Saturday, September 29, 2007

I really like the way this commercial casually employs the android meme to such subtle erotic effect. I mean, who wouldn't want a slender chrome avatar of the posthuman future to assist with the shaving process? And the way the electric razor emerges from the bot's wrist is a clever (if disturbing) twist; perhaps the human in the commercial is actually languishing in some off-camera suicidal fantasy . . .

While I'm lamenting my crippled computer mouse, Greg Bishop wants a few words with you regarding UFOs as a participatory artistic phenomenon.
The scroll-wheel on my optical mouse just died. I had no idea how reliant on that thing I'd become. Damn it!
6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes

It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.

So this explains Creationists!

But it gets even better:

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

A Gibsonian moment:

Interactive supermodel hologram ad

The 3D ad system features an external touch-screen control panel that allows aspiring fashion coordinators to select from 4 situations -- "Date," "Work," "Party" and "Holiday" -- and arrange 12 different fall/winter outfits for Anne's hologram, who walks around in the glass-enclosed booth showing off the selected clothes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Creative Commons-licensed short-story "The Reenactment" appears at Alterati. This one's the better part of a decade old. Although I find portions of it clunky, I'm not wholly ashamed of it. Yet.
Blog of the day: Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society
Now police are told they can use Taser guns on children

Police have been given the go-ahead to use Taser stun guns against children.

The relaxing of restrictions on the use of the weapons comes despite warnings that they could trigger a heart attack in youngsters.

Until now, Tasers - which emit a 50,000-volt electric shock - have been used only by specialist officers as a "non lethal" alternative to firearms.

(Via Night of the Living Jackboots.)
Crash: Architectures Of The Near Future

This year Unit 15 will continue its research into 'synthetic space', that is spaces that exist as hybrids of the 'actual' and the 'virtual', by examining speculative, narrative architectures, based on the work of the writer J G Ballard. J G Ballard is one of the most original and distinctive authors of the last part of the C20th, and beginning of the C21st. His writing has encompassed topics as diverse as ecological crisis to technological fetishism and augmentation, and from urban ruination to suburban mob culture, and he has pursued these topics with a wit and inventiveness that is without comparison.

(Via Ballardian.)

That's right: an architecture course inspired by and based upon the works of J.G. Ballard. This is something of an intellectual wet dream come true.

Radio Burst Flags Celestial Oddity

An odd radio burst that seems to signal a previously undiscovered astrophysical phenomenon is now on the scene. Culled out of archival data gathered from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, the burst may signal something exotic indeed, the last stages of the evaporation of a black hole. Another candidate: A collision between two neutron stars.

Sometimes I wonder if some of the "odd bursts" emanating from deep space could be inadvertent ET signals spawned by megascale industrial processes. Like Michio Kaku, I'm sympathetic to the idea that we could be essentially blind to the activities of any sufficiently advanced extrasolar intelligence.

Bullets fired by William S. Burroughs are up for auction on eBay. Somebody buy this for me!
Earth's oceans were 'home-grown', not from outer space

Oceans on Earth were 'home-grown' and formed because the young planet had a thick blanket of hydrogen, which reacted with oxides in the mantle to form lakes and seas, Japanese planetary scientists have said.

The dominant view has been that Earth got its share of water from moisture-rich asteroids and comets that rained down on the planet during its formative years.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Get those iPods ready: The Other Side of Truth's Paul Kimball appears in The Book of THoTH's latest podcast. Next up: me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Snowmelt in Antarctica Creeping Inland

The worst melting happened in the summer of 2004-2005, with snow and ice melting in unlikely places, the researchers report.

"2005 was an extreme event," said Marco Tedesco of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Records of surface temperatures confirm that it was an unusually warm year at the bottom of the world, as well as one of the warmest years on record for Earth.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Ax the manipulative footage of jubilant crowds and mock control-room drama and you've got a decent effort at YouTube pamphleteering.
Virginia Tech's Three Legged STriDER

The Self-excited Tripedal Dynamic Experimental Robot (STriDER) walks by swinging one leg forward using gravity to carry it and preserve energy like humans, but it also flips its entire body upside-down with each stride. This unusual form of locomotion is surprisingly stable and efficient but the technology still needs a bit of work before we can expect to see this sort of thing traveling outside of the lab.

Obviously reverse-engineered from Wellsian Martian war machines.

Have you heard? Global nuclear holocaust is "in" again!

Drone UFO video in Kentucky.

On August 28th this year, Kentucky resident Jeromy Staggs was filming the lunar eclipse to show his four year old daughter the next day. Using a high quality Sony model DCR-HC21 Mr staggs waited for the eclipse to begin and began filming the event. He managed to get 7 - 8 minutes of the rare celestial show - and then perhaps something more unusual moved into view.

[. . .]

The main similarity which has struck most of those in the know, is the amazing resemblance Mr Staggs video has with all the 'Drone' pictures which have come forward during this summer.

(Via The Anomalist.)

