Sunday, December 31, 2006

I have the feeling George Dvorsky doesn't realize just how right he is.

Here's a smart guy who's comfortable talking about existential risks, genetic uplift and ubiquitous surveillance -- but seems unwilling to consider that we might be engaged in a symbolic dialogue with an intelligence that purposefully camouflages itself using the belief system as its disposal. Or that we might be dealing with something so profoundly alien that our minds utilize familiar concepts in order to make sense of it.

"Blessed Art Thou" by Kate Kretz

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hawking rewrites history... backwards

But in the first instants of the Big Bang, there existed a superposition of ever more different versions of the Universe, instead of a unique history. And most crucially, Hertog says that "our current Universe has features frozen in from this early quantum mixture".

In other words, some of these alternative histories have left their imprint behind. This is why Hertog and Hawking insist that their 'top-down' cosmology is testable. Hertog says that the theory predicts the pattern of the variations in intensity of microwave background radiation, the afterglow of the Big Bang now imprinted on the sky, which reveal fluctuations in the fireball of the nascent Universe. These variations are minute, but space-based detectors have measured them ever more accurately over the past several years.

[. . .]

The theory also suggests an answer to the puzzle of why some of the 'constants of nature' seem finely tuned to a value that allows life to evolve. If we start from where we are now, it is obvious that the current Universe must 'select' those histories that lead to these conditions. Otherwise we simply wouldn't be here.

(Via Sentient Developments.)

Could some of the never-were universes posited by Hawking have produced intelligent life? It's clear that Hawking and Hertog aren't proposing anything so extravagant; at best, they argue, the microwave background radiation -- the so-called "afterglow of creation" -- will reveal evidence of fossil universes entwined with our own.

Still, it's tempting to consider a ramped-up version of Hawking's model that allows all possible timelines to coexist and interact with a contemporary observer. A model of this sort might be able to shed light on "paranormal" happenings ranging from precognition to sightings of "aliens."

I'm not about to propose a formal theory that explains how this might be possible, but it's worth noting that even jaded Forteans still cling to a theoretically antiquated view of the Cosmos. Could a quantum approach yield a better explanatory paradigm?
Mothman Phone Home (Greg Bishop)

John Keel's Mothman Prophecies is a classic of fortean and UFO literature. If you don't think so, we can step outside.

Keel weaves the strange events of 1966-67 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia into a chilling tale which ended in a predicted disaster. Mothman was seen by over 100 witnesses, who usually described the entity as a six foot tall humanoid with a wingspan of ten feet, While no head was ever reported, witnesses said that it had two glowing red "eyes" between its shoulders. Like the legendary Springheel Jack, it only appeared at night and often chased people right to their doorsteps. It would also chase cars, never seeming to lose interest even if the terrified witnesses drove at over 100 mph. UFOs were also observed by many residents.

On the face of it, "Mothman" is a case that seems unlikely to represent extraterrestrial visitation: the creature appears more like a fever-induced apparition than an alien from another world.

Nevertheless, UFO activity plays a quiet but important role in the events at Point Pleasant, challenging "nuts and bolts" researchers with an unwelcome paradox. Are the UFOs somehow more real than the entity itself (in which case we might be able to attribute Mothman to a projection or ET misinformation campaign)? Is it the other way around? Or are both phenomena equally liminal, a testament to Keel's proposed "superspectrum"?

"The Mothman Prophecies" is a disturbing plunge that some "serious" ufologists would prefer you didn't take. Don't let them stop you.
Just because:

Ancient ice shelf breaks free from Canadian Arctic

A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, scientists said.

The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada's remote north.

Scientists using satellite images later noticed that it became a newly formed ice island in just an hour and left a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Oh, and happy New Year.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Another huge surprise.
Blog of the day: The Orange Orb

Friday, December 29, 2006

Of course, it's just possible that UFOs come from . . . the third dimension!

(With thanks to Greg Bishop. Be sure to read his 20 Most Important Dates In Ufology.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Food from Cloned Animals Safe to Eat - US Agency

Milk and meat from some cloned animals are safe to eat, the US Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday in a draft ruling that brings the controversial technology closer to American grocery carts.

If given final approval, the ruling would allow for the sale of food made from cloned cattle, pigs and goats, but not sheep, in the United States for the first time.

The agency said it would be unlikely to recommend special labels for food made from clones, which are genetic twins of donor animals, but would not decide on the labeling issue until it collects comments from the public over the next 90 days.
I visited a coffeeshop tonight and sat down next to a not-unattractive girl I'd seen many times before. (It was the only available seat.) We'd never spoken, so I said hi and asked her what she was reading, which turned out to be a work of slickly produced Fundamentalist Christian "scholarship" so deeply fuckwitted it made Tim LaHaye's output look like a bastion of reason. She told me matter-of-factly about how Satan and demons are fighting for our souls (invisibly, of course), leaving me to gaze on in mute horror, possessed (no pun intended) by a sudden urge to leave the premises.

At least I got a good look at the book jacket. According to the author, satanic forces are infiltrating in the guise of New Age beliefs. (I would expect that includes interest in UFOs.) Nothing new there, but it was somehow disenchanting to find a girl in her early- to mid-twenties lapping it up so uncritically.

Anyway, I'm home now. I'm considering never leaving my apartment.
Forget theories and hypotheses for a moment. What do I know (or think I know) about UFOs?

I've come up with two (count 'em!) statements that, when pressed, I feel generally comfortable asserting as "fact" (insofar as "facts" go when dealing with such a slippery phenomenon). They're admittedly vague and certain to elicit disagreement. Regardless, I think they're backed by the available evidence.

1.) UFOs represent a form of nonhuman intelligence.

That is, they sometimes behave in a manner that smacks of deliberate intent and awareness of their surroundings. This could be due to some symbiotic relationship with the human psyche, alien pilots, or something stranger.

Lest you think I'm conceding that the UFO enigma can be chalked up to some form of collective hallucination, here's my second assertion:

2.) The UFO phenomenon, in at least some instances, is physical.

Please note that I'm not excluding possible "psychic" or extrasensory aspects; it's conceivable that UFOs can operate as both "objects" and as paranormal influences.

Could I be wrong? Absolutely. But given the data accumulated since the dawn of the "modern" UFO phenomenon, I don't think my contentions violate the oft-cited "extraordinary claims" maxim (which, while well-intentioned, suffers its own share of epistemological maladies).

That's it -- no third contention (at least for now) . . .

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis has met with mixed reactions. Some Forteans seem to think I'm onto something. Most UFO researchers are, at best, extremely skeptical.

Others think I'm parroting John Keel's "superspectrum," a variation on the "parallel worlds" theme that in turn shares memes with Jacques Vallee's "multiverse." Both ideas suggest that we somehow occupy dimensional space with our "alien" visitors, doing away with the need for extraterrestrial spacecraft while helping explain the sense of absurdity that accompanies many UFO and occupant sightings.

Keel and Vallee have both ventured essentially "occult" ideas in cosmological terms; both the "superspectrum" and the "multiverse" require a revision of our understanding of the way reality itself works. But the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis is grounded in a more familiar context; I'm not suggesting unseen dimensions or the need for ufonauts to "downshift" to our level our consciousness.

Rather, I'm asking if it's feasible that the alleged aliens that occupy historical and contemporary mythology are flesh-and-blood human-like creatures that live right here on Earth. Not another version of Earth in some parallel Cosmos, but our Earth. While I can't automatically exclude the UFO phenomenon's "paranormal" aspects, I can attempt to explain them in technological terms. (For example, I see no damning theoretical reason why "telepathy" and "dematerialization" can't ultimately be explained by appealing to cybernetics, nanotechnology and other fields generally excluded from ufological discourse.)

