Friday, May 30, 2008

Terence McKenna: "Conspiracy theory is a kind of epistemological cartoon about reality. I mean, isn't it so simple to believe that things are run by the Grays and that all we have to do is trade sufficient fetal tissue to them and we can solve our technological problems."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

UFO blamed for mystery explosion in Vietnam

Islanders on Phu Quoc, close to the coast of Cambodia, heard a loud bang and saw shards of metal up to 5ft-long raining down on them on Tuesday morning.

Local armed forces and volunteers were mustered to help rescue any survivors, believing there had been a disaster.

Includes picture.
Could Methane Trigger a Climate Doomsday Within a Human Lifespan?

The new paper suggests that exactly this type of cascading release of methane reserves rapidly warmed the Earth 635 million years ago, replacing an Ice Age with a period of tropical heat. The study's lead author suggests it could happen again, and fast -- not over thousands or millions of years, but possibly within a century.

"This is a major concern because it's possible that only a little warming can unleash this trapped methane," Martin Kennedy, a professor at UC Riverside, said in a release. "Unzippering the methane reservoir could potentially warm the Earth tens of degrees, and the mechanism could be geologically very rapid."

Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. And the frozen reserve is twice as large, by volume, as the world's known fossil fuel reserves.

Admittedly, it's a worst-case scenario. But fuck.
Diminutive glowing men in Argentina?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Berlin unveils 'crewed spaceship'

The design, which has been produced by EADS Astrium, is based on the unmanned "Jules Verne" freighter recently sent to the International Space Station.

Astrium says a crewed version of the truck is a logical evolution, and could fly in the next decade if it received support from European governments.
Classic Pat Condell:

Group wants Wi-Fi banned from public buildings

A group in Santa Fe says the city is discriminating against them because they say that they're allergic to the wireless Internet signal. And now they want Wi-Fi banned from public buildings.

(Via Boing Boing.)
Seven mysterious creatures of Japan

Tales of unidentified mysterious animals have long intrigued and captured the imagination of people around the world -- and Japan is no exception. Here is a brief introduction to 7 of the island nation's most notorious cryptids, complete with grainy photographs where available.
Click to see one of the coolest space images ever.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Life Found a Mile Below Terrestrial Seabed; Implications For Life on Mars

We all know how hard life can be, but spare a thought for the microbes recently discovered 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) below the seabed off the coast of Canada. The living conditions are cramped, the environment is a searing 100°C (212F), and yet these hardy cells appear to be thriving. In the midst of the historic landing of Phoenix in the arctic wastes of Mars yesterday, the interest in finding life on the Red Planet has, yet again, reached fever pitch. Although Phoenix isn't built to look for life, it is assessing the Martian surface water content for signs that it may (or may have been able to) support life.

That last sentence is crucially important considering that we sent two craft capable of searching for extant life in 1975 . . . and have yet to duplicate the feat despite access to better technology and increased understanding of the planet itself.
Company offers moon as final resting place

The moon could become a final resting place for some of mankind thanks to a commercial service that hopes to send human ashes to the lunar surface on robotic landers, the company said on Thursday.

Celestis, Inc., a company that pioneered the sending of cremated remains into suborbital space on rockets, said it would start a service to the surface of the moon that could begin as early as next year.

(Via Nerdshit.)

Look familiar?
Dark Roasted Blend is featuring an eye-popping, must-see gallery of futuristic design by Luigi Colani.
Five things humans no longer need

This week we tackle vestigial organs in a feature article that looks at how the idea has changed over the years, and how it has come under attack from creationists anxious to deny that vestigial organs (and hence evolution) exist at all. To accompany the article, here is our list of the five organs and functions most likely to be truly vestigial.

(Via Futurismic.)

Mutiny of the Soul

What if there is something so fundamentally wrong with the world, the lives, and the way of being offered us, that withdrawal is the only sane response? Withdrawal, followed by a reentry into a world, a life, and a way of being wholly different from the one left behind?
Lilium Urbanus envisions a blossoming organic cartoon city that reminds me a bit of Kathleen Ann Goonan's "Queen City Jazz." (That concludes today's obscure science fiction reference.)
We could have colonized Mars with the money we spent on the Iraq war -- what else could we do?
I voted for the severed human finger.
"Steampunk"? How unmentionably yesterday. Chris Wren's already prepared for the oilpunk craze.
After reading a particularly vicious review, I saw the new Indiana Jones movie half-expecting to be disappointed. To my surprise, I thought it was fresh, exuberant and fully in touch with charm of the earlier films. As far as I'm concerned, endlessly debating the merits of "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" relative to its predecessors misses the point of the series; the Indiana Jones movies have always been homages to pulp adventure fiction, and the new installment advances the action admirably without sacrificing attention to the characters.

This film could easily have been a hokey embarrassment. To George Lucas' and Steven Spielberg's credit, it's anything but.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Scientist Creates Cold Fusion For the First Time In Decades

Arata's experiment would mark the first time anyone has witnessed cold fusion since 1989, when Martin Fleishmann and Stanely Pons supposedly observed excess heat during electrolysis of heavy water with palladium electrodes. When they and other researchers were unable to make it work again, cold fusion became synonymous with bad science.

