Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much

"While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are 'scientifically savvy and alert,' he said in an interview. Most of the rest 'don't have a clue.' At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process." (Via CP.)

Of course, "democratic process" is a relative term. And it's not too heartening when the (P)resident is a Creationist.
Whitley Strieber has written a stinging assessment of the carnage in New Orleans.

The Pitch, a local alternative rag, has announced its annual call for submissions for the annual "best of" issue. Posthuman Blues was awarded an honorable mention last year ("Best Local Blog") but there's always the chance I could take it all this time around. (There's no prize -- just bragging rights, if bragging about blogging if your thing.)

Anyway, if you're local -- and aren't going for the glory with your own blog (which is perfectly acceptable) -- consider casting a vote for me. Or not.
Republican Leader Blasts Own Party's Climate Scientist "Witch Hunt"

"Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the Science committee of the US House of Representatives, has raised 'strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation' into three leading U.S. climatologists whose work has been important in establishing human agency as a cause of global warming."

Also: Watch this false-color animation of Katrina scouring the US coast.
Carbon strips could build elevator to space

"The research could also revive interest in the science fiction concept of a space elevator, as nanotube ribbons are the only material strong enough to make a track that would stretch thousands of miles from the Earth's surface along which electrical cars could speed into space.

"'I believe that our carbon nanotube sheet does substantially improve the possibility,' Professor Baughman said. 'It does not enable a space elevator to be constructed, but we're getting there.'"

I guess I've been savoring the implications of this breakthrough when I should have been posting about it. Or just slacking.

The "space elevator" is a concept so profound -- yet so ironically simple -- that it seems it must happen if we're to continue as a spacefaring species. But then I remember heady ambitions for L5 colonies and other amazing things that never were and wonder if my yearning for cheap, democratic space travel merely reflects my own desires and not the mandates of stark reality.

After all, Robert Heinlein wrote about highways modeled after factory conveyor belts and made them seem, if not inevitable, at least plausible. And how many children growing up in the 50s more or less expected to be piloting flying cars in adulthood?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Getting Agnostic About 9/11

"As a professor emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology, 66-year-old David Ray Griffin would seem to have more affinity for leather elbow patches than tin hats, yet after friends and colleagues prodded him into sifting through the evidence, he experienced a conversion. Now he's spreading the bad news. Griffin compiled a summary of material arguing against the accepted story that 19 hijackers sent by Osama bin Laden took the aviation system and the U.S. military by surprise that awful day in his 2004 book 'The New Pearl Harbor' [. . .] He recently followed up with the book "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions" (Interlink), a critique of the Kean commission document in which he suggests that a chunk of the blame for the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil lies closer to home than the caves of Afghanistan."

I share Griffin's sense of disillusionment. There are too many anomalies for me to comfortably accept the official story. While none may be a smoking gun, their cumulative impact suggests a far-reaching "inside job" of frightening scope.
I was surfing Amazon and found that someone had uploaded this large-format image of my 1995 book "Illumined Black." It appears slightly worn, which suggests someone might have actually read it.

Author's warning: While you're perfectly free to read "Illumined Black," don't expect brilliance. I wrote the bulk of the short-stories in high-school. There are a few neat moments, but for the most part "IB" reads like what it is: a first book by a self-indulgent writer enamored of weird concepts but with no real clue about what makes people tick.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ancient stone circle holds air of mystery

"Some people have claimed to see small figures lit by moonlight moving among the stones. There are those who claim the mysterious site was built by aliens and is related to a Martian formation named Cydonia."

(Thanks, Carol.)

Now playing:

1.) Little Earthquakes (Tori Amos)
2.) Earthling (David Bowie)
3.) On Deck Techno (DJ Dread)
4.) Pornography (The Cure)
5.) The City (Vangelis)
I'm always finding new blogs to add to the sidebar. Here are some recent notables.

1.) Aberrant News (misc. strangeness)

2.) Catalytic Converter (dire updates from a world out of balance)

3.) Continuous Computing (pervasive technology, embracing the machine)

4.) The Creative Activist (reinventing protest for the W era)

5.) Dead Air Space (Radiohead's official blog)

6.) Future Feeder (dispatches from the aesthetic cutting edge)

7.) Plvs Vltra (an excellent personal blog from a PB commenter)

8.) Technovelgy (science meets science fiction)
Comments update

I've made a couple changes that will hopefully

a.) minimize or eradicate blogspam


b.) allow non-Blogger registered users to post comments.

The only hitch (that I know of) is that you'll be required to fill out a word verification field each time you comment -- kind of a pain, but it should weed out all but the most tenacious spambots.

Let me know what you think.
The Line Between Species Shifts, and a Show Explores the Move

"She's not a monster; no, she looks like a very accepting mom as she lies sow-like, patiently suckling her offspring from teats around her stomach. Her wrinkly pinkish skin seems downright human, even to its vestigial hairs. So do her hands and feet. It's her face - except for brooding humanoid eyes with brows - that really marks her as, well, different. There are fleshy ears that start at the top of her nearly bald head and flop down like long tongues, a flattened ape-ish nose and a cowlike muzzle with a wide moo-ey mouth." (Via Aberrant News.)

It's really not too difficult to imagine humans devolving into creatures like this. I can see them now, puttering about their suburban homes, religiously watching FOX News and dutifully stuffing themselves with McDonald's hamburgers. The horror.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Truth About Roswell

"The scientists were worried about things like cosmic rays, solar radiation, and meteors. They also wanted to see how much of a shield a pilot would need from a nuclear power plant -- they were already thinking about atomic rockets and so forth.

"So they started sending volunteers up in high altitude balloons, in gondolas with radioactive isotopes aboard. The gondolas themselves were really balloon-launched gliders, shaped like flying wings. They were light weight, but made of high-tech plastics developed by the Nazis during the war. The idea was, when it was time to bring the volunteers back down, the gondola would be released and guided down by remote control. It could glide for hundreds of miles and land anywhere in the desert.

"But the part I didn't like -- and the reason this has all been kept secret since 1947 -- was where they were finding their volunteers. Of course they didn't want to risk an expensive and highly trained test pilot. There was hardly any training necessary. And of course, they wanted people with small bodies that didn't weigh much -- and most important, people who would never be missed."