A lynchpin of the CTH is that at least some of the more remarkable abilities displayed by reported aliens are in fact subterfuge -- immersive fictional scenarios staged to convince us we must be dealing with beings from another star system. Vallee and Keel have, of course, argued much the same thing. But both have maintained (unnecessarily, in my opinion) that the beings must hail from somewhere else -- not outer space, but an unseen realm that makes the outer space option seem almost preferable.

Needless to say, today's ufological pundits have decided to stick with the ETH. Sure, it's weird and by no means offers a holistic understanding of the phenomenon it purports to explain, but at least it makes sense in light of our own technological trajectory. After all, we've visited space (albeit briefly); the ETH has the overall appearance of a logical extrapolation.

The CTH is a synthesis. In keeping with the "nuts and bolts" tradition, it incorporates what we know about our planet and its biology and arrives at a prospective anthropology of the "other." It eschews interstellar travel in favor of beings that may not be nearly as alien as we've been conditioned to expect -- by the media and (as I argue) by the UFO intelligence itself.

Ironically enough, the CTH manages to alienate champions of the ETH and those who support a more esoteric, "interdimensional" explanation. It offers no clearcut reconciliation. It does, however, wield explanatory potential lacking in both camps.

In a new post, partner-in-crime Paul Kimball calls me on my recent almost-dismissal of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. (In retrospect, I agree that my argument was too brash; maybe it just came out wrong.)

Paul, defending the validity of the ETH, writes:

I see nothing "extraordinarily unlikely" about the ETH based on the various reports. Let us suppose, for example, and just for the sake of argument, that the aliens are perhaps no more than 30 or 40 years more advanced than us.

While I agree that the ETH is a viable potential explanation for the UFO phenomenon (despite my recent preoccupation with other ideas), I don't think Paul's "30 or 40 years" argument survives careful consideration.

In a comment appended to Paul's post, I remark (in part):

Faced with the vast amount of time in which our galaxy has evolved into its present state, the odds of visiting aliens possessing a technology a few meager decades ahead of us are very, very low. We'd be more likely to expect aliens hundreds of thousands, millions (or even billions) of years ahead of us -- and I think mainstream astrobiologists like [David] Grinspoon would back me up on this.

Which, of course, leads to an unsettling realization: Most "mainstream" thinkers like Grinspoon (who could help ETH proponents in their ostensible quest for the truth) steer clear of ufology. It's possible this has less to do with the phenomenon's scientific validity than with the ETH proponents' unhealthy certainty that we're dealing with ET spacecraft.

As long as the ETH remains dogma, we'll see little or no productive dialogue between the ufological "community" and the scientific mainstream. And while neither side is totally to blame, I feel it's incumbent upon ufology to break the ice. It can start by refamiliarizing itself with scientific methodology and the need to suspend conclusions -- however fetching -- in the face of a genuine unknown.
I think my uber-annoying neighbors might be gone; I haven't heard any blaring TV or rap for at least a couple days. Could they have willfully abstained for sake of decency? Has my dream of a noise-free haven actually been realized? Or have I succumbed to wishful thinking?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


(Thanks: Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival.)
I did another interview for The Paracast today. The episode will air online Dec. 31st. Kevin Randle ("Scientific Ufology," "The Abduction Enigma") headlines. (I talk about -- surprise! -- indigenous "aliens" in our midst.)

Greg Bishop weighs in with a generous and well-written review of my 2004 book "After the Martian Apocalypse." After enduring a spate of reviews by "critics" unable to extricate themselves from the "believers/debunkers" dichotomy, this comes as a most welcome post-Christmas surprise.

Greg writes, in part:

Two and a half years after it was published, I have just finished reading Mac Tonnies' book.

Yes, I know him, and I wouldn't have published a review unless I actually liked it, but not only do I like it, I think it's one of the best examples of the "new" sort of thinking on anomalies that is the hallmark of good fortean, nay skeptical writing. Tonnies drops all predetermined opinions about Mars, and asks us to do the same.

To order a copy from Amazon, follow this link.
Dustin at OddThings has compiled a list of links to some of my recent "cryptoterrestrial" essays.
Opt for the Veggie Burger

The long-short of it is that the infrastructure and its resulting effects to support the world's 1.5 billion cattle - burning fertilizer to grow feed and the clearing of vegetation for grazing, coupled with the gas and manure emitted from said livestock - is responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In addition to this increase in greenhouse gases, there is also ranching-induced deforestation, which turns a fifth of all pastures and ranges into desert; pesticide, antibiotic and hormone polluted drinking water; and dead zones (low-oxygen areas in the world's oceans that support little to no life partially caused by an excess of plant nutrients from fertilizers and sewage).

As developing nations race to catch up to first world economies, so does the practice for raising livestock, and our current consumption rates are far from sustainable. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that, "each U.S. citizen consumes an average of 260 lbs. of meat per year." And as the previous examples illustrate, these rates are not without dire costs. The Food and Agriculture Organization report concludes that unless drastic changes are made, massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050.

Talk about karma. This is beyond apocalyptic -- it's downright Vonnegutian.

Monday, December 25, 2006

You Are a Fruitcake

People pretend you're sweet and precious, but they know how weird you really are!

Oh, big surprise.
Life Throughout the Galaxy?

Is there a galactic habitable zone, a region within the Milky Way where conditions for life are optimum? If so, we want to know its parameters, as they would help us define the search area for living worlds. The concept has kicked around for a while, and now surfaces again in an interesting paper by Nikos Prantzos (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris). Prantzos ponders the main variables and, while concluding that the galactic habitable zone is far from well understood, believes it conceivable that the entire galactic disk may, at this stage of its evolution, be suitable for life.
Bruce Sterling on climate change:

"We have a window of opportunity. Some of us are gonna sneak through the window more or less unscathed. Some of us are gonna be thrown through the plate-glass head-first."

Sterling is one of many who saw it coming and was studiously ignored. Because science fiction is for, you know, escapists.
I just read that James Brown is dead.

I'm hardly a "soul" aficionado, but in my considered opinion anyone who doesn't at least turn up the volume a little when a James Brown song comes on the radio simply has no concept of fun.

Paul Kimball and Nick Redfern have both cited me as ufology's equivalent to Morrissey. But maybe what ufology really needs is its own James Brown.
Bush's nominee for envoy to Armenia fails to win Senate approval

The U.S. Senate has effectively declined to approve Richard Hoagland, President George W. Bush's pick for ambassador to Yerevan, who has been condemned by U.S. Armenian groups for refusing to characterize last century's Armenian killings in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

Masonic NASA rituals, Data's head on the Moon, now this.
Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

But . . . but "global warming" is just a myth perpetuated by Leftist troop-hating fear-mongers!
Of course, not all bots are as user-friendly as Asimo . . .

(Thanks: Busy, Busy, Busy.)

A bit too heavy on the "cute," but still endearing.

(Thanks: Communist Robot.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas never does much for me, but for some reason I get excited at the prospect of an imminent new year. Nothing actually changes, but it's one more step into the future, and that alone is worth at least some celebration.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I've always been intrigued by the essentially clumsy methods employed by the purported aliens. Their induced amnesia has a way of crumbling over a curiously brief period of time. Their craft -- which proponents of the ETH would have us believe are arbitrarily more advanced than our own -- tend to leave incriminating scars on the terrain, if not crash with worrisome frequency. Coupled with their occupants' human mannerisms, such seeming anachronisms suggest that we rethink an extraterrestrial origin; instead of dealing with beings wielding technology "indistinguishable from magic," UFO files reveal beings with surprisingly limited capabilities.

Indeed, their arsenal of gadgets, while impressive, is only a few decades in advance of our own. This observation, culled from a near-inexhaustible catalog of close encounters, hints that the phenomenon is at least partly physical, yet extraordinarily unlikely to represent ET visitation.