But the method Arata showed was "highly reproducible," according to eye witnesses of the event.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Today's the big day . . .
Nano Vent-Skin by Agustin Otegu

Nano Vent-skin is a conceptual project by young designer Agustin Otegu, featuring miniscule bio-turbines that could clad buildings to generate energy and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The project suggests using several kinds of micro organisms to create a material which performs different functions where needed, absorbing and transforming natural energy from the surroundings.
Like Radiohead's "In Rainbows"? You'll love this.
Vast cracks appear in Arctic ice

"It means the ice shelf is disintegrating, the pieces are pinned together like a jigsaw but could float away," Dr Mueller explained.

According to another scientist on the expedition, Dr Luke Copland of the University of Ottawa, the new cracks fit into a pattern of change in the Arctic.

"We're seeing very dramatic changes; from the retreat of the glaciers, to the melting of the sea ice.

"We had 23% less (sea ice) last year than we've ever had, and what's happening to the ice shelves is part of that picture."

When ice shelves break apart, they drift offshore into the ocean as "ice islands", transforming the very geography of the coastline.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blog of the day: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

The name says it all!

A Galactic Neutrino Network?

The possibility of two stages of communication arises, the first stage being an 'attention-getter' signal, the second the sending of information. Artifacts could be more efficient than transmitting data, and could be sent to promising star systems with the assumption of later discovery by the inhabitants there. So a message from the stars might simply be short and to the point, a set of instructions telling us where to find the alien object.
A blow to the "Rare Earth" hypothesis?

Sun's properties not 'fine-tuned' for life

"The Sun's properties are consistent with it being pulled out at random from the bag of all stars," says Charles Lineweaver from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. "Life does not seem to require anything special in its host star, other than it be close."

Some previous studies of the Sun's vital statistics have concluded that it is unusual among stars, for instance, by having a higher mass than average. Such atypical properties might somehow help explain why the Sun seems to be unique, as far as we know, in having an inhabited planet.

But the earlier studies only looked at a small number of solar features, such as its mass and iron content. Lineweaver suspects there was a temptation to sift through the Sun's properties, then focus on the outstanding ones while ignoring the normal ones.
Humans Can "See Into the Future"

A new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suggests that the human visual system is equipped with the ability to foresee the future.

Assistant Professor Mark Changizi says that it takes nearly one-tenth of a second for the brain to perceive what the eyes see.

To compensate for such neural delays, he claims, the visual system has developed the ability to generate perceptions of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future. Changizi says that it is due to this quality of the visual system that when an observer actually perceives something, it is the present rather than what happened one-tenth of a second ago.

(Thanks: Elan.)
Here's life in Missouri for you:

Buy a car and get a free gun at U.S. car dealer

Every buyer so far "except one guy from Canada and one old guy" has elected to take the gun, Muller said. Muller recommends his customers select a Kel-Tec .380 pistol.

Canadians -- such insufferable pansies!

Perhaps I'll buy a car from this guy and use the free gun to blow my brains out.

Friday, May 23, 2008

If, like me, you're in need of a small, noisy pseudopod-wielding sidekick, you're in luck. Just subject cornstarch to 80Hz; said sidekick will arise Golem-like from its liquid cradle, ready and willing to accompany you on all manner of adventures.

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)
Today's J.G. Ballard moment:

Man admits having sex with 1,000 cars

But his wandering eye has spread beyond cars to other vehicles. He says that his most intense sexual experience was "making love" to the helicopter from 1980s TV hit Airwolf.

(Via Boing Boing.)
The Architecture of Ascent

Viewed architecturally, these examples of high-tech camping gear -- capable of housing small groups of people on the vertical sides of cliffs, as if bolted into the sky -- begin to look like something dreamed up by Archigram: nomadic, modular, and easy to assemble even in wildly non-urban circumstances. This is tactical gear for the spatial expansion of private leisure.

I'm put in mind of "Farewell Horizontal," a wonderful (and overlooked) c-punk novel by K.W. Jeter.
Interactive Architecture on the Mission Eternity Sarcophagus:

Etoy.corporation launched the Mission Eternity Project in 2005, foregrounding on the one hand respect for the human longing to survive in some way after death, and on the other a sense of irony about dated sci-fi fantasies we contrive to satisfy that desire. The Sarcophagus is one materialization of this project. It is a mobile sepulchre that holds and displays portraits of those who wish to have their informational remains cross over into a digital afterlife. The size of a standard cargo container that can travel to any location in the world, the Sarcophagus has an immersive LED screen covering its walls, ceiling and floor.

In other words, an immersive version of Rudy Rucker's "lifebox." What home's complete without one?

The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the "Overview Effect" Experienced by Astronauts

When in space, astronauts have repeatedly reported inexplicable euphoria, a "cosmic connection" or an increased sensitivity to their place in the Universe. The experience sounds like the ultimate high, or the ultimate enlightening; it would appear that without trying, astronauts are able to attain a similar mental state as meditating Buddhist monks.

All the more reason to populate space. Never mind the Singularity -- when enough of us become "off-worlders" we will have jettisoned much of the territorial baggage that defines the present human condition. Space exploration and colonization aren't merely fruitful components of a transhuman future: they're essential aspects that will change what we are.