The resemblance is tenuous but intriguing, as is the object's conspicuous presence during an eclipse. Hoax or not, the "drone" was intended to be seen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Police raid doomsday cult born from floods

Ugandan police have arrested 12 leaders of a doomsday cult that believes floods swamping large parts of the north and east of the country herald the end of the world, state media said Sunday.

Apocalyptic sects are a particularly sensitive subject for the east African nation, where another group killed nearly 800 followers in massacres and a mass suicide after its prediction the world would end at the start of 2000 failed to come true.

It has been among the hardest hit of 17 African countries ravaged by floods in recent weeks. Some 300,000 Ugandans, many already uprooted by conflict, have been affected.

I hate to be bleak, but these guys haven't seen anything yet.
NASA aims to put man on Mars by 2037

NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, the administrator of the US space agency indicated here Monday.

This year marks the half-century of the space age ushered in by the October 1957 launch of the Sputnik-1 by the then Soviet Union, NASA administrator Michael Griffin noted.

In 2057, the centenary of the space era, "we should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars," Griffin told an international astronautics congress in this southern Indian city where he outlined NASA's future goals.

2037 is ridiculously far-flung. Take away ten years to make it 2027 and I'll (reluctantly) cease complaining. In the meantime, perhaps it's time to re-read Robert Zubrin's "The Case for Mars."
Rejoice -- OddThings is back!
Parallel universe proof boosts time travel hopes

But the existence of parallel worlds offers a way around these troublesome paradoxes, according to David Deutsch of Oxford University, a highly respected proponent of quantum theory, the deeply mathematical, successful and baffling theory of the atomic world.

He argues that time travel shifts between different branches of reality, basing his claim on parallel universes, the so-called "many-worlds" formulation of quantum theory.

The new work bolsters his claim that quantum theory does not forbid time travel. "It does sidestep it. You go into another universe," he said yesterday, though he admits that there is still a way to go to find schemes to manipulate space and time in a way that makes time hops possible.

Suppose someone's figured it out. They're wouldn't be violating causality, so they could enjoy a surprising degree of freedom. If they're a version of homo sapiens, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect them to be interested in us, in which case some UFO testimony begins to make sense.

As Deutsch is careful to note, quantum time travel doesn't seem to be possible anytime soon. So if popularly described "aliens" are in fact terrestrial visitors from a version of our own future, how advanced are they?
Amazon Forest Unexpectedly Resilient to Drought

"Instead of 'hunkering down' during a drought as you might expect, the forest responded positively to drought, at least in the short term," said study author Scott R. Saleska, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University Of Arizona. "It's a very interesting and surprising response."

(Via The Anomalist.)

See? I'm not always doom and gloom when it comes to climate change.
Nano UFOs

Since it is propelled by a miniature rocket, the prototype NAV will have a flight time of only a few seconds. But any species capable of crossing galaxies (or dimensions) will doubtless have long progressed past the stage of powering their vessels with controlled explosions. Imagine the surveillance capabilities of a NAV with a flight time of minutes, or even hours. Why fly conspicuously clunky flying saucers over military bases to take photographs when you could instead deploy a squadron of spying sycamore seeds to do the job for you?

The presence of said "conspicuously clunky flying saucers" is one of the principle reasons I think the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis fails to account for UFO activity. I've written more on this angle of the debate here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I really, really, really, really like vintage pulp book covers. The more lesbians and tentacled aliens the better. Having gotten that off my chest, here's an excellent gallery of pulp art I discovered thanks to Ectoplasmosis.
Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. History

Sea level rise is "the thing that I'm most concerned about as a scientist," says Benjamin Santer, a climate physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

"We're going to get a meter and there's nothing we can do about it," said University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, a lead author of the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris. "It's going to happen no matter what -- the question is when."
Transparent frogs? Big deal. There are plenty of people I can totally see through.

Mars 'Life Detection' Kit Launched into Space

Scientists and engineers are hoping that the life-sensing chip will remain viable in the harsh radiation, temperatures and vacuum of space during a journey to Mars. The kit is designed to detect trace levels of biomarkers, which should be able to reveal if life currently is, or ever was, present on Mars.

"This will be the first time that these types of materials will have flown unprotected in space in a manner similar to a flight to Mars," said Andrew Steele, a molecular biologist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C.

"ET is attacking us by stealth. Using our own computers against us." Dacre insists. He claims that the US government, in tandem with other 'friends', know that the interstellar computer virus arrived from a star system approximately twelve light years from our solar system. "A stone's throw on the galactic scale of failing suns!"

Alien computer viruses? Oh, come on! If you're going to make up a silly SETI conspiracy at least do better than that.
Here's a delightful gallery of insects Photoshopped to look like mammals. Or is that the other way around?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Carnegie Mellon's New Prototype Lunar Rover

Consider this: there are two rovers crawling around the surface of Mars. Isn't it strange that we don't have anything similar on the surface of the Moon. I mean, come on, it's so close.

I've been hearing about up-and-coming lunar rovers since at least 1998. In particular, I remember Radio Shack gearing up as a sponsor for a privately funded rover mission that never happened (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one's opinion of Radio Shack . . .)

