even the most bizarre unidentified flying objects must be explainable in atmospheric or psychological terms.
Microbe experiment suggests we could all be Martians

To their surprise, the scientists found the lichen and bacterial spores survived all but the most cataclysmic impacts up to 45 billion pascals. The cyanobacteria survived shocks of up to 10 billion pascals.

The findings support the theory of "lithopanspermia", which suggests life may be spread from one planet to another aboard lumps of rock that are knocked off the surface.

Writing in the journal Icarus, the scientists state: "These results strongly confirm the possibility of a 'direct transfer' scenario of 'lithopanspermia' for the route from Mars to Earth, or from any Mars-like planet to other habitable planets in the same stellar system."

(Via The Anomalist.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Blogger continues to taunt me. My "dashboard" now greets me with "Your new version of Blogger is ready!" But if I attempt to have Posthuman Blues "raptured" into the new version I get a message informing me that I have too many posts and will have to continue waiting.

Surely there's a support group . . .
Not only has "After the Martian Apocalypse" gone missing from, it seems to be effectively AWOL across the board. E-book editions are available in abundance, but the "real" book has more or less vanished. Barnes & Noble doesn't even stock it in their warehouses anymore.

I know there are copies out there. Probably lots of them. And I know for a fact that there's at least some demand for it -- which might explain why Amazon's sole used copy is going for the absurd price of nearly $80. (I received an email this morning from a reader who wants to buy a copy but can't. Needless to say, this is frustrating for both of us.)

Anyway, I'm making inquiries.
I was just listening to some of last night's "'X'-Zone" and was horrified to hear my voice fading in and out. At times I go almost totally silent.

Yes, my thoughts wander; it probably wouldn't have been my best showing even had the reception cooperated. But I shouldn't have sounded this bad.
Mars probe may have spotted lost rover

The most powerful camera ever sent into orbit around Mars has spotted yet another lander lying lifeless on its surface: Mars Pathfinder, which operated for three months in 1997. It may also have found the mission's tiny rover, Sojourner, which appears to have crawled towards Pathfinder after the lander had already died.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Bizarre New Form of Life Found in Arctic Ocean, Scientists Announce

"These organisms represent a new evolutionary lineage," said team member Fabrice Not. Not is a marine biologist at the Institut de Ciències del Mar, a part of Spain's National Research Council.

[. . .]

"In fact, the divergence of this group from known organisms is as great as the difference between land plants and animals," Connie Lovejoy, a biologist at Universit Laval in Canada and another member of the research team, said in a statement.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January 14-20 is Slow Down Week. Please put away your cellphones. Thank you.
Ghostly Grays (Nick Redfern)

If the natural state of existence of this intelligence is in the form of a "not completely understood" ball of light, and if they possess perhaps even high-intellect rather than just a rudimentary degree of self-awareness, is it not possible that they might deliberately and consciously affect the human temporal-lobe area to induce alien abduction-style accounts as a means of trying to have some form of one-to-one communication with us in a fashion that we can at least begin to understand? If so, perhaps they are picking up on our cultural beliefs concerning aliens and are manifesting - albeit purely inwardly to the participant - in the guise that we expect them to: namely that of the big-eyed, large-headed alien.

Nick's thinking on this aspect of the close encounter mystery is refreshingly astute, offering nothing less than a neurological paradigm for understanding perceived contact with nonhumans.

Here's an excerpt from a 2004 Posthuman Blues post expounding similar ideas:

I have this vague theory that human consciousness is being somehow altered by the proliferation of wireless technology. UFOs might be part of it; perceived aliens might be another aspect. Remember that the modern UFO era began shortly after the widespread use of radar. If we inhabit a "superspectrum" of co-existing terrestrial intelligences, as suggested by John Keel, then our EM leakage may have disturbed the pecking order. (When "aliens" warn us of the dangers of nuclear weapons they may be quite sincerely concerned, although for purely selfish reasons.)

Meanwhile, we're busily -- heedlessly -- wrapping our planet in a veritable fog of EM pollution. Cellphone towers, for example. How much do we really know about the long-term effects of cellphone transmissions? In any case, it's probably too late; we're marinated in a flickering stew of pointless dialogue. (Victorian factory workers obliviously breathing lungfuls of soot . . .)

We could be hastening a new ecology -- call it the "electrosphere," although surely someone's beaten me to the term -- that interacts with the conventional biosphere in potentially strange -- even psychedelic -- ways. Albert Budden ("UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters -- The Electromagnetic Indictment") has made similar cautionary remarks . . . and seems to have been carefully ignored.