I can't think of a scarier prospect for the status quo.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Photonic Beetle: Nature Builds Diamond-Like Crystals For Future Optical Computers

The beetle is an inch-long weevil named Lamprocyphus augustus. The discovery of its scales' crystal structure represents the first time scientists have been able to work with a material with the ideal or "champion" architecture for a photonic crystal.

"Nature uses very simple strategies to design structures to manipulate light -- structures that are beyond the reach of our current abilities," Galusha says.

Bartl and Galusha now are trying to design a synthetic version of the beetle's photonic crystals, using scale material as a mold to make the crystals from a transparent semiconductor.

(Via Reality Carnival Unleashed.)
Chris Wren:

Frankly, if we can't imagine our civilization having a future without cheap oil, we have a problem, but one that has nothing to do with the cost of gas.

The following (about the imminent arrival of the Mars Phoenix mission) appeared in's latest newsletter, accompanied by the familiar photo above.

If this lander succeeds, it will return incredible imagery of the frozen areas of Mars. But will it be as incredible as the shot pictured here, that was dismissed by NASA and astronomers as a trick of light.

Whitley Strieber took this question to a statistician, to determine the probability that this was, indeed, just a rock. He laughed in Whitley's face and agreed to tell "anybody" that it was either a living figure or a statue. Then he found out it was on Mars. He demanded anonymity and refused an interview on Dreamland.

Thus does the prejudice of the scientific community throw away knowledge.

Part of Whitley's problem is his steadfast refusal to let old memes die, regardless how absurd or discredited. My disgust is compounded by recently having finished "2012: The War for Souls," one of the worst books I can remember reading. Ill-conceived, poorly written and burdened by horrendously unconvincing characters, "2012" marks the last Strieber title I'll bother seeking out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Perhaps shaken by the crash of their flying saucer, aliens attempt to pry apart a man's car. Is abduction imminent?

Oh, and did I mention this is an insurance commercial?

16% of US science teachers are creationists

Despite a court-ordered ban on the teaching of creationism in US schools, about one in eight high-school biology teachers still teach it as valid science, a survey by Pennsylvania State University researchers reveals.

About 16 percent said they believed human beings had been created by God within the last 10,000 years.

I don't recall having a science teacher who wasn't an avowed Creationist. Then again, I live in Missouri.
Sound 'cause of shadow spectacle'

Mysterious bands of shadow which sometimes pass across the ground during an eclipse might be produced by sound pulses, according to a new theory.

"Shadow bands" have been observed travelling across the ground before and after totality - when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Many attribute these regular light and dark bands to atmospheric turbulence.

But astrophysicist Dr Stuart Eves thinks the phenomenon could be down to something called infrasound.
Cameraphone dump:


Dyson Sphere?


Crazy the cat with bird.

My new Loving the Alien column has been posted at Futurismic. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

frogConcept: A Digital Escape

The future isn't all rosy. Increasing pollution, overpopulation, poverty, and climate change -- society's impact on the earth is reaching a breaking point. And while we may work to slow the onset of these catastrophes, reversing them is no longer an option. The question becomes, how do we live with the troubles we've already caused?

I don't think Frog Design intended this to be ironic, but its VR facemask is about as sterile and chilling as any proposed futurist technology I can recall seeing. It's like something a George Lucas storm-trooper might wear on a date.

I do, however, like the mask's inadvertent resemblance to the minimalist Gray alien face; it supports my tenuous thesis that the Grays are anemic caricatures of ourselves served up by the collective unconscious in order to caution us against the dangers of rampant dehumanization.

The Grays inhabit an imaginal realm of boundless technology, yet their agenda suggests their existence is defined by a near-insurmountable void, perhaps the result of recklessly toppling the ecology of their parent world. Despite its promise of an insulated, illusory dystopia, the frogConcept mask stirs similar fears.
Introducing 'spaceroach' grandchildren

Interfax news agency reported the birth of 30 healthy descendants of the pioneering cockroach Nadezhda (Hope), who was conceived last September in an orbiting laboratory named Foton-M.

Unlike Nadezhda's children, who showed a faster maturation rate than normal, the grandchildren correspond completely to the average household cockroach, said Dmitry Atyakshin, a scientist at Voronezh Medical Academy, 470 kilometres south of Moscow.

Oh, they only seem to "correspond completely" to their terrestrial counterparts.

It's only a matter of time until Nadezhda's vile spawn infiltrate their orbiting laboratory's navigation systems and land that sucker in a major city.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Peter Thiel Makes Down Payment on Libertarian Ocean Colonies

Tired of the United States and the other 190-odd nations on Earth?

If a small team of Silicon Valley millionaires get their way, in a few years, you could have a new option for global citizenship: A permanent, quasi-sovereign nation floating in international waters.