Examining these massive circular mining sites, I can't help but be reminded of certain exotic formations on Mars.

(Thanks: PAG E-News.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Arctic vault takes shape for world food crops

In a cavern under a remote Arctic mountain, Norway will soon begin squirreling away the world's crop seeds in case of disaster.

Dynamited out of a mountainside on Spitsbergen island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, the store has been called a doomsday vault or a Noah's Ark of the plant kingdom.
American Spy Satellite Downed In Peru As US Nuclear Attack On Iran Thwarted

Russian Military Intelligence Analysts are reporting today that one of the United States most secretive spy satellites, the KH-13, targeting Iran was 'destroyed in its orbit' with its main power generator powered by the radioactive isotope Pu-238 surviving re-entry and crashing in a remote region of the South American Nation of Peru, and where hundreds are reported to be ill from radiation poisoning.

OK. Now it all makes sense.

(More coverage here . . .)
Blog of the day: Dark Roasted Blend
Here's a damned cool remote-control flying saucer I really wish I had. With a little improvisation, I bet I could use it to drop turds onto the heads of the sidewalk preachers that plague my neighborhood on weekends.

Can you spawn complex emergent behavior with a bunch of unruly virtual ants and some algorithmic breadcrumbs?

(Tip of the hat to Reality Carnival.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pollution May Cause 40 Percent of Global Deaths

Water, air and soil pollution, along with other environmental factors, contribute to 40 percent of deaths worldwide each year, a new study concludes.

In a review of research into the effects of environmental pollutants and other sources of environmental degradation, Cornell University ecologist David Pimentel estimates that 62 million deaths per year (40 percent of all that occur) can be attributed to environmental factors, particularly organic and chemical pollutants that accumulate in the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Metaplace: open DIY virtual worlds for everyone

Metaplace -- a virtual world creation system that lets anyone make their own multiplayer games, link them and share them -- has just launched, at the Techcrunch 40 event. Metaplace was created by Raph Koster, the architect of Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online -- and the author of the incredible Theory of Fun. Metaplace is a world-creator that runs right in your browser, and that makes it incredibly simple to share objects, characters and entire worlds.


I might give this a shot, assuming my graphics card is up to the challenge.
There's the Red Vote, the Blue Vote . . . and the Little Green Vote

Federal law limits the participation of resident aliens in the political process. But it is silent on the role of extraterrestrial aliens.

This loophole has not been lost on the life forms who arrived on these shores aboard flying saucers with little more than the antennae on their backs. After years of suffering without suffrage, these beings are now seeking to play a role in the 2008 presidential campaign.

You guessed it: another shallow, dismissive piece on the "expolitics" movement as it readies itself for a new presidential election. Like my friend Paul Kimball, whose UFO documentary "Best Evidence" made its American debut at the X-Conference in Washington, D.C., I think exopoliticians' certainty that UFOs represent extraterrestrial intelligence is premature; perhaps a more productive approach to the controversy would entail dispensing with expansive "cover-up" allegations and focusing on the scientific unknowns posed by the phenomenon (whatever its origin).

None of this is to suggest the U.S. government is being entirely truthful about what it knows about UFOs. Clearly, secrets are being kept -- many of them for reasons only marginally connected to the UFO enigma. And while I'm sympathetic to claims of crashed ET vehicles and recovered alien bodies, I'm unaware of a single case that could be reasonably wielded as proof of alien visitation. Instead, we're faced with 60 years of unexplained activity that hints, remarkably, of some form of intelligence -- fascinating to committed students of the unknown, but decidedly less desirable to disclosure activists committed to unearthing a "smoking gun."
Vegetation on Mars? It would certainly appear so. Of course, appearances can be deceiving. What do you think?

A brand-new ish of FLURB, edited by Rudy Rucker, is online. I'm not in it this time, but that's hardly a let-down considering some of the wildly talented writers who are.

Hey, when did H.R. Giger start designing Dust Busters?

(Hat tip: Beyond the Beyond.)
I'm kicking today off with another video by YouTube commentator Pat Condell, whose fears about the tyranny of religion in an ostensibly non-Christian nation I share. I only wish I could be half as articulate and good-natured about them.

My pal eWarrior is up to one of his neatest digital tricks: taking chronology-transcending photographs of celebrities. The latest subject? None other than conceptualist/composer Brian Eno:

Enter a name, and you'll turn up any number of photos of famous people. But, if you were searching for Brian Eno, you couldn't have turned up this one, until today. That's because it isn't an actual photograph. Isn't it interesting how human beings have the same demeanor, even over a span of decades? The photographs that seeded this image are years apart, but the "ghost" inside still shows through.

Aesthetically, at least, there's something almost like evocational magick at work here.
Way back in junior high I watched "Circuitry Man," a mostly forgettable cyberpunk movie that took its principle cues from "Mad Max" and "Blade Runner." One of the characters, an android, is haunted by a lost love and spends much of the movie ruminating on ways to win her back. In "Blade Runner" fashion, it's revealed that there is no lost love: the woman of his dreams is just that -- an implanted fiction designed (if I remember correctly) to instill a sense of hope in an otherwise intolerable world. (In "Blade Runner," Sean Young's character harbors tenuous memories of a childhood she never actually experienced; her realization that she's a genetically engineered "replicant" fated to a four-year lifespan is one of the film's most striking moments.)

