Thursday, June 30, 2005

NASA Sets July 13 Shuttle Launch Date

"Earlier in the week, an advisory panel concluded that NASA failed to meet three of the 15 safety recommendations issued by the Columbia accident investigators in 2003. Despite many improvements, the shuttle is still vulnerable to pieces of foam or ice falling off the external fuel at liftoff, and the astronauts still have no reliable way of fixing damage to their ship's thermal shielding once in orbit, the group said.

"But Griffin and others at NASA believe those risks have been reduced to an acceptable level."

Fuck "acceptable." I think astronauts should strike -- simply refuse to consider going into space until we have a launch vehicle that's up to technological standards of at least, say, the mid-1980s.
Clearing smoke may trigger global warming rise

"Global warming looks set to be much worse than previously forecast, according to new research. Ironically, the crucial evidence is how little warming there has been so far.

"Three top climate researchers claim that the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere should have warmed the world more than they have. The reason they have not, they say, is that the warming is being masked by sun-blocking smoke, dust and other polluting particles put into the air by human activity.

"But they warn that in future this protection will lessen due to controls on pollution. Their best guess is that, as the mask is removed, temperatures will warm by at least 6°C by 2100. That is substantially above the current predictions of 1.5 to 4.5°C."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Windfarms -- Blight or Blessing?

"The Cape Cod Wind Project was proposed in 2001 for Nantucket Sound. It will consist of 130 wind powered turbines, each 40 stories tall. Together, they will generate enough electricity to power most of Cape Cod. The turbines will cover a 24-square-mile area of seafloor within view of the shoreline.

"'In terms of the opposition, the most emotionally felt argument . . . is that it would intrude on a very special place and the creatures that live there,' Kempton says. 'There appears to be something special about the ocean, a feeling that for many people underpins their opposition to the project.'"

Intruding on a very special place. How touching. And how unfortunately typical of the American ecological outlook, in which environmentally heinous smoke-belching power plants (kept considerately out of sight, of course) are preferable to ranks of quietly spinning windmills.

If these fuckwits on Cape Cod were truly enamored of the ocean they'd be embracing wind-power. But with consummate superficiality, they're shunning it in favor of technologies that have already begun to render the oceans lifeless.

These people don't deserve beachfront property; let them risk their necks in Iraq if maintaining the fossil-fueled status quo is so integral to keeping their beloved view unimpaired.
In cold blood (J.G. Ballard on "C.S.I.")

"The series unfolds within an almost totally interiorised world, a clue to its real significance. The crimes - they are all homicides - take place in anonymous hotel rooms and in the tract housing of the Vegas and Miami suburbs, almost never in a casino or druglord's gaudy palace. A brutal realism prevails, the grimmest in any crime series. Suburban lounges and that modern station of the cross, the hotel bathroom, are the settings of horrific murders, which thankfully are over by the time each episode begins. Gloves donned, the cast dismantle u-bends and plunge up to their elbows in toilet bowls, retrieving condoms, diaphragms and bullet casings, syringes, phials and other signs of the contemporary zodiac. Faecal matter and toilet paper are never shown, perhaps reflecting American squeamishness, though evidence of anal intercourse and vaginal bruising is snapped out like the tennis scores." (Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Technology could grow beyond human control, warns Millennium report

"Setting the scene, the report states: 'Future synergies among nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science can dramatically improve the human condition by increasing the availability of food, energy and water and by connecting people and information anywhere. The effect will be to increase collective intelligence and create value and efficiency while lowering costs.'

"However, it warns that 'a previous and troubling finding from the Millennium Project still remains unsolved: although it is increasingly clear that humanity has the resources to address its global challenges, unfortunately it is not increasingly clear how much wisdom, goodwill and intelligence will be focussed on these challenges.'" (Via
Searchers Look Skyward

"However, seeking the truth can be daunting and if you have a sneaking suspicion that you're not alone in searching on the subject of UFOs, you're correct. We hovered over the data and found queries on UFOs are up 14% over the past month. But who's buzzin' about those unidentified objects in the sky? Turns out, it's a West Coast thing -- with three of the top four metros for UFO searches floating in from the Golden State. And in another interesting twist, UFOs are a guy thing -- a whopping three-quarters of UFO searches come from sky gazing dudes."

I suspect there's something more than a little Freudian at work here. I think men subconsciously equate "aliens" with women, and that much of ufology is a symbolically enacted fascination with sex.

Just look at the "abductee" subculture with its explicitly sexual overtones; I'm not saying alien abduction can be explained by repressed sexuality (it can't), but that our unflagging interest in such tales has more to do with erotic fantasy than life on other planets.
2001: Powell & Rice Declare Iraq Has No WMD and Is Not a Threat

(This one is exasperatingly self-explanatory.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Cornell study suggests that mental processing is continuous, not like a computer

"'For decades, the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of information in a strictly feed-forward fashion from one cognitive module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols -- like a digital computer,' said Spivey. 'More recently, however, a growing number of studies, such as ours, support dynamical-systems approaches to the mind. In this model, perception and cognition are mathematically described as a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional mental space; the neural activation patterns flow back and forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties -- like a biological organism.'"

The popular conception of "brain-as-computer" is a nice metaphor -- even a useful one -- but it's inherently limiting. Personally, I find this "new" model much more in keeping with conscious experience as well as the brain's role as a quantum system.


Space station gets HAL-like computer

"Clarissa's software runs on a laptop and astronauts interact with it using a headset, which helps screen out noise from the station. The program 'listens' to everything astronauts say and analyses what to do in response using a 'command grammar' of 75 commands based on a vocabulary of 260 words."
Bob Shell, with whom I've been discussing the "alien autopsy" on UFO UpDates, offers Opitz trigonocephaly (see diagrams) as a possible explanation for the so-called "Starchild" skull.

According to the website, "Opitz trigonocephaly syndrome is characterized by trigonocephaly, upslanting palpebral fissures, hypoplastic nasal root, wide alveolar ridges, anomalous and posteriorly angulated ears, loose skin, heart anomaly, and arthrogryposis (distal). The head size is normal at birth but fails to grow postnatally."
Here's an unpolished (and unpublished) story/parable I wrote a couple years ago. I checked the archives and it looks like I'd linked to it before, but later deleted it from my website.



We hustled onto the abandoned exit ramp from the back of the VTOL carrier. Bits of gravel bounced along the cracked pavement. I glanced at the placid skyline, silhouetted against a gray overcast. Then the VTOL gained altitude with a steady, oceanic roar; we watched it leave from behind the safety of our visors, gloved hands fidgeting at our sides.

The city loomed above us, empty and impossible. It had appeared two weeks ago after nearly a century. We had all studied the disappearance, tracking down and interviewing witnesses, pondering the quantum fluctuations that emanated from the city's erstwhile perimeter. There were no answers. And our questions had been unformed, fleeting: more an exclamation of our collective ignorance than proper attempts at deduction.

When the city abruptly reappeared, I had greeted it numbly, as if in the back of my mind I had always suspected it would return. I had the disquieting feeling that the rest of the team felt the same strange acceptance. I watched their zippered, ghostlike forms preparing Geiger counters and infrared scopes, the eyes behind their identical oval visors barely visible.

None of us knew the other. We had assembled for intermittent lectures and contingency drills for nearly a decade, but resisted any urge to discover anything about one another. This sense of anonymity had been encouraged by the research group that had selected us; I assumed that as the first ground team to enter the newly materialized city, our individual psychological reactions might prove valuable in some arcane way.

We walked down the exit ramp, our movements almost casual. Our radio chatter filled my helmet: latitude coordinates, temperature readings, spectroscopic survey results, air density. I held my Geiger counter at arm's length and heard, to my relief, only the metronomic ticking of normal background radiation.

