Monday, December 31, 2007

And now, for your New Year's Eve entertainment, Talking Heads' "Sax and Violins" . . .

I'm a coblogger at Reality Carnival Unleashed, a new collaborative blog that expands on Clifford Pickover's kaleidoscopic Reality Carnival by posting six-word headlines devoted to strange and mind-expanding news items. Drop by anytime!

Additional cobloggers can be found here.
NASA Mars Images Reveals a "Doorway" Structure

There is a strange door-like structure at the base of the mountain formation from a NASA image of Mars that is causing a stir. The first person to notice it wasn’t a NASA scientist, however, but rather a Russian reader of the portal R&D.Cnews, Alexander Novgorodov. Taking a closer look at an image taken by the spacecraft Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, he noticed an unusual morphology, which looks strikingly like a manmade doorway.

Of course, the object’s intriguing form does not denote the presence of a real doorway, nor would it imply that the mountain formation is of artificial origin. That would make an incredible story indeed, but the likely cause it boring old weather erosion. However, the peculiarities are of interest due to their unique morphology.

Interestingly, the "door-like structure" isn't the only such feature on Mars. Another has been noticed on the much-discussed D&M Pyramid in Cydonia (in multiple images, ruling out spacecraft imaging defects). Artificial? Until we have more evidence, it's your call.

For additional images of the D&M Pyramid, click here.
Hello Kitty contact lenses

I have seen the future.

(Thanks: BB.)
Apocalypse? Mmm, bring it on

The reason for the relish is partly obvious: humans find accidents fascinating: the bigger the spill, the bigger the thrill. Something else, however, lends to the Apocalypse a spice absent from even the most cosmic of motorway pile-ups: a sense of justice. Mankind, we are told, has brought this upon itself. After hubris will come nemesis. As we sowed, so shall we reap. Our chickens are coming home to roost, or sins returning to haunt us. How awful. How delicious.

(Via J. Orlin Grabbe.)

Nothing J.G. Ballard couldn't have told you about.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

One of the most inventive robot designs I've seen -- and just in time for New Year's!

(Thanx: Communist Robot.)
Watch the Wowwee Alive™ Elvis® in action!

Will Morrissey be next?

(Thanks, Michael.)

Antarctica May Contain "Oasis of Life"

Researchers have uncovered a complex subglacial system miles under the ice where rivers larger than the Amazon link a series of "lake districts," which may teem with mineral-hungry microbes.

(Via Aberrant News.)

Prospects for life on Mars are getting better all the time . . .
The plastic killing fields

In one of the few places on Earth where people can rarely be found, the human race has well and truly made its mark. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a floating garbage patch twice the size of Britain. A place where the water is filled with six times as much plastic as plankton. This plastic-plankton soup is entering the food chain and heading for your dinner table.

(Via Reality Carnival.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Forecast in the Streets

Perhaps the topic of global warming suffers from the same sort of cultural divide as university faculties, between the techies and the touchies; that is the sciences and the humanities. A new report called The Age of Consequences, just released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, tries to bring the social sciences, in particular history, geography, and political science, into the forecast of climate change in the coming century. It makes for fascinating if frightening reading.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Here are parts one and two of the alien sequence from the film "Fire in the Sky," ostensibly a recounting of Travis Walton's alleged 1975 abduction. Huge creative liberties were taken with Walton's actual story; the result is a grimy, Gothic-looking craft inhabited by wizened-looking ETs who indulge in seemingly purposeless experimentation, sometimes leaving their victims to rot in membranous cells.

Taking its cue from the "mask" scene in "Communion," "Fire in the Sky" suggests that the big-eyed "Gray" visage (already a consumer touchstone by the film's release in 1993) is due to the metallic "spacesuits" worn by the aliens, presumably for excursions outside their vehicle.

The alien sequence is replete with arresting detail, from the UFO's eroded, labyrinthine interior to the bits and pieces of debris Walton rakes up with his hands as he's dragged down a dimly lit corridor to the aliens' laboratory. The alien environment's thoroughly aged appearance subverts the conventional image of ET spaceships as pristine and clinical. Instead of the pragmatic decor and sourceless lighting reported by abductees, we're treated to what amounts to a space-borne catacomb. Even the aliens defy the expected "Grays" in critical respects; their necks, for instance, feature a detached "extra" throat that cleverly accentuates their mummified physique.

Verisimilitude notwithstanding, "Fire in the Sky" articulates powerful fears of what the abduction phenomenon represents. Perhaps its most striking contribution to the canon of UFO-themed movies is its insinuation that the aliens behave so strangely not because they're evil so much as amnesiac, their original agenda so faded with time that their very spacecraft has begun to decay. For all their technological might, they're a species on the brink of dissolution, sustained by inexplicable sadistic impulses.

More importantly, the cosmic molesters of "Fire in the Sky" serve as frightening caricatures of what human science might become under the unmitigated burden of postindustrial society. We expect our galactic elders to be wise, even compassionate. "Fire in the Sky," and the beings it attempts to represent, are a mocking reminder that such assumptions may be rooted in our own implicit, unexamined desires.
A Minor History of Giant Spheres

Buckminster Fuller proposes the "Cloud Nine" project, a levitating city of tensegrity spheres, each a mile in diameter. Because the surface-to-volume ratio of such spheres would be vanishingly small, Fuller calculated that if trapped solar energy raised their internal temperature by a mere one degree, they would be able to float like balloons.

(Via Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.)

Positively amazing stuff.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Making a clean break from old gadgets with Second Rotation

Launched in July, Second Rotation's goal is to promote reuse and recycling, while helping consumers who are looking to unload unwanted electronics make a buck or two. The company began with a focus on cell phones and digital cameras, but has since expanded to include Apple laptops, consoles, digital media players, camcorders, and GPS devices.

I'm all for this. Click here for more information from Futurismic.
The Cosmos in a Test Tube

A collision between a brane and an antibrane can leave behind topological defects, including perhaps the Big Bang itself. But however elegant this theory, the problem with string theory is that it makes no falsifiable predictions, scientists being unable to find two Universe-sized objects that you can crash into each other. According to Richard Haley, who led the team at Lancaster University, a testable model can be found in a test tube of liquid helium.
His name is "Mac." He's white, bald, and he lives in Kansas City. He's Mac Lethal*, and he's a rapper, not an author/blogger. In other words, we're like bizarro versions of each other; if we ever met and shook hands, we'd probably explode in a 100% conversion of mass-to-energy.

Anyway, here's his MySpace page.

*How am I supposed to compete with a last name like that?
A couple intriguing UFOMystic posts:

Creepy Entity Video (Greg Bishop)

Of all the weird videos posted in various places, this one, apparently from Poland on May 20th keeps replaying itself in my mind. Unfortunately, the full video is now nowhere to be found.

Not true! The full video can be found (albeit in unnervingly small-scale Quicktime format) here. Scroll a bit and you'll see it. (The video is indeed creepy.)