For example, Betty Hill reported a pregnancy test identical to amniocentesis, a technique invented shortly after her abduction. Similarly, accounts of electromagnetic effects on car engines and appliances are more in keeping with proposed earthly propulsion technologies than the sort of stealthy efficiency in keeping with a species hundreds of thousands of years ahead of us.

Scientists are already creating microscopic robots for use in medicine and industry. Given the inevitability of such devices, the presence of large metallic craft manned by humanoid pilots would appear, at best, a remarkably inept way to go about observing and cataloging life on this planet. Wouldn't a genuine ET survey mission employ miniaturized surveillance in keeping with its need for secrecy?

Instead, UFOs cruise our skies with an implacable arrogance. If our visitors are indeed extrasolar aliens, then they have a most curious penchant for drama. If, on the other hand, we're observing the activities of a cryptoterrestrial civilization, the apparent desire to be seen can be readily explained in terms of misdirection.

"Alien" imagery is the perfect cover, as our own military understands all-too-well. Greg Bishop chronicles just one example in "Project Beta," a devastating critique of the black-ops underworld and its readiness to exploit ET mythology in order to deflate serious interest in secret Air Force projects.

By utilizing our innate fascination with interplanetary visitors, the cryptoterrestrials have ensured that any accidental sightings of their craft will be ascribed to the ETH. The mainstream media, quick to "debunk" for fear of inciting ridicule, thus ignores credible sightings and inadvertently assists the cryptoterrestrial agenda. And if by some chance the sighting is undeniable, its cultural connotations will almost certainly relegate it to our collective Fortean attic.

I don't think it's accidental that so many UFOs are adorned with mesmerizing flashing lights. While one can always argue that conspicuous lights indicate the presence of some truly unearthly propulsion system, it's just as possible that they're a deliberate (and relatively low-tech) attempt to make a rather ordinary conveyance look unearthly, thereby eliciting the excitement of the very ET enthusiasts whose sightings are certain to be ignored . . . or, at best, published in some obscure journal or website.

As Vallee has astutely noted, many accounts of UFO landings have the undeniable flavor of staged events. The controversial events at Rendlesham, for instance, seem to make sense only if they were intended to be witnessed, perhaps in an attempt to further impress us with the extraterrestrial meme. In the same vein, the famous Washington National sightings, in which objects were tracked over Washington, D.C. with ground- and air-based radar and confirmed visually by mutiple witnesses, smack of an orchestrated event.

Intriguingly, the objects over Washington were limited to inexplicable sources of light -- not the "structured craft" described in other notable cases. Could the UFO intelligence use a form of holography to trick us into thinking we're observing tangible vehicles? The possibility can't be discounted. Michael Talbot supports the holographic theory in his book "The Holographic Universe," noting that some UFO displays have more in common with sophisticated projections than spacecraft.

The same can be said of many close encounters of the third or fourth kind in which witnesses report anomalous spatial effects. Some witnesses have described the interior of apparent alien vehicles as considerably larger than the craft as seen from outside; this odd detail, so bizarre when considered in isolation, might be explained as a perceptual trick enacted by the "aliens" to render their vehicles more impressive than they actually are. Upon exiting, a witness would be more likely to describe her experience in otherworldly terms.

(That the ufonauts use a form of mind control is practically taken as a given by most abduction researchers. But once we concede that our visitors are able to induce or dampen perception at will, where does one draw the line? Who's to say the bulk of abduction narratives can't be interpreted in an illusory context? Perhaps some incredible abduction reports, while sincere, reflect an intimate brush with virtual reality rather than encounters with literal extraterrestrials.)
Inconvenient Facts About Abductions (Greg Bishop)

I daresay the book about the Hill case (The Interrupted Journey) has been digested and deeply ingrained in the minds of all UFO researchers who engage in hypnotic regression with supposed abductees. There is almost no way that anyone who is interested in the subject can put this template out of their minds when investigating extra-human encounters. As one researcher (a psychologist) -- and one very sympathetic to the issue -- told me, "Many of these people have little respect for or knowledge of the unconscious."

What may have occurred is that the influence of this particular episode and its subsequent dissemination in the abduction literature provided researchers and abductees with a convenient template for their experiences, whatever they were (and are.) I am reasonably sure that many hundreds, if not thousands of people may be latching on to this image to come to terms with something completely outside of their experience, if only to have a place to put it in their minds, and come to some sort of peace with it. For the "aliens'" part, it may be just fine with them that we do this.

In other words, we may not be dealing with anything so facile as flesh-and-blood creatures (indigenous or otherwise). They could be so devastatingly alien that our brains are forced to adopt science fiction imagery simply so we can deal with their presence -- perhaps to keep from going mad. I like Greg's idea that the "aliens" could be complicit in this.
Christopher Walken on global warming:

I think some readers have surmised that since I've been writing about the possible presence of "cryptoterrestrials" I must hold the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis for UFO visitation in disdain.

Not true.

Like Stan Friedman (who's raised some worthy arguments on the UFO UpDates mailing list), I think some UFOs are likely ET in origin. But I maintain that ET visitation in no way detracts from my proposal that some UFO events are terrestrial in origin.

This convergence of possibilities might be one of the reasons some UFO pundits automatically discount indigenous intelligent nonhumans; when it comes to hypothetical unknowns, it's always easier to stick with the most familiar of any given set of options. Conceding the reality of aliens in nuts-and-bolts spacecraft might seem downright easy if it means doing away with other, equally esoteric interpretations -- regardless of explanatory potential.

(By the way, I've decided to ditch "Indigenous Hypothesis" when referring to cryptoterrestrials. From now on it's merely the "Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis," or "CTH.")

Friday, December 22, 2006

Academics tend to describe the spread of religious belief as a social phenomenon. But maybe, at its core, we're dealing with something more accurately described as "viral."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Strolling Barnes & Noble yesterday, I was pleased to see that Walter Jon Williams' "Hardwired" has been rereleased.

Good novel. Sure, it's dated -- but dated in a way that illuminates the present and leaves you wondering about the future.
Bioengineered bone jewelry not her thing? Then show her you really love her with one of these . . .
I've recently seen my name used in conjunction with the word "ufology." Loosely defined, ufology is the study of the UFO phenomenon. This includes disciplines ranging from metallurgy to psychology, from neuroanatomy to String Theory. The best UFO literature benefits from the reasoned inclusion of as many perspectives as possible, even those that would seem to refute the very phenomenon under investigation. (The pronounced lack of such books is predominantly why it's fashionable for intellectuals to adopt a scoffing, can't-be-bothered approach when addressing UFOs -- a most intriguing reaction, given that "UFO" simply denotes an aerial object of unknown origin.)

Am I a ufologist? I don't know. Maybe. If I am, I should probably qualify the "U" word with "theoretical." There are theoretical physicists and literary theorists; why not theoretical ufologists?

The ufological "community" suffers from creative anemia. It has a disheartening tendency to refute dissenting voices -- even those within its own ranks -- with tired screeds that unnecessarily polarize the debate (such as it is) between cautious advocates of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and know-nothing science popularizers who seem genuinely incapable of considering the UFO inquiry outside the cognitive barriers posed by decades of cheesy sci-fi cinema and the legacy of myriad True Believers.

So it's no real surprise why ufology is marginal. While its luminaries might noisily claim otherwise, ufology collectively wants to be marginal. With the lamentable exception of a few spokesmen who feel the need to "explain" the phenomenon's intricacies to a wary public (often in the guise of would-be political discourse), the ostensible UFO community remains afraid of stepping into the rude glow of widespread public attention.