Uninspired plot aside, the stalwart romanticism of the android in "Circuitry Man" must have struck a chord, because it's essentially the only part of the movie I remember. What do you do when you discover that the love you remember so fondly is so much computational static? Or, in human terms, how do you react to the prospect that "love" itself is a cunning delusion forged by millions of years of hominid evolution?

Most of us are at least partially willing to entertain the idea that something better is just around the corner, even knowing the psychological risks. We're wired for optimism because, ultimately, defeatism tends to pass along fewer genes. DNA is a uniquely tyrannical molecule. It lulls us with the lusty murmur of sirens until we find ourselves stranded on uncharted shores.

And then we slip back into the ocean, as amnesiac as any machine, and rejoice in the same cruel and artificial certainties.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jeez, this guy's desk puts the Posthuman Blues Meme-Tracking Facility to shame!
Nanoscale computer memory retrieves data 1,000 times faster

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have developed nanowires capable of storing computer data for 100,000 years and retrieving that data a thousand times faster than existing portable memory devices such as Flash memory and micro-drives, all using less power and space than current memory technologies.

Villagers fall ill after fireball hits Peru

Limache told RPP that the gases emanating from the crater caused nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and stomach pain -- so much so that authorities were considering calling a state of emergency. The newspaper La Republica reported that seven policemen became ill and were taken to a hospital.

Villagers decided not to drink the water in the area because they regarded it as contaminated in the wake of the impact, RPP reported. Experts from Peru's Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute, or Ingemmet, were reportedly on their way to the village in the country's Desaguadero region to evaluate the health risk.

If the impact was caused by a meteorite, sulfur or other elements in the space rock may have reacted with the ground water to produce noxious fumes.

I'm probably not the first to suggest this, but how sure are we that this was a meteorite? Might space junk -- or even a downed biowarfare research satellite -- result in similar symptoms?

Sun Vibrations

Cell phones are handy devices, but a new psychological problem called "ringxiety" has come along with their use. A new study found that two thirds of the people surveyed reported hearing their phone ring or feeling it vibrate when it had not actually rung. The more frequently a person uses their phone, the more often they reported hearing a phantom ring.

Never fear; I'm sure the pharmaceutical industry's hard at work on the problem at this very moment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nick Redfern has things he wants to talk about . . . besides Mongolian death-worms, saucer spies and Bigfoot. Who knew?
In other planets, what would our homes look like?

With an innovative vision has Nader Khalili revolutionized 21st Century space architecture. Near the Mojave desert in California lies a prototype of a lunar colony created from dust and water and shaped by fire and wind.

Not only are these Superadobe and Ceramic Houses beautiful to the eye, but they've also proven to be earthquake-and water-resistant, cool in the summer, warm in the winter and perhaps some of the most environmentally friendly buildings both on Earth and "abroad".

(Via The Anomalist.)

Let's see: other planets, far-out architecture and environmental sustainability . . . this one comes close to achieving the Posthuman Blues trifecta.

Through a special arrangement with American conceptual artist Jonathon Keats, the Gormannstrasse gallery will offer the unadulterated experience of spending money.

"Each transaction is an original artwork," explains Mr. Keats, who has previously sold real estate in higher dimensions of space and futures contracts on his own brain. "The artwork comes into existence the moment that you buy it, and remains solely yours until you sell it to someone else by engaging another buyer in an equivalent transaction."

Thanks but no thanks. I've got all my money tied up in alien abduction insurance policies.
How to prepare for alien invasion

Taylor and Boan started thinking about how to respond to an aggressive extraterrestrial attack during a 2001 discussion about defending against terrorist attacks.

"One thing that popped into my mind was that the only way Americans would be in an asymmetric war on the other side would be if we were attacked by aliens. Everyone chuckled, but then after a minute the comments started setting in," Taylor said.

"Then we really got to talking about it and we thought, well, you know, we really might need this contingency plan anyway."

(Via The Anomalist.)

This is, of course, a great source for speculation. But it assumes -- as do all remotely mainstream treatises on alien visitation -- that the ETs have yet to get here. While this may be the case, I certainly wouldn't bet my life on it.

Assuming for sake of argument that they are here, why haven't we been thoroughly demolished? The abduction mythos suggests that "they" are here for our DNA, in which case we constitute a valuable natural resource. Of course, this forces us to wonder why an extrasolar species would have any interest in a molecule that many scientists consider unique to this planet. Initially, at least, it seems implausible that ETs would have any practical use for human genetic material. Then again, given the sheer novelty of our biological heritage, is it excessively arrogant to consider ourselves worthy of prolonged ET scrutiny?

And don't get me started on the motives of possible cryptoterrestrials . . .
'UFO' was a NASA experiment

The reflective object seen floating in the sky Thursday evening was not a UFO or even a weather device, but a high-altitude science balloon.

