Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Peter Watts reports on an ominous simian development:

Another spot of corrosion on the rusty armor of those who still exhalt our species as unique: chimpanzees make spears, and sharpen them, and use them to stab other primates. A big step closer to true humanity than those inoffensive little termite sticks we've known about since the sixties, or even the stone tools they've been fashioning for thousands of years.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

eWarrior writes:

The idea of a space ship crashed into the side of a building probably makes perfect sense in LA. Passersby acted like it was weirder for me to be taking a picture.

I was only in Los Angeles briefly, but long enough to absorb some of the ambient surreality. LA is a vast blossoming infestation of memes -- a dynamic so completely divorced from my native Midwest that it might as well be from another planet.

What's funnier than clowns? Clowns in senior care facilities! What's funnier than clowns in senior care facilities? Christian clowns in senior care facilities!

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
Co-working facilities for social-hungry solo freelancers

Cool piece in Businessweek about the rising popularity of "co-working" spaces for independent, internet-age freelancers who are burnt out on working from their homes (cons: too isolating, makes you crazy, no work/life boundaries) and don't want to just work out of Starbucks (cons: too public, not networking-conducive, laptop theft, rising price of lattes).

Assuming my table-mates weren't Christian Fundamentalists planning their next memetic assault (a distinct risk where I live), I could see myself really taking to this.

Stunning view of Rosetta skimming past Mars

"Stunning" is right. Too few images from robotic spacecraft include any hint of the machinery that made the photo possible. In so doing they tend to strip space of its immediacy. Rosetta's Martian snapshot reminds us that we're viewing the universe via our own ingenuity.

(Thanks: Universe Today.)

Speaking of Mars, Infinitas Bookshop is selling "After the Martian Apocalypse" for $24.95 -- considerably more that you'd have to pay had Simon & Schuster kept it in print, but a hell of a lot less than some vendors are asking.
Apparently Bruce Sterling (whose elusive first novel, "Involution Ocean," I recently acquired) checks in occasionally.
No more posts about tinnitus. I'll continue doing everything I possibly can to get rid of it, but henceforth I'll refrain from blogging about it.

In the meantime, I'll try to go with the Flow.
In need of reading suggestions or like discovering new writers? Give Gnooks a whirl.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I saw an ear specialist today. The condition is untreatable and remains essentially mysterious. I'm told many people suffer from tinnitus of varying degrees, and those unlucky enough to develop the high-grade version I have sometimes find themselves unable to lead normal lives (which I suppose is of no particular concern to me). Sometimes they even kill themselves.

There's always a chance this will go away as abruptly and inexplicably as it came on. I really hope it does, because it's breaking me.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

This quick video reminds me of Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker's masterful short-story "Big Jelly," which appears in the former's "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" and the latter's sprawling "Gnarl!" anthology.

Cliff Pickover says it best: "Using simple algorithms and amazing ingenuity, creative woman develops higher-dimensional cybernetic jellyfish that evolve and may one day escape the confines of their digital life and communicate with humans as peers."
Could climate change be a good thing for cryptozoology?

Exotic Animals Seen Where Antarctic Ice Used to Be

Spindly orange sea stars, fan-finned ice fish and herds of roving sea cucumbers are among the exotic creatures spied off the Antarctic coast in an area formerly covered by ice, scientists reported on Sunday.

This is the first time explorers have been able to catalog wildlife where two mammoth ice shelves used to extend for some 3,900 square miles (10,000 square km) over the Weddell Sea.

At least 5,000 years old, the ice shelves collapsed in two stages over the last dozen years. One crumbled 12 years ago and the other followed in 2002.

Global warming is seen as the culprit behind the ice shelves' demise, said Gauthier Chapelle of the Polar Foundation in Brussels.
Dawn of the GM babies?

After 14 days the embryo would have to be destroyed so it could never grow into a GM baby.

But Dr David King, director of the campaign group Human Genetics Alert, said that to allow such research suggests that one day the Government hopes to overturn this current ban.

"If this were not the plan, why allow scientists to begin research?" he asked. "We must not start down the path to a future of GM "designer babies".

"Once scientists can dangle before the public realistic rather than theoretical possibilities of curing genetic diseases, it will be difficult to counter well-meaning support for human genetic modification."

And why exactly should we counter well-meaning support for genetic modification, so long as our intentions are ethically and scientifically grounded? The biotech "debate," such as it is, begs reinvention.
Thanks to everyone who's offered tips and advice about my out-of-the-blue case of uber-tinnitus. It's gotten considerably worse and I'm seeking medical assistance to get to the bottom of it; all I know so far is that I don't have any visible ear damage or infection.

I've actually suffered from "normal" tinnitus for many years, so I'm familiar with its symptoms (including its inexplicable comings and goings). What I have now is far, far worse that anything I've ever experienced: it's a skull-shattering wail that easily overpowers outside noise and renders concentration futile. I'm at a total loss.

