Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some See Jesus On Truck Tailgate

An image on a truck tailgate has sparked a new wave of religious pilgrims in Texas.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Enough said.
Rudy Rucker: Is quantum mechanics an illusion?
The Phantom Time Hypothesis

When Dr. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz introduces his paper on the "phantom time hypothesis," he kindly asks his readers to be patient, benevolent, and open to radically new ideas, because his claims are highly unconventional. This is because his paper is suggesting three difficult-to-believe propositions: 1) Hundreds of years ago, our calendar was polluted with 297 years which never occurred; 2) this is not the year 2005, but rather 1708; and 3) The purveyors of this hypothesis are not crackpots.

(Via PAG E-News.)

If this doesn't sound like the plot for a never-written Philip K. Dick novel, I don't know what does.
This is from August, but it got my attention:

Chemtrails Are Over Las Vegas

Government officials deny that anything unusual is taking place, yet increasing numbers of concerned observers are seeing 727-like aircraft painted "all-white with a black stripe up the middle of fuselage" laying long and often cries-crossing chemtrail patterns over Southern Nevada and elsewhere. None of the planes carry identifying markings.

I witnessed a large number of apparent jet contrails while in St. Louis several weeks ago. The sky looked something like a Piet Mondrian painting. I spent a day gawking, unsure if the spectacle was normal for the area or if the trails were anomalous and unrelated to aircraft propulsion. As always, the primary hurdle for "chemtrail" spotters is overcoming basic ignorance of what actual contrails look like.

Personally, I think a bit of healthy paranoia is called for. I think civilians should organize formal "counts" of contrail/chemtrail phenomena and share their findings in an agenda-free context. While it wouldn't be particularly surprising to find we're the unwitting recipients of some black-ops chemical warfare experiment (or the beneficiaries of a secret attempt to cool the atmosphere), I think it would be at least as empowering to discover that the nefarious "chemtrails" are a mythological artifact.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Do you read this blog with any regularity? If so, I'd like to know where you're from. Click here, add yourself to the official Posthuman Blues Geographical Matrix and upload a photo (if you'd like).

Entering your meatspace coordinates ensures that PB nanobots can track your movements with unprecedented accuracy -- and it's fun!
One step closer to eternal youth

The geneticists behind the study say the increase in lifespan is so striking, they may have tapped into one of the most fundamental mechanisms that controls the rate at which living creatures age.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Oh, the possibilities . . .
There Is No God

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.
I'm guessing this alleged alien footage is a clip from some straight-to-video science fiction movie. Anyone know which one?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Instead of looking down on the Plaza Lighting Ceremony from my apartment (my usual ritual), I took in the festivities from ground zero. "Elizabeth" had choreographed one of the dance acts leading up the actual Throwing of the Switch, so I spent the first half of the show sipping coffee from the comfort of a makeshift below-ground staging area.

The lighting culminated in a fireworks display. Elizabeth and I weathered the subsequent mad exodus from the Plaza in my apartment, then descended to the anarchic streets. (RVs like giant metal cocoons; barely glimpsed tourists wielding champagne bottles.)

We're thinking of moving in together, probably within the next couple months. The apartment we have our eyes on is one of the best I've seen from within: hardwood and black-and-white checkered floors, lots of room for books and knick-knacks, and a nice view of the fountain court below.

Meanwhile, my own apartment is ailing from neglected water damage, the discolored plaster walls bulging like the landscape of some Jovian moon.
Weirdness awaits . . .

(Found at Busy, Busy, Busy.)
Alchemy and Transmutation -- Changing and Creating Things and People

Many scientists are eagerly exploring how people can be transmutated into some superior form of humanity through the convergence of nano-bio-info-cogno technologies. The hope is not only to improve humanity but to more firmly control human evolution in order to create bodies and brains that are more durable, easier to repair and more resistant to disease, stress and aging. By merging biology and electronics, bioartificial replacement parts for the lungs, pancreas, kidneys and limbs can be created. Artificial muscles can be made out of electroactive polymers. Biogerontology will result in the reversal of aging -- "engineered negligible senescence." We seem to be moving with surprising speed toward what Ray Kurzweil calls "Human Body Version 2.0" -- the new re-engineered human that will eliminate or overcome "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."

(Via PAG E-News.)
Scientists, be on guard ... ET might be a malicious hacker

As if spotty teenagers releasing computer viruses on to the internet from darkened rooms were not enough of a headache. According to a scientific report, planet Earth's computers are wide open to a virus attack from Little Green Men.

Come to think of it, Seth Shostak would makes a good spokesman for McAfee.
The Big Thaw

The two developments -- the most alarming manifestations of climate change to date -- suggest that the ice cap is melting far more rapidly than scientists had thought, with immense consequences for civilisation and the planet. Its complete disappearance would raise the levels of the world’s seas by 20 feet, spelling inundation for London and other coastal cities around the globe, along with much of low-lying countries such as Bangladesh.
Looking for alien intelligence in the computational universe

Instead of scanning the heavens for alien radio broadcasts, he thinks we should be looking much closer to home. Much, much closer: ET could be living or working with you. But the truly amazing thing about Wolfram's claim is that he believes all the knowledge we stand to gain from an extraterrestrial intelligence - surely the best reason for getting to know the alien in the first place - is already ours for the taking. We don't have to find ET; we can start the search for this ultimate knowledge right now.

You have to subscribe to New Scientist to read this one in its entirety. Damn.
Don't fuck with a moon-walker.

(Thanks to The Anomalist.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Introducing Clifford Pickover's new blog, Godlorica. Bookmark now!
Two cool cyberpunk chicks: Alicia Framis and Lynn Hershman Leeson.
I want George Clooney's car.