UFOs & Unit 731 (Nick Redfern)

Could Nick's "Body Snatchers in the Desert" be on the right track? I wonder.
The Sex Singularity: When Machines Surpass Human Hotness

Any decade now . . .

(Hat tip, as usual, to Boing Boing.)
You can have your megaplex fodder. "Terminus," a haunting gem that weds flawless CGI with stunning sets and a moody, understated soundtrack, gets my vote for movie of the year.

(Found at Gerry Canavan's blog.)

The best (?) of Posthuman Blues (2007):

On cosmic philanthropy:

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

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

On sentience:

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

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

On the semiotics of environmental collapse:

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

On psychedelic states and nonhuman intelligence:

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

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

On "bulldozing the collective unconscious":

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

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

On Singularitarianism:

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

On UFO occupants:

UFO researchers like their aliens to abide by 20th century preconceptions of what alien beings should look like; entities like those observed in Hopkinsville comprise a kind of viral assault on conformist ufology by insinuating themselves into reigning conceits and quietly subverting ETH dogma. Ultimately, their existence is marginalized and becomes less ufological than "fortean." We're asked, in effect, to consider the Hopkinsville visitors and their like as somehow separate and distinct from "hardcore" case-files that more readily suggest extraterrestrial visitation. We do so at our peril.

On "alien" technology:

Our own technological trajectory suggests that a full-scale planetary reconnaissance could be achieved using incredibly small devices. A nanotech "smart dust," for instance, could infiltrate and reap a vast real-time harvest of information -- all without our knowing. As we prepare to use such technologies to study our own planet (and its inhabitants) in ever-increasing detail, we're forced to question prevailing ufological assumptions. While scintillating "spaceships" and irradiated landing sites are certainly cause for wonder and scientific concern, they appear suspiciously mired in the science fantasies of the previous century.

On climate change:

We deride Holocaust deniers. We poke merciless fun at Creationists. Yet we tolerate those who flaunt the depths of their incomprehension by claiming that anthropogenic climate change is some sort of fiction fabricated by political extremists.

Perhaps some of us can afford to be be loftily contrarian, a stance to which Michael Crichton aspired with "State of Fear." Or maybe some of us are just utterly and contemptibly stupid.

On paranormal ontology:

For the most part, the ufological landscape remains a sparring ground for entrenched notions of dispassionate ET visitors and equally tenacious claims of popular delusion. Consequently, we've gone about attempting to "debunk" a phenomenon that continues to defy definition. While many -- if not most -- well-known abduction narratives are indeed fallible, disquieting findings from emerging (or suppressed) disciplines promise to reframe the debate.

I suspect the truth, if we can find it, will be considerably weirder than "mere" extraterrestrial visitors or sociologically induced fantasy.

On J.G. Ballard:

Fifty years from now, as we examine the cancerous folly of the early 21st century from the perspective of wary temporal colonists, we'll see Ballard as the very embodiment of prescience.

On the American Nightmare:

The American Dream doesn't run itself; it needs to be vigilantly enforced every step of the way -- and we're perfectly willing to risk the health of the planet in doing so.

On environmental priorities:

Regarding our potential ability to restore the planet's climate by curbing greenhouse emissions (which won't, by itself, be nearly enough), Griffin offers us this bit of delirium: "I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

I'll have to remember that the next time I'm crossing a busy street. Who am I to want to get out of the way of that truck? How unspeakably arrogant of me.

On ufology:

The field of ufology suffers from a related problem, the toxic assumption that UFOs and other elements of forteana must necessarily yield to a single consciously derived explanation -- whether the hallowed Extraterrestrial Hypothesis or something else.

But if we're dealing with a truly alien intelligence there's no promise that its thinking will be linear. Indeed, its inherent weirdness might serve as an appeal to an aspect of the psyche we've allowed to atrophy. It might be trying to rouse us from our stupor, in which case it's tempting to wonder if the supposed ETs are literally us in some arcane sense.

On pseudoskepticism:

In Shermer's world, the universe abides by the proclamation of a self-appointed "skeptical" elite, inconvenient facts summarily brushed aside with the help of a few condescending remarks and semantic misrepresentations. Fortunately for the rest of us, the universe doesn't seem to care what Shermer thinks. Instead, we're confronted with phenomena that challenge our assumptions and force us to expand our epistemological frontiers, all the while utterly indifferent to the preconceptions of committed believers and debunkers alike.

On Roswell:

Shostak seems to assume that if Roswell was the crash of an ET vehicle, we should have been able to figure it out by now -- despite his well-made point about ancient Rome's certain inability to make sense of laptop computers. He forces himself into an evidential cul-de-sac: we should know all about Roswell because of the event's importance, he complains, but that very importance is rooted in an assumed alien technology we don't have a chance of understanding. Ironically, Shostak's case against Roswell as an ET event actually winds up complimenting the idea that an alien craft was recovered and duly covered up by an understandably concerned military.

Regarding the Roswell crash's technosocial impact being "too subtle" for Shostak's taste, it's worth noting that technological forecasters such as Ray Kurzweil argue that technology even a few centuries ahead of our own will likely underscore Arthur C. Clarke's maxim that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" -- in which case classified laboratories could still be attempting to make sense of the Roswell debris in order to reproduce it for military or industrial applications.

On molecular manufacturing:

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.

On extraterrestrial surveillance:

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?

On sex:

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.

On simulacra:

No, this isn't "steampunk" -- this decrepit automaton harpist is the real thing. No batteries. No optical sensors or force-feedback units. Not a single chip hidden away inside the delicate porcelain skull. The irony is that its movements, limited as they are, are noticeably more "natural" than those of recent androids.

On consciousness:

If the UFO phenomenon is generated by Earth itself, perhaps it uses the human nervous system as a kind of operating system. Its enduring physicality argues that it can manipulate consciousness in such a way that individuals can function as unwitting projectors. If so, the study of UFOs might eventually lead to a new understanding of the role of awareness. One day, through careful back-engineering of our own minds, we might employ UFO-like abilities through thought alone -- in which case the UFO phenomenon risks becoming obsolete.

On UFO "disclosure":

So while I obviously can't speak on behalf of the rest of the planet, I'm up for the proverbial White House lawn landing. Daniel Pinchbeck and others speak of a deep need to catalyze global consciousness. To me, irrefutable evidence that we share the Cosmos with at least one other intelligent species could be the very catalyst we're looking for -- short-term consequences be damned.

Evolution has never been easy; birth is seldom without potential dangers.

On virtual hedonism:

Ultimately, will the leisure class choose the digital hedonism of Second Life circa 2020 or brave the unwelcome reality of a disintegrating environment? I can imagine visiting the "real" world becoming something of a rebel act; users will log-in after extended stays in the non-simulated world with exotic tales to tell . . . but will we bring ourselves to believe them?