And it has a right to be be afraid. Having dotingly constructed a theoretical house of straw, many ufological proponents secretly prefer the tenuous camaraderie of their peers to the much more exciting prospect of being taken seriously by science. (This isn't to condemn UFO research as anti-scientific; perhaps the only reason the field remains afloat at all is the pioneering effort of scientists such as James McDonald, J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee.)

But the era of genuine hypotheses seems to be nearing an end. The "old guard," inexplicably enamored of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, is now engaged in little more than ideological turf-wars. The boons of speculation have been quietly set aside in favor of models that make just enough sense to allow their defenders to issue brittle proclamations with semi-straight faces.

Meanwhile, the enigma persists -- as always, seemingly just beyond our comprehension. And we have the nerve to wonder why.
Cyber-concrete lets walls speak

While the potential applications of cyber-concrete are endless, the companies are initially promoting it as a new tool for managing structural safety data. Cyber-concrete can store information about itself, such as when, where and how it was manufactured and data about strength and quality, making for more efficient and reliable safety inspection systems. This traceability data can be used by construction companies, inspectors, or tenants concerned about building safety.

Yes, but can you program it to kill obnoxious neighbors?
Is Religion Inherently Homicidal?

A group calling themselves Real Men For Jesus argue that Jesus wasn't really the Bleeding Heart liberal he pretended to be, because after all he went around overturning tables, and was belligerent and destructive and made messes for other people to clean up, just like a macho man is supposed to do--just like George Bush, for example.

[. . .]

Generally speaking, there are two factors that tend to make a religious tradition violent. The first is proselytizing--the more actively the religion seeks to gain adherents the more violent they tend to be. The second factor is related to the first: the more the religious tradition demands that its adherents believe in extremely implausible stories the more violent it will tend to be.

(Via Chapel Perilous.)

Aside from being a "disease of infancy," religion can be viewed as a kind of evolutionary test. Because a species that breaks free of the conceptual boundaries erected by superstition and metaphysical dogma is likely to be formidable, with a significantly higher chance of surviving than a species that chooses willful stupidity over reason.
This Christmas, show her that you love her.

(Hat tip: Reality Carnival.)
Nick Redfern makes an intriguing proposition:

Why Do Ufologists Wear Ties?

For that reason, perhaps me, Mac Tonnies, Paul Kimball, and Greg Bishop should start a band. Both me and Paul play electric guitar, so it may be a fight to see who plays rhythm, lead (or both), and bass. Maybe Greg can pound the drums, and Mac (surely the Morrissey of Ufology) can be our angst-driven vocalist.

Perhaps we should begin 2007 with a rousing cover of "Suedehead": "I am so very sickened. I am so sickened now."
OK, I think this is why I can't make the switch (yet):

The New Version of Blogger

Update, 12/20: If you don't see the "Switch Now" button on the homepage, it's because a ton of people are already switching to the new Blogger, and we only let so many run simultaneously in order to give everyone a good experience. Just log in to old Blogger for now, and we'll give you a heads up on your Dashboard when we're ready for you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is anyone besides me having difficulty switching their blog from "old" Blogger to "new" Blogger? I'm able to sign into the new version with my Google ID but my "dashboard" is conspicuously vacant. I think this is because the large size of my blog is causing the transfer process to lag. But if not -- and Posthuman Blues suddenly vaporizes because of a glitch -- I'll be mad indeed.

If so inclined, please post grievances/insights as comments. Thanks!
Jerry Clark and the CTH

In what is surely one of the most ironic posts at UFO Updates in some time, as well as one of the most pretentious (which is saying something), Jerry Clark pounds away on Mac Tonnies' "cryptoterrestrial hypothesis". In doing so, he says very little about Mac's theories, but an awful lot about himself - none of it good.

Could Clark be protesting too much? Your call.
Here's what I think of the Rendlesham case.

(Hat tip: The Other Side of Truth)
Printing Muscle and Bone

For years, tissue engineers have used souped-up printers, and in some cases off-the-shelf models, to print "bio-inks." These inks consist of anything from proteins to individual cells printed in microscopic patterns. By printing layer upon layer of cell patterns, scientists may one day be able to "print" whole tissues or organs for replacement therapies.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

UFOs Coming In 2007 (Nick Redfern)

This year is now almost over; so, I thought it would be an ideal time to tell you about a few notable things that will be of definite interest to the UFO community in 2007.

First and foremost from my perspective, at least, will be Mac Tonnies' book on Crypto-terrestrials.

Uh-oh -- the pressure's on!

William S. Burroughs: 20th Century Gnostic Visionary

Even the so-called science fictional elements of his books were not intended as satire or metaphor. Burroughs could very well have been introduced to the Nova Express model of invading extraterrestrials (and/or intrusions from alternate dimensions) at a very young age. In various interviews, for example, Burroughs has recounted one of his earliest childhood memories.

When he was four, he woke up early in the morning and saw little gray men playing in a block house he had made. "I felt no fear," he said, "only stillness and wonder." When asked about this incident in 1987, interviewer Larry McCaffery offhandedly referred to such experiences as "hallucinatory." Burroughs replied, "I wouldn’t call them hallucinatory at all. If you see something, it's a shift of vision, not a hallucination. You shift your vision. What you see is there, but you have to be in a certain place to see it."

This image of "little gray men" evokes more recent, popular conceptions of extraterrestrials as seen on the mass market covers of any number of books by Whitley Strieber, the author of Communion (1987), Transformation (1988) and several others in which his ostensible contacts with alien beings are delineated.
Three really good videos:

R.E.M. ("Losing My Religion")

Depeche Mode ("Enjoy the Silence")

The Cure ("Friday I'm In Love")

Researchers Demonstrate Direct Brain Control Of Humanoid Robot

Rajesh Rao, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and his students have demonstrated that an individual can "order" a robot to move to specific locations and pick up specific objects merely by generating the proper brain waves that reflect the individual's instructions.


Monday, December 18, 2006

In this episode of "Will it Blend?", we discover whether you can make a smoothie out of an iPod . . .

Computers 'could store entire life by 2026'

Leading computer scientists, psychologists and neuroscientists gathered to debate these issues at Memories for Life, a conference held at the British Library yesterday.

Prof Nigel Shadbolt, president of the British Computer Society and professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Southampton, said: "In 20 years' time it will be possible to record high quality digital video of an entire lifetime of human memories. It's not a question of whether it will happen; it's already happening."


We're laying the groundwork for a "widescreen" version of the "lifebox" envisioned by Rudy Rucker, described here:

Rudy Rucker has a new book on the way that describes a hypothetical device he calls a "lifebox" -- an interactive personal database that can simulate conversation with an individual, whether alive or dead. While the "lifebox" isn't a true "upload" or artificial intelligence, it promises to do a good job of faking it, and may prove to be a popular archival tool for those with the requisite hardware and bandwidth.

In the meantime, we have blogs. Will Rucker's "lifebox" turn out to be the logical outgrowth of online self-publishing? Imagine a near-future Internet populated by thousands or millions of digital doppelgangers able to converse in real-time, sharing information with a warm, seemingly human delivery.

A future incarnation of Posthuman Blues might be able to imitate me so effectively that casual users are unable to distinguish the blog's persona from the actual author. If we reach that level of complexity, there will doubtless be those (possibly including blogs themselves) who maintain that the Web has achieved a sort of sentience, with constituent archived personae vying for human rights . . .

Information wants to be self-aware.
A little perspective:

200,000 years for all trace of Man to vanish from the Earth

IF MAN were to vanish from the face of the Earth today, his footprint on the planet would linger for the mere blink of an eye in geological terms.

Within hours, nature would begin to eradicate its impact. In 50,000 years all that would remain would be archaeological traces. Only radioactive materials and a few man-made chemical contaminants would last longer -- an invisible legacy.

