Friday, August 31, 2007

Water Vapor Seen 'Raining Down' on Young Star System

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected enough water vapor to fill the oceans on Earth five times inside the collapsing nest of a forming star system. Astronomers say the water vapor is pouring down from the system's natal cloud and smacking into a dusty disk where planets are thought to form.

The observations provide the first direct look at how water, an essential ingredient for life as we know it, begins to make its way into planets, possibly even rocky ones like our own.
Baby boy born with 12 tiny fingers, 12 tiny toes

Jeshuah Fuller is just over 7 pounds (3.2kg), but in the eyes of his proud parents, he's as mighty as Goliath. Like the biblical giant, Jeshuah was born with six fingers on each hand and six toes on both feet.

Study predicts more severe U.S. storms

As the world warms, the United States will face more severe thunderstorms with deadly lightning, damaging hail and the potential for tornadoes, a trailblazing study by NASA scientists suggests.

While other research has warned of broad weather changes on a large scale, like more extreme hurricanes and droughts, the new study predicts even smaller events like thunderstorms will be more dangerous because of global warming.

Be prepared -- read Bruce Sterling's disquietingly prescient "Heavy Weather."

More Sterling here.

Here's a downloadable radio dramatization of William Gibson's 1984 classic "Neuromancer." (I remember Gibson doing an abridged audiobook version sometime in the mid-1990s; if anyone knows if it's available online, let me know.)
When Sterling cites Cronenberg, I listen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's footage from a waiter-less German restaurant where meals descend a roller-coaster-like rail system encased in table-ready dining modules.

I hate to say it, but this is almost "steampunk" in its flaunted intricacy.

(Hat tip: Communist Robot.)

More "shocking" taped confessions from alleged Roswell witnesses.
This cool but awkward "flying saucer" is apparently the precursor to the Moller skycar I've been waiting for for far too long.
Manufactured landscapes

Edward Burtynsky is a photographer that makes pictures scarred or altered landscapes, changed by industrial activities. His work shows the disappearance of nature and the appearance of a new sort of nature.

Burtynsky's industrial hellscapes are simultaneously revolting and hypnotic. Take a good look: these blighted vistas just might epitomize our future.
Pink Tentacle invites you to experience Tokyo in time-lapse.

A couple happening links, the first via Cliff Pickover's always-diverting Reality Carnival and the second via Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond:

An Atlas of the Universe

This web page is designed to give everyone an idea of what our universe actually looks like. There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe.

Calling the Glacier - A Mobile Elegy

You listen the to sounds of water, occasional cracking and other utterances made living glaciers as they grow and recede in perpetual seasonal flux.

The world has come to the awareness that global warming is real and that the ensuing climate change will affect us all. Our planet's glaciers are a powerful and dramatic symbol for this process. They are like giant living creatures that are slowly dying - melting, leaking and waning into ultimate oblivion.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Terry Bisson's "They're Made Out of Meat": the film. When did this happen?

(Fez-tip to The Speculist.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Antarctic Ozone Hole Appears Early in 2007 - UN

A hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica has appeared earlier than usual in 2007, the United Nations weather agency said on Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said it would not be clear for several weeks whether the ozone hole, which is expected to continue growing until early October, would be larger than its record size in 2006.

You're reading this blog's 6000th post. Aren't you lucky?
Evolution takes balls.

My my, what a big head you have

The fragile aliens of contemporary mythology owe much to Lamarck and his influence, through Wells, on pulp science fiction. As a race, they are ancient, feeble, and slipping inexorably into collective senility. Their power derives solely from their technology. They are already half dead, and like Wells's over-evolved Martians who inject themselves with our blood, they can only survive by preying upon younger, more vital species.

Rather than serving as Lamarckian caricatures, could the diminutive, often feeble-seeming Grays be suffering a genetic illness hastened by a shortage of genes? Or perhaps they're so casually reliant on their technology that they're effectively "postbiological," eager to jettison physical brawn in favor of better, faster brains.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Researcher Kevin Randle offers one of many reasons why Project Mogul fails to account for the "Roswell Incident."
World's Tallest Building to Rise Higher than Mount Fuji

The building, known as the X-Seed 4000, is designed to house up to one million residents on as many as 800 floors! Designers have had to consider tricky questions of temperature and pressure differentials between the base and topmost floors, and are looking to utilize solar power to solve these and other critical issues.

Shades of the pyramidal arcologies in "Blade Runner" . . .

(Thanks, Elan!)

I watched this approximately three minutes ago. I'm still wincing.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)

I'm pretty sure I've just discovered a new favorite photographer.

(Twitch of the antennae to Ectoplasmosis.)
Apparently I'm not the only one who thought the "induced OBE" release was flawed:

Editorial: OBE's induced in the lab?

I don't know if we could iron out a 'classic' symptomology of OBE's, but the most central elements of these experiences include a loss of bodily sensation and the image of being disembodied. The experimenters at the UCL neuroscience lab provided volunteers with this image of disembodiment; they did not induce it. And the manipulation of stroking volunteers' chest and back areas suggest that participants still experienced bodily sensations during the sessions. While the participants did experience the sensation of being out of their bodies, calling this an induction of the out-body-experience, the same experience that according to the press release "has been much discussed in theology, philosophy and psychology," is an overgeneralization.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Click here to see an oddly voyeuristic video of a next-generation bionic arm. There's something elusively prurient about this footage; perhaps it's the music, which invites comparison to a porno-movie soundtrack, or the frequent illustrative close-ups.

(Thanks: Communist Robot.)

