Monday, January 31, 2005

Chill, blogophiles; you're not the first to do what you're doing

"Jeez. Take a pill, all you blogomaniacs. Blogs are fun. Blogs add a fascinating new element to public discourse. But blogs are another turn of history's wheel, not a radical departure."

I found it kind of strange that Maney studiously notes Thomas Paine's pamphleteering but excludes any reference to the zine/mail-art craze that occupied so much of my time before the Web existed.
"Behind the Mysteries: Bigfoot" (review by Loren Coleman)

With Kal K. Korff and kompany going after the Patterson-Gimlin footage like starved hyenas, this is a more-than-welcome perspective from someone who just might know what he's talking about . . .

"For all the pre-publicity notice about the filming of this National Geographic Channel's special 'man-in-the-suit re-creation' - promoted so overwhelmingly in Fortean Times - well, that segment is not used (probably because it clearly does not match the Patterson-Gimlin footage). Instead, the reenactment is played out up to the point the footage would have begun, and then the real P-G film is shown again. Bob Heironimus is shown walking the Bigfoot walk, in his overweight present state of being, with no comment on the fact he would have not looked this way when he was 26 or that he has been able to study the 'Bigfoot walk' all these years." (Via The Anomalist.)

(Amusing coincidence: As I was reading Coleman's review I received an email from someone with a domain.)

Whoa! Used, er, previously owned copies of "After the Martian Apocalypse" are going for less than $7.50! Now, for the price of a modest meal, you can ponder the enigma of potential alien intelligence on the Red Planet!
The coat hanger harvest

"A Salix viminalis coat hanger was harvested at grown home on May 21st. A small crowd watched as the grafted hanger was sawn from the two-year-old plant and peeled to reveal the dazzling white sapwood. It was an exciting moment and an important milestone in the ongoing research that is grown home, providing the tangible proof that a functional product can be grown. The coat hanger was the first of the 36 products growing on site to be harvested the majority of the remainder will be ready to harvest over the next three years." (Via Rudy Rucker.)

It's not ribofunk, but it's close . . .
The hundred-buck PC

"The founder and chairman of the MIT Media Lab wants to create a $100 portable computer for the developing world. Nicholas Negroponte, author of Being Digital and the Wiesner Professor of Media Technology at MIT, says he has obtained promises of support from a number of major companies, including Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Motorola, Samsung, and News Corp." (Via

Great idea -- although I think making sure citizens of developing countries have access to quality medical care and sustainable food sources should be a bigger priority at the moment.
Congress proposes tax on all Net, data connections

"The congressional report comes not long after the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department said they were considering how the Spanish American War tax should be reinterpreted 'to reflect changes in technology' used in 'telephonic or telephonic quality communications.' Tech companies including Microsoft, Intel and Skype slammed that idea in a September letter, asking the IRS to 'refrain from any attempt to extend the excise tax to VoIP services.'"

This reads like urban myth. (Remember the government's nefarious plan to charge email use to make up for declining postage stamp revenue? I'm still hearing about that.)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Here's yet another photo from last week's trip. The formation to the left of Susan and Peter has a weird, artificial look to it, like a toppled ruin.

I wandered around the edge, but there wasn't a way down; it would have been fun to look at that trapezoidal slab from below.

"'Sometime soon Rep. Rangel is preparing to reintroduce legislation to reinstitute the military draft since he strongly feels everyone should share the burden of war,' said Emile Milne, Rangel's press representative and legislative director Wednesday from his Washington office. 'He is essentially reintroducing legislation that failed to gain support last session. However, this time around, I think, it has a better chance of passing.'"

On the bright side, families of draftees will receive this inspirational miniature! (Offer subject to change. Void where prohibited.)
Strange Occurences of 23

"According to Terry Alden, who has done significant research into numerological enigmas, Wilson relates his own observations to the works of Leary, Gurdjieff, Castaneda, and Crowley, and makes a case not easily dismissed that men are being contacted and experimented upon by more intelligent beings who share the universe with us. Members of this secret society are said to be in telepathic contact with advanced beings in the star system of Sirius. They use the number 23, and the eye-in-the-pyramid design of traditional occultism (or the Eye of Horus in ancient Egyptian symbolism) as their mystical seal and emblem."

On the site above, "23" appears on the cover of a Chick tract, proving once and for all that Sirians have a good sense of humor.

(Thanks, Ken.)
Ancient Global Warming Disaster

"An ancient version of global warming may have been to blame for the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history."
A Death in New York

"Let us take for example the sad end of James Webb, a young, brilliant student of the occult and its relationship to politics, the author of such masterpieces as The Occult Establishment, The Occult Underground, and The Harmonious Circle (the latter about G.I. Gurdjieff and his followers), on May 8, 1980, of suicide. The thirty-four year-old Scots academic blew his brains out with a shotgun. Or the case of Professor Ioan Culianu, of the University of Chicago and heir to the legacy of his countryman, Mircea Eliade (the famous expert on mythology and shamanism). Culianu, the author of such stimulating and insightful works as Eros and Magic in the Renaissance (a study of occult theories and systems and their relation to politics and psychological warfare, among other things), was murdered on May 21, 1991, execution style, on the campus of the university where he taught. He was only forty years old. The crime has never been solved, but it is rumored that he was killed by members of the Romanian secret police."

It's become a cliche, but it bears repeating: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
Rudy Rucker had the arresting idea (I think I read about it in his "Seek!" nonfiction anthology) that readers, in an almost literal sense, actually become the author whose work they're reading. He even had a cool science fictional word for it, which I forget.

When I read something by William Burroughs, for example, part of my mind sympathetically adopts Burroughs' literary persona and I briefly experience a ghost of what it must have been like to be the real Burroughs. I suppose it's an arcane form of immortality.

Franz Kafka is another author I'm sometimes able to "become." So are Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, J.G. Ballard and, increasingly, Rucker. It's not as if I'm as capable as these writers, or can "channel" them; nevertheless, losing myself in a book has the effect of "uploading" my impression of the given author's persona. My mind becomes a platform for their thoughts and perceptions, which can be a pleasantly heady experience.

Of course, much is lost in translation. After all, I'm not really tapping the author's brain, but my own private simulation of it. It would be naive to think my inner Vonnegut is a faithful reproduction. Writers, by necessity, hold back. And as nice as words are, they're probably not the best way to convey information. I sincerely doubt I'm running a convincing simulation of myself when I write; so much for reproducing Kafka. Still, there's a compelling act of osmosis at work.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

During our discussion on the way to the airport (where I disembarked at Door 23 on the 23rd of January, as recounted in a previous post), Peter and I discussed the famous Cash-Landrum UFO case, in which several people sighted a flaming, diamond-shaped craft escorted by military helicopters. Peter, a lawyer, had represented the witnesses in a personal injury lawsuit holding the government accountable for radiation exposure (presumably from an experimental aircraft test-flight gone awry).

It didn't occur to me until later that I'd read in a book that one of the witnesses to the incident had mentioned there had been 23 helicopters accompanying the unidentified craft. Peter checked to be sure, and while no witness seemed to have an exact count of how many helicopters were escorting the mysterious object (at least according to the reference at his disposal), the witnesses were positive there had been "at least 23" of them. So it wasn't quite the synchronicity it could have been. Yes, it was interesting that someone had volunteered the number 23 as an estimate, but it wasn't a conclusive figure (although this online account suggests otherwise).

Tonight, checking over comments left by Posthuman Blues readers, I discovered that Lockheed has just been granted a contract to build -- get this -- 23 helicopters for the U.S. military. The reader who left this comment had no idea I'd just been discussing the possibility of 23 'copters seen by UFO witnesses; it's almost as if the "23 helicopters" meme was determined to make itself known to me, in the process elevating the entire 23 phenomenon out of numerical obscurity.

Weird? I thought so.

Oh, shit . . .

Nuclear Incident in Montana

"A retired high-level government source was called yesterday to respond to a nuclear incident in Montana. Apparently the silo doors of numerous ICBM missiles were opened."