Canada Defense Minister in UFO Shocker

Hellyer said, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning." He also stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Good fucking grief. Firstly, Hellyer's use of the word "intergalactic" is suspect; if ETs are here, why assume they're from another galaxy when it seems more likely they'd be from another star in our own Milky Way?

Secondly, the presumption that we're on the verge of some sort of military conflict with space visitors not only assumes we're worthy of the envy of "intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic," but implies that we could expect a fair fight. If an interstellar foe indeed wanted to wage war, I doubt we'd have a chance. (Of course, this begs the question of why we haven't already been overrun by marauding aliens.)

If a truly intergalactic civilization wanted (for whatever reason) to engage us in a George Lucas-style conflict, we'd likewise be at its mercy. We might not even recognize an intergalactic intelligence in our midst for the simple reason that it would belie even our best science fictional portrayals; it would probably seem less threatening than simply alien -- and loaded with all the existential implications that implies.

I am, of course, biased. I expect that confirmation of nonhuman intelligence -- should it occur -- will be a subtle, enigmatic process. The "first contact" scenario in "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- or even those in "Close Encounters" and "Contact" -- strike me as more "realistic" than some shock-and-awe assault from the depths of space.

Maybe I'm simply erring on the side of optimism. After all, the unseen aliens of "2001" and "Contact" have a vested interest in humanity's survival, and I'd certainly prefer to think beings more advanced than ourselves could bypass the all-too-human inclination for tribal warfare.

Someone like Hellyer could argue -- not entirely without justification -- that my predisposition to expect benevolent ETs is merely a way of dismissing fears of H.G. Wellsian conquest while elevating our own importance in the galactic hierarchy. And perhaps he'd be right.

But when I look at the night sky I'm not afraid -- at least, not in a xenophobic sense. And while I think the UFO phenomenon poses genuine challenges to our perception of life and intelligence in the Cosmos, I think it's childish and premature to equate the unknown with something as simple as an impending invasion by trigger-happy alien warlords.
Tuneful icebergs reveal an unsung secret

"It's like something from a horror film," says Vera Schlindwein, a geophysicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. The songs can vary, from resembling bees buzzing to something more melodic, like a string orchestra, she says.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Just as amazing as the sounds from Saturn! Someone -- perhaps Brian Eno or David Byrne -- should compose a whole album crafted from this kind of stuff.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Living photos use bacteria as pixels

"We estimate that the resolution of these photographs is about 100 Megapixels, or about ten times better than high-resolution printers. The difference is that we can print gene expression."

What a singular medium in which to behold the Flying Spaghetti Monster reproduced in all of His noodly glory!
SETI@home killed off

The workunit totals of users and teams will be frozen at that point, and the final totals will be available on the web.

The BOINC site will allow boffins to build other volunteer computing projects in areas like molecular biology, high-energy physics, and climate change study.

Before I started exclusively using my laptop, I ran SETI@home regularly, typically finishing a work unit a week. (My old CRT monitor still bears pixelated scars from the experience.) I cringe when I see offices full of computers doing nothing but cyling through cosmetic screen-savers.

I've been pondering a distributed computing effort called "AI@home." It doesn't exist -- at least not that I know of -- but maybe it should. And I see no reason why the software behind attempts such as the Lunascan Project can't be doled out to PCs as part of an ongoing search for anomalies on planetary surfaces.
Hayabusa Landed on Itokawa Successfully

Officials from the Japanese space agency (JAXA) announced yesterday that Hayabusa successfully touched down on asteroid Itokawa last weekend, bounced at least once, and spent 39 minutes "resting" on the surface. It then launched back up into space again. Unfortunately, it failed to drop equipment that would allow it to collect samples from the asteroid's surface. Hayabusa will head back to the potato-shaped asteroid on Friday and attempt another landing.
Scott Adams ("Dilbert") could teach pseudoskeptics like Michael Shermer and Seth Shostak a thing or two.

Two gems from Results of Why I'm Stupid:

6. Hallucinate entirely different points. For example, if someone says apples grow on trees, accuse him of saying snakes have arms and then point out how stupid that is.

7. Use the intellectual laziness card. For example, if someone says that ice is cold, recommend that he take graduate courses in chemistry and meteorology before jumping to stupid conclusions that display a complete ignorance of the complexity of ice.

In addition, be sure to check out Dan Drasin's Zen . . . And the Art of Debunkery and my own list of helpful hints for Face on Mars critics.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Spirit Wraps Up a Martian Year of Exploration

Spirit, the untiring robotic "wonder child" sent by NASA to explore the eerily earthlike fourth planet from the sun, has completed one martian year--that's almost two Earth years--on Mars. Designed to last only 90 martian days (sols), the six-wheeled marvel the size of a golf cart has pursued a steady course of solar-driven geologic fieldwork, bringing back some 70,000 images and a new understanding of Mars as a potential habitat.

Anyone who honestly believes that the MERs were designed to last "only 90 martian days" should stand on his head. At the same time, it's interesting to consider our casual acceptance of the Mars rovers, which have come to seem like permanent fixtures on the Red Planet; I have a nightmarish vision of one or both of them outlasting human civilization as we know it, mutely imploring Earth for new instructions as we struggle for breath on the uncompromising shore of a new century.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! (Regular posting to resume tomorrow.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

We're Doomed!

The Singularity, for those not yet up to speed, is currently touted as not only as the Next Big Thing in sci-fi/speculative fiction -- the logical successor to cyberpunk -- but also as a science-fact apex of technological development when, maybe some three decades hence, the computer will overtake the human mind, and man and machine will meld into some as-yet-undefined ├╝ber-being.

I'm a Singularity agnostic.