The age of steampunk

Steampunk has its roots in science fiction literature, where it describes a corner of the genre obsessed with Victoriana and the idea that the computer age evolved alongside the industrial. Steampunk stories, which started appearing with regularity in the 1980s, eschew clean and orderly visions of the future in favor of gas-lighted streets, steam engines belching toxic smoke, and dastardly villains inventing strange technologies. Dirigibles rule the air, and the upper classes employ clockwork servants to serve their meals.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Frankly, I'm getting little bit sick of steampunk. Want to know what the fuss is about? Read "The Difference Engine" and K.W. Jeter's woefully overlooked "Infernal Devices" and move on.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What is Wetware? (Rudy Rucker)

As one of the initial popularizers of the word wetware, I'm disappointed to see that over the years the meaning of the word is being watered down to mean something like a company's employees or a human brain. Like: "Yeah, we got the PCs, we got the Office software, now we just gotta hire us some wetware."

When I see people trying to reduce everything to corporate human resources issues, I think of someone giving a monkey in a zoo a crayon, and all he can draw is the bars of his own cage.

Post includes some fantastic cover art from foreign editions of Rucker's "Ware" series.

The Diana-Morrissey Phenomenon, certainly one of the strangest sites on the Web, has been updated with fresh material, including a head-scratching introductory video. Worth the click.
A mesmerizing short film inspired by (and starring) author and intellectual explorer J.G. Ballard:

Much more on this deft and unsparing work here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The blade runner generation

Christensen is describing a world often expounded by futurists, where the boundary between organisms and devices begin to blur -- a world where neural implants create a direct link to the brain, essentially making computers an extension of our minds. Futurists don't talk of connecting to the "bog-standard" PCs of today, but to sentient computers, thousands of times cleverer than a human brain and with up to a million times more processing power.

If I'm a member of the "blade runner generation" then where the hell's my flying car?
I started reading Rudy Rucker's "Mathematicians in Love" yesterday. This one starts fast; I can already sense an epically weird plot seething just below the surface, ready to erupt.

More Rucker titles reviewed here.
Bonnie Jean Hamilton writes:

I am a life-long friend of the star people. I help abductees and contactees deal with alien abduction and secret government psychic attack.

By "star people" I assume she's not talking about Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen. And yes, she blogs.
Huge Hole Found in the Universe

It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said researcher Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota.


I think this must be where Seth Shostak stores his ego.
Here we go again . . .

Study: Martian soil may contain life

The search for life on Mars appeared to hit a dead end in 1976 when Viking landers touched down on the red planet and failed to detect biological activity.

But Joop Houtkooper of the University of Giessen, Germany, said on Friday the spacecraft may in fact have found signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface.

His analysis of one of the experiments carried out by the Viking spacecraft suggests that 0.1 percent of the Martian soil could be of biological origin.

Scientists develop technique to induce out-of-body experiences

As well as providing scientists with a way to examine out-of-body experiences further in a lab setting, the experiments could have industrial applications. "This is essentially a means of projecting yourself, a form of teleportation," said Dr Ehrsson. "If we can project people into a virtual character, so they feel and respond as if they were really in a virtual version of themselves, just imagine the implications.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Of course, depending on one's point of view, the experiments may not have "induced" OBEs at all, but merely simulated them.
"Propagating Fictions"

The effects of daylight and electrical light upon the space that surrounds them is something Saroff likes to study, using different translucent materials as a vehicle. Light is used to mark change and the passage of time, as well as science and man's effects on his world -- one comment she makes in reference to her Cyber Plants installation is that "In the future we may come home from work at the end of the day and turn our plants on . . . pulsing with energy as if they had been transformed from toxic pollution."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bulletproof school backpacks for frightening children

My School Backpack is a bulletproof child's backpack manufactured by MJ Safety Solutions of Massachusetts. Because your kids aren't scared enough, dammit.

Wait a minute -- "MJ Safety Solutions"? As in . . . MJ-12? And didn't Philip Corso claim that the Roswell crash resulted in the development of super-tenacity materials like Kevlar?

Long live MJ-12!
Infectious Diseases Spreading Faster Than Ever - UN

In its annual World Health Report, the United Nations agency warned there was a good possibility that another major scourge like AIDS, SARS or Ebola fever with the potential of killing millions would appear in the coming years.

"Infectious diseases are now spreading geographically much faster than at any time in history," the WHO said.
Could Enceladus' Plume Damage Cassini?

Enceladus has a remarkable secret, and scientists want to know more. Something is keeping the moon warm, and creating great plumes of water ice that spew out into the Saturnian system and even contribute to the rings. NASA is sending the Cassini spacecraft back in for another look in 2008; however, some engineers are concerned that the tiny particles might pose a risk to the spacecraft as it flies right through them.
It came from outer space

The videos hummed to the top of YouTube's "Most Viewed" list, and from there invaded discussion forums and news aggregator sites across the Web, where debate raged about their origin and authenticity. Skeptics pronounced the videos a computer-generated fraud, probably part of some viral marketing ploy.
Paul Kimball summarizes the latest MJ-12 controversy. Because it's always fun to watch a modern myth in the process of accelerated decay.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 is hosting a poll to gauge readers' favorite cyberpunk authors. The usual suspects are duly listed -- Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Egan, Rucker, etc. -- but one name jumped out at me as wholly undeserving: Mac Tonnies. I mean, yeah, I wrote a book of moderately cyberpunk short-stories back in 1995. One book. And quite honestly, it's not that great, although I had a lot of fun writing it.

So do I qualify as a "cyberpunk" in the literary sense? Probably not, although I drew (and continue to draw) heavily from ideas and tropes that originally metastasized under the competent gaze of "Movement" cyberpunks in the 1980s. (But then again, what thirty-something with a blog and an affinity for science fiction doesn't?)