I'm hoping to see another doctor within the next few days.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What I'm reading: "Decoding the Message of the Pulsars: Intelligent Communication from the Galaxy" (Paul A. LaViolette)

The movie's getting reviews that give me the feeling the critics just don't know what to make of the "23 Enigma." Most likely they've never heard of it. I think I'll probably cave and see it, if only to witness the inevitable mainstreaming of the esoteric.

(And this is just a hunch, but what do you want to bet you-know-who runs with this?)

Friday, February 23, 2007

OK, this time I might really be putting PB on hold. Within the last week I've developed an acute case of tinnitus ("ringing in the ears") that seems to be getting steadily worse, to the point where I can no longer read or even think clearly. Imagine a piezoelectric siren pressed into your ear canal -- an unending electronic squeal. That's the closest I can come to describing it.

I've already seen a doctor and am being referred to a specialist. In the meantime it's all I can do to remain functional.

If you have any tips on how to make this go away (or at least minimize it), send me an email.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Terence McKenna's library destroyed in fire

This is very un-wonderful news: the late Terence McKenna's library of rare books and personal notes was destroyed in a fire started in a Quizno's sandwich shop in Monterey, California.
Martian Explorers Should Be Looking for Fossils

Instead of just looking for current life on Mars, Arizona State University professor Jack Farmer thinks that future missions should also be looking for ancient fossils on the Red Planet. In fact, he thinks they might be easier to find.

Could Richard Hoagland be right? Could we have already found one?

David Rudiak has posted some intriguing new material devoted to the 1994 Nellis Range UFO, including this meticulous reconstruction of the mystery object's flight-path. (Just what the hell is that thing?)
NASA's Spitzer First To Crack Open Light of Faraway Worlds

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured for the first time enough light from planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets, to identify molecules in their atmospheres. The landmark achievement is a significant step toward being able to detect possible life on rocky exoplanets and comes years before astronomers had anticipated.

(Via Universe Today.)
New Robo-Weapon: Paralyzing Floodlight

Well, this ought to chill out anyone who was worried about a robotic uprising: our mechanical overlords may not kill us right away. At first, they just might zap us with a paralyzing burst of light.

The US Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) plans to demonstrate the use of a 7.5 million candlepower strobe floodlight system mounted on board an unmanned air vehicle as a non-lethal crowd-control system," the always-linkworthy Flight International tells us.

No doubt reverse-engineered from UFOs. You know, like the one in "Fire in the Sky."
I'd been peripherally aware of William Michael Mott's speculation on indigenous humanoids but, until today, didn't realize just how closely our thoughts on the possibility converged.

Could it be I didn't come up with the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis after all? Apparently so. But as Mott points out, the meme is far older than both of us. Maybe the fact that we independently arrived at such similarly unfashionable ideas regarding the UFO enigma means we're onto something.
Toss a few more corpses onto that growing pile of mysteriously dead birds:

Rare loon deaths in New Hampshire faze scientists

Scientists are struggling to explain the rare death of 17 loons in New Hampshire, saying warm weather may have confused the threatened species of bird which typically heads to the ocean for winter.

[. . .]

"This is the first time I ever have seen this," said senior biologist and executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee, Harry Vogel. "It's unprecedented."
Blog of the day: No Fear of the Future

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I sat down with Jim Bell's "Postcards from Mars" the other day. Gorgeous -- the best collection of hi-rez Mars imagery I've yet to get my hands on.
Robots could soon be calling the shots

For example, imagine a body suit with sensors that can guide you through a golf swing like Tiger Woods'. Or a robo-birdwatcher that can tell you where to look for that rare ivory-billed woodpecker. Or an android gardener that can show you where to plant your seeds.

In other words, a future where you can't lift a finger without receiving "advice" from ubiquitous condescending "life coaches."

Not that I can't see the plus sides to such a pervasive cybernetic presence, but there's some good dystopian SF potential here.
Author Mac Tonnies makes a case for 'cryptoterrestrials'

Kansas City writer Mac Tonnies isn't convinced contact with a UFO has anything to do with extraterrestrials. Tonnies, author of "After the Martian Apocalypse," said if UFOs and their crews exist, they may have come from right here on Earth.

The meme is alive.
Bubble fusion, back with a pop

Reports that the bubble had burst for a form of cheap, table-top nuclear fusion may have been premature. Rusi Taleyarkhan, the physicist at the centre of a furore surrounding so-called bubble fusion, was last week cleared of scientific misconduct.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thanks, Terence, for helping to cheer me up a bit.
You Are a Mac

You are creative, stylish, and super trendy.
You demand the best - even if it costs an arm and a leg.