On biomimicry:

Is the intelligence behind the close-encounter experience using SF devices as a way of interacting with us, much how a primatologist "communicates" with an orphaned monkey via hand-puppet? If so, how to account for descriptions of bug-like entities from populations who haven't been primed to know what an alien "should" look like? Maybe the "mantis" identity is simply a costume that works, in which case one can't help but yearn for a glimpse of next year's fashions . . .

On cryptoterrestrials:

Yet as we watch night erode the familiar highways and stadiums and ever-encroaching suburbs, our confidence falters. Already, technological forecasters envision a near-future populated by our artificially intelligent offspring. Perhaps as our most cherished certainties crumble in the glow of a new century -- full of danger, portent and enigma -- it's become relatively easy to contemplate the presence of the Other: not an other new to our planet, but one predating our own genetic regime. Something unspoken and ancient yet nevertheless amenable to science . . . an intelligence with an almost-human face, until recently content to abide by the shadows of our complacency.

Wishing you a weird 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

World's Biggest Building Coming to Moscow

One of the world's most ambitious building projects, Crystal Island will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years in Moscow. It will be enclosed within a vast mega structure covering a total floor area of 2.5million square metres -- floor area alone will be four times the size of Pentagon in Washington DC.

Pipe dream?
In this fascinating series of outtakes from the film version of "Communion," we see a contemporary iconography in the making. Christopher Walken's silent dialogue with the "Grays" is like watching a mind in the process of discovering itself, a testament to Whitley Strieber's seminal book.

The interior of the craft in "Communion" has always struck me as oddly plausible. It has the spatial logic of a dream, boundless yet confining. And the aliens -- obvious marionettes -- are somehow creepier and more believable than their CGI successors. After all, would a real alien show its true self to you? And if it did, would your mind have the dexterity to construct an accurate translation?
Video of Col. Kal Korff Sending Off "Secret Wars" Trilogy to Publisher Coming Next Week announced today that starting as early as next week, they will begin posting on the Internet the videotaped footage of their President and CEO, Colonel Kal Korff, sending off his new trilogy book series on terrorism, Secret Wars: Defending Against Terrorist Plots, to his publisher in New York, Prometheus Books. Korff was filmed recently at a media event sending the book off to be published, and took a few moments to briefly answered questions.

Korff is a Colonel in the Israeli-founded Special Secret Services and is an expert in Counter-Terrorism. At roughly 1,200 pages, Korff's book is already being lauded as one of the most definitive works yet written on the subject of terrorism.

It is due for release next year by Prometheus Books and is also a weapon in the war against terrorism.

Korff's book is the result of a 5.5 year classified project.


Yeah, I know I once declared this blog a Korff-free zone, but who could resist this? I want to see that "media event" video, damnit -- and I'm not being sarcastic. I mean, that's historic footage. The world needs to see it.

I'm sure Kal would agree.

Update: True to form, Korff has deleted the post quoted above. Never happened, folks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Russia to launch space base for missions to Moon, Mars after 2020

"After 2020, Russia plans to create and put into orbit a near-Earth experimental manned complex to ensure transport operations to the Moon and Mars," Anatoly Perminov said.

He also said Russia has tentative plans for manned missions to Mars, but since substantial technical and financial resources would be needed, a Mars expedition should be international.

The agency chief had said previously that Russia planned to send cosmonauts to the Moon by 2025 and establish a permanently-manned base there in 2027-2032.

(Via Futurismic.)
'Mind' still a medical enigma

Herbert's experience evokes the question: Can the human mind provide the power to will a man from a near-comatose state? Some experts believe the mind is not only powerful, it isn't even "local" to the body.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Like most skeptics, I have grave misgivings about the "miraculous," a term we seem to instinctively reach for to describe phenomena beyond the realm of known science. There are no "miracles." There is, however, a body of strangeness that leaves the door open (if only barely) for some form of nonlocal consciousness.

Mondolithic Studios has featured some superb posts lately, but what really caught my eye was this breakdown of the transhumanist rallying cry for "species uplift":

I Could Have Told You That

Which brings me to one of the creepiest and most truly disturbing concepts floating around the most distant outer fringes of techno-totalist circles: the idea of "species uplift". That's the idea that we have a moral imperative to use advanced technology to artificially elevate the intelligence of animal species to at least human level, for their own good. It's not even a new idea (Planet of the Apes). But like so many tropes that have been circulating around in science fiction for the last 70 years, it's been rebranded to sound daring and novel and given a bit of post-Drexlerian spitshine for the GenY demographic.
Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial -- and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.

"This raises a range of big questions about what nature is and what it could be," said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies science's effects on society. "Evolutionary processes are no longer seen as sacred or inviolable. People in labs are figuring them out so they can improve upon them for different purposes."

(Via PAG E-News.)

Then again, have we ever truly viewed evolutionary processes as "sacred"?
Mouth Eyes pictures

Uniquely disturbing . . . reminds me of something from "Naked Lunch."

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
The Round Files #002: The George W. Bush MJ-12 Briefing

In which The Chimp is notified of the "alien problem." Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"The Story of Stuff": holiday must-viewing.

Cliff Pickover strikes again . . .

I got it, baby. The four-disc "Blade Runner" final cut. Christmas miracles do come true!

You have to love this position statement:

At the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, we take seriously the danger that atomically-precise exponential manufacturing could enable such concentrations of unprecedented power as to result in either terminal warfare or permanent enslavement of the human race.

(Full article, "The Fermi Death Sentence," right here.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

DIY brain stimulation tech! You'll thank me!

Happy holidays from Posthuman Blues!

Wait a second -- what's David Lynch doing in Japan?

(Thanks, Steve!)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Hummer of 2100?

Cuban Truck-Raft

The home-made vehicle appears to be a truck-powered raft. The barrels provide floatation and the engine drives the propeller. Cool hack if it works.
Blog of the day: Eureka Dejavu's Dispatches from a Virtual World
Yet another in a long list of articles mired in the assumption that UFOs, if "extraordinary," must be extraterrestrial craft:

Why not full disclosure on UFO sighting?

Given that exhaustive research hasn’t revealed any signs of life elsewhere in our own solar system, and that the next likely candidate is a goodly jaunt even at the speed of light, it’s not likely that we’re being buzzed by alien life forms.

NASA, then, might well be correct in insisting that there was nothing extraordinary about a UFO sighting near Kecksburg, in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, where something fell from the sky and was retrieved by soldiers in 1965. Yet it has reacted to requests for records of the incident as if it was keeping a little green man in a freezer.
Lobster serves as model for new X-ray device

A lobster's eyes, which look like small antenna, are made up of thousands of tiny square channels that allow the eyes to focus by reflection, rather than by refraction -- or the bending of light -- as human eyes do.

That unique optical geometric design, which allows lobsters to see in the dimmest light, is being adapted into a "lobster-eye lens" that focuses the X-ray images so that the device can actually see through a wall and project an image of what's on the other side.