I guess I prefer the term I coined in my recent interview with Ballardian: "ufopunk." So from now on, if anyone asks, that's what I'll say I am.
Hurricane Dean's Global Warning (note spelling, n not m)?

Hurricane Dean is now officially among the top ten strongest Atlantic storms ever measured. Even more telling, six of the top ten have occurred during the past ten years.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Start-up sees 1,000 "brains" on one microchip

Tilera Corp, a Silicon Valley semiconductor start-up, is launching a single microchip with 64 processing units, or cores, in a technological jump generations ahead of the mainstream.

[. . .]

Now, instead of ratcheting up how quickly the chip cycles, Intel, AMD and others are assembling multiple cores, or processing brains, on a single chip, which boosts performance while keeping down the consumption of electricity.

"You lay out these cores much like you do tiles on a floor," said Anant Agarwal, Tilera founder and chief technology officer. "By 2014, you will see a 1,000-core chip coming out."
I've been extremely skeptical of the UFO videos recently uploaded to YouTube. But the following is so perfectly executed that I can't help but think that it's an authentic recording of an actual sighting.

As always, you be the judge.
It's (almost) official: physicist/ufologist Stan Friedman to get his own holiday!

Which X-Treme Spacer Are You?

I'm all of the above.

(Thanks: Beyond the Beyond.)
I turn 32 today.

Here's some R.E.M.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I've never been entirely sold on the extraterrestrial interpretation of the eponymous "Roswell Incident," but neither have I been impressed with the Air Force's explanations (the latest being that the strange debris found in the desert belonged to a Project Mogul balloon train). On first glance, Project Mogul seems to address the Roswell enigma. But like the famous "weather balloon" cover-story before it, its allure diminishes in light of the evidence pseudoskeptics prefer to ignore or misinterpret.

Intriguingly, the hallowed Project Mogul story might be about to go down in flames, as Brad Sparks suggests in a post to UFO UpDates. I'll be watching this thread with great interest.
Artificial life likely in 3 to 10 years

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."

"It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways -- in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."

Any guesses on how long it takes before this stuff gets weaponized?
The Simulation Argument Goes Way Back

On the other hand, if we could somehow demonstrate that we're living in a simulated reality then there might be some fairly major consequences for the whole idea of a "Theory of Everything". Finding a grand unified theory to unite all the forces of nature would then only be a description of this reality, but not necessarily a valid description of the universe which spawned ours, or the one that spawned that one. So the "end of science" would be pushed back indefinitely and quite possibly, forever. The prime goal of science would shift from seeking to attain a complete model of reality to the search for a means to communicate with the "programmers", or whatever you wanted to call them.

Simulation cosmology appeals to me, in part, because of the ways it might explain "paranormal" phenomena. Maybe UFO encounters and near-death experiences offer portals into a computationally richer domain that we struggle to define for sheer lack of vocabulary.
Any Message for Whoever's Simulating Our World? Leave It Here and Win a Real Prize

If we are in that simulation, what's your message to the simulator? You can offer constructive criticism (think of the blog as a suggestion box), meditations, strategic flattery, pleas or rationales for letting humanity (or at least you) survive and prosper in this world and beyond. Post whatever you want, and I'll pick a winner next week.

Alternatively, feel free to leave your textual offering to the Great Simulator as a comment right here at Posthuman Blues (sorry -- no prizes available).
Tom Snyder, J. Allen Hynek and my friend Peter Gersten discuss the UFO phenomenon in this 1980 clip:

I like Snyder's sensible, curious approach to the subject. No condescension, no silly allusions, no veiled insults -- just informed questions that allow a casual yet thought-provoking dialogue. Ufology needs more venues of this caliber.
Another dubious (if striking) UFO video:

(Hat tip to UFOMystic's Greg Bishop.)
"Ficlets" you ask?

A ficlet is a short story that enables you to collaborate with the world.

Once you've written and shared your ficlet, any other user can pick up the narrative thread by adding a prequel or sequel. In this manner, you may know where the story begins, but you'll never guess where (or even if!) it ends.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Part of me is inclined to suggest that this meme just might take off. I should test the waters by posting a couple shorts from my fiction blog, Extracranial.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm completing a play -- my first -- for Nova Scotia's Semaphore Theatre. I just got an email from Google (which I've trained to do my ego-surging for me) and was directed to this update.

Knowing that "Doing Time" (very loosely based on a short-story I published in 1995) will actually be performed by living, breathing actors is a fairly trippy prospect, somehow more dire than merely committing words to paper (or, more often than not, a computer screen). And I still haven't ironed out the back-story about Martian pharmaceuticals . . .
Korff vs. Randle and the Great Roswell Debate

And just in case you're wondering, Paul's not bluffing. Or if he is he's fooled me.
Arctic Ice Coverage Will Shrink to 2050 Projections . . . This Summer

Yes, dear readers, you read that correctly.

Sometimes you wish records didn't get broken. A group of Japanese science agencies announced today that the area of the Arctic Sea covered by ice is at its lowest level ever recorded. It reached this low point on August 15th, and it's going to get worse. Ice levels should continue to shrink all the way through mid-September. If reality matches predictions, the ice levels will reach IPCC predictions 40 years ahead of schedule.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Israeli Researchers Take First Step Toward Live Computer Chip

With the use of chemical stimulation, Ben-Jacob and Baruchi discovered that they could trigger a man-made network of neurons to imprint patterns - the same process by which the brain creates memories. This discovery marks an early but crucial step toward the invention of a computer chip with the capability to create and store information the same way our own brains do. By linking the network of neurons to software which reads the neural activity, the network and the computer can work together to carry out tasks of which computers are currently incapable.