With a $500,000 donation from PayPal founder Peter Thiel, a Google engineer and a former Sun Microsystems programmer have launched The Seasteading Institute, an organization dedicated to creating experimental ocean communities "with diverse social, political, and legal systems."
Paul Kimball lays the smack down on the Condon Report:

The UFO phenomenon itself -- whatever it is -- is irrevocably characterized by our response to it. Like Paul, I don't think we have much of a chance of coming to grips with the problem until UFO research encompasses the history of our response to its presence.
Stop me if you've heard this one before:

In Johnny Rogan's book 'Morrissey and Marr - The Severed Alliance' there is an interesting tale about the iconic Smiths singer experiencing a sighting. Apparently, whilst with a friend, he witnessed a fleet of flying saucers travelling across the sky in a hexagonal formation. "The whole thing had an astonishing effect on me" claimed Morrissey.
From my new SETI post:

The "Kardashev Scale" has become a mainstay among futurists seeking to plot humanity's own future. But while not without its usefulness, Kardashev's model remains speculative. There's no guarantee that a high-technology ET civilization will abide by his template, however sensible it might seem. The Kardashev Scale assumes, for instance, that aliens will share our own imperialistic sensibility. In truth, they might be far less aggressive, requiring less energy than we might expect; there's no readily apparent reason why even the most resplendent of civilizations would require the resources of an entire galaxy.

One can think of any number of activities that might engage ET societies; our evident failure to observe Type III civilizations is hardly proof that ETs don't exist.
Something's squeezing Morrissey's skull . . .

I know the feeling well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Separated at birth: this USB head massager and the "drones."

See also: Xenu and the Flatwoods Monster.
"Egyptian pharaoh" on Mars?
Weird Science! NYU Student Invents Virtual Girlfriend

Give her kiss on the check and she rolls over and buries her face in the pillow. And yes, she stays fully clothed at all times. Nonetheless, Burrows suggests his new alternative to a full-body pillow or (ugh) blow-up doll could provide late-night comfort for traders, lawyers, or any other single guy in Manhattan who simply works too hard to keep a girlfriend.

Something tells me I'd manage to scare off even a two-dimensional woman.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Animated chalk-drawings scamper and metamorphose:

May 25. Mark your calendars!
Two interesting anomalies from Universe Today:

Unusual Crater in Mars' Mamers Valles (Gallery)

The Mars Express Spacecraft captured several images of an unusual crater in the Mamers Valles area on Mars with its High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The crater is at the end of the long, winding valley, and contains a remarkable dark area. Scientists are not certain whether the dark colored material could have formed in-situ or if it may have been transported by the wind.

Strange, Super-Sized Pulsar Stumps Scientists

Astronomers have discovered a fast-spinning, super-sized pulsar in a stretched-out orbit around an apparent Sun-like star. This combination (as well as that many hyphenated words in one sentence) has never seen before, and astronomers are puzzled about how this bizarre system developed. "Our ideas about how the fastest-spinning pulsars are produced do not predict either the kind of orbit or the type of companion star this one has," said David Champion of the Australia Telescope National Facility. "We have to come up with some new scenarios to explain this weird pair."

The latter is especially intriguing in light of speculation that pulsars might be artificial beacons.
Giant space vegetables 'could feed the world'

Struggling for space in giant hothouses at the Guandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences are 21lb (9.5kg) tomatoes and enormous watermelons.

Researchers fired off a batch of 2,000 seeds into space in 2006 on the Shijian 8 satellite.

After germination the best specimens were selected for further breeding.

Researcher Lo Zhigang said: "Conventional agricultural development has taken us as far as we can go and demand for food from a growing population is endless.

"Space seeds offer the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables bigger and faster."

[. . .]

How sending seeds into space produces such enormous fruit is yet not fully understood, but it is thought cosmic radiation, micro-gravity and magnetic fields may play a part.

Friday, May 16, 2008

He climbs stairs! He serves beverages! He conducts orchestras!

Wait a second -- why was I calling it "he" . . . ?

(Thanks: Cyberpunk Review.)
Obesity Contributes To Global Warming - Study

Obese and overweight people require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat, and the problem will worsen as the population literally swells in size, a team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine says.

This adds to food shortages and higher energy prices, the school's researchers Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts wrote in the journal Lancet on Friday.

"We are all becoming heavier and it is a global responsibility," Edwards said in a telephone interview. "Obesity is a key part of the big picture."

Oh, like this is going to curtail lines at Taco Bell drive-thrus anytime soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

World's animal population has plummeted by a third since the 1970s

According to the WWF, most of the vanishing animals are victims of overfishing, intensive farming, habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution or manmade climate change.

The conservation charity humans are consuming about 25 per cent more natural resources than the Earth can replace.

The report comes ahead of a major UN meeting on biological diversity next week which will discuss ways of cutting the rate of loss by 2010.
Nano-Medigel Instant Body Repair - The Start of a Real Life Medikit?

Outside the body the fluid remains fresh for a long time, but because it's made of the same amino acids the body uses it can easily be broken down inside a wound - so you can just leave it in there. No removing stitches, no after-op care. This combination of easy storage with "apply and forget" ease-of-use makes it ideal for emergency responders and battlefield use where the priority is "Stop them leaking and do it really quickly". We can't be sure if this is the same stuff as in those big boxes with red crosses on them in Doom, but if it isn't it's something damn like it.
Solar-powered bra displays text, holds drinks

The green, high-quality cotton bra features a waist-mounted solar panel that powers a small, chest-mounted electronic billboard or any other electronic device you choose to connect. A pair of reusable drink containers attach to the bra cups, allowing the wearer to reduce consumption of aluminum cans and plastic bottles while increasing bust size.

Saving the planet and increasing bust size, you say? That has to be worth a Nobel Prize or two.

Pink Tentacle also points the way to this hypnotic collection of black-and-white animated GIFs.