Well, what do you know?
New Portal to Second Life: Your Phone

With new software for mobile phones, citizens of the burgeoning online universe Second Life will never have to leave their cozy virtual world, even when they're away from their computers. The new software is a program that lets cellular users with Java-based, Internet-capable phones log in to Second Life remotely, see who else is "in-world," and communicate with them via text messaging.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Every time I start imagining the ambiance for a potential science fiction story I read something like this and have to rethink almost everything.
Google's Page urges scientists to market themselves

The programming language of humans, if you will, would include the workings of your brain, said Page, who offered his hypothesis Friday night during a plenary lecture here at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. His guess, he said, was that the brain's algorithms weren't all that complicated and could be approximated, eventually, with a lot of computational power.

"We have some people at Google (who) are really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale," Page said to a packed Hilton ballroom of scientists. "It's not as far off as people think."

(Via The Anomalist.)

The Dood cometh.
Greenhouse gases hit new high

"Levels are at a new high," said Kim Holmen, research director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, which oversees the Zeppelin measuring station on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, about 1200 kilometres (750 miles) from the North Pole.

He said that concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, emitted largely by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, had risen to 390 parts per million from 388 ppm a year ago.

Levels have hit peaks almost every year in recent decades and are far above 270 ppm level seen before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century.

(Via Unknown Country.)
Here's a groovin' video that plots technological progress into coming decades. On the surface, it would seem to have everything I like -- intelligent machines, a thoroughly dissolved barrier between living and nonliving systems, and Mars colonization.

But as infectious as it seems, this jaunt through the next hundred years leaves me cold. Not because I find the technologies it depicts dehumanizing or unattainable, but because the timeline is naively optimistic, plotted under the unspoken assumption that our planet will continue to behave itself and accommodate our ambitions.

I can't help but fear the real future will be decidedly less user-friendly. If futurology is to succeed, we must jettison our haughty certainly in the "Singularity" and face the abyss squarely. In all likelihood, we will continue to make strides in nanotechnology and computer processing power. But at the same time it's a fair bet that we'll be at the mercy of an unrelenting greenhouse-charged climate, flooded with displaced populations (and accompanying diseases) and forced to grapple with a world in which nearly everyone has The Bomb.

The future is not a PowerPoint graph. It doesn't abide by Moore's Law. The future is a thicket of variables, many with the capacity to change us in ways we choose not to think about for fear of shattering the edifice that transhumanism has become.

(And yes, I know I'd threatened to go on "sabbatical." To hell with that.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

You know how your computer gets sluggish when you haven't defragged your hard drive in a while? My mind feels like that right now.

So rather than upload status reports to the Web, I'm considering temporarily bowing out of the blog scene until I feel better. (Trouble is, blogging has become one of those benevolent obsessions that helps add structure to my day and helps me keep track of myself -- so I can't make any promises.)
Atomic energy agency releases new warning symbol

And I say it's about time!
US needs to plan for climate change-induced summer droughts

The western United States has experienced increasing drought conditions in recent years -- and conditions may worsen if global climate change models are accurate -- yet the country is doing little to prepare for potential catastrophe, a group of scientists said today.

The U.S. should consider a national drought policy to help achieve sustainable water for drinking, agriculture and fisheries, said the scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

They also pointed out the need to manage water supplies to protect environmental values and to protect urban property from sea level rise and extreme weather events.

"Extreme weather events." I like that.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just a plain bad day. I'm feeling ill-at-ease in my own body, like I've unwittingly dressed in somebody else's ill-fitting clothes. My estrangement has become a sort of full-body ache, the mental equivalent of being kneed in the ribs.

The most I can hope for at times like this is to keep myself distracted; fortunately I've got some some pretty good books on hand.
I've been meaning to write about dreams and Kenneth Ring's notion of the "encounter-prone personality." Ring is a proponent of the "imaginal realm," an interzone between empirical reality and the imagination. I'd like to know if access to the imaginal hinges on endogenous DMT and, if so, whether psychological factors play a role in its production. I'm increasingly swayed by the idea that normal waking existence is far less significant (at least to the unconscious) than we generally assume.

And I'm interested in the apparent dearth of suburban folklore. If mythology functions as a social utility, the sterile milieu of contemporary "stripmall culture" heralds a new relationship between ourselves and all things "imaginal." We could be losing -- or at the very least suppressing -- some vital archetypal dialogue, effectively bulldozing the collective unconscious in favor of more Starbucks drive-thrus and Home Depots.

World folklore is inundated by accounts of nonhuman intelligences whose machinations penetrate and underscore our own. Recklessly driving such beings to virtual extinction might leave irreparable scars on the psychic landscape. Or it may give them reason to fight back.
Save that rare sober Britney mp3 from nuclear blast

Yes, it might look like a particularly bulky cigarette lighter, but in fact it's flash memory that can survive the perils of moisture, vibration, shock, caustic agents, EMI, and "nuclear effects." That's right, "nuclear effects"; I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm guessing your up-to-4GB of data would be pretty damn safe.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I did the unspeakable today: against my better judgment, I expressed interest in a potential sociable outing with an attractive female co-worker. I have the grim feeling that the next week or two are going to be fraught with Kafkaesque intrigue as we either attempt to schedule a date or -- more likely -- amicably dissolve any romantic intimations by pretending I'd never opened my mouth.