This article is bursting with high-grade what-if fodder. Expect organic computing to become the next great bio-ethical controversy after the political circus surrounding stem-cell research has run its course.
Living with Water: Visions of a Flooded Future

As part of the RIBA's combating climate change programme, Living with Water brings together five essays from a range of professionals and futurologists. They each explore our evolving relationship with water, the architectural responses to increasing flood risk, and highlight the emerging opportunity to inject long-term vision and imagination into the development of the Thames Gateway.

Our development horizon is stretching further into the future than ever before, largely in response to the challenges of climate change.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Japan swelters in record heat wave

Japan sizzled through its hottest day on record Thursday as a heat wave claimed at least 13 lives and threatened power supplies strained by a recent earthquake, authorities and media reports said.
Earlier this month I blogged about Motion Portrait, a Japanese company that can animate 2-D portaits in real-time. It turns out that you can experiment with the technology on Motion Portrait's website; I especially like this one. (Is it just me or does forcing the woman to jerk her head around by casually moving the cursor instill a vague sense of guilt?)
Comet May Have Exploded Over North America 13,000 Years Ago

According to the scientists, the comet before fragmentation must have been about four kilometers across, and either exploded in the atmosphere or had fragments hit the Laurentide ice sheet in northeastern North America.

Wildfires across the continent would have resulted from the fiery impact, killing off vegetation that was the food supply of many of larger mammals like the woolly mammoths, causing them to go extinct.

(Via Universe Today.)
Self Organizing Space Dust Could Be a Precursor to Life

This discovery comes from European and Australian researchers, and their work is published in today's issue of the New Journal of Physics. They developed computer simulations that showed how clouds of molecules naturally organize themselves into complex helix-like structures that resemble DNA.

Over time, an electrical process called polarization organizes the molecules into more and more complex structures. According to the researchers, this suggests a mechanism where organic molecules could assemble faster than in previous models. This shorter time frame means that complex life could be prevalent across the Universe - they get part of the way in space, and then finish off when they reach a planet.

Another great post by Greg Bishop:

CARET And Symbolic Writing

Mandalas, yantras, and sigils are well-known to most elements of the occult community, and these visual aids to self-enlightenment bear closer scrutiny in the context of the CARET episode. Some of the patterns and shapes are given to students, and others are supposed to be created by the user for specific purposes. These objects of meditation are supposed to help the user identify his or her problems, define solutions, and even create some sort of symbiosis with the mind to bring about change.

Are the CARET glyphs designed to engage the unconscious or are they the cosmic equivalent of HTML tags? Probably neither, but . . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Do you see the UFOs?

More right here.
Army suicides highest in 26 years

The report, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its scheduled release Thursday, found there were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest number since the 102 suicides in 1991 at the time of the Persian Gulf War.

Jeez . . . they must not realize that God's on their side. Keep praying, folks!
"Burning Safari," a great CGI short starring toaster-like swarm robots. (Think the "Dawn on Man" sequence from "2001" gone horribly awry.)

(Thanks, Steve!)
Putin reveals missile defence plan

"This is the first step in a large-scale programme in this sphere that will be carried out to 2015," Mr Putin was quoted as saying during a visit to St. Petersburg. He did not elaborate.

It was the first public announcement of such a programme. Russia has said it will beef up its air defence system in response to the United States's initiative to station elements of a missile shield near Russia's borders.
Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft

The Sundancer module will provide 180 cubic meters of habitable space and will come fully equipped with life-support systems, attitude control and on-orbit maneuverability, as well as reboost and deorbit capability. This larger module -- sporting a trio of windows -- could support a three-person crew and be on orbit in the second half of 2010, Bigelow told Space News in March of this year.

"We still intend to construct and test the Galaxy spacecraft and/or various parts of it in order to gain familiarity and experience with critical subsystems," Bigelow said in the release. "However, by eliminating the launch of Galaxy, we believe that [Bigelow Aerospace] can move more expeditiously to our next step by focusing exclusively on the challenging and exciting task presented by the Sundancer program."


For every failed Space Shuttle there's someone with real vision and a refined sense of the future who has his eyes on the stars.
This clip pits me in mind of something contrived by H.R. Giger, the Brothers Quay and Mr. Rogers while circumnavigating Mars:

Read all about it here.

Whitley Strieber on the possible aftermath of a nuclear terrorist attack.
Don't look now, but . . .

(Hat tip: Aberrant News.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nick Redfern's already taken on blood-sucking mutants and alien invaders. Now he's set his sights on the real bad guys.

Here are the MUFON 2007 International UFO Symposium Proceedings in convenient (?) PDF form. A must if you want the real story behind the MJ-12 documents.

(Thanks: The Anomalist.)
São Paulo: A City Without Ads

"The Clean City Law came from a necessity to combat pollution . . . pollution of water, sound, air, and the visual. We decided that we should start combating pollution with the most conspicuous sector -- visual pollution."

Since then, billboards, outdoor video screens and ads on buses have been eliminated at breakneck speed. Even pamphleteering in public spaces has been made illegal, and strict new regulations have drastically reduced the allowable size of storefront signage. Nearly $8 million in fines were issued to cleanse São Paulo of the blight on its landscape.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

I like it. A lot of readers probably won't, citing economic imperatives. Personally, I don't want anything to do with an economic system that requires ubiquitous corporate graffiti. Do I really need to see another billboard for Taco Bell? Is that lurid LCD screen next to the highway enriching my life?
A must-see video of Dick Cheney talking sense:

How quickly we forget . . .