Yes, I think computers will approximate something like self-awareness within my biological lifetime. I think nanotechnology will revolutionize industry and likely democratize space exploration beyond the imagination of even the keenest of NASA-watchers. And I suspect biomedicine will ultimately eliminate aging -- if not in 20 years, then almost certainly in 200.

But futurists must concede that the Singularity, as popularly envisioned, might never occur. Our projections may be off the mark; our extrapolated future might be jarringly incorrect. To say nothing of the obstacles littering our path into the next century, which may well prove to be humankind's most dire and decisive.

Perhaps the Singularity will take place in stages, each providing much-needed ammunition to our impending battle for survival but failing to deliver the near-instantaneous intellectual and material harvest suggested by authors like Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross. Such a "time-delay" Singularity may ensure our survival, but seem underwhelming by today's science fictional standards. It may even go unnoticed, save for a relative handful of attentive bloggers and science journalists.

In time, we might hope to catch up with it, in which case it will have served its purpose. But somehow the concept of a "diluted" technological renaissance is less sexy than the alternative offered by Ray Kurzweil, whose new book is stoking interest in our collective future even as it renders it suspiciously inevitable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Psychologist: 'Alien' faces are none other than Mother

In fact, when Malmstrom optically altered a photo of a woman in a way consistent with the characteristics of a newborn's vision -- astigmatism, an extremely shallow focal plane -- the resulting face looked remarkably like those big-eyed aliens drawn by self-declared abductees, he reports in the latest issue of the magazine Skeptic, which features scholarly articles on the paranormal and other extraordinary claims.

Very interesting -- and certainly more intelligible than the "birth trauma" hypothesis, which compares the "Gray" face to that of a human fetus. While I'm not sure this latest spin explains perceived abductions, I think it deserves methodical follow-up.

Interestingly enough, none other than contactee extraordinaire Whitley Strieber was the first (to my knowledge) to propose a female archetypical origin for "alien" encounters (see "Communion").
Early Earth Wasn't So Hellish

"This is a radical departure from conventional wisdom regarding the Hadean Earth," said Professor Harrison.

"But these ancient zircons represent the only geological record we have for that period of Earth history and thus the stories they tell take precedence over myths that arose in the absence of observational evidence."

"The simplest explanation of all the evidence is that essentially from its formation, the planet fell into a dynamic regime that has persisted to the present day."

I wonder if Mars experienced a comparable geological renaissance.
Rudy Rucker tells it like it is:

Science fiction is writing that analyzes some fast-changing aspect of society by extrapolating current trends into the future or into an alternate world. Traditionally science fiction has certain standard tropes that it uses, but new ones are being developed all the time --- I'm thinking of things like blaster guns, spaceships, time machines, aliens, telepathy, flying saucers, warped space, faster-than-light travel, holograms, immersive virtual reality, robots, teleportation, endless shrinking, levitation, antigravity, generation starships, ecodisaster, blowing up Earth, pleasure-center zappers, mind viruses, the attack of the giant ants, and the fourth dimension. I call these our "power chords," analogous to the heavy chords that rock bands use.

When a writer uses an SF power chord, there's an implicit understanding with the informed readers that this is indeed familiar ground. And it's expected the writer will do something fresh with the trope.

This implicit contract isn't honored by mainstream writers who dip a toe into "speculative fiction". These cosseted mandarins tend not be aware of just how familiar are the chords they strum. To have seen a single episode of Star Trek twenty years ago is sufficient SF research for them! And their running-dog lickspittle lackey mainstream critics are certainly not going to call their club-members to task over failing to create original SF. After all (think they), science-fiction writers and readers are subnormal cretins who cannot possibly have made any significant advances over the most superficial and well-known representations, and we should only be grateful when a real writer stoops to filch bespattered icons from our filthy wattle huts.

Don't misunderstand; some mainstream authors who dabble in SF are quite good -- I'm thinking of John Updike ("Toward the End of Time") and Margaret Atwood ("The Handmaid's Tale").

The problem, as Rucker points out, is the critical establishment's unadulterated fawning, which relegates worthy SF to the ghetto of geekdom. (One unfortunate by-product of this marginalization is the success of "techno-thrillers" by the likes of Michael Crichton, who shamelessly steal SF tropes and repackage them for dumbed-down audiences, all the while thinking they're operating at the genre's bleeding edge.)

Of course, some SF writers manage to make the arbitrary transition from "science fiction" to "literature" -- but usually posthumously, as in the case of Philip K. Dick.
Industrial Origami: Hope for economical space station design?
Blog of the day:
I've finally decided to go back to school and get my Master's degree (and possibly my Ph.D. while I'm at it). I'm profoundly tired with my "meatspace" life; all is a dreary succession of forgettable busywork and superficiality. Enough. I want to work in an academic setting where my writing habit is encouraged, not looked upon with puzzlement or dismissed as a pointless eccentricity. So I'm casting myself upon strange new shores in a bid for change, cheerfully -- if a bit apprehensively -- dismissing my previous mostly bad college experience.

So there's actually a chance I'll be "Professor Tonnies" in a couple years. I can live with that.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The other night I watched "Communion" on DVD. "Communion" is a true independent film, and actually benefits from its modest budget (quite unlike the lavish budgets usually equated with Hollywood "alien" movies).

In "Communion," the "Gray" aliens are spindly marionettes. And they look like marionettes, despite efforts to make them look weird and forbidding. But this only makes them more cryptic -- more alien. And, fittingly, more in line with the dilemma of the main character, who spends the first half of the movie questioning the actuality of his encounters.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cyberpunk luminary/Viridian pope-emperor/design maven Bruce Sterling has just married -- and he's leaving Jesusland for the greener pastures of Belgrade.

