Sunday, August 30, 2009

"A Short Vision"

The menacing object in the sky is beguilingly amorphic, an archetype in the process of crystallizing.

(Thanks to @ybalagian.)

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The hour is nigh.

Get Smarter (Jamais Cascio)

The end of the fossil-fuel era, the fragility of the global food web, growing population density, and the spread of pandemics, as well as the emergence of radically transformative bio- and nano­technologies -- each of these threatens us with broad disruption or even devastation. And as good as our brains have become at planning ahead, we're still biased toward looking for near-term, simple threats. Subtle, long-term risks, particularly those involving complex, global processes, remain devilishly hard for us to manage.

But here's an optimistic scenario for you: if the next several decades are as bad as some of us fear they could be, we can respond, and survive, the way our species has done time and again: by getting smarter. But this time, we don't have to rely solely on natural evolutionary processes to boost our intelligence. We can do it ourselves.

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"On your last trip did you discover what the Earth people eat?"

I like the sound they make when they laugh.

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Link-dump #15

Single molecule, one million times smaller than a grain of sand, pictured for first time

The "Great Wall" Of Space: Galactic Superclusters a Billion Light Years Away Extend for 5% of Observable Universe

Depression's Evolutionary Roots

Antenna Tree Mast Safari

Tornadoes of Fire Approach the Parthenon

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


Astrophysicists puzzle over planet that's too close to its sun

The problem is that a planet that close should be consumed by its parent star in less than a million years, say the authors at Keele University in Britain. The star Wasp-18 is believed to be about a billion years old, and because stars and the planets around them are thought to form at the same time, Wasp-18b should have been reduced to cinders ages ago.

"This planet should spiral inwards on such a short time scale that the likelihood of seeing it is very low," said Coel Hellier, an astrophysicist at Keele.

"That's a paradox," said Douglas P. Hamilton, an astronomer at the University of Maryland who wrote a commentary accompanying the report. He said there were a variety of possible explanations, none of them very satisfactory.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Le petit prince

This Little Guy Might Grow Your Tomatoes on Mars

"Le petit prince" (the little prince) is a miniature greenhouse (concept) intended to walk a plant around Mars' surface in search of optimal growing conditions -- elements from light to nutrients. Eventually the robot masters its environment, sharing growing tips with a whole swarm of bots plant-growing robots.

But the prince is not just a growing machine -- the designer and 2009 Electrolux Design Lab finalist considers the bot first and foremost as a "pet" or "silent friend" to keep a colonist company.

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Well, it's a start. (Of what, exactly, I don't know.)

(Hat tip to Grinding.)

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Crank up the Tibetan music, break open a carton of strawberry ice cream, and pull up a chair. It's "UFO Coverup? Live."

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Monday, August 24, 2009

UFOs and extraterrestrials

Greg Bishop's latest post at UFOMystic is a distinct relief from the tedious "skeptics vs. believers" charade perpetuated by the media -- and, to a significant extent, the UFO community itself:

Just because we have been taught to assign UFO phenomena to aliens coming from other planets does not make it so. (Actually, it might, but that's another ontological can of worms.)

We are stuck in a culture that needs to settle on one way to look at things, and uncomfortable with ambiguity, for the most part. Any non-human intelligence who wanted to "conquer" us, or at least make limited contact would do well to exploit this tendency, as well as our reliance on conscious sensory input to make their presence as subtle as a light breeze on our collective consciousness. No flying saucers, death rays, or even handshakes with the President needed.

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UFO landing at 1984 Olympics

Don't miss the alien at the end.

(Thanks: Alien Punk.)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Link-dump #13

10 Fascinating Bioluminescent Organisms

Party Rats: Ideal for Night Blogging!


Giant 'Lunar Creature' baffles researchers

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UFOs and the Old Geezers (Kevin Randle)

Just recently the RRR Group posted a picture that my wife took at the MUFON Symposium in Denver and claimed that those of us on the Speakers panel were a bunch of geezers who had failed to solve the UFO question. It was time for us to get out of the way and let those younger, brighter and more enlightened take over. We had our chance and we failed.