Though the source is anonymous (or nonexistent) and the telling needlessly melodramatic, I find the premise worryingly plausible.
SpaceShipThree poised to follow if SS2 succeeds

"SpaceShipThree is planned for Scaled's tier 2 manned space programme, while the nine-person SpaceShipTwo is part of the current tier 1b programme.

"The suborbital three-crew SpaceShipOne (SS1), which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize last October, was developed within Scaled Composites' tier 1 programme.

"'If the SpaceShipTwo service is successful we will develop SpaceShipThree, which is orbital,' says Whitehorn." (Via Future Hi.)

I'm saving my money for the Earth-Mars cycleship.
Sustainable House of the Future Runs on Spinach

"Not only does the building run a photosynthetic and phototropic skin made with spinach protein, but it also produces more energy than a single family's needs, allowing the excess to be distributed to neighbors."
Immense Hurricane Roars Toward New Orleans

"A monstrous Hurricane Katrina barreled toward New Orleans on Sunday with 160-mph wind and a threat of a 28-foot storm surge, forcing a mandatory evacuation of the below-sea-level city and prayers for those who remained to face a doomsday scenario."
This mammoth skeleton might be the closest we get till the Japanese finally recreate one. The last I read, aspirations to clone a mammoth had been supplanted by less-ambitious plans to impregnate an elephant with frozen mammoth sperm.

Another skeletal avatar of evolutionary transience:

I took this from the railing outside the observatory. The building on the far right is my hotel. The street features faintly visible painted-on dinosaur footprints.

Man can hold on to pal's corpse

"Li Bei said: 'I just thought it would be easier to store the body myself. There's so much bureaucracy here I knew the paperwork would be endless otherwise."
Me in an observatory. Note the Soderberghian hair.

This "scoreboard" keeps track of the number of verified extrasolar planets, which will probably exceed 200 in a few years.

One of two super-realistic bronze dinosaurs in front of the museum where my portion of the Discovery documentary was filmed. (And to think this creature walked the Earth less than 10,000 years ago!)

In real life, this thing was approximately 60 feet long . . .

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Globalhead Bruce Sterling is in Singapore (William Gibson's "Disneyland With the Death Penalty"). This could be good.
This article unabashedly cribbed from Busy, Busy, Busy:

Pat Boone shreds Cindy 'peaceniks'

"During the program, Boone, a well-known Christian, took a strong stand against evolution, mocking the notion the U.S. would become some kind of repressive society if the theory of evolution were not taught in schools, and he supported the teaching of 'intelligent design.'

"'The idea that all of this could have happened mindlessly with no blueprint is sheer stupidity and very unscientific.'"

Read on! It just keeps getting better!

Friday, August 26, 2005

If you haven't read Philip K. Dick's classic essay "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later," you should.

"So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe -- and I am dead serious when I say this -- do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new."
Beware the blog: cautionary tales on the rise

"Postings in the digital realm can have repercussions in the real one."

I wish journalists would henceforth refrain from writing about computer culture as if it exists in some other universe. "Digital realm" may not be quite as tedious (and inaccurate) as "Information Superhighway," but it's in contention.
New exhibit at London Zoo - humans

"'We have set up this exhibit to highlight the spread of man as a plague species and to communicate the importance of man's place in the planet's ecosystem,' London Zoo said."

Plus, they have lots of half-naked women behind bars.
Airborne laser brings 'Star Wars' a step closer

"Dubbed the 'HEL weapon' by its developers, a prototype capable of firing a mild 1-kilowatt beam has already been produced and there are plans to build a stronger, 15-kilowatt version by the end of the year."

"HEL." Cute.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Consciousness and Advancing Technology

"It cannot be assumed that a copy of a person that is accurate at the molecular level will have the same experience of consciousness. The reason? Consciousness may be a byproduct of happenings at the subatomic level. Certainly larger-scale events and processes are involved in shaping conscious experience, but consciousness remains isolated from the world-at-large in one key way . . . Enter quantum physics: specifically, the measurement problem of quantum physics, which summarizes several key experiements [sic] by saying that we only ever see one state of a particle/object/system that could express any of several other mutually-exclusive states. Quantum physics goes on to say that these particles/objects/systems exist as something else entirely (a wave-like state of potential) when they are not being observed. This suggests that consciousness is some sort of limited interface with reality, rather than an ability to perceive the true nature of things. And without understanding the nature of this interface, our ability to copy or transfer it accurately is questionable."

I personally think our brains are extremely limited organic quantum machines, in which case there's no obvious reason they can't be improved upon. But if we're to become "hyperconscious," our definition of technology itself must mutate to encompass notions such as "quantum tantra" and related neurological states. If we can make this ontological shift, I predict our understanding of the "paranormal" will blossom, and that the curtain between consensus reality and liminal phenomena such as apparent alien visitation will fall.

Perhaps this will be the Singularity I've been hearing so much about.
Oh, to be in Singapore right now . . .
A rare moment of sanity:

Searching for orbs in all the wrong places

"It's important to note one of the mottos of Drunken Ghost Hunting: Orbs are bullshit. Unless, according to our founder, Butch, they spit blood and speak; otherwise, buy yourself a bubble machine." (Via The Anomalist.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A guy with the Mentorn film crew thought I looked a little like Steven Soderbergh. I just ran a Google image search to see for myself. Perhaps he was onto something.

"Hey Steven! Give me back my glasses!"

By the way, the documentary (as yet untitled) will air on the Discovery Channel early next year. Besides the requisite interview (filmed in a somberly lit motion simulation theater), Mentorn took lots of footage of me gazing at various screens and manipulating the "eyes" of a full-scale mock-up Mars Exploration Rover. (Dramatic stuff.)

I also got to meet Larry Crumpler, who has the rare distinction of having "driven" the Spirit rover from the comfort of Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. I didn't have a chance to ask him about the "rabbit" (presumably airbag material from the rover's violent descent), but we talked about the "anomalous cleaning events" (NASA's term) that have kept the rovers' solar panels unexpectedly dust-free as well as the enticingly algal-looking "Magic Carpet" feature unveiled when the airbags were retracted.