(Hat tip: Boing Boing.)
Binnall of America's host on paranormal radio, ufology and beer consumption:

(From The Other Side of Truth.)
"Earth Chronicles" author Zecharia Sitchin . . . on trial? This has a bogus ring to it. I'm reminded of the blustery yet vacuous threats made by a certain goofball living in Prague.
Desert dome creates garden time capsule

"Visitors will journey through time, from the Devonian period 410 million years ago, through eras like the Carboniferous to the Pliocene and the present day," said dome designer Nick Sweet, of the British architects Barton Willmore.

"There will even be a Jurassic Park, but without dinosaurs.

"Essentially, we are going to take a single piece of land and show how it has been transformed as plants have evolved and diversified throughout Earth's history. And some of those changes have been dramatic.

"This part of Saudi Arabia may be parched and burning hot today - the temperature was 54C last week - but there were times when rivers flowed and cool forests flourished here. Visitors will be able to experience all of that."
NASA awards $1.8B for moon mission motor

The company, also known as ATK, said the contract runs through 2012 and calls for it to deliver five new motors and other equipment for test flights.

Orion will be the Apollo capsule-like replacement for the 26-year-old space shuttle fleet that is supposed to retire in 2010, after completion of the international space station.
Another odd science-related theft:

3 tonne meteorite stolen in Russia

The massive three tonne rock was bought to Krasnoyarsk after an 2004 expedition to the site of the so-called "Tunguska event'' - a mysterious mid air explosion over Siberia in 1908 was 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and felled an estimated 80 million trees over 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq mi). The foundation's director Yury Lavbin claimed to have discovered the wreckage of an alien spacecraft during the expedition.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Here's a worthwhile essay that further reduces human beings to soulless biological automata. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it's dead-on accurate.* So, apparently, does science fiction writer and "reformed marine biologist" Peter Watts, whose thoughts can be found here.

*I live in Kansas City's premiere commercial district, where I get to see human courtship rites enacted on a near-hourly basis. I've seen the guys who get the girls and the girls who get the guys . . . and it all boils down to so much transparent strutting. People don't seem to desire mates so much as they crave performers -- which is fine by me**, having dealt myself out of the sexual equation long ago***. Of course, one could argue that the singles scene is hardly the place for an objective evaluation of human relationships . . . and I'd argue right back that it's ideal. Ready access to the props and instruments of consumer culture strip away pretense just as a telescope diminishes the distance between an astronomer and a far-away planet.

**Well, maybe not "fine," but you know what I mean.

***Does a year count?
Stanford researchers puzzled by theft of rare earth metals

In a crime that has mystified campus scientists and police, ingots of holmium, lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium and other metals have disappeared from a physics lab, stalling important research into the creation of materials with unusual magnetic and electronic properties.

(Via Rudy Rucker's blog.)

Your guess is as good as mine.
Loren Coleman waxes cryptoterrestrial . . . or have I been waxing cryptozoological? (To my knowledge, Coleman has yet to entertain the idea that one or more species of mystery primates has actually eclipsed Homo sapiens' technological ability. If I'm wrong don't hesitate to let me know.)

Meanwhile, the first draft of my new book, "The Cryptoterrestrials," nears completion. Teaser forthcoming.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

OLE The Fire-Fighting Beetle

Researchers at the University of Magdeburg-Stendal in Germany are developing a giant robotic fire-fighting beetle intended to autonomously roam the forests in search of fire. On patrol the OLE beetle would use infrared and biosensors to detect fires in their early stages and potentially extinguish them before they get out of hand. The OLE is designed from the pill bug, an insect belonging to the centipede family, and like the centipede the OLE can roll up into a ball and retract its six legs into its hard ceramic-fiber heat-resistant shell when danger threatens to protect its sensitive electronic components.

Can you imagine this thing malfunctioning and laying the smack down on some thoroughly disoriented hunter? Let's hope the OLE packs a webcam in addition to infrared sensors.

Ohmygod! The aliens have initiated communication!
A well-done fake UFO video:

Chapel Perilous has more right here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

NASA finds gouge on Endeavour's belly

NASA discovered a worrisome gouge on Endeavour's belly soon after the shuttle docked with the international space station Friday, possibly caused by ice that broke off the fuel tank a minute after liftoff.

And this is news? When was the last time a Shuttle launch wasn't accompanied by a worrisome chunk of something or other falling off in mid-flight?
Fly Me to the Moon: Space Hotel Sees 2012 Opening

"Galactic Suite," the first hotel planned in space, expects to open for business in 2012 and would allow guests to travel around the world in 80 minutes.

Its Barcelona-based architects say the space hotel will be the most expensive in the galaxy, costing $4 million for a three-day stay.

(Via Boing Boing.)

2012 isn't exactly the distant future; Galactic Suite better get crackin'.

An Experiment to Test Panspermia

The experiment, designed by Professor John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen, involves bolting a Scottish rock to the outside of an ESA research spacecraft. When the Foton M3 mission launches on Friday, September 14th, microbes in the rock will enjoy the acceleration of liftoff, 12 days of microgravity and vacuum, and then re-entry through the Earth's atmosphere.

We should have done this a long time ago.
Global Warming Will Step Up After 2009 - Scientists

Global warming is forecast to set in with a vengeance after 2009, with at least half of the five following years expected to be hotter than 1998, the warmest year on record, scientists reported on Thursday.

Climate experts have long predicted a general warming trend over the 21st century spurred by the greenhouse effect, but this new study gets more specific about what is likely to happen in the decade that started in 2005.