Aside from keeping my bookshelves stocked with provoking, witty science fiction (I recommend "Schismatrix," a posthuman space-opera predating Ken MacLeod and Charles Stross), Sterling was kind enough to lend a cover blurb to my debut short-story collection, "Illumined Black." (The magnitude of this favor can only be appreciated if you've actually read the stories.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hey, kids! Have you or someone you love been killed or displaced by climate change or nasty terrorist attacks? Well, FEMA for Kids wants a word with you! (Or, more specifically, Herman, the site's affable official "spokescrab"!)

For extra-special fun, sharpen your crayons and download "A Scary Thing Happened"!

Remember: Being afraid is patriotic!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Be awed by the cosmos

"Techno-sublime" is how Leesa Fanning, the museum's assistant curator of modern and contemporary art, describes Manglano-Ovalle's piece, which is really a cosmic "lie."

The thousands of lights twinkling across the three huge screens in the darkened gallery are not a video of outer space but a computer-generated digital invention.

Nor does this continuous display loop like a video. At the end of each 15-minute cycle, in which 10,000 to 300,000 "stars" appear on the screens, the computer regenerates a whole new cosmos.

In his cyber way, the artist plays God.

"Vanishing Sky" -- while not exactly awe-inspiring -- is an effective piece of conceptual art that has less to do with the majesty of the Cosmos than the powers of computatation. The forever-regenerating starscape recalls Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument and Rudy Rucker's "universal automatism." I found myself drawn to the imaginary worlds promised by the endlessly synthesized stars.

Ironically, the piece actually benefits from the discreetly illuminated sound-board affixed to the far wall; it pulsates with LEDs that suggest an abiding intelligence like that of Clarke and Kubrick's HAL 9000.
On Ohio Flatland, a Megachurch's Eye-Catcher Dominates

Drive another quarter-mile up Interstate 75, past the billboards for Bristol's Strip Club and Trader's World Flea Market, and suddenly the image appears in all its full dimensions. Jesus, depicted from the waist up, is six stories tall and seems to burst from the ground, as if he might gather a tractor-trailer in his Honda-size hands and lift it to heaven.

(Via Exploding Aardvark.)

I just love seeing what the humans will come up with next.
That's one prolific chicken . . .
Just when you think you've seen every possible online dating service, along comes

From their site:

There are basically two groups in America. Group one, their life revolves around four dollar cups of coffee, taxis cabs, blue suits, high heels, conference rooms and getting ahead at all costs in the corporate world. If you fall into this group you're probably in the wrong place. Group two, enjoys blue skies, wide open spaces, raising animals, appreciating nature and truly understand the meaning of southern hospitality, even if you don't live in the south.

Funny . . . I don't seem to fall into either group (except for the four-dollar coffee part). I'm personally much more comfortable in my own island universe of ubiquitous Internet access, contemporary art, cosmology, Martian enigmas, and R.E.M.
Gene turn-off makes meek mice fearless

Deactivating a specific gene transforms meek mice into daredevils, researchers have found. The team believe the research might one day enable people suffering from fear -- in the form of phobias or anxiety disorders, for example -- to be clinically treated.


Perhaps in an ideal world. I think it's more likely DARPA will seize on this as a way to create better, badder soldiers.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rupert Sheldrake:

It's easy to be a media skeptic. You get the last word. You can say what you like. You don't have to spend years doing actual research. And you yourself can remain immune from criticism, because those you criticize have no right of reply. [. . .]

The problem seems to be in part that the media feel the need to present a "balanced" view, and this creates an opportunity for negative skeptics to pursue their agenda. Well-funded skeptical advocacy organizations like CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, concentrate their attention on getting their message into the media as often as possible, always with the privilege of the last word. They are very successful. Some TV channels, including National Geographic in its current "Is It Real?" series, have allowed themselves to become mass-market vehicles for organized skepticism.

If the media want to give a balanced view, one simple solution would be to reverse the normal procedure. Ask the skeptics to speak first, saying why they think something like telepathy is impossible, and then let those who have carried out real investigations present actual evidence. Better still, create a level playing field. Allow replies. This would be much more interesting for readers and viewers.

Unfortunately, media skeptics like Michael Shermer seem to be afraid of real debates. I would love to see a televised dialogue between you and him, with equal time on both sides. But I think he would do his best to avoid such an encounter. (Via The Anomalist.)

The irony is that real skepticism is a priceless intellectual tool. But Shermer and his associates prefer to cling to pseudoskepticism when faced with phenomena outside their realm of expertise. Consequently, the media's perception of "skepticism" has become a flaccid caricature. We desperately need to jettison this shopworn false dichotomy.

I found this gallery while running a Google image search for "posthuman." Man, these chicks sure dig meat lockers.

A reader sent me this screen-capture. Something's obviously wrong. Has anyone else noticed anything like this? Is it a problem with Mozilla? Just curious.
Mars Express radar data analysis is on the move

The MARSIS experiment will map the Martian sub-surface structure to a depth of a few kilometres. The instrument's 40-metre long antenna booms will send low frequency radio waves towards the planet, which will be reflected from any surface they encounter.

(Via Science Blog.)

My initial reaction is to speculate on how this capability will impact the Cydonia controversy. To my own chagrin, I predict it will do little to advance the Artificiality Hypothesis, as the features in question are probably "earthworks" not entirely like those on Earth.

But the possibility that the Mars formations were constructed from something other than rock can't be excluded.
Microbes in Marine Sediments React to Temperature Changes

"Microbial processes involved in organic carbon breakdown are extremely sensitive to even small changes in temperature," said Joye. "These results suggest that global climate change may influence the efficiency of organic carbon recycling," impacting coastal ecosystems.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Alien Artifacts in the Solar System?