Crumpler was quite excited about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (now on its way), which features unprecedented four-centimeter surface resolution. I compared the MRO's resolution to a spy satellite's and Crumpler confessed he was a little surprised NASA had been able to acquire it. I got the impression NASA's space technology, seemingly cutting edge, is at least a generation or two removed from its military equivalent.

Photos forthcoming.
Jason points out yet more evidence of the rapidly accelerating cognitive decline of the United States.
"My Son Died for Nothing"

"Since she began her crusade, America's political dynamic has changed dramatically with the country leaning more and more heavily towards withdrawal. It would take a miracle for Bush to regain the momentum for the war." (Via Easy Bake Coven.)

I don't know about you, but I think a "miracle" could be arranged in a pinch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

To my surprise, "After the Martian Apocalypse's" ranking is riding (relatively) high at #9,995 -- the closest it's been to the top since it debuted at 4,000 or so slightly over a year ago.
The Gibsonesque sprawl of Denver International Airport, dizzying lengths of chrome and flowing black corrugated metal. The occasional nexus where naked capitalism competes for space among installations of unadulterated tourist kitsch (a mock-up of the Wright brothers' plane hovers above tile inset with gilded dinosaur fossils). Endless kiosks boasting cheap email access emerging like unruly metal growths or the vertebrae of some half-seen organism, fossil curves reiterated across acres of brushed steel and palm-printed glass where one can feel an autumnal chill radiating through sloppy reflections: ranks of strident ghosts swapping photons in an infinite choreography of fickle memories.
Now here's a college course I'd like to sign up for.
Researchers creating life from scratch

"'We're building parts that can be assembled into devices and devices that can be turned into systems,' said Jay Keasling, head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Berkeley synthetic biology department, which was created last year." (Via
Survey seeks insights to 'out of body' experiences

"David Wilde, the researcher running the project, said, 'There are several theories as to why people have OBEs. A common link between them is the idea that in certain circumstances the brain somehow loses touch with sensory information coming in from the body. This triggers a series of psychological mechanisms which can lead to someone having an OBE.

"'In this study we aim to take the theory a stage further, by looking at the way people see and experience their bodies, and how - through perfectly ordinary psychological processes - these images and experiences may create the impression of seeing their bodies from the outside.'"

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I have a couple of hours to kill before I depart, so here's a "rerun" picture of Buca di Beppo (say it 10 times fast), where I ate last night with "Elizabeth," shown performing a dance based on a Sylvia Plath poem.

I can't wait to be in the air.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Here's one damned fine reason to move to France.

(Thanks to Boing Boing.)
Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

"Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis." (Via American Samizdat.)

Also: Overwhelming scientific proof of our noodly origins.
Army Planning for 4 More Years in Iraq

"In an Associated Press interview, Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the Army is prepared for the 'worst case' in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower if called for by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers."

I wonder if anyone has extrapolated the body count . . .
(Well, so much for making a conscious decision to place PB in hibernation.)

Computer characters mugged in virtual crime spree

"A man has been arrested in Japan on suspicion carrying out a virtual mugging spree by using software 'bots' to beat up and rob characters in the online computer game Lineage II. The stolen virtual possessions were then exchanged for real cash." (Via Future Feeder.)

What makes this inversion of real/"unreal" especially interesting isn't that real-world money is being stolen in a virtual environment, but that the perpetrators are anthropomorphic bots. From the perspective of the avatars getting "mugged," the assailants would seem like soulless, single-minded androids.

Could there be autonomous bots -- perhaps something along the lines of "The Matrix's" "agents" -- operating in meatspace? If so, could we recognize them as such?
Today is my birthday (celebrating three decades incarnated on the Earth plane!) and tomorrow I leave for New Mexico. I'll be gone for a couple days, so I'm putting Posthuman Blues in temporary stasis.

While you're anxiously awaiting my return, enjoy perusing The Daily Kitten.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cosmological iconoclasts offer new ideas

"If one judged solely by the newspaper headlines, or by what schoolchildren are taught in science classes, one might think that scientists unanimously agree on the details of the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins; on the reality of a mysterious force called dark energy, which is allegedly driving the universe to expand faster over time; and on the existence of many other things that might, in fact, be mirages -- or, at least, more poorly understood than orthodox researchers acknowledge." (Via The Anomalist.)
So, why do we believe in aliens?

More have-at-'em debunkery (disguised as a cultural treatise) that covers the bases by citing Freud and the popularity of "Star Trek." Publishers are still going for this stuff, apparently.
Record Year for Tropical Storms

"Wacky weather caused by global warming continues. Consistent with predictions that this would be a stormy summer, July has set a record for the number of tropical storms spawned in the Atlantic. It was also the second hottest July on record, and a month that saw some of the greatest extremes of drought and flooding ever recorded. The Indian city of Mumbai experienced a massive 37-inch rainfall in July, while the US Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, Spain, Portugal, and parts of France, China and Australia experienced some of the worst drought conditions ever recorded."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Museum of Food Anomalies: making the Web a better place.

(Thanks to Aberrant News.)
In less than an hour I'll be able to claim that "tomorrow is my birthday."

Synchronicity: On the day I was born, Aug. 20, 1975, the Viking probe that went on to take the first photo of the "Face on Mars" was launched. For better or worse, that staple black-and-white image has played a not-insignificant role in shaping my creative and intellectual trajectory.

Additionally, I share my birthday with H.P. Lovecraft, a horror/science fiction writer whose most enduring body of work, the "Cthulu mythos," is predicated on the idea that ancient nonhuman extraterrestrial "gods" have played a secret role in the development of the human species. Thanks to authors like Zechariah Sitchin, Richard Hoagland and Paul Von Ward, this basic concept has entered the New Age meme-pool (albeit in a retooled context). And, not surprisingly, the Face on Mars and related features on the Red Planet have found themselves sharing page-space with "ancient astronaut" theories.

Kinda weird.
Here we go again . . .

'Face of Jesus' on hawthorn tree

"He told his wife he had seen the figure of a man, but when she looked she knew it was the face of Jesus." (Via The Anomalist.)

Well, whoever it is appears to be experiencing a particularly painful bowel movement.
Apparently Seth Shostak's quips on the NBC UFO special weren't lame enough the first time around, because he's written a new article reiterating them.