Rethinking Galactic Empire

How much would an extraterrestrial civilization resemble our own? The question resonates because on the one hand, the signature of our activities is what we tend to translate into the SETI search. We look, for example, for the signs of civilizations that are like us but more advanced technologically, which means we apply human thinking and motivations to cultures that are by definition not human. This is natural enough, because we're the only technological civilization we know about, but it leads to results that may mislead us and obscure the actual situation.

That first one sure is creepy. Who is that weirdo, anyway?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Greenhouse Gases Highest For 800,000 Years-Study

"The driving forces now are very much different from the driving forces in the past when there was only natural variation," Stocker told Reuters of the study in the journal Nature by scientists in Switzerland, France and Germany.
Love/Hate UFOs (Greg Bishop)

Sometimes I wonder about fundamentalist skeptics and their efforts to disprove all UFO and paranormal cases at all costs (to the point of ignoring evidence, casting the arguments to their own liking or engaging in character assassination.) The thing is, I wonder equally about believers who essentially do the same thing. Actually, they're both pretty entertaining, maybe more than the phenomenon itself.
Physicists draw up plans for real 'cloaking device'

Metamaterials are exotic composites made of electronic components such as wires and inductors that can be engineered to precisely control the way light travels through them.

Pendry's team has drawn up plans for a spherical metamaterial structure that would render an enclosed object invisible. "The theory tells us the material properties we need at each point," says team member David Smith, from Duke University in North Carolina, US. "The challenge is to match those theoretical requirements in the actual material, point-by-point."
British Government releases UFO files

The sightings range from incredible tales of little green men visiting the Wirral to corroborated accounts from policemen and pilots of Unidentified Flying Objects hovering above towns and cities.

All are recorded on official forms, held by air bases and police stations, and compiled by the Ministry of Defence between 1978 and 2002.

Disclosed for the first time is a report from three experienced air traffic controllers who attempted to "talk in" a UFO which landed on the runway before them.
Belief in God 'childish,' Jews not chosen people: Einstein letter

Albert Einstein described belief in God as "childish superstition" and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer said Tuesday.

The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they "have no different quality for me than all other people".

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

I think many reasonable people -- even the spiritually inclined -- would agree with Einstein. The problem with the "God" debate (at least in Western society) is the tendency to automatically associate the idea of a numinous, overarching consciousness with the bearded caricature from the Old Testament. While I have no qualms about rejecting the latter, I'm not comfortable categorically rejecting the idea of a motive intelligence (although I don't profess to know what form it might take).

Likewise, I remain agnostic regarding the possibility -- however slim -- that human consciousness can persist in some manner after cessation of brain function. I simply don't know, and feel no reason to pretend I do. (I suppose hardcore materialists might accuse me of waffling or, worse yet, "wanting to believe." So be it.)

Ultimately, do we really need a God to inject our existence with meaning? Even if humanity eventually discards the vengeful, anthropomorphic deities that haunt our religious texts, we might never give up asserting our desire to seek reassurance in the "divine," blinded by the rash, unspoken certainty that the Cosmos must yield to human conceptions of fairness and justice.

But the universe gives every indication of being truly unforgiving -- unless, of course, spacetime was "tuned" to allow life and sentience, a scenario that implies that our presence was, in some unknown fashion, anticipated. I personally lean to the distinctly less flattering notion that all outcomes are realized somewhere in the quantum abyss, rendering our existence (and that of hypothetical ETs) inevitable.

Such a process is inspiring -- even exhilarating -- but will it ever fill the void so readily satisfied by superstition? And, if it does, will we choose to call it "God"?

J.G. Ballard meets George Adamski!

Click here to learn more.

(Thanx: Elan.)
Scientific research inside Second Life

This week's Science News discusses several real scientific research projects inside Second Life. For example, Drexel University neurobiologist Corey Hart (no, not that Corey Hart) is building a virtual frog to study the neural pathways involved in hopping. Meanwhile, Robert Amme, a physicist at the University of Denver, is modeling a nuclear reactor as a training tool. Indeed, many research institutions are leveraging the simple sim tools of SL to create immersive science learning experiences.

If we inhabit a simulation, might scientific research be a suitable justification for our existence? If so, what kind? And what happens after the experiments have run their course?
Robotic Jellyfish Swim and Fly at Hannover Fair

They may look whimsical, but the waterborne AquaJelly and airborne AirJelly make use of mechatronic design practices, control strategies and actuation methods that could have serious engineering implications. According to Markus Fischer, Festo's head of corporate design, these robots have a degree of autonomy and adaptive behavior that "will be very useful in the factory of the future."

Why let factories have all the fun? I can think of all sorts of concepts for urban installation pieces . . .
Vatican Says Aliens Could Exist

Forgive my impertinence, but who honestly gives a rat's ass about what any religious institution has to say about anything? I especially hate it when bigoted Medievalists desperately attempt to play catch-up with the real world.

Religion has cornered the market on superstition and psychological oppression; isn't that enough to keep it occupied without vain pretensions of relevance?
My latest SETI post reiterates my disappointment in Nick Bostrom's "Great Filter" argument.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I may never wear slacks again -- although, truthfully, I find this ad's wanton misogyny far more funny than disturbing. (There might even be a science fiction story in it.)