As the object continued to approach Earth, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in La Silla, Chile, began tracking with a 60-inch telescope. At this point, the media became aware that something was going on and press statements were issued. Meanwhile, the ESO team (astronomers Richard West, Olivier Hainaut, and Alain Smette) conducted precise measurements of the "winking" and confirmed that the phenomenon was reminiscent of the pulsations of light observed on reflective, rotating artificial satellites.

(Via PAG E-News.)

Start choreographing now!
Climate warriors and heroes

Global warming is a planetary emergency everywhere but in the White House. While the Bush administration fiddles, the rest of the world burns with concern about the earth's rising temperature. With our industries billowing a relentless stream of gases into the atmosphere, trapping heat, we're decimating our natural ecosystems, exacting an incalculable toll on our planet and future health.

The climate warriors and heroes honored here embody the environment's best defense. They are scientists, ministers, students, politicians, activists, lawyers, celebrities, inventors, and world leaders. As Al Gore says in his accompanying essay, they share little in common. "But each of them recognized the threat that climate change poses to the planet -- and responded by taking immediate action to stop it," Gore writes.
If Hoberman Transformable Design can't do it, nobody can.
Virtual teachers aimed at better learning

Humanlike software agents are being developed to improve learning by providing computers with friendly facial expressions, soothing hand gestures and attractive voices.

And whopping breasts, if the illustration is any indication.
Chris Wren has cranked out two posts about our planet and universe that deserve a wide audience.

The Joy of Mediocrity

If our solar system is a typical template, the chances for life in the universe would not be looking that great. But instead we find already an incredible variety of configurations, and that suggests to me that the universe is capable of far more variety than we thought - and that's one of those really obvious things you tend to forget as you go through your cynical 20's and 30's.

The Most Mundane of All Worlds

How would our religions and politics have developed differently if anyone with a half-decent backyard telescope could look up and see two or more other blue-green worlds, obviously crawling with life of their own? What if by now, we could resolve on those worlds the unmistakeable signs of an industrial intelligence?
Google side-steps AI rumours

"'We are not scanning all those books to be read by people,' explained one of my hosts after my talk. 'We are scanning them to be read by an AI,'" Dyson wrote in a posting on following a visit to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Let's read the key sentence one more time:

"We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

One more time, in boldface:

"We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

(Special thanks to Patrick Huyghe.)
Click here for some positively whorish self-promotion.

Ufologist Kevin Randle comments on Nick Redfern's "Body Snatchers in the Desert":

BS In the Desert

In fact, Brown had an explanation for everything found on the ranch with the exception of the bodies. He did speculate, suggesting that some kind of flying wing, this one designed by Northrop, had crashed while carrying five chimpanzees dressed in silver flying suits. Since the experiment related to the space race, and since launch operations at White Sands had been closed down because of an accident in May 1947, those involved hid their mistake.

(Via The Other Side of Truth.)

Randle goes on to reject the possibility that the Roswell Incident was due to an experimental flight of any sort -- crewed by malformed humans or chimps. While he doesn't tell us anything we haven't heard before, his central gripe -- the extraordinary nature of the debris -- poses a hurdle for researchers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Looks like it's that time of year!
Pat Robertson Warns Pa. Town of Disaster

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday not to be surprised if disaster strikes there because "you just voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching "intelligent design."

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said Thursday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club."

(Via Ravynstone Abbey.)

I'm honestly surprised I snagged this before Jason did.
Are we in store for a "Green Scare"?

A Green China

Here's the good news: China's leaders and business community know it. They know that as China grows more prosperous, and more Chinese buy homes and cars, it must urgently adopt green technologies; otherwise, it will destroy its environment and its people. Green technology will decide whether China continues on its current growth path or chokes itself to death. So green innovation is starting to mushroom in China.

And what's the U.S. doing as green technology is emerging as the most important industry of the 21st century? Let's see: the Bush team is telling our manufacturers they don't have to improve auto mileage standards or appliance efficiency, is looking to ease regulations on oil refiners and is rejecting a gas tax that would help shift America to hybrid vehicles.
Information Aesthetics: "Form Follows Data."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Some UFOs for your consideration.
Neuroscientists break code on sight

"We want to know how the brain works to create intelligence," said Poggio, the Eugene McDermott Professor in Brain Sciences and Human Behavior. "Our ability to recognize objects in the visual world is among the most complex problems the brain must solve. Computationally, it is much harder than reasoning." Yet we take it for granted because it appears to happen automatically and almost unconsciously.


This is leading slowly but inexorably to one of my favorite science fiction gadgets -- an iPod-like portable dream recorder.
Decades of dumping chemical arms leave a risky legacy

The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.

A Daily Press investigation also found:

These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been informed of their existence.

The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years.

But wait! It gets better:

The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were destroyed.

OK. Say it's next year. Or the year after that or the year after that. Florida has just been hammered by yet another "freak" hurricane, and the survivors are succumbing to toxins long since consigned to the Gulf's dark obscurity. How will FEMA react to that (if at all)?
Engineering Aliens

"We may never find other life away from Earth, but we have already made aliens on this planet and we will continue to do so at an increasing pace," he said. "In the last five years we've come to realize that we can make microbial life in a lot more ways than Mother Earth did."

(Via The Anomalist.)

If life outside of Earth finds us first -- and I think there's evidence it already has -- then we should probably expect it to be engineered. A star-hopping civilization isn't likely to be satisfied with bodies made of meat; it will have long ago transcended to a neo- or post-biological state sure to challenge our very definition of "life."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hands-down site of the day: Human Upgrades. (Take your time.)

(Tip of the hat to Blake Dinsdale.)