Later in the article we're treated to this confidence-booster:

"According to the NAPF essayist, Justin Murray, 'Despite the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia once again find themselves on the brink of a nuclear Armageddon,' but the threat 'does not stem from hostilities or a premeditated, intentional strike but from miscalculation and computer errors.' Murray states that both the U.S. and Russia maintain thousands of nuclear weapons in launch warning mode. While launch procedures in the U.S. demand almost instantaneous decision-making by the President, the situation in Russia is even more hazardous, where decay of early warning systems elevate the possibility of false alarms." (Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)
Revenge of the Right Brain

"If the Industrial Age was built on people's backs, and the Information Age on people's left hemispheres, the Conceptual Age is being built on people's right hemispheres. We've progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we're progressing yet again - to a society of creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers."

For my own sake, I hope this article isn't the product of wishful thinking. In a sense, this blog is an exercise in pattern recognition; I admit to a certain affinity for William Gibson's characters Colin Laney ("Idoru," "All Tomorrow's Parties") and Cayce Pollard ("Pattern Recognition"). I suppose the critical difference is that Laney and Pollard are well-paid for their right-brained intuitive savvy, while I pursue "weirdhunting" purely for the fun of it . . . although if you want to send me money, I won't argue.
Dr. Seth Shostak Answers Your Questions About SETI

Shostak: "The other possibility is to find some evidence of 'alien engineering' -- maybe sophisticated beings on other worlds have managed to rearrange the stars in their neighborhood, or build huge, starshine-collecting solar panels that we could somehow spot from afar. Some experiments have been done to locate such massive construction projects, but it's hard to know how to look or even what to look for."

As much as I rag on Seth, I bet we'd probably get along if forced to occupy the same room. If I had the opportunity to ask Seth only one question, it would have to be: "Why does the radio SETI community automatically dismiss the UFO phenomenon as possible evidence of alien intelligence?"

Friday, January 28, 2005

It's snowing in Kansas City and I'm planning a jog to the coffeeshop where I can read more of "Frek and the Elixir." In the meantime, here's another travel photo, taken on a hike with Peter and Susan.

The watery pits remind me of the arguable "mud puddle" photographed by one of the Mars Exploration rovers not long ago. And in case you're wondering, I usually don't wear my hat backwards; I made an exception because I was clicking photos and the bill kept getting in the way. No, really.

"Critics who dismiss the importance of greenhouse gases as a cause of climate change lost one piece of ammunition this week. In a new study, scientists found further evidence of the role that greenhouse gases have played in Earth's climate."

But . . . best-selling hack-novelist Michael Crichton says global warming is just a myth perpetuated by left-wing fear-mongers!

A week ago I was on the third floor of Barnes & Noble looking at a nicely stocked display of Crichton's "State of Fear," evidently the "Jurassic Park" author's bid for Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" readership. And I wondered: "What would happen if I just started dropping copies of this stupid book on people's heads?"

I didn't do it, of course. Still, I really wanted to heft that book-display over the railing and watch it plummet to the first floor, hopefully taking some random New York Times best-seller devotee with it. A "state of fear" indeed.
Clear skies for Area 51 hacker

"Chuck Clark, 58, was charged in 2003 with a single count of malicious interference with a communications system used for the national defense, after prosecutors held him responsible for the disappearance of one of the wireless motion sensors buried beneath the desert land surrounding the facility."

All right, Chuck! Stickin' it to The Man!
Universal Translator Might be Needed to Understand ET

"But not everyone is so sanguine about using science and math as universal languages. Anthropologist Ben Finney of the University of Hawai'i challenged the standard assumptions several years ago, by drawing on lessons learned from decoding Egyptian and Mayan hieroglypics -- a story recounted in Atlanta. 'SETI scientists reasoned that advanced ET would de-encrypt their messages through prime numbers, pi, the Planck constant and other presumed cosmic universals so that new members of the Galactic club could immediately begin deciphering them,' Finney explained. 'I questioned this reasoning on the basis of terrestrial experience in deciphering ancient Egyptian and Mayan inscriptions.'"

Maybe radio SETI is growing up after all.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Gnostic Theory of Alien Intrusion

"In heightened perception, Gnostics developed a vast cosmological vision centered in a female deity, the Divine Sophia. The Gnostic creation myth is unique in that it includes a full-blown explanation of how inorganic alien beings came to be present in our solar system."

The word that immediately caught my attention was "inorganic"; there are some tantalizing comments from reputable sources indicating crashed "aliens" weren't biological in the familiar sense. Noted scientist Robert Sarbacher, for example, waffled between the terms "people" and "instruments" when describing recovered bodies.
Soaring global warming 'can't be ruled out'

"The project tested thousands of climate models and found that some produced a world that warmed by a huge 11.5°C when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reached the levels expected to be seen later this century."
Here I am near the top of Cathedral Rock in Sedona. (And yes, it was a long way down.) From a distance, Cathedral actually looks like some impossible archaeological ruin. It was all-too-easy to imagine myself on a terraformed Mars a few thousand years in the future; I can't think of a better place to deliver a presentation on the Red Planet.

This picture was taken by Marco, a friend of Peter. We celebrated reaching the top -- a precipitous niche adjacent to a a cluster of biomorphic-looking rock columns -- by spontaneously reciting Roy Batty's final monologue from "Blade Runner."

("I've seen things you people wouldn't believe . . .")

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Sources: Hubble servicing mission cut from budget

"The White House has eliminated funding for a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope from its 2006 budget request and directed NASA to focus solely on de-orbiting the popular spacecraft at the end of its life, according to government and industry sources."

It appears Sauceruney has read my mind.
Information Wants to be Liquid

"Hegland's idea is simple -- he plans to move beyond the basic hypertext linking of the web, and change every word into a 'hyperword.' Instead of one or two links in a document, every single word becomes a link. Further, every link can point to more than one place, pulling up all kinds of background context from the web as a whole."
Search for life signal on Titan

"Scientists will comb data sent back from Titan by the Huygens probe for the chemical signature of life in a bid to identify the moon's source of methane."

If there's not life on Titan now, there will be eventually. In a few billion years the Sun will begin expanding, swallowing the orbits of the inner planets (including ours) and heating the frozen moons of Jupiter and Saturn, speeding up chemical processes.

Stephen Baxter does an admirable job depicting far-future Titanian life in "Titan," a novel that predicted (with eerie accuracy) the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia as well as a dystopian America run by Christian Fundamentalists.
Fountain Headache

"Yet there's nothing altruistic about U.S. government aid to tsunami victims. As exemplified by Colin Powell's high-profile tour of the devastation -- not to mention the constant footage of U.S. soldiers distributing food and water -- a major benefit of our assistance is positive public relations for an America widely viewed as preoccupied with blowing shit up in Iraq."

I read Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and "Anthem." While not the great literary works claimed by Rand's intellectual heirs, I agreed -- and still agree -- with Ayn Rand's philosophy, which scorns enforced altruism and thoughtless collectivism in favor of individual achievement.

The Ayn Rand Institute is another matter entirely. I flirted with this organization in college before coming to a simple realization: Ayn Rand's followers are not objective, regardless of what they call themselves. In the cardboard cosmology of the Ayn Rand Institute, there is no room for environmentalism, no time for ecological foresight; sweeping judgments gleaned from Rand's monologues and books are the rule. Activists who try to warn of the devastating effects of industrial pollution and greenhouse gases are systematically dismissed as fanatical know-nothings out to usher in a new era of anti-intellectual fascism.

The ARI is a mixed bag of provocative, idealistically driven social commentary and absurd misunderstandings perpetuated by hand-picked gurus utterly unable to conceive of a world more complex than those encountered in their high-priestess' sophomoric novels. Like CSICOP, another organization that prides itself on its presumed grasp of "reason" and "objectivity," the ARI is a sad farce that treads the razor's edge between political legitimacy and outright cult-hood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I just returned from the restaurant across the street. To my delight, I discovered a Galaga machine on the upper level and immediately commenced zapping interstellar vermin.