Maybe next year.

Brain Diseases I Wish I Had

Includes savantism, temporal lobe epilepsy and synesthesia.

(Hat tip: Reality Carnival.)
RFID 'Powder' - World's Smallest RFID Tag

The world's smallest and thinnest RFID tags were introduced yesterday by Hitachi. Tiny miracles of miniaturization, these RFID chips (Radio Frequency IDentification chips) measure just 0.05 x 0.05 millimeters.


Wow . . . you could literally inhale this stuff.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Table of Malcontents pimps Posthuman Blues:

Mac Tonnies is undeniably a bit of a weirdo. Perhaps that's why I like him so much, though I agree with nearly nothing that he writes. His subject is largely the future of humanity: he enthusiastically imagines a future, sometimes hopefully, sometimes apocalyptically, where the transhuman is real.
Giant hamster-ball for humans

Virtusphere is a giant, human-sized hamster-ball on rollers that stays in one place as it spins. The idea is to let you "run around" while in your VR goggles without needing a lot of floor-space to accomodate you.

How can you be sure you're not immersed in a hamster-ball VR environment right now?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nick Redfern gets all apocalyptic. Doesn't he know that's my beat?
A (pro)creative initiative

So marriage is about procreation? That's what Washington state's Defense of Marriage Act suggests, and the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance means to make them follow through on it. Enter Initiative 957, which would require a couple to prove that they can have children before they are allowed to marry, and make them have a child within the first three years of marriage or face annulment.

(Via Cyborg Democracy.)
Valentine's cards burned, couples beaten in Kashmir

A Muslim women's group in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir group burned greeting cards and beat young couples to stop people celebrating Valentine's Day, witnesses said Tuesday.

The separatist Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Nation) raided restaurants and showered blows on some couples and then burned cards during a rally in the summer capital's center, a witness said.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Hey, maybe Islamic extremism isn't all bad!
Web app of the day: MonkeyView
Remember the disappearing bees? It might be getting worse:

Bee Emergency Stranger Than We Thought

We're in the middle of a bee emergency. Albert Einstein said, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years left to live." A mysterious ailment called Colony Collapse Disorder is causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear. It's a kind of mass suicide in the bee world.
Like that water-skiing squirrel? Check out this piano-playing cat!

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

Did Lonnie Zamora see a prototype moon lander? I'd love it if we could ice this one.

(Thanks: The Anomalist.)
That's right -- I didn't blog at all yesterday. That's because Valentine's Day is a time of mourning.

Bruce Sterling reminds us that there are things much, much worse than global warming.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Click here to see a squirrel water-ski. You know you want to.
Faces, Faces Everywhere

Such faces made headlines again near the end of 2006, when Mars Express, an orbiter from the European Space Agency, captured the highest-quality three-dimensional images to date of what looks like a face in the Cydonia region of Mars. The photos reignited conspiracy theories that governments on Earth are trying to hide the existence of intelligent life on Mars.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Count on the New York Times to regurgitate the Face on Mars "conspiracy theory" meme.

The three-dimensional image in question is, of course, the one that shows a perfectly nonexistent "horn" between the eyes. Noting that the horn doesn't conform to the same data used to derive two other Mars Express Face images is simple observation, not a wild-eyed "theory."

Click here for more.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Spacecraft Set to Reach Milestone, Reports Technical Glitches

In late November 2006, the spacecraft team operating the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter noticed a significant increase in noise, such as bad pixels, in one of its 14 camera detector pairs. Another detector that developed the same problem soon after launch has worsened. Images from the spacecraft camera last month revealed the first signs of this problem in five other detectors.

While the current impact on image quality is small, there is concern as to whether the problem will continue to worsen.
What? Vernor Vinge dares to question the Singularity?
Mystery ailment strikes honeybees

A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called Colony Collapse Disorder.

First the birds. Now the bees . . .

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What really happened in Tunguska!

(Thanks, Justin!)
Work Starts on Arctic Food Crop Noah's Ark

Deep inside the Arctic Circle work is about to begin on a giant frozen Noah's Ark for food crops to provide a last bastion in the battle against global warming.

And within a year the first seeds of what will eventually be home for samples of all 1.5 million distinct varieties of agricultural crops worldwide will be tucked safely inside the vaults deep in a mountain on the archipelago of Svalbard.

There, at the end of a tunnel 120 metres (390 ft) into the side of a mountain, 80 metres above estimated sea levels even if all polar ice melts, and 18 degrees Celsius (-0.40F) below freezing, they will stay like a bank security deposit.
Black Dogs and UFOs (Nick Redfern)

Indeed, he is of the firm opinion that ancient man - who certainly constructed the Castle Ring - had mental abilities that extended far beyond our own, and was able to essentially tap into other realms of existence, and construct "from the mind" images of bizarre and monstrous beasts that inhabited those same realms.