The proof is out there ...

"The good news is that the latest polls confirm that roughly half of all Americans believe extraterrestrial life exists. The weird news is that a similar fraction think some of it is visiting Earth."

"Good" news because that means more philanthropists forking over money to listen for radio signals, which is Seth's big thing, but "weird" news that some people think extraterrestrials might already be here because that wreaks havoc with SETI's tidy, hermetically sealed paradigm.

"Additional evidence is 'expert testimony'. Pilots, astronauts, and others have all claimed to see odd craft. It's safe to say that these witnesses have seen something. But just because you don't recognise an aerial phenomenon doesn't mean it's an extraterrestrial visitor. That requires additional evidence that, so far, seems to be unconvincing."

Seth doesn't cite a single case, and with good reason -- some of the best sightings, strongly suggesting exotic craft operating at the boundaries of known physics, have been made by impeccably credentialed observers. He's right, of course, when he writes that "just because you don't recognise an aerial phenomenon doesn't mean it's an extraterrestrial visitor." But is this the best he can do? Sadly, yes.

"When push came to shove, and when pressed as to whether there's compelling proof of extraterrestrial visitation, the experts on this show backed off by saying 'well, we don't know where they come from. But something is definitely going on.' The latter statement is hardly controversial. The former is goofy. If the saucers are not from outer space, where are they from? Belgium?"

Admitting the possibility of exotic objects in our skies -- and, furthermore, conceding that one doesn't know where they come from -- is "backing off"? Real skeptics (as opposed to the faction of virulent pseudoskeptics epitomized by Seth) call this "suspending conclusions"; after all, even the most spectacular UFO sighting isn't likely to reveal the UFO's home star system (if in fact we're dealing with star-hopping craft and not something altogether weirder).

Seth's screeds against UFOs wouldn't irk me nearly as much if they could be excused as simple ignorance. But his incessant attempts to muddy the facts about the UFO phenomenon betray a deliberate (indeed, somewhat frantic) need to stamp out interest.

Radio SETI, it seems, cannot stand as a discipline without creating spurious straw men to impale. At the very least, this should serve to arouse deep skepticism of SETI's dogmatic approach to extraterrestrial communication.

You know what's worse that enduring dental work with your mouth full of probing, needling instruments? Listening to your dentist explain why sending humans to Mars is foolhardy and finding yourself unable to articulate a retort because your mouth is fucking immobilized. I actually experienced this this morning and can assure you the agony is exquisite.

"Besides, I don't know what people can do on Mars that those rovers can't."

Scrape, scrape.

"And anyway, there are too many problems to work on here on Earth before spending all that money on a Mars mission."

Scrape, scrape, poke.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Power Supply Is Down in the Dumps

"Next month, ground is expected to be broken on a $10 million project sponsored by Netherlands-based World Wide Recycling to scale up Waste Concern's existing composting program and turn Matuail's noxious emissions into electricity." (Via Dark Planet.)

Not quite as good as urine-powered cellphones, but still ambitious.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Harvard to explore origins of life

"Harvard University is joining the long-running debate over the theory of evolution by launching a research project to study how life began.

"The team of researchers will receive $1 million in funding annually from Harvard over the next few years. The project begins with an admission that some mysteries about life's origins cannot be explained."

I hope they're not planning to find the answers to all of these mysteries here on Earth. An honest search for the origin of life should include, at the very least, an understanding of panspermia -- and I see no way to seriously evaluate panspermia other than actually seeking out living things (or their remains) on other planets.

If we choose to go and look with open eyes -- and so far NASA has demonstrated only peripheral interest in exobiology, despite frequent sound-bites about the "search for life" in space -- then we will likely discover a Solar System brimming with tenacious life, microbial and otherwise.

And then the questions really begin.
Another ominous development on the ecological front:

Gulf of Mexico mystery

"'All the coral, all the sponges, all the crabs, not a single living thing, all the star fish, the brittle stars, everything's dead,' said Miller."
Pee-powered battery smaller than a credit card

"The first urine-powered paper battery has been created by physicists in Singapore. The credit-card sized unit could be a useful power source for cheap healthcare test kits for diseases like diabetes, and could even be used in emergency situations to power a cellphone, they say."

No good for laptops -- yet.
New Look for the Milky Way

"Using the orbiting infrared telescope, the group of astronomers surveyed some 30 million stars in the plane of the galaxy in an effort to build a detailed portrait of the inner regions of the Milky Way. The task, according to Churchwell, is like trying to describe the boundaries of a forest from a vantage point deep within the woods: 'This is hard to do from within the galaxy.'"

I suspect there will be those who claim the Milky Way's apparently unique shape is evidence that it was designed by an omnipotent creator in order to allow humans to arise.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Icy Greenland turns green

"Greenland is turning green, something the rest of us should be very worried about indeed." (Via Dark Planet.)

Just don't expect any interest from the US media.

Puzzling Hot Spot Found on Moon of Saturn

"Why the south pole is so active is still a mystery. One theory is that radioactive material left over from the moon's formation billions of years ago is acting as a heat source, said Linda Spilker, Cassini's deputy project scientist." (Via The Anomalist.)

Even "extremophiles" wouldn't have to be terribly extreme to survive here . . .
Ordeal of man in gorse 'jungle'

"Mr Bowen, a father of one, of West Road, Filey, said: 'I just wanted to go for a walk because obviously I was very unhappy. I spotted some undergrowth. I thought it looked a bit jungly.'"

Little did this guy know he'd soon be unintentionally reenacting the premise from J.G. Ballard's "Concrete Island."

The sad thing is that I can relate to him, in a general existential sense.
Geologists slap back at Bush

"'Scientific theories, like evolution, relativity and plate tectonics, are based on hypotheses that have survived extensive testing and repeated verification,' Spilhaus says. 'The President has unfortunately confused the difference between science and belief. It is essential that students understand that a scientific theory is not a belief, hunch, or untested hypothesis.'"
PETA congratulates Morrissey.
The Human-Techno Future: How Weird? How Soon?