Homo sapiens has managed just 150,000 years on Earth, and his earliest -- debatable -- ancestor only six million. By contrast, the dinosaurs populated the planet for 165 million years.
Suburban Sprawl May Create Heavier Kids

Using data from a national health survey, researchers found that teenagers living in sprawling suburbs were more than twice as likely to be overweight as teens in more compact urban areas.

[. . .]

"In a sprawling suburb, you can do very little on foot," said lead study author Dr. Reid Ewing of the University of Maryland's National Center for Smart Growth Education and Research.

It's abundantly obvious what the drive-thru-ification of the commercial landscape has done to our bodies. I'm more concerned about its impact on the collective psyche.
Loyal (and extraordinarily well-financed) readers have constructed a megascale tribute to Posthuman Blues. Click here to see it.

Impressive, isn't it?

Vegetarians are smarter, so there

The BBC is reporting on a study that shows a high IQ link to being vegetarian. The Southampton University study shows that intelligent children are more likely to become vegetarians later in life. Researchers noted that those who were vegetarian by 30 had recorded five IQ points more on average at the age of 10.

I don't eat meat for health/moral reasons; I'd never considered that a meatless diet could possibly boost my IQ. If celibacy has a similar effect then I must be a goddamned genius.


But seriously, folks . . .

Exophilia is an attraction, generally sexual in nature, to new, strange, or otherworldly things, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, supernatural beings, and robots. Exophilia may be regarded as the sexual form of neophilia, which is the more generalized attraction to new and unknown things.

Dr. Fong thinks we're looking at ball lightening. So do I.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I've been accused of scare-mongering because of my interest in global warming. But my interest isn't so much alarmist than a reflection of my fascination with the unknown.

We're actively engaged in reformatting the planet's climate. The process is all-encompassing and largely heedless. And although we can make some generally accurate predictions (all pretty grisly), we don't know when things get so bad that day-to-day life as we know it is turned utterly upside-down. Instead, we continue stumbling into unknown waters because, as far as I can tell, we prefer to die slowly.

I'm fascinated by this behavior. It's altogether weirder than any single "paranormal" item I've posted here since I launched this blog four years ago.

Scare-mongering? Hardly. I'm just watching the show.
Concern over Europe 'snow crisis'

Unseasonably warm conditions across Europe are being greeted with a mixture of disbelief and despair by those who normally rely on cold winters. James Cove and James Rodgers assess the winter weather.

Image taken 8 December shows the French Alps with little snow
The French Alps are uncharacteristically lacking in snow
Ski resorts across the European Alps are becoming increasingly worried as current bad snow conditions threaten the all important Christmas holiday period.

This autumn has been one of the worst on record with high temperatures and little snowfall.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

UFO Hacker May Spend Rest of Life in Prison

McKinnon's hacking of NASA computers was accomplished by simply finding systems that had blank passwords and opening them. He did no damage, and reported that some NASA files made reference to an apparently extensive secret US manned presence in space.

Don't miss Nick Redfern's perspective.
Welcome To The Blog

The UFO subject is above all, a fun and stimulating intellectual excercise that brings up important scientific and philosophical questions: Are we alone as a species endowed with consciousness? Can we learn something from our non-human friends? Are they just us in another guise? Is the history of humankind intimately connected to something that we have called "gods" "spirits" or even "aliens?" Is this all just wishful thinking by minds hungry for contact or weary of the problems of this world? I think the answer is a combination of all of these, and that’s one of the most exciting things we can consider.

Greg Bishop is wise.

OK, I've finally written a review of Whitley Strieber's "The Grays." If interested, you can find it here.
This is the MP3 player currently on the top of my list. It's got a built-in voice-recorder: always a plus.
A mouse can scare the cat away

Using an animal as part of your lego creation. A 'behaviour block' can track the behaviour of the animal inside. This behavior is the nused to drive the Lego creation. This way the creation gets alive, and the animal can get enhance possibilities: a mouse can scare the cat away!

You know that mechanized worksuit Sigourney Weaver dons for the final showdown in "Aliens"? It's sort of like that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I just found a cool blog: Carlson Milliss on Adaptive Reuse. It's about design reinvention. Futurists take note.
My neighbors are engaged in earnest conversation. They even turned off their damned TV so as to better contemplate their need to relocate. Assuming (perhaps unwisely) that they don't decide to take out their frustrations on my apartment and/or car, this makes me quite happy.

I hope these fuckers suffer as much as I have.

Here's another clip of my interview with Paul Kimball. It's a reasonably good introduction to my ideas but by no means exhaustive; it asks more questions than it answers. For instance, I sometimes refer to the cryptoterrestrial presence as an established truth when, of course, it's anything but. The Indigenous Hypothesis (for sheer lack of a better term) is a thought experiment, a speculative paradigm. Is it a true paradigm? I think it might be. If nothing else, I think it sheds much-needed light on some of the overlooked peculiarities of the UFO phenomenon, illuminating the intellectual state of ufology in the process.

(If you happen to slog through the whole clip, take a moment to savor the devastatingly awkward pause that follows my speculation that the CTs are nomadic.)
Today was on the hellish side. The only encouraging news is that my apt. manager overheard my neighbors on one of there not-infrequent rampages and gave them two months to get out. (My telling her I had almost decided to move didn't hurt.)

In a moderately sane world they'd be gone tomorrow, but apparently there are legal protocols; you can't just kick people onto the street to brave the bone-chilling sixty-degree "winter" cold. Too bad.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

According to the Odd Emperor, the current issue of Fortean Times describes me as "an intense thirty-something seemingly fueled by vast amounts of Starbucks coffee and not much else" . . . which is, in fact, scathingly accurate.

Update: The description accompanies a review of the New Frontiers Symposium by the ubiquitous Nick Redfern. And I should clarify that my use of the word "scathingly" in no way suggests I don't like his reportage. On the contrary, it's refreshing to read a balanced, humorous account of my presentation.
Remote-controlled sharks

Boston University marine biologist Jelle Atema has made progress converting sharks to "remote control" so that they could be outfitted with sensors and sent on spying machines. In a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Atema implanted sharks with electrical stimulators that trick their brains into smelling food. Using the stimulators, he was able to "steer" the sharks around a tank.
The Mounds of Cydonia - A Case Study for Planetary SETI

The Society for Planetary SETI Research (SPSR) has as its aim the study of features on planetary surfaces, to evaluate possible signs of ET activity in the form of landscape modifications or other alterations not easily attributable to natural geological formation. This paper displays one such study, based in part on a previous one which showed that a group of twelve mound-like formations in the Cydonia area of Mars, of relatively small and nearly uniform size, have relative positions that repeatedly display symmetries well beyond chance.

Detecting Patterns of a Technological Intelligence in Remotely Sensed Imagery

A statistical classification approach for detecting artificial patterns in satellite imagery such as those produced by a technological intelligence, and its application to the search for non-natural features of possible extraterrestrial origin on planetary surfaces is presented. Statistics of natural terrestrial backgrounds (fractal textures, drainage patterns, tectonic features, etc.) and artificial features (e.g., roads, cities, vehicles, archaeological ruins) are computed over a set of terrestrial training images. Images are represented by measurements of their fractal dimension, fractal model fit, anisotropy, and rectilinearity.

Just two reasons why the British Interplanetary Society beats the "Enterprise Mission."
10 Ways to Build a Cult-Like Following

Recently I was contacted by a very successful Internet marketer who asked me what I would suggest to someone who wanted to create a cult-like following.

This is right down my ally so I gave him some very good advice that he couldn't wait to put into action but the question got me thinking. What steps are there for anyone who wants people to want his/her attention and wisdom?

(Via Reality Carnival.)

If this list doesn't bring to mind certain fringe "researchers," I don't know what will.
Can flu viruses survive winter in frozen lakes?