We passed empty lawns, the skeletons of trees. Glass-skinned office towers had been shattered and blotted with dust; we passed a dilapidated strip mall that seemed to recede into its fissured parking lot, faded awnings rippling like emaciated wings.

We altered our course to avoid congregations of rusting cars, glass crunching underfoot. I glanced at an infrared scanner held by a team member, wondering if I'd see the thermal signatures of hidden survivors, but all I saw was a collage of unassuming grays and blues, vaguely defined by perspective.

Shards of glass and exposed metal winked under the muted sun like jewels excavated from a tomb; I wondered if I'd smell rot if I uncorked my visor. I imagined a haze of aged metal and powdered concrete -- a perennial basement mustiness.

The horizon, carved into vertical slabs of daylight by darkened buildings, was disorienting in its familiarity. With the exception of a few collapsed radio towers, it looked as it had before. I had expected some palpable change, an inherent foreign quality. After all, was this even the same city? Whoever or whatever had taken it one-hundred years ago could have kept the original, leaving us with this elaborate simulation (every gutter and fountain court and graffitied wall reproduced to molecular tolerances).

I felt a chill inside my anti-contamination suit as we strolled through a silent intersection (cars like the husks of dead insects . . .) Suddenly my heart began hammering, spreading a sick adrenal warmth through my chest. I gasped, crouched, my breath noisy over our radio link. For a moment I was certain that we were being watched, and that whatever had happened here before was about to happen again.

I felt the frozen momentum of concrete and metal encasing me like ice, digging into my brain with brutal fingers. My consciousness lurched, dimmed, spun, the sidewalks and balconies fading in and out of awareness like images in a dream. And briefly I fumbled with the certainty that this was in fact a dream: both the resurrected city and my own mind mere props backlit by conniving stagehands; a coalescence of illusion.

A translucent insect perched on my Geiger counter. I caught a glimpse of tangled yellow guts beneath its gnarled skin. I opened my mouth to call attention to it but it vanished in a soundless flutter.

The group waited for me to recover, expressionless eyes wandering over the ancient, pitted concrete. I stood shamblingly, breathing in lungfuls of chilly canned air. The panic abated until it was a residue lining the inside of my skull. We resumed walking. No one spoke.

As night fell, we set up camp in a gas station parking lot, our arsenal of monitoring gear stacked neatly just beyond our foil sleeping bags.

I didn't dream.


The city is being repopulated. The initial colonists were reluctant at first, but took to the streets and buildings with surprising vigor. On television, military vehicles escort convoys of trailers and overburdened trucks down newly paved ramps and boulevards. Apartment complexes fill with eager new inhabitants; malls are restored to generic dignity; silent parks bloom into convincing simulacra of their former selves.

On the evening news I watch parties thrown in rechristened streets, discretely monitored by military personnel. Bands take to prefabricated stages, dwarfed by lights and speakers and smoke machines.

The city's new residents, dizzy with sound and alcohol, become a pixilated smear as my eyes glaze with exhaustion. But I can still see their faces: buoyant, smiling, expectant, half-raised to the televised sky as if to usher in the new day. In the shafts of smoky light, odd, glittering insects take to the air.


I absolutely love this picture. It reminds me of the "entomobiles" in my short-story "Waiting for Kohoutek" (included in my 1995 collection "Illumined Black"). The idea was that, given exponentiating progress in genetic engineering, a future society might decide to grow cars rather than build them -- and where better to get the biological "source code" than the insect world? (I named the bug-car in question "Gregor" in honor of Franz Kafka's Gregor Samsa in "The Metamorphosis.")

Unfortunately, the story isn't all that great except for a few "eyeball kicks" and unlikely associations (like Hyundai manufacturing disposable laptop computers).

I need to write some new short stories . . .
UK may turn into series of islands

"It seems that the flash floods and sweltering heat that have hit Britain over the last few weeks could merely be a taste of things to come.

"The study suggests that the planet's rapidly changing weather patterns will have a devastating effect on the country leaving the centre of London and many cities and coastal towns under water." (Via that other blog that begins with "Post.")

Monday, June 27, 2005

This Trinity College professor believes cyborgs are people, too

"Sitting in his office at Trinity College, James Hughes explains his vision of a family gathering a couple of hundred years from now: One family member is a cyborg, another is outfitted with gills for living underwater. Yet another has been modified to live in a vacuum.

"'But they will all consider themselves as descendants of humanity,' he says." (Via The Anomalist.)
Global Warming: A New Piece of the Puzzle

"A climatologist has found that the kinds of plants growing in a specific area can significantly affect the extreme weather caused by global warming. Global warming doesn't simply cause warmer weather; it causes weather extremes, including storms, floods, and even freezes. These can vary substantially in frequency and severity depending on how the local vegetation responds to global warming."
US Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium

"The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer."

I think it's probable we'll go out with a bang and a wimper. Likelier still, lots of bangs and lots of wimpering.
Taking a virtual view of the world

"'Using Vplanet Explorer, anyone can set off on a journey to discover new regions in 3D, rather than staring at a flat map and trying to picture its scenery,' says Eric Martin, coordinator of the IST project Vplanet. 'With the click of a mouse, they can fluently fly through terrain in real time, on a standard PC.'

"The project's software merges data from different sources into a single 3D database, using techniques such as filtering, correlation and specially developed 3D algorithms. The partners concentrated their work on surface areas and sub-metric resolution, taking advantage of improvements in pixel resolution in today's satellite data." (Via

Area 51, anybody?
Space Ring Could Shade Earth and Stop Global Warming

"A wild idea to combat global warming suggests creating an artificial ring of small particles or spacecrafts around Earth to shade the tropics and moderate climate extremes."

I can't help but feel that by the time we have the economic and technical mettle to construct a shady ring in orbit around the planet we'll have embraced some form of clean energy. But I could be wrong; things could get so bad that we're forced to adopt a tactic like this to keep Earth livable. (Of course, if it gets too bad, we're not going to be around to do anything about it anyway.)
Boffins create zombie dogs

"US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years."

Bad news for the dogs who suffered in these tests; decidedly good news for reversible cryostasis.
For some time I've harbored an intuitive suspicion that there is no "now," at least as we commonly perceive it. I think it's more likely our perception of the "present" is a convenient neurological fiction.

This uneasy sense of timelessness might be explained (or at least made comprehensible) if there is no "arrow of time," and we continually create the past just as we continually shape our future. We couldn't, of course, be directly aware of this since by modifying the past we perpetually create our own memories. If this theory is true, then the passage of time is an artifact created by the intermingling of past and future states. Jenny Randles examines this concept in greater detail in her recent book "Breaking the Time Barrier."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Phantom flyers

"In his 1975 book The Cosmic Pulse of Life, Constable calls them 'critters'. 'As living organisms,' he writes, 'critters appear to be an elemental branch of evolution probably older than most life on Earth, dating from the time when the planet was more gaseous and plasmatic than solid ... They will probably one day be better classified as belonging to the general field of macrobiology or even macrobacteria inhabiting the aerial ocean we call the sky.'" (Via UFO Reflections.)

Shades of H.P. Lovecraft's "Cthulu Mythos."

"There are far more reports than investigators, and that is where the witnesses must help the investigator. Think of the sighting like a crime. Though the only crime being committed is the one our government commits by its unwillingness to openly investigate such sightings, I say think of it as a crime because you never know what is going to happen, and you need to remember exact details of the event for recall at a later time. The information that follows is designed to help you help investigators."