In case you've forgotten, Galaga is the 1981 shoot-em-up that allows the player to willingly sacrifice his fighter spacecraft in hopes of subsequently freeing it from the alien flagships. If you're a good enough shot, you can actually rejoin your former ship in the form of a "doubleship," which is sort of the game's Holy Grail; although a bigger target for the enemy critters, the doubleship offers twice the firepower of a single ship. It's great fun to acquire the doubleship and blast away at hapless invading bugs.

Or at least it used to be. Tonight, I couldn't get the enemy ships to abduct my fighter. They just swarmed politely at the top of the screen, ignoring me. It was like their heart wasn't in it. No fight. I'd cease firing and maneuver right beneath one of the flagships, virtually begging to be tractor-beamed to the top of the screen. I wanted the doubleship so bad I could taste it. But the marauding bugs weren't biting; their movements betrayed a stubborn resolve to make my gaming experience as anticlimactic as possible.

Finally, one of the blue flagships lofted my fighter to the top of the screen. I blasted the abducting craft . . . and instead of uniting with my erstwhile ship as promised by the rules, I watched my own ship join the space bugs in their assault.

I think there's some sort of message here for me to decipher. Possibly something Zen. Or maybe some cryptic Freudian commentary on my ego. Whatever.
You know what the Olsen twins should do? Have themselves surgically fused! Some network could make a "reality" show about their new life. As an exercise in postmodern media theory, I think it would do very well.
Author airs conspiracy theory on Im's death

"A few days after firefighters found Im's body, a national radio talk-show guest theorized the killing was part of a plot to kill off key microbiologists in the world before unleashing 'the ultimate epidemic.'"

Is there a well-organized secret group convinced that microbiological breakthroughs are leading up to an apocalyptic "12 Monkeys" scenario, "justifying" the murder of eminent scientists? Maybe the idea isn't as whacko as it sounds; after all, religious fanatics bomb abortion clinics and kill doctors because of a perceived ethical wrong. Perhaps investigators should seriously pursue the "conspiracy" angle.
Don't miss Jason Sheets' latest evolution vs. creationism reality-check at Busy, Busy, Busy:

"My advice to those in the fight against creationism: Forget about arguing over details of science. Don't acknowledge any 'evidence' for creation. It only gives them credibility in the eyes who don't know any better, and many of those who don't know any better are responsible for making laws and policy regarding science education. Leave the real scientific debates regarding the mechanics of evolution to the scientists to figure out for themselves. Instead, attack the malicious motives, philosophy, and tactics of the creationists to expose their agenda for what it really is--one that doesn't care at all about science, but instead seeks to scare the nation into installing one more rung on the ladder to theocracy."
Machine learns games 'like a human'

"'A system that can observe events in an unknown scenario, learn and participate just as a child would is almost the Holy Grail of AI,' says Derek Magee from the University of Leeds. 'We may not have solved this challenge quite yet, but we think we've made a small dent.'"
"Meaningful coincidences" seem to have played an increasing role in my life -- so much so that I spent some of my Arizona trip discussing the possible meaning of Jungian synchronicity, particularly the near-incessant recurrence of the number 23. So it wasn't exactly a surprise, when I got out of my ride's car at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport for my flight back to Kansas City (on the 23rd), to find myself entering the terminal through Door 23.

I've wondered if synchronicity might support the theory that we inhabit a computer simulation of the sort discussed by Nick Bostrom and others. Computers routinely "compress" information into a readily accessible format; you find relatively few high-content TIF image files on the Web, for example, while heavily compressed (but speedily downloadable) JPG format images are ubiquitous.

Maybe synchronicity is the result of a comparable effort to increase efficiency. Viewed as such, acausal phenomena might offer an oblique look into the "source code" underlying visible reality. Some type of data compression could result in the subjectively meaningful coincidences reported in the popular and psychiatric literature.

Incidentally, synchronicity appears to play a heightened (or at least more readily observable) role in the aftermath of "high strangeness" paranormal events such as UFO encounters -- an overlooked aspect of the UFO experience that argues against anything as simple as extraterrestrial visitation. (John Keel's "The Mothman Prophecies" features some particularly striking examples.) It's as if there's a leakage or bleed-through that accompanies breaches of "normal" reality; witnesses are offered tantalizing glimpses of a domain immune to cause and effect -- a world more rooted in the seeming paradoxes of Einsteinian relativity than the Newtonian "laws" that typically suffice (see Colin Bennett's article below).
Colin Bennett's New Ufology

"Certainly my 'encounter' convinced me that we live in a vaster framework of being and existence than we could possibly imagine. I had the sobering thought that this manifestation was the kind of thing George Adamski and many others saw. This kind of technology, not far removed from holographic TV, could produce a 'man from Venus' at the drop of a hat. It would be an equally sobering experience for scientists to find that their discoveries were part of a multi-dimensional media/gaming entertainment system of many levels of focus, development, and application."

Monday, January 24, 2005

I started "Frek and the Elixir" -- hilarious, probably Rucker's best since "Freeware." The glossary alone is engrossing.

Also reading: "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross and "Lonely Planets" by David Grinspoon
Man, those Volkswagens sure are damned fine cars.

(Thanks to Blake Dinsdale for the tip.)
Something tells me the Weird Bush Hand-Signal Controversy isn't going anywhere soon . . .

Satan Displays Bush 'Hook 'em' Hand Gesture; Is The Devil a UT Fan Too?

"If the symbol denotes Texas football or UT, why are people like Silvio Berlusconi and Bill Clinton doing it too?"

Sunday, January 23, 2005

During my stay in Sedona, AZ, I met a likeable guy named Robert Short, who attended my MUFON presentation on exo-archaeology and accompanied a small group of ufophiles to the Red Planet Diner, a theme restaurant with walls, tables and counter-tops encrusted with psychotronic/UFO/NASA imagery. After dinner, he related his contacts with extraterrestrials in the parking lot, not far from a fountain fashioned in the shape of a quintessential art deco flying saucer. I was more interested in Short's long affiliation with the UFO counter-culture than in his contact stories, and really wish his website contained some of the memorabilia from his years on the early saucer lecture circuit.

In case you never get to talk to Bob first-hand, this excerpt from his site sums up his casual acceptance of ET visitors:

"After the early years in which I was involved in early ham radio 'contacts', and from that to developing communication with extraterrestrial sources, I was lead to the location of Giant Rock Airport and more contacts. It was also during this period that I had my first physical contact. This was soon followed by 'close encounters' in which I and my family were involved, as well as demonstrations by their spacecraft in different locations for the benefit and confirmation of many other people."

You don't hear claims of this sort very often. At some point in the last 60 years, the altruistic, human-looking aliens described by George Adamski and his contemporaries were usurped by the goblin-like "Grays" and "Reptilians." And the iconic flying disks memorialized in movies like "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" are now sharing the skies with "black triangles" and spectacular "lobed" objects.

Externally imposed social conditioning program? Jacques Vallee thinks the ufological zeitgeist has been exploited by a genuine nonhuman intelligence as well as manipulated by various earthly agendas. Peter Gersten, my host in Sedona, has a hunch we're embedded in some kind of cosmic computer program in which UFOs might function as patient overseers.

Where does this leave figures like Bob Short? Is he a prophet, a rube, or just hopelessly enamored of an unconventional belief system?

Listening to Bob speak, I felt no desire to "believe." Nor did I particularly feel like challenging him. The only question I remember asking him involved the type of clothing worn by one of his brotherly visitors; it was, of course, a jumpsuit.
Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute

"For Texans, the gesture is a sign of love for the University of Texas Longhorns, whose fans are known to shout out 'Hook 'em, 'horns!' at sporting events."

May I ask why, exactly, W feels the need to flaunt this cretinish affectation beyond the boundaries of his native Texas?
Back from Sedona. My motel had Net access but I refrained from posting because I was pretty busy looking at the most spectacular geology I've ever seen. And I took pictures, a few of which I'll post shortly.