Speaking of which, Kansas City is in the grip of a nasty heatwave. My usual daily walks have been reduced to furtive, sweaty jaunts. It was a "mere" 100 today; tomorrow (and the day after that) promise worse.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Astrology is lame and Myers-Briggs is for losers. The omniscient Oracle of Starbucks can tell you everything about your personality by what you drink at Starbucks. Simply enter your full drink order -- including size -- into the field below and the all-knowing Oracle will tell you everything about your personality. Better yet, input your friends' orders to find out what they're really like.

Unlike other imitations, the Oracle is 100% accurate.

The Oracle says I'm boring. What about you?
Don't look now, but the Minneapolis bridge collapse has been confirmed as a government conspiracy!

Massive ULF 'Blast' Detected In US Bridge Collapse Catastrophe

Russian Military reports state that the total collapse of such a massive bridge, and in the absence of evidence linking its destruction to terrorist activity, could only have been accomplished by an acoustic weapon, of which the United States Military is known to possess.

(And just in case you're wondering, I'm being extremely sarcastic.)

George Dvorksy -- with whom I disagree on many points related to technology and extraterrestrial intelligence -- takes aim at meat-eaters. And damned if I don't agree with him.

Do I think serial carnivores are "bad people"? Certainly not. But I'd challenge any of them to defend meat consumption on rational grounds. As I blogged a while back, the meat industry's environmental impact alone more than justifies ditching our collective craving for burgers and steaks (especially as it becomes increasingly evident that the attendant health hazards are casually ignored).

We hear a great deal about minimizing our ecological footprint. For my money, going vegetarian is the easiest way to make a difference. And you might discover a wealth of new recipes in the process.

Beyond the Beyond points the way to an important essay that acknowledges the reality of catastrophic climate change yet questions the wisdom of fear-mongering as a wake-up call to jaded coast-dwellers. I can relate. For no matter how heinous the likelihood of an underwater Miami, there's little point in arguing that such a prospect ignites a small bit significant vicarious thrill. In a media-dominated world of ever-receding frontiers, we've begun to crave ecocalypse on a level we scarcely dare acknowledge.
2 Human Ancestors Probably Co-Existed

A fragment of upper jaw and a skull found in Africa are helping rewrite the textbook on how mankind came to be millions of years ago.

Gone is the step-wise theory of one ancient species, Homo habilis, dying off as another, Homo erectus, takes over -- to give rise later to modern-day Homo sapiens.

In its place are two fossils uncovered in Kenya that appear to show habilis and erectus lived together in close proximity for more than half a million years, about 1.5 million years ago.

(Via The Anomalist.)

And on a nominally related note, here's a video of a Japanese television audience shocked to discover a man with a vestigial "tail":

Anyone seen "Jacob's Ladder"?
Martian Skies are Starting to Clear

The dire condition of the Mars Exploration Rovers has improved a bit in the last few days. That series of dust storms circling the planet has eased off a little, and the skies are started to clear up. This is giving both Spirit and Opportunity a much needed boost to their solar powered electrical systems.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Technology Review: Electric Fields Kill Tumors

Bruce Sterling writes:

If somebody at some coffee-shop told me that "electrical fields can cure cancer," I'd instantly dismiss him as some kind of tinfoil-hat crank... But check out the illustrations in this plausible TECH REVIEW piece. If I'm not mistaken, that cancer-survivor on the park bench there is wearing what is basically an upgraded tinfoil hat.

Click here to go directly to the Technology Review piece.
Virgin American turns air travel into a participatory multimedia experience.
Eight-million-year-old bug is alive and growing

If confirmed, this means ancient bacteria and viruses will come back to life as ice melts due to global warming. This is nothing to worry about, say experts, because the process has been going on for billions of years and the bugs are unlikely to cause human disease.


Pollution closes record number of beaches: study

The number of U.S. beaches declared unsafe for swimming reached a record last year, with more than 25,000 cases where shorelines were closed or prompted health advisories, an environmental group reported on Tuesday.

Chinese dolphin 'probably extinct'

The long-threatened Yangtze River dolphin in China is probably extinct, according to an international team of researchers who said this would mark the first whale or dolphin to be wiped out due to human activity.

Centauri Dreams on the probability that we'll recognize alien megascale engineering:

Some years back, I was doing an interview with Michio Kaku and made a confident statement that we 'knew that no Kardashev type III civilizations existed in the intergalactic neighborhood,' to which Kaku responded with disbelief. Why should I think I knew what alien technologies would be like given the time frames we were talking about? His point was that we would be no more likely to recognize such engineering, based on our own assumptions, than an ant colony would be to understand that the superhighway running past nearby was an artifact and a sign of a superior intelligence.

I tend to agree with Kaku. In any case, I'm far from sold on the validity of the so-called "Fermi Paradox," presently the subject of George Dvorsky's thought-provoking Sentient Developments. In my opinion, Dvorsky's undisguised disdain for the UFO phenomenon only undermines an otherwise systematic attempt to fathom the alien psyche.

Past posts suggest that Dvorsky's appreciation for the UFO problem is rooted in the idea that UFOs, if real, must necessarily be nuts-and-bolts spacecraft piloted by diminutive caricatures of ourselves (a meme that's survived among ufologists despite challenges posed by Jacques Vallee and others of a less literal bent). But the phenomenon's multiplexity and apparent mythic syntax allow for contact scenarios in keeping with the Cosmos of Centauri Dreams, Kaku and Dvorsky.