Dacron has a lot to answer for.

(Sighted at Boing Boing.)

This has been a Posthuman Blues public service announcement.
"The Rip" (Portishead):

I can't get enough of this album.
Cory Doctorow asks:

Who needs terrorists to rip America apart when you've got drug warriors killing off, imprisoning and shunning its innocents?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why can't all walls be Greenpix media walls?
Battlebot aficionados might not take to Pleo, but dolphins certainly do.

(Thanks: Reality Carnival.)
I realize it's probably an aerospace thing, but is it absolutely necessary that this prototype military airship have buttocks?

A stargate unexpectedly materializes in my local library!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I laughed in spite of myself when chuckling videographers set fire to Tickle Me Elmo. But somehow this just feels wrong.

Two recent cellphone pictures:

Funny how almost every picture I take seems to fit this blog's color scheme.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blog of the day: MemeMachineGo!

I just realized that Scientology's Xenu bears a decided resemblance to the "Flatwoods Monster."


Natalie Merchant performs "Verdi Cries," my favorite track from "In My Tribe":

What's this have to do with UFOs, you ask?

Absolutely nothing.
Plasma-Powered Hovercraft Patent

The patent shown is for an aircraft to be powered off the ground using a plasma technology. Subrata Roy, a University of Florida aerospace engineer, proposes the existing technique of passing a magnetic wave through a conducting fluid can produce a force strong enough to lift an aircraft off the ground.

This is tantalizingly similar to descriptions of some UFOs. I wonder if a magnetohydrodynamic propulsion system could stall car engines . . .
Will Phoenix Mars Rover Disappear Like the Last Mars Polar Lander?

Phoenix, an even more badass version of the current Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, will hit the Martian north pole. (Sadly, it can't look for the dead Polar Lander, because that rover was headed for the South Pole.) If all goes as planned, it will immediately dig into the icy tundra and take samples to see what the deal is with all that ice. Could it be turned into potable water for future colonists?

Sorry, the Phoenix is not a "more badass" version of the Mars Exploration Rovers. It's not even a rover.
What do I have in common with Richard Dolan, Nancy Birnes, Ted Roe, Nick Redfern, and Jeff Ritzmann (aside from an interest in UFOs)? We're all contributing to Culture of Contact, a tag-team blog spearheaded by Jeremy Vaeni. Take a look!

New SETI post:

The Roswell Controversy

If popular wisdom is to be trusted, the Roswell case incorporates everything an investigator might need to conclusively establish an extraterrestrial origin for UFOs: exotic hardware and alien bodies--hardly the sort of evidence one might expect from even the most ambitious of hoaxes. And the government's schizophrenic stance on the reality of the event positively begs speculation about some form of high-level cover-up--what nuclear physicist turned UFO researcher Stanton Friedman has repeatedly described as a "Cosmic Watergate."

The events at Roswell in the summer of 1947--dawn of the modern era of UFO sightings--constitute a daunting mystery that has come to adopt the trappings of myth.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More fascinating Soviet space illustration here.
MoMA exhibit dies five weeks into show

One of the central works in the exhibition "Design and the Elastic Mind" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (until 12 May), Victimless Leather, a small jacket made up of embryonic stem cells taken from mice, has died. The artists, Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, say the work which was fed nutrients by tube, expanded too quickly and clogged its own incubation system just five weeks after the show opened.

RIP, creepy mouse-jacket.
Harnessing sunlight on the cheap

Rather than aiming for a smooth parabolic surface that would bring the sunlight to a perfect focus, the dish is being made with 10-inch-wide by 12-foot-long strips of relatively low-cost, lightweight bathroom-type mirror glass. The frame is assembled from cheap aluminum tubing, with holes drilled in precise locations using a simple jig for alignment, so that the struts can be assembled into a framework that passively snaps into just the right parabolic curvature.
Mysterious UFO Death Not So Mysterious

For those who've missed The Keyhoe Report's revealing account, Greg Bishop sums up the latest developments in the Sarbacher/Strieber tale.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Upside Backwards has just posted an interview with me right here.
Melting glaciers release toxic chemical cocktail

Decades after most countries stopped spraying DDT, frozen stores of the insecticide are now trickling out of melting Antarctic glaciers. The change means Adélie penguins have recently been exposed to the chemical, according to a new study.

The trace levels found will not harm the birds, but the presence of the chemical could be an indication that other frozen pollutants will be released because of climate change, says Heidi Geisz, a marine biologist at Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester in the US. She led a team that sampled DDT levels in the penguins.

She worries that glaciers could release an alphabet soup of chemical pollutants into the ocean, including PCBs and PBDEs -- industrial chemicals that have been linked to health problems in humans.
NASA Considers Manned Asteroid Mission

The asteroid mission would act as a "stepping stone" for future planetary missions to Mars and beyond. This three-month trek would provide vital technological, psychological and practical clues to what a manned deep space mission would face. Landing on an asteroid will be very difficult (due to the tiny influence of gravity on such a low-mass body), but it would provide an opportunity for astronauts to mine for water ice, use it for consumption and convert it into its component hydrogen and oxygen (for fuel and breathing). These tests would be essential before sending man on a long-term mission to Mars.