Given the way people are treated at airports post 9-11, I'm surprised this gadget doesn't come equipped with pincers.
Google Wireless And The End of The Telephone

First, the 700mhz spectrum allows for very high bandwidth, at least 100mb/s to start. Secondly, it has long range, at least 30 miles. Combine this with Google's long-going and continuing acquisition of "dark fiber" and Google has the ability to offer nationwide, high-bandwidth, wireless access to anyone with any conceivable device. With new services like Googol's gTalk along with their gphone is only the beginning. Combine this new ubiquitous, wireless reality with movements like Open Social and OpenID, and within about 10 years, possibly even 5, there is no longer any need for telephone numbers, email addresses, and seperate webspace identities (facebook, myspace, etc.). You simply are who you say you are wherever you go as you intereact in the digital ecosphere.

The Dood is near indeed . . .

We human excel at thinking we've established a dominion over time. We concede that regimes and even civilizations decay and vanish, but persist in the illusion that some ill-defined aspect of our essential human-ness -- falsely assuming such a thing exists -- will never change. We prefer the fragile solace of perpetuity to the harsh truths of extinction and transition.
Maybe I should feel vaguely guilty or overbearing stealing cool stuff from the likes of Ectoplasmosis (in my opinion, one of the best "weirdhunting" blogs on the Web), but in this case I just couldn't help myself.
The Chimp covers R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)":

Friday, December 21, 2007

The "Blade Runner" final cut boxed set is out. You know you want it.

(How much for just the briefcase? If that's not a cyberpunk chick-magnet, I don't know what is.)
I've made no secret of my adoration for Peter Watts' luminously cerebral dystopian science fiction novels. It turns out he writes a mean book review, too. Check out this shrewd indictment of Francis S. Collins' "The Language of God," which has been getting some major shelf-exposure (at least here in Jesusland):

The God-Shaped Hole

Collins' understanding of natural selection appears to be a woefully-ignorant caricature in which every organism always behaves optimally to promote its own fitness, and every instance in which this doesn't happen constitutes a failure of evolutionary theory calling out for Divine intervention. What he doesn't seem to understand (or perhaps, what he's hoping his readers won't understand) is that the whole basis of natural selection is variation. Organisms don't all behave identically; some do better than others; the losers die out. Nature, in other words, is chock-full of organisms who do not selfishly spread their genes, who benefit others at their own expense. Conspecifics might call such organisms "unsuccessful competitors". Parasites would call them "hosts". Predators would call them "food". The Archdiocese calls them "parishioners".

Perhaps you're thinking that's a cheap shot. I don't think so: this guy needs to be taught the basics -- not just of biology, but of elementary logic. To claim that the existence of non-selfish acts defies evolutionary theory is like claiming that blow jobs disprove the orgasm's relevance to reproduction.
The Year's 10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Earth

Some say the extreme temperatures predicted for the near future call for extreme measures. Others say the solutions could be worse than the problem. In increasing order of unorthodoxy, here are the 10 craziest geo-engineering schemes of 2007.
Japanese Official Admits UFOs Exist

This headline currently graces Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country website. Unfortunately, it's inaccurate. The official in question doesn't know that UFOs exist, nor is he "admitting" anything; he simply "believes" that UFOs exist.* Nothing wrong with that, but it's not nearly as cool as a government official mentioning (even in passing) "insider" knowledge of the subject.

Ironically, Strieber goes on to lament the stubborn state of the media and its proven inability to address the UFO question. While his sentiments are understandable enough, his website's persistent misrepresentations are less accommodating to nonbiased readers.

*George W. Bush evidently believes that he's spoken with Jesus. Is this press-stopping news that the Judeo-Christian God exists? By Strieber's plastic journalistic standards, the answer can only be "yes."
Boffins Say E.T. Too Bored By Our Messages To Phone Home

Previous messages beamed into deep space via radio-telescope by scientists have tried to demonstrate our intelligence by sending coded math problems, a bit of chemistry, physics and biology, some data on what we look like and even where we've come from. This may not, however, be good enough for their superior brains. Dutil and Dumas argue that if any alien does decode a message containing essentially trivial data, "after reading it, they will be none the wiser about us humans and our achievements."

Conversely, instead of waiting for prime numbers, we should be actively searching for art.
Asteroid may hit Mars in next month

The asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, was discovered in late November and is similar in size to an object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb and wiping out 60 million trees.

Scientists tracking the asteroid, currently halfway between Earth and Mars, initially put the odds of impact at 1 in 350 but increased the chances this week. Scientists expect the odds to diminish again early next month after getting new observations of the asteroid's orbit, Chesley said.

Hey, I hope it hits. We Earthlings could use the wake-up call.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NASA has a Stargate

Cosmic conspiracy theorists, start your engines.
Real-Life 3D X-Files Reveal Asteroid Leveled Siberian Region

When the object detonated in midair, Sandia's report says, the force of the blast appears to have been contained by the Earth's atmosphere, funneling downward as a column of superheated gas. In fact, the atmosphere might have been the trigger for the explosion, as increasing resistance compressed the asteroid until it detonated.
'Active glacier found' on Mars

"If it was an image of Earth, I would say 'glacier' right away," Dr Gerhard Neukum, chief scientist on the spacecraft's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) told BBC News.

"We have not yet been able to see the spectral signature of water. But we will fly over it in the coming months and take measurements. On the glacial ridges we can see white tips, which can only be freshly exposed ice."
Giving Avatars Real Bodies

Scientists have developed an interface between reality and virtual reality in which, in a sense, virtual reality can control reality.

The puppet-like system is called "Ubibot" (short for "ubiquitous robot"), and is a composite of three different types of robots: Sobot a software robot (a virtual reality avatar), Mobot a mobile robot, and Embot an embedded robot.

(Via Future Scanner.)
Forget those Japanese bicycles; take a look at these Pakistani trucks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I saw "I Am Legend" today. Besides featuring Will Smith's best performance to date, it's a visual triumph: its depiction of an apocalyptic Manhattan is the most attentive and arresting of any film I can think of (with the possible exception of Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys"). Real effort was spent transforming New York into a weather-beaten carcass, and the result yields moments of genuine visual poetry. Factor in Smith's convincing alienation and the first half of the film is wrenchingly good.

But there are problems. For one, the CGI zombies are too obviously CGI. Computer-generated FX work best when cooking up insects and reptiles, as in "The Mist"; the scrambling cadavers that feast on screen-time in "I Am Legend" move with a biomechanical complexity that betrays their unreality and aggravates the viewer's suspension of disbelief.

But the defining problem with "I Am Legend" is the ending, which insults the intelligence of the rest of the film (and that of its audience) with a whorish appeal to superstition and the oh-so-flawed cinematic wisdom that Love Conquers All. Like "Children on Men," "I Am Legend" succumbs to one of the deadliest science fiction foes of all: undeserved optimism.