The possibility that ancient occultists could create thought-recordings is not without appeal. If Nick's hunch is correct, then it might even shed light on the "visionary" nature of some UFO reports. After all, if it's possible to conjure a "place memory" of fearsome canines, how difficult would it be to emplace visions of numinous disks and attendant "little people"?
Good news! My brain-dead neighbors are moving out as I type! (They were given a week's notice -- and I think their electricity was turned off. In any case, they've taken the hint.)

I'll still be moving downtown, but at least the remainder of my time in the dystopian squalor of the suburbs won't be spent listening to first-person shooter games at 3:00 in the morning.

Good riddance.
What are we seeing in this Google Earth flyover? A ground-level installation? An artistic embellishment? Or -- gasp -- a genuine "flying triangle"?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lately I've been choking on the brittle jargon and regurgitated screeds of narcissistic techno-pundits. For the self-proclaimed futurist elite, the zeitgeist is little more than a list of "must-know" buzzwords, its contours delineated and sterilized until the World of Tomorrow -- once lush and colored by promise -- assumes the charm of a hospital waiting room.

The Church of the Singularity has arrived, only its adherents will of course never dare call it that.
Climate Change "only one symptom of a stressed Planet Earth" says IGBP

"Global environmental change, which includes climate change, threatens to irreversibly alter our planet," says Kevin Noone, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).Global studies by International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) show that human-driven environmental changes are affecting many parts of the Earth's system, in addition to its climate. For example, half of Earth's land surface is now domesticated for direct human use, 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully or over-exploited, and the composition of today's atmosphere is well outside the range of natural variability the Earth has maintained over the last 650,000 years. The report concludes that Earth is now in the midst of its sixth great extinction event.

"May you live in interesting times." I forget: was that intended as a blessing or a curse?
Here's a good summary of the "23 Enigma":

23: How weird Is That?

One of the earliest to subscribe to the 23 Enigma was beat poet William S. Burroughs. For him, it was not just the unusual frequency of the number; it was that in any coincidence he would find the number 23. When he was in Tangiers in the 1960s, Burroughs met one Captain Clark, a ferry captain who boasted of not having had an accident for 23 years. That night the boat sank, killing Clark and everyone aboard. Later that evening, Burroughs heard a radio broadcast about a plane crash. The pilot's name was Captain Clark. The flight number was 23. After that day, Burroughs kept a record of similar coincidences. Throughout his journal, 23 recurred over and over, like a footprint of chance, like the signature on the handiwork of fate.

It's intriguing how common 23 is among UFO sighting reports. (Reading Jacques Vallee's landmark "Anatomy of a Phenomenon," I was actually startled by the apparent correspondences, although Vallee seems not to have noticed.) One idea I've played with is that we're seeing a form of "compression artifact" that undermines the informational structure of spacetime. If so, who did the compressing? Do we live in a vast computer simulation?

Maybe unraveling the 23 Enigma is a way to alert -- or even communicate with -- the intelligence responsible for creating the universe; they/it might be interested in our deductive prowess . . . or maybe just looking for company.
The day after today: Interview with novelist Kim Stanley Robinson

"The world has just ten years to reverse surging greenhouse gas emissions or risk runaway climate change that could make many parts of the planet uninhabitable." That sentence comes from a description of the IPCC report about to come out this week. It's actually gotten a lot scarier than when I started this novel in three volumes, back in 2001, although the potential for major change was clearly there. I started my book when the Greenland ice core date confirmed that the Younger Dryas had dropped the world into a little ice age in about three years.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


But now, the University of Southern California professor's contour crafting machine will be put to the test; it's scheduled to erect its first house in California within the next few months. The two-story house will built in less than 24 hours out of only concrete and gypsum -- and without the help of a single human hand. Khoshenevis' groundbreaking robo-builder has caused some raised eyebrows and dropped jaws within the architectural community, as the machine provides a new model for construction that drastically cuts building timelines, material, manpower, and most importantly, waste and carbon emissions.
Scientists develop portable generator that turns trash into electricity

The "tactical biorefinery" processes several kinds of waste at once, which it converts into fuel via two parallel processes. The system then burns the different fuels in a diesel engine to power a generator. Ladisch said the machine's ability to burn multiple fuels at once, along with its mobility, make it unique.

(Via FuturePundit.)

What if fast-food franchises used these? Can you begin to imagine the amount of debris rescued from dumpsters and landfills? I can't either.
New comic blog by Justin Pasieka: Riotfish
Hack your wardrobe!

Transformer Clothing

Fashion designer Hussein Chalayan is showing a set of unusual creations, "Transformer" dresses that owe more to technology than haute couture. Following in the footsteps of Howard Hughes, who designed the underwire bra for actress Jane Russell, Chalayan teamed up with engineering firm 2D3D to create dresses that transformed themselves.
Yuki-taro autonomous snowplow robot

The friendly-looking Yuki-taro measures 160 x 95 x 75 cm (63 x 37 x 30 in.) and weighs 400 kg (880 lbs). Armed with GPS and a pair of video cameras embedded in its eyes, the self-guided robot seeks out snow and gobbles it up into its large mouth.