Whitley Strieber sums up one of my own lurking suspicions. In the process, he casts light on the nature of the "cryptoterrestrial" civilization I suspect shares the planet with us:

Strange Days

I think our ancestors had what I like to call 'exquisite instincts.' I do not think that their civilization was technologically prolific like ours is, or we would see more debris than a few batteries and some exquisitely fashioned gear mechanisms.

Think, if you went forward a few thousand years and looked at the debris we had left behind. There would be rusting 747s, reefs of styrofoam cups, the remains of buildings, roads and bridges all over the planet.

That's not what we see from the distant past. What we see are a few fabulously engineered monuments and a number of inexplicable objects such as the Baghdad battery and the mysteriously hollowed out diorite jars of the Egyptians.

I suspect, though, that they were indeed more advanced than we are. They would, perhaps, not have been able to tell you the math behind what they were building, or show you a plan, but that was because their intelligence, which was at least as great as ours, was still rooted in their natural being, not resident exclusively in their reason.

To have a future, we must regain exactly that about our own past selves. We must re-awaken our exquisite instincts, the ones we are so out of touch with that we don't even realize that they exist.
Robert Anton Wilson (RIP)

Robert Anton Wilson--philosopher, author, visionary, Discordian, Fortean, and bOING bOING patron saint--died early this morning.

We knew it was coming. Just last night I considered posting a "farewell" message to his blog.

Watching this video only increases my appreciation for Spook and Ebe (pictured below).

(Thanks to Pink Tentacle).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Congratulations to R.E.M. for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! With the exception of The Smiths, I can't think of another band that's had such a behind-the-scenes influence on my life. (Strangely, I've only seen them in concert twice -- once on their 1995 "Monster" tour and again in 2003, as reported here.)
As of this writing, has one (used) copy of "After the Martian Apocalypse" in stock. It's going for $77.56! I don't know what make of this. Maybe the vender is really reluctant to part with his copy . . .

(Thanks, Steve!)
Defense Workers Warned About Spy Coins

Can the coins jingling in your pocket trace your movements? The Defense Department is warning its American contractor employees about a new espionage threat seemingly straight from Hollywood: It discovered Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

Canada! Ah-ha!
Meanwhile, in meatspace . . .

My neighbors have been given their eviction notice. From what I've gleaned from the apartment manager, they have a court date this month but seem to have no desire to get packing. Apparently they've managed to work their way into an interesting legal cul-de-sac: since they presumably realize their days are numbered, they know they can get away with anything. So the midnight "house parties" continue unabated. Police come and go to no avail. All is noise.

The manager, perhaps sensing the absurdity, promises me they'll be gone soon. I'm not sure I can bring myself to believe it.
Graciously pimping tomorrow night's appearance on "The 'X'-Zone," Nick Redfern comments:

I consider Mac Tonnies to be one of the few cutting-edge researchers of today.

As well he should. He knows I give away free coffee.
Blog of the day: Resilience Science
2006: USA's Warmest Year On Record

NOAA's National Climate Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the United States. The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was slightly higher than the record set in 1998. Seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, including December, which ended as the fourth warmest December since records began in 1895 and the hottest December in the history of Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Dead birds showering Western Australia town

Over the last month, thousands of dead birds have rained down on Esperance, Australia and nobody knows why. Quite a few species--including wattle birds, yellow-throated miners, new holland honeyeaters, crows, hawks, and pigeons--have all turned up by the dozens dead in residents' yards.

This can't be good . . .

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nick Redfern hates aliens. Specifically, he deplores the disturbingly widespread belief that extraterrestrials are here to save us from ourselves in a gesture of galactic philanthropy.

And it would certainly seem he's backed by the evidence -- or, rather, the lack of it. Despite the persistent presence of unusual objects in our skies, we have yet to receive an ultimatum a la "The Day the Earth Stood Still." While UFOs have displayed apparent interest in military and nuclear facilities, a mass landing doesn't appear forthcoming. Whoever "they" might be, they're not the altruists we might wish they were.

Redfern's essay addresses hypothetical interstellar visitors in the context of the so-called "contemporary" UFO era, which began in 1947. On the other hand, a widescreen perspective reveals just how deeply the prospect of nonhuman contact has permeated our culture, perhaps predating history.