Except we haven't failed. We solved the problem. We have the proof that some UFOs are alien spacecraft and we can make that point over and over. The evidence for that is overwhelming, but not unlike Galileo, who failed to convince the church that there were moons orbiting Jupiter, we get a bunch of people who "refuse to look through the telescope."

Come again?

I would certainly agree that researchers have succeeded in demonstrating that the UFO phenomenon is a genuine unknown, not a collective delusion. But this isn't the same thing as proving that "some UFOs are alien spacecraft," as Randle claims -- although, in my own view, we would be incredibly foolish to dispense with the possibility.

Something phenomenally weird is undoubtedly occurring, and Randle's consternation about the modern world's naysayers "refusing to look through the telescope" is well-taken. But the quickest way to convince scientific orthodoxy that its apathy is well-founded is to proclaim that the mystery has been solved. In the case of serious UFO research, science is left with a legitimate enigma that may prove to be far stranger than the "mere" comings and goings of alien spacecraft. An honest gaze through the telescope is desperately needed, but only if we're able to allow ourselves to relax our preconceptions.

Close encounter cases, for example, suggest a curious and unexpected congruence with folklore, and often feature a residue of after-effects that would seem to fall into the domain of parapsychology. This troubling strangeness can't be readily ascribed to nuts-and-bolts space vehicles; indeed, we may be confronting a phenomenon that challenges our definitions of consciousness.

"Alien spacecraft"? Maybe. "Proof" of extraterrestrial visitation? Sorry, Kevin, but we're not there yet.

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(Thanks to Next Nature for the tip.)

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Friday, August 21, 2009


Is this the evidence Nick Bostrom is looking for?

(More crosswalk sign hacks here.)

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Hot, hot, hot!

In hot water: World sets ocean temperature record

Breaking heat records in water is more ominous as a sign of global warming than breaking temperature marks on land, because water takes longer to heat up and does not cool off as easily as land.

"This warm water we're seeing doesn't just disappear next year; it'll be around for a long time," said climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. It takes five times more energy to warm water than land.

The warmer water "affects weather on the land," Weaver said. "This is another yet really important indicator of the change that's occurring."

Global Warming Could Actually Tilt the Earth's Axis

Scientists have long theorized that climate change could cause a negligible amount of movement in the axis, but NASA;s research shows that the problem could be much more severe than was initially thought. In fact, it could be as drastic as the northern pole shifting by 1.5 centimeters every year towards Hawaii and Alaska.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here we go again.

Report: UFO Sightings Coincide with Popular Sci-Fi Films, TV

The British Ministry of Defense released 4,000 pages of documents detailing hundreds of UFO sightings between 1981 and 1996. A summary of the documents by UFO expert David Clarke comes as no surprise to scientists and skeptics: many of the sightings coincide with the release of popular sci-fi movies or television shows.

Frankly, so what?

There's doubtlessly a correlation between science fiction and UFO reports. But while pop culture's influence on potential UFO observers is a fascinating subject with important sociological ramifications, to flaunt Clarke's findings as a refutation of the phenomenon in general is to willfully ignore the evidence in its entirety.

UFO researchers aren't interested in "noise" cases -- the inevitable false alarms that plague efforts to study the phenomenon (whatever its origin). Indeed, scientists who have addressed the UFO problem have always been painfully aware of the disproportionately high volume of false returns. Clarke's study is a welcome reminder, but it comes as nothing particularly new to anyone even peripherally familiar with the UFO inquiry.

That the number of spurious reports rises in accordance with the popularity of alien-themed movies and TV series is scarcely surprising. Unfortunately, neither is it surprising that the mainstream skeptical establishment chooses to ignore the residue of anomaly that makes the UFO phenomenon such an enduring and woefully unremarked challenge to science.

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I'm 34 today. Looks like I survived my "Jesus year."

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Roswell crash debris "smoking gun"?

Not quite. But this is seriously intriguing.