The Japanese seem to realize that one of the crucial first steps toward making robots commonplace is making them appeal to our sense of "cute." I can imagine whole robot-friendly cities arising in which every appliance has the sterile charm of Hello Kitty.
Here's a great gallery of vintage and modern space toys I found at Table of Malcontents.

Who says there's no convincing photographic evidence of alien beings?
Grand Canyon's Glass Walkway to Open Next March

The 1,500-member Hualapai tribe announced last week that the Skywalk -- a giant, 30-million-dollar steel-and-glass walkway -- will open to the public in March 2007.

The Skywalk will jut out 70 feet (21 meters) from the canyon rim, allowing tourists to go for a stroll with nothing between their feet and the Colorado River -- 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) below -- except for four inches (ten centimeters) of glass.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Do you like cute animals? What about scenes of devastation, apocalypse and existential allegory? This cartoon has them all!

"Peace On Earth"

The only cartoon ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, this 1939 Hugh Harman cartoon shows a post-apocalyptic world populated by animals picking up the pieces after a war kills every human on earth.

When I get to be the Decider, I'll make sure this is shown on network TV every December. Even if I have to preempt "The Grinch."

(Thanks, Peter!)
I've been uploading more CDs to my new MP3 player -- boring work, but rewarding. Assuming the thing doesn't break I'll consider it money well spent.

A few minutes ago some of my neighbors* from across the hall yelled taunts from the street. I couldn't make out all of it, but the word "motherfucker" was used with disturbing frequency. I think they have it in for either me or my car. Maybe both.

I have every intention of moving downtown within the next couple months. I can't take this endlessly protracted "eviction" -- not to mention the sour reek of marijauna and the omnipresent blather of television through wafer-thin walls.

* I've long since stopped keeping track of how many of them there are. As far as I can tell the place has become a flop-house for every dope-smoking, "gangsta" rap-listening loser in Independence. If posts on this blog suddenly stop it's probably because one of them shot me. (I am, of course, kidding. I think. Dear god, get me out of here.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I've been grim on the climate change front lately, but that doesn't mean everyone's sitting on their hands.

Oil From Algae

Unlike other plants that are currently being using for oil production such as soy, palm, corn and jatropha, some strains of algae contain as much as 50% oil. Once algae is grown, harvested and pressed to extract the oil, the remaining residue can be processed into ethanol, or burned directly in a power plant. The oil can then be processed into biodiesel using the ethanol (or methanol from another source). The National Renewable Energy Lab also believes jet fuel from certain strains of algae is possible.

Cold storage solution for global warming?

Researchers from the University of Leicester and the British Geological Society (BGS) have proposed storing CO2 in huge underground reservoirs as a way of reducing emissions- and have even identified sites in Western Europe that would be suitable.

Their research, published in the journal, Planet Earth, reveals that CO2 can be contained in cool geological aquifers or reservoirs, where it can remain harmlessly for many thousands of years.
Eternal embrace? Couple still hugging 5,000 years on

Menotti said she believed the two, almost certainly a man and a woman although that needs to be confirmed, died young because their teeth were mostly intact and not worn down.

There's got to be a romance novel here.

The denial industry

ExxonMobil is the world's most profitable corporation. Its sales now amount to more than $1bn a day. It makes most of this money from oil, and has more to lose than any other company from efforts to tackle climate change. To safeguard its profits, ExxonMobil needs to sow doubt about whether serious action needs to be taken on climate change. But there are difficulties: it must confront a scientific consensus as strong as that which maintains that smoking causes lung cancer or that HIV causes Aids. So what's its strategy?

Hint: it involves Christian Fundamentalists.

Apparent Communication with Discarnate Entities Induced by Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
Intriguing video of twin (?) UFOs over Lake Erie:

For more, click here.

(Thanks to The Anomalist.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A self-deprecating William Gibson makes a cameo appearance in Oliver Stone's "Wild Palms":

"I don't dig bad science fiction."

(Thanks again to Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond.)
I finally bought an MP3 player. I rushed home with it and immediately started uploading highlights from my CD collection. So far I've got Portishead, The Smiths, R.E.M., and David Bowie covered, but a lot of work remains to be done . . .
The Memetic Potential of God: Can Technology be the Master of its Creations?

The human body, therefore, is a multifarious device intended for the procreation of single cell entities, or more precisely, the genes which they employ in their survival. Evolution proceeded, over many millions of years, to shield these genetic terranauts in ever greater layers of complexity. The human body can be better understood as an enormous self-contained ecosystem providing a medium between pure genetic information and the harsh forces of an entire universe.
"Productive Nanosystems: From Molecules to Superproducts"

I love the Victorian intricacy of the nanoscale assembly machines in action.