Wait -- I thought the Moon was the logical "stepping stone."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Growing rooms, buildings & cities

Using Rhino3D, high-density foam and an algorithm that mimicks the growth patterns of microscopic structures, they create a sprawling matrix of three-dimensional structures that can multiply indefinitely without sacrificing stability. Is this the organic-algorithmic city of tomorrow?
Photos of Hiroshima from the Robert L. Capp Collection

The Robert L. Capp collection at the Hoover Institution Archives contains ten never-before-published photographs illustrating the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. These photographs, taken by an unknown Japanese photographer, were found in 1945 among rolls of undeveloped film in a cave outside Hiroshima by U.S. serviceman Robert L. Capp, who was attached to the occupation forces. Unlike most photos of the Hiroshima bombing, these dramatically convey the human as well as material destruction unleashed by the atomic bomb.
Watch "Green Porno," Isabella Rossellini's Nod to Insect Sex, Online

Isabella Rossellini knows her bug sex. The Italian model and film star wrote, directed, and starred in "Green Porno," a series of films detailing the sex lives of various bugs, arachnids, and molluscs.

(Via BB.)

So this is what happens when you hang out with David Lynch.
30 Years Of Man's Life Disappear In Mysterious 'Kansas Rectangle'

As haunting as his story may be, Kevin Corcoran is only one of hundreds of people who, for unknown reasons, have had years or even decades of their lives utterly fade away in the mystifying region. Still, most cases lack any hard evidence: The few known photos from inside the Rectangle show only a flat, blank emptiness, stretching unremarkably to the horizon.

New SETI post:

UFOs, Aliens and Consciousness

Some will doubtlessly argue that I'm over-thinking the controversy. Maybe the ETH will triumph by virtue of its simplicity; after all, aliens from space--strange as they might be--are consistent with known physics. Speculating about the role of consciousness and the very nature of "real," on the other hand, might seem abstruse or even like an effort to apologize on behalf of the phenomenon itself.
Like colossal eviscerated insects set into motion by black magic and undistilled whimsy, Theo Jansen's creations move with a strange mincing precision that's simultaneously delightful and profoundly creepy.

Watch out -- they might be coming for you.

For more, click here.
William Gibson scores another point.
UFO Celebrity Death Match - Results!

In which I get my ass kicked by Nick Redfern over live radio. This is one MP3 I'll be downloading.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Keyhoe Report relates new findings regarding the death of Robert Sarbacher and the bizarre tale reported by Whitley Strieber in "Breakthrough."

The truly interesting part? While Strieber's credibility takes a rather powerful hit, the case for clandestine governmental interest in UFO research is bolstered by an unanticipated source. A must.
If there's anything better than retro images of tri-finned rocketships it can only be the unexpected discovery of paleo-transhumanism.

Take a look:

Streamlined Humans (1934)

This article from the July 29, 1934 Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT) imagines the streamlined human of the future. In the piece, Count Sakhnoffsky proposes the alteration of humans to fit the new, fast-paced society of the future.

While I admit to a special affinity for the alien/UFO meme, this image is not without some Fortean relevance. After all, what are the ubiquitous "Grays" of UFO lore if not streamlined humans, spared the clumsy encumbrances that distinguish people from their extraterrestrial counterparts?

The Grays, real or imagined, represent an audacious feat of minimalism -- to the point that some researchers (convinced of their objective reality) have posited they they're literally fetal, the attempt of a truly alien intelligence to interact with us by using a recognizable -- if grotesque -- human template.
Pat Condell on the tyranny of faith:

In this clip, Terence McKenna discusses cephalopods, chromatophores and the potential of creating an information-rich visual communications medium to replace our addiction to spoken language.

The possibilities are dizzying to consider; it's no particular surprise that the idea of fundamentally altering our primary mode of communication is among the most neglected of transhumanist propositions (usually taking a backseat to body augmentation).

Interestingly, we seem to be on the brink of making some meaningful strides in the direction on McKenna's scenario. The clip posted here, for example, invites us to consider autonomous subdermal animation as a platform for erotic expression.

Ten thousand years from now (but 25 would do)

The modern icon of the flying saucer didn't actually penetrate our culture until 1947, when amid much confusion the term was publicized in relation to UFO sightings (the term UFO itself would take some more years to come by).

There were some examples and reports of discoidal flying objects before that seminal year, some even used the iconic expression. But there was no concept (much less mass sightings) of flying saucers as a kind of Universal design for alien spaceships. Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers used rockets. Alien Flying Saucers, that's a post-1947 cultural icon.

That's why depictions of discoidal aircrafts and spaceships before 1947 are of special interest. They are not that rare, actually, but each one of them should make you say wow.
Eye implants in human trials

Researchers have gone from a 4×4 grid (16 'pixels') in 2004 up to a 60-electrode version that was implanted in two men recently. While not quite in Geordi Laforge territory, it's a big step up from complete blindness. After enough practice, the earlier patients were able to distinguish between eating implements at a dinner table, so it'll be interesting to see what these guys can do. The 3rd generation will be designed with about 600 electrodes, and they’re hoping that patients will be able to read.

The catch?

So far, this will only work for people who have lost vision, not for people who were born blind.
I picked this up at the library:

I'll read just about anything with a paleo-futuristic cover illustration.
We should have at least one base on the Moon by now. We should be on our way to Mars and drawing up plans for crewed expeditions to the Jovian moons.