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NOAH: Mammoth Pyramidal Arcology Designed for New Orleans

Now, a real-life a group of ambitious designers has taken their looming pyramidal arcology and placed it smack dab on the Mississippi River as a proposal for the rebuild of New Orleans which is currently in progress. This 30 million square foot beast-building with an array of green features is aptly named NOAH (Get it? Noah and the Arcology?), and is meant to house 40,000 mostly human residents.

I first encountered the idea of arcologies in none other than Richard Hoagland's "The Monuments of Mars," in which he speculates that the pyramidal features in the vicinity of the iconic "Face" served as vast encapsulated habitats for the "Martians" -- whoever they might have been.

Perhaps the most intriguing such candidate Martian arcology is the "D&M Pyramid," a symmetrical, faceted formation that looks like it could be a heavily eroded artificial structure. Could an extraterrestrial species have constructed the D&M as a refuge from a disintegrating environment?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I'd be willing to assume this androgynous alien comes in peace, but that vial in its hand bothers me. What the hell's in that thing, anyway?

More here.

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"The Math Book" by Cliff Pickover

Luminously illustrated, Cliff Pickover's "The Math Book" promises to be the tree-based equivalent to his exceedingly popular Reality Carnival. If you're not acquainted with Cliff's abiding fascination with fractals, robots and hypercubes (and everything in between), "The Math Book" is a veritable invitation to wade into the infinite. You've been warned.

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Link-dump #12 (UFO edition)

Did aliens with lemon-shaped heads land in the Midlands?

Alien Abductions, Sleep Paralysis and MUFON

UFO 'fired laser' over cemetery

The UFO Cap Umbrella

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Monday, August 17, 2009

"We do the work, you do the pleasure."

Yeah, I realize that Makoto Tanijiri's Nature Factory is supposed to look arboreal. So why can't I shake the image of the rampant ductwork in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil"?

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The latest YouTube UFO clip

I like the way the UFO dances around its prey before snatching it. And yes, I think this is a hoax.

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Triptych #14

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(Found at BotJunkie.)

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Fingers crossed

Ares I-X space vehicle stacked for first flight

The experimental launch is called Ares I-X, and there won't be any humans on board yet -- people don't get to ride this horse until 2015. On this first test flight, NASA scientists will be simulating the first two minutes of the mission of the 1.8 million-pound vehicle, observing how well it can be controlled, demonstrating staging and separation, determining how well it holds up under aerodynamic, thermal and vehicle loads, and then testing the reentry dynamics of the first stage.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

"What is oozing out of our ground?"

I found this on Boing Boing. It's the funniest fucking thing I've seen in a while.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quote of the day

"We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look at the thermostat."

--Terence McKenna

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The Pitch on Stan Romanek

My local "alternative" news weekly, The Pitch, has a piece on self-proclaimed alien contactee Stan Romanek (of peeking alien head video infamy) in its new issue. Romanek's testimony is predictably -- and deservedly -- dismissed, and the cloying stupidity of his adherents exposed for what it is. While I typically wince when I read debunking articles (this patently awful piece by Phil Plait* comes to mind) I found The Pitch's treatment of the "true believer" UFO counterculture disquietingly accurate. If The Pitch doesn't offer a particularly complimentary portrait of ufology in Kansas City, it's because it's like this everywhere, the UFO meme a not-so-subtle stand-in for traditional religious conceits.

The prospect that UFOs are spaceships manned by extraterrestrials shouldn't be automatically dismissed; the problem is that frauds such as Romanek serve as convenient straw men for a mass media eager for simple explanations. Thus "UFO" almost always denotes "alien spaceship," rather than a merely unidentified object. (Some researchers, painfully aware of the need for greater perceived objectivity, have argued that the term needs to be replaced with something even more innocuous.)

Ultimately, those familiar with ufology's carnivalesque trappings will find The Pitch's article at least mostly astute, while those encountering the subject for the first time will simply laugh. And with the UFO lecture circuit dominated by Romanek and his ilk, I can't entirely blame them.

*Readers can find UFO researcher Kevin Randle's rebuttal to Plait's editorial here.

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This should come as no surprise.