(To read author Peter Watts' review, click here.)
South Koreans Clone Cats that Glow in the Dark

South Korean scientists have cloned cats by manipulating a fluorescent protein gene, a procedure which could help develop treatments for human genetic diseases, officials said Wednesday. In a side-effect, the cloned cats glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet beams.

(Via Futurismic.)

Monday, December 17, 2007


Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), like the more typical retroviruses such as HIV, rewrite the DNA of the cells they infect; the endogenous retroviruses do so not just to the somatic (body) cells, but to the germline (reproductive) cells, becoming part of the DNA we pass down to the next generation. These aren't rare -- more of our DNA comprises these old retroviruses than genes that actually code for proteins. New ERVs generally will quickly lose their potency as viruses, but can come to play critical roles in how our bodies operate.

Makes you wonder if there could be a literal Burroughsian "word virus" lurking in our neurological source code . . .

Chernobyl: Lost world

Scientists have had access to limited data when it comes to assessing the true facts within the 4,000 square kilometres of the "zone of alienation". Photographs of the abandoned city of Pripyat, near Chernobyl, reveal that trees and shrubs have started to sprout through the roads and buildings. Nature has begun to reclaim what was originally lost to urban development and agriculture.

"Zone of alienation" has such a dire existential ring to it, don't you think?

(Both items cribbed from Beyond the Beyond.)

You're thinking it's the same picture as before, aren't you? Guess again!

So, can you find all of the aliens? (And no, I don't count.)

(Big thanks and best holiday wishes to Elan.)
I appear on the latest episode of The Paracast discussing the reformation of ufology with Daniel Brenton and Jeff Ritzmann. The MP3 is available here.
"Fallen Art" is one of the most original and disturbing works of digital animation to have graced my monitor. Fellow Kafka fans might find it reminiscent of "In the Penal Colony."

(Thanks to Michael Garrett for the heads-up!)

You can catch my "profound" thoughts on the UFO phenomenon in the second half of this clip from "Best Evidence: Top Ten UFO Sightings."

For more information, check out the new Redstar blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Halifax is a haven for used-book stores. Here I am trying (in vain) to find the science fiction section.

Paul Kimball and assistant Christine Boss man the cash-box at the Wired Monk prior to show-time.

The obligatory visual pun (taken within the perimeter of the town's iconic citadel). As you might imagine, I needed that stocking hat.
Haunted Mouses

How have we come to accept and circulate as everyday snapshots the obscure output of ultrasound, M.R.I. and CT-scan technology? On a primitive level, crude renderings of the inside of our bodies simply look spooky. On a more sophisticated level, these magnetic-resonance images apparently show traces of our hydrogen atoms magnetized, spun by radio waves and amplified to make soft tissue visible. That's no less spooky.

Today's new methods of making and sharing digital images have not allowed us to see things more clearly, in other words. Rather, they've introduced new kinds of visual and auditory static. The Internet's greatest production might in fact be just this beguiling static, unpredictable bytes of sound and light that fly around in cyberspace until someone interprets them.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Seas Could Rise Twice as High as Predicted - Study

Experts working on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have suggested a maximum 21st century sea level rise -- a key effect of global climate change -- of about 32 inches (0.8 metres).

But researchers said in a study appearing on Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience that the maximum could be twice that, or 64 inches (1.6 metres).
More delicious retro futurity, from "Metropolis" to Syd Mead.

(Thanks: Gerry Canavan.)
I finally got the digital photos from my Halifax trip "developed." (I used a disposable digicam and had to wait for a chance to drop it by a pharmacy. Yes, I know I need to upgrade.)

Here's one of me taken in the food-court of a mall. I'm wearing a button that reads "There Is No Mad Tofu Disease."

More to come . . .

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Veteran researcher Jacques Vallee discusses UFOs in this 1979 clip:

Who Speaks for Earth?

Zaitsev has already sent several powerful messages to nearby, sun-like stars -- a practice called "Active SETI." But some scientists feel that he's not only acting out of turn, but also independently speaking for everyone on the entire planet. Moreover, they believe there are possible dangers we may unleash by announcing ourselves to the unknown darkness, and if anyone plans to transmit messages from Earth, they want the rest of the world to be involved.
I can't help myself! More gorgeous retro SF cover art!

(With thanks to Steve S.)

'Exodus' to virtual worlds predicted

The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to "disappear from reality," an expert on large-scale online games has said.

(Via Blogging the Singularity.)

As I wrote previously:

Maybe one of the reasons we have yet to make irrefutable contact with extraterrestrials is because ET civilizations tend to reach a point of terminal decadence, an erotic cul-de-sac that precludes exploration. (Compare and contrast such an implosion to the "Singularity" too many of us are waiting for with bated breath.) Sufficiently advanced ETs might while away the millennia in a hedonistic stupor, brains (or their equivalent) melded to pleasure-generating devices.
Silver Bridge Disaster 40 Years On (Greg Bishop)

Despite numerous attempts to debunk the Mothman itself, the concatenation of strange events in the area from 1966-67 still continues to defy rational explanation, and is a classic case of a paranormal "window"-type event. Like hauntings and UFO flaps, the period of strangeness lasted for a finite amount of time, and Keel looked at the period in a way that still provides a good lens to examine other spooky goings-on.
Project Aiko's assertive fembot

From the demonstration video: "Please let go of my arm. You are hurting me. Why did you do that for? It hurt. I don't want to do this anymore. I do not like it when you touch my breasts."
More Evidence that Gliese 581 Has Planets in the Habitable Zone

The discovery of Gliese 581 was one of the most exciting moments in extrasolar planetary researcher. Astronomers found an Earth-massed planet orbiting within the habitable zone of a distant star. This would mean that liquid water could be on its surface - and maybe life. Now there's even more evidence that Gliese 581 is living up to the speculation. Astronomers have published two independent studies this week, claiming that there are least 2 Earthlike planets orbiting the star within the habitability zone.

Even "Blade Runner" didn't see this coming.

(For more, click here.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Evolution vs creation row ends in stabbing

(Thanks: Peter Watts.)
NASA gets hip to Mars anomalies:

Strange Shapes Seen on Mars

NASA scientists have discovered what might form some of the weirdest landscapes on Mars, winding channels carved into the Martian surface that scientists have dubbed "spiders," "lace" and "lizard skin."

The unusual landscape features form in an area of Mars' south pole called cryptic terrain because it once defied explanation.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Cryptic terrain." I like that.
Here's a solar-powered augmented reality window that responds to the owner's "intuitive gestures." Is it too late to add this to my Christmas wish-list?

(Found at Beyond the Beyond.)

Do you like pulp UFO/science fiction covers as much as I do? If so, nirvana is a mere click away!

(Hat tip to Elan.)
Spacecraft chases highest clouds

"These clouds are getting brighter with time, they're seen more often and also they're being seen at lower latitudes," said James Russell from Hampton University, Virginia, US.