The balloon was launched from Fort Sumner by NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and passed through the Gallup area as the sun set on Thursday.

Some uncertainty surrounded the origin of the balloon, and many residents suspected the device was part of a project conducted by the Kirtland Air Force Base or the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Soylent Green": more prescient than we'd like to admit?
H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" done right.

(Thanks: Ectoplasmosis.)
Arctic ice melt opens Northwest Passage

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.
Want me to respect your religious beliefs? I kindly refer you to Pat Condell:

Thanks, Pat. I couldn't have possibly said it better.

(More scandalously on-target Condell videos here.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

MJ-12 is a non-issue to most ufologists. But Robert and Ryan Wood, proprietors of the Majestic Documents archive, insist that the death-blow is premature and that original documents indicate a genuine government agency devoted to UFO crash-retrievals.

To read their arguments, click here.

The intelligence community and amateur UFO groups have long been uneasy bedfellows, as the origin of the MJ-12 Eisenhower Briefing Document illustrates. New evidence advances the idea that spooks continue to infiltrate UFO groups -- often for reasons only peripherally related to unexplained phenomena.
Seminal cyberpunk author John Shirley, no stranger to the music business, has launched a MySpace page featuring original material. If you're nice to him, maybe he'll let you be his friend.
Space beings alarmed by terrestrial nuclear detonations in the 1940s? Where have I run across that meme before?

As I've probably made clear over the last five years, I'm a sucker for books on the paranormal. But I'm especially a sucker for paranormal books that cite me in the acknowledgments. Such a book is Nick Redfern's "Memoirs of a Monster Hunter," which I browsed today while hanging at Barnes & Noble. Do yourself (and Nick) a favor and buy this book -- even if you're not in the acknowledgments.
More Amazing Images of Iapetus

During this most recently flyby, Cassini passed 100 times closer than its previous Iapetus flyby in 2004. At this distance, the spacecraft was able to reveal the moon's strange bulging shape, equatorial ridge, and pattern of bright and darkness across its features.

Many of its photographs focus in on the bizarre mountain ridge that circles the moon's equator, like a seam. The new Cassini images showed that this ridge is mountainous, rising as high as 20 km, and extends across more than half its circumference.

Thus far no word from Richard Hoagland -- that I'm aware of -- but a quick jaunt to his site suggests renewed fascination with secret Masonic exploration of ET ruins on the Moon. This is a book I actually plan on reading, despite co-author Mike Bara's calling me a "faggot" for daring to entertain the prospect that an object on the lunar surface might not be a C3-PO-style robot head after all.
Online worlds to be AI incubators

Researchers at US firm Novamente have created software that learns by controlling avatars in virtual worlds.

Initially the AIs will be embodied in pets that will get smarter by interacting with the avatars controlled by their human owners.

The term "incubator" has immediate biological connotations, so I find its casual association with online virtual worlds immediately appealing.

Meanwhile, Zeno's cartoon anthropomorphism further taunts the once-reliable partitions between "real" and "synthetic."
Radio Frequencies Help Burn Salt Water

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

Some heartening developments on the space front:

UK 'must have human space role'

Google backs private Moon landing

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Russia tests superstrength bomb

Russia has tested the world's most powerful vacuum bomb, which unleashes a destructive shockwave with the power of a nuclear blast, the military said on Tuesday, dubbing it the "father of all bombs".

The bomb is the latest in a series of new Russian weapons and policy moves as President Vladimir Putin tries to reassert Moscow's role on the international stage.

Science fiction writer Peter Watts ("Starfish," "Blindsight") returns to the intriguing possibility of intelligence without cumbersome, neurologically extravagant awareness:

Do-It-Yourself Zombiehood

But what especially interested me was the suggestion of mechanism behind some of those results. Both Blindsight and Blog cite studies showing that being distracted from a problem actually improves your decision-making skills, or that we are paradoxically better at detecting subtle stimuli in "noisy" environments than in "clean" ones.
Global Warming Impact Like "Nuclear War" - Report

Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.

While everyone had now started to recognise the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.
If you thrill to tales of planetary dieback and species hovering at the edge of terminal dissolution, this post's for you.

Big Climate Change Did Not Kill Neanderthals - Study

Using a new method to calibrate carbon-14 dating, the international team found the last Neanderthals died at least 3,000 years before a major change in temperatures occurred.

This suggests either modern humans or a combination of humans and less severe climate change caused the species' demise some 30,000 years ago, said Chronis Tzedakis, a paleoecologist at the University of Leeds, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

World Conservation Union: 16,300 species threatened

That is nearly 200 more species of wildlife than last year, Hilton-Tailor said in a telephone interview. Even so, there are probably many more than that, he said.

"The estimate is low; we know it's low," Hilton-Tailor said. "We've only really looked at the tip of the iceberg in terms of species that are out there that are known to science."

Gorillas now 'critically endangered'

The most common type of gorilla is now "critically endangered," one step away from global extinction, according to the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species released Wednesday by the World Conservation Union.