There will be a quiz.
I started "The Crack in Space" by Philip K. Dick tonight. So far, so good. After I finish it, there will only be three PKD novels I've yet to read (excluding certain hard-to-find posthumously published "mainstream" titles): "Dr. Futurity," "Vulcan's Hammer" and "The Golden Man."

I'm going to miss not having any "new" PKD to read. For many years I've counted on Dick to rescue me from the conventionality that infects even good contemporary science fiction. Whereas so much of today's output is sleek and sophisticated (certainly not a bad thing), Dick's early books have an inimitable playful quality that weds pulp genre fiction with high standards for characterization.

I suppose I could always start rereading his canon, but I somehow doubt I will; there are simply too many good books out there to warrant clinging to known favorites, regardless how good they might be. And life is short.

As promised, I'm keeping Posthuman Blues mostly free of Roswell/Unit 731/alien autopsy commentary for the immediate future. But for anyone who wants to watch the drama unfold in all its mud-slinging (and occasionally lucid) glory, I recommend subscribing to UFO UpDates, the Net's premiere UFO mailing list (diligently moderated by Errol Bruce-Knapp). You can view the latest 100 posts by clicking the picture above.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

WTC Basement Blast And Injured Burn Victim Blows 'Official 9/11 Story' Sky High

"All these events occurred only seconds before and during the jetliner strike above. And through it all, he now asks a simple question everybody should be asking? How could a jetliner hit 90 floors above and burn a man’s arms and face to a crisp in the basement below within seconds of impact?"

Although this article is poorly written, it seems to cite evidence that could, at least in theory, be verified or refuted by impartial investigation.
The weather wasn't nearly as hot when I took this as it is now . . .

An outdoor torch at a restaurant up the street:

I look like an android in this picture. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Friday, June 24, 2005

New Data Confirms Strong Earthquake Risk to Central U.S.

"Such a strong earthquake would rock the entire eastern half of the country and prove devastating to the local region. A lesser but still damaging quake of magnitude 6 or greater has a 90 percent chance of striking in the next five decades."

I have a morbid fascination with disasters, natural or otherwise, although oddly enough 9/11 came as no particular surprise and didn't influence my day's activities in the least. (Lack of empathy? Denial?)

When I dream I often find myself in a blighted urban netherworld I've come to call the "Land of the Dead," after William S. Burroughs. Recently I've had two striking dreams of vehicles and people streaming from the sites of undefined disasters that put me in mind of nuclear explosions or disease outbreaks.

In "Heavy Weather," a great novel by Bruce Sterling, we're introduced to a subculture of "evacuation fetishists" (at least I think that's what he called them) that rush to the sites of climate disaster zones to take in the fleeing populace. I can easily see this becoming reality, especially given wireless technology. Imagine a thrill-seeking indie journalist giddily video-blogging the aftermath of some ecoterrorist blast or tsunami-soaked coastal city.
More UFOs in the Arecibo Radio Observatory

"On the other hand, although the scientists who operate the fabulous Arecibo Radio Observatory have always denied that the so called UFO phenomenon exists, or the possibility that alien beings from other planets of the Cosmos visit us on Earth, the truth is that they have covertly participated in investigations related to the UFO subject."

If true -- the irony!
Japanese robot guards to patrol shops, offices

"In an idea straight out of science fiction, robots could soon begin patrolling Japanese offices, shopping malls and banks to keep them safe from intruders. Equipped with a camera and sensors, the 'Guardrobo D1,' developed by Japanese security firm Sohgo Security Services Co., is designed to patrol along pre-programmed paths and keep an eye out for signs of trouble."

The article includes a picture of the robot. I find it somehow less than intimidating. In fact, I've seen pot-bellied rent-a-cops scarier than this.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

One more (?) quick point about the AA that pounds the final nail in the coffin of those who think we're seeing mere special effects: Progeria shrinks subdermal fat tissue. This explains why the corpse being dissected has a conspicuous lack of it. Those straining to believe that the AA shows either a dummy or a dead alien have cited this as evidence that the being's internal structure is nonhuman, along with the apparent lack of nipples and navel (also explained by progeria).

Hopefully this will conclude my "alien autopsy" posts. Sorry if this got a little tedious. But my only real regret is that the UFO community -- of which I suppose I'm a part -- wasn't willing to "dig" into the progeria explanation as soon as it suggested itself. Sure, it was offered as a possibility, but discussion was limited and superficial; the overarching need to relegate the AA to special effects stunted the sort of dialogue just now materializing.

This is doubly embarrassing since the AA provides a possible link with Roswell, which is roundly considered one of most important UFO events of all time. If not for Nick Redfern's research, the AA would still exist in theoretical limbo. Instead, it now stands a fair chance of providing a vital piece of the puzzle to the events of the summer of 1947.
So the "alien" in the autopsy film is almost certainly a human being. Now what?

Maybe before we hold the government accountable -- as tempting as that is considering the progeria victims experimented upon by the military in the Roswell time-frame -- we should focus our energy on tracking down commercial perpetrators. If they're out there, I predict they won't be coming forward, as doing so would require admitting to having used a human corpse as a prop (unless certain "skeptics" groups, eager for confirmation, let them off the hook).

The mysterious six-fingered "control panels" featured in the "debris footage."

Another option, perhaps just as likely as the theory that the human in the footage died in a military experiment, is that we're seeing government disinformation using an unusual human corpse as a surrogate "alien." This might go a way toward explaining the black eye lenses (so much like those described by "abductees") and the six-fingered "control panels" and I-beams in the "debris footage." By adding elements sure to grab the attention of UFO aficionados, a government agency could create a made-to-order modern myth and observe its effects on the UFO counterculture . . . with the ultimate aim of negating evidence of either real UFO crashes or grisly human experiments.

This would explain the curious decision to use a progeria-afflicted corpse: The hoaxers would have to had known that someone would have made the connection between disease and the "alien's" anatomy, however obscure. Identifying the "alien" as a malformed human would collapse the theoretical house of cards built upon the "crashed alien" mythos, thereby weakening interest in legitimate UFO phenomena or secret military aircraft.

The intelligence community has always used the popular perception of UFOs as extraterrestrial spacecraft as a cover for "deep black" aerospace projects. An identical tactic could easily be extended into the realm of purported UFO occupants -- expose one intentionally absurd case as a fraud in order to further stigmatize UFO research, thus drawing even more attention away from classified programs.

Or, as I've debated in previous posts, the "control panels" and black lenses could be legitimate components of whatever experiment in which the human test subject died (assuming the AA footage is an authentic document and not an effort to deceive). If so, then we may have a valuable window into an overlooked and portentous reality that may well still exist in some form -- and we would be negligent to refuse looking closer for fear of the ubiquitous "laughter curtain" that keeps UFO research marginalized.
There's a stubborn myth that no qualified medical doctors think the "alien autopsy" is "real." This persistent notion is resoundingly false, as the following piece demonstrates.

Part of the reluctance of doctors and pathologists to go on record supporting a progeria/polydactyly origin for the AA stems from the ufological "giggle factor"; when shown the footage and told what they're seeing is an alien from another world, their resistance is understandable. But viewed in a human context, free of the baggage that accompanies tales of crashed flying saucers, the AA makes a great deal of sense.

Similarly, most of the resistance to Redfern's thesis -- that we're probably viewing the dissection of a human being killed by top-secret military experimentation -- appears to stem from the "gag factor"; none of us want to consider the implications that accompany such a morbid scenario.

Nevertheless, I'm convinced we must follow the evidence and ditch the "will to believe" -- or, in the enduring case of the "alien" autopsy -- the will to disbelieve.

Note: I've emphasized key portions of the text in boldface.