"If you have these three different kinds of humans walking around in the next 10 or 15 years, is this going to be a recipe for conflict? It's been a long time since we've seen more than one kind of human walking the Earth at the same time. Twenty-five or fifty thousand years, depending on whether you're going back to the Cro-Magnon or the Neanderthals. And when more than one kind of critter starts competing over the same ecological niche, it usually ends up badly for one of them."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Here's a nice gallery of intriguing keyboard concepts.

Very ergonomic, but I'd still rather have this retro box styled after the machines in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil."

(Thanks to UFO Reflections.)
Is the ESA's Mars Express team trying to tell us something? Take a look at the unmistakable vivid blue and green in the top-center of this (very large) image.

I know that sometimes lack of color correction can produce spurious oases on the Martian surface, but this . . . ?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hacking Elevators 101!

"The designers of some elevators include a hidden feature that is very handy if you're in a hurry or it's a busy time in the building (like check-out time in a hotel). While some elevators require a key, others can be put into 'Express' mode by pressing the 'Door Close' and 'Floor' buttons at the same time."

I live on the ninth floor and frequently have to stop for people too lazy to walk down three flights on stairs. Worse, they're typically talking on cellphones. So it's a fair bet I'll try some elevator-hacking in the foreseeable future.
Life on Mars

"No sooner had Nasa published images of an ice lake inside a crater on the Martian plain Vastitas Borealis, than internet exo-archaeologists were excitedly pointing out the crumbled ruins of a vast, ancient city on the crater's banks."

This article goes on to compare one person's interpretation of JPG imaging artifacts to the Cydonia controversy, which has engaged academics and credentialed scientists for over two decades.

In the writer's view, the demonstrably nonexistent etchings on the ice crater's bank and the forms in the Cydonia Mensae region -- including five-sided pyramids of varying sizes and orientation, tantalizing squares and mathematically consistent "mounds" located south of a most interesting collection of larger geometric oddities -- are evidentially equivalent.

Neat trick.

Perhaps if I didn't read drek like this on a regular basis I'd be somewhat appalled. But depressingly, this is the "state of the art" when it comes to mainstream coverage of the anomalous.
Weird Science on the Religious Right

"But when policies involving human biology and behavior are being hammered out, faith alone isn't always sufficient to win over voters and decision-makers. At such times, a bit of scientific evidence comes in handy, and some of the Religious Right's operatives aren't too choosy about where they get it."

As some readers of this blog probably realize, I'm highly mistrusting of the mainstream media's cavalier use of "skepticism" (as typified by the Washington Post's casual acceptance of Philip Klass' bogus explanation for Lonnie Zamora's UFO sighting and the New York Times' condescending use of the term "Martians").

But curiously, in the case of the Religious Right, the mainstream relaxes its usually strident intolerance for weird ideas in an apparent attempt to please everyone. This is the void that people like Michael Shermer should be scrambling to fill. (His "Why People Believe Weird Things" offers a devastating and informative critique of "intelligent design" and Holocaust "revisionism," both of which, I argue, are fundamentally connected.)

Instead, Shermer and other self-proclaimed luminaries spend far too much time brandishing toothless answers to phenomena they simply don't understand: Just because one grasps the social and political forces responsible for such nonsense as Creationism doesn't mean one is qualified to condemn the presence of unidentified objects in our skies or the presence of distinctly curious morphologies on Mars.

"Intelligent Design" is a scam; give the Religious Right an inch and they'll happily take a mile. But a similar trend pervades pop skepticulture. Shermer, Shostak, Randi et al aren't content skewering straw men; they want to take down a few genuine unknowns while they're at it.

In a week I'll be on camera for a documentary on ancient civilizations and extraterrestrial visitors to be aired on the Discovery Channel. And while I look forward to the trip -- and not-so-secretly relish the prospect of "wising up the marks" (or at least a few of them) -- I fear the worst, and not without some justification.
I was skimming the Washington Post's Philip Klass obituary and this paragraph immediately caught my eye:

"His first investigation, in 1966, was of a sighting two years earlier near Socorro, N.M. He found that it had been a hoax perpetrated in an attempt to bring tourism to the economically depressed town."

What the Post doesn't mention is that Klass' identification was -- and still is -- completely untenable. In fact, the Socorro incident (in which police officer Lonnie Zamora witnessed an egg-shaped vehicle accompanied by two occupants) has gone on to become an enduring chronicle in the modern history of close encounters. Various evidence, including physical traces, convinced Air Force investigator J. Allen Hynek to conclude that a landing had indeed taken place. Klass' pet "explanation" was strained at best, and the colorful tourism scheme he envisioned never materialized.

Recently, ufologists have offered several intriguing terrestrial theories for what Zamora saw. One possibility is that Zamora accidentally happened across a prototype craft developed by Hughes Aircraft. In any case, that he saw something is virtually undisputed.

But, as usual, the mainstream media has chosen to err on the side of ersatz debunkery. This is neither good journalism nor a particularly fitting tribute to Klass, who -- despite certain intellectual failures -- helped to advance a disciplined, evidence-based approach to UFO research.
Tropics to bear brunt of global warming

"The impact of global warming has become obvious in high latitude regions, including Alaska, Siberia and the Arctic, where melting ice and softening tundra are causing profound changes. But, contrary to popular belief, the most serious impact in the next century likely will be in the tropics, says a group of researchers headed by a University of Washington ecologist."
Strange fish parade seen in Englewood

"A bizarre freeway of fish swimming by the thousands along the shore of Englewood Beach Thursday morning left crowds of beach-goers agog and marine biologists bewildered.

"'I've lived her for 10 years, and I've never seen anything like this. It's incredible,' said Bob Ricci of Englewood.

"Beach-goers reported that a wide variety of sea creatures came swimming south in a narrow band close to the beach at mid-morning.

"Included in the swarm were clouds of shrimp, crab, grouper, snapper, red fish and flounder. They were joined by more usual species, including sea robins, needlefish and eels."

Maybe they've joined forces to attack eco-marauding humanity. Serves us right.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Spacecraft Begins 7-Month Journey to Mars

"A spacecraft loaded with high-tech cameras, antenna and radar began a seven-month voyage to Mars on Friday that aims to gather more data on the Red Planet than all previous explorations combined."
The Martians aren't coming

"So is there a crisis in ufology? Joe McGonagle, who runs UFOlogyinuk, the main internet newsgroup for British ufologists, believes there is. 'Ufology has shot itself in both feet and needs drastic surgery in order to recover,' he told his 1,000-strong membership yesterday in an emailed response to the news from Cumbria. 'Ufology is suffering from the paranoid accusations of government cover-ups which some of the more vociferous groups and individuals are all too willing to believe and kick up a fuss about. All of these things drive people away from what is already a peculiar subject.'"