(Tip of the desktop-fabricated hat to Communist Robot.)
All I can think of when I watch this is the "Lady in the Radiator" from David Lynch's "Eraserhead."

(Thanks to No Touch Monkey!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

India plans to launch Moon lander mission

Chandrayaan-1 is planned for launch on board India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.The 525-kg satellite will be placed in 100 km polar orbit around the moon and it will have a life time of two years.

Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, G Madhavan Nair said Chandrayaan-2, to be undertaken by 2010, will have a proper lander which would land on the lunar surface and try to explore the surface in far more detail.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Rudy Rucker, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson star in "The Manual of Evasion." I love it when original thinkers get together to jam.

For more, see Rucker's latest blog post.
Click here to see a bunch of symbols allegedly seen in conjunction with alien encounters.

Any linguists in the house?

(Thanks: The Anomalist.)
Jamie Shandera And Proof Of UFOs (Pt. 2) (Greg Bishop)

On the UFO Coverup Live! special in 1988, one of the "Aviary" members (most likely Richard Doty or Robert Collins) appeared in silhouette with his voice electronically altered. Amongst pronouncements about the aliens' love for strawberry ice cream and Tibetan music, the mysterious AFOSI man told of a "book" that was given to us by the alien race. While an artist's conception flashed on the screen, he continued to describe the object as a sort of "crystal," which when gazed into, would show events of human and alien history. The "Yellow Book" as it was known, apparently directly interfaced with the user telepathically. (For some reason, it was also called the "Red Book," or there were two of them.)

Suppose Shandera really did get a chance to experience this device, as suggested in Greg's post. What was it? Its purported "telepathic" properties don't necessarily make it an alien artifact; it could just as easily have been a clever psy-ops ploy. Then again, maybe it really was the ET equivalent to a PDA . . .

Stories like this circulate endlessly in the Kafkaesque corridors of ufology, some obviously deluded and others less so. The 1980s generated a mythological substrate that lingers to this day, complete with evocative suggestions of crashed alien hardware and shadowy human-ET liaisons. Granted that we are, in all probability, interacting with some form of nonhuman intelligence, it's at best premature to rule out the possibility that the UFO intelligence itself has played a significant role in disseminating fanciful lies.

If the UFO intelligence is indigenous to this planet, then the pronounced extraterrestrial flavor of so many of our most hallowed (if controversial) beliefs may be an attempt to convince us the answer to the UFO riddle lies somewhere in the stars.

So we gaze upward in wonder and fear while the phenomenon continues -- unabated and overlooked.
181 Things To Do On The Moon

If you woke up tomorrow morning and found yourself on the moon, what would you do? NASA has just released a list of 181 good ideas.

I have an idea that I'm guessing didn't make the list (although I haven't yet checked to be sure): undertake a painstaking archaeological survey.
New Exhibition Pays Tribute to 100,000 Years of Sex

The show "100,000 Years of Sex" at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettman near Düsseldorf addresses -- in a strictly scientific manner, of course -- such burning questions as: When did we start feeling lust and thinking about sex? Did meat get exchanged for sex in the Stone Age? And just how did the ancient Greeks and Romans do it?

(Via Aberrant News.)

How would a posthuman society take to the concept of sex? I can foresee our descendants electing to jettison sexuality for a host of reasons . . . but that doesn't preclude a few eccentrics retaining it for sheer nostalgic whimsy. (Ironically, our fascination with sex is driving many of the technologies that may eventually render it obsolete.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I know this is supposed to strike me as innovative and futuristic and stuff, but instead it leaves me cold. Instead of "empowering the consumer," I'd like to see the very role of "consumer" (as currently defined) thrown out with the last century's garbage.

(Hat tip: Beyond the Beyond.)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Plan for a an 11' x 7' flat

After reading about a 11' x 7' flat in London that sold for $335,000, Flickr user Simple Simon used SketchUp to draw up plans for a renovation of the place that would render it habitable. His ideas are pretty clever, though it's hard to imagine how this former closet could ever be worth $335K.

Just when I thought I loathed my apartment . . . Although if given the chance to swap I'm afraid I'd have to simply because of the location.
The frilled shark in this video has an appealingly alien aspect; I wouldn't be too surprised to see something like it plying the deep waters of Jupiter's moon Europa.

(Hat tip: Pink Tentacle.)
Sit back and watch the eons make Silly Putty out of the continents.

(Thanks: Beyond the Beyond.)
Exxon linked to climate change pay out

A think tank partly funded by Exxon Mobil sent letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a major global warming study released Friday which found that global warming was real and likely caused by burning fossil fuels.

[. . .]

"The purpose of this project is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC process, especially as it bears on potential policy responses to climate change," said the memo, which was sent to a professor at Texas A&M University.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Contrary to appearances, this is actually pretty heartening news. It means Big Oil is getting scared . . . and not a little desperate.
Orange snow with rotten smell in Omsk Region (Photo)

It snowed orange in five districts of the Omsk Region Wednesday. The snow area was 1,500 sq. m, 100 km in length. The snow ranged from light yellow to orange shades, ITAR-TASS reported. Moreover, the snow was covered with oil slicks and smelled rotten.
Back in October, author/researcher Greg Bishop took my picture in The Triangle, a restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I was delighted to see my serving of steamed mussels arrive in a flying saucer-ish package.