Here I am with cyber-hipster/discordian vortex Cap'n Marrrk at Thai Pizza Co. Between my shirt and his beard, the joint fairly glowed. We didn't talk as much as we should have, in part because I was busy shoveling big saucy chunks of tofu into my mouth. That's meatspace for you.
Organ Printer Seeks Bio-Paper for Jam

We remember hearing about "organ printing" a long time ago. It sounded like a fanciful process of precisely layering different tissues, all while keeping the cells within oxygenated and happy.

Well, progress has been made. According to Deseret Morning News in Utah, organ printers now have a substrate, or bio-paper, with which to work.

(Via Future Feeder.)

Sooner or later, "organ fabbing" will be big. Really big. Artificial intelligence may even arrive in the form of a completely fabbed brain, perhaps that of a wealthy patient seeking a surrogate form of immortality.
Astronauts propose 'tractor-pull' of asteroid

That's a 99.98 per cent chance that the asteroid will miss Earth, according to NASA.

Yet the remote chance of catastrophe has set some great minds to thinking about how to divert this celestial body.

In Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, two NASA astronauts present their idea: deploying "asteroid tractor" -- an unmanned, 20-ton spacecraft that uses gravity to pull an asteroid gently into a new, non-threatening orbit.

(Via Betterhumans.)
The Cahokia Mounds are located in Collinsville, Illinois, not far from St. Louis. They're the remaining components of a highly geometric arrangement of structures used for functions ranging from habitation to human sacrifice. And they're eerily like some of the Martian formations thought by some to have been constructed by an unknown civilization.

The largest, in particular, is intriguingly similar to the "Face," with an artificial "framing mesa" and rounded hump that reminded me of the Face's simian "muzzle." I wish I'd come here before writing my Mars book.

From the peak, the remaining Cahokia complex is clearly visible. The mounds have begun to recede into the landscape and might easily pass for naturally occurring hills if not for their strange, lingering symmetry. If the Face or Cliff formations were in Cahokia -- or anywhere on Earth, for that matter -- they would draw immediate archaeological interest.

We sat on top of the primary mound for an hour or two watching the Sun descend into St. Louis.

Check out these suspiciously similar mounds in Iran:

Finally, the Face from above:


We all have one or more numeric codes that follow the blueprint of Sacred Geometry. It is about the spiraling of consciousness - Phi - Fibonacci - Golden Mean Spiral - found in perfection, in the exact porportions [sic] in the Great Pyramid - as a reminder of 12 around 1 (source) that create our reality. Reality - the spiral of consciousness as if through a slinky toy - or cones - through many levels of experience - at the same time - for the soul. The spiral gives the illusion of time - but once in meditation or dream state - or beyond the slinky - your frequency is too high - moving too fast - beyond linear time and space.

When you see a repetition of numbers, your DNA is being activated on some level. You are remembering that [ . . .] you are now returning to higher frequency vibration also called the return of the Feminine Energies - Rebirth - Christ Consciousness - Return of Jesus or another Savior - Evolution of Consciousness into total awareness - and so on. Many believe awakening ocmes [sic] through healing and the creation of balance - 11.

I think synchronicity might be a crack in our universe's computational substrate. Which begs the question: Are we meant to be aware of the crack, or have we discovered a flaw?
Oh, yeah -- Malin Space Science Systems has taken -- and actually released -- yet another high-resolution photo of the Face on Mars.

Remember Mike Malin's sustained rants about how near-impossibly difficult imaging the Face with the Mars Global Surveyor would be? Paradoxically enough, MSSS continues to target the Face despite a mostly apathetic "fringe" community.

What this means, simply, is that someone in charge of the MGS is interested in the Face for reasons of his own or else taking pains to foster that impression.
On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study

It has long been suspected that the government has been using satellites to read and control the minds of certain citizens. The use of aluminum helmets has been a common guerrilla tactic against the government's invasive tactics. Surprisingly, these helmets can in fact help the government spy on citizens by amplifying certain key frequency ranges reserved for government use. In addition, none of the three helmets we analyzed provided significant attenuation to most frequency bands.

We describe our experimental setup, report our results, and conclude with a few design guidelines for constructing more effective helmets.

(Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)
I'm back from St. Louis (pictures forthcoming). "Elizabeth" and I are thinking about opening a modest coffeeshop; it will have an outer-space theme (of course) and hopefully serve as a meatspace nodal point for some of the activity that colors my mental life. And yes, we'll have free Wi-Fi.

Lots of good stuff posted while I was away. Take Rudy Rucker's latest:

Computers Will Be Alive and Intelligent

So if we grant that human consciousness is a particular kind of physical process occurring in human bodies, and if we grant that physics is made up of deterministic computations, then we have to conclude that consciousness is a kind of computation.

I'm genuinely galled that sales of "The Lifebox, The Seashell and the Soul" aren't living up to Rucker's expectations (yet). Books with dialectic meat on their bones frighten readers and send reviewers positively cowering. Sometimes I wonder how "Apocalypse" would have done had I actually claimed telepathic contact with ancient Martians a la Courtney Brown's "Cosmic Voyage."*

*Not that I'd ever knowingly indulge in a literary hoax. Not only is the memesphere too precious, it's just not my thing. So if I ever do write a book about my personal dealing with Martians (or other extraterrestrials), you can be sure I'm telling the truth.

What's playing:

1.) Viva Hate (Morrissey)
2.) Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand)
3.) Reveal (R.E.M.)
4.) File Under Burroughs (various)
5.) Reality (David Bowie)

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm in St. Louis, where I've been looking at Indian mounds and Sumerian artifacts. Lots of blog-worthy stuff, but no time to post in any detail. I'll resume regularly scheduled programming soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm always on the lookout for inadvertently comical religious websites. This one definitely fills a void. (Thanks to Boing Boing.)