(With thanks to Nick Redfern.)
Blog of the day: Planetaria, brought to you by Paul Anderson of the Canadian Crop Circle Research Network.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Electricity from orbiting solar-powered lasers

Relying on plates made from a special ceramic material containing chromium (which absorbs the sunlight) and neodymium (which efficiently converts sunlight to laser light), the newly developed lasers demonstrated an impressive 42% solar-to-laser energy conversion efficiency, outperforming previous technology by a factor of four.
Paul Saffo Predicts End Of U.S. Economic Model

Must-see YouTube video.

Cassini: highest-resolution-ever images of Iapetus

As I write this blog entry, Cassini has already passed its closest approach to Iapetus on its one and only encounter with the yin-yang moon. We won't know for a while yet if its observations were successful, but orbital mechanics dictates that Cassini was in the right place at the right time to take the greatest ever pictures of this really bizarre-looking moon.

(Via Universe Today.)
Whitley Strieber's latest journal entry is also one of his best. "Visitors" or not, the human species is skating inevitably toward massive dieback; knowing what's in store, the most we can do is take excruciating pains to minimize the damage.

Monday, September 10, 2007

This gallery contains so many fascinating images of real and imaginary spacesuits that I almost feel guilty looking at them all in one place.

(Hat tip: Elan.)

A brand-new interview with me appears at EERIE Radio. You can download the MP3 by clicking here. Enjoy!

Scientists fear ice caps melting faster than predicted

The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off.

Scientists monitoring events this summer say the acceleration could be catastrophic in terms of sea-level rise and make predictions this February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change far too low.

The glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Is Science Fiction Still a Distinct Genre?

Some people are using the term Sprawl Fiction to encompass the incredible diversity of forms and concepts that classical scifi has spread out into. You could think of traditional Science Fiction as the built-up, established, older city core, and Sprawl as the rapidly expanding literary suburbs young writers are fleeing to in search of more elbow room to test out new ideas. So people who assert that "Science Fiction is dead" are looking at where scifi used to be and missing the bigger picture completely.

How, for example, to categorize a novel as transgressive as "Pattern Recognition" or as relentlessly surreal as "Perdido Street Station"? What will genre historians make out of a book like Rudy Rucker's "Saucer Wisdom," John Shirley's "Crawlers" or Jack Womack's "Random Acts of Senseless Violence"?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Aaaugh! It's the female version of me!
Online but off the grid - Japan's internet café homeless

In an example of interstitial existence that sounds like it leaped straight from the pages of a William Gibson novel, the Japanese government has announced that there are over 5,000 "internet café refugees" eking out a living at the bottom of the social strata, taking what temporary work they can and dossing down in 24-hour internet cafés in the absence of a home of their own.

This reminds me of a short-story I abandoned several years ago:

The thick medicinal waters of the creek below sloshed greenly onto the walkway, where vagrants retreated into the worlds behind their gaudy single-use only VR goggles or trawled cheap plastic mediaslates for even cheaper pornography. Black ivy clung to the surrounding walls in dense sheets that rustled in the warm, gusty air. Graham bit into the straw jutting from his coffee, eyes diverted. The rapidly scrolling slates glowed like pale fire; he thought he saw an iteration of breasts and genitals, rendered in resolution so precise it seemed he looked through distant windows.

Later . . .

The lamps, blood-red and glowing at half-capacity, dangled listlessly, swaying like carcasses in a meat-locker. Back on the street, bulbous, steam-puffing cars zipped by, windows mirrored against the glare of storefronts and the foundering neon of once-chic restaurants. Homeless people, many of them marred by cruel deformities, lined the defunct sidewalk, summoning vicarious charms from slates and projectors. A tiny naked woman with copious piercings writhed in mid-air, extremities flickering.

A menacing-looking Gray alien peers over The Chimp's shoulder in this shocking CNN footage. Calling David Icke!

(Hat tip: Boing Boing.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why So Many UFO "Models"? (Greg Bishop)

A telling factor in this is the "standardization" of UFO occupants since the late 1970s. No longer do we hear about beer-can shaped robots, humanoids in spacesuits, or hairy dwarves. Actually, these reports may be out there, but the researchers (especially of the American sort) are most likely blocking out the stories that don't conform to the big-headed, bug-eyed variety.

How I long for the halcyon days of Flatwoods Monsters and marauding Hopkinsville Goblins.
Army Deploys Armed Robots in Iraq

The U.S. government is continuing its march towards an all-robot army. The Predator drones, featured heavily in the Afghani campaign, strapped with missiles was just the beginning. The next step are the Special Weapons Observation Remote reconnaissance Direct action Systems, or "SWORDS" robots.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

The SWORDS bots so eerily resemble the Mars Exploration Rovers that I can foresee conspiracy theorists concluding they were secretly designed for eventual shoot-outs with gun-toting Martians.
Thought-controlled wheelchair

The company Ambient has demonstrated a motorized wheelchair that is controlled by subvocal speech. The individual thinks of a particular word and a sensor collar around the user's neck detects the electrical signals sent from his or her brain to the larynx muscles. The computer then matches those signal patterns to pre-programmed "words" used to control whatever apparatus the system is attached to, in this case a wheelchair. The approach is similar to the subvocal speech system recently demonstrated by NASA for future spacesuit communication devices.