"These are things we don't understand and they all suggest a possible connection to global change; and we need to understand that connection and what it means for the whole atmosphere," he told BBC News.
Don't look now, but even Boing Boing is pimping Hoagland's "Dark Mission."
Did UFO encounter cost woman her life?

The hovering UFO then moved higher into the sky. As it flew over the treetops, Cash and Landrum claimed that a group of military helicopters approached the object and surrounded it in tight formation. Cash started up her car and left the scene. She claimed to see glimpses of the UFO and the helicopters receding into the distance, according to the Web site.

That night, Cash, Landrum and her grandson all got sick. They suffered from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, general weakness, a burning sensation in their eyes and feeling as though they had been sunburned. Over the next few days, Cash's symptoms got worse when she developed blisters and hair loss. She was taken to the local emergency room for treatment on Jan. 3, 1981. The Landrums fared somewhat better, though both suffered from lingering weakness, skin sores and hair loss.

(Via UFOMystic.)

The Cash-Landrum incident is disturbing on multiple fronts, not the least of which is the possibility that some faction of the military has secretly pioneered a form of "antigravity" propulsion. There's no need to invoke extraterrestrial pilots or reverse-engineering in order to make sense of the case; I contend that the explanation for what Cash and the Landrums witnessed is close-to-home but nevertheless off-limits.
In 2007, Polar Ice Cap Vanished at Record Clip

Arctic ice at the North Pole melted at a record rate in the summer of 2007, the latest sign that climate change has accelerated in recent years, climate scientists said on Wednesday.

"In 2007, we had off-the-charts warming," Michael Steele, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, said at the 2007 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, where 15,000 researchers have gathered to discuss earthquakes, water resources, and climate change.

It gets scarier . . .

An Ice-Free Arctic?

A scientist from NASA is predicting that the Arctic Ocean could be completely barren of ice by the summer of 2012. Scientists are alarmed at the rapidly increased melting in the Arctic. In recent years, the total amount of yearly melted ice has risen dramatically from the year before. Scientists fear a feedback loop, where the newly melted ice warms the world's oceans while the increasing lack of ice cover, which reflects 80% of the Earth's sunlight, will hasten the melting process.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Author/blogger Daniel Brenton has a tentative plan to "fix" UFO research, effectively starving out the "kook factor" that pollutes our collective understanding of the phenomenon (or phenomena) by appealing to peer review and skeptical oversight. Will it work? I don't know. But I don't see what we have to lose by trying.
Big Machines Parked In Orbit - Black Ops, Star Wars Or ET? Or All Of The Above?

A young man by the name of John Lenard Walson has discovered a new way to extend the capabilities of small telescopes and has been able to achieve optical resolutions - at almost the diffraction limit - not commonly achievable. With this new-found ability, he has proceeded to videotape, night and day, many strange and heretofore unseen objects in earth orbit. The resulting astrophotographic video footage has revealed a raft of machines, hardware, satellites, spacecraft and possibly space ships which otherwise appear as 'stars'...if they appear at all.

Interesting images. Any ideas?
Under the sea: Dubai's underwater hotel takes shape

Guests and visitors will arrive at the land station, on Dubai's Jumeirah Beach, where they can view a high-tech cinema presentation on the evolution of aquatic life and underwater architecture. The wave-shaped land station will be stunning to look at in its own right, and it will house Hydropolis staff, marine biology research labs, a conference center, parking and even a cosmetic surgery practice.

Come for the meditative underwater ambience -- stay for the face-lifts!
Headline of the day!

Man falls into vat of cyanide
"I'll Take the Rain" (R.E.M.):

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Greenland Ice Sheet Melting at Record Rate

"The amount of ice lost by Greenland over the last year is the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps, or a layer of water more than one-half mile (800 meters) deep covering Washington DC," said Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Using data from military and weather satellites to see where the ice is melting, Steffen and his colleagues were able to monitor the rapid thinning and acceleration of ice as it moved into the ocean at the edge of the big arctic island.

The extent of the melt area was 10 percent greater than the last record year, 2005, the scientists found.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A ufological anthem?

Mars rover finds signs of microbial life

"Whichever of those conditions produced it, this concentration of silica is probably the most significant discovery by Spirit for revealing a habitable niche that existed on Mars in the past," he said.

"The evidence is pointing most strongly toward fumarolic conditions, like you might see in Hawaii and in Iceland."

In other space news:

Spider attacks shuttle
Study finds humans still evolving, and quickly

The pace of human evolution has been increasing at a stunning rate since our ancestors began spreading through Europe, Asia and Africa 40,000 years ago, quickening to 100 times historical levels after agriculture became widespread, according to a study published today.

By examining more than 3 million variants of DNA in 269 people, researchers identified about 1,800 genes that have been widely adopted in relatively recent times because they offer some evolutionary benefit.

Until recently, anthropologists believed that evolutionary pressure on humans eased after the transition to a more stable agrarian lifestyle. But in the last few years, they realized the opposite was true -- diseases swept through societies in which large groups lived in close quarters for a long time.

Altogether, the recent genetic changes account for 7% of the human genome, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

The implications make the mind reel . . .
Make of this what you will.

A Most Complex Encounter (Whitley Strieber)

Then I was in bed again, and aware that I was asleep, and not only that but I was dreaming about the lives of five different Whitley Striebers unfolding in five parallel universes at the same time, one of which was the one I was in.

While this was happening, the five of them were distinct, and I was inside five different selves at once. There was no confusion, and I wasn't on the outside looking in. I was in these lives, living them, all at the same time. I wasn't in the least confused by this. It seemed extraordinary, of course, but also perfectly possible.
To Tame the Solar Wind

The beauty of the concept is that you do away with a material structure of the sort so tricky to deploy in large solar sail designs. Instead, you generate the magsail from within the spacecraft. Couple this with a particle beam and you may have an interstellar vehicle on your hands.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Warning sounded over 'flirting robots'

The artificial intelligence of CyberLover's automated chats is good enough that victims have a tough time distinguishing the "bot" from a real potential suitor, PC Tools said. The software can work quickly too, establishing up to 10 relationships in 30 minutes, PC Tools said. It compiles a report on every person it meets complete with name, contact information, and photos.

(Via Peter Watts' blog.)

Apparently there's been some naive speculation that "CyberLover" is poised to pass the Turing Test. (Not a chance . . . although maybe I shouldn't be too quick to write it off, not having "spoken" with it).

Turing-compliant or not, this development cheers me because it provides further evidence for my pet theory that true AI will arise from sexbots (online, in meatspace or -- perhaps more likely -- in augmented reality). Dispense with cheery visions of android receptionists; the first convincing humanoid robots will be sex workers. They'll have to pass for "real" if they're to do their jobs, and the economic imperative for true-to-life pleasure bots will persist so long as there's a market. (And do you really think potential clientele will lose interest just as the requisite technologies are falling into place?)