I just found out that my Mars book was justifiably excluded from competing in the 2004 Anomalist Book Awards (the judge, Patrick Huyghe, happens to be my editor). Still, this is some very nice publicity.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Posting to resume on Sunday. Have a great weekend, everybody.
Musings for airports (with apologies to Brian Eno)

Contrary to popular belief, "cyberspace" isn't what you see on your computer screen. It's an abstract realm, impossible to observe directly: the "space" between two individuals (human or machine) gabbing on a network. In the nuts-and-bolts world of meatspace, airports (and, for that matter, airplanes themselves) fulfill the role of cyberspace; they're liminal shortcuts, precision-engineered "cheats" in the fabric of waking existence with the ability (on a map, at least) to whisk you back in time or, as if by miracle, to the moment of your departure.

That's why I like airports. In an airport, alienation is not only tolerated -- it's actively encouraged.
I'm always edgy right before taking a trip -- not because of the trip itself, but because of a gnawing awareness of imminent departure; familiar surroundings suddenly become oddly foreign-seeming . . . On some level, my brain knows Kansas City won't be playing a central role in my life over the next couple days, so it's in the process of phasing it out, stripping away my emotional overlay and revealing what might as well be another place entirely -- a convincing simulacrum of Kansas City, lushly texture-mapped and populated with human-seeming characters.

It's a bit like what an immersive VR might be like, or a lucid dream. Because everything I sense is predicated on transience, an almost-circadian knowing that "here" will soon cease to exist except as a hologram encased in the folds of my meat-based brain.

If you like computer metaphors, "here" is a file in the midst of downloading. When I get back from "there," I'll fire it up again and it will be almost as if I never left. The longer I'm away the more "corrupt" the file becomes.

I mean, come on, you've felt it. I'm couching the feeling in some weird terminology, but I think this is a universal experience (with the possible exception of jaded time-zone hoppers).
OK, tomorrow morning I really am leaving for Sedona . . .

Barnes & Noble called. "Frek and the Elixir" is in. The saleswoman kind of stumbled over the title.
Natural selection acts on the quantum world

"Because, as Zurek says, 'the Universe is quantum to the core,' this property seems to undermine the notion of an objective reality. In this type of situation, every tourist who gazed at Buckingham Palace would change the arrangement of the building's windows, say, merely by the act of looking, so that subsequent tourists would see something slightly different."

Reading assignment: "Quarantine" by Greg Egan
Skin and bones 'made to measure'

"The University of Manchester team say the inkjets will be able to 'print out' tailor-made human cells to fit a patient's exact dimensions."

If this sounds weird, that's because it is. We already have industrial "fabs" that can "print" machine parts. Living or semi-living things are the next logical step; it's not unlike matter transmission -- and in certain practical respects, even better.

The integrity of Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country keeps sinking. I just noticed the following, referring to the new scientific paper arguing that we are likely in the midst of at least one extraterrestrial civilization ("Inflation-Theory Implications for Extraterrestrial Visitation"):

"Have you noticed? Or was the story like the 'elephant in the room'--so big you didn't really see it? It's the kind of news you only find HERE, on"

Huh? That story was big news, not some bit of online esoterica. I encountered it and blogged it days before Unknown Country got around to it. So, I'm sure, did a lot of others interested in the SETI/UFO inquiry. But according to whoever writes the come-ons for Unknown Country, it was a Strieber exclusive. Bullshit.

It gets worse:

"In her new diary, Anne Strieber points out how exciting this news really is, and how it vindicates every experiencer and abductee."

Unfortunately, the new ETI paper does not "vindicate" even one alien abduction account, let alone "every experiencer and abductee"; it simply heightens mainstream awareness of the UFO enigma and frames the controversy in an up-to-date model of the Cosmos. To suggest that Bernard Haisch et al are defending the mass of "bedroom visitation" tales that fill the popular UFO literature is irresponsible and probably represents a deliberate mis-reading of the paper.

That's not to say that the paper is irrelevant to the abduction phenomenon (if you're willing to identify the alleged abductors as extraterrestrials -- something Strieber himself has often made a point to avoid, when pressed). Personally, I think "alien abduction" -- beneath the mountains of "noise" generated by fanatics, enthusiasts and true believers -- represents a fascinating and overlooked aspect of the human experience. We would we foolish to ignore it. But given what little we know, it's equally foolish to attribute it to extraterrestrial intervention. It could be something else, perhaps something altogether weirder.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Goddamnit. I've been living one day in the future, thinking that I board my Phoenix-bound plane tomorrow (I thought today was Thursday). Looks like I've got another day on my hands. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; my biorhythms are ill-adapted for life on this planet.

I checked with Barnes & Noble; "Frek and the Elixir" still isn't in, although it's on the way.
'Redheads are Neanderthals'

"Researchers at the John Radcliffe Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford were quoted by The Times as saying the so-called 'ginger gene' which gives people red hair, fair skin and freckles could be up to 100 000 years old."

Perhaps this explains why I've never been able to tolerate Nicole Kidman.


"The author proposes a system for the remote, real-time detection of UFO's in the near-Earth environment, using passive, multi-static, frequency-modulated (FM) radar. The system capitalizes on the use of multiple, time-synchronized radio receivers to capture high-frequency radio signals reflected from a target. The time-lapse between received signals, together with three-dimensional Doppler-shift analysis, permits calculation of a target's location, velocity, acceleration, flight path, and other parameters, possibly to include target size estimation. Signal analysis of the reflected signal, combined with analysis of target characteristics, will permit discrimination between suspected UFO's, and targets of terrestrial origin, e.g. aircraft, satellites, space debris, meteor trails, upper atmospheric conditions, weather phenomena, migratory birds, the Moon, etc.. One application proposed may allow detection of UFO's out to a range of at least 27,600 kilometers from the Earth's surface."

Sounds like a damned fine idea to me. Let's get started, shall we?
U.S. conducting secret Iran missions -report

"The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reports."

Of course, Iran is just the tip of the iceberg. We will continue to beat the hive. And when we have beaten it to a pulp we will seek out new perceived hives to beat, all the while mocked by the buzzing of outraged hornets.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

'Our land is changing - soon yours will too'

"These changes include melting permafrost causing increased erosion and damaging infrastructure; longer sea-ice free seasons; new species of birds and fish invading the region; the arrival of mosquitos and blackflies; unpredictable sea-ice conditions; and glaciers melting fast, creating torrents instead of streams."

Grass flourishes in warmer Antarctic

"G[rass] has become established in Antarctica for the first time, showing the continent is warming to temperatures unseen for 10,000 years."

I'm sensing a theme here . . .
I'm getting ready to pack for the Arizona trip. I leave early Friday. If I miss a couple days posting here, don't panic; I'll be traipsing around the vaguely Martian-looking badlands of the Southwest and probably loading up on souvenirs. None other than Peter Gersten is picking me up at the airport in Phoenix.
Hurtubise says invention sees through walls

"Troy dreamed the Angel Light would be able to see through walls with window-like efficiency, and then built it with no blueprints, drawings or schematics.

"'I turned it on -- that was well over a year ago -- and it worked and it was really awesome.'

"Hurtubise said he could see into the garage behind his lab wall, and read the licence plate on his wife's car and even see the salt on it.

"'I almost broke my knuckles three or four times, because it was almost like you could step through the wall,' Hurtubise said.

"'You could be fooled into believing that you could actually walk through the wall and go touch the car.'"

If this is for real, then say goodbye to MRI and CAT scans . . .

Monday, January 17, 2005

'Living' robots powered by muscle

"'They're absolutely alive,' Professor Montemagno told BBC News. 'I mean the cells actually grow, multiply and assemble - they form the structure themselves. So the device is alive.'"

We've got robots that eat bugs for energy, simple computers grown from nervous tissue, non-intrusive headgear that translates brain-waves into mechanical actuality . . . The pieces for a new techno-ecology are falling into place at a rate that would have made Philip K. Dick quite giddy.
Here's a kitschy yet oddly prophetic rendering of a robot probe exploring a Saturnian moon taken from a Dec. 8, 1952 magazine cover. What I find most telling about this technological forecast is the robot's anthropomorphic "tin man" look. It's walking around on gangly tripodal legs, for crying out loud! And its communication dishes are attached to vestigial humaniform "arms"; evidently the artist wanted his fictional rover to retain as many human-like attributes as possible -- almost certainly for the sake of "personality."
Patients Put on Thinking Caps

"Any geek worthy of the moniker has dreamed of connecting his or her brain directly to a computer for blissful freedom from keyboard and mouse. For quadriplegics, that ability would give life a whole new dimension."