Now if they'd only develop a miniaturized wearable word processor designed around the same principle . . .
Paul Kimball's posted another excellent clip of ufologist Stan Friedman. While I agree with Friedman on relatively little when it comes to the nature and ultimate meaning of specific UFO encounters (such as Roswell or the Hill abduction), his ability to cast light on the bureaucratic and media implications of the phenomenon in general is always engaging. I saw him speak (for free) last year and would gladly pay to see him again -- even knowing I'd find myself objecting to many of his conclusions.
Molecules autonomously propelled by polymerizing DNA strands

Scientists from the California Institute of Technology have fabricated a motor that runs autonomously, and is powered only by the free energy of DNA hybridization. The molecular motor was inspired by bacterial pathogens such as Rickettsia rickettsii that propel themselves through host cells by polymerizing protein "comet tails." The synthetic mimic operates by polymerizing a double-helical DNA tail out of metastable DNA hairpins (a pattern named for its 180-degree turn).
New virus may be killing bees

While the virus probably does not alone account for what scientists call colony collapse disorder, or CCD, it could help explain what is happening to bees across the United States, they said.
Fellow Kansas City blogger Chris Williamson (Blogging the Singularity) recently visited to chat about technology and transhumanism. The excerpt below does a good job of summarizing my own opinions on the human future.

Be sure to visit Chris' blog, where you'll find a slew of future-oriented commentary and pertinent science news items.

(Two transhumanists in Kansas City: who would have guessed?)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A flying triangle over Belgium? The video looks easily faked, so my first reaction is to write it off as yet more CGI noise. Even if authentic, I see nothing in the footage that shrieks "paranormal"; it could be a hang-glider for all I know.
New Mexico Spaceport Design Unveiled

Somebody pinch me, because I still can't believe this is going forward. The world's first commercial spaceport took the next step today, releasing new plans and illustrations to the public today. With a building that looks like the Millennium Falcon with wings, the spaceport, and its main tenant, Virgin Galactic, are taking this whole "space is cool" concept very, very seriously.

Spaceport America will be a 9,300 square metre (100,000 square foot) hanger and terminal facility located in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Construction is expected to begin in 2008, and is expected to be completed by 2009 or 2010.

Nuclear bombs mistakenly flown over US

Ha! No, wait . . . they're serious:

A B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown for more than three hours across several states last week, prompting an Air Force investigation and the firing of one commander, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I bet you thought there were no such things as rectangular galaxies.

Oh, were you ever wrong.

(Thanks: The Speculist.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Worlds Without End isn't a blog, per se (thus its absence on the Posthuman Blues sidebar), but that's not important. What matters is that it's one of the best resource for connoisseurs of written science fiction I've ever seen, with a healthy tolerance for "literary" and slipstream works typically overlooked by genre readers. Top-notch.
About a month ago I was walking back to my apartment from my nightly pilgrimage to the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain and noticed a girl who seemed to be following me. Her stride was mincing yet speedy, as if timed to keep her in my vicinity.

I walked past numerous storefronts before deciding, on a whim, to enter Barnes & Noble. Sure enough, the girl followed. Wondering how long -- if at all -- she'd accompany me, I took the escalators to the third floor. Looking down on the customers from above, I didn't see her. Later, after perusing the science fiction section, I didn't see any sign of her on the second or third floors. So it wasn't as if she'd been bent on cornering me.

Today I saw her again at the library. I was eating a parfait in the lobby and suddenly she was there, looking at me with what seemed like elusive fascination. I noticed that her forearms were riddled with scar tissue, as if she had spent several hours diligently slicing herself with a razor blade. "Goth" affectation or the aftermath of something darker?

"I think I've seen you around here," I said.

I sensed some sort of nonverbal affirmation. When she spoke, the words were swift and purged of nuance, almost clinical: "What are you eating?"

"A parfait." Somehow a justification seemed in order. "Instead of my usual coffee."

"What's your name?"

"Mac. Yours?"


And then she left, as furtive and strange as when I'd first seen her. I don't think she stuck around to follow me: for her seeming interest, she struck me as too preoccupied and inherently migrant for anything as time-consuming as petty stalking.
Paul Kimball's posted a good YouTube video of former physicist and veteran UFO lecturer Stan Friedman attacking the subject from a typical debunker's perspective. While Friedman's list of counter-arguments is by no means exhaustive, what he offers should sound drearily familiar to anyone troubled by the mainstream press' inability to come to grips with the UFO issue.
Human-animal embryo study wins approval

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority published its long-awaited public consultation on the controversial research yesterday, revealing that a majority of people were "at ease" with scientists creating the hybrid embryos.