Intrigued by the possibility that I may have unknowingly made contact with extraterrestrials, I had the image analyzed by an independent laboratory. By extracting data from between the pixels, analysts were able to produce previously unnoted detail.

Here is the startling result:

Believe me, I'm as freaked out as you are.

(Image by ELAN Laboratories. Used with permission.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

I've been attempting to reconcile the "visionary" nature of encounters with nonhumans described by the likes of Terence McKenna with the decidedly physical episodes recounted by close-encounter witnesses. Must the "alien contact" experience be exclusively "real" or hallucinatory? Maybe not.

The psychedelic realm has the visual flexibility of a multimedia installation or high-bandwidth website, forcing me to consider that it's actually designed as a communications system: a sort of neurochemically derived "chatroom" populated by all manner of colorful "avatars."

It's conceivable that "trippers" can access this interzone, even if inadvertently. The beings seen -- described similarly in UFO and drug narratives -- might be the equivalent of neuropharmacologists and system operators. (Online environments like Second Life, while fanciful, abide by many of the conceits and laws that govern the real world, if only for the sake of convenience. It's likely that an alien intelligence versed in nonlocal communication would apply similar reasoning when constructing a virtual environment.)

If access to the shamanic realm hinges on the brain's production of DMT, as argued by Richard Strassman, then the "aliens" may be attempting to promote organic DMT production through germ-line engineering.

A classic from Seattle fetish photographer Kevin Hundsnurscher, aka Elaisted. He did a series of photos with different models and the tentacle, but none were nearly as successful as this, which has become his signature image.

Depending on your perspective, this image is either a definitive argument for advancing transgenic research or for eliminating it.
Hello Kitty tarot

Artist Joe Rosales created an occulty-cute Hello Kitty tarot deck titled "Hello, Tarot." Seems that they're out of print but you might be lucky enough to find a set somewhere online if, er, it's in the cards.
Warming 'likely' man-made, unstoppable

The world's leading climate scientists said global warming has begun, is "very likely" caused by man, and will be unstoppable for centuries, according to a report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The scientists -- using their strongest language yet on the issue -- said now that world has begun to warm, hotter temperatures and rises in sea level "would continue for centuries" no matter how much humans control their pollution. The report also linked the warming to the recent increase in stronger hurricanes.



So what's the answer? Depoliticize global warming. Forget whose fault climate change is. Drop the "We were serious about it before you were" game. It really doesn't matter. Hell, if it makes people feel better, let's concede for the sake of argument that climate change is a natural phenomenon and start addressing it as an engineering problem.

Even that's a tall enough order - there aren't going to be any engineering solutions to climate control that will take less than at least several decades just to get rolling, and none whose success will be measured in anything less than centuries. To beat global warming, we're going to have to become a species that thinks in geological time frames.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On the surface of it, UFOs could lurk

For nearly 60 years, rumors have circulated of strange flying objects emerging from the ocean off our coast and disappearing in a fantastic flash of speed and light.

Sailors, fishermen, dockworkers, police officers, coastal residents and others have reported eerie otherworldly ships emerging from and submerging into local waters.

UFOs, it seems, have established an underwater base somewhere in the deep, dark recesses between the Channel Islands and the coastline between Long Beach and Santa Barbara.

Whether we're dealing with an indigenous nonhuman intelligence or beings from somewhere else, our oceans are arguably the best places to hide. That we seem to be observing the occasional comings and goings of unfamiliar vehicles should come as no monumental surprise to anyone open to the possibility that we're sharing the planet with someone else.
'Hobbit' human 'is a new species'

"People refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make the tools," said Professor Falk.

She said the Hobbit brain was nothing like that of a microcephalic and was advanced in a way that is different from living humans.

A previous study of LB1's endocast revealed that large parts of the frontal lobe and other anatomical features were consistent with higher cognitive processes.

"LB1 has a highly evolved brain," said Professor Falk. "It didn't get bigger, it got rewired and reorganised, and that's very interesting."

Which begs the question: how small can a brain be and still be considered "intelligent"?

It's tempting to wonder how many other "hobbit"-like species might await discovery . . . and if any of them made the evolutionary cut before we did.
Hubble Sees An Extrasolar Planet's Atmosphere

Now here's a feat. The Hubble Space Telescope was able to analyze the atmosphere of a gas giant planet orbiting another star.

Hubble's instruments revealed how the strange world, designated HD 209458b, is unlike anything else in our solar system. It orbits its parent star so closely that it only takes 3.5 days to complete an orbit. This close proximity raises its temperature above the temperature of our own Sun, and causes its outer atmosphere to boil off.