Instead of relatively limited Bracewell probes, for instance, imagine an intelligent technology capable of engaging emerging civilizations in an excruciatingly patient (by human standards) form of theater. Many UFO encounters seem less like chance sightings of extraterrestrial hardware than staged events conceived by an overarching intelligence that may have little to do with the will of perceived "occupants." Just as a Bracewell probe's agenda involves instigating a simple dialogue with an emergent civilization (or at least its technological ambassadors), the more robust capabilities and resources at the disposal of a galaxy-spanning post-"Singularity" intelligence should be more than up to the task of communicating with us.

But are we confident that such communication will be limited to electromagnetic exchanges? In light of Ray Kurzweil's amply demonstrated law of accelerating returns, perhaps it's just as likely that our first conversation with extraterrestrials will take the form of a complex psychosocial experiment (in which unconventional flying objects may play only a partial role). Although undoubtedly physical, it's an open question whether "real" UFOs are metallic spacecraft in the familiar sense (although in the early days of the phenomenon researchers quickly fastened to the idea, sensing appealing parallels with our own aerospace ventures). Dispensing with the conventional notion of "mere" ET craft allows us to view the UFO problem as a manifestation of technologies ranging from von Neumann machines to "utility fog."

If the ET intent is to test our reactions to its presence (or something more profound, as the phenomenon's impact on our mythology might indicate), quickly assembling "ships" and even "aliens" from raw materials would enable the disparity of forms seen in the sky. The flexibility of nanotech construction would allow the UFO intelligence to respond to our preconceptions in "real time," thereby ensuring a permanent foothold in the collective unconscious while maintaining plausible deniability -- at least among those tasked with policing potentially subversive memes.

Anthropologists have remarked on the inability of less-advanced cultures to profitably adapt to the arrival of more sophisticated cultures. UFOs, with all their attendant pageantry (including violation of military airspace and other airborne theater) are consistent with a form of deliberate invitation, perhaps imposed by an intelligence that -- like the Monolith-builders from "2001" -- promises to elude human comprehension.
A rare video of the late conspiracy maven William Cooper addressing the extraterrestrial menace:

The Resurrection of the "Great Mother"

More interesting still, is that modern humans seemingly equate the circular form with all that is "alien" and somehow reflective of advanced knowledge, either heralded from an enigmatic, futuristic technology, or emerging from some intra-dimensional, parallel plane.

'Strong Probability' Outbreak Originated in Labs

There is a "strong probability" that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain was caused by viruses that escaped somehow from a pair of veterinary laboratories where vaccines are made, a government report said today.

Yet another near-miss seemingly culled from our collective filmic unconscious.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

NASA plans 'Armageddon' spacecraft to blast asteroid

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has designed a nuclear-warhead-carrying spacecraft, to be launched by the US agency's proposed 's Ares V cargo launch vehicle, to deflect an asteroid that could threaten all life on Earth.

The 8.9m (29ft)-long "Cradle" spacecraft would carry six 1,500kg (3,300lb) missile-like interceptor vehicles that would carry one 1.2MT B83 nuclear warhead each, with a total mass of 11,035kg.


Existential risk? I'll show you existential risk!
The Other Side of Truth and Posthuman Blues are now Korff-free, but the Kal K. Korff Watch is just getting started.

The mission statement sums it up:

Throughout time, we have watched the universe, observing its inhabitants and events. We are The Watchers. I am Katu, the Watcher assigned to observe the being known as Kal K. Korff. Normally The Watchers do not take interest in such a homely and lonely earth creature, but this Korff amuses us. Watching and examining this futile little being will provide this Watcher with much humor and a change of pace from the real crises that threaten the universe.

New Theoretical Model Eliminates Barriers to Time Travel

A Technion-Israel Institute of Technology physicist has developed a theoretical model of a time machine that could enable future generations to travel into the past. In his paper published in the July issue of Physical Review, noted time-travel theorist Professor Amos Ori provides practical solutions to a number of criteria long seen by other experts as obstacles to the realization of time travel.

(Via Unknown Country.)
Water way to go: Funeral bosses plan to boil bodies to dust

In the new process a silk coffin enters a chamber and is submerged in hundreds of litres of water mixed with potassium hydroxide, an alkali.

The body is then brought up to temperature. In two hours it turns into white dust.

Chemically, the process is similar to - but much faster than - natural decomposition.

Company Now Selling Real Flying Saucers

Right now, only $90,000 stands between you and ownership of your own flying saucer.

Yay! Finally!

Except it won't take you to Venus --

Uh-oh -- here it comes . . .

-- it looks like flying saucer but it's really a car-sized hovercraft intended to fly no higher than 10 feet.

And to think I was beginning to get excited.

(Thanks, Nick!)
Two notable space items:

Galaxies clash in four-way merger

Four gigantic galaxies have been seen crashing into one another in one of the biggest cosmic collisions ever seen.

[. . .]

The clashing galaxies are expected to eventually merge into a single, behemoth galaxy up to 10 times as massive as our own Milky Way.

Team finds largest exoplanet yet

An international team of astronomers has discovered the largest known planet orbiting another star.

The "transiting" planet - meaning one that passes in front of its parent star as seen from Earth - is about 70% larger than Jupiter.

But the presumed "gas giant" has a much lower mass than Jupiter - the biggest planet in our Solar System - making it of extremely low density.

Looks like the Hilly Rose Show is running an "encore" of an old interview with me -- so old I'm not sure I even remember doing it. It's about Mars and my 2004 book, "After the Martian Apocalypse."