(Note the headline's inexplicable reference to "Martians.")
Today I noticed that "Elizabeth's" apartment building has its own website. The building is most immediately notable because the top is lined with gravely staring ceramic heads, making it something of a Plaza landmark. (Sadly, the website designer failed to include any pictures of them, and my one attempt to photograph them with my extraordinarily cheap digicam was less than impressive.) Directly across the street is a coffeeshop that makes delicious -- if expensive -- smoothies.

I found out this morning I'll be stopping in Denver on the way to New Mexico, so I can add Colorado to the list of states I've visited (such as it is).

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I think a strong case can be made for The Old Negro Space Program being the funniest thing on the Web. Impeccable research. Watch it. Now.

(Tip of the hat to Sauceruney.)
Can the mainstream media ever deal effectively with stories concerning esoteric subjects? The example below, while articulate in many respects, certainly offers serious room for doubt. Take, for example, the ridiculous headline:

Explaining Those Vivid Memories of Martian Kidnappers

This is, in case you haven't figured it out, yet another article about sleep paralysis and the popular infatuation with alien abduction.

So why the explicit reference to "Martians"?

The article is flatly devoid of any references to Mars or beings from Mars; the "M-word's" presence at the beginning of the article is designed to condescend just enough so that readers can feel free to duck behind the laughter curtain that's helped veil the UFO enigma since the late 1940s.

It's easy to snicker at references to "Martian kidnappers"; it's less easy to concede a potentially genuine unknown.

The article contains at least one other sentence that betrays a deliberate ignorance of the subject matter:

"Where, exactly, do the green figures with the wraparound eyes come from?"

Green figures? Surely everyone is familiar with the quintessential "Gray" alien by now. It's in movies, on television, emblazoned on T-shirts, sold as keyrings; it's no exaggeration to call the "Gray" alien a consumer icon. But describing alleged aliens as "green" brings to mind "B"-movie visions of "little green men," an archetype that has much less to do with what "abductees" describe and more with marginalizing a topic that has yet, for the most part, to attract the disciplined research it deserves.

The irony is that this article ultimately demeans both skeptical research (which suggests belief in alien visitation is an intriguing neurological aberration) as well as the general subject of extraterrestrial intelligence. The effect is subtle but nonetheless easily avoidable, and one would think the New York Times could avoid this silliness.

Unfortunately, it's exactly the publications with the resources to know better that freely mock this most portentous of enigmas, regardless what it represents.

Private Company Plans $100 Million Tour Around the Moon

"The space-faring tourists will travel with a Russian pilot. They will steer clear of the greater technical challenge of landing on the Moon, instead circling it and returning to Earth." (Via Sauceruney.)

Circling the Moon in a Soyuz -- now we're talking!
UFO debunker Philip J. Klass dead at 85

Philip J. Klass, CSICOP guru and ever-dependable UFO/paranormal debunker, has died at age 85.

Here's Klass' rather defeatist statement on the UFO phenomenon:

"No matter how long you live you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs than you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed, you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse."

Let's prove him wrong, folks.
Melting bog may lead to 'ecological landslide'

"Mr Kirpotin told New Scientist magazine that the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region had begun to melt in the last three or four years. He predicted an 'ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and undoubtedly connected to climatic warming'."
'Eternal planes' to watch over us

"But observing Earth from afar is not just about battlefields and spy missions, the type usually done by expensive and heavy craft like the US's Predator drone. UAVs are increasingly being recruited to carry out more humanitarian missions, from the stratosphere."

The Singularity is watching you.
Pocket-sized computer 'soul' developed

"The virtual computer's 'soul' - as the researchers dub it - can then be uploaded to a new PC simply by plugging the portable device in. This host machine needs no special software or even a network connection to take on an entirely new personality." (Via

"Soul" is a fun computational euphemism -- for now. But as we plunge deeper into the era of hi-rez brain-scanning and begin simulating individual brains and even societies with unprecedented detail, it may come closer to literal truth.

Eventually, we may be able to purchase back-up pods for our own minds -- something like the "cortical stacks" in Richard K. Morgan's "Altered Carbon" (except without the hassle of surgery).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Forget crop circles for a moment; what's this hexagram doing at Area 51? (See second picture.)
The nARCHITECTS site is full of groovy design ideas, but "Vital Signs" is one of my favorites:

"Vital Signs is an interactive installation designed to disseminate breaking news about science to visitors in the museum. A continuous and permeable moebius strip of LEDs interspersed with projections would allow visitors to view streaming information from all sides of the atrium. A simple ladder-rung structure consists of an outer aluminum edge rail joined together by intermittent rungs. Plexi ribs supporting the LED's and translucent plexi projection surfaces span between the edge rails. Visitors can dynamically select topics or upload information from various points along the mezanine handrails." (Via Future Feeder.)

Whitley Strieber sounds off again, this time raising some fascinating ideas about what "alien abduction" might be all about.
God vs. Darwin: no contest

"'Intelligent design' boils down to the claim sarcastically summed up by aerospace engineer and science consultant Rand Simberg on his blog, Transterrestrial Musings: 'I'm not smart enough to figure out how this structure could evolve, therefore there must have been a designer.' Simberg, a political conservative, concludes that this argument 'doesn't belong in a science classroom, except as an example of what's not science.'

"The notion that the teaching of evolution is some kind of left-wing plot is, to put it plainly, absurd. In addition to the people mentioned above, opponents of teaching 'intelligent design' as an alternative scientific viewpoint include John H. Marburger III, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. Earlier this year at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Marburger responded to an audience question by stating point-blank that 'intelligent design is not a scientific theory' or even a scientific topic."
The European Space Agency's Mars Express has returned a reasonably close-up but disappointingly fuzzy image of the Cydonia region, showing the Face, D&M Pyramid and portions of the City area.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Freeze-dried mats of microbes awaken in Antarctic streambed

"An experiment in a dry Antarctic stream channel has shown that a carpet of freeze-dried microbes that lay dormant for two decades sprang to life one day after water was diverted into it, said a University of Colorado at Boulder researcher.