"These shocking scenes are in a black and white film that caused a sensation when shown last summer. The fuzzy pictures allegedly show how U.S. military surgeons dissected an unworldly being from a crashed UFO. Circulation of the obscure work was by a British filmmaker. Many TV networks bought the alien autopsy from him; in Germany sequences were run on RTL. The belief in the UFO community was enthusiastic.

"But the U.S. government had recently shown it was no UFO in 1947, but rather a spy balloon that had crashed. Therefore skeptics quickly guessed that the film was a forgery. So their opinion was that the alleged extraterrestrial was a rubber dummy. However, the truth is much more macabre. The person lying on the pathologist's dissection table doctors have now proven to be a genetically deformed girl.

"'About 13 years old, she had unmistakable Progeria -- everything fits together,' said the dermatologist Thomas Jansen from the Ludwig-Maximilians University. People sick with Progeria age with remarkable swiftness. Even as children they look old. They suffer dwarfism, hair and teeth that fall out, and clogged arteries. Most of them die before puberty from heart attacks or strokes.

[. . .]

"In the entire world, there are only a handful of medical people who specialize in this mysterious hereditary disease. Most doctors aren't even familiar with the exact symptoms. Still, when Jansen saw the alien film on television, the diagnosis was clear for him. 'A textbook case,' so the dermatologist pointed out 'all the typical identifying characteristics of the illness progeria' seen in the autopsied corpse.

[. . .]

"With the 'old children,' the subdermal fatty tissue shrinks. Their skin is tight and stretched like plastic wrap. In this way, progeria makes it appear that the navel is missing. 'It's like an umbrella,' declared Jansen, 'when I open it, all the folds disappear.'

"Also, it's not unusual that the dead girl has six toes and fingers. Polydactyly [extra digits], said the dermatologist, is often seen accompanying rare deformities.

"Jansen considers his circumstantial evidence to be 'one hundred percent watertight.' Professors around the Ludwig-Maximilians University agree with this judgment, the findings being published in the Munich Weekly Medical Journal."

I might add to this rather damning account that it conflicts with my original interpretation of the film. Like some others, I thought there was a small but significant chance the being in the footage was a nonhuman entity (although not necessarily an extraterrestrial).

No longer.
Europe's Mars Express extends all its antennas

Mars Express deploying the erstwhile Beagle 2 lander.

"The MARSIS radar system can probe the surface and subsurface, mapping out the Red Planet's geological structure and looking for the telltale signature of underground water reservoirs. If liquid water exists beneath the surface, as some scientists suspect, that could provide a refuge for Martian life -- or at least a resource for earthly visitors during future missions."
On a postmodern note, I've realized my interest in tracing the origin of the "alien autopsy" (real or hoax) is similar to Cayce Pollard's fascination with inscrutable bits of digital cinema in William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition." (Cayce's search for the truth in turn resembles that of Pynchon's Oedipa Maas from "The Crying of Lot 49," who stumbles upon a strange world where conspiracy and synchronicity go hand in hand.)

On the UFO UpDates list, memes are flying like particles in a supercollider. One singularly paranoid theory (advanced by Nick Redfern, who's been weathering the barrage admirably) is that maybe the AA footage is a government-concocted hoax designed to resemble the dissection of someone with progeria. Nick's idea is that maybe the Air Force (or whoever), afraid that stories of radiation/aeronautical experimentation on deformed humans might eventually find their way into the public domain (as they now have), created a fake autopsy with deliberate anachronisms or absurdities that could be used to discredit it if the political situation began to look unmanageable.*

Or the agency responsible for human experiments in 1947 (or possibly later) could have craftily "outsourced" the making of the autopsy to public sector FX artists so that they could be conveniently "outed" as the culprits, thus defusing any interest in tracking down documents or personnel connected with unethical experiments.

To me, Occam's Razor suggests the footage is genuine, not a deliberate disinformation ploy. But Occam's Razor can cut differently according to one's biases; at this point, it's simply too early to know, and I'm perfectly aware that we may never know the AA's role in the controversy. One exceptionally dark possibility is that the military had managed to create expendable humanoids for use in top-secret test vehicles, possibly drawing on Nazi medical/genetic research. Unlikely? Certainly. But given the paranoid, desperate milieu that typified the first years of the Cold War, it can't be automatically discounted.

But if the AA is real, who's responsible for the "leak"? Just how long was the footage circulating before it was marketed as proof of crashed aliens in 1995? And if it's a fake, then to what intelligence-related use might it be put other than that described above? Perhaps the ranks of AA proponents and debunkers battling it out in cyberspace are unwittingly providing a detailed psychological portrait to some diligent intelligence outfit bent on utilizing the alien meme for unknown purposes.

I could go on, but I'm quickly reaching an intellectual cul-de-sac, an informational vacuum. But there's reason to hope startling new facts will emerge in the months to come.

*One such potential absurdity is the "debris footage," which features control panels with six-fingered indentations. But it's by no means certain that the debris was filmed concurrently to the autopsy. If the AA footage is authentic, the debris sequence could have been tacked on at a later date to strain credulity; while one can accept -- if grudgingly -- that progeria victims were subjected to cruel experiments in the name of national security, it's less easy to swallow the idea that government scientists were crafting instruments specially designed for humans with polydactyly . . .

I've added a photo to my post arguing for a terrestrial explanation for the "alien autopsy" (AA). The prevailing argument against progeria (a genetic disorder) as the explanation for the appearance of the being in the AA footage is that the resemblance is superficial, and that known progeria victims exhibit signs of severe premature aging not readily seen in the AA. I would counter that classic progeria symptoms, in particular an aged aspect, are indeed present and that the specter of progeria can't be dismissed as readily as some AA commentators assume.
For some reason, I can't get the song "Feelin' Groovy" by Simon and Garfunkel out of my head. (In case you're not familiar with it, it's Paul Simon's ode to lamp-posts, a sort of "Shiny Happy People" sans Michael Stipe's dance moves.)

The irony is that I'm feeling decidedly ungroovy. In fact, I'm feeling rather stressed, angry and disillusioned at the moment. Yet "Feelin' Groovy" keeps on playing, as if my brain is a dysfunctional iPod. If this continues, I may have to shoot myself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's that time again . . .


"To recognize that the collective psychosis that is running rampant on our planet is a field phenomenon is to develop a more expansive, holistic vision in which we step out of the illusory identity which imagines that we are discrete entities who are separate from one another. This realization of our interconnectedness expresses itself as compassion. Together we are all collaboratively dreaming up what is happening. This is a mass shared dream in which we are all complicit."

This Jungian essay is very suggestive of the "implicate/explicate" order of physicist David Bohm, whose work not only helps us view the universe as a manifestation of "enfolded" forces, but holds an unflattering mirror to our sense of detachment and objectivity. Something very much like Nick Herbert's "holistic physics" is in order.
Speaking of unusual human bodies . . .

Ancient 'Bog Body' Unearthed in Germany

"The State Museum of Lower Saxony said it is the only extensively preserved human body dating from the pre-Roman iron age to be found in Europe north of the Alps. Other bog bodies have been found, but they are typically older -- dating usually from around the time of Christ's birth. Only one body, found in the Netherlands, came from the Bronze Age. It is about 1,000 years older than the current find, which is being called 'The Girl of the Uchter Moor.'" (Via NTM!)

I love discoveries like this. They make the past palpable. People actually lived thousands of years ago. It's a simple yet somehow vertiginous realization that begs questions about our own future and forces us to reconsider prevailing concepts of permanence.

We exist. We die. Yet the Earth continues orbiting the Sun; the galactic disk keeps spinning.
Russian Space Agency: Solar Launch Failed

"The world's first solar sail spacecraft crashed back to Earth when its booster rocket failed less than two minutes after Tuesday's takeoff, Russian space officials said Wednesday."