Evidence of flu viruses frozen in Siberian lakes has prompted researchers to examine the possibility that global warming may release microbes locked in glaciers for decades or even centuries.

"Our hypothesis is that influenza can survive in ice over the winter and re-infect birds as they come back in spring," says Scott Rogers of Bowling Green State University, Ohio, US. He believes the frozen lakes act as "melting pots" for flu viruses, allowing viruses from one year to mix with those from previous years.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bodies of water play a significant role in UFO lore. Craft are seen rising from lakes and oceans; sailors observe remarkable wheels of light rotating beneath the hulls of their boats -- the aquatic equivalent to today's accounts of "buzzed" airliners.

The mystery can be traced to the dawn of recognized human society. The Sumerian Oannes myth maintains that civilization itself was a gift from beings who hailed from underwater. Before the detrimental pop-culture impact of Erich von Daniken, champion of untenable "ancient astronaut" theories, none other than Carl Sagan speculated that the Sumerian tale might represent an actual account of a meeting with nonhuman intelligence.

Of course, Sagan had visiting extraterrestrials in mind. Given the contemporary evidence for a nonhuman intelligence on this planet, the Oannes myth might instead represent contact between two very different types of terrestrials. That the Sumerians' enigmatic neighbors were interested in passing along the very concepts that would transform humans into city-dwellers is intriguing in light of Charles Fort's famous contention that we are the property of an intelligence that elects to remain unseen. Maybe, by concentrating large numbers of humans into unprecedentedly small enclaves, the human race was being made more amenable to cryptoterrestrial surveillance.

Equally engaging is the continued interest cryptoterrestrials display in human affairs. From unsolicited health check-ups to warnings of imminent ecological cataclysm, our fellow planetary residents appear deeply concerned about our plight, both as a species and, as some cases suggest, individuals. If our alleged "visitors" originate on some distant planet, this obsessive and long-lived attempt to steer the course of our psychosocial evolution certainly challenges modern thought on what "they" might be up to.

SETI theorists, for example, have cited radio communication as plausible means by which we might be contacted by extraterrestrials. Fortunately, the prospect of interstellar travel has gained a footing among mainstream scientists, challenging prevailing dogma that, for decades, confined hypothetical ETs to their home planetary systems. Some astronomers have even hazarded ways the aliens might betray their existence, from scattered microscopic artifacts to automated construction sites in the Asteroid Belt.

Despite the inexorably warming attitude toward ET visitation, mainstream thinkers still prefer the image of aliens as stealthy, clinical observers. UFOs, with their conspicuously visible antics, shatter this model. Many debunkers attempt, fallaciously, to dismiss the phenomenon precisely because it fails to conform with expectations. If ETs are cool and detached, it doesn't make immediate sense why they would have such a severe stake in our existence: if UFOs themselves seem like chancy evidence of ET visitors, face-to-face encounters with actual occupants -- who, moreover, look not unlike us -- seem exceptionally surreal.

But if we're instead dealing with indigenous beings, it's easier to understand why "aliens" might have cause for alarm. Their intervention throughout history indicates that they need us for reasons that are seldom forthcoming.

When abductees question their captors regarding their agenda, they're usually met with cryptic blurbs. For instance, Whitley Strieber writes that he was told, simply, that his tormentors had a "right" to snatch him from his bed and extract semen. (In recent years Strieber has publicly compared the infamous "rectal probe" to an electrostimulator, a device used to induce ejaculations in livestock. While the implications are frightening, it's at least easier to understand the brevity with which he depicted his abduction in 1987's "Communion." Unfortunately, the ubiquitous "rectal probe" quickly cemented itself into our cultural fabric, fueling the conviction that Strieber's assailants were dispassionate interstellar scientists with an inordinate interest in stool specimens.)

The many cases in which humans witness "hybrid" beings with human and alien traits call for a reconciliation with ancient contact mythology. If nonhumans are responsible, in part, for maintaining (or catalyzing) the human legacy, it would appear their reasons are more selfish than altruistic. Strangely, their desire for our continued survival -- if only for the sake of our genetic material -- may have played a substantial role in helping us to avoid extinction during the Cold War, when the UFO phenomenon evolved in our skies (much to the consternation of officialdom). The wave of sightings in 1947, for example, seems calculated to appeal to the collective unconscious in ways deftly explored in Carl Jung's "Flying Saucers."

Later sighting "flaps" possessed the same sense of theater, eventually leading French astrophysicist Jacques Vallee to suggest that we were in the grips of an existential control system. Well aware of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis' gnawing limitations, Vallee postulated a "multiverse" in which the controlling intelligence originated in a parallel reality. This did away with the need for ET visitors and helped explain the seeming absurdity of close encounters in the 1960s, when the "aliens" were regularly sighted miming the exploits of our own Apollo astronauts. It also offered a new way to address the folkloric theme of nonhuman contact that prevails in disparate cultures, from the Irish Faerie Faith to the Ant People of the Hopi.

According to Vallee and Fortean journalist John Keel, the UFO/contact phenomenon was necessarily duplicitous, adept at exploiting the witness' belief system in order to appear comprehensible. In Vallee's view, the UFO intelligence is quite real and manifests itself in order to ensure we conform to some inexplicable ideal -- but the "spacecraft," regardless of physical evidence, are ultimately illusions (albeit studiously crafted).

In contrast, the Indigenous Hypothesis put forth here argues that some UFOs are in fact real vehicles. But we're not under siege by anthropomorphic ETs or "goblins from hyperspace": the beings behind the curtain are eminently tangible. They insinuate themselves into our ontological context not to confuse us but to camouflage themselves. The UFO spectacle takes on the flavor of myth because it wants to be discounted. At the same time, knowing that their activities are bound to be seen at least occasionally, the occupants deliberately infuse their appearance with what we might expect of genuine extraterrestrial travelers.

It's a formidable disguise -- but it can be pierced.
Night Owls Are More Creative, Says Study

"Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit -- nocturnal types often experience this situation -- may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions," lead author Marina Giampietro and colleague G.M. Cavallera wrote in a study to be published in the February 2007 issue of Personality and Individual Differences.

(Via Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
I've made up my mind: I'm gonna buy an MP3 player. I just don't know which one. I like the iPod Shuffle, but do I really need something that small? (For ten dollars less I get a moderately larger unit with a color screen and the same memory capacity.) Or should I splurge and get more memory? When is enough really enough?

The truth is that while I genuinely enjoy watching the ebb and flow of consumer electronics, I don't know that much about them.

If any technophiles have any insight to offer before I commit, drop a comment.
Global Warming Prolongs Life of Space Debris

Human increases in carbon dioxide emissions are thinning the Earth's outer atmosphere, making it easier to keep the space station aloft but prolonging the life of dangerous space debris, scientists said on Monday.

Chicks dig astronauts.

(Thanks: Boing Boing.)
The Anthills of Orion

All across the American Southwest we find petroglyphs (rock carvings) or pictographs (rock paintings) depicting entities with spindly bodies, large eyes, and bulbous heads that sometimes project antennae. These eerie figures are frequently shown in a "prayer stance," their elbows and knees positioned at right angles, similar to the ant's bent legs.

Do these rock drawings represent a race of Ant People? Do they actually record ancient encounters between humans and an alien species?

Are the creatures truly "alien," like those of the 1947 UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico?

(Via The Anomalist.)

It's commonly assumed that if bodies were actually recovered from the "Roswell crash" then they must be those of would-be explorers from a distant planet. Without addressing the riddle of the "Ant People" (yet!), I'll merely note that I've become increasingly disenchanted with an extraterrestrial explanation for the Roswell Incident. I think it's more likely that we're dealing with a humanoid intelligence native to Earth -- and that the intelligence community was effectively ignorant of its presence until we forced its hand.