If an alien intelligence is accountable for even a small degree of our collective preoccupation with the "other," it's conceivable that we have, in fact, established a dialogue of sorts. Maybe we're being taught a new mythological syntax so that, confronted with the specter of planetary disaster, we'll have the means of rising to the challenge.

I'm not suggesting we'll be saved at the last minute in some alien Rapture. But the UFO phenomenon's symbolic importance shouldn't go unrecognized. Perhaps, as Carl Jung mused, UFOs signal a change in the collective unconscious. The UFO intelligence might be attempting to hasten that change, if only for ultimately selfish reasons. It might be devastatingly lonely and need us to keep from withering away in the long interstellar night. Or the truth could be more immediate: just because we might be someone else's property, an idea espoused by Charles Fort, doesn't mean we're not valuable property.

In almost any scenario, the sort of peaceable contact foreseen by the contactees of the 1950s is extraordinarily unlikely. The evidence indicates that life on Earth will become increasingly severe; we may or may not survive intact. But it's just conceivable that someone or something hopes we make it.

A New Meme: We All Know UFO Really Means Aliens From Outer Space

This article deliciously exposes the semantic war waged by pseudoskeptics who seem to think ignoring the UFO phenomenon will make it go away.
Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.
Warming Could Spur 'Evolution Explosion' - Study

Fast-growing weeds have evolved over a few generations to adapt to climate change, which could signal the start of an "evolution explosion" in response to global warming, scientists reported on Monday.

Blog of the day: Colony Worlds

Monday, January 08, 2007

'Plutoed' chosen as '06 Word of the Year

Pluto is finally getting some respect -- not from astronomers, but from wordsmiths.

"Plutoed" was chosen 2006's Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society at its annual meeting Friday.

To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

So what does it mean if you "Uranus" somebody?
Astronomers seek out alien TV

At present, efforts to find extraterrestrial life are concentrated on searching for messages deliberately beamed across space, which would miss a civilisation that does not advertise its existence as the Earth does.

The beams would search for electromagnetic signals used on Earth for radio broadcasts, television and radar.

David Aguilar, the centre's director of communications, said: "We may pick up spurious signals from people that never meant for us to hear them and get an inkling that something's going on."

(Via Aberrant News.)

A Defense Against Planetary Attack

Not comets or asteroids this time, folks. No, we're talking about the mother of all "existential risks" -- aliens, man!

So when this group tackles extraterrestrial invasion, they do it soberly, with a hard look at strategies, tactics, and weapons that might be used if the longshot scenarios of some science fiction authors -- or even B-grade movie directors -- ever become reality.
Robot Mother For South Korea

Kyunghee University Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea has began using a life-sized robot replica of a pregnant woman to give obstetric students hands-on experience with childbirth.

David Cronenberg meets RealDoll. You've got to see this thing.
I realize Keats' idea is intended as social commentary, but I can't help but feel he's onto something with legitimate commercial applications . . .

Since the beginning of time, pure silence has been available only in the vacuum of space. Now conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has digitally generated a span of silence, four minutes and thirty-three seconds in length, portable enough to be carried on a cellphone. His silent ringtone, freely distributed through special arrangement with Start Mobile, is expected to bring quiet to the lives of millions of cellphone users, as well as those close to them.
Scientist: NASA found life on Mars -- and killed it

Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the Red Planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing.

The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn't recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm making some modifications to A lot of the accumulated "link salad" seemed unbecoming for a blog era-website, so I've begun stripping it down and hopefully making it more accessible. I even considered doing something radical and changing the template (such as it is) but decided to leave well enough alone. Besides, the black-and-white format has a certain clunky dignity.

I've already made a few incremental alterations. I'll be making more. If any seasoned Web designers have any wisdom to share, bring it on.

Just a note that on Thurs., Jan. 11th, I'll appear (again!) on fellow Zorgy Award winner Rob McConnell's "The 'X'-Zone."

I'm billed to discuss "subversive ideas" and "bleeding-edge science." (It says so on the 'X'-Zone website.)

Someone better actually drink those lattes. Otherwise the waste of espresso is quite unconscionable.

(Found at Neatorama.)

At some point in the last 6 or 7 months, I realized that the signal to noise ratio of internet information isn't acceptable to me anymore. But I'm not arrogant enough to believe that my definition of what constitutes signal and noise should be anyone else's. What I need is an intelligent adaptive filter. It doesn't really need to be self-aware of course, though if AI is going to arise, that's one of the areas I'd expect it to be born. For now, an intelligent internet agent just needs to be smart enough to know my personal preferences, filter the entire internet in accordance with those tastes, and keep pace with me as my tastes evolve over time. What could be simpler?