GREEN Flaming SUVs: A conversation with convicted ecoterrorist Jeff Luers

"I think that anyone who is quick to judge me for what I did should, at the very least, be quick to judge corporations for what they do. They look at my activities and say that they're wrong because they break the law. But I believe in a higher law: We have a responsibility to future generations and a responsibility to ourselves to challenge injustice. The destruction of the world is injustice. The exploitation of indigenous peoples and peasants in underdeveloped countries is injustice.

"I've gone down the road of aboveground activism, I've gone down the road of lobbying Congress, of meeting with corporate entities -- I know what kinds of results they get. If anyone can point out something that works better than what I did, I'll be more than happy to listen. Until then, here I am five years later for burning an SUV, and that one single action seems to have worked out pretty well for me so far. I don't have a problem doing time for my beliefs, because I believe strongly enough in them to accept it. I think that's what some people out there don't understand. The dangers that we're facing -- they're real."

I don't advocate "ecoterrorism." But if you're going to torch a vehicle, why waste time on SUVs when Hummer dealerships are everywhere?
The "alien" autopsy: evidence of human experimentation?

I'm going to lay off the "alien autopsy" issue for a while until I have more concrete information; I fear I might be alienating a few readers (pun intended).

But this UFO UpDates post by Nick Redfern addresses some important points. Redfern writes, in part:

"The interviewees (and this is one of the reason I consider them credible) specifically directed me to a number of very hard to find files in a variety of archives, including one from 1947, talking about how research had been undertaken in summer 47 on 54 test-subjects, some dwarfs, several with Progeria - a condition that results in a small body, enlarged bald head and occasionally 6 fingers.

[. . .]

"And it's intriguing that these people were specifically able to direct me to finding these officially declassified files on radiation experiments undertaken on people with Progeria in summer 47.

"If the film is nothing but an outright fake, that's a pretty intriguing coincidence that files on Progeria sufferers and radiation experiments should exist from the time frame that the film was supposedly made and that shows a body with similar symptoms."

I concur. If the footage is a hoax designed to depict an "alien," the odds that the film-makers happened to depict a progeria sufferer with remarkable accuracy are exceedingly slim. Indeed, my first reaction to the footage was incredulity: If it was a commercial hoax (the popularly accepted theory), why would the special effects crew create such an unlikely "alien"? Why not a quintessential "Gray," which many people automatically associate with tales of ET visitation? Not only would a faked dissection of a Gray very likely sell more autopsy videotapes, it would grant the perpetrators free reign in designing the alien's internal anatomy.

Typical childhood progeria. Note unusual ears, sunken face, hairlessness, and disproportionately large head.

Some commentators have remarked that the "alien" can't be a real cadaver because the internal organs look amorphous and, presumably, faked. Interestingly enough, the state of the organs is consistent with high-speed aircraft accidents in which the body's exterior experiences relatively superficial damage while the internal structure suffers gross displacement.

This leaves the issue of the black eye coverings, which give the being an eerily "alien" look. Since the pathologists expediently remove them and put them in a specimen jar, it appears they're familiar with them; this argues against the footage being a first-time dissection of a being from another world. Instead, taken in the context of atomic experimentation, it indicates the supposed "alien" was outfitted with special contact lenses for scientific purposes -- perhaps an attempt to protect the eyes from potentially blinding radiation. This may, in fact, have been the purpose of the experiment; it's easy to see why military scientists would want to assess protective gear, possibly for pilots operating in the wake of a nuclear war.

In summary: This is not a conventional autopsy. It appears to be a hasty effort to harvest specific tissues under strict time constraints posed by radiation, an observation borne out by the bulky containment suits worn by the surgeons and the blink-and-you-miss it "maximum working time" plaque affixed to the operating theater wall.

The alleged "alien autopsy" is not a central component of Nick Redfern's proposed explanation for the Roswell incident, as might be inferred from the previous post. Nevertheless, I think the (largely unwarranted) stigma it has acquired threatens to preclude it from the serious consideration it deserves.

As Redfern notes in "Body Snatchers in the Desert," the being in the footage looks very much like a victim of progeria, a genetic defect also known as "Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome." If Redfern is correct and the military conducted human experiments on "expendable" deformed humans who could be made to "disappear" with little or no notice, then progeria sufferers would certainly seem likely candidates.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders describes progeria as follows:

" . . . a rare fatal, genetic condition of childhood with striking features resembling premature aging. Children with progeria usually have a normal appearance in early infancy. At approximately nine to 24 months of age, affected children begin to experience profound growth delays, resulting in short stature and low weight. They also develop a distinctive facial appearance characterized by a disproportionately small face in comparison to the head; an underdeveloped jaw (micrognathia); malformation and crowding of the teeth; abnormally prominent eyes; a small, nose; prominent eyes and a subtle blueness around the mouth. In addition, by the second year of life, the scalp hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes are lost (alopecia), and the scalp hair may be replaced by small, downy, white or blond hairs."

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I think a truly definitive explanation for the Roswell incident is finally within our grasp.

Investigator/author Nick Redfern's hypothesis, presented in his new book and in "UFO Review," strongly suggests the military's varied official "explanations" are hiding a deplorable -- if terrestrial -- secret. If he's right, and recent activity on the UFO UpDates mailing list indicates he just might be, then the Roswell mythos falls into a Cold War context as momentous (and chilling) as any "X-Files" premise.

Redfern's book, luridly but aptly titled "Body Snatchers in the Desert," has just been published by Paraview Pocket Books. Aside from suggesting that the Air Force is hiding a legacy of grisly human experimentation, "Body Snatchers" adds an unexpected dose of credibility to the infamous "alien autopsy" footage, proposing that the "alien" is actually a deformed adolescent girl killed in a radiation exposure experiment.
Nothing to do? Try staring at the carpet.

(Thanks to Zakas.)
I've grown very disdainful of (and just plain bored with) blogging politics. Nonetheless, a brief but wincingly grim reality-check is probably in order:

The US war with Iran has already begun

"By the intensity of the 'liberation/democracy' rhetoric alone, Americans should be put on notice that Iran is well-fixed in the cross-hairs as the next target for the illegal policy of regime change being implemented by the Bush administration."

Time to Impeach a War Criminal

"In other words, at a time when Bush was telling the American people that 'every possible avenue' would be exhausted before going to war the administration had, in fact, already made up its mind to invade Iraq and was willing to manufacture evidence to support such an invasion.

"The Downing Street memo confirms what many had already suspected -- George W. Bush is an out-and-out liar who intentionally misled the American public, the U.S. Congress and our allies."
"Bugs in the Brain" (PDF)

Summary: Microscopic parasites can cleverly infiltrate the brains of seemingly more advanced organisms and bend them to their microbial will.

Science fiction idea: A distributed intelligence, such as an extraterrestrial "smart dust," arrives on Earth and directs humans to engage in "bizarre" behavior in keeping with a malevolent alien agenda.*

*Yeah, I know: new take on an age-old theme.

(Thanks to John Shirley.)
Solar spacecraft set to blast off

"The world's first solar sail spacecraft takes flight on Tuesday, launched by space enthusiasts who cobbled the privately funded mission together on $4 million and an untested theory that light can power limitless space exploration."

With an advanced, laser-powered version of this technique it should be possible to accelerate an interstellar craft to relativistic speeds . . . and introduce the somewhat mind-bending prospect of time-dilation.

I think the first time I encountered the idea for solar sails was in Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes" (a book that's infinitely more nuanced and effective than the movies).
Attention would-be Mars Face debunkers!

(Found at Boing Boing.)
Orgasms: a real 'turn-off' for women

"'At the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings,' says Gert Holstege of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands." (Via NTM!)