Ratz, the bartender in the first chapter of Gibson's "Neuromancer," immediately springs to mind:

"The bartender's smile widened. His ugliness was the stuff of legend. In an age of affordable beauty, there was something heraldic about his lack of it. The antique arm whined as he reached for another mug. It was a Russian military prosthesis, a seven-function force-feedback manipulator, cased in grubby pink plastic."
Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'

"Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought."

You know, I just can't believe that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston split up. I mean, they were the perfect couple!
The 50th Anniversary celebration of Area 51 on May 28, 2005 - the public is invited !!

"Needless to say, the 'official' celebrations, closed to the public, will all be held at the base itself, including the Base Headquarters (or, officially, Building #269, according to the Security Manual of the base entitled DET 3 SP), the Administration Building (Bldg. #265), the Dining Hall (Bldg. #267) and at Building #170, which contains the officers' lounge/bar known as 'Sam's Place', the gymnasium and the swimming pool."

Swimming pool? What do you want to bet they've got a bunch of hot alien chicks showing up?

Authorities Investigating Mutilated Cattle

"'I'd say it was pretty weird. I've read about, I've heard about it on TV, about these weird mutilations of cattle, but I never thought I'd see one.' Even the buzzards have been staying away from the cattle, a strange behavior that's been reported in other cases of cattle mutilations from around the world."

Song of the day: "Unmarked Helicopters" (Soul Coughing)
Planet Hunter Thinks There's Life Out There -- Lecturer Seeking More Than Barren Rocks

"'There's no sign,' she said, 'that they've visited us so far.'" (Via The Anomalist.)

Yes, I suppose that would be the academically prudent thing to say.

If you must read this article in its entirety, please take note of the requisite reference to aliens in the cornfields of Kansas. I didn't catch any allusions to Fox Mulder, but perhaps I wasn't reading closely enough.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

War's 'hidden cost' called heavy

"A forthcoming request for additional funds to continue waging war in Iraq will not begin to address the 'hidden cost' of the conflict, according to Pentagon officials and other government authorities who say that tens of billions of dollars more will eventually be needed to repair or replace heavily used equipment and to compensate for the wear and tear on members of the armed services."
New theory chalenges [sic] current view of how brain stores long-term memory

"For example, one's name is represented in innumerable neural circuits; thus, it is extremely difficult to forget. But each individual component is malleable and transient, and as no particular neural network lasts a lifetime, it is theoretically possible to forget one's own name."

Subjectively, this fluid, malleable model of memory rings very true for me. I think it's a mistake to think of our minds as "things"; they can be more accurately viewed as processes.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I've revised and (slightly) expanded my online autobiographical sketch. This is meant to entice Web-surfers to start browsing my MTVI pages, but it's equally possible I may simply scare them away . . .

I've prepared some itemized tips to help pseudoskeptics "debunk" the Face on Mars; I couldn't help but notice that this has become quite the fashion lately and, as always, I'm here to help.

1.) Always use the word "conspiracy" when referring to the Face, as if it's axiomatic that those interested in the feature's origin are drooling paranoids convinced of some kind of NASA cover-up.

2.) Never refer to any scientific, peer-reviewed studies suggesting that the Face might be something other than a natural formation. Tabloid newspapers and goofy New Age websites, however, are fair game. If space permits, quote them at length.

3.) Be sure to construct your argument so that there's no room for healthy suspension of premature conclusions. Write as if anyone interested in artifacts on Mars is a "true believer." No exceptions.

4.) Relentlessly brandish Richard Hoagland's most idiotic claims, taking pains to foster the notion that Hoagland somehow speaks on behalf of everyone interested in planetary SETI.

5.) Include unspecific, utterly irrelevant references to spoon-bending, crop circles, alien abduction, poltergeists, cattle mutilations, you-name-it. This helps to "set the tone."

6.) Be careful to make it seem as if the argument for artificiality on Mars hinges solely on the Face. If you must refer to related surface anomalies, be as unspecific as possible.

7.) If you use pictures, keep them small and difficult to decipher. Or follow the "Skeptical Inquirer's" lead and subject images to arbitrary Photoshop filtering. You know, for "effect." If at all possible, use outdated, incorrectly enhanced imagery.

8.) Tell your audience that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Don't elaborate. Don't discuss what, exactly, this maxim might entail when examined epistemologically.

9.) Employ mantric references to the "Man in the Moon," eggplants that resemble human heads, nachos graced with religious icons, the "Old Man in the Mountain," etc.

10.) Don't forget to include an obligatory quote by someone affiliated with NASA saying how cool it would be if the Face et al were indisputably artificial and how he/she is heart-broken that, regrettably, they're just rocks.

11.) Ignore the rather obvious point that candidate extraterrestrial archaeological ruins (thought by some to date back hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of years) will inevitably exhibit severe erosion, making snap judgment based on remote sensing effectively impossible.

12.) Quip that satellite imagery has yet to reveal such things as "suburbs," "strip-malls" and "lawn furniture." This serves as surprisingly heavy ammunition.

13.) Make at least one reference to the defunct "X-Files" television series.

That's just to get you started. Send no money; I'm providing these as a public service.

Keep up the good fight and, most importantly, have fun!

Friday, January 14, 2005

ET Visitors: Scientists See High Likelihood

"Now a team of American scientists note that recent astrophysical discoveries suggest that we should find ourselves in the midst of one or more extraterrestrial civilizations. Moreover, they argue it is a mistake to reject all UFO reports since some evidence for the theoretically-predicted extraterrestrial visitors might just be found there."

Uh-oh! No-kidding respected scientists have dared to suggest that maybe the UFO data needs to be rationally addressed -- and lord knows we can't allow that!

Looks like a job for CSICOP.
Pravda strikes again:

Autotrophs: new kind of humans appears who neither drink nor eat

"People all around the world were storming supermarkets and grocery stores on Christmas and New Year's Eve. There was a small group of people, though, who did not even think about eating anything for Christmas. In fact, they do not think about food at all. Such people call themselves autothrophs - they do not eat at all. The term designates an organism that makes its own food. Autotrophs can go on hunger strikes for years and even decades."

Hey, sign me up! And can you eradicate the need for sleep as well? I could get so much more done!
The Huygens probe has landed successfully on Saturn's moon Titan, one of the most enigmatic worlds in our solar system -- and it brought a camera. I'd be looking at snapshots of otherworldly scenery right now, but it appears the European Space Agency's servers are justifiably swamped . . .
Down the street are two forbidding-looking Chinese warrior statues. They've achieved local fame because it's become a common sight to see at least one of them headless. Apparently someone, probably under cover of darkness, is bashing them off and making off with the mock-terra cotta remains. This has been going on for months, and as far as I'm aware no one's been implicated.

I find the statues' plight kind of funny, actually. What's disturbing is that when a maimed statue can't be immediately outfitted with a new head because of weather conditions, whoever's in charge of Plaza outdoor sculpture wraps the "corpse" in a tight protective shroud.

Why "disturbing"? Because there's a pronounced and eerie similarity to that iconic Abu Ghraib prison photo showing the hooded guy hooked up to electrical wires. The statues even stand on little concrete boxes not unlike the crate featured in the photo.

As I write, both of the statues -- once belligerent and defiant -- are wrapped, mummy-like, in rain-resistant shrouds. And they look miserable. Walking past them, it's not too hard to imagine they're real humans waiting out some hideous punishment imposed by grinning bad-ass Marines. They make me feel inexplicably guilty.