(Thanks, Dustin!)
Back from the dead

In 2002 Akira Iritani, from Kinki University in Japan, announced plans for his team to create 'Pleistocene Park' - a home for resurrected woolly mammoths, extinct for approximately 3,500 years. Later additions would include the woolly rhinoceros, which hasn't roamed the Earth for more than 10,000 years.

It is a race against time, partly because climate change is melting the permafrost in Siberia, uncovering ancient animal remains at an increasing rate. Once uncovered, the specimens begin to rot, degrading DNA that may have remained intact for eons.

(Via PAG E-News.)

I love the irony in the last paragraph.
Regional Nuclear War Could Spark Climate Change

New scientific modeling shows that a regional nuclear conflict between countries such as India and Pakistan could spark devastating climate changes worldwide, a team of researchers said on Monday.

"We are at a perilous crossroads," said Owen Toon of the University of Colorado at Boulder's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. "The current combination of nuclear proliferation, political instability and urban demographics form perhaps the greatest danger to the stability of society since the dawn of humanity."

It's a feedback loop. Nuclear war will certainly instigate climate anomalies, but one of the reasons nuclear war is likely to happen in the first place is the conflict between refugee-inundated countries desperate for resources. Hang onto your hat.
Paul Kimball's blog, The Other Side of Truth, has recently gone into high gear with a batch of original outtakes featuring eminent UFO researchers.

Some highlights:

Dick Hall discusses Colorado Project and Condon Report

Rev. Barry Downing - Religion and UFOs

Kevin Randle discusses the problem of UFO frauds

Karl Pflock on the ETH

Stan Friedman Discusses UFO Frauds and Bob Lazar

Nuke some popcorn and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Every year I like to plug "Tribulation Christmas". Mere words cannot describe what this is all about; you have to see the preview.

I'm actually not sure if "TC" is alive and well or if the current website is plugging last year's show. Fortunately, I really don't care.
I like Bad Astronomy as much as the next guy, but this is one banner I won't be hosting on this blog.

I think Phil Plait's one-dimensional assessment of the Face on Mars is due partly to his inability to view Martian anomalies free of Richard Hoagland's inane breed of scientific analysis. Which isn't a unique problem by any means.
Before I had a blog I scribbled endlessly in tree-based notebooks. Here's a brief meditation on my hometown:

Harry S. Truman's old house, at once incongruous and knowing. The interior has the clean-edged, untouched look of virtual reality. You must remain on the clear plastic pathway or else the sense of history will dissolve like so many discordant pixels.

A walk away, the RLDS Temple screws the heavens like something from a high-budget science fiction film (the imagined traceries of planet-bound rockets visible behind its steeple).

The inside of the place is cold, gifted with an austerity that approaches transcendence. Thin gray carpet, walls hewn from moonrock. Loud symbols rambling over the walls and floor: apocalyptic calligraphy.

Click here for more of this sort of stuff.

Today (spent mostly online and listlessly Christmas shopping) had a quietly surreal undertone. The crowning moment was happening across a table of old people in the library. They were into Urantia and attentively listening to cassette tapes of a man narrating their favorite text. They even had their own sign with the Urantia symbol, although it was unclear if this was intended as an invitation or a territorial marker.
Top scientist says Mars lurking with killer aliens 'frozen' in subterranean 'oceans'!

Now Dr. Murray, who is also UK lead scientist with Europe's Mars Express mission, has said he has overwhelming evidence of the life surviving in the frozen ocean near its equator, where simple life could thrive as microbes.

[. . .]

Dr. Murray believes the aliens are all lying in a dormant state. As such, a rocket should be used to blast a crater into ice floes in the region - named Elysium - allowing access to the aliens and water should be sprinkled on the dormant creatures to revive them.

(Via The Anomalist.)

"Mars lurking with killer aliens." Try using that to gain funding for continued exploration.

Behold . . . the future!

I laughed so hard at this I peppered my monitor with little beads of saliva. Gross, but true.

(Big thanks to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)

Nick and Greg "researching."

Comrades Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop have started a joint paranormal blog, UFOMystic. I think this should be a pretty good show.


Uh-oh. Take a look at this.

Picture of the Day

In October of this year, me, Greg Bishop, Mac Tonnies, Stan Friedman, Robert Zimmerman and Will Wise took a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where we were all speaking at Paul Kimball's New Frontiers Symposium. At lunch on the day after the conference, something amazing happened: as he sat down for lunch, an astounded Mac was greeted by the sight of a mini-flying saucer that apparently appeared out of nowhere. A look of joy came over Mac's face as he expected to see the saucer spew out a tiny crew of crypto-terrestrials. His glee turned to sadness, however, when it turned out to be just a plate of seafood after all. Oh, well. Maybe next time.

I'm not sure which is more disturbing: my look of glee or The Hairline.
No kudos for Bush in Annan's farewell

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan took his criticism of the Bush administration to the nation's heartland Monday, saying America must not sacrifice its democratic ideals while waging war against terrorism.

In the hometown of President Harry Truman, who helped found the
United Nations, Annan said "human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity."

When the U.S. "appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused," Annan told a packed audience at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library.

Good lord -- this took place right down the street from me. I could have walked there and I didn't even know about it.
I know Morrissey's video for "Suedehead" is an homage to James Dean, but I sometimes get the feeling he's channeling me.

Except for the part with the drums and the cows.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Robert Anton Wilson blogs.
Clockwork Filled Insects

Just another reason why Brass Goggles is fast becoming one of my daily blog fixes.
David Byrne on belief, imagination and cognition:

The Secret Commonwealth

I could imagine that somewhere in the unconscious of Thompson, Watt, Doyle and others lay a buried belief, or non-denial, of sprits, forces and entities lurking in the barren misty glens to the north. Could these irrational suspicions have allowed the leaps of faith that are required in a scientific and engineering revolution? To imagine a concept like entropy or absolute zero must surely have seemed just as far fetched as the existence of wee folk. (I'm not saying these guys were literally Fairie believers, but that the deep cultural marinating soaks all parts.)

Who knew the former Talking Heads frontman was a closet Fortean?
Arctic May Be Ice-Free by Summer 2040 - Study

Global warming could leave the the Arctic without ice during the summer as early as 2040, a study by a team of US and Canadian scientists shows.

The research, to be published by the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters on Tuesday, found that the extent of sea ice each September could be reduced so abruptly that, within about 20 years, it may begin retreating four times faster than at any time in the observed record.

"We have already witnessed major losses in sea ice, but our research suggests that the decrease over the next few decades could be far more dramatic than anything that has happened so far," said lead researcher Marika Holland from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

"These changes are surprisingly rapid," Holland said in a news release on Monday.

Peter Watts' Blindsight - breakout novel under CC

Peter writes the angriest, darkest sf I've ever read, heart-rending stuff that makes you glad you're alive if only because you're better off than his characters. He's also a wild talent when it comes to the intersection of biology and tech (he's got a Ph.D. in Marine Biology), the kind of person who spits out ideas that lesser writers end up hashing over for a decade afterwards (he once posited a perfectly plausible means by which a computer virus and human pandemic could co-evolve, for example).

Watts is vertiginously high on my list of relevant, literary SF authors; I can't think of a better Christmas gift to give to oneself than an free copy of "Blindsight."
Rock formation which resembles a human face

This rock formation which resembles a human face (when viewed from the side) can be found at Shiquan town in Shanxi province, China. It was formed after the construction of the mountain road was completed. This creation is purely accidental.

Not bad. Take a look.
10 Most Bizarre People on Earth

Weirdos! And more weirdos!

(Hat tip to Aberrant News.)
This video clip supposedly simulates the effect of LSD. Not having tried the stuff, I can't vouch for its authenticity -- but it's indeed trippy.