NASA Falling Short of Asteroid Detection Goals

Without more funding, NASA will not meet its goal of tracking 90 percent of all deadly asteroids by 2020, according to a report released today by the National Academy of Sciences.

The agency is on track to soon be able to spot 90 percent of the potentially dangerous objects that are at least a kilometer (.6 miles) wide, a goal previously mandated by Congress.

Asteroids of this size are estimated to strike Earth once every 500,000 years on average and could be capable of causing a global catastrophe if they hit Earth. In 2008, NAS's Near Earth Object Program spotted a total of 11,323 objects of all sizes.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guns, girls and monsters

A sample from Saving The Women: War And Science Fiction.

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Reality check

When the human species' unnerving arrogance gets you down, I've found you can do worse than consider the unthinkable enormity of the Cosmos. If nothing else, it will clear your head of celebrity gossip, healthcare reform and the ever-pressing Twitter/Facebook debate.

(Thanks to @KateSherrod.)

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Glaciers a canary in the coal mine of global warming

A 50-year government study found that the world's glaciers are melting at a rapid and alarming rate. The ongoing study is the latest in a series of reports that found glaciers worldwide are melting faster than anyone had predicted they would just a few years ago.

It offers a clear indication of an accelerating climate change and warming earth, according to the authors.

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Signs of life?

Martian methane mystery deepens

Dr Michael Mumma, director of Nasa's Goddard Center for Astrobiology and lead author on the previous paper, told BBC News it was vital to understand how methane was destroyed on Mars and to explain how so much of the gas is produced and destroyed so quickly on the Red Planet.

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Good news for lunar colonists

New Device Extracts Oxygen from Moon Rocks

To heat the reactor on the Moon would need just a small amount of power, Fray said, and the reactor itself can be thermally insulated to lock heat in. The three reactors would need about 4.5 kilowatts of power, which could be supplied by solar panels or even a small nuclear reactor placed on the Moon.

NASA steps closer to nuclear power for moon base

Three recent tests at different NASA centers and a national lab have successfully demonstrated key technologies required for compact fission-based nuclear power plants for human settlements on other worlds.

"This recent string of technology development successes confirms that the fission surface power project is on the right path," said Don Palac, NASA's fission surface power project manager at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, in a statement.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It came from beneath.

Like the fist of an angry god (Bad Astronomy)

It's not exactly clear what's going on here, even in this slightly zoomed shot. But it looks for all the world -- or worlds -- like some small object on an inclined orbit has punched through Saturn's narrow F ring, bursting out from underneath, and dragging behind it a wake of particles from the rings. The upward-angled structure is definitely real, as witnessed by the shadow it's casting on the ring material to the lower left. And what's with the bright patch right where this object seems to have slammed in the rings? Did it shatter millions of icy particles, revealing their shinier interior material, making them brighter? Clearly, something awesome and amazing happened here.

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LGM meets PGA

I'm hereby declaring this "photo of the day." (Christopher Knowles has much more to say about it right here.)

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In a perfect world

AIRBIA: Awesome Suburban Airships Take Flight

Designed by Alexandros Tsolakis and Irene Shamma, the airship infrastructure system ferries passengers quickly and easily from their suburban homes to urban city centers, and we imagine that gliding through the clouds at the break of dawn each day would make for a heck of a morning commute.

I love the unearthly-looking beings emerging from the fittingly UFO-like airship. I bet the real suburbanites are cowering in the nearest Wal-Mart.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The toilet paper tube art of Junior Jacquet

Junior Jacquet creates arresting faces from toilet paper tubes. (The one on the right reminds me vaguely of the Face on Mars.)

More here!

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Website of the day

What Happens After I Die?

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"Manifest Destiny"

MANIFEST DESTINY from Darrell and Doug Waters on Vimeo.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

"Harry Patch (In Memory of)" (Radiohead)

"The next will be chemical but they will never learn."

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Elaine Morgan on the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

Whether you agree with Morgan's case for semi-aquatic human ancestors or not, her willingness to take on the scientific priesthood with sensible (if resolutely unpopular) questions is refreshing indeed.