Instead, we get this:

This site's got it all: improbable yet elegantly rendered vehicles, seductive pin-ups and visual futurism worthy of Syd Mead. Jump in!

(Hat tip: Sex In Art.)
Unidentified Flying Human Freaks The Hell Out Of Mexico

Mexico's latest UFO, filmed hovering over the mountains of Nuevo Leon City, Mexico, looks like an airborne woman. The video shows a floating figure gliding horizontally across the tops of the mountains. She even appears to walk off a cliff at one point and is suspended in air.

"Looks like an airborne woman"? Looks pretty amorphic to me. Given Mexico's penchant for UFO sensationalism, is it too much of a stretch to speculate that we're looking at a remote-controlled balloon or similar gimmick?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Gorgeous photos of houses consumed by kudzu.

Enough surfing. I'm going to bed now.
Boring blog news:

No, I haven't tired of the new masthead; I've merely put it in storage while I devise a way to display it properly. (I'm pretty sure I know how, too -- but if I keep experimenting I'll be up half the night with relatively little to show for it except, possibly, mutilated HTML.)

So in the meantime I'm reverting to the Blogger's sky-blue default banner. But rest assured something better's on the way.

(Thanks to Blues Tea-Cha for the not inconsiderable help.)

Update: I've reinstated the resized gray masthead (for now).

Saturday, May 03, 2008

If Hieronymus Bosch had designed playgrounds . . .

Man pushes creation of panel to prepare city for space aliens

"It is important because if you're driving down the highway and you saw a crash of a small spaceship and a car or a bus full of kids, you really wouldn't know what to do," Peckman said Thursday. "Do you wait for the hazardous materials experts to show up because of potential contaminants from another solar system? What do you do? People really don't know."

(Via The Anomalist.)

This presents an ethical dilemma. Suppose an ET craft unaccountably roswells into a school-bus. Who do you attempt to rescue first, the aliens or the children?
Estonia's Digitized Garbage

Bruce Sterling writes:

Here on BEYOND THE BEYOND, we don't normally post raw, unsolicited press releases, but you ponder the motives and thinking behind an effort like this, and it's actually kind of scary. I'd be betting good money most of these Google Earth-tagged illegal dump sites date to the Soviet era. So you've got this Estonian cybergreen millionaire's web 2.0-style participatory scheme to scrape his nation's surface clean via orbital oversight... Russia would never dream of a campaign like that. USA, way too sloppy. Even Sweden Finland and Norway would be hard put. Ultra-tidy, public-spirited Switzerland maybe, but gee whiz... who are these people?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Cutting-Edge Cardboard Interior in Greece

Dubbed "Papercut", the project was a collaboration between the fashion designer and dARCH Studio. It takes a multidisciplinary approach to interior design, synthesizing elements of fashion and architecture into a streamlined, self-illuminated, biomorphic installation that was handmade using all eco-friendly materials.

Wait . . . is that thing street-legal?

(Hat tip: Loving the Machine.)
Captivatingly "Mad Max"-like homespun trucks. (Somehow, the Russian example just looks Russian.)
Mongooses 'can sniff-out landmines'

This headline evokes some delightfully morbid imagery. I wonder if PETA's on the case . . .
"The long-term prognosis is not very optimistic."

(Tip of the hat to Nick Redfern.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

My new SETI post lists ten alien movies deserving of your time. (I immediately regretted neglecting "The Man Who Fell To Earth" and "Alien.")
Gaia Hypothesis: Could Earth Really be a Single Organism?

When you stop to think about it, our planet does act like a huge organism. If you look at the interrelationship between plants and atmospherics, animals and humans, rocks and water, a complex pattern of symbiotic processes seem to complement each other perfectly. Should one system be pushed out of balance by some external force (such as a massive injection of atmospheric carbon dioxide after a volcanic event), other processes are stimulated to counteract the instability (more phytoplankton appear in the oceans to absorb the carbon dioxide in the water). Many of these processes could be interpreted as a "global immune system".

Could Gaia be sentient in some unrecognized sense? If so, how might it communicate (assuming it wanted to)? In David Brin's "Earth," Gaia achieves self-awareness via the electronic nervous system we call the Internet, but perhaps it doesn't need anything so fragile or human-friendly. A global consciousness might manifest in the planet's ambient EM field, in its chemicals, in the molecular architecture of its organisms.
Ever wonder what a Chick tract would look like animated? You know what to do.

Which Existed First: God or the Human Imagination?

"One can be a member of a transcendental group, or a nation, even though one never comes in contact with the other members of it. Moreover, the composition of such groups, whether they are clans or nations, may equally include the living and the dead," he added.

He argues that no animals, not even our nearest relatives the chimpanzees, can do this. Instead, he says, they're restricted to the routine and Machiavellian social interactions of everyday life.

The reason for this, he says, is that they can't imagine beyond this immediate social circle, or backwards and forwards in time, in the same way that humans can.

Not that long ago we deemed ourselves unique because of our ability to use tools; now we're assured we're the only species with the ability to imagine. I have to wonder just how long this will last.
Dezeen's top ten houses. Take a look!

Today was a write-off. However, I did manage to snag a copy of Portishead's "Third." I've been looking forward to this album for eleven (!) years.