Researchers want to create hybrid embryos by merging human cells with animal eggs, in the hope they will be able to extract valuable embryonic stem cells from them. The cells form the basic building blocks of the body and are expected to pave the way for revolutionary therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and even spinal cord injuries.
Speed Freaks: The 10 Fastest Green Cars on the Planet

Among old-school gearheads, conventional wisdom is that gasoline is where the fun is, was and always will be (until the pumps run dry). Alternative-fuel automobiles -- hybrids, diesels, electrics and the like -- are dorky, cumbersome and slow. But a growing body of evidence suggests environmental consciousness doesn't have to mean boring.

(Via Dr. Menlo.)
Hurricane Felix Seen Becoming Top-Ranked Storm

Such strong hurricanes have been rare in the past. Before the devastating 2005 hurricane season, only two years had seen more than one Category 5 hurricane. The 2005 season experienced four, including Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Extreme conditions: What's happening to our weather?

Britain is just a few showers away from recording a record wet summer, at the climax of the most remarkable period of broken weather records in the country's history. All of the smashed records are to do with temperature and rainfall - the two aspects of the climate most likely to be intensified by the advent of global warming.

While no specific event can be ascribed directly to climate change, the sequence of events is strongly suggestive of a climate that is now unmistakably altering before our eyes.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Concentration of "End-Times Imps" Increasing, Claims Scientist from Alleged Secret Science Group: "coming of an end-times scenario"

Condensed version: angels and demons are real and are being studied by government scientists. (Deliberately tongue-in-cheek.)

In the wake of the MJ-12 mythos (duly summarized by Kevin Randle), it's interesting to read these wonderfully creepy fictional reports included in Whitley Strieber's novel "Majestic." Strieber's description of an artificially maturated human embryo is especially unsettling in light of the possibility that some perceived aliens may in fact be engineered versions of ourselves -- whether at the hands of extraterrestrials or Cold War scientists.
The Aphrodite Project makes fetishistic platform shoes with deliberately conspicuous glowing keypads and screens embedded in their soles.

From the official site:

Project Goals/Objectives Platforms is designed to question moral attitudes and value judgments, especially with this marginalized section of the population: Who gets new technology and when? What is the true value of sexual services? Using an archetypal model, is it possible to reclaim the profession for modern women? What are the ethics of surveillance and tracking? Is it possible to ensure that this information will empower and not endanger sex workers? Is it ever possible to guarantee that knowledge will stay within the hands of those who it is intended for?

(Thanks: Aberrant News.)
An amusing "inter-face" by the late digital artist Yariv Alter Fin.

More Flickr fun -- this time a charming ensemble of pulp cover art.

(And would you believe I found the link at Boing Boing?)
"The Square Root of One Percent"

(Thanks to PAG E-News.)
I can't resist tossing in a link to this video gallery of various materials and machines being violently dismantled by an industrial shredder. This beast will invariably wind up in a slasher movie, assuming it hasn't already.
'Clearest' images taken of space

A team of astronomers from the US and the UK has obtained some of the clearest pictures of space ever taken.

They were acquired using a new "adaptive optics" system which sharpens pictures taken from the Mount Palomar Observatory in California.

The images are twice as sharp as those from Hubble Space Telescope.

The Dutch have fought their marshy surroundings with clever engineering since the country's inception, and we've seen some impressive "floating architecture" from DuraVermeer and WaterStudio. Now that global warming is fanning the flame: melting ice-caps and raising sea levels, more and more Dutch designers are getting into amphibious architecture. Builder Hans van de Beek's amphibious houses are an obvious yet genius solution to rising water levels. He explains; "They are pretty much just regular houses, the only difference is that when the water rises, they rise."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ronald Reagan muses on the political impact of extraterrestrial invasion:

(Thanks: Danger Room.)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Has a Mythical Beast Turned Up in Texas?

Chupacabras in Texas? There can only be one explanation: they've come to exact revenge on monster hunter Nick Redfern! For god's sake, Nick -- give the fortean thing a rest and run for your life!

If you like retroactive futures as much as I do, you won't want to miss In The Year 2000.

Les Xénobiophiles is a blog after my own heart. The only problem is that it's in French, a language that, to my considerable chagrin, I can't speak worth a damn.
CDC Requests Bay Area Morgellons Study

KTVU Channel 2 has learned the federal Centers for Disease Control has asked Kaiser Permanente to begin the nation's first epidemiologic study of "Morgellons Disease," a mysterious ailment that the government terms an "unexplained and debilitating condition that has emerged as a public health concern."

KTVU Health and Science Editor John Fowler was the first in the nation to report on this "mystery disease" as it was called in 2004. He reported the skin disorder seemed to cause fibers and filaments to emerge from the skin of sufferers, and also seemed to cause neurological problems patients described as "brain fog."

(Via PAG E-News.)

"Morgellons Disease" has long been the stuff of late-night radio and stillborn conspiracy theories. If it's real, the implications are not a little disturbing.
Not Pits, Tubes

Remember those amazing images of open pits on Mars? NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has come back around and taken another image of one of the features, and this time it spotted a wall on one side. This wall indicates that these "pits" are probably tunnels, similar to surface features on Earth called "pit craters".