Further musings on this subject can be found here.
Is God's face in Leonardo da Vinci's work?

It is well-documented that Leonardo, who lived between 1452 and 1519, often wrote in mirror writing, either in an attempt to stop his rivals stealing his ideas or in a bid to hide his scientific theories, often deemed as subversive, from the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

But now a group known as The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings World Foundation believes that he applied the same technique to some of his best-known creations, including the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, to conceal mysterious faces and religious symbols.

I suppose it was only a matter of time. Unsurprisingly, the "mirroring" technique has been used tirelessly in an effort to make sense of intriguing formations on the surface of Mars. I hesitate to call it an invalid research tool, but it's fraught with unique aesthetic difficulties.
There's no hope -- and this rigorously scientific chart by R. Crumb proves it!

(Thanks, Ectoplasmosis!)
I come to you with yet more pulp magazine covers (alphabetized by artist). Unfortunately no thumbnails, so click at random and hope you unearth a gem.

Now that I think about it, there might be an idea for a game here . . .

A fairly up-to-date account of the "alien autopsy" fiasco now appears on Wikipedia. Incredibly, the story continues to become even more convoluted as new details emerge.
Here's an interesting video of a technician demonstrating a robot's human-like responses to being pushed around. What bugs me is how endlessly compliant the robot is; when shoved, for instance, it casually regains its footing and waits for more, eyes vacant. By the video's final moments I was ready to see the bot start taking swings at the imperious human bully.
I'm not too big on T-shirts, but I'd wear this in a heartbeat.
Suburban Tokyo nightscapes

In Tomoyuki Sakaguchi's night photos of suburban Tokyo, familiar landscapes of densely arranged middle-class prefab homes, tightly parked cars, small gardens and anonymous street corners are somehow rendered strangely unfamiliar under the artificial glow of street lights.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The problem with 99.9 % of so-called 'solutions' to the Fermi Paradox (George Dvorsky)

We need to take determinism more seriously. The Universe we observe is based on a fixed set of principles -- principles that necessarily invoke cosmological determinism and in all likelihood sociological uniformitarianism. In other words, the laws of the Universe are moulding us on account of selectional pressures beyond our control.

Civilizations that don't conform to adaptive states will simply go extinct. The trouble is, we have no say in what these adaptive states might be like; we are in the business of conforming such that we continue to survive.

Dvorksy asks readers to imagine what a post-Singularity intelligence might be like based on Nick Bostrom's thesis that radically advanced civilizations likely tend to resemble one another. There's certainly room for argument, but it's a good thought experiment. Does cosmological determinism preclude adaptive states compatible with the hypothesis that we're being visited right now? I certainly see no reason why it should. And that's the gist of my own disillusionment with the Fermi Paradox. Cosmological pundits (among them a small but growing chorus of Singularitarians) are capable of addressing the FP with a great deal of intellectual finesse, but their uniform dismissal of serious UFO research leaves their arguments necessarily hollow.

True, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of UFO-ETI proponents, but I'd argue that the evidential burden of "proving" that UFOs represent a form of extraterrestrial intelligence has been artificially imposed by decades of ignorance and fashionable disdain for any phenomenon that challenges the human psyche's central role in the cosmic scheme. We seem comfortable enough dethroning ourselves from the universe's spatial center, yet attempts to reframe human consciousness -- arguably a deeper enigma than ETI itself -- are typically ridiculed or overlooked.
I've been invited to be a panelist at the next ConQuest, Kansas City's premiere (and only!) science fiction convention. My first reaction was to delete the invitation, as the "fandom" scene tends to turn my stomach. But maybe I should do it this year just for the hell of it. Maybe I could even try my hand at meatspace "networking." (On the other hand, there are the malignant faux-Klingons to deal with.)

Maybe I'll sleep on it.
Who can't like a video featuring psychedelic mechanical cows spitting lasers from their udders?

(Thanks to alert reader Brent.)
Dustin (OddThings) writes:

Imagine where we are as a worldwide society and where we've come over the past 12,000 years. Early societies formed, everything continued to grow. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always growing, moving forward. Technology grew, our ability to access it grew, but at the same time much was lost.

[. . .]

The more I research, the more I'm convinced that this is exactly what happens every 12,000 years. I think it explains out of place artifacts. I think it explains much of mythology, and particularly shared mythologies from many places. I think it explains megalithic constructions around the world.

I think there's a great deal of explanatory potential here. The mainstream will scoff, of course, having tired of the notion after too many brushes with "Chariots of the Gods?" and similarly untenable ideas. I look forward to Dustin's future posts on the subject.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Take a look at David Sankey's exactingly rendered CGI UFO illustrations. I especially like his near-photo-realistic depiction of the Socorro landing. (If you're into UFO cases, you'll know which one I mean.)

(Thanks, Steve.)
Count on Mondolithic Studios to rouse me from my general pessimism and cast the future in a hopeful new light:

My Kind of Environmentalism

30 years from now, we're going to look back and wonder why we ever thought that it was going to be so hard to change. We're going to look at the new fortunes made by new industries and wonder why we ever thought that going green would bankrupt our society and sound the death knell of capitalism. We're going to see the resurgence in local manufacturing, local ownwership and self-employment and wonder why we ever thought we needed to ship cheap underwear and crappy lead-laced toys across oceans in shipping containers. We're going to see the garden home ghetttos and lonely McMansions replaced with communities and wonder how we could have stood with living so isolated from each other. We'll see the cooperative adaptive energy network that replaced our obsolete power grid and wonder what took us so long to get our act together. We'll see the skies above our cities cleared of smog, and wonder why we ever listened to the desperate lies of corrupt leaders and corporate shills when they told us that reorganizing our society was going to be too difficult, too expensive, and would destroy our way of life.

It won't be easy, of course, but ultimately we might not have a choice.
"Planet Claire" (The B-52s):

This is my favorite "early" B-52s song.

Saturn's 'UFO' Moons

Strange flying-saucer-shaped moons embedded in Saturn's rings have baffled scientists studying images transmitted by the ESA's Cassini Spacecraft. New research suggests that the oddly shaped moons, Pan and Atlas, are born largely from clumps of icy particles in the rings themselves, a discovery that could shed light on how Earth and other planets formerd from the disk of matter that once surrounded our newborn sun.

Almost as strange as the ring around Iapetus.
The "alien abduction" meme is so prevalent that even Pixar has gotten in on the action (albeit without getting terribly explicit about what, exactly, the little green men plan to do with their snoozing victim once they haul him aboard) . . .
E.T. Sex Can Be Out Of This World

No longer content with Earth women, a large number of guys are claiming wild sexual encounters with hot space-babes from the other side of the galaxy. And girls are getting in on the alien action, too.