So basically, any woman who's experienced sexual ecstasy has spent a small portion of her life as an android. This is highly reminiscent of the brothel in William Gibson's short-story "Burning Chrome," in which prostitutes can wire themselves to computers that render them unconscious and control their movements.

Philip K. Dick foreshadowed Gibson's "meat puppets" with the androids of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Dick's synthetic humans are effectively indistinguishable from the real thing, but they lack our capacity for empathy. Not to say that humans are necessarily empathic. John Shirley's novel "In Darkness Waiting" explores a hypothetical syndrome he calls "empathy suppression." The book is way-out horror/science fiction, but empathy suppression seems to be both real and pervasive, as witnessed by atrocities such as the Holocaust. Shirley suggests there's a neural mechanism that can switch off a person's usual capacity for empathy -- probably an adaptation for "fight or flight" situations. But sometimes, for whatever reasons, suppression takes hold and empathy never switches back on . . . Empathy suppression syndrome might, in fact, help explain some sexually oriented crimes, such as serial rape.

Dick and Shirley see empathy as a defining human trait. As a proponent of uploading human minds into computers (for purposes ranging from intellectual exploration to space migration), I suggest we elect to keep empathy instead of editing it out of our mentational repertoire -- not because it's "natural" but because it's useful.

Monday, June 20, 2005

And I thought Sedona, Arizona was Mars-like . . .

(See amazing pictures of your host on top of a very tall rock and seated between two "craters.")
Mile-high cellphones may block ET's call

"'It could be a disaster for us,' says Michael Davis, of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. 'We have incredibly sensitive radio telescopes - even a single cellphone on a plane 100 miles away could cause pretty serious damage.' That is partly because cellphone signals from the sky could be in a telescope's direct line of sight, unlike signals from phones on the ground."

Another good reason to ban the goddamned things.
New Science and a Revolutionary Energy Breakthrough

"Although still not widely known, increasing numbers of scientists and engineers are working with this truly revolutionary energy technology. This fact heralds the beginning of a profound transition, leading beyond dependence on oil, gas, coal, uranium, and other fuels. Great numbers of new jobs will emerge, as will a major stimulus to the world economy. Energy independence is likely to be realized by all countries, large and small, rich and poor. Reversing air pollution, and slowing of global warming, is inherent in the achievement. To the surprise of many, this is likely to be a near-term event."

Not if certain people can help it . . .
"Either we are alone or we are not. Either possibility is fascinating." --Arthur C. Clarke

Few Planets Will Have Time to Form Complex Life

"Since four billion years is almost half the anticipated life-time of our sun, life on other planets orbiting short-lived suns may not have had sufficient time to evolve into complex forms. This is because levels of oxygen will not have had time to develop sufficiently to support complex life, before the sun dies. Professor Catling said: 'This is a major limiting factor for the evolution of life on otherwise potentially habitable planets.'"

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I've been blogging so much I've been neglecting my website, Mac Tonnies Visual Industries (MTVI). I bet you didn't even know I had one. Go ahead; click the picture . . .

There are a bunch of new links to add, and probably a bunch to delete as well. So much "dead media," so little time.

I especially want to redo the fiction section (such as it is) so that it reads more like an online e-book than a crude HTML paste-up job (which is exactly what it is at the moment). If anyone has any cool ideas, let me know.

(By the way: You can now get a perfectly readable used copy of "After the Martian Apocalypse" for less than half-price at That ain't bad.)
Imitation makes digital characters more lifelike

"Jeremy Bailenson and Nick Yee of Stanford University in California have found that viewers are more strongly influenced by avatars that mimic their own body movements. They asked 70 students to don a virtual reality headset to watch an avatar deliver a 3-minute argument about the benefits of a university ID card. The students paid more attention to avatars that copied their own head movements compared with avatars making pre-programmed movements, and found them significantly more likeable and convincing."

This reminds me of a (justifiably unpublished) short-story I wrote years ago. It was a depressing, first-person account of a guy whose "girlfriend" is an augmented reality construct.* She looks perfectly real to the narrator (and even appears to interact with her real-world environment) but she's invisible to everyone else.

Rethinking the concept a bit, there's no reason "she" should only be seen and heard by the narrator; imagine a networked augmented reality milieu (call it "ARM" for short . . .) in which all participants -- real and virtual -- can interact with one another in a social context. I plan on using this plot device to much better purpose in a future story, with some added phildickian weirdness thrown in just for fun.

*I might as well admit there was an autobiographical thread** running through this. I attempted to justify the character's need for a virtual companion by postulating a dystopian future where everyone lives underground after an unspecified disaster.

**Hey -- I just realized I'm a transrealist!
Neanderthal love: Scientists split over how much mating occurred

"Is it bestiality? The debate over modern-human/Neanderthal interbreeding is part quest to chart the origins of the human race, part academic feud over old bones, and part family soap opera: Did some of our ancestors go to bed with creatures commonly thought of as less than human?" (Via The Anomalist.)

This reminds me of a certain Robert J. Sawyer novel I've been wanting to read.
You know the "checkerboard" patterns you sometimes see when you rub your eyes? I just realized they look almost exactly like cellular automata. (Rudy Rucker's probably already had this epiphany, but it was new for me.)
Check out the seriously funny art of Dave Devrie.

(Thanks to CP.)

Interesting . . .
More . . .

This week's requisite photos of local statues:

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I worked on the new book tonight. There's no lack of subject matter; it's a matter of finding unexpected parallels and knowing what to exclude. And of course knowing how to tell it without sounding lofty or abstract.

The gist of it: Biology -- as we're used to it -- is very likely a transitional stage in the evolution of intelligence. Since the dawn of consciousness, humans have sought to utilize their environment to enhance themselves. We're now on the brink of dissolving the line between "tool" and "user" as we merge more and more intimately with our creations . . . and as our creations acquire creative faculties of their own. Extrapolating from this trend, it's possible to envision our not-so-distant descendents defying today's quaint distinction between "organic" and "inorganic."

But no extrapolation of the human future is complete without addressing alternative routes, and in this respect the prospect of extraterrestrial intelligence is extraordinarily useful -- and not simply as a thought experiment. Evidence suggests that, far from a novel event to expect in some unimaginable future, alien visitation is taking place now, albeit in a cybernetic context that's proven elusive to the dominant SETI paradigm.

"The Postbiological Cosmos" argues that the UFO enigma reveals an unexpectedly consistent "signature" once we dispense with the prevailing wisdom that reduces extrasolar visitors to flesh-and-blood "astronauts" visiting us in the form of metallic spacecraft analogous to those used by our own manned space program. Instead, we find something that's at once infinitely stranger and far more portentous.
Give me that old-time religion . . .

Crucified nun dies in 'exorcism'

"A Romanian nun has died after being bound to a cross, gagged and left alone for three days in a cold room in a convent, Romanian police have said."
Ultra-Lifelike Robot Debuts in Japan

"Internal sensors allow the android to react 'naturally.' It can block an attempted slap, for example. But it's the little, 'unconscious' movements that give the robot its eerie verisimilitude: the slight flutter of the eyelids, the subtle rising and falling of the chest, the constant, nearly imperceptible shifting so familiar to humans." (Via Variable Gravitas Content.)

Don't miss the photos; I only wish there were more of them. As far as I know, this is the closest we've come to "Nexus-Six" workmanship. You know you're getting close to the real thing when journalists and onlookers use words like "eerie" and "subtle."

Gaby Wood

For a damned good read about our fascination with simulacra and robots, I recommend Gaby Wood's "Edison's Eve" (originally published as "Living Dolls").