I'm totally down with this.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dark Restaurant: Where one eats in total darkness

The first dark restaurant in Asia is officially opened on the 23 December 2006. This restaurant, located in Beijing, China, has its interior painted completely in black. Customers are greeted by a brightly lit entrance hall and will be escorted by waiters wearing night vision goggles into the pitch dark dining room to help them find their seats. Flashlights, mobile phones and even luminous watches are prohibited while in this area.

A restaurant with no cellphones? That's it -- I'm off to Beijing!
Army mistakenly asks deceased to re-enlist

"Unfortunately, the database used to address those letters contained names of officers who were killed in action or wounded," the Army said. "Army personnel officials are contacting those officers' families now to personally apologize for erroneously sending the letters."
UAVs And The Flatwoods Monster

Commenter Bill Hancock pointed out the similarities of the "Guardian" UAV in my last post to recently re-rendered paintings of the famous Flatwoods (WV) Monster. I checked, and damned if it doesn't look like a UAV staring out at us from fifty years ago. What are we to make of this?

Good catch!
Amazon boss shows off spacecraft

The billionaire founder of has released the first images of the launch of a private spacecraft that could bring space travel to the masses.

A video of the cone-shaped Goddard vehicle shows it climbing to about 85m (285ft) before returning back to Earth.

The test launch took place in November 2006 in a remote part of Texas, but details have only now been released.

The images mark the first time Jeff Bezos has broken his silence on the work of his space company, Blue Origin.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Here's Whitley Strieber interviewed by Larry King in the late 1980s:

Fast forward almost twenty years to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson":

Finally, here's a clip from the underrated film version of Strieber's "Communion":

Almost the entirety of the single best part of Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds":

A scene from "The Quiet Earth," a gem you may have missed:

The beginning of the new year has slammed home just how unsatisfied I am living in Independence, Missouri. Not only am I miserable, I have nothing to keep me here aside from an increasingly tedious part-time job. So I'm seriously considering a move. I can't just "leave," as some have suggested: I need income, health insurance, some realistic hope of a better (read: tolerable) life.

Assuming I move, I might as well do it right; just because I need to make a grounded decision doesn't mean I can't make an adventure out of it. I'm considering Canada. From what (admittedly little) I've seen, the landscape is almost utopian in comparison to the pale, conformist sprawl that characterizes the Midwest. I want to live where I can take walks and visit bookstores that stock titles other than "Christian inspiration." Where drive-thrus haven't completely obliterated the need to leave one's car. Where the coffeeshops spend more time making coffee and less time hawking God.

This is a town for greedy, over-fed, cellphone-wielding know-nothings: a true dystopian nexus that promises little and delivers far less. I can't help but think I can do better.
Year End Gala

In bringing 2006 to a close, the Cassini Imaging Team is releasing its best maps of Titan and the major icy Saturnian moons, and other eye-catching images collected from our travels around Saturn.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

An Eschatological Taxonomy

What do we mean when we talk about the "end of the world?"

It's a term that get thrown around a bit too often among a variety of futurist-types, whether talking about global warming, nanofabrication, or non-friendly artificial intelligence. "Existential risks" is the lingo-du jour, referring to the broad panoply of processes, technologies and events that put our existence at risk. But, still, what does that mean? The destruction of the Earth? The end of humankind? A "Mad Max" world of leather-clad warriors, feral kids, and armed fashion models? All are frightening and horrific, but some are moreso than others. How do we tell them apart?

Here, then, is a first pass at a classification system for the varying types of "end of the world" scenarios.
Wow . . .

(Found at: The Speculist.)
Cloaking material created

Metamaterials, also known as left-handed materials, are exotic, artificially created materials that provide optical properties not found in natural materials. Natural materials refract light, or electromagnetic radiation, to the right of the incident beam at different angles and speeds. However, metamaterials make it possible to refract light to the left, or at a negative angle. This backward-bending characteristic provides scientists the ability to control light similar to the way they use semiconductors to control electricity, which opens a wide range of potential applications.

And don't you forget it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cool new graphics in Araqinta's Gallery of Transmutations.