One of the most celebrated cases on record occurred in October 1957. Twenty-three-year-old Antonio Villas-Boas claimed he was taken aboard a UFO from his family’s farm in Brazil late one evening, whereupon he was introduced to a short, naked space-girl who made it very clear to the startled farmer what she wanted.
Next Generation Stealth Technology As UFOs (Greg Bishop)

Based on a recent comment by reader "euphemystic" on another post, I started looking up information on aircraft stealth technology and Organic Light-Emitting Diodes (OLEDs.)

OLEDs are a new type of LED displays that are actually printed on a thin, flexible polymer medium. This type of display is already used in some cel phones and rumored to be coming on the new ipod nano. Sony has just released an 11-inch OLED video monitor that is 3 millimeters thick.

There seems to be no reason why this material could not have been adapted to use for visual stealth applications. By "visual stealth," I am implying the forbidden-as-wacko-if-you-mention-it word "invisibility."
Russia Learns to Make Money on UFO

Websites of Russian travel companies teem with promises to show Yeti or meet little green men. Many regions severely compete for the right of being called the most anomalous territory of the country. There is also a tendency of constructing roads and building hotels in such areas where the local dwellers prefer not to go to. All this is not an example of mass madness. It is just the active players of the travel market in Russia consider selling tours to paranormal sites of the country highly profitable.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The objectuals

The Objectuals is a series of work by artist Hyung Koo Lee, it features an interesting mix of visual distortion apparatus for the human body. Lee says that he experienced "undersized Asian male complex" when he left home to go to grad school in the States, and began constructing devices like the helmet above, which uses convex lenses to increase the size of features like eyes and mouth. The project features similar devices for arms, legs and torso along with displays of plastic surgery tools.

Click here for more.
I'm taking part in a ufological roundtable discussion for The Paracast next Wed. Should be fun, as always. If you have any pressing paranormal concerns you'd like to see broached, I'm not above taking suggestions; Liona Tanaka awaits your email.

An Urban Implosion

While many efforts toward conservation focus on making transportation more efficient, Paolo Soleri's urban laboratory, Arcosanti, demonstrates that biology holds the answer to our conservation woes. His alternative to urban sprawl is based on evolution and likens the cityscape to an evolving organism: "In nature, as an organism evolves, it increases complexity, and it also becomes a more compact or miniaturized system. The city too . . . must follow the same process of complexification and miniaturization to become a more lively container for the social, cultural and spiritual evolution of humankind."
Does this not sound like the set-up for a zombie flick?

Minn. Slaughterhouse Workers Fall Ill

Over eight months from last December through July, 11 workers at the plant in Austin, Minn. -- all of them employed at the head table -- developed numbness, tingling or other neurological symptoms, and some scientists suspect inhaled airborne brain matter may have somehow triggered the illnesses.

The use of compressed air to remove pig brains was suspended at Quality Pork earlier this week while authorities try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

(Via Boing Boing.)
Moon photo mystery solved

Some dogged sleuthing by a fellow space blogger has tracked down the truth behind the controversial first photo from China's moon orbiter.

In the week since the picture was released amid much fanfare in Beijing, there have been widespread rumors that the photo was a fake, copied from an old picture collected by a U.S. space probe.

The good news for the Chinese is that Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla's clears them of outright fakery. The bad news is, she found evidence that the photo was badly retouched for public release.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Spacecraft images badly retouched for public release"? I think this certainly qualifies.
The following is from Whitley Strieber's newsletter:

Whitley Strieber Sees a Drone

This morning at 4:53 AM, Whitley Strieber saw a drone over Santa Monica, California. The Striebers are in California seeing friends, and Whitley has sent me the following email, with permission to publish it. He will write a journal entry about his experience that will be posted on Saturday, December 8.

SUBSCRIBERS: Listen to Linda Howe's Drones reports in Dreamland, 6/16, 6/23 and 6/30/07.

And remember, there are a lot of people out there lying about the drones and trying to debunk them. But these people ignore ONE THING: Linda's interviews with credible eyewitnesses. Do not be deceived about this.

This is his email:

Well, in one sense the drones mystery is solved because at 4:53 this morning, I saw one.

I had an extremely restless night, full of complex and astounding dreams that I will record in a journal on my website. They also involved my book the Key and the crop circles, and have led me to a very clear understanding that there is a new level of consciousness available to us now. The dreams lasted from about 3:00 to the moment I woke up and saw the thing outside, which was at exactly 4:53. (I know the times because I sent one of my agents an email at 2:47 about a business matter, then went to bed and was shortly asleep. When I saw the drone, I was looking across the bedroom toward the window, with my wife's lighted clock just visible below the window.)

I woke up lying on my side, and saw the thing moving just below and in the bottom edge of the clouds. It was stormy. The object was enormous, and from where I was lying it must have been no more than a few hundred feet overhead. It appeared almost level with the line of the roof that is visible outside my window. It was moving toward our building at a stately pace, gliding easily, like a dirigible. I had the impression that it was quite large, but obviously, no way to tell for sure. Because of the clouds, I did not see the characteristic tall antennae on it, but I did see structure that looked a lot like what the bicyclists photographed. I immediately woke Anne up and went to the window. But we could not see it from the window.

I looked for a while, trying to see if I could spot some edge of it in the clouds. It had not been moving fast at all, so there was reason to believe it was still there. Not seeing it, I went to the dresser and got my cellphone, which has a camera in it, and put it beside the bed. I then lay down and turned over to the same position I had been in when I first saw it--and there the thing was again, clearly visible just below the cloud cover. Now it was much closer to the house. When I moved my head to get up again, I could no longer see it. When I returned to the original angle, I could see it again. This time, it was gliding west, toward the ocean, only its lower structure visible in the clouds. I opened the cellphone, in an attempt to take a picture of it from that angle, but by then it had passed beyond the edge of the window. I saw nothing more of it, but there is no question in my mind at all but that they are real.

Unless he's lying or confabulating, it appears he saw something. But a "drone"? The text of his email gives little persuasive reason to suggest he witnessed one of the now-infamous craft described by "Isaac." As Strieber himself notes, "I did not see the characteristic tall antennae on it" -- presumably because of clouds. Intriguingly, he also notes that "I did see structure that looked a lot like what the bicyclists photographed," which, of course, assumes that something was in fact "photographed."

Atmosphere of an Extrasolar Planet Measured

I'm trusting the headline alone will get your attention.
'Segway of the Sky' Tops My Christmas Wish List

Yes, the Segway is lame. But then, the Segway can't fly. If it could, I wouldn't judge its owners so harshly. Say hello to the VertiPod, which is basically just that. You stand on it and steer it around, and by leaning in one direction or another it'll point you in that direction. It all sounds terribly dangerous, and I want one.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Daily Grail makes an astute observation re. my comments about time travel:

Scifi writer and ufology buff Mac Tonnies takes on Stephen Hawking over time travel. Mac, you can say you kicked Stephen Hawking's ass, or you can say you got your ass kicked by Stephen Hawking...but either way, it's not gonna pick up girls at the bar.

But what about girls in coffeeshops?