I started reading Keith Thompson's "Angels and Aliens." Maybe the comparison is unfounded, but for the record I wrote the "Memespace" chapter in "After the Martian Apocalypse" before cracking this book's cover.

I'm really jazzed up about Nick Herbert's "quantum tantra." In fact, I think it's possible to experience a limited version of his "rapprochement" without technological assistance -- which, depending on your perspective, might sound a bit like accessing the Internet without a computer. If nothing else, Herbert has outlined a paradigm for a genuine quantum parapsychology.

What's playing:

1.) Monster (R.E.M.)
2.) Automatic for the People (R.E.M.)
3.) More Songs About Buildings and Food (Talking Heads)
4.) Reality (David Bowie)
5.) The Essential Simon and Garfunkel (disc one)

Friday, June 17, 2005

No paradox for time travellers

"Some solutions to the equations of Einstein's general theory of relativity lead to situations in which space-time curves back on itself, theoretically allowing travellers to loop back in time and meet younger versions of themselves. Because such time travel sets up paradoxes, many researchers suspect that some physical constraints must make time travel impossible. Now, physicists Daniel Greenberger of the City University of New York and Karl Svozil of the Vienna University of Technology in Austria have shown that the most basic features of quantum theory may ensure that time travellers could never alter the past, even if they are able to go back in time."

Finding this story headlining at The Anomalist came as something of a synchronicity, since I just finished reading a chapter about the quest to avoid causality violation in Jenny Randles' "Breaking the Time Barrier." The article indicates that waves sent into the past will self-destruct, ensuring causality, but what about physical objects?

So far the best "explanation" I've heard is the "principle of least action," which allows for time travel but requires infinite energy in order to change something that would threaten the time traveler's own (future) existence. Maybe.

Then there's the Many Worlds take, in which you can endlessly "violate" causality because you're not even in the same universe you came from and, presumably, anything goes; you're just a blip in the quantum ocean, one of potential trillions of doppelgangers.
The following is from an anonymous Amazon review of John Carter's "Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons":

"According to Thelemic legend, in 1918 Aleister Crowley came into contact with a interdimensional entity named Lam, who by the way is a dead ringer for the popular conception of the 'alien grey ' depicted on the cover of Whitley Strieber's Communion. From this purported encounter, some have inferred that the industrious Mr. Crowley intentionally opened a portal of entry--through the practice of a magick ritual, The Amalantrah Working--which allowed the likes of Lam and other 'alien greys' a passageway onto the Earth plane."

The review goes on to mention the possibility that atomic blasts may have allowed the "Grays" access to our universe by creating a rift between dimensions. Far-out? You bet. But I've always been intrigued that the first flying saucer wave coincided with the onset of the Cold War and bomb-testing in the Southwest.

One possibility is that the UFO intelligence in some sense originates here on Earth and felt threatened by us, thus the decision to "go public" . . . if fleetingly. They might be here to save us from ourselves -- a message drilled into innumerable contactees and abductees -- but it's perhaps just as likely that the "aliens" want to preserve the planet for themselves.* This suggests a hierarchy of unseen intelligences very much like John Keel's "superspectrum."

*Although just maybe atomic weapons were (and are) a direct threat to our invisible neighbors. If some "aliens" indeed originate from the nether-regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, hard radiation from nuclear blasts (such as gamma rays) could pose a grave physical threat. This might help explain accounts of UFOs interfering with ICBM silos and other military installations. Could it be that they're actually afraid of us, despite their evident superiority?
Study shows big-brained people are smarter

"The study, published on line June 16, could settle a long-standing scientific debate about the relationship between brain size and intelligence. Ever since German anatomist and physiologist Frederick Tiedmann wrote in 1836 that there exists 'an indisputable connection between the size of the brain and the mental energy displayed by the individual man,' scientists have been searching for biological evidence to prove his claim."

This makes me feel a little bit better about my bulging forehead.
When memes collide: Christian Transhumanism.
From "Holistic Physics - or - An Introduction to Quantum Tantra" (by Nick Herbert):

"Many primitive peoples organized their lives around a doctrine we call 'animism', the belief that every object possesses sentient 'insides' like our own. The quantum consciousness assumption, which amounts to a kind of "quantum animism" likewise asserts that consciousness is an integral part of the physical world, not an emergent property of special biological or computational systems. Since everything in the world is on some level a quantum system, this assumption requires that everything be conscious on that level. If the world is truly quantum animated, then there is an immense amount of invisible inner experience going on all around us that is presently inaccessible to humans, because our own inner lives are imprisoned inside a small quantum system, isolated deep in the meat of an animal brain. We may not need to travel into outer space to inhabit entirely new worlds. New experiential worlds of inconceivable richness and variety may already be present 'at our fingertips'--worlds made up of strangely intelligent minds that silently surround and interpenetrate our own modes of awareness."

I think Herbert's "quantum tantra" is an eminently useful tool in understanding the phenomenon we call "alien contact." More on this possibility later.
"Monsters" in Kanas Lake?

"When they stopped near Sandaowan for a photo, they suddenly spotted two dark objects, very large in size, springing out of the water, breaking a wave one meter high. They leapt forward one following the other, headed swiftly towards the middle of the lake and disappeared from sight in about two minutes. Then peace reigned again." (Via The Anomalist.)

Too bad it's a lake in Kanas and not Kansas. Maybe the monsters would eat all of the fucking Creationists.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Face on Mars: Why People See What's Not There

"The ability to take in visual cues and basically fill in the blanks allows humans to process information very quickly, but new research shows that it also can lead to misperceptions -- like seeing things that are not there."

I'm going to take a more methodical stab at this fluff-science piece later, but I think it's worth noting right away that the image cited in the article is none other than the original uncorrected Viking frame (shown above) that prompted Vincent DiPietro and Greg Molenaar to hunt out a second photo of the Face that confirmed a bilaterally symmetrical facial resemblance.

Of course, this second image isn't mentioned as it devastates the article's premise. Nor is any mention given to digital processing that shows the Face to be the most non-fractal object in the region; as I stress elsewhere, the odds of a formation appearing strange to humans and impartial computers alike, while not proof of anything in particular, should at the least sound some alarm bells and indicate the "seeing faces" argument might be lacking.

In fitting with its "what I don't know, don't tell me" theme, the article also excludes mention of predicted secondary facial characteristics that have since been confirmed by high-resolution images. Foremost among these is a frankly unmistakable eye, complete with pupil, on the Face mesa's western half.

I could go on. I could, for example, point out that some people have a neurological predisposition to not recognize facial forms even when they're real. Or I could point out that a debunker's tendency not to see anything odd when confronted with the Face on Mars is just as subjective as a "believer's" tendency to perceive a humanoid face.

But why spoil the fun when there are straw men to burn?

I am a poor freezingly cold soul
So far from where
I intended to go
Scavenging through life's very constant lulls
So far from where I'm determined to go

--Morrissey, "Seasick, Yet Still Docked"
Various paperbacks sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read:

1.) Singularity Sky (Charles Stross)
2.) The Scar (China Mieville)
3.) Saucer (Stephen Coonts)
4.) The Risen Empire (Scott Westerfield)
5.) Master of Space and Time (Rudy Rucker)
6.) Hammered (Elizabeth Bear)
7.) City of Pearl (Karen Traviss)
8.) The Bloody Crown of Conan (Robert E. Howard)
AI developed for Mars explorers

"The cyborg astrobiologist consists of a 667MHz wearable computer, a tablet display with stylus or visor, a colour video camera and tripod.

"It would provide 'augmented reality', allowing astronauts on future Mars missions to narrow down their search for targets relevant to life processes on the Red Planet."