On a more positive note, they provide the perfect location to have my picture taken doing a "Lynndie." (If you don't know what a Lynndie is, you might find this site edifying.) What's more, I found a mini digital camera -- complete with USB cable -- going for a mere $30 at a drug-store this morning, so hopefully I can commence photo-blogging sooner than expected.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I started reading planetary scientist David Grinspoon's "Lonely Planets." It's a sprawling and well-written "natural philosophy" of the extraterrestrial life/intelligence debate; this book promises to take up much of my time in the near future. Grinspoon has a great website to compliment his books. And he's got a public email address. I wonder if he'd be agreeable to reading the online introduction to my Mars book . . .

Listening to Brian Eno's "Music for Airports," which is stunning. I don't think it's possible to tire of this album.
Is it a cockroach? A robot?

Roboticist Mark Cutkosky: "I think that robots have always, to some extent, been inspired by animals or humans. That's part of what the historical dream behind having robots is all about. What is new is that we can start to build and control them more as nature does. The days of 'tin men' robots are over."
"Only 3 left in stock--order soon (more on the way)."

I just read this on regarding "After the Martian Apocalypse."

Today was awful, but at least it ended on a reassuring note.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A DNA Success Raises Bioterror Concern

"Researchers have made an unexpectedly sudden advance in synthesizing long molecules of DNA, creating concern the technique might be used to create the smallpox virus."

Astronomers Confident: Planet Beyond Solar System Has Been Photographed

"The planet candidate appears to orbit a failed star known as a brown dwarf. The initial observations at ESO's Very Large Telescope could not determine whether the apparent planet was actually at the same distance as the brown dwarf or if it was a background object. The Hubble observations show that the two indeed appear to be travelling together through the sky, suggesting they are gravitationally bound, as originally suspected."
US scientists detect biggest explosion ever

"'I was stunned to find that a mass of about 300 million suns was swallowed,' said Brian McNamara of Ohio University, lead author of a study on the discovery published in the latest issue of Nature."

The known universe is chock-full of high-energy events similar to this. Could some of them be unrecognized signs of intelligent activity? We tend to think of proof of ET intelligence arriving unambiguously. Maybe it's more likely we'll stumble upon alien megascale engineering and prematurely attribute it to "normal" cosmic processes. (The "Red Rectangle," for example, appears tantalizingly like a vast artificial structure.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Nothing I hear, see, taste or touch is "real." There is no "out there," at least as popularly conceived. The brain is a sense organ; as such, it's responsible for processing the flood of input that I (presumably) receive from the outside world. It translates photons into images; vibrations in the air become sounds. My existence in the realm of the "real world" hinges on my nervous system's ability to translate physical phenomena into senses and subjective impressions.

But just how much trust should I grant my nervous system? The world in my head -- a world stitched together from images and intuition and acquired skills -- certainly seems like a faithful reproduction of what everyone else is experiencing . . . but how do I know? As long as I'm embodied, I must rely on the "virtual" interface of my nerves and brain.

Elliptically enough, I assume the existence of a somatic brain (the computer presently running "Reality 1.0") based on data harvested by the very sensory relay system I'm questioning; I infer its existence from observation. In the same way, I seem to be a creature of cells and DNA -- a tangible "thing" operating within the boundaries of the universe (itself another thing, although of a different order).

And maybe that's the way it is -- but I can't be sure of it. In the end, all may be Mind. The real world -- the material "ontosphere" of cars and bad weather and laptop computers -- may be a solipsistic or consensual fiction. Presupposing that it's consensual, we may partake in it out of sheer convenience without realizing it for what it is -- like telephone users casually assuming, for the sake of practicality, that the person they're speaking to has managed to project his personality through space. As Bruce Sterling has noted, cyberspace is that quizzical domain between the wires.

I'm not postulating a malign "Matrix"-style virtual reality. If anything, the idea that our minds inhabit an illusory world of gross physical matter is more suggestive of Hindu cosmology, with the self ("atma") forced to operate within a hierarchy of substrates.

I think it's very probable we share our world/s with others who have achieved something like "system operator" status. Strangely, if they chose to interact with us, that interaction might be necessarily flawed. This concept provides a plausible framework for Jacques Vallee's "multiverse" hypothesis, in which UFO occupants and paranormal experiences represent an ontological breach. It also compliments physicist David Bohm's transcendent vision of an "implicate" order wound up in our workaday "explicate" existence.

Quantum entanglement, for example, seems paradoxical to us. But if we could plunge deeper, into the universe's "source code," apparent paradoxes would dissolve because our consciousness (as of now, little more than a passive instrument) would be forced to mutate in ways that defy description.

Social commentators remark on the gulf that frustrates our attempts to collaborate meaningfully with our fellow humans. Perhaps we behave like discreet islands of consciousness because, in Bohm's explicate order at least, that is truly what we are. "Reality" is a crude sort of lingua franca; we are motes drifting on a vast and uncharted sea, disconnected and confronted by a universe that has become, under the light of bleeding-edge science, as arcane as any hallucination.

A bone-deep existential unease sets in. Am I a cosmos unto myself, chasing my own synapses (which may or may not be an accurate representation of whatever is actually doing the thinking)? Or, like quanta at the hands of particle physicists, am I fundamentally entangled in something more real?
Canadian Professor Develops Plastic that More Efficiently Converts Solar Energy

"Sargent said the new plastic composite is, in layman's terms, a layer of film that 'catches' solar energy. He said the film can be applied to any device, much like paint is coated on a wall."

(Thanks to Sauceruney, who was quick to note this stuff's similarity to Rudy Rucker's "limpware.")
Here's a really good one:

Could a hole in space save man from extinction?

"Calculations show that these gigantic machines must be the size of star systems, but this might be possible for civilisations billions of years ahead of ours. Unfortunately, some preliminary calculations show that the wormhole might only be microscopic in size. If so, an advanced civilisation might resort to shooting molecular-sized robots, called 'nanobots', through the wormhole."

Then again, a sufficiently advanced civilization might not settle for molecular surrogates. We should be on the look-out for prospective wormholes -- assuming they're big enough to detect.

Aliens 'could exist on Saturn moon'

"'This makes inescapable the conclusion that if life is an intrinsic property of chemical reactivity, life should exist on Titan,' Dr Benner says."

Iapetus moon bulges at equator

"The ridge is around 13km (8 miles) high in some places - taller than Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth."

Iapetus' exotic bifurcated appearance makes it look, well, manufactured. I'm not saying it's a colossal artifact, but that ridge reminds me of the blemishes you see on cheaply molded plastic balls. Very cool.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Storms Lash California, Europe

"Parts of the Sierra Nevada, an area noted for intense snowfalls, have not seen such snow in 90 years, and the next 24 hours promises to add another 3 feet to the twenty feet that have always fallen over the past week in higher elevations."

I'm not a huge fan of Whitley Strieber's site; most of the time his "news" looks like a hasty recap of last week's Anomalist, watered down with lame come-ons for hoaky New Age books. And I'm sick of his pleas for readers to subscribe in order to "keep it going," as if he's doing some monumental service. Most of the blogs I read are updated at least twice as often and they don't charge a dime, which is how it should be.

That said, Strieber does a dependable job of logging weird weather.
Life, Reinvented

"If the notion of hacking DNA sounds like genetic engineering, think again. Genetic engineering generally involves moving a preexisting gene from one organism to another, an activity Endy calls DNA bashing. For all its impressive and profitable results, DNA bashing is hardly creative. Proper engineering, by contrast, means designing what you want to make, analyzing the design to be sure it will work, and then building it from the ground up. And that's what synthetic biology is about: specifying every bit of DNA that goes into an organism to determine its form and function in a controlled, predictable way, like etching a microprocessor or building a bridge."

Science fiction author Paul Di Filippo calls this sort of thing "ribofunk."
Amateur Finds First Footprints Of Small, Plant-Eating Dinosaur

"In addition to being the first tracks ever found of the dinosaur, the footprints are the first evidence that members of the Hypsilophodon family roamed what is now Maryland."