(Thanks to The Daily Grail for the heads-up.)
Blog o' the day: The Curio

Monday, August 06, 2007

William Gibson on the Past and Future

If you could build a little binary time-travel switch between 2007 and 1967, and you toggle back and forth, the biggest difference is the Internet. And it's one of the things that you just couldn't have imagined from 1967. That's a very interesting thought experiment, by the way. I recommend that to anyone: Sit down and choose a year -- it doesn't have to be 1967, of course, but it only really works if you choose a year in your own life -- and compare it to your sense of where the present is and look at the difference. What most people experience when they do that is vertigo. It scares them. They say, "Oh, it's really changed a lot," and suddenly feel like they ain't seen nothing yet.
Feast your eyes on the the world of the future, Nazi-style. Very scenic, but ultimately my sentiments toward this technocratic wasteland are with John Brownlee.
Space Settlement and War

Space settlement can make resource wars a thing of the past, something we only read about in history books, because space settlement can deliver far, far more resources at far, far less cost. Less money, less death, less destruction, and infinitely less stupidity.

Resources and territory are not the only reasons for war, but they cause a lot of them. The U.S. has spent far more defending oil access in the Mid-East than it would cost to build space settlements. Perhaps it's time to change direction. Perhaps it's time to make Earth a bit healthier for children and other living things. Perhaps it's time to choose life over war. Perhaps it's time to start building space settlements.

(Via Futurismic.)
The "drones" inspire Rudy Rucker to fake his own UFO photo.
Terence McKenna: "Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness."

(Hat tip: PAG E-News.)
In a Strange Universe, We Stick to Search For Familiar Life

Black holes inhale entire galaxies. Gamma-ray bursts release more energy in a blink than our Sun can produce in a billion years. Super-nova explosions scatter elements, like pollen, on the stellar wind.

In the face of so much strangeness, it may be only human nature to seek out the familiar. Those searching for extraterrestrial life, however, ought to abandon the assumption that alien organisms would utilize the same biochemical architecture as life on Earth, a research panel recently urged.

"It is clear that nothing would be more tragic in the American exploration of space than to encounter alien life without recognizing it," said University of Washington oceanographer John Baross. He is chairman of a National Research Council panel that recently issued a report called "The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems."

If J.G. Ballard ever decided to pursue the UFO lecture circuit, I'm confident his prose would invite comparison with British fortean philosopher Colin Bennett, who takes on the "CARET" mythos with his usual dexterity and wit.

An exemplary excerpt:

But CHAD is not, as some have suggested, pre-publicity for a coming CD game. Its focus is limited, much more narrowly specialised, and it represents a political programme of an entirely new type, meant to appeal almost exclusively to thinking folk. As such, it is structured, and it does not align itself with those things which most thinkers pretend they despise: non-cerebral mass media, pop culture, and consumerism. Despite being almost extinct as a lost tribe, no culture, society or indeed time itself can move forward without thinkers. Without the much-abused intellectuals, we would have a two-dimensional tapestry world, a medieval wall-painting showing the entire world to be a billion Simpson characters frozen in media time.

And even more to the point:

As distinct from SERPO, CHAD is a very subtle high-level multi-media operation with better internal balance, backed up by a massive and well-financed support base. It applies just a little fantasy, not too much, something only a few moves away from the supposed real. Then it adds something of the perceived contemporary real. When looked at closely, this now-you-see-it now-you-don't flicker-technique produces raw intellectual eroticism of a superb variety.

Keep writing, Colin!
Gulf of Mexico Plagued by Record "Dead Zones"

Researchers have found 9,650 square miles (24,990 sq km) of "dead zones," or oxygen-depleted water, in the Gulf of Mexico this summer, the biggest area since tracking of the annual phenomenon began.
Here's what Stephen Bassett isn't telling you:


There is a race of beings from a planet on the farther reaches of the galaxy, the HEMORG, who cultivate various planets so that they can harvest the species on them, once the dominant species reaches a population “saturation point”. The harvest is for physical and psychic consumption purposes, both. Subspecies created as 'cultivators' and 'observers' who were left here to maintain detection devices, and which are seen in the saucer shaped vehicles you have observed (these subspecies are essentially artificial creations, flesh robots), will assist in the harvesting process.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A humorous mixed-media animation mocking British Mars exploration:

One can only hope a similar fate won't befall the just-launched Phoenix.
This is spooky-cool:

Motion Portrait: Instant 3D Animation From Photos

The Japanese company Motion Portrait Inc. has developed a remarkable program capable of taking still photos of peoples faces and rapidly animating them in 3D. The software is called Motion Portrait and was on display at GDC 2007 this year, where it dazzled onlookers as it animated their photos with real time lip-syncing to a foreign Japanese voice.

Notice that the animated faces have a listless, stoned quality . . . as if, on some impossible level, they realize their own soullessness.
Here's a thoughtful editorial on going car-free. Since escaping the suburbs I use my car much less than before and I'm convinced ditching the thing for good is surprisingly plausible. To say nothing of the health benefits of being able to walk to my destination -- the local library, say, or a local cafe -- rather than constantly keeping my eye on the fuel gauge.
Odd Skull Boosts Human, Neandertal Interbreeding Theory

A human skull from a Romanian bear cave is shaking up ideas about ancient sex.

The Homo sapiens skull has a distinctive feature previously found only in Neandertals, providing further evidence of interbreeding between the two species, according to a new study.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Lift off for Nasa's Mars probe

Nasa has launched a spacecraft on a nine-month journey to Mars, where it will dig below the surface for clues to the existence of past or present life.

The Phoenix probe lifted off at 0526 EDT (1026 BST) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, atop a Delta II rocket.

If everything goes to plan, Phoenix should arrive at Mars in late May 2008.