I think augmented reality has at least as many possibilities as "pure" virtual reality; it's easy to imagine a future where everyone takes part in AR for a considerable fraction of each day, kind of like cellphone use now. Much has been made of the narcotic effects of email and instant-messaging. Eventually, taking one's senses offline might be unbearable to the point of psychotic breakdown.

Of course, some eccentrics with eschew AR and live relatively Puritan lifestyles, content only with GPS gear, plasma TVs, PDAs and broadband Internet.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

World first: brain cells grown in laboratory

"The findings, in effect, show it is possible to construct an assembly line for manufacturing unlimited quantities of human brain cells, or neurons, Dr Scheffler said. 'We can basically take these cells and freeze them until we need them. Then we thaw them, begin a cell-generating process and produce a ton of new neurons.'"
Heat wave fries Central Canada

"Toronto's woes were compounded by air pollution from coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions, which made it oppressive for people with breathing problems."
Here's a typical UFO news story; it just so happens it's recent as well.

Man sees UFO two nights running

The main witness (there were at least two) has the following to say about his sighting:

"It became bright, then moved up and down and made weird shapes in the sky."

Interesting. Later we're treated to more details suggestive of something genuinely strange:

"Peacock said the object continued its apparently random movement across the sky almost until dawn, when it disappeared.

"He dismissed it as a strange phenomenon until he saw it reappear yesterday morning."

But finally reality becomes manageable again thanks to some rote debunkery:

"Experts were unable to identify the object but said it could have been a satellite burning up as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere."

Ignoring for the moment that there's no damned way this was satellite debris, who are these "experts"? "Journalism" does us a grave injustice when it's content to give the last word to people who, for all I can tell, may not even exist.
Kansas School Official Calls Evolution 'Fairy Tale'

"A member of Kansas' State Board of Education who's involved in writing new public school science standards calls evolution a 'fairy tale' that's sometimes defended with 'anti-God contempt and arrogance.'

"A newsletter written by board member Connie Morris said students should be taught 'criticism of Darwinism alongside the age-old fairy tale of evolution.'

"In her newsletter, Morris said she's a Christian who believes that the creation account in the Book of Genesis is literally true."

Kansas. Neurotoxins in the air or something. Gotta be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

As the RRRGroup has pointed out, the discourse at UFO UpDates has taken an unexpected trend toward the speculative, with the usual talk about nocturnal lights and daylight discs replaced by what metaphysician Charles Upton has called "postmodern demonology."

Suddenly ufology's usual suspects -- who commonly hail from the "nuts and bolts" school -- are competing with the likes of occultist John Keel ("The Mothman Prophecies") and astrophysicist Jacques Vallee ("Passport to Magonia"). Since I've forwarded some of my recent thought experiments on the psychodynamic aspect of the phenomenon to the list, I suppose I bear part of the blame for the metamorphosis.

In a recent post to the list, esteemed ufologist Larry Hatch expressed his conviction that religion and UFOs were mutually exclusive -- an idea I can't agree with, if only because so many "high-strangeness" UFO encounters impinge on the witnesses' consciousness in a manner that can best be described as "spiritual." Conversely, the UFO evidence contains a parade of apparent religious experiences that, when examined with more than passing curiosity, fall quite easily into the close encounter paradigm (of which the "Fatima miracle" is an example).

One of the first questions to come to mind is also one of the simplest: How are we to tell for sure if religious effects are by-products of the encounter experience or a central component?

Theorists have proposed that contact with nonhuman intelligence, if and when it occurs, will be exceptionally strange. Could this very strangeness be limiting our perception of an unfolding phenomenon of crucial importance?

If we're to seriously advance a "new" ufology, we must maintain the theoretical flexibility to ask questions that may seem far removed from the extraterrestrial connotations that presently contaminate the issue (however well-meaning their adherents).
I was telling Patrick Huyghe about my tentative ambition to compile a website devoted to the myriad book cover paintings for Wells' "The War of the Worlds." Then he sends me this link. Evidently someone had exactly the same idea. 169 and counting!
According to unconfirmed rumors, the following picture was taken by one of the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Apocalyptic-looking, isn't she? But "apocalyptic" in a good way.
Boy, 4, Dies After Riding Epcot Attraction

"A 4-year-old boy died after passing out aboard Walt Disney World's 'Mission: Space,' a ride so intense that it has motion sickness bags and several riders have been treated for chest pain."

Hey, that's the breaks. No one ever said space travel was safe.

"The Original EcoSphere® is the world's first totally enclosed ecosystem - a complete, self-contained and self-sustaining miniature world encased in glass. Be wary of inferior and lower quality imitations. Easy to care for, an EcoSphere is an incredible learning tool that can provide powerful insights about life on our own planet... and provide a glimpse of technology that's shaping the future of space exploration."

Needless to say, I want one.

(Coincidentally, last night I dreamed about Sea-Monkeys.)
The Ethics of Creating Consciousness

"Traditionally human beings have reserved words like 'reasoning,' 'self-awareness,' and 'soul' as their exclusive property. But with the stirring of something akin to electronic consciousness -- some argue that human beings need to give up the ghost, and embrace the machine in all of us."

Good bumper-sticker there: "EMBRACE THE MACHINE."
Not bad.
"Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us."

--H.G. Wells, "The War of the Worlds"

It's tempting to wonder how accurately Wells' psychological portrait of greedy Martians will apply to us as we discover more and more terrestrial-type planets orbiting other stars. When we find oases of life glimmering far beyond the reach of contemporary spacecraft, chances are we'll view them with fierce pangs of jealousy.

In the meantime, we're readying for the effective end of the world as we know it by invading Iraq in a bid for geopolitical autonomy. To many thousand civilian Iraqis, who've witnesses their families and friends mowed down by U.S. forces, it's likely Bush's war machine looks something like the Martian blight envisioned by Wells.

Wells' Martians and the current stock of homo sapiens are linked by desperation and the delusion of righteousness; we appear to think that our mutual plight somehow deserves sympathy, that our fevered quest for resources in the midst of an under-reported planet-wide mass extinction is innately just.

The invading Martians in "The War of the Worlds" were ultimately killed by germs. I think Wells was onto something with that.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Former Bush Team Member Says WTC Collapse Likely A Controlled Demolition And 'Inside Job'

"'It is hard to exaggerate the importance of a scientific debate over the cause(s) of the collapse of the twin towers and building 7," said Reynolds this week from his offices at Texas A&M. 'If the official wisdom on the collapses is wrong, as I believe it is, then policy based on such erroneous engineering analysis is not likely to be correct either. The government's collapse theory is highly vulnerable on its own terms. Only professional demolition appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings.'"

Regardless of whether 9/11 was an "inside job," I think it's darkly comic that most Americans don't seem to realize a third building was involved; if nothing else, it's an alarming example of how simple it is for a select few to manage the facts surrounding even a massively public catastrophe.
Jeez -- and some people think my photos are blurry . . .
"Can't . . . breathe . . ."

Maybe this helps explain (if only roughly) some paranormal phenomena. (I'd like to see a competent illustrator have a go at those diagrams.)
Astronomers find most Earth-like planet yet

"The world's preeminent planet hunters have discovered the most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet: a possibly rocky world about 7.5 times as massive as the Earth. This hot 'super-Earth,' just 15 light years away, travels in a nearly circular orbit only 2 million miles from its parent star, Gliese 876, and has a radius about twice that of Earth."
New NASA chief begins major shake-up

"Senior NASA officials and congressional and aerospace industry sources said yesterday that Griffin wanted to clear away entrenched bureaucracy and build a less political and more scientifically oriented team to implement President Bush's plan to return humans to the moon by 2020 and eventually send them to Mars."