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Aldrin's "monolith"

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's recent comment about a "monolith" on one of the moons of Mars has aroused considerable interest. What "monolith"? Is Aldrin implying that Mars' diminutive "potato" moons host a relic of intelligent manufacture?

Frankly, I very much doubt it. Aldrin is almost certainly referring to an anomalous (if most likely geological) feature on the surface of Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.

Discovered by independent Mars researcher Efrain Palermo, the "monolith" is an uncharacteristically tall, shadow-casting structure that awaits further exploration. Interestingly, this 2007 space news piece refers to the Phobos Monolith (as it's come to be called) as a target for a future mission. (The Phobos Monolith isn't to be confused with a similar feature photographed on the Martian surface.)

To learn more about Palermo's Mars research, click here. For more on the Aldrin controversy, refer to Cabinet of Wonders.)

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

But where's Gort?

This conceptual dwelling speaks to my sense of futurity. While there are plenty of capsule-like micro-houses out there, I have yet to see one with MercuryHouseOne's deliciously retro, tongue-like "boarding ramp."

(Alas, this might qualify as an exception.)

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Sounds from the future

Imagine a post-biological landscape where all the trees are like this . . .

(Found at Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival.)

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Only forward

(Hat tip: Dedroidify.)

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Shaking its thing

Say what you will, but I think this chunk of cyborg meat does a great Britney Spears impersonation.

Meat Market from Joan Healy on Vimeo.

Can you say "American Idol"?

(Thanks to Grinding!)

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Miniature flying saucer in Japan?

The case of the captured mini-UFO (1972) (Pink Tentacle)

The strange encounter took place in the Kera area of Kochi City. On the afternoon of August 25, 1972, a 13-year-old junior high student named Michio Seo sighted a strange object flying above a rice field while walking home from school. From a distance he watched the small, mysterious object zigzag quickly around the field like a bat chasing insects.

For the whole story, read on . . .

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Have cube, will travel

This immediately reminded me of the cardboard squatter community depicted in William Gibson's "Idoru." (Evidently Gibson thought so too.) Bruce Sterling calls this sort of thing "design fiction" -- and certainly conceptualism can rival the best science fiction short-stories in terms of implied narrative.

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The semantic apocalypse

Welcome to the Semantic Apocalypse

What if our memories, experience, thoughts and worldview are all just a side effect of our brain's evolution? What if human consciousness as we know it is something we'll eventually evolve out of? What if we are essentially just a strange dream cooked up by a piece of meat that drives our bodies on a genetic mission to reproduce?

The day that scientific knowledge blots out human meaning -- that's the semantic apocalypse.

Image by Chris Butler.

Could sentience be a passing evolutionary phase? If so, what comes next? Elsewhere, I've wondered if the strange behavior exhibited by UFO occupants might reflect a post-sentient mode of being:

If we're dealing with aliens -- regardless whether or not they originate in space or on Earth -- maybe their clumsy, oblique interactions with us can be explained if they're endowed with intelligence but devoid of sentience. They could have taken an evolutionary route that bypassed awareness entirely, or they could have achieved a form of sentience only to lose it, perhaps by recklessly merging with their machines.

In hindsight, I suppose I shouldn't have used the word "recklessly." After all, we're conditioned to accept self-awareness as an advantage because it's a fundamental aspect our our existence; just because it seems "natural" or consoling now doesn't mean it will last. If the future survival of life on Earth entails ultimately jettisoning consciousness, perhaps we should welcome the prospect -- regardless how "cold" or alien it might seem from our slender perspective as social primates.

Once again I'm drawn to the prospect that the "Grays" function as posthuman metaphors summoned forth from the collective unconscious, their clinical disposition underscoring our own postbiological trajectory.

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What's with the giant black sperm cell in your living room?

Discomfiting appearance aside, this suggestively biomorphic heater looks remarkably comfortable.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

New photos

I took a long hike today and took pictures.


Tattoo sign

You can view more photos here.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bobby McFerrin and "Close Encounters"

This video of Bobby McFerrin reminded me of the scene in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" where Lacombe is coaching the UFO working group to converse in sign language . . .

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

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