Note: I'm leaving town tomorrow. Posts this week may be infrequent or nonexistent . . . but not if I can help it.
"Elizabeth" took these pictures from the parking lot of the H.M.S. Beagle. At one point the clouds were lit in a way that suggested a nuclear blast. Very scenic.

Mars has been particularly visible in the night sky lately because of its recent opposition. I can't stop looking at it.
Since I started Posthuman Blues three years ago, I've maintained a pretty strict "no-pet" editorial guideline. I've mentioned my cats a few times, but I've quite purposefully refrained from posting pictures of them or otherwise doting.

Anyway, now, for whatever reason, I'm breaking my own rule. The following are pictures of my cats, Spook and Ebe. Bear with me; it won't happen again.



I acquired Spook in October, hence the name. "Ebe" is MJ-12 for "Extraterrestrial Biological Entity," which amuses my vet. I like to think we have a nice "family" thing going. It's amazing how nuanced cat behavior is -- I'd never really been around them before. My only previous mammalian pet (excluding various mice) was a ferret, Burroughs, who died from a mysterious stomach ailment several years ago. Burroughs was fun; he liked for me to slide him, hockey puck-style, across the kitchen floor, then return over and over again for more.

OK. Enough pet stuff.
Yesterday I went to the H.M.S. Beagle, a great science store with a healthy collection of telescopes, fossils, globes, books, you-name-it. The store is part of NASA's Mars observation project, and holds regular night-sky observations. And it looks like they're going to host a book signing to concur with my appearance on the Discovery Channel, which I was told would be early next year.

At the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in August.

I hadn't even thought of "milking" the Discovery appearance (I still don't know the name of the program), but why not? If nothing else, I get to use one of the store's stupefyingly large scopes.

In the meantime, I've been given the go-ahead for my new book, which will probably be titled "The Postbiological Cosmos." I'd been holding out for my agent to find a bigger publisher, but why wait? I suspect I need a "project" to keep afloat. And as I narcissistically reread the speculative content of this blog, I realize that I've already got some decent starting points.
French plan curfews to stop riots

Local authorities in France have been allowed to impose curfews in an attempt to end 11 days of riots, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin says.

Speaking in a television interview, he called the violence "unacceptable" and outlined measures to curb the unrest that has hit 300 towns and cities.

The spectacle of the French riots reminds me of the scenario in "28 Days Later," only the source of the violence isn't nearly as esoteric as an experimental virus. In many ways, the riots echo the "Lord of the Flies" nightmare exactingly recounted in J.G. Ballard's "High-Rise."

I really enjoyed Chris Wren's take:

I was into the whole "See how the People really live" mode of sightseeing. It wasn't the vast tracts of council project housing that I was expecting - the kind you might have seen in London or Toronto in the 70's. I'm not even sure I'd call it "housing". It was just concrete bunkers from horizon to horizon. No parks, no shops, nothing. No sense of community life, and no physical spaces for communing to happen. Just concrete boxes and vast deserted plazas done in that utterly impractical Soviet style, loftily disdainful of human scale and "sentimental" esthetic sensibilities. No joy and no possibility of hope or escape. There was no reason to aspire to joining in with French society because there was no evidence of French society to aspire to.
Glow from first stars revealed

Astronomers have detected a faint glow from the first stars to form in the Universe, Nature journal reports.

This earliest group of stars, called Population III, probably formed from primordial gas less than 200 million years after the Big Bang.

Now that's old.
I'm up in the air about immortality. Maybe it will happen. Maybe humans will seize this "Singularity" thing by the reigns and conquer aging. Or maybe some of us will opt out of meat-based existence altogether, coexisting with long-lived carbon-based humanity in the form of mind-uploads. Of course, there's always the risk that I'll die before I can take advantage of such exotic future technologies.

So what I've decided to do -- more out of sense of fun than hubris -- is to leave behind a simulation of myself. It won't be sentient. It won't pass the Turing Test. But at least you'll be able to talk to it, and if I do my part well enough, it may even fool some casual users into thinking they're conversing with an authentic human being.

The idea is essentially Rudy Rucker's "lifebox" concept -- an interactive database that encapsulates its owner's psyche in spoken or text-based format. In my case, I see no damning theoretical reason this blog can't eventually become an online version of myself, able to converse with Netizens and provide a decent-enough portrait of my mindscape. (Or even talk with me, perhaps serving as a virtual doppleganger/personal assistant.)

I can see the technology necessary to create "lifebox"-style blogs arising even if the transcendent bounty of the Singularity never materializes. After all, the "intelligence" demonstrated by a hyperlinked database is illusory -- and already we have some engaging pseudo-AIs that could serve as templates for more robust future systems.

I'm not a computer scientist, so obviously I can't shoulder the burden alone. Ideally, the "mind-blog" I'm proposing will be smart enough to take cues from my behavior, reducing the amount of time I spend deliberately entering text (or talking into a computer mic). I'm relying, in part, on trends such as ubiquitous computation and exponential processing speed. Google's purported plans to blanket the country with wireless Internet service will also help, as many of the "bloggable" insights I experience occur while on the go, without even the luxury of pen and paper.

The completed product may turn out to be an unflattering caricature or -- worse still -- plain boring. Then again, those are the same pitfalls we try to avoid in "meatspace." A more organic approach to online publishing just might enable blogs to achieve something like the fractal narrative quality we associate with "stream of consciousness" or "inner monologue."
Planet Venus: Earth's 'evil twin'

Through Venus Express, scientists hope to understand better the mechanics of climate change on our own planet.

"Earth can certainly take a very uncomfortable step towards Venus, though it's not likely to go all the way," comments Fred Taylor, Halley Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, UK.