"The results showed the resilience of life in the harsh polar environment, where temperatures are below freezing for most of the year and glacial melt water flows for only five to 12 weeks annually, said Professor Diane McKnight of CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Such research on life in extreme environments is of high interest to astrobiologists, who consider Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys an analogue for Mars because of its inhospitable climate and intermittent water flow."

The Spirit Mars rover's landing ensemble inadvertently uncovered a similar organic-looking "mat" when it retracted its airbags. JPL, of course, made a point to drive right past -- unfortunately typical behavior for the ongoing "search for life" on Mars.
The Failed States Index

"French President Jacques Chirac has spoken of 'the threat that failed states carry for the world's equilibrium.' World leaders once worried about who was amassing power; now they worry about the absence of it." (Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Crop Circles Decoded

I'm highly skeptical of claims that crop glyphs are anything but terrestrial (if expeditious) examples of landscape art. The article above is decidedly "pro-ET" in its interpretation, but I find it interesting that it provides circumstantial evidence supporting the high-level rumor that some crop designs are "painted" by military satellites (presumably using microwave lasers).
'Strange things' along Pacific Coast waters

"Marine biologists are seeing mysterious and disturbing things along the Pacific Coast this year: higher water temperatures, plummeting catches of fish, lots of dead birds on the beaches, and perhaps most worrisome, very little plankton -- the tiny organisms that are a vital link in the ocean food chain.

"Is this just one freak year? Or is this global warming?

"Few scientists are willing to blame global warming, the theory that carbon dioxide and other manmade emissions are trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere and causing a worldwide rise in temperatures. Yet few are willing to rule it out."

Note that global warming is identified as a "theory." Yeah, just a "theory" folks. Carry on.
I just found out the upcoming Discovery documentary will be filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico instead of at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. This is good news, as I've never been to New Mexico. And the location features a mock-up of the Martian surface which might be the closest I get to the Red Planet. . . although I still haven't dismissed hope of going there in person. (Can you imagine what the Spirit and Opportunity rovers would bring in on eBay?)

And since this is the celebrated "Land of Enchantment," maybe I'll finally see a UFO . . .

Monday, August 08, 2005

The dancer on the right is "Elizabeth" (not her real name), a professor/choreographer at a local university with whom I've spent much of the last two days. She likes books. She likes coffee. She likes cats.

I strongly suspect she's living proof that not all women in the Midwest are pretentious bores.

And I'd come this close to conceding utter defeat.
Alaskan people tell of climate change

"For the past 20 years climatologists and ice and atmosphere scientists have been working in Alaska studying climate change.

"Now they have discovered a rich new source of records extending their knowledge back by decades through the oral history of native Alaskans."

The Bush administration needs to sic Michael Crichton on these obviously delusional Alaskans as soon as possible. Things could get out of hand.
If Evidence Of Ancient Civilizations Are Discovered Elsewhere In The Galaxy, Will You Lose Your Religion?

This engagingly idiotic article cites "Chariots of the Gods?" author Erich von Daniken as an arguable "father of modern ufology." What the hell?
Remote-Controlled Humans

"NTT researchers also point, rather improbably, to GVS's potential for collision avoidance. A demonstration video shows a young man walking down the street nearly run over by a passing motorcycle, steered to safety at the last minute by a guardian angel wielding a remote control." (Via

I bet Republicans would secretly love to develop a new and better version of this. Just think of the applications. Why bother with such primitive devices as rigged voting machines when the actual voters can be reduced to a compliant neurological marionettes? And that's just for starters.

Wait . . . I feel this sudden, overwhelming urge to plaster my car with "Support Our Troops" magnets! Can't . . . resist . . .

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Now this is cyberpunk!

Fancy Meets Function on Runway

"A wide array of looks were on display, from a Burning Manesque electro-luminescent wire hodgepodge, to remixed Victorian, to what can only be described as 'extreme android makeover,' complete with platform Goth boots and long, metallic hair tendrils."
I woke up to find this praying mantis clinging to my screen.

Mantises are creepy and beautiful: pure lethal functionality translated into green chitin, yet delicate as origami.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Why the future could be British

"For the first time in its 63-year history, all the writers nominated for the prestigious Hugo award for the best novel are British."

Bruce Sterling nails it:

"Ambitious sci-fi scribbling Britons can further exult in the fact that their Prime Minister understands global warming and isn't a Creationist."
The hoopla raised by the discovery of an unexplained equatorial ridge on Iapetus has almost overshadowed Saturn's other "Death Star" moon.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A sizeable crowd of godly people had set up a virtual "ops center" in the intersection outside Barnes & Noble this evening, complete with poorly drawn posters of eternal damnation and sallow, blank-eyed little kids wielding gospel tracts. And of course the requisite bearded fuck shouting at the top of his lungs.

The worst part about these demonstrations is the way the kids are enlisted to help with the cause. Striding past with my coffee, I almost felt sorry for them. Which is more than I can say for the little kids harassing pedestrians up the street as part of a "fundraiser" for their basketball ambitions.

Since the Face on Mars has generated a fair number of comments here lately, I thought I'd remind everyone to take a look at my itemized "debunking" tactics. (Don't worry; a more expansive version is forthcoming.)
A step toward the $1,000 personal genome using readily available lab equipment

"The theoretical price of having one's personal genome sequenced just fell from the prohibitive $20 million dollars to about $2.2 million, and the goal is to reduce the amount further--to about $1,000--to make individualized prevention and treatment realistic." (Via

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hiroshima Film Cover-up Exposed

"More recently, McGovern declared that Americans should have seen the damage wrought by the bomb. 'The main reason it was classified was ... because of the horror, the devastation,' he said. Because the footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was hidden for so long, the atomic bombings quickly sank, unconfronted and unresolved, into the deeper recesses of American awareness, as a costly nuclear arms race, and nuclear proliferation, accelerated." (Via UFO Reflections.)