Although the article doesn't mention it, Ray Stanford is also a competent UFO researcher. His investigation of the 1964 Socorro, NM landing/humanoid sighting -- conducted within days of the incident -- is summarized in his out-of-print book "Socorro 'Saucer' in a Pentagon Pantry."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I've been invited to ConQuest, Kansas City's premiere science fiction convention. I've been turning them down the last couple years but this time I'm going to go, partly to hype my "new" book and partly to touch base. I'll miss the costume ball, thanks.

I leave for Sedona in a couple weeks, so I'm at work on a presentation for the local MUFON chapter. I've never written a speech, per se, so this is interesting. Anyone know any good "Face on Mars" jokes?

What's playing:

1.) "In Time: The Best of R.E.M."
2.) "Medulla" (Bjork)
3.) "Amnesiac" (Radiohead)
4.) "Mezzanine" (Massive Attack)
5.) "You Are the Quarry" (Morrissey)
"Inflation-Theory Implications for Extraterrestrial Visitation" (J. Deardorff, B. Haisch, B. Maccabee, H.E. Puthoff) (PDF)

As co-author Bernard Haisch notes at, "[t]his appears to be the first article on the UFO topic published in a mainstream scientific journal since the 1979-1980 articles in Applied Optics by Maccabee on the New Zealand sightings."
Listening for ET: Two Decades

"The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years."

Here we go again. I've been hearing the "twenty year" prediction since at least junior high now. Contact is always just around the corner with the gang at SETI, just as extraterrestrial "disclosure" is always imminent among UFO/crash-retrieval theorists. Personally, I perceive little difference between the two camps -- except that the professional "skeptics" who grace our news-stands and TV screens maintain a convenient amnesia regarding SETI's claims while never failing to attack UFO claims with the subtlety of rabid dogs.

I'm perfectly willing to support radio-SETI. Indeed, I've been crunching numbers for Shostak and company since I bought my computer. But enough with the empty promises. I've had it with the hope-mongering.
Netizens eye Web-enabled surveillance cams

"Searching on certain strings within a URL sniffs out networked cameras that have Web interfaces permitting their owners to view them remotely, and even direct the cameras' motorized pan-and-tilt mechanisms from the comfort of their own desktop."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Will Life Be Worth Living in 2000 AD? (July 22, 1961, Weekend Magazine)

"And this isn't science fiction. It's science fact - futuristic ideas, conceived by imaginative young men, whose crazy-sounding schemes have got the nod from the scientists." (Via Chapel Perilous.)

I like the implication that a device for recording phone messages might take up a room of its own. And how about that 24-hour work-week? To say absolutely nothing about the obligatory monorail.
Nasa delivers shuttle fuel tank

"A redesigned space shuttle fuel tank has arrived at Nasa's Kennedy Space Center ahead of the vehicle's first flight since the Columbia disaster."

Here we go with more of the same super-wasteful and unnecessarily costly launch system. But it's a safer super-wasteful and unnecessarily costly launch system.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm as good as there.
Outline proposal for an Institute of Biomedical Gerontology

"The most efficient approach to developing ENS will be by a coordinated 'Manhattan Project' in which substantial funds are targeted appropriately and systematically. This may be best achieved by setting up a research institute in which much of the work would be done. This page summarises my current vision of how such an institute would work, why it is the best use of a billion dollars, and what main projects it would oversee. I have tried to write it in a form that could be shown to people who might be interested in providing such capital (or a substantial proportion of it) over ten years. If you know such a person, please show it to them!"

The "Manhattan Project" research model is certainly a good idea (as exemplified by the success of the Apollo program), but I've seen it fail. Throwing bales of money at a biomedical problem in no way promises results, even though it's surprisingly easy to get caught up in the excitement and assume otherwise.

For example, in the mid-90s members of the cryonics community (such as it was) launched the "Prometheus Project," intended to lower a canine's core temperature to near-cryogenic levels and revive it without ill effects -- within a decade. That decade is over and as far as I know, while advances in tissue preservation have indeed been made, we have yet to put an animal as physiologically complex as a dog into reversable biostasis.

My stomach curls when I wonder how many dogs died in service to this effort -- that is, if it ever got off the ground in the first place.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Black hole blast stuns scientists

"Scientists are stunned by the scale of the ongoing eruption coming from the heart of the no-name galaxy cluster MS 0735 in deep space. It is the largest, most energetic outburst ever observed - its plumes stretch more than 6 trillion miles, and are so powerful they have swept a vast swath of interstellar dust and gas from the heavens."
Conspiracy theorists see dark forces

"Among the more common suggestions is that eco-weapons which can trigger earthquakes and volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves were being tested. More outlandish theories include one that aliens caused the earthquake to try and correct the 'wobbly rotation of the Earth'." (Via The Anomalist.)

Although we can be basically certain that the tsunami was a natural disaster, you have to wonder if there are weapons systems -- hypothetical or otherwise -- that could stimulate apparent "natural" disasters. There's a rich body of online literature on "scalar" electromagnetic weapons supposedly used for weather modification. I would guess that such systems, if they exist, are in their infancy; I have yet to see a climate anomaly that I'd attribute to technological intervention. But I can foresee this changing in the near-future.
Site o' the day: ESOTERICA

"A peer-reviewed academic journal devoted to the transdisciplinary study of Western esotericism: Western esoteric traditions including alchemy, astrology, Gnosticism, gnosis, magic, mysticism, Rosicrucianism, and secret societies, and their ramifications in art history, history, literature, and politics."

(Not to be confused with my own esoterica site.)
Synaptic misfirings

1.) I've got a second date with a girl I quite like. I think. It's not etched in stone; she could back out, and I'm aware of this. Anyway, if it works out, I hope to spend some of Saturday at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, a great place I've stupidly neglected for the past year or so -- especially considering it's practically right down the street.

2.) Jason Sheets, in a comments post, has suggested taking an irony-laden road-trip through the increasingly surreal landscape of "End Times" America, with a possible stop-off in Branson, Missouri. Sign me up.

3.) I've come to an acute, urgent realization: I need a digital camera. I'd like Posthuman Blues to take a turn for the visual in '05 -- something along the lines of Rudy Rucker's blog, which incorporates lots of interesting photos. Of course, if I get one, I'll be sure to take it on the aforementioned road-trip.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

There's been some arrestingly offbeat speculation by Ed Gehrman on UFO UpDates proposing the "alien" in the "alien autopsy" footage -- if an authentic cadaver and not FX trickery -- is a terrestrially evolved humanoid. This idea converges nicely with my own musings on earthly hominids developing a technological culture in relative seclusion.

For example, I've theorized that ancestors of the Flores "hobbits" (or a similar race) may have been forced to take up hidden residence in homo sapiens society. Moreover, the oral mythology surrounding the Flores beings has the general flavor of contemporary UFO occupant reports -- human abduction, etc. Even the physical appearance of "ufonauts" and the "hobbits" share interesting similarities; both are described as short, with large eyes and long arms.

There are notable anomalies in the "autopsy" film; the being is polydactyl with an out-sized head (rather than the comparably microcephalic head possessed by the Flores specimens) and lacks secondary sexual characteristics. These traits argue against a normal mammalian origin, prompting theories of genetic engineering (presumably at the hands of extrasolar aliens using human stock).

The "autopsy" footage has always intrigued me because the supposed alien looks far too human to be anything other than a close human relative. This could be explained if the being is

a.) a fake,

b.) a terrestrial genetic/surgical experiment,


c.) a "cryptohominid" that fell into government hands after a hardware malfunction -- possibly but by no means necessarily the famed "Roswell crash."

The national security implications of the latter would be at least as dramatic as the US government learning that its airspace was being penetrated by extraterrestrials -- and on an anthropological note, far more disturbing.

If the cryptohominid theory is accurate, then it provides a plausible motive for nonhuman craft to visit our nuclear installations and military bases, as UFOs have done for 50 years; fellow terrestrials may wish to determine the risk posed by emerging destructive technology or even attempt to thwart it. Coincidentally (?), the modern UFO phenomenon began shortly after the development of radar, reliable aircraft and atomic power -- three factors that may have justly aroused the concern of any secretive "aliens" in our midst. It's even possible the global conflict of the second World War forced cryptohominids to subtly intervene -- perhaps, as I wondered in a previous post, encouraging the popular conception of UFOs as spaceships from some other planet. One can hardly think of a better "cover-story."