(Thanks, Chapel Perilous!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blog of the day: Climate Commons
Before the Wright Brothers...There Were UFOs

About two miles from his campsite, he could see a path cut through the forest. Whatever had come through the area had leveled everything in its path. He soon discovered the cause of the great destruction: a giant object which was made of a rock-like material. This object had been driven into the side of a mountain after ripping through the forest. This was much more that an asteroid or comet: the object was divided into compartments. Also, hieroglyphic-like symbols could be seen carved into the object's surface. He also discovered fragments of what appeared to be glass, and strange liquid-like stains located in several places on the object.

(Via The Excluded Middle.)

In pictures: Living on the Moon

Mankind has been imagining life on the Moon since time immemorial. As Nasa reveals plans for a lunar base, BBC News here looks at some artists' impressions of lunar colonisation.

(Via Gravity Lens.)

The subterranean connection isn't limited to sightings of unknown objects emerging from bodies of water; it seems to play a critical -- perhaps central -- role in the testimony of many abductees, who describe finding themselves transported into apparent caverns teeming with alien activity.

One of the first contemporary abductees to address seemingly below-ground structures was Betty Andreasson, whose story has been patiently chronicled by investigator Raymond Fowler. Andreasson's experiences with apparent ETs is one of the most metaphysically charged abduction narratives on record, filled with marvels that seem to have no purpose other than to elicit emotional reactions from the witness. Despite Fowler's diligence as a reporter, he follows the conventional wisdom, concluding that Andreasson has been the subject of decades-long extraterrestrial interference.

But given the aliens' obvious penchant for elaborate visual metaphor and special effects trickery, it's unclear why Fowler (and like-minded researchers) invoke star-hopping visitors. The abduction experience is far more ambiguous. Upon close inspection, the perceived need for ETs withers, replaced by a thicket of unwelcome questions. The abduction phenomenon thus resolutely denies itself; it is up to us whether to accept this as a deliberate challenge on behalf of the controlling intelligence or to abide by its limitations.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

If not from space, where?

Cryptoterrestrial lore is replete with allusions to underground habitats, subterranean labyrinths navigable only to an enlightened few, and even modern-day below-ground facilities staffed, in part, by government operatives. From Richard Shaver's fancifully paranoid tales of the "Deros" to Bob Lazar's depiction of S-4 (allegedly a supersecret base a stone's throw away from Area 51), the "alien" meme challenges us with the prospect that our world is separated from the other by the merest of partitions . . . and that the CTs are almost as comfortable in our bedrooms and on our roadsides as they are in their own realm.

The image of a "Hollow Earth" populated by beings remarkably like ourselves is by no means new, yet the modern UFO phenomenon has infused it with a newly conspiratorial vigor. Stories of alien bases below the unassumingly bleak surface of the American Southwest surfaced in the wake of the MJ-12 controversy, carving the mythos into irresistible new shapes. In "Revelations," Jacques Vallee recounts a memorable exchange with the late Bill Cooper and fringe journalist Linda Moulton Howe. Told matter-of-factly about the existence of a sprawling subterranean base near Dulce, New Mexico, Vallee asked his hosts where the presumed aliens disposed of their garbage -- a sensible question if one assumes that the "Grays" in question are physical beings burdened with corresponding physical requirements.

Vallee's question is of obvious importance to the cryptoterrestrial inquiry. If we really are sharing the planet with a "parallel" species, searching for underground installations becomes imperative for any objective investigation. Our failure to find any blatant "cities" beneath the planet's surface invites many questions. Could the CTs have colonized our oceans, potentially explaining centuries of bizarre aquatic sightings? Have they intermingled to the point where they're effectively indistinguishable from us? (And, if so, how might such a scattered population summon the resources to stage UFO events?)

Finally, we're forced to consider that at least some CTs have achieved genuine space travel, throwing our definitional framework into havoc. Space-based CTs wouldn't be extraterrestrials in the sense argued by ufological pundits, but they would be something engagingly "other," even if the difference separating them from their Earth-bound peers is as substantial as that distinguishing astronauts from humans of more mundane professions.

Still, the prospect of an underground origin beckons with the inexorable logic that colors our most treasured contemporary myths. Given our yawning ignorance of our own planet -- especially its oceans, which remain stubbornly mysterious -- it remains worthy of consideration. From the lusty politics of Mount Olympus to Shaver's pulp cosmology (complete with telepathic harassment and other ingredients later found in "serious" UFO abduction literature), even a cursory assessment of subterranean mythology indicates a nonhuman presence of surprisingly human dimensions.

This striking familiarity -- so unlikely in the case of genuine extraterrestrial contact -- meshes with modern occupant reports, which typically depict humanoid beings seen in the context of extraordinary technology. Villas-Boas had sex with a diminutive female who, while strangely mannered, can hardly be termed "alien." The alarming fact that intercourse was possible at all smacks of an encounter between two human beings -- an observation routinely dismissed by proponents of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, who seem inordinately enamored of Villas-Boas' own conviction that he had been used as breeding stock for a race of apparent space people.

The beings encountered by Betty and Barney Hill seem at least as human when addressed safely outside the confines of ETH dogma; even Betty's dialogue with the "leader" has the nuanced, bantering quality of two strangers attempting to come to grips with a mutual predicament. Indeed, the beings' puzzlement when confronted with dentures tends to argue in favor of the Indigenous Hypothesis. We might reasonably expect bona fide ET anthropologists to set aside the minor mystery of artificial teeth with clinical detachment; instead, Betty's ability to note her abductors' astonishment (feigned or genuine) detracts from the ETH by indicating a suspiciously human rapport.
Free PDF books! Obscure titles! You'll thank me!
Space shuttle Discovery lifts off

Discovery lit up the sky late Saturday, blazing off for the first nighttime space shuttle launch in four years -- the latest step in NASA's ambitious schedule to complete the international space station.

There's everything from misanthropy bordering on extinction fetishism to wild optimism and gung ho enthusiasm. Maybe that's part of the reason I'm so interested in space exploration - it's a subject that conventional wisdom says is dull and unappealing to the general public, yet it never fails to arouse powerful and opposing passions.

Those passions go far beyond a simple debate about the appropriateness of spending vast amounts of public funds on admittedly risky ventures. It's an argument that for better or worse, exposes our greatest aspirations, deepest fears, and our true feelings about our natures. It's an argument that gets right down to fundamental questions: do we have a right to exist or not? Does that right give us a mandate to expand our presence in the universe, and to exploit the resources of the solar system? Is what we are even worth preserving?
Blog of the day: Anomaly Television
Let's "face" it: The Cydonia Face is not pareidolia

This viewing angle makes it difficult to recognize individual facial features, and also makes the symmetric mesa wall-enclosure less conspicuous. The net effect is a far more natural appearance than in any actual spacecraft image or in any processed images except the 1998 press release from JPL, for which the posted recipe consisted of passing the actual spacecraft image through high-pass and low-pass filters and averaging the two filtered images.
James ("The Amusing") Randi exposed:

The challenge, part one

Well, it appears that JREF categorizes virtually all paranormal claims as "extraordinarily implausible" and assumes that many, perhaps most, applicants are mentally ill. JREF reserves the right to ignore an application from anyone whose claim is too "incredible" to be taken seriously, or whose claim contradicts the findings of "Science," as understood by JREF. Further, JREF reserves the right to ignore applications from people who are psychologically impaired - a determination that can be made by JREF alone.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Whoa -- these surreal toys are like what you'd expect from setting the Brothers Quay and David Cronenberg loose in F.A.O. Schwartz with a soldering iron.
Yes, NASA's initiative to return to the Moon -- to stay -- is the right one. On the other hand . . .

(Hat tip: Reality Carnival.)