"The point is, we're moving in that direction and many of the constituents and mechanisms involved are the same. Even a few degrees change in temperature can be a disaster on Earth."

When asked, most politicians refute the need for space exploration because, in their opinion, the money needed to finance manned missions to the planets would be better spent directly serving the people. We're told, again and again, that there are too many problems afflicting Earth to warrant the novelty of scientific discovery.

In fact, the opposite is true. We direly need insight into how planets like Mars and Venus became the wasted worlds they are if we're to prevent Earth from succumbing to a similar fate.

This isn't a particularly difficult concept to grasp, and I suspect the politicians who diminish the need for a robust program of comparative planetology intuit this, at least on some level. But space exploration has yet to become a political issue; it lacks the seeming immediacy of more "down-to-Earth" sound-bites.

I've maintained that climate change won't become politically relevant until large numbers of people start dying. Then I realized that the dying has already begun, and that unless one regularly reads the European press, one would never imagine that global warming had migrated from the comfortable sphere of the theoretical to workaday reality, promising to drown cities and wreak havoc with our ecosphere while too many governments look on in autistic stupor.

Ultimately, my fear is that by the time crewed missions to Mars are urgently necessary in order to assess our Earth-bound climatological predicament, it will be too late. The time to launch is now, while we're not yet paralyzed by a regular seasonal parade of Category-8 storms. We're confronted with a choice: to wallow in deep shit or welcomingly accept even deeper shit -- a layer than may well smother us in the womb.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Antiaging MPrize gets anonymous million-dollar donation

An anonymous donor, recognizing the promise and potential of serious antiaging research, has added one million dollars to the coffers of the Methuselah Mouse Prize overnight. As a result, the cash prize has increased to nearly three million, far outweighing end-of-year expectations.
Web's never-to-be-repeated revolution

The web developed because we went in the opposite direction -- towards openness and lack of centralised control. Unless you believe that some invisible hand of technological inevitability is pushing us towards openness -- I am a sceptic -- we have a remarkable historical conjunction of technologies.

(Via Busy, Busy, Busy.)
An Open Letter to The Iron Skeptic

The problem with Iron is that it's inflexible - hardly the stuff of which true skeptics are made. True skeptics are more like quicksilver - always moving, always searching, always willing to look at new evidence, and always open-minded.

As Sakulich's latest reveals, "Iron" is exactly the right description for his type of "skepticism."

Sure, refuting pop "debunkers" is a little bit like drowning kittens -- but what knowledgeable ufologist can resist?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

More of yesterday's photos. Note the quasi-"orb" accompanying the streetlight.

Statues frolicking in front of the Fairmont, another nice hotel down the street.

This stark industrial waterfall bridges two apartment buildings behind my own.

Last night I ducked into the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art for the final minutes of a concert/open poetry reading and some free coffee.

While looking at art, I realized I was in an ideal place to do a Lynndie, something I've been itching to do for a long time.

For the uninitiated, a "Lynndie" is an impersonation of Lynndie England, the US soldier infamous for her role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse case. I mistakenly pointed with three fingers -- and my "thumbs up" certainly could have been cheerier -- but I suppose I got the idea across. (By the way, that's a tube of lipstick in my mouth.)

"DJ Nucleon" was performing: spoken word and improvised electronic sound effects. If I had a band, it would probably sound something like this.

(Photos by "Elizabeth.")

Lynndie links:

Doing A Lynndie

Stealth Lynndie-ing

Rudy Rucker doing a Lynndie!

Friday, November 04, 2005

I just took these. The first one involved clambering over the concrete rim of a fountain (dormant for a winter yet to actually happen) and maneuvering on my back in order to see the tangled and cobwebbed electrical infrastructure beneath the central sculpture.

This sculpture adorns the lawn of the Raphael, a nice hotel down the street.

Usually these multicolored lights illuminate a sheet of water. Now the water's off, but they're kept on anyway. (Note the drifting "orbs," known to photographers as "light flares.")

I've added a few more winning blogs to the sidebar. Here's a sampling:

Autopia: Wired's car blog. Giddyup! Author Cory Doctorow's online presence. Download free books!

The Daily Grail: Can't find enough weirdness at Posthuman Blues? Chances are you'll find what you're looking for here.

MoCo Loco: Contemporary architectural design. May induce drooling.

NuSapiens: Transhumanism to go.
Whoa! Missed this one:

Volcanoes ruled out for Martian methane

"I can't rule out a geological source of methane" because there are many conceivable mechanisms, Krasnopolsky told New Scientist, but "this makes biological methane more plausible".
White Triangle Morphs over Kaufman, Texas-10-22-05

When I finally got to see it close, it looked like a white triangle, then it started changing to different shapes. I've never seen anything like this here, but have seen some videos and pictures of objects changing shapes or morphing.

Of course, it may not be "changing shape" at all. If the UFO is a four-dimensional (or five- or six-dimensional . . .) object, we could simply be seeing three-dimensional cross-sections as it enters our 3-D spacetime.

I think so-called "morphing" UFOs deserve careful attention by researchers; they might be telling us that their origin is more esoteric than popular culture would have us assume.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fireball Sightings

When should you look? You might see a fireball flitting across the sky any time Taurus is above the horizon. At this time of year, the Bull rises in the east at sunset. The odds of seeing a bright meteor improve as the constellation climbs higher. By midnight, Taurus is nearly overhead, so that is a particularly good time.

(Via The Anomalist.)
Life as a computer game

Of course the game is not the same for everyone playing. Some never receive the chances to score points and so their game is cut short. Others are simply more lucky than the rest. They are able to take risks and and get away with them longer, seeming to play on longer than they really should.