Lastly, but by no means unimportantly, there is a vast overlooked literature of "little people" in our midst that extends from ancient legend to contemporary times. I'm aware of one first-hand narrative -- which I tend to accept as factual -- involving members of a race of diminutive nomadic humanoids that can successfully pass themselves off as members of "normal" society. They claim to predate known North American cultures and appear to have an abiding interest in at least some members of "visible" society. Could these strangers have achieved more, technologically, than they choose to let on in face-to-face contacts?

I think it's perfectly conceivable that at least one race of human-like beings could be sharing the planet with us. If they belong to an ancient, enduring civilization -- however seemingly disenfranchised -- it's probable they're smarter than us; contact, if desired, would be on their terms. In the meantime, it's near-impossible to guess how deeply their culture infringes on our own, or if our own intelligence agencies have been quietly scrambling, for the last half-century, to determine whether they represent friend, foe -- or something else entirely.

Welsh skills put Medusa probe on track to find life in Space

"Complex machinery designed and manufactured by experts at Cardiff University's Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC) is enabling Nasa scientists to develop a 'life detector' to look for exotic life forms under a sea that may exist on Europa, a moon of Jupiter."

Robot submarines, no less! What are we waiting for?
Strange Lights, Explosions: Now It's the US

"Now police in north central Wisconsin are receiving numerous reports of bright flashes and explosions in that area, that are once again being attributed to meteors. After one of the flashes and explosions, residents observed a persistent glow in the woods, but nothing was found. FAA officials in Minneapolis-St. Paul attributed the events to probable meteors."

This spate of unexplained bangs and flashes is eerily reminiscent of some kind of military exercise. My guess is that they really are meteors. But that "persistent glow in the woods" sounds straight out of a 1950s sci-fi movie.
Magnetic resonance imaging deconstructs brain's complex network

"Chialvo and colleagues described how fMRIs from healthy individuals showed that tens of thousands of discrete brain regions form a network that has the same qualitative features as other complex networks, such as the Internet (technological), friendships (social) and metabolic (biochemical) networks."

Good news for "Strong AI"?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Man and the Machines

"But some A.I. researchers believe that moment might not be far off. And as their creations begin to display a growing number of human attributes and capabilities -- as computers write poems and serve as caretakers and receptionists -- these researchers have begun to explore the ethical and legal status of their creations. 'Strong A.I.' is the theory that machines can be built that will not merely act as if conscious, but will actually be conscious, and advocates of this view envision a two-front assault on the fortress of human exceptionalism involving both the physical and functional properties of the brain. And these researchers predict a breach within the next half-century."

I think it's imperative we "breach" the mechanics of self-awareness if we're to survive . . . and we may or may not have a half-century in which to do it.

"Just like Hitler struck a chord deep in the German unconscious, Bush is touching something very deep in the American psyche. Bush is acting out on the world stage an under-developed psychological process that deals simplistically with issues such as good and evil. It's as if he hasn't grown out of and fully differentiated from the realm of mythic, archetypal fantasy that is typical of early adolescence. This immature aspect of Bush's process speaks to and resonates with those voters who support him, as it is a reflection of their own under-developed inner process."

No surprises here, but a good -- if possibly over-long -- read. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to sticking hideous yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbons to the bumper of my SUV.
UFOs Over Mexico City Airport

"On December 20, 2004, the staff at the Mexico City International Airport witnessed a strange flying object shaped like a black- colored saucer with what resembled 'a golden spinning top' located on its upper section. It was observed at an altitude of approximately 200 meters at 12:00 hrs."
Cool site of the day: Worldometers

When I checked, the global population was 6,447,117,163. If that doesn't fucking boggle the mind . . .
It Can't Happen Here

"Undoubtedly many Americans and members of Congress don't believe America is becoming a police state, which is reasonable enough. They associate the phrase with highly visible symbols of authoritarianism like military patrols, martial law, and summary executions. But we ought to be concerned that we have laid the foundation for tyranny by making the public more docile, more accustomed to government bullying, and more accepting of arbitrary authority- all in the name of security. Our love for liberty above all has been so diminished that we tolerate intrusions into our privacy that would have been abhorred just a few years ago. We tolerate inconveniences and infringements upon our liberties in a manner that reflects poorly on our great national character of rugged individualism. American history, at least in part, is a history of people who don't like being told what to do. Yet we are increasingly empowering the federal government and its agents to run our lives."

Well-said. (And take note this is posted on a ".gov" site.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Life Interrupted

"We're shooting through technological rapids that have opened doors and changed the dynamic of work, how we communicate and live, and sometimes even think. All these tools have made our lives easier in many ways. But they're also stirring deep unease. Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans, prompting our search for answers to take the mile-wide-but-inch-deep route and settling us into a rhythm of constant interruption in which deadlines are relentless and tasks are never quite finished."

Finally -- proof I'm not the only one who thinks our collective fascination with intrusive (if rather cool-looking) gadgets represents a deeper, more fundamental sickness. In the words of cartoonist Bill Griffith, we've become a "nation of twitching schizoids."
More UFO coverage from India Daily:

An enormous number of UFO sightings before Tsunami and earthquake in South and Southeast Asia - were they trying to warn?

"Was it a coincidence? Lots of people now from the Tsunami and earthquake hit areas are reporting about strange Unidentified Flying Objects they saw a few days before the mega quake and Tsunami. People in Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Island as well as many in Indonesia were reporting for some time about strange flying objects in the sky."

There's a possible non-ET explanation for these sightings (assuming they're real): tectonic "earthlights" caused by piezoelectric effects. Sorry, India Daily -- no aliens required. (And I'd like to think that if advanced extraterrestrials really were trying to warn people of the impending danger they could have done a less ambiguous job of it . . .)
In the beginning . . . Adam walked with dinosaurs

"Other exhibits include images of Adam and Eve, a model of Noah's Ark and a planetarium demonstrating how God made the Earth in six days."

Wow! If this isn't putting the "fun" in "Fundamentalism," I don't know what is! Be sure to get your tickets before the Rapture!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Some bibliophile with a healthy inclination for weirdness just went on a first-of-the-year shopping spree, earning me $70 in referral fees. And it gets better -- he/she ordered sixteen copies of my "After the Martian Apocalypse," boosting the book's sales ranking well into the top 100,000 (not Stephen King territory, but a hell of a lot better than a lot of "fringe" titles).

On a related note: If you've read -- and liked -- "Apocalypse," consider adding your review to those already posted on Amazon. I think they may help. If you've already done so, my sincere thanks. And if you enjoy this blog and don't own a copy, my honest prediction is that you'll like it.
Mars rover Opportunity visits heat shield impact site

"The main structure from the successfully used shield is to the far left. Additional fragments of the heat shield lie in the upper center of the image. The heat shield's impact mark is visible just above and to the right of the foreground shadow of Opportunity's camera mast."

It's marvelous that the rovers are still going strong a year later; I, for one, am guilty of (almost) taking them for granted. This image of the charred heat shield is one of the most engaging so far. I hope to see this stuff at a Martian air and space museum someday.
The Mothman Death List

"People have pondered dates, disasters, and deaths linked to Mothman from 1966, to the present. Since it has become fashionable in recent years to create lists of those who have died by association to the JFK assassination, Bill Clinton, and even the movie Poltergeist, here is 'The Mothman Death List' of events and deaths linked to the original series of Mothman sightings of 1996-1967, to the release of the movie in January 2002, to the various cable premieres, and VHS/DVD releases later in 2002 and 2003."

I have yet to see the film. But I'm considering rereading the book.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The New and Improved SETI (by the irrepressible Seth Shostak)

"So what's new with SETI?

"It's an easy question: a query that the media frequently pose, and for obvious reasons. Of course, it would be nice to say, 'well, we detected three Type II civilizations last week, but they weren't especially interesting,' and sometimes I do this for effect."

Stop it, Seth! You're killing me!