Paul Kimball rings in 2007 besieged by idiots:

Ring Around the Rosey... from Korff Back to Horn

First, as the Meier defenders (a very, very small but also a very, very vocal group) are the ones asserting that the photos are legit, it's up to them to prove that they are - it's not up to me, nor anyone else, to show that they are not. If these folks knew anything about the concept of burden of proof, in either law or science, they would realize that.
2007 Set to be World's Warmest Year - UK Met Office

This year is set to be the hottest on record worldwide due to global warming and the El Nino weather phenomenon, Britain's Meteorological Office said on Thursday.

The Met Office said the combination of factors would likely push average temperatures this year above the record set in 1998. 2006 is set to be the sixth warmest on record globally.

"This new information represents another warning that climate change is happening around the world," said Met Office scientist Katie Hopkins.

Meanwhile . . .

Exxonmobil Cultivates Global Warming Doubt - Report

Energy giant ExxonMobil borrowed tactics from the tobacco industry to raise doubt about climate change, spending US$16 million on groups that question global warming, a science watchdog group said on Wednesday.
I'm on the mend. My fever burned itself out sometime last night, leaving me tired and congested but able to perform minor tasks (besides updating this blog) and -- better yet -- actually taste my food. I celebrated by going out to eat.

I'm vaguely assembling a "to-read" list in my mind, knowing perfectly well it's more of a general guide than an actual list. (I read less in 2006 than I'm happy admitting.)

Steve Erickson's "Our Ecstatic Days" gets near-top fiction billing, as do "Schild's Ladder" and "Diaspora" by Greg Egan. I also want to get at least somewhat up-to-speed with Alastair Reynolds. Must-read short-story collections include "Visionary in Residence" by Bruce Sterling and "Mad Professor" by Rudy Rucker.

And I really, really need to catch up with Richard K. Morgan and see what the fuss about Elizabeth Bear is all about. Oh, and Paul J. McAuley -- I've managed to neglect him as well.

Nonfiction-wise, I suppose I'll read "The Singularity is Near" -- kind of an intellectual obligation -- and Dawkins' "The God Delusion." "Fortean" writers on my list include Graham Hancock and Terence McKenna.
Today's weird architecture fix:

iPod is inspiration for new tower in Dubai: "iPad"

Dubai-based real estate firm Omniyat Properties plans to construct a tall building in Dubai modeled after the Apple iPod. The name of the 24-story tower: iPad.

Fab Tree Hab

In congruence with ecology as the guiding principal, this living home is designed to be nearly entirely edible so as to provide food to some organism at each stage of its life cycle. While inhabited, the home's gardens and exterior walls continually produce nutrients for people and animals. As a direct contributer to the ecosystem it supports an economy comprised of truly breathing products not reconstituted or processed materials. Imagine a society based on slow farming trees for housing structure instead of the industrial manufacture of felled timber.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Poll: Americans See Gloom, Doom in 2007

Another terrorist attack, a warmer planet, death and destruction from a natural disaster. These are among Americans' grim predictions for the United States in 2007.

But on a brighter note, only a minority of people think the U.S. will go to war with Iran or North Korea over the countries' nuclear ambitions. An overwhelming majority thinks Congress will raise the federal minimum wage. A third sees hope for a cure to cancer.

(Via Aberrant News.)
No religion and an end to war: how thinkers see the future

Philosopher Daniel Denett believes that within 25 years religion will command little of the awe it seems to instil today. The spread of information through the internet and mobile phones will "gently, irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance".

Biologist Richard Dawkins said that physicists would give religion another problem: a theory of everything that would complete Albert Einstein's dream of unifying the fundamental laws of physics. "This final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile superstitions."

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

Sadly, an end to religious intolerance and conflict are among the last things I expect to see banished in the readily foreseeable future. And while I welcome a Theory of Everything, there's withering reason to think we'll find it anytime soon. (Even if we did, I think the effects on entrenched religious ideas would be minimal; we've seen religions successfully shrug off far more immediate "death blows," from the realization that the Earth orbits the Sun to the discovery of DNA and genetic engineering.)
The bad cold I complained about yesterday has become a very nasty flu. Posting may become sporadic.

Mannequin Fetishist Could Get Life

A man who has a history of smashing windows to indulge his fetish for female mannequins could draw a long prison term for his latest arrest. Ronald A. Dotson, 39, of Detroit faces up to life in prison if convicted of a charge of attempted breaking and entering at a cleaning-supply company in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale.

(Via Boing Boing.)