And still we live in a nation where vehicles sport stickers advocating we "Bomb Mecca" and urging the patriotic to "Nuke the Bastards." This empathic vacuum, sick and absurd, is far more dangerous than the nuclear weapons themselves.

More Kaku . . .

The Physics of Interstellar Travel

"Similarly, investigations into UFO's that may originate from another planet are sometimes the 'third rail' of someone's scientific career. There is no funding for anyone seriously looking at unidentified objects in space, and one's reputation may suffer if one pursues an interest in these unorthodox matters. In addition, perhaps 99% of all sightings of UFO's can be dismissed as being caused by familiar phenomena, such as the planet Venus, swamp gas (which can glow in the dark under certain conditions), meteors, satellites, weather balloons, even radar echoes that bounce off mountains. (What is disturbing, to a physicist however, is the remaining 1% of these sightings, which are multiple sightings made by multiple methods of observations. Some of the most intriguing sightings have been made by seasoned pilots and passengers aboard air line flights which have also been tracked by radar and have been videotaped. Sightings like this are harder to dismiss.)"

Paul Kimball correctly notes that Kaku's 1% is mistaken; in reality, a higher percentage of UFO sightings remains unexplained. Moreover, as discovered by the Air Force's defunct Project Blue Book, the most vexing cases involve reliable observers -- the opposite of what pseudoskeptics would have us believe.
We Are the Web

"This planet-sized computer is comparable in complexity to a human brain. Both the brain and the Web have hundreds of billions of neurons (or Web pages). Each biological neuron sprouts synaptic links to thousands of other neurons, while each Web page branches into dozens of hyperlinks. That adds up to a trillion 'synapses' between the static pages on the Web. The human brain has about 100 times that number - but brains are not doubling in size every few years. The Machine is." (Via

Insert remark about the Singularity here.
Send your name to Pluto.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Collapse of Antarctic Ice Shelf Unprecedented

"The Antarctic Peninsula is undergoing greater warming than almost anywhere on Earth, a condition perhaps associated with human-induced greenhouse effects. According to the cover article published in the August 4 issue of the journal Nature, the spectacular collapse of the Antarctica's Larson B Ice Shelf, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, is unprecedented during the past 10,000 years."

Our planet is falling to pieces -- and we get to watch! Sort of a bizarre realization. In a perverse anthropic sense, we're actually quite privileged to be front-row to stuff like this. And it's only going to get better, folks!
Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say

"The plan would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads on top of the rockets - as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

"By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price."

Unfortunately, as Kyle King points out, this "new" design is a disconcerting throwback to Apollo-era technology. And although it might be a workable temporary fix, I'd rather see real progress made toward creating a space elevator.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush endorses teaching 'intelligent design' theory in schools

"President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and 'intelligent design' Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life." (Via Ollapodrida.)

Kind of ironic coming from a guy who could pass for a chimpanzee.
Apparently I'm subscribed to the Universist newsletter; I got an email instructing me to blog this news item. So here you go:

Atheists claim discrimination

"'My first thought was that this is a potential red flag -- this group could be disruptive if they met,' says Anderson. 'Also, the sheer number could be disruptive, regardless of whether they are courteous and good patrons or not.'"

Quite honestly, I don't give a damn about the Universists' plight. They harbor a justified disdain for religion but naively play by religion's rules, forming silly little groups and holding ineffectual meetings where, I assume, they can prattle about being persecuted. Fuck 'em.

It's true, incidentally, that atheists and agnostics -- indeed, "free-thinkers" of any type -- are discriminated against. But I have no sympathy for individuals who congeal into activist groups that pretend to speak on behalf of the faithless among us; in fact, I have great difficulty differentiating such granfalloons* from the God-loving organizations they enjoy complaining about.

If we're to exterminate religion, it will only be because we're wise enough to ignore it.

*By the way, there's a restaurant called The Granfalloon down the street from me. Someone who knows me superficially might assume I'd like it, since its name is taken from a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors. But you go inside and it's just the same goddamned thing you see everywhere else: young, yuppie-ish types with their identical girlfriends drinking heavily and watching sports on TV and thinking they're incredibly with it despite probably never having read anything by Kurt Vonnegut.
Twister clouds surprise residents

"The phenomenon on Monday night was hundreds of feet high and lasted up to 20 minutes - much longer than the average two minutes.

"Mandy Doyle, who lives in High Littleton said: 'It was the scariest thing I've ever seen. Something out of a movie.'"

England seems well on its way to becoming a post-greenhouse tornado mecca. Quick, hand me my copy of Bruce Sterling's "Heavy Weather"!
Here be dragons . . .
They Sing the Comet Electric

"According to the model, comets are not inert balls of ice and rocky dust particles aggregated into a 'dirty iceball' as standard comet theory holds. Instead, they are solid, asteroid-like rocks, containing little ice. Negatively charged with electricity, their motion through the positively charged solar wind triggers electrical discharges. These, not vaporized ice, produce the characteristic comet glow and tail."

I think the "Electric Universe" gang's insistence that electrical phenomena produce the distinctive tails of comets is ridiculous. But I'm willing to hear them out regarding cometary composition, as their idea inadvertantly supports Tom Van Flandern's hypothesis that comets are shards of an exploded planet that once orbited between Mars and Jupiter. If comets are indeed rocky and asteroid-like (and as of this writing it's still too early to confidently assess the Deep Impact mission results), our understanding of our solar system's formation is frighteningly incomplete.
Hot enough for you? June-July top the all-time charts

"This will come as little consolation for anybody who has steadfastly sworn that the sticky summer of 2005 has been the hottest ever:

"You're right.

"With two days left in this month, it's shaping up as the hottest June-July recorded in several eastern cities, according to data compiled by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University."

Monday, August 01, 2005


(Thanks to No Touch Monkey!)
Scientists sound alarm on Arctic ice cap

"Satellite data for the month of June show Arctic sea ice has shrunk to a record low, raising concerns about climate change, coastal erosion, and changes to wildlife patterns."
Disturbing shuttle discoveries

"The space station is one of those ventures that seemed like a good idea at the outset but continues mainly due to force of inertia. While it produces little if any cutting-edge science, it also fails to inspire Americans with the romance of space exploration, since it merely chugs along in orbit, with a small crew performing